Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

By Alexei Yurchak,

Book cover of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation

Book description

Soviet socialism was based on paradoxes that were revealed by the peculiar experience of its collapse. To the people who lived in that system the collapse seemed both completely unexpected and completely unsurprising. At the moment of collapse it suddenly became obvious that Soviet life had always seemed simultaneously eternal…

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2 authors picked Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Alexei Yurchak was part of the last Soviet generation—the last citizens born in the USSR who also lived through its collapse as adults. As the title suggests, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is a profound and poetic work about truth and what we come to accept as real. Yurchak wants to explain the paradox that, while Soviet people knew by the 1970s that their government was telling them almost nothing but untruths, they were still shocked to their core by their country’s demise. What I loved most about the book was Yurchak’s descriptions of ordinary life among…

Like the French Revolution, the collapse of Soviet communism shocked—but somehow did not surprise—those who lived through it. (The former struck Tocqueville as “inevitable yet … completely unforeseen.”) This brilliant study by the Berkeley anthropologist Alexei Yurchak comes closer than any other I’ve read to explaining the strange sense of immutability that pervaded late Soviet life. One fascinating detail—whenever Brezhnev awarded himself another medal, artists had to sneak into official buildings at night to paint the new addition onto the General Secretary’s portraits. Such continual tweaks were essential to preserving the impression of stasis.

From Daniel's list on the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.

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