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The uses and abuses of history: the end of the Cold War and Soviet collapse

Cox, Michael (2011) The uses and abuses of history: the end of the Cold War and Soviet collapse. International Politics, 48 (4-5). pp. 627-646. ISSN 1384-5748

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Identification Number: 10.1057/ip.2011.24


In the by now extended debate about the end of the Cold War and its causes, very little attention has been paid to the role played by historical memory in helping shape the way policy-makers approached the collapse of the post-war order. As this article shows, many, if not most policy elites at the time, confronted the passing of the old world with a great degree of caution and trepidation; and one of the key reasons they did so, it is argued here, is because of their reading of the past. This reading, I go on to suggest, made many of them especially cautious and fearful when faced with great change. In the end of course these changes proved irresistible, and for liberals at least seemed to augur in more peaceful and prosperous times. However, as we shall see here, this unguarded optimism was not much in evidence as the old international system and the other superpower collapsed after 1989. Looking backwards rather than forwards, policy-makers approached the new dawn with much less enthusiasm and optimism than their public pronouncements seemed to indicate at the time or later.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 Palgrave Macmillan
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2012 10:28
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 00:53

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