RUSSIAN SPRING by Dennis Jones


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In Rubicon One (1983), Jones presented a fairly lively, faintly plausible dramatization of the world on the brink of World War III. Here his future-scenario is only somewhat less ambitious: tensions within underfed, restless late-1980s Russia--leading up to all-out Civil War. Chernenko is dead, and the new USSR Premier is Vasily Romanenko, who begins a gradual move toward more liberal policies--a withdrawal plan for mutinous Soviet troops in Afghanistan, easing-up of censorship, more freedom for the satellites, etc. But Romanenko's chief rival, KGB chief Smilga, is a neo-Stalinist hardliner who (while publicly endorsing Romanenko's policies) is secretly accumulating allies and propaganda-weapons for a Burro-like coup d'etat, complete with purges. And caught in the midst of these simmering tensions is Romanenko's nephew Colonel Untrue Mikhailov--a disillusioned career-soldier, with Vietnam-like psychological scars from atrocities in Afghanistan, who has been secretly feeding data to the CIA via Canadian journalist Chantal Mallory. Now that his uncle is trying to improve things in the USSR, however, should Mikhail (who loves Chantal) stop his treasonous/noble doings? Or should he maintain his CIA contacts as a possible source of help for Romanenko in the escalating conflict with Smilga? Then, on the eve of a Leningrad summit-conference for Romanenko and satellite-nation leaders, Smilga makes his move--using his KGB/military allies to have Romanenko's supporters in the Army arrested. The Smilga forces take control of Moscow; there's fighting in Leningrad, with Mikhailov leading troops to secure the city and protect the Premier; Smilga launches a propaganda war, using Mikhailov's now-revealed treason as a weapon against Uncle Romanenko. And Romanenko will eventually regain power--but only after food riots, Smilga's ruthless nuclear attack on Leningrad, and Mikhailov's heroic death. Despite a few warming touches (e.g., his love for little daughter Valeria), Mikhailov never quite takes on sufficient life to give this quasi-documentary a strong dramatic center. Still, fans of future-politics and Kremlinology will find this an intelligent, reasonably well-informed, and occasionally vivid slice of speculation--with only a few lapses into pulp-melodrama and cartoon war-games.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1984
Publisher: Beaufort