The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World (Hardback)
  • The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World (Hardback)
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The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World (Hardback)

(author), (translator)
£35.00
Hardback 928 Pages
Published: 14/03/2023
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Waterstones Says

Taking in both the pervasive terror and small details of ordinary life in the USSR, Schloegel's eye-opening volume draws from the author’s decades of travel in the Soviet Union to bring to vivid life a world that has remained largely hidden to the western eyes.

An encyclopedic and richly detailed history of everyday life in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union is gone, but its ghostly traces remain, not least in the material vestiges left behind in its turbulent wake. What was it really like to live in the USSR? What did it look, feel, smell, and sound like? In The Soviet Century, Karl Schloegel, one of the world's leading historians of the Soviet Union, presents a spellbinding epic that brings to life the everyday world of a unique lost civilization.

A museum of-and travel guide to-the Soviet past, The Soviet Century explores in evocative detail both the largest and smallest aspects of life in the USSR, from the Gulag, the planned economy, the railway system, and the steel city of Magnitogorsk to cookbooks, military medals, prison camp tattoos, and the ubiquitous perfume Red Moscow. The book examines iconic aspects of Soviet life, including long queues outside shops, cramped communal apartments, parades, and the Lenin mausoleum, as well as less famous but important parts of the USSR, including the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the voice of Radio Moscow, graffiti, and even the typical toilet, which became a pervasive social and cultural topic. Throughout, the book shows how Soviet life simultaneously combined utopian fantasies, humdrum routine, and a pervasive terror symbolized by the Lubyanka, then as now the headquarters of the secret police.

Drawing on Schloegel's decades of travel in the Soviet and post-Soviet world, and featuring more than eighty illustrations, The Soviet Century is vivid, immediate, and grounded in firsthand encounters with the places and objects it describes. The result is an unforgettable account of the Soviet Century.

Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 9780691183749
Number of pages: 928
Dimensions: 235 x 155 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"A Financial Times Best Summer Book"

"A Financial Times Best Book of the Year- History"

"A BBC History Magazine Book of the Year"

"A Seminary Co-Op Notable Book of the Year"

"An impressively evocative look at material life in the USSR, from gulags and the planned economy to Red Moscow perfume and the Soviet toilet — a “lost civilisation” of utopian fantasy and unbridled terror." - Financial Times

"Who else could have a whole chapter on Soviet-era doorknobs? This is a fascinating book about the material loose ends, the pamphlets, the clothes, the non-existent phone books, the shop signs, the chest medals, and the bric-a-brac — among many other items — of the Soviet Union. . . . This is in my view one of the better books for understanding the Soviet Union."---Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"The Soviet Century . . . presents history in a novel way, showcasing customs and traditions, values and artefacts, that offer many poignant insights and helps readers understand the Russian psyche today. . . . It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted read that both takes historical stock and zooms in on miniature details."---Jana Bakunina, Financial Times

"His focus is not on the foreign relations or domestic crises of Soviet rule but on outward appearances: the look, the smell, the sounds of everyday life. Based on decades of research and an intimate knowledge of history and culture, ‘The Soviet Century’ is a fascinating chronicle of a not-so-distant era."---Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal

"A detailed examination of the relics of ordinary communist life. Perfect for dipping into."---Fred Studemann, Financial Times

"In a work of remarkable range and quality, Karl Schlögel explores the everyday life and material culture of the Soviet Union in ways that show the communist experiment in a compellingly fresh light. One of the most innovative books on Soviet history to appear since the state’s collapse in 1991."---Tony Barber, Financial Times

"Schlögel – assisted by his excellent translator, Rodney Livingstone – is an eloquent writer and a captivating travel guide around this Soviet “lost world”."---Stephen Lovell, Times Literary Supplement

"Karl Schlögel . . . and his wonderful noticing of things and how they sit in space is on full display in the 900-plus pages of The Soviet Century. Schlögel variously calls his book an archaeology, an exhibition, and a museum of the Soviet “'ifeworld.' Its focus on the things of everyday life makes it, in his view, not an 'encyclopedia of banalities”'(a phrase used by the Russian historian Natalia Lebina about her own history of everyday life) but rather 'an encyclopedia of fundamentals.' Just about everything memorable and (to a Westerner) odd about Soviet everyday life is there."---Sheila Fitzpatrick, Foreign Policy

"Extremely timely and utterly indispensable."---Vitali Vitaliev, Engineering and Technology

"[A] magnum opus. . . . This invaluable study casts a lost world in a new light." - Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"Who knew that, apart from his experiments with dogs, Ivan Pavlov wrote a preface concerning nutrition for a bestselling Soviet cookbook? That’s one of just many oddments Schlögel assembles in this utterly absorbing tour through the material goods that defined the Soviet era, from pulpy wrapping paper to the medals veterans wore, from canned goods to perfume and tchotchkes and everything in between. . . . A superb blend of social history and material culture, essential for students of 20th-century geopolitics." - Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

"A pinnacle in Soviet studies. . . . A splendid book." - Library Journal (Starred review)

"Formidable. . . . The emergence of this book in our intellectual landscape is timely, as we seek to better understand Russia in an era when systematic political, economic, social, and even cultural approaches have failed to explain or predict the current resurrection of the 'Soviet Leviathan.' Indeed, perhaps 'the devil is hidden in the details,' and by diving yet again into these minute but culturally rich details of Soviet banal routine, spiritual life, and rituals, we can make a step forward in our comprehension of why the dark side of 'Soviet civilization' keeps reemerging again and again."---Oksana Ermolaeva, EuropeNow (Editor's pick)

"Nine hundred pages in length and wonderfully illustrated throughout. . . .It is a welcome and unique contribution to Soviet studies."---Steven Andrew, Morning Star

"Fascinating. . . . The scholarship of the work is evident throughout, but 'The Soviet Century' is both more powerful and more subtle than a typical work of scholarship. At its heart, it’s a gigantic, heartfelt elegy, one of the most stunning tributes ever paid to the Soviet Union."---Steve Donoghue, Big Canoe News

"A work of deep scholarship and significant breadth about a relatively brief period of recent history when it seemed that there might be an alternative economic system to capitalism."---Joseph Brady, Society

"The wealth of this book cannot be sufficiently explored within the limits of a review. Gibbonian in scale, it is a veritable cornucopia of jewels. “In Russia, radical changes and catastrophic experiences occur in their pure form,” Schlögel states. Reading his chronicle of this massive churn in all its sensory whimsies, we gain fresh insights into the lost world of the Soviet Union."---Prasenjit Chowdhury, Hindustan Times

"A terrific book – eye opening, captivating and wholly revealing."---David Marx, David Marx Book Reviews

"Schlögel’s book is ingenious – thrilling, even – introducing readers to a [sic] extraordinary array of things that rarely find a place in history books: tattoos, wrapping paper, the place of pianos, and nameplates on apartments and houses."---Peter Frankopan, BBC History Magazine

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