|This book represents the paradigmatic study of the means by which the CPSU managed to integrate the Russian factor in the Soviet polity. Despite the fact that it was first published in 1946, the volume still generates extensive debates and commentaries within the academic community (e.g., Kritika, 5-4, Fall 2004). The phrase, “the Great Retreat”, describes “the amalgamation of traits of the historical and national culture of Russians with traits belonging to the Communist cycle of ideas and behavior traits.” (pp. 354-356) Timasheff argues that the dual process of state-building and the creation of an all-Soviet culture relied heavily on the Russian (and Tsarits) past and heritage (political, cultural, historical). And this strategic turn led to a retreat from prior radical views of socialist transformation.
Despite later criticism of this approach, especially the idea of a retreat from socialist developmental project, the book is important because it indicated that communist ideology and policies can cope and assimilate nationalist positions. It opened the way for approaches such as those of Robert C. Tucker, Sheila Fitzpatrick, David Brandenberger, Terry Martin or Evgheny Dobrenko. Timasheff was among the first to indicate the fact that systemically mature communist regimes are not solely Marxist-Leninist, but they also rely on a certain degree of assimilation of national values recognizable by their political community.