"The Soviet Colossus" is an introduction to 20th-century Soviet history within the context of Russian history as a whole. Kort begins by showing how and why the Tsars developed powerful centralised institutions that undermined the political, civil and economic freedoms of the Russian people. He then goes on to explain how the Bolsheviks' attempt to build socialism in a backward country produced the strong centralised bureaucracy that was characteristic of the Soviet Union. The post-Stalin years of half-way reforms are surveyed for new insights. In the concluding chapters Kort discusses Gorbachev's place in the continuum of Russian and Soviet history, and his role in unleashing the force that finally toppled the Soviet colossus.