THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE by Fred Coleman

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE

Forty Years that Shook the World, from Stalin to Yeltsin
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Valuable insight into developments in the Soviet Union since the death of Stalin, by a former Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press, Newsweek, and US News and World Report (for which he now serves as Paris bureau chief). Coleman uses his stints in Moscow to good effect, not only to flesh out what we know about dramatic events like Khrushchev's fall in 1964, Brezhnev's decision to invade Afghanistan in 1979, and Gorbachev's reform plans of 1985, but also to provide the telling anecdote and illustration. Thus, he notes that in 1953, at a time when Soviet rocketry was widely feared in the West, a scientific worker was obliged to climb a ladder propped against a rocket to measure the fuel level inside. While sympathetic to the difficulties involved, Coleman believes that the US consistently overestimated Soviet power and was less than skillful in understanding the Soviet system. He notes that the US was always surprised when the second secretary to the party committee emerged as the next leader, and when that leader changed the policies of his predecessor and attempted to discredit him, although it happened every time. And he gives evidence, not always totally persuasive, that this is not wisdom after the event. Perhaps the author's most interesting contribution is his reassessment of Gorbachev, whose reputation has flamed out in recent years. Coleman argues that he ``accomplished more than any other statesman in the world during the last half of the twentieth century.'' Coleman's feel for Boris Yeltsin seems more tentative, and some of Coleman's certainty deserts him in his attempt to descry the future, though he believes the reform era is drawing to a close, ``either by the election of a communist, an extreme nationalist, a militarist, or a more authoritarian Yeltsin.'' An important contribution to our understanding of the last 40 years in Russia, even if one can't avoid the thought that it was never quite so clear at the time. (16 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 11th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14312-5
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionEVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL by Sigrid Rausing
by Sigrid Rausing
NonfictionREAGAN AT REYKJAVIK by Ken Adelman
by Ken Adelman