The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy

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9780739144725: The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy
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In The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, Metta Spencer recounts the political and military changes that have occurred in Russia up to mid-2010. Using hundreds of interviews she conducted with officials, dissidents, and liberal intellectuals, she describes the various groups, forces, and individuals that worked to liberalize the totalitarian Soviet Union and its fellow nations behind the Iron Curtain, and which ultimately brought about the dissolution of those repressive governments.

Spencer identifies four political orientations to describe Soviet society: "Sheep," ordinary citizens who accepted the undemocratic regime they lived in without challenging it; "Dinosaurs," hard-line Communist officials; "Termites," including Mikhail Gorbachev and his advisers and government; and "Barking Dogs," a few hundred dissidents who made "a lot of noise" protesting, hoping to awaken a grass-roots demand for democracy. The strange rivalry between the Termites and Barking Dogs would ultimately doom perestroika.

Spencer's research dispels the widely-held perception that US President Ronald Reagan "won" the Cold War by standing firm until the Soviet Union "blinked first." There are vitally important lessons to be learned from the Soviet period, about how to assist citizens of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes around the world.

The irony is that transnational civil society organizations, major sources of the progress in Soviet Russia, are still needed today in authoritarian Russia, under Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, for totalitarianism remains a potential social trap. In The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, Metta Spencer suggests new ways of building urgently-needed social capital in today's Russia, where democracy has yet to flourish.

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About the Author:

Metta Spencer is editor-in-chief of Peace Magazine and professor emeritus of sociology at University of Toronto. To learn more about the author and her research, please visit http://russianpeaceanddemocracy.com/

Review:

This brilliant work illuminates not only crucial developments in modern Russian history, but the profound influence transnational civil society has had on building a peaceful and democratic world. (Lawrence S. Wittner, , author of Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement)

In this book, Metta Spencer tells the important but neglected story of the contacts between Western peace activists and Soviet intellectuals (both official and dissident) through the words of those who took part. In so doing, she dispels the myths prevalent in Western policy-making circles that the West 'won' the Cold War through its military strength—myths which still have a distorting affect on policy. Anyone who wants to know how the Cold War ended will find this book immensely useful. (Mary Kaldor, co-director of the Center for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science)

Spencer has an engaging style of writing, very like a personal conversation. The book is deeply interesting for its theoretical content and fascinating for the cameos of extraordinary people who appear in the pages.Spencer has an engaging style of writing, very like a personal conversation. The book is deeply interesting for its theoretical content and fascinating for the cameos of extraordinary people who appear in the pages. (Medicine, Conflict and Survival)

[Spencer's] chronicle of the spirit and ingenuity of Russians and their ability to overcome the most unbreachable barriers is anything but discouraging. I look forward to the next chapter. (Literary Review Of Canada)

Metta has an engaging style of writing, very like a personal conversation. The book is deeply interesting for its theoretical content, and fascinating for the cameos of extraordinary people who appear in the pages. (Book Review)

Spencer’s valuable account of this period in Eastern European socio-political history gives voice to those whose multifarious works ended the Cold War. She quotes at length from her extensive interviews – covering some 28 years of work in the field – shedding light not only on the accomplishments of individuals, but also on their characters. (Foreign Policy)

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy is a statement of faith in the human desire for peace and freedom, a longing that survives even in the most oppressive regimes, publicly in a courageous few, and more covertly in others. (Peace Review: A Journal of Justice Studies)

A very interesting and informative text, especially for readers who are interested in political sociology, social movements, and Russian history. (Book Review)

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