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RESURRECTION by David Remnick

RESURRECTION

The Struggle for a New Russia

By David Remnick

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-42377-X
Publisher: Random House

 It would be hard for New Yorker writer Remnick to do anything quite as good as his Pulitzer Prizewinning Lenin's Tomb (1993), but his study of Russia since 1991 shows all the restless intelligence, hard work, and fine writing that made that work so memorable. He begins with the meeting of leaders of 11 republics in December 1991 at which the Soviet Union was dissolved and Mikhail Gorbachev awarded a pension of $140 a month. Yeltsin, who drank heavily throughout, had to be helped from the room. From then on, for a time, Russia was bereft of leadership. Yeltsin relied on an inept group of hard-line cronies; eventually brought himself to act against a recalcitrant and rebellious parliament; presided over an increasingly corrupt state; got drawn into a war against the Chechens that his minister of defense told him would be over in two hours, but which eventually caused more than 80,000 casualties; and by early 1996 had a popularity rating in the single digits and was trailing the leader of the Communist Party, a hack by the name of Zyuganov. The most remarkable part of Remnick's account is his story of the Russian election of 1996 and the clash between Yeltsin cronies like Aleksandr Korzhakov, the head of his personal security, who wanted to cancel the election, and business and liberal advisers, who wanted to use ``Western'' methods, including spending money freely, to win. The decision to allow the election to go ahead may have rested on Yeltsin's uncertainty about the army's loyalty and his own wish to be seen as a force for good in history. Perhaps surprisingly, Remnick ends on a relatively optimistic note: ``I see no reason,'' he says, ``that Russia cannot make a break with its absolutist past much in the way that Germany and Japan did after the war.'' Full of memorable portraits of those he met, full of nuance, full of empathy with the Russians, this is a worthy successor to Lenin's Tomb. (Author tour)