The Drama of Russian Political History
System against Individuality
6.125 x 9.25, 296 pp.
Pub Date: 01/08/2003
Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series
  cloth
Price:        $39.95

978-1-58544-224-9

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The Drama of Russian Political History

System against Individuality

By Alexander V. Obolonsky
Foreword by Vincent Ostrom

In his introduction, Alexander Obolonsky notes that Russian history and life are full of paradoxes, most of them rather sad. Why, he asks, have the Russians, who have not only been endowed by nature with enormous natural, human, and intellectual resources, but who have also developed a great literary and scientific heritage and made significant contributions to world civilization, proved unable to arrange the conditions of their own existence to realize their great potential? “What fundamental deficiency,” he wonders, “made this great anomaly possible?”Alexander Obolonsky has undertaken the formidable task of reinterpreting Russian history from the Time of Troubles and the reign of Ivan the Terrible to perestroika, glasnost, and the dismantling of the Soviet system under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. He seeks to understand the present and assess the social trends that will shape the future through a careful reconsideration of Russia’s past.In his sweeping analyses of historical trends, Obolonsky structures his analytic narrative around two opposed concepts–a system-centered understanding of social existence in which individuals are viewed as “cogs” functioning for the sake of the whole, and a liberal person-centered paradigm in which society seeks to promote the development of the individual.Obolonsky distrusts all monistic explanations, from Marxism and geopolitics to scientific and technological models. He prefers to utilize a variety of variables—ethical, economic, sociopsychological, cultural—to explain Russian history, presenting its course as a long-term and ongoing struggle between two competing models of life. Oblolonsky is neither a determinist nor a romantic. In his thought-provoking and historically grounded analysis, he challenges standard interpretations regarding Russia, the USSR, the role of political leaders, and the Russian people. Far from satisfied with Russia’s past, Obolonsky worries that Russia’s future will be tainted by the persistence of an anti-individualist mentality and attitudes shaped by centuries of autocratic rule and by a conservative mass consciousness rooted in Russian experience.Students of Russian history, politics, and culture, and also those interested in the broader issues of twentieth-century society will find this informative magnum opus of a senior Russian scholar insightful and thought-provoking.

Alexander Obolonsky was born in Russia a few days before the German invasion. He holds a law degree and a doctorate in law and politics. Working since 1972 in the Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences, he now also teaches at Moscow State University. From 1999 to 2000 he was a Fulbright visiting scholar in Washington, D.C. Oblolonsky has published more than a hundred articles and eight books in Russian, and he has contributed chapters to many different Russian and Western publications. This volume is a substantially revised, English version of a highly regarded book that provoked much domestic controversy upon its publication in Russia in 1994.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . .suitable for a readership that brings some knowledge of Russian history and social development to the work, primarily scholars and advanced students of history and political philosophy. Nonetheless, The Drama of Russian Political History is a thoughtful and powerful book that deserves a wide readership.”--Clarence B. Davis, History

“. . .suitable for a readership that brings some knowledge of Russian history and social development to the work, primarily scholars and advanced students of history and political philosophy. Nonetheless, The Drama of Russian Political History is a thoughtful and powerful book that deserves a wide readership.” --Clarence B. Davis, History

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