The years of late Stalinism are one of the murkiest periods in Soviet history, best known to us through the voices of Ehrenburg, Khrushchev and Solzhenitsyn. This is a sweeping history of Russia from the end of the war to the Thaw by one of Russia's respected younger historians. Drawing on the resources of newly opened archives as well as the recent outpouring of published diaries and memoirs, Elena Zubkova presents a richly detailed portrayal of the basic conditions of people's lives in Soviet Russia from 1945 to 1957. She brings out the dynamics of postwar popular expectations and the cultural stirrings set in motion by the wartime experience versus the regime's determination to reassert command over territories and populations and the mechanisms of repression. Her interpretation of the period establishes the context for the liberalizing and reformist impulses that surfaced in the post-Stalin succession struggle, characterizing what would be the formative period for a future generation of leaders: Gorbachev, Yeltsin and their contemporaries.