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The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

Evan Mawdsley and Stephen White

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198297383
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599842 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198297386.001.0001
The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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The USSR was dominated by its ruling Communist Party, and the party was in turn dominated by a political elite that was represented in its Central Committee. Nearly two thousand individuals were members of the Central Committee between 1917 and 1991, who may be divided into four distinct political generations from the professional revolutionaries born in the late nineteenth century to the post‐war generation that was beginning to enter the political elite in the Gorbachev years. There were considerable variations over time in the characteristics of the Central Committee, including the extent to which its membership was replaced at successive party congresses. But a close relationship developed between particular occupational positions and Central Committee membership, a ‘job‐slot’ system that lasted until the final years of communist rule. The Central Committee as an institution was generally marginal to the political process. But it met more frequently and took more decisions in the 1920s and late 1980s, and on several occasions, its meetings were decisive in resolving leadership conflicts; they also ventilated policy alternatives, and sometimes disagreements. In the last years of communist rule, the elite sought increasingly to transform their positions of political power into the more enduring advantage of property, and this allowed many of them to maintain their elite status into the post‐communist period. As well as printed sources, the study draws on recently opened party archives and about a hundred interviews with members of the Brezhnev‐era Central Committee.

Keywords: archives; Central Committee; Communist Party; jobs; leadership; party congress; policy; political elite; political generation; USSR

Book.  348 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Politics

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Table of Contents

Revolutionaries in Power, 1917–1923 in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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Stalin's New Elite, 1939–1956 in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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Stalinist Generation, ‘Leninist Norms’, 1956–1966 in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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The Elite Consolidates, 1966–1985 in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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Challenge and Crisis, 1985–1991 in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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Elite and Society in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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An Evolving Elite in The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev

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