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Reviewed by:
  • Khrushchev's Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary, and: For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War, and: A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev
  • Rósa Magnúsdóttir
Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, Khrushchev's Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary. pp. 640 New York: W. W. Norton, 2006 (cloth), 2007 (paper). ISBN-13 978-0393058093, $35.00 (cloth); 978-0393330724, $19.95 (paper).
Melvyn P. Leffler, For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. pp. 608 New York: Hill and Wang, 2008. ISBN-13 978-0374531423, $35.00 (cloth); 978-0374531423, $20.00 (paper).
Vladislav M. Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev. pp. 504 Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007 (cloth); 2008 (paper). ISBN-13 978-0807830987, $39.95 (cloth); 978-0807859582, $22.95 (paper).

Since the end of the Cold War we have seen a steady stream of scholarly accounts revealing new archival evidence and bringing us closer to understanding the 50-year conflict. Recent Cold War survey literature tends to focus on aspects of the Global Cold War,1, the Cold War in Asia,2 and the Soviet– American relationship, often with an emphasis on the Soviet side.3 The three works under discussion here all fall into the last category. Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali's Khrushchev's Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary focuses on the Cold War during the Khrushchev period. The American historian Melvyn Leffler approaches the Cold War through five "moments" during which the actions and inactions of Soviet and American leaders could have changed—and eventually did transform—the course of the Cold War. The Soviet-born American scholar Vladislav [End Page 201] Zubok surveys the whole Cold War from the Soviet perspective, that is, "from Stalin to Gorbachev."

Although the conflict ended almost 20 years ago, we are still debating the basic political history of the Cold War. The social and cultural history of the Cold War is rather marginal, and the focus in Cold War research remains primarily on national leaders, decision making, and global politics.4 At first glance, the three books under discussion, while significantly different both in scope and perspective, have two things in common that are typical of a rather traditional approach to the Cold War. The first is a common focus on the Soviet Union in the Cold War (Zubok and Fursenko/Naftali focus only on the Soviet side, whereas Leffler aims for a more balanced account, including the American side); the other is a focus on national leaders (although Zubok also successfully incorporates the impact of the Soviet political elite and intellectuals on decision making during the Cold War).

Still, there are some strong signs in Leffler and especially Zubok that methodologies other than traditional political history, fresh approaches, and new research questions are starting to interest and influence Cold War historians. One can even argue that it is no longer acceptable only to bring forth new evidence about the inner workings of the Cold War but that to tell the "whole story," historians of the period increasingly have to take into account research on, for example, cultural and public diplomacy, consumption, travel, youth, and cultural and technological transfer. These topics add multiple layers to the otherwise traditional political narrative.5 A multileveled approach, [End Page 202] taking various different social groups into account, analyzing national or collective identity, and seeking to understand the formative experiences of generations would certainly give a much fuller view of the Cold War.6 It is a tall order for any single account to incorporate all these topics, but some promising first steps have been made in at least two out of three of the works under discussion.

New approaches manifest themselves in the works by Zubok and Leffler through their emphasis on the role of ideology and their conclusion that, more than any other factor, ideology influenced the decision making of Soviet (and American) leaders from Stalin to Gorbachev. Their analyses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 201-211
Launched on MUSE
2010-01-30
Open Access
No
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