The Great Urals: Regionalism and the Evolution of the Soviet System

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9780801434785: The Great Urals: Regionalism and the Evolution of the Soviet System

Political histories of the Soviet Union have portrayed a powerful Kremlin leadership whose will was passively implemented by regional Party officials and institutions. Drawing on his research in recently opened archives in Moscow and the Urals—a vast territory that is a vital center of the Russian mining and metallurgy industries—James R. Harris overturns this view. He argues here that the regions have for centuries had strong identities and interests and that they cumulatively exerted a significant influence on Soviet policy-making and on the evolution of the Soviet system.After tracing the development of local interests prior to the Revolution, Harris demonstrates that a desperate need for capital investment caused the Urals and other Soviet regions to press Moscow to increase the investment and production targets of the first five year plan. He provides conclusive evidence that local leaders established the pace for carrying out such radical policies as breakneck industrialization and the construction of forced labor camps. When the production targets could not be met, regional officials falsified data and blamed "saboteurs" for their shortfalls. Harris argues that such deception contributed to the personal and suspicious nature of Stalin's rule and to the beginning of his onslaught on the Party apparatus.Most of the region's communist leaders were executed during the Great Terror of 1936–38. In his conclusion, Harris measures the impact of their interests on the collapse of the communist system, and the fate of reform under Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

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