Moshe Lewin's major new book is an original and important work that clarifies the sweeping changes that transformed Russia in the 20th century from a muzhik country to an urban power. As in his previous works, Lewin's extraordinary breadth of kwledge and sympathy allows him to deal with the grand narrative of cultural transformation that goes well beyond simple studies of urban growth or industrialization. The Soviet Union, as Lewin reminds us, was a rural country well into the post-World War II era, becoming predominantly urban only in the mid 1960s. The fascinating story that emerges from this book is one of a becoming increasingly more complex even as it retains a relatively primitive configuration of power. Lewin reveals the historical roots of recent change and shows how a largely bureaucratic apparatus simply lost the ability to govern a rapidly changing society. Laying bare the underlying causes of the present chaos in the former Soviet Union, he vividly portrays a government that barely understands the new forces in society that have been dramatically unleashed.
Moshe Lewin was born in Poland and served in the Russian army during World War II. One of the most respected scholars in his field, he has been a Fellow in Russian Studies at Columbia, Princeton, and the Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the author of many books, including The Gorbachev Phenomenon and The Making of the Soviet System (reissued by The New Press). He is currently professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania.