Rulers and Subjects
No other European country has had a government as harsh and dictatorial as that of Russia. Its rulers, whether Tzarist or communist, have been everything, and the ruled nothing. Why did Russians put up with such treatment, and why did only a brave and dedicated few try, usually against huge odds, to bring about a more just and accountable government? Rulers and Subjects is the study of governors and the governed, from 1801 until the liquidation of the Soviet state in 1991. In charting the rocky course of that relationship, it devotes considerable attention to the two occasions when rebellion did succeed, placing them firmly in the context of 200 years of Russian history. The first, in 1917, replaced tzarism and briefly created a government with democratic intentions, but within months it was toppled by the Bolsheviks whose subsequent attempt to build socialism caused untold suffering, havoc, and a more harshly repressive government than before. The second rebellion brought the Soviet experiment to an end. The collapse, provoked by Gorbachev's reforms, resulted in the discrediting of socialism, the abolition of the Communist Party, the disintegration of the Soviet empire and finally the disappearance of the Soviet state itself. Concluding with the post-Soviet confusion and misery, John Gooding portrays a new society struggling to be born amidst the ruins of the old, to overcome the authoritarianism and misgovernment that once seemed such an ineradicable feature of Russian life.