THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE

FORTY YEARS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD, FROM STALIN TO YELTSIN

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 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14312-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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