The story of a remarkable era of reform, controversy, optimism, and Cold War confrontation in the Soviet Union
Beginning with the death of Stalin in 1953, the “sixties” era in the Soviet Union was just as vibrant and transformative as in the West. The ideological romanticism of the revolutionary years was revived, with renewed emphasis on egalitarianism, equality, and the building of a communist utopia. Mass terror was reined in, great victories were won in the space race, Stalinist cultural dogmas were challenged, and young people danced to jazz and rock and roll.
Robert Hornsby examines this remarkable and surprising period, showing that, even as living standards rose, aspects of earlier days endured. Censorship and policing remained tight, and massacres during protests in Tbilisi and Novocherkassk, alongside invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, showed the limits of reform. The rivalry with the United States reached perhaps its most volatile point, friendship with China turned to bitter enmity, and global decolonization opened up new horizons for the USSR in the developing world. These tumultuous years transformed the lives of Soviet citizens and helped reshape the wider world.
Robert Hornsby is associate professor in modern European history at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on the history of the post-Stalin USSR, and he is the author of Protest, Reform and Repression in Khrushchev’s Soviet Union.
“The Soviet Sixties is a highly illuminating reflection of what we understand about the era now.”—Catriona Kelly, Times Literary Supplement
“Hornsby takes us through the ups-and-downs of the Khrushchev era, with its promising reforms and unexpected reversals, until a new Kremlin leadership, directed by Leonid Brezhnev, crushed all hope for change within the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Sixties is an engaging, deeply informed, and balanced account of a pivotal period in Soviet history.”—Joshua Rubenstein, author of The Last Days of Stalin
“Exceptional, expertly written and stunningly comprehensive. In the same page, the reader can learn about the manoeuvrings of Stalin’s cabinet after his death, which film was most popular in a given week, how women behind the scenes shepherded a future Nobel laureate’s work through the censors, and where riots and dissent threatened the status quo.”—Erica L. Fraser, author of Military Masculinity and Postwar Recovery in the Soviet Union
“A fine compendium of diverse social and cultural currents in Soviet-Russian history. It gives a unique understanding of complexity. One sees that in Soviet Russia and other parts of the USSR repression, ideocracy, and misery co-existed with humanity, hope, defiance, and vibrant creativity.”—Vladislav Zubok, author of Collapse
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