The Shortest History of the Soviet Union by Sheila Patrick

The Shortest History of the Soviet Union by Sheila Patrick

The perfect overview of a massive, tumultuous history. At 248 pages from start through to the end of the index, Patrick’s book lives up to its name and delivers on accessibility and content. The chapters are chronologically organized, written in succinct prose, and free of historiographical or theoretical tangents. My galley copy did not even have footnotes! (But more on this later).

Patrick’s book is perfect for the undergraduate survey course in Soviet history (or for a Modern European history course) and for anyone who is new — like me — to the nuances and complications of Soviet history. The chapters are short enough to assign in lower level college courses and they lay out the chronological landscape very well; Soviet history can feel a bit overwhelming and Patrick eases the reader into it smoothly. The lack of footnotes here, normally a red flag in my view, was a positive characteristic. Undergraduate students sometimes feel overwhelmed at the footnotes, feeling unsure of where to direct their attention. The absence of citations allows readers to focus fully on the content at hand instead of worrying about tangential or other information.

As a historian of other regions I cannot comment on Patrick’s content in depth; however, I will say that I am very appreciative of the very meticulous sources, references, and bibliography Patrick provides at the end.

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