The Soviet Mind: Russian Culture under Communism

Brookings Institution Press
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“Berlin’s great powers of observation combine with his great knowledge and literary gifts to provide us with a fascinating series of insights.”
—Geoffrey Riklin

George Kennan, the architect of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, called Isaiah Berlin “the patron saint among the commentators of the Russian scene.” In The Soviet Mind, Berlin proves himself worthy of that accolade. Although the essays in this book were originally written to explore tensions between Soviet communism and Russian culture, the thinking about the Russian mind that emerges is as relevant today under Putin’s post-communist Russia as it was when this book first appeared more than a decade ago.

This Brookings Classic brings together Berlin's writings about the Soviet Union. Among the highlights are accounts of Berlin's meetings with Russian writers in the aftermath of the war; a celebrated memorandum written for the British Foreign Office in 1945 about the state of the arts under Stalin; Berlin's account of Stalin's manipulative "artificial dialectic"; portraits of Pasternak and poet Osip Mandel’shtam; Berlin's survey of Russian culture based on a visit in 1956; and a postscript reflecting on the fall of the Berlin Wall and other events in 1989.

Henry Hardy prepared the essays for publication; his introduction describes their history. In his revised foreword, Brookings’ Strobe Talbott, a longtime expert on Russia and the Soviet Union, relates the essays to Berlin's other work.

The essays and other pieces in The Soviet Mind—including a new essay, “Marxist versus Non-Marxist Ideas in Soviet Policy”—represent Berlin at his most brilliant and are invaluable for policymakers, students, and anyone interested in Russian politics and thought—past, present, and future.
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About the author

Isaiah Berlin (1909–97) was a Russian-born British philosopher, educator, and theorist, famed for his intellectual brilliance but also for his ability to explain complex ideas in a remarkably accessible style. He taught social and political theory for most of his life at Oxford University, where he was the founding president of Wolfson College.

Henry Hardy is a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University. He is one of Isaiah Berlin’s literary trustees and has edited a number of other collections of Berlin’s essays.

Strobe Talbott assumed the presidency of the Brookings Institution in July 2002 after a career in journalism, government and academe.

His immediate previous post was founding director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Before that, he served in the State Department from 1993 to 2001, first as ambassador-at-large and special adviser to the secretary of state for the new independent states of the former Soviet Union, then as deputy secretary of state for seven years.

Mr. Talbott entered government service after 21 years with Time magazine. As a reporter, he covered Eastern Europe, the State Department and the White House, then was Washington bureau chief, editor-at-large and foreign affairs columnist. He was twice awarded the Edward Weintal Prize for distinguished diplomatic reporting.
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Additional Information

Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Aug 23, 2016
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History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Political Science / Essays
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism
Political Science / World / Russian & Former Soviet Union
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David E. Hoffman
From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history The Dead Hand comes the riveting story of a spy who cracked open the Soviet military research establishment and a penetrating portrait of the CIA’s Moscow station, an outpost of daring espionage in the last years of the Cold War
   While driving out of the American embassy in Moscow on the evening of February 16, 1978, the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station heard a knock on his car window. A man on the curb handed him an envelope whose contents stunned U.S. intelligence: details of top-secret Soviet research and developments in military technology that were totally unknown to the United States. In the years that followed, the man, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer in a Soviet military design bureau, used his high-level access to hand over tens of thousands of pages of technical secrets. His revelations allowed America to reshape its weapons systems to defeat Soviet radar on the ground and in the air, giving the United States near total superiority in the skies over Europe.
   One of the most valuable spies to work for the United States in the four decades of global confrontation with the Soviet Union, Tolkachev took enormous personal risks—but so did the Americans. The CIA had long struggled to recruit and run agents in Moscow, and Tolkachev was a singular breakthrough. Using spy cameras and secret codes as well as face-to-face meetings in parks and on street corners, Tolkachev and his handlers succeeded for years in eluding the feared KGB in its own backyard, until the day came when a shocking betrayal put them all at risk. 
   Drawing on previously secret documents obtained from the CIA and on interviews with participants, David Hoffman has created an unprecedented and poignant portrait of Tolkachev, a man motivated by the depredations of the Soviet state to master the craft of spying against his own country. Stirring, unpredictable, and at times unbearably tense, The Billion Dollar Spy is a brilliant feat of reporting that unfolds like an espionage thriller.
Isaiah Berlin
Taurus recupera El sentido de la realidad, el libro más personal de uno de los principales pensadores liberales del siglo XX.

¿Cómo construir una sociedad decente?
¿Por qué ciertas ideas aparentemente nobles y hermosas
pueden alimentar las peores ideologías?

Referente ineludible en la historia de las ideas, Berlin recorre magistralmente, en estos nueve ensayos, las ideas que han gobernado la historia europea durante los últimos tres siglos: nacionalismo, liberalismo y especialmente marxismo. Con el fin de extraer lecciones morales, Berlin se pregunta por qué los seres humanos tienden a admirar a hombres movidos por la ambición, los celos o la vanidad monomaníaca -incluidas figuras notables de la historia como Pedro el Grande y Napoleón-, y proporciona algunas respuestas, siempre reveladoras, en este estudio de las ideas.

El sentido de la realidad incluye textos clave de quien ha sido considerado uno de los mejores ensayistas en inglés, y cubre un amplio abanico de temas: el realismo en la historia, naturaleza y el impacto del marxismo, la historia del socialismo, la radical revolución cultural llevada a cabo por los románticos, las nociones rusas de compromiso artístico, o la práctica y el origen del nacionalismo...

«Este libro es indispensable para cualquiera que quiera comprender la historia de las ideas.»
John Gray, The New York Times Book Review

«El viejo zorro del liberalismo ofrece esta obra perspicaz. Es tan brillante a la hora de repensar el pasado como a la de transmitir su pensamiento.»
Kirkus Reviews

«Erudito pero no académico, se dirige al lector general, y habla con una energía tan contagiosa que nos arrastra a un territorio que nos parecía inaccesible, y se convierte en el mejor guía para movernos en la emocionante historia de las ideas.»
Robert Darnton, The New York Review of Books

«Si es posible elevar más una reputación ya tan notable, estos ensayos podrían lograrlo. Son textos de urbanidad, perspicacia, profunda erudición y gran elegancia literaria.»
A.C. Grayling, Financial Times

Isaiah Berlin
‘IB was one of the great affirmers of our time.’ John Banville, New York Review of Books

The title of this final volume of Isaiah Berlin’s letters is echoed by John Banville’s verdict in his review of its predecessor, Building: Letters 1960–75, which saw Berlin publish some of his most important work, and create, in Oxford’s Wolfson College, an institutional and architectural legacy. In the period covered by this new volume (1975–97) he consolidates his intellectual legacy with a series of essay collections. These generate many requests for clarification from his readers, and stimulate him to reaffirm and sometimes refine his ideas, throwing substantive new light on his thought as he grapples with human issues of enduring importance.

Berlin’s comments on world affairs, especially the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the collapse of Communism, are characteristically acute. This is also the era of the Northern Ireland Troubles, the Iranian revolution, the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, and wars in the Falkland Islands, the Persian Gulf and the Balkans. Berlin scrutinises the leading politicians of the day, including Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev, and draws illuminating sketches of public figures, notably contrasting the personas of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrey Sakharov. He declines a peerage, is awarded the Agnelli Prize for ethics, campaigns against philistine architecture in London and Jerusalem, helps run the National Gallery and Covent Garden, and talks at length to his biographer. He reflects on the ideas for which he is famous – especially liberty and pluralism – and there is a generous leavening of the conversational brilliance for which he is also renowned, as he corresponds with friends about politics, the academic world, music and musicians, art and artists, and writers and their work, always displaying a Shakespearean fascination with the variety of humankind.

Affirming is the crowning achievement both of Berlin’s epistolary life and of the widely acclaimed edition of his letters whose first volume appeared in 2004.

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