A cogent summary of basic information about the 11 former members of the USSR (the three Baltic countries and Georgia have chosen not to be included) now joined in a federation of sovereign states, charged with disarmament, economic community, and foreign policy. Concisely reviewing the events leading to the 1991 breakup, as well as Russian communism's rise and fall, Clark discusses each new country (or geographically related group), touching on important historical factors, resources, economic bases, and ethnic composition. Topics that are of general significance or especially revealing are dealt with separately--""Gorbachev After the Coup""; the role of the ""babushka"" (grandmother) in busy Russian households; the ""Bloody Dispute"" between Armenians and Azeris; ""Soviet Cosmonauts as Rip Van Winkles""; ""The Soviet Legacy: Environmental Disaster."" The concise discussion of the Asian republics with their 60 million Muslims and dependence on cotton is particularly interesting. Lucid, sympathetic, well-organized and effectively detailed: a book that gives a real sense of these diverse lands and of the disruptions in everyday life caused by recent political changes. Color photos and maps provide good support. Chronology; further reading; index.