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Was the Soviet System Reformable?

  • Stephen F. Cohen


Stephen F. Cohen presents a critical analysis of the prevailing view that Mikhail Gorbachev's six-year attempt to transform the Soviet Union along democratic and market lines proved that the system was, as most specialists had always believed, unreformable. Ideological, conceptual, and historical assumptions underlying the nonreformability thesis are reexamined and found wanting, as are the ways in which generalizations about “the system” and “reform” are usually formulated. Cohen then asks how each of the system's basic components—the official ideology, the Communist Party and its dictatorship, the nationwide network of Soviets, the monopolistic state economy, and the union of republics—actually responded to Gorbachev's policies. Citing developments from 1985 to 1991, Cohen argues that all of those components, and thus the system itself, turned out to be remarkably reformable. If so, he concludes, most explanations of the end of the Soviet Union, which rely in one way or another on the unreformability thesis, are also open to serious question.

Five distinguished scholars respond to Cohen's article.



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I am grateful to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for having supported my larger study of Soviet history and politics from which this article is drawn.

1 Sakwa, Richard, Gorbachev and His Reforms, 1985-1990 (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1991), 357 ; and Ed Hewett, A., “Is Soviet Socialism Reformable?” in Dallin, Alexander and Lapidus, Gail W., eds., The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse, rev. ed. (Boulder, Colo., 1995), 320 . For examples of other works that assumed the system's reformability at the time, see Daniels, Robert V., Is Russia Reformable? Change and Resistance from Stalin to Gorbachev (Boulder, Colo., 1988); George W. Breslauer, ed., Can Gorbachev's Reforms Succeed? (Berkeley, 1990); Stephen White, Gorbachev in Power (New York, 1990); Huber, Robert T. and Kelley, Donald R., eds., Perestroika-Era Politics: The Neiu Soviet Legislature and Gorbachev's PoliticalReforms (Armonk, N.Y., 1991); Eugene Huskey, ed., Executive Power and Soviet Politics:The Rise and Decline of the Soviet Stale (Armonk, N.Y., 1992); Urban, Michael E., More Power tothe Soviets: The Democratic Revolution in the USSR (Brookfield, Vt., 1990); Hough, Jerry F., Russia and the West: Gorbachev and the Politics of Reform, 2d ed. (New York, 1990); and the authors cited in Hallenberg, Jan, The Demise of the Soviet Union: Analysing the Collapse of a State (Burlington, Vt., 2002), 177–86, 195 ; and by Rowley, David, “Interpretations of the End of the Soviet Union: Three Paradigms,Kritika 2, no. 2 (Spring 2001): 414n9. For the U.S. government, see Beschloss, Michael R. and Talbott, Strobe, At the Highest Levels: The InsideStory oftheEnd of the Cold War (Boston, 1993), chaps. 1621 .

2 See, respectively, Anders, Åslund How Russia Became a Market Economy (Washington, D.C., 1995), 31 ; Steven Fish, M., Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the Nexu RussianRevolution (Princeton, 1995), 3 ; Michael Dobbs in Washington Post, 15 December 1991; Williams's, Beryl review of Keep, John, Last of the Empires: A History of the Soviet Union, 1945-1991, in Russian Review 56, no. 1 (January 1997): 143 ; and David Saunders's review of Theodore Taranovski, ed., Reform in Modern Russian History: Progress or Cycle? in Europe-AsiaStudies 48, no. 5 (July 1996): 868. Similarly, see Malia, Martin, The Soviet Tragedy: A Historyof Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991 (New York, 1994); Coleman, Fred, The Decline and Fall ofthe Soviet Empire: Forty Years that Shook the World, from Stalin to Yeltsin (New York, 1996), xii, xv, xvi; Alec Nove, The Soviet System in Retrospect: An Obituary Notice (New York, 1993), 7; Pipes, Richard, Communism: A History (London, 1994), 39 ; Stephen Kotkin, ArmageddonAverted: TheSoviet Collapse, 1970-2000 (New York, 2001), 181; and Beissinger, Mark R., NationalistMobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State (New York, 2002), 390 . For notable exceptions, see Alexander Dallin, “Causes of the Collapse of the USSR,” in Dallin and Lapidus, eds., Soviet System, 673-95; Kotz, David M. and Weir, Fred, Revolution from Above: TheDemise of the Soviet System (New York, 1997); Ronald Grigor Suny, The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism,Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford, 1993); Brown, Archie, TheGorbachev Factor (New York, 1997) Jerry F. Hough, Democratization and Revolution in the USSR,1985-1991 (Washington, D.C.,1997); and Reddaway, Peter and Glinski, Dmitri, The Tragedyof Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism against Democracy (Washington, D.C., 2001). For an early but different approach to this issue, see Dallin, Alexander, “Reform in Russia: American Perceptions and U.S. Policy,” in Crummey, Robert O., ed., Reform in Russia and theUSSR: Past and Prospects (Urbana, 1989), 243–56. And for an interesting treatment of the question from inside the political culture of communist systems, see Mlynar, Zdenek, CanGorbachev Change the Soviet Union? The International Dimensions of Political Reform (Boulder, Colo., 1990).

3 Malia, Martin, “Leninist Endgame,Daedalus 121, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 60 ; Besancon, Alain, “Breaking the Spell,” in Urban, George R., ed., Can the Soviet System Survive Reform?Seven Colloquies about the State of Soviet Socialism Seventy Years after the Bolshevik Revolution (London, 1989), 202 .

4 Malia, Soviet Tragedy, 5; Malia in Graubard, Stephen R., “The Mystery of Z” Bulletinof the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 44, no. 2 (November 1990): 8 ; and his “To the Stalin Mausoleum,” in Dallin and Lapidus, eds., Soviet System, 667. Similarly, see Satter, David, The Age of Delirium: TheDecline andFall of the Soviet Union (New York, 1996); and Terry McNeill, “Soviet Studies and the Collapse of the USSR: In Defense of Realism,” in Cox, Michael, ed., Rethinking the Soviet Collapse: Sovietology, the Death of Communism and the Neiu Russia (New York, 1998), 68 . Even an admirer of Malia, who is the most prominent and energetic exponent of this thesis, is troubled by his reliance on “an original sin of biblical proportions.“ See Kotsonis, Yanni, “The Ideology of Martin Malia,Russian Review 58, no. 1 (January 1999): 126 . For a systematic critique of Malia's “essentialist” explanation, see Dallin, “Causes of the Collapse.“

5 For these facts, see David Brion Davis in New York Times, 26 August 2001; and Brent Staples in New York Times, 9 January 2000. For these opinions, see, respectively, George W. Bush, who cites Adams, quoted by Richard W. Stevenson in New York Times, 9 July 2003; and the historian Mintz, Steven, “A Slave-Narrative Documentary Is Limited, but Compelling,Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 February 2003 , B16. On the larger point, consider the title of a recent review of books on slavery: George M. Fredrickson, “America's Original Sin,” New York Review of Books, 25 March 2004, 34-36. For Reagan, see Raymond L., Garthoff, TheGreat Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (Washington, D.C., 1994), 352 .

6 The quotes are from Michael Dobbs, “Strobe Talbott and the ‘Cursed Questions,'” Washington Post Magazine, 9 June 1996,11; and Dusko Doder, “Eighty Years That Shook the World,” review of Robert Service, A History of Twentieth-Century Russia, in Washington PostBook World, 22 March 1998, X10. Similarly, see Malia, Soviet Tragedy, 492; McFaul, Michael, “Evaluating Yeltsin and His Revolution,” in Kuchins, Andrew C., ed., Russia after the Fall (Washington, D.C., 2002), 27 ; Beissinger, Nationalist Mobilization, 4, 341; Matlock, Jack F. Jr., Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union (New York, 1995), 293 ; and Kenez, Peter, “Dealing with Discredited Beliefs,Kritika 4, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 369 . For a critique of the long-standing habit, see Cohen, Stephen F., Rethinkingthe Soviet Experience: Politics and History since 1917 (New York, 1985), 1927 . Historical opinion about the tsarist reforms of the nineteenth century and the fate of that system would seem to be an instructive analogy: “The collapse of the Tsarist autocracy in 1917 is no longer seen as proof incontestable of the ultimate or inevitable failure of these reforms.“ Eklof, Ben, “Introduction,” in Eklof, , Bushnell, John, and Zakharova, Larissa, eds., Russia's Great Reforms, 1855–1881 (Bloomington, 1994), x .

7 For the fallacy and bias, see Reinhard Bendix quoted in Dallin, “Causes of the Collapse,“ 688. Mark Almond, “1989 without Gorbachev: What If Communism Had Not Collapsed,“ makes the first point in Ferguson, Niall, ed., Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (London, 1997), 392 .

8 See, for example, Braun, Aurel and Day, Richard B., “Gorbachevian Contradictions,Problems of Communism 39, no. 3 (May-June 1990): 3650 ; Simes, Dmitri, “Gorbachev's Time of Troubles,” Foreign Policy, no. 82 (Spring 1991): 97117 ; Anders Åslund, Gorbachev'sStruggle for Economic Reform, exp. ed. (Ithaca, 1991); and Goldman, Marshall I., WhatWent Wrong with Perestroika (New York, 1991), esp. 210–19.

9 For some exceptions, see Breslauer, George W., Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders (New York, 2002), 266–70; Henry E. Hale, “Ethnofederalism and Theories of Secession” (unpublished manuscript,June 2001); and especially, Hough, Democratization, which examines a number of the questions raised here. For other fields, see, for example, Tetlock, Philip E. and Belkin, Aaron, eds., Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological,and Psychological Perspectives (Princeton, 1996); Ferguson, ed., Virtual History; and Crowley, Robert, ed., What Ifl The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine Wfiat MightHave Been (New York, 1999).

10 For the quotes, see, respectively, Ekedahl, Carolyn McGiffert and Goodman, Melvin A., The Wars ofEduard Shevardnadze (University Park, 1997), 50 ; Chiesa, Giulietto, Transitionto Democracy: Political Change in the Soviet Union, 1987-1991 (Hanover, 1993), 203 ; and Peter Rutland, “Sovietology: Who Got It Right and Who Got It Wrong?” in Cox, ed., Rethinkingthe Soviet Collapse, 43. For different versions of the institutional thesis, see Roeder, Philip G., Red Sunset: The Failure of Soviet Politics (Princeton, 1993); Valerie Bunce, SubversiveInstitutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State (New York, 1999); and Sakwa, Richard, “From the USSR to Postcommunist Russia,” in White, Stephen, Pravda, Alex, and Gitelman, Zvi, eds., Developments in Russian Politics 4 (Durham, 1997), 16 , who writes: “The polity itself was incapable of reform.“

11 Karklins, Rasma quoted approvingly in Keep, John, Last of the Empires: A History ofthe Soviet Union, 1945–1991 (New York, 1995), 416 . Similarly, see Robert Conquest quoted in Brown, Gorbachev, 252; Kotkin, Armageddon Averted, 71–73; and D'Agostino, Anthony, Gorbachev's Revolution (New York, 1998), 172 . The argument is explicit or implicit in many books. See, for example, Fish, Democracy from Scratch; Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of RussianDemocracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1995); Michael Urban, The Rebirth of Politics in Russia (New York, 1997); Malia, Soviet Tragedy; Coleman, Declineand Fall; Dunlop, John B., The Rise of Russia and theFall of the Soviet Empire (Princeton, 1993); and McFaul, Michael, Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev toPutin (Ithaca, 2001). There is also the different but related view that democratization was incompatible not only with the Soviet system but with Russia's general traditions of governance. See, for example, von Laue, Theodore H., “Gorbachev's Place in History,” in Wieczynski, Joseph L., ed., The Gorbachev Reader (Salt Lake City, 1993), 149–51; and Walter M. Pintner, “Reformability in the Age of Reform and Counterreform, 1855–94,” in Crummey, ed., Reform in Russia, 243-56.

12 See, respectively, Rasma Karklins quoted in Kotz and Weir, Revolution, 239w9; Michael Wines in New York Times, 9 January 2000; Fish, Democracy from Scratch, 3, 51; Stephen Kotkin, “The State—Is It Us? Memoirs, Archives, and Kremlinologists,” Russian Review 61, no. 1 (January 2002): 50; and George Kennan quoted by Thomas L. Friedman in New York Times, 2 May 1998. Similarly, see Moses, Joel C., “Soviet Provincial Politics in an Era of Transition and Revolution, 1989-91,Soviet Studies 44, no. 3 (1992): 479 ; Remington, Thomas F., “Reform or Revolution?” in Daniels, Robert V., ed., Soviet Communism from Reform to Collapse (Lexington, Mass., 1995), 330–39; Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism: An Introduction (Durham, 1997), 57, 130–31; D'Agostino, Gorbachev's Revolution, 5; the authors discussed in Rowley, “Interpretations,” 403-6; and the single-authored books cited in the preceding note. Looking back at that period, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a very different interpretation of events: “Let's proceed from reality. Democracy in Russia was in fact issued from above.” hvestiia, 14July 2000. For an alleged popular defection from Soviet socialism, see also Åslund, How Russia, 51–52; and Michael McFaul in Washington Post, 22 September 2001. Very few Russian historians think that democratization killed the system. For one who does, see Vladimir Sogrin, Politicheskaia istoriia sovremennoi Rossii, 1985–1994: Ol GorbachevadoEl'tsina (Moscow, 1994), 107. For western scholars who dissent from the notion of a revolution from below, see Kotz and Weir, Revolution; Hough, Democratization; Reddaway and Glinski, Tragedy of Russia's Reforms, chaps. 3-4; Devlin, Judith, The Rise of the RussianDemocrats: The Causes and Consequences of the Elite Revolution (Brookfield, Vt., 1995); and Hahn, Gordon M., Russia's Revolution from Above, 1985–2000: Reform, Transition, and Revolutionin the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime (New Brunswick, 2002).

13 Barsenkov, Aleksandr S., Vvedenie v sovremennuiu rossiiskuiu istoriiu: 1985-1991 (Moscow, 2002), 326 . A British specialist reached the same conclusion: “Russians, it seemed, wanted a ‘socialism that worked.'” White, Stephen, Communism and Its Collapse (New York, 2001), 75 . In an opinion poll taken in late 1990, two-thirds of those surveyed still favored socialism, hvestiia TsK KPSS, 1991, no. 2:51. For opinion on economic-social features of the system, see Wyman, Matthew, Public Opinion in Postcommunist Russia (New York, 1997), chap. 7; the survey data collected in lurii Levada, A., ed., Est’ mnenie!: Itogi sotsiologicheskogooprosa (Moscow, 1990) and his Sovetskii prostoi chelovek: Opyt sotsial'nogo portreta na rubezhe90-kh godov (Moscow, 1993); and even the data presented by a colleague of the anti-Soviet “shock-therapy” team that subsequently came to power, Koval, Tatiana, “On the Threshold of Reforms,” in Gaidar, Yegor, ed., The Economics of Transition (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), 755–87. A number of western scholars have also used detailed polling data to make similar and related points. See, for example, Kotz and Weir, Revolution, 137–39; Hough, Democratization, 471; Millar, James R., “Introduction: Social Legacies and the Aftermath of Communism,” in Millar, James R. and Wolchik, Sharon L., eds., The Social Legacy of Communism (Washington, D.C., 1994), 57 ; Vladimir Shlapentokh, A Normal Totalitarian Society:How the Soviet Union Functioned and How It Collapsed (Armonk, N.Y, 2001), 125, 208, 281; White, Stephen, Gorbachev and After (New York, 1992), 137–38, 241–51, 258–59; and Reddaway and Glinski, Tragedy of Russia's Reforms, 92–94, 154.

14 Wyman, Public Opinion, chap. 6; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 16 March 2001. For El'tsin, see his presidential campaign speech in Foreign Broadcast Information ServiceDaily Report: Soviet Union (hereafter FBIS), 3 June 1991, 71-79; Chelnokov, Mikhail, Rossiia bez soiuza, Rossiia bez Rossii: Zapiski deputata rasstreliannogo parlamenta (Moscow, 1994), 3032 ; and Hough, Democratization, 279, 308, 333–34. For the referendum, see White, Gorbachev and After, 180–81.

15 Lebed, Alexander, My Life and My Country (Washington, D.C., 1997), 321 ; Rodric Braithwaite, Across the Moscow River: The World Turned Upside Down (New Haven, 2002), 242; Elem Klimov in Obshchaia gazeta, 23-39 August 2001. Similarly, see Poptsov, Oleg, Khronikavremen “Tsaria Borisa“: Rossiia, Kreml', 1991–1995 (Moscow, 1995), 261 ; Jonathan Steele, Eternal Russia: Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and the Mirage of Democracy (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), 59–79; and Mark Kramer, “The Collapse of the Soviet Union,” Journal of Cold War Studies 5, no. 4 (Fall 2003): 9. For a few of the many claims of an “August Revolution,” see Peter Kenez, “Debating Democracy in Russia,” New Leader, 9–23 September 1991, 15–18; Martin Malia, “The August Revolution,” New York Review of Books, 26 September 1991, 22–28; Shub, Anatole, “The Fourth Russian Revolution: Historical Perspectives,Problems of Communism 40, no. 6 (November-December 1991): 20 ; Leon Aron, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (New York, 2000), chap. 10; McFaul, “Evaluating Yeltsin,” 27; and Urban, Rebirth of Politicsin Russia, 252, who sees a “national resistance.” Proponents of the “August Revolution” interpretation see El'tsin as its leader or personification, but he himself later took pride in having been “able to save Russia from revolution.” Quoted in Reddaway and Glinski, Tragedy of Russia's Reforms, 226.

16 Roeder, Red Sunset, 5.

17 See, for example, Michael Kammen, .A Season of Youth: The American Revolution andHistorical Imagination (New York, 1978).

18 Davis in New York Times, 26 August 2001; Mintz, “A Slave-Narrative Documentary,“ B16.

19 The critical discussion of early Soviet history, unleashed by Gorbachev's glasnost policies, was initially inspired in part by Tengiz Abuladze's film Pokaianie. For an overview, see Davies, R. W., Soviet History in the YeltsinEra (London, 1997), pt. 1 .

20 For a similar point, see Miller, John, Mikhail Gorbachev and the End of Soviet Pozuer (New York, 1993), 201 . The equation is so widespread that it is used by scholars on opposite sides of the political spectrum. See Malia, Soviet Tragedy; and Chiesa, Transition to Democracy, 202.

21 Gorbachev was reported to have said as much privately on several occasions even while in power. See, for example, Georgii Smirnov quoted by Aleksandr Tsipko in NezavisimaiagazetaStsenarii, 17 October 1996; Valentin Falin quoted in Sovelskaia Rossiia, 26 July 1997; and Andrei Sakharov in FBIS, 15 April 1988, 60. After leaving office, Gorbachev was entirely candid: “There was no socialism in our country.” FBIS, 24 February 1992, 21. Similarly, see Gorbachev, Mikhail S., Gody trudnykh reshenii: Izbrannoe, 1985-1992 gg. (Moscow, 1993), 8 .

22 BBC interview with Gorbachev, 8 March 2002, Johnson's Russia List (email list), 20 March 2002. Even a pro-El'tsin history concedes that “the majority of critics of the regime came out not against the Soviets but against the domination of the Communist Party.“ Baturin, Iurii M. etal., eds., Epokha El'tsina: Ocherki politicheskoi istorii (Moscow, 2001), 170 . Russians expressed their agreement in two ways. First, as we have seen, by protesting against Communist Party rule while supporting the Soviet system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And later by regretting the end of the Soviet Union and expressing nostalgia for the Soviet era but without voting the Communist Party back into power. For a similar point about Gorbachev's 1990 meaning of communism, see Walicki, Andrzej, Marxism andthe Leap to the Kingdom of Freedom: The Rise and Fall of the Communist Utopia (Stanford, 1995), 554–55, 617wl77.

23 See, for example, Urban, “Introduction,” in Urban, ed., Can the Soviet System SurviveReform? xiii; Remington, “Reform or Revolution,” 331; and, similarly, Beissinger, NationalistMobilization, 401. As for the party, one scholar writes: “the CPSU leadership (i.e., the Soviet system).” McGrath, Troy, “Russia Reassessed: The Devil of Democratization Is in the Details,Harriman Review (Columbia University) 13, no. 4 (December 2002): 15 .

24 The new conception of the Soviet system was expressed in many pro-perestroika publications in 1988-91, but for a striking example see Elena Bonner—Andrei Sakharov's widow and hardly a Soviet devotee—on power and property, in Moskovskie novosti, 15 July 1990.

25 That is, there is no reason to assume, as a recent monograph seems to do, that a new Union would have had to include “all fifteen union republics.” Walker, Edward W., Dissolution:Sovereignty and the Breakup of the Soviet Union (Lanham, Md., 2003), 186 .

26 Just how heretical the new tenets were may be judged by the growing opposition of Gorbachev's own former aide for ideology, himself a reformer. See Smirnov, G. L., Urokiminuvshego (Moscow, 1997). The new ideology was elaborated by Gorbachev in late 1989, reframed as the draft of a new party program in early 1990, and debated and in effect adopted at the Twenty-eighth Party Congress in July. See, respectively, Pravda, 26 November 1989; Materialy plenuma tsentral'nogo komiteta KPSS: 5–7 fevralia 1990 goda (Moscow, 1990), 511–40; and XXVIII s“ezd kommunisticheskoi partii Sovetskogo Soiuza: Stenograficheskiiotchet, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1991), esp. 1:55-101, and 2:255–68, 276–94. Gorbachev's aides continued to make the draft program increasingly liberal-democratic. See the draft and debates in Pravda, 8 August 1991; and Sovetskaia Rossiia, 27–30 July 1991.

27 Thus a Gorbachev aide responsible for spelling out the new ideology argued at the same time that its role in Soviet life should be greatly diminished. See Shakhnazarov, Georgii, “Obnovlenie ideologii i ideologiia obnovleniia,Kommunist, no. 4 (March 1990): 4659 , and in Literaturnaia gazeta, 18 April 1990.

28 Gorbachev and his supporters fully understood this. See V. A. Medvedev, Prozrenie,mif Hi predatel'stvo: Kvoprosu ob ideologii perestroiki (Moscow, 1997), 4-5; and earlier in Pravda, 29 June 1990.

29 See, for example, Sakwa, Gorbachev and His Reforms, 192; Gooding, John, “Perestroika as Revolution from Within: An Interpretation,Russian Review 51, no. 1 (January 1992): 3657 ; and Chiesa, Transition to Democracy, 3. There is also the opposite view, reflexive rather than considered, that the “CPSU remained the ruling party” until August 1991. Beissinger, Mark R., “Transformation and Degeneration: The CPSU under Reform,“ in Millar, James, ed., Cracks in the Monolith: Party Power in the Brezhnev Era (Armonk, N.Y., 1992), 213 .

30 Brown, Gorbachev, 310.

31 Gorbachev in XXVIII s“ezd, 2:201-2; and Pravda, 13 April 1990. On the latter claim, see also Liliia Shevtsova in hvestiia, 27 February 1990, who wrote: “We have much more political diversity than any other country in the world.“

32 V. N. Kudriavtsev in Trud, 11 November 1988. For the constitutional aspects of Gorbachev's reforms, see Ahdieh, Robert B., Russia's Constitutional Revolution: Legal Consciousnessand the Transition to Democracy, 1985-1996 (University Park, 1997).

33 Teague, Elizabeth, “Constitutional Watchdog Suspends Presidential Decree,RadioLiberty Report on the USSR2, no. 42 (19 October 1990): 910 . For “checks and balances,“ see Gorbachev, M. S., hbrannyerechi i stat'i, 7 vols. (Moscow, 1987-90), 7:161.

34 For the growing power of state ministries vis-a-vis the party apparatus, see Whitefield, Stephen, Industrial Power and the Soviet State (New York, 1993); and Yakovlev, Alexander, The Fate of Marxism in Russia (New Haven, 1993), 109–11. On scholarly neglect of the Soviet state and its government, see Eugene Huskey, “Introduction,” in Huskey, ed., ExecutivePower, xii-xiii.

35 For reformers and conservatives, see Cohen, Rethinking the Soviet Experience, chap. 5.

36 See Ligachev, Yegor, Inside Gorbachev's Kremlin (New York, 1993). The figures are from Onikov, Leon, KPSS: Anatomiia raspada (Moscow, 1996), 75 .

37 “Kadrovoe popolnenie perestroiki,” Pravda, 25 June 1989; and the editorial, Pravda, 14June 1989. For Gorbachev's remark, see Cherniaev, A. S., Shest’ lets Gorbachevym:Po dnevnikovym zapisiam (Moscow, 1993), 356 .

38 Gill, Graeme, The Collapse of a Single-Party System: The Disintegration of the CommunistParly of the Soviet Union (New York, 1995), 174–75; Gorbachev, Mikhail, Zhizn’ i reformy, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1995), 2:575; and Kagarlitsky, Boris, Square Wheels: How Russian DemocracyGot Derailed (New York, 1994), 142 . For examples of such western accounts, see Beissinger, “Transformation and Degeneration,” 213; and Michael Dobbs, Down With Big Brother: TheFall of the Soviet Empire (New York, 1997), whose treatment of August 1991 is entitled “The Revolt of the Party.” For attempts to substantiate that view, see Belousova, G. A. and Lebedev, V A., Partokratiia iputch (Moscow, 1992); and Hahn, Russia's Revolution, 420–27.

39 Interpretation aside, the best summary discussion of the bureaucratic or nomenklatura class is Hough, Democratization, 51-57.

40 It was true even of bureaucrats within the party apparatus. See Onikov, KPSS, 56; Iu. Berzin, B. and Kogan, L. N., “Professional'naia kul'tura partiinogo rabotnika,Sotsiologicheskieissledovaniia, no. 3 (March 1989): 2122 ; and “Apparat protiv apparata?” Sovetskaiakul'tura, 31 March 1990.

41 For two studies of the phenomenon, see Kryshtanovskaia, Ol'ga, “Transformatsiia staroi nomenklatury v novuiu rossiiskuiu elitu,Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost', no. 1 (1995): 5165 ; and Viola Egikova in Moskovskaiapravda, 26 May 1994.

42 Gorbachev, M. S., Razmyshleniia ob ohtiabr'skoi revoliutsii (Moscow, 1997), 35 ; Dawn Mann, “Authority of Regional Party Leaders Crumbling,” Radio Liberty Report on the USSR 2, no. 8 (23 February 1990): 1–6; and, for rank-and-file support from the beginning, Viktor Gushchin in Nezavisimaia gazeta, 9 September 2000. For the “silent majority,” see Liudmila Savel'eva in Izvestiia, 3 September 1988.

43 For the party as “part of the state machine,” see Lev Burtsev in Izvestiia, 15 July 1990; and, similarly, A. Zevelev in Izvestiia, 3 November 1988.

44 Gorbachev, , Razmyshleniia ob oktiabr'skoi revoliutsii, 35; in Materialy plenunia (5–7 February 1990); 1112 ; and, similarly, in XXVIIIs“ezd, 2: 201–2.

45 Tat'iana Samolis in Pravda, 1 July 1991.

46 The episode was known as the Nina Andreeva affair. See Sovetskaia Rossiia, 3 March 1988; and Pravda, 5 April 1988.

47 Brown, Gorbachev, 191. For the Central Committee, see Onikov, KPSS, 90-91. At the conference, Ligachev denied the obvious (“There are no factions, no reformers and conservatives, among us“), while Gorbachev emphasized the point about die factional 1920s. XIX vsesoiuznaia konferentsiia kommunisticheskoipartii Sovetskogo Soiuza: Stenograficheskiiotchet, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1988), 2:88, 175.

48 Uchreditel'nyi s“ezd kommunisticheskoi partii RSFSR: Stenograficheskii otchet, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1991); Gorbachev, Zhizn’ i reformy, 1:530–39; and die report by Elizabeth Tucker in Wall Street Journal, 11 July 1991

49 Aleksandr Iakovlev in hvestiia, 2July 1991; and I. Maliarov in Pravda, 26 September 1990. Or as a Soviet political scientist put it, “The CPSU is itself already a multiparty system in miniature.” Liliia Shevtsova in hvestiia, 27 February 1990.

50 Quoted by Stepan Kiselev in Moskovskie novosli, 12 May 1991.

51 The words regularly used included razmezhevanie (dividing up), rasstavanie (parting of the ways), and even razvod (divorce).

52 For the conservatives, see the report by E. Savishev in Komsomol'skaia pravda, 15June 1991; and Oleg Shenin, Rodinu ne prodaval i menia obvinili v izmene (Moscow, 1994), 44. For Gorbachev, see Pravda, 3 and 26July 1991; his Zhizn’ i reformy, 2:547, 548; his interview in Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11 November 1992; quoted in Grachev, Andrei, Gorbachev (Moscow, 2001), 228 ; and Vasilii Lipitskii in Nezavisimaia gazeta, 3 August 1991. For his aides and supporters, see Shakhnazarov, Georgii, Tsena svobody: Reformalsiia Gorbachevaglazami ego pomoshchnika (Moscow, 1993), 151 ; Medvedev, Vadim, V komande Gorbacheva:Vzgliad iznutri (Moscow, 1994), 130–31, 185-86, 207; and Sergei Alekseev, Fedor Burlatskii, and Stanislav Shatalin in Literaturnaia gazeta, 30 January 1991. For an insider's view of these developments, see Latsis, Otto, Tshchatel'no splanirovannoe samoubiistvo (Moscow, 2001), 349–70.

53 Iakovlev, A. N., Gor'kaia chasha: Bol'shevizm i reformalsiia Rossii (Iaroslavl', 1994), 1722, 205-12.

54 Hahn, Russia's Revolution, 375; Gorbachev, Mikhail and Mlynar, Zdenek, Conversationswith Gorbachev: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism (New York, 2002), 121 ; and similarly Gorbachev, Zhizn1 i reformy, 2:578. One top aide thought that a formal split would not favor Gorbachev (Medvedev, Vkomande, 131), but several supporters and well-informed observers believed that a majority of party members, at least 9 million, would follow him. See, for example, Burlatskii, Fedor, Clotok svobody, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1997), 2:189–90; Latsis, Tshchatel'no, 345; German Diligenskii in Sovetskaia kid'tura, 7 July 1990; and Boris Pugaev in Rossiia, 3–9 August 1991. It seems unlikely, however, that either wing of the CPSU would have had that many supporters in the event of a formal split; many communists probably would have joined other breakaway parties or quit altogether. But even a million or so registered members would have been ample.

55 S. Sheboldaev in Pravda, 26 September 1990; and White, Gorbachev and After, 256.

56 In early 1990, it was estimated that in a free election the Communist Party would have gotten 20 percent of the vote, nationalist and patriotic parties about 30 percent, and a social democratic party 50 percent. Sakwa, Gorbachev and His Reforms, 189. Had the CPSU split into two parties, it is reasonable to assume that the conservative wing would have gained much of the nationalist vote and the Gorbachev wing most of the social democratic vote.

57 For similar arguments, see Miller, Mikhail Gorbachev, 147–48; and Brown, Gorbachev, 205–7, 272.

58 See, for example, the interview with El'tsin in Moskovskie novosti, 14 January 1990.

59 For similar arguments, see Miller, Mikhail Gorbachev, 146; and Kelley, “Gorbachev's Reforms and the Factionalization of Soviet Politics: Can the New System Cope with Pluralism?” in Huber and Kelley, eds., Perestroika-Era Politics, 93. For “healthy conservatism,“ see Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev's Kremlin; and his remarks in Sovetskaia Rossiia, 6 February 1991, and in Pravda, 28 May 1991.

60 As the leader of the post-Soviet Communist Party later said, it has become a “party of patriots.” Gennadii Ziuganov in Sovetskaia Rossiia, 24 October 1995. Similarly, see Ivan Polozkov, Sovetskaia Rossiia, 28 February 1991; E. Volodin, Sovetskaia Rossiia, 28 September 1991; and Aleksandr Prokhanov in Komsomol'skaia pravda, 3 September 1991. For an early comment on the “newly discontented,” see Aleksandr Gel'man in Literaturnaia gazeta, 10 September 1986.

61 Their first reaction was to declare that “in such circumstances they will not run in these elections because there is a 100 percent certainty they will not be elected.” To which Gorbachev replied: “Really?! It turns out that the party should refuse to participate in leadership and in elections?” Materialy plenuma tsentral'nogo komiteta KPSS: 25 aprelia 1989 goda (Moscow, 1989), 91. Evidendy, they soon figured out that if one in five first secretaries had lost, four others had won, one way or another. See V. Boikov and Zh. Toshchenko in Pravda, 16 October 1989.

62 For the post-1991 party, see Urban, Joan Barth and Solovei, Valerii D., Russia's Communistsat the Crossroads (Boulder, Colo., 1997); and March, Luke, The Communist Party inPost-Soviet Russia (New York, 2002). For the observer, see Vitalii Tret'iakov in Rossiiskaiagazeta, 24 April 2003.

63 Blasi, Joseph R. et al., Kremlin Capitalism: The Privatization of the Russian Economy (Ithaca, 1997), 21 . Similarly, see Moskoff, William, Hard Times: Impoverishment andProtest inthe Perestroika Years (Armonk, N.Y., 1993), 6 ; Miller, Mikhail Gorbachev, 205; and Strayer, Robert, Wliy Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change (Armonk, N.Y., 1998), 115, 133.

64 And they continued to do so to the end. See, for example, Goldman, What WentWrong, esp. 210-11; and Jeffrey Sachs quoted in Nelson, Lynn D. and Kuzes, Irina Y., RadicalReform in Yeltsin's Russia: Political, Economic, and Social Dimensions (Armonk, N.Y, 1995), 2223 . The same was true of many Soviet economists who later became “radical reformers.“ See, for example, Naishul, V. A., “Problema sozdaniia rynka v SSSR,” in Borodkin, F. M. et al., eds., Postizhenie: Sotsiologiia, sotsial'naia politika, ekonomicheskaia reforma (Moscow, 1989), 441–48. For explicit statements of the economy's reformability, see, for example, Kotz and Weir, Revolution, esp. chap. 5; and Ellman, Michael and Kontorovich, Vladimir, eds., The Destruction of the Soviet Economic System: An Insiders’ History (Armonk, N.Y, 1998), esp. chap. 2.

65 See, for example, Åslund, How Russia, 28; and Gorbachev's critical remarks about foreign advisers in FBIS, 27 February 1991, 81.

66 See, for example, Gorbachev in Pravda, 18 September 1990; and for radical reformers, S. S. Shatalin and N. la. Petrakov, in Pravda, 26 April 1990. Put another way, “For many Soviet economists, the ideal still remained the policies of NEP” or “socialism with a human face.” Baturin et al., eds., Epokha El'tsina, 170.

67 Åslund, How Russia, 28; Robert Service, A History of Twentieth-Century Russia (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), 492. For Gorbachev's comment on El'tsin's remark, see Zhizn’ ireformy, 1:576; and for a sympathetic treatment of Gorbachev's proposal, Brown, Gorbachev, 137-40.

68 See, for example, Vasilii Leont'ev's letter in Moskovskie novosti, 14 January 1990; Ed A. Hewett's op-ed in New York Times, 25 March 1990; Parker, Richard, “Inside the ‘Collapsing' Soviet Economy,Atlantic Monthly, June 1990, 6880 ; and Desai, Padma, Perestroika inPerspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform (Princeton, 1990), 106 .

69 See, for example, the laws on land, ownership, and enterprises in Izvestiia, 7 March 1990; Pravda, 10March 1990; and Sovetskaia Rossiia, 12June 1990. Until 1991, the laws were still somewhat euphemistic about private property and related matters, but even one of Gorbachev's harshest economic critics acknowledges their importance. Åslund, How Russia, 30. For an overview, see Brown, Gorbachev, 137–50.

70 Albert Makashov in Sovetskaia Rossiia, 8 June 1991. Similarly, see Prokof'ev, Iurii, “Ot ‘kul'tury’ skhvatki k kul'ture soglasiia,Kommunist, no. 13 (September 1990): 7 ; the now liberal Vadim Bakatin's account of his “metamorphosis” in Komsomol'skaia pravda, 31 May 1991; and “Mneniia delegatov xviii s'fezda KPSS (rezul'taty oprosa),” Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia, no. 11 (November 1990): 99–100. Ryzhkov later recalled this “evolution of views“ in Pravda, 3 October 1992.

71 Gorbachev, hbrannye rechi i stat'i, 7:573.

72 David Remnick in Washington Post, 7, 8, 9July 1991. For the cooperatives, see Vladimir Tikhonov in Argumenty ifakty, 31 March-6 April 1990, and in Literaturnaia gazeta, 8 August 1990; and Andrei Borodenkov in Moskovskie novosti, 1 July 1990.

73 Mikhail Berger in Moscow Times (magazine ed.), 12 March 1995, 35. Similarly, see Burtin, lurii, “Dve privatizatsii: Kak my prishli k nomenklaturnomu kapitalizmu,Novoevremia, 1994, no. 20: 19 ; Gaidar, Egor, Gosudarstvo i evoliutsiia (Moscow, 1995), 150 ; and Nureev, R. and Runov, A., “Rossiia: Neizbezhna li deprivatizatsiia? Fenomen vlastisobstvennosti v istoricheskoi perspektive,Voprosy ekonomiki, no. 6 (June 2002): 21 . For the view that Gorbachev “lost his chance to introduce meaningful economic reforms,” see Michael Dobbs in Washington Post, 15 December 1991; and, similarly, Åslund, Gorbachev'sStruggle, 230.

74 See his public remarks in Lithuania, in January 1990, in Nashi obshchie problemyvmeste i reshat': Sbornik materialov o poezdke M. S. Gorbacheva v Litovskuiu SSR, 11–13 ianvaria1990goda (Moscow, 1990).

75 For Gorbachev's struggle, see Soiuz mozhno bylo sokhranit'. Belaia kniga: dokumentyifakly o politike M. S. Gorbacheva po reformirovaniiu i sokhraneniiu mnogonatsional'nogo gosudarstva (Moscow, 1995); and Nenarokov, A. P., ed., Nesostoiavshiisia iubilei: Pochemu SSSR neotpraznoval svoego 70-letiia? (Moscow, 1992), 331508 . For his characterization of the old state, see Gorbachev, Zhizn’ i reformy, 1:495-96, and, similarly, 2:530. For parallels with Lincoln, see Gorbachev and Mlynar, Conversations, 129; and for the end of perestroika, Gorbachev, Mikhail,Dekabr'–91: Moiapozitsiia (Moscow, 1992), and V. T. Loginov, ed.,Piat'let posle Belovezhia. Chto dal'she? Materialy kruglogo stola, sostoiavshegosia v Gorbachev-Fonde,16dekabria 1996g. (Moscow, 1997).

76 Leon Onikov quoted in Smirnov, Uroki, 288.

77 For similar points about language, see Nelson and Kuzes, Radical Reform, 8; and Daniels, Robert V., Russia's Transformation: Snapshots of a Crumbling System (Lanham, Md., 1998), 212–13. Not surprisingly, a major Sovietologist, having misformulated the issue, finds “the sudden collapse difficult to explain even in retrospect. Why did the huge edifice collapse?” Walter Laqueur, The Dream That Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union (New York, 1994), 71. To illustrate the crucial difference in formulation, compare Richard Lourie, “Firebrands and Firebirds,” review of W. Bruce Lincoln, Between Heaven and Hell: The Storyof a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia, in Neiv York Times Book Review, 5 April 1998, 26 (“Soviet Russia … collapsed of its own weight“) with the topic of a Russian roundtable discussion in Nezavisimaia gazetaStsenarii, 1 January 1997: “Who Broke Up the Soviet Union: History, the West, Yeltsin, Gorbachev?“

78 See, respectively, Stephen Kotkin, “Trashcanistan,” New Republic, 15 April 2002, 27; Pipes, Communism, 41; and Nove, Alec, “The Fall of Empires: Russia and the Soviet Union,” in Lundestad, Geir, ed., TheFall of Great Powers: Peace, Stability, and Legitimacy (Oslo, 1994), 144 . Similarly, see Tolz, Vera and Elliot, Iain, eds., The Demise of the USSR- From Communismto Independence (London, 1995), 21 ; and Bunce, Subversive Institutions, 19, 36-37. To be fair, this is also the view of several serious Russian analysts. See, for example, Vladimir Sogrin, “Perestroika: Itogi i uroki,” Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost', 1992, no. 1:147; Burlatskii, Gbtok, 2:155-56; and Andranik Migranian in Nezavisimaia gazeta, 14 June 2000. But according to another Russian political scientist, “The defeat of the Communist system did not have to entail the breakup of the state.” Shevtsova, Lilia, “Was the Collapse of the Soviet Union Inevitable?” in de Tinguy, Anne, ed., TheFall of the Soviet Empire (Boulder, Colo., 1997), 76 .

79 See Whitefield, Industrial Power.

80 Shlapentokh, Normal, 164–66; and, similarly, Cheshko, S. V., Raspad SovetskogoSoiuza: Etnopoliticheskii analiz (Moscow, 1996), 140–41.

81 For the statistics, see Barsenkov, Vvedenie, 132; and Shlapentokh, Normal, 158. More than a decade after the breakup, Russian language and Soviet education were still powerful forces in Central Asia. See the report by Zamira Eshanova in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 13 November 2002.

82 Stephen Kotkin, “Trashcanistan,” 27. In 1996, Gorbachev made a similar point about the former Soviet Union: “De facto the country still lives even though de jure it no longer exists.” Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 December 1996.

83 Suny, Revenge of the Past, 150. Even Russian anticommunist critics of Gorbachev agree. See, for example, Sergei Roy in Moscow News, 26 November-2 December 1998; and the group statement in Nezavisimaia gazetaStsenarii, 23 May 1996.

84 For the Law of Secession, see Pravda, 7 April 1990; and for Gorbachev on the “process of ‘divorce,'” Zhizri i reformy, 1:520–21. Some historians think that if an acceptable union treaty had been offered in early 1989, the Baltic republics would have remained. See Simonian, R. Kh., “Strany Baltii i raspad SSSR: O nekotorykh mifakh i stereotipakh massovogo soznaniia,Voprosy istorii, no. 12 (December 2002): 3437 .

85 Stanislav Shushkevich in FBIS, 30 September 1991, 70.

86 For the treaty, see hvestiia, 15 August 1991; and for strong pro-Union statements by El'tsin and Kravchuk at the negotiations, Natsional'nye interesy, 2001, no. 2-3:80, 88. It is often argued that Ukraine would not have actually signed the treaty, but Gorbachev thought otherwise, as do a Russian and an American specialist. See Barsenkov, Vvedenie, 198; and Hale, “Ethnofederalism.“

87 Gorbachev, Mikhail, On My Country and the World (New York, 2000), 132 . For the seating, see also Gorbachev's press conference of 16 August 2001, in Johnson's Russia List, 20 August 2001.

88 For this interpretation, see Hahn, Russia's Revolution, chap. 8; and, similarly, Henry E. Hale, The Strange Death of the Soviet Union, Ponars Series no. 12 (Cambridge, Mass., March 1999). For a similar interpretation, though in different language, see Burlatsky, Feodor, “Who or What Broke Up the Soviet Union?” in Spencer, Metta, ed., Separatism: Democracyand Disintegration (Lanham, Md., 1998), 146 . Several scholars argue, on the other hand, that the treaty would have not worked. See, for example, Miller, Mikhail Gorbachev, 198; Beissinger, Nationalist Mobilization, 390, 422–25; and, less emphatically, Hough, Democratization, 424–28.

89 Anatolii Sobchak quoted in Brown, Gorbachev, 293; similarly, see Sobchak in Moskovskie novosti, 18–25 August 1996, and Vladimir Lukin quoted in Hough, Democratization, 393.

90 To take a contingency considered earlier, according to a widely respected Russian economist, if the G–7 had not sent Gorbachev home from London in July 1991 “with empty hands,” without the financial assistance he desperately needed, the plotters would not have moved against him. Nikolai Shmelev, “Piat' let reform—piat' let krizisa,” Svobodnaiamysl', 1996, no. 7:62, and his “Desiat' let, kotorye perevernuli mir,” Svobodnaia mysl', 1999, no. 2:77. Indeed, the plotters took steps in June and July to undermine his requests for western aid. See Hahn, Russia's Revolution, 406. For the rejection by the G–7 and the “big humiliation” it inflicted on Gorbachev, see Reddaway and Glinski, Tragedy of Russia's Reforms, 78–82.

91 See, for example, the post-August statements by Sobchak, Shushkevich, and Aleksandr lakovlev in FBIS, 13 September 1991, 33; 30 September 1991, 70; and 2 October 1991, 33; Roi Medvedev's account of the Congress in Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, no. 2 (March-April 2003): 167, and of his own expectations in Literaturnaia Rossiia, 4 April 2003; and for El'tsin, K'eza, Dzhul'etto, Proshchai, Rossiia! (Moscow, 1997), 110 . Indeed, after August, El'tsin was still considering having himself made president of the Soviet Union. El'tsin, Boris, Zapiskiprezidenta (Moscow, 1994), 154–55. Gorbachev, of course, continued to insist that the Union could be saved. See his Zhizvn' i reformy, 2: chap. 44.

92 For the text, see Pravda, 27 November 1991.

93 Martin Malia in New York Times, 3 September 1998; and Kotkin, Stephen, “Truth and Consequences,Neiu Republic, 31 March 2003, 34 . Similarly, see Hahn's, Jeffrey W. review of Kiernan, Brendan, The End of Soviet Politics: Elections, Legislatures, and the Demise of theCommunist Party, in Slavic Review 52, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 851 . Many otherwise diverse books on the period are largely informed by this outlook. See, for example, Malia, SovietTragedy; Dunlop, Rise of Russia; and Åslund, Gorbachev's Struggle. Some western scholars have treated the Gorbachev years as a “transition.” See, for example, Huber, “Introduction. The New Soviet Legislature: How Ideas and Institutions Matter,” in Huber and Kelley, eds., Perestroika-Era Politics, 3; Brown, Archie, “From Democratization to ‘Guided Democracy,'Journal of Democracy 12, no. 4 (October 2001): 35 ; and Hahn, Russia's Revolution, chap. 8. The word (perekhod) and concept were regularly applied to Gorbachev's reforms by Soviet writers at the time.

94 Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? 113.

95 I borrow the term countenoeights from Hazard, John N., The Soviet System of Government, 5th ed. (Chicago, 1980), chap. 13. Originally published in 1957, it was the first to develop this important insight. For a similar and earlier approach, but focusing on the official ideology, see Moore, Barrington Jr., Soviet Politics—The Dilemmas of Power: The Role ofIdeas in Social Change (1950; reprint, New York, 1965), 28, 339 .

96 See, respectively, Gorbachev, hbrannye rechi i stat'i, 6:352; Gorbachev, Zhizn’ i reformy, 1:390; Cherniaev, A. S. in 10 let bez SSSR: Materialy konferentsii i kruglykh stolov, provedennykhobshchestvenno-politicheskim tsentrom Gorbachev-Fonda v 2001 g. (Moscow, 2002), 8 ; and Gorbachev, Zhizn’ i reformy, 1:423. Thus, one American Sovietologist commented at the time, with considerable surprise, on “the coming to life of institutions that most people regarded as dead, a sham, a grotesque caricature of what they ought to be.” Donald W. Treadgold, “Mikhail Sergeevich and die World of 1990,” in Wieczynski, ed., GorbachevReader, 43.

97 For a similar point, see Rigby, T. H. quoted in Shevtsova, Lilia, Yeltsin's Russia: Mythsand Reality (Washington, D.C., 1999), 6 .


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