Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives - S.F. Cohen Book Review

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Book review
Soviet Fates and Lost alternatives – Stephen F. Cohen

As Stephen Cohen states in the introduction, Soviet Fates and lost alternatives was written out of a personal fascination for alternative roads that 'could have been' the path of history. Cohen's approach is indeed personal as he tries to show that the communist party consisted (and always has consisted) of people, and not out of a fixed idea. People shape history, not economical- political- or other crises. And to every person that shaped Soviet history, there was an alternative person that would have shaped it otherwise. Another main goal of Cohen's book seems to be to question (and prove wrong) the general assumption of Western historians on the inevitability of the Soviet Union to be as totalitarian and destructive as it was. This last goal appears to be personal for two reasons. First, out of Cohen's personal frustration that many (mainly) American historians view the Soviet history by their own standards and fail to see it in its own terms. And second, Cohen appears to favor a Soviet alternative to the actual historical result of a collapse of the Soviet Union.

Cohen starts by giving three examples of lost persons and and chances in Soviet history. In the first chapter Cohen sheds some light on Bukharin's case, portraying him as a possible alternative to the Stalinist oppression because he already wrote in 1924 that the Soviet rule should be more liberal and they should move to a humanist socialism.[1] And so, if given the chance, he would have shaped another Soviet Union. Cohen then shows, in chapter two, how Krushchev tried to reshape the Soviet Union but got trapped in his own net because he personified the old system as well. Cohen then jumps to the collapse of the Soviet Union of the Gorbachev era (apparently Brezhnev's time was a lost era for the change benevolent Soviet persona's)where he looks at Ligachev, Gorbachev's number two. Next to Gorbachev Ligachev kept had his own...
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