THE RISE OF RUSSIA AND THE FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE

A methodical and painstaking—if highly opinionated—analysis of the figures, factions, and forces that contributed to the implosion of the Soviet Union. As the title suggests, Dunlop's focus is on the Gorbachev era's growing confrontation between the decentralizing, anti- imperial ``democrats,'' headed by Yeltsin, and the conservative, authoritarian, or proto-fascist ``statists'' aiming to preserve the USSR in its existing form at all costs—with Gorbachev himself shuttling uncertainly between the two camps. Publisher claims notwithstanding, this is anything but a ``sweeping narrative''—on the contrary, Dunlop's broad thesis—that glasnost unwittingly unleashed the twin tempests of democracy and nationalism that were to bring down the USSR—emerges from meticulous research, detailed almost too scrupulously. Dunlop stalls momentum by presenting each figure or tendency in turn and charting its trajectory from 1985 onward, rather than allowing it to emerge organically in a time- unified narrative. Only his account of the abortive coup of August 1991, whose unified action prohibits this fragmentary approach, swells into a compelling drama; here, Dunlop provides the most comprehensive and well-sourced version of those mysterious, tumultuous three days that most readers will have encountered. Elsewhere, he makes few concessions to the general audience, presuming a great deal of prior knowledge of the field. And many may bridle at his persistent and overt anti-Gorbachev, pro-Yeltsin bias: Time after time, Dunlop attributes the worst motives (dictatorial or at least Machiavellian) to Gorbachev, while awarding Yeltsin the benefit of any doubt. The author seems almost ready to attribute the Russian president's preservation during the 1991 putsch to divine intervention. Dunlop's contentiousness makes this a more likely spur to specialist debate than a generalist's definitive guide to the Soviet Union's demise.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-691-07875-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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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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