THE WORLD I LEFT BEHIND: Pieces of the Past by Luba Brezhneva

THE WORLD I LEFT BEHIND: Pieces of the Past

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The niece of Leonid Brezhnev recalls her life in the inner circles of the Soviet leadership of the 1960s and '70s. Luba Brezhneva's father, Yakov, had a brother with ambition and magnetism, and when Leonid Brezhnev, that brother, rose to the highest positions in the Soviet Union, he dragged Yakov with him. As a result, Luba found herself as a young woman (she was born in 1943) unwillingly thrust into the lap of (comparative) luxury, but also into the center of a maelstrom of political intrigue and dirty tricks. When she began an affair with an East German colonel in the mid-'60s, she found herself the victim of KGB interest that went far beyond surveillance, ending in a beating that caused a miscarriage. When her father's drinking got out of hand, he found himself incarcerated in one of the USSR's notorious ""psychiatric"" hospitals, and was only released thanks to Luba's persistence. Brezhneva tells this story in a hyperthyroid prose that calls to mind all the old clich‚s about the ""passionate Russian soul,"" and in her best moments, she is able to kid herself about those excesses. There are some fascinating sidelights thrown on recent Soviet history, from the conspiracy that overthrew Krushchev to first-hand accounts of KGB thuggery. But the book is overlong and, at times, numbing in its drumbeat of anti-Soviet vitriol, particularly her endlessly repeated girlish distaste for the sexual proclivities of the older Soviet leadership (she describes one rather louche evening with guests in post-sauna towels and skimpy dress -- ""courtesans, whose lovers ordered their clothes by catalogs""; the author herself arrived in a prim gray dress). Often interesting, with some genuinely insightful psychologizing, but Brezhneva is a far cry from Irina Ratushinskaya or Solzhenitsyn.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random