In October 1917 revolution swept away the Tsarist system under which Russia had assimilated its neighbouring states. Led by Lenin, the Communist Party transformed this empire into the Soviet Union, one of the most powerful states the world has known. Under Stalin industrialisation was followed by terror, resistance to Nazi invasion, and the Cold War. As a superpower under his successors, Kruschev and Brezhnev, the Soviet Union appeared invincible, but with Mikhail Gorbachev came political reforms which resulted in the collapse of communism in December 1991 and the emergence of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Based on extensive research and first-hand knowledge of the Soviet system, this is a stimulating analysis of the developments which sustained, then finally undermined, the Communist regime. Mary McAuley's clear account of events pinpoints key political developments - revolution, state-building, party-rule, terror, and elections - and fully discusses their significance. Her analysis will be of importance to all students of twentieth-century politics and to everyone wanting a full understanding of the history and development of the Soviet Union.