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Making Sense of War:
The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution
Amir Weiner

Paperback | 2002 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691095431
432 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 23 halftones, 2 maps, 9 tables
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In Making Sense of War, Amir Weiner reconceptualizes the entire historical experience of the Soviet Union from a new perspective, that of World War II. Breaking with the conventional interpretation that views World War II as a post-revolutionary addendum, Weiner situates this event at the crux of the development of the Soviet--not just the Stalinist--system. Through a richly detailed look at Soviet society as a whole, and at one Ukrainian region in particular, the author shows how World War II came to define the ways in which members of the political elite as well as ordinary citizens viewed the world and acted upon their beliefs and ideologies.

The book explores the creation of the myth of the war against the historiography of modern schemes for social engineering, the Holocaust, ethnic deportations, collaboration, and postwar settlements. For communist true believers, World War II was the purgatory of the revolution, the final cleansing of Soviet society of the remaining elusive "human weeds" who intruded upon socialist harmony, and it brought the polity to the brink of communism. Those ridden with doubts turned to the war as a redemption for past wrongs of the regime, while others hoped it would be the death blow to an evil enterprise. For all, it was the Armageddon of the Bolshevik Revolution. The result of Weiner's inquiry is a bold, compelling new picture of a Soviet Union both reinforced and enfeebled by the experience of total war.


"[Weiner's] slice of the story focuses on the nature, process, and ontology of the regime's prewar, wartime, and postwar purges. He does this by tracing in painstaking, revealing detail the way these phenomena unfolded."--Foreign Affairs

"As [Weiner] rightly observes, the second world war was a defining moment in the history of the Soviet Union and its ideology . . . The power of totalitarian regimes to fashion new prejudices out of old is a subject that fascinates with horror; and it reminds us that the ancient hatreds which caused so much bloodshed and misery in the post communist world have often been quite carefully constructed, or at least revived, in relatively recent times."--The Economist

"[A] difficult and disturbing but ultimately rewarding book."--Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Slavic Review

"Making Sense of War is an impressive study based on a broad reading of secondary literature and copious amounts of archival research in several countries. . . . The greatest benefit of this new work is that it rightly foregrounds World War II in Soviet history and will cause many scholars to reflect on the meaning of 1917. . . . Every scholar of the Soviet Union should read Making Sense of War."--Karl D. Qualls, The Russian Review

"Weiner's work is rich in information and implications."--Ronald Grigor Suny, Journal of Modern History

"A brilliant book. . . . Weiner's insights into the impact of the war on Soviet ideology and the Soviet polity are often ironic and always valuable."--Jacob W. Kipp, Journal of Cold War Studies

Amir Weiner returns us to the real, unadulterated Soviet Union. In Making Sense of the War, he indeed takes us into a new and little-known segment of its history, namely the country's wartime and postwar internal development. Until now, this subject has been ignored by Western historians."--Martin Malia, The New Republic


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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction: Making Sense of War 7
One Myth and Power: The Making of a Postwar Elite 43
Two "Living Up to the Calling of a Communist": Purification of the Rank and File 82
Three Excising Evil 129
Four Memory of Excision, Excisionary Memory 191
Five Integral Nationalism in the Trial of War 239
Six Peasants to Soviets, Peasants to Ukrainians 298
Afterword: A Soviet World without Soviet Power, a Myth of War without War 364
Bibliography 387
Index 411

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