Book Review

The Shortest History of the Soviet Union – a nimble guide through 74 tumultuous years

Australian historian Sheila Fitzpatrick recounts a hugely complex story in an accessible way without sacrificing any of the accuracy

Communist Party supporters attend the mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin in a memorial ceremony marking the 97th anniversary of his death last year. Picture: Getty

In a televised address shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the country’s president Vladimir Putin notoriously justified his “special military operation” as an attempt to “de-Nazify” the country. His language was designed to appeal to the indomitable Soviet patriotism that repelled Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, a crucial turning point in World War II.

Putin’s selective history, however, deliberately ignored the non-aggression pact that Hitler had previously signed with Joseph Stalin ...