Books by Steven Otfinoski

BULGARIA by Steven Otfinoski
Released: Dec. 1, 1998

This latest entry in the Nations in Transition series recounts the history and struggles of Bulgaria and the hardships connected with its Soviet relationship. Otfinoski (Boris Yeltsin and the Rebirth of Russia, 1995, etc.) reveals the vast problems experienced by Bulgaria, so far unable to make the transition to a democratic system of government and a free-market economy; instead, the country has experienced "economic disaster and near political chaos." Approximately the size of the state of Tennessee, Bulgaria has been in crisis recently, but the coverage reaches back, presenting the government, religion, economy, culture, beautiful architecture, and great leaders, and offers a sense of a rich national identity. The author also makes excellent use of unfamiliar aspects of Bulgarian life to draw readers in: the roses grown there that produce an oil (attar) that is highly prized by perfume makers; the fact that this nation of "yogurt-eaters has the greatest population of people over the age of 100 in all Europe"; and that the best surgeons earn about $60 a month. The road to democracy and prosperity is difficult for Bulgaria and readers will clearly understand that it has not given up its struggles. (b&w photos, maps, index, not seen, notes, chronology, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-15) Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 1995

Covering Yeltsin's career from his childhood in the Urals through the December 1993 election ratifying Russia's new constitution, this brisk, brief biography ultimately skimps on background material; readers without real knowledge of the old Communist system may be somewhat baffled. Such world-altering events as the dissolution of the USSR have no resonance, and this experienced biographer fails to explicate aspects of Yeltsin's personality and behavior, or to explore his motives in a meaningful way. The writing is clear and lively, and Otfinoski cuts through complex political events to make them accessible. The book provides enough facts for reports, or to bring outdated references up to the present. Nevertheless, with the Russian political situation so unsettled, this book may have a short shelf life. (B&W photos, chronology, bibliography, index)(Nonfiction/biography. 12+) Read full book review >
JOSEPH STALIN by Steven Otfinoski
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Presented with undisguised condemnation and passion, the incredible story of Stalin's treacherous rise to power, moral degeneration, and miserable end. Otfinoski uses testimony from Khrushchev and other Soviet public figures, as well as from Western diplomats, to illuminate Stalin's methods and successes- -and their brutalizing effects on Soviet society. Particularly curious is the contrast between Stalin's vicious treatment of enemies, real and imagined, and his tender letters to his daughter. Though he quotes numerous secondary sources, Otfinoski attributes to Stalin thoughts and feelings that seem speculative, especially since he notes that Stalin erased the records of many details of his early life. Still, gripping. B&w photos; source notes; chronology; annotated bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 12+) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 15, 1992

Telling the gripping story of the struggles of South Africa's leading statesman, Otfinoski maintains a sympathetic but narrowly focused viewpoint by concentrating on the individual activities of Mandela and his generation of activists rather than listing the horrors of apartheid and the suffering of younger activists like Steven Biko (who isn't even mentioned). Using quotations from contemporary witnesses, Otfinoski gives a complete outline of Mandela's life—down to his release from prison, his triumphal tours of Europe and the US, and the beginnings of negotiation for a new constitution for South Africa. To the author's great credit, he also tries to make sense of Mandela's difficulties—the killing of a suspected police informer by his wife's bodyguards and the continuing conflict between his supporters and the Zulu tribal organization Inkatha. A final chapter establishes Mandela's place in history, regardless of what may happen during the rest of his life. Well written and fully documented with references to accessible sources, a biography that should remain valuable for years. Chronology; bibliography; index. (Biography. 11+) Read full book review >