A plodding account of the Story of the Century, told by journalist and Russian scholar Felshman with all the verve and wit of a back issue of Pravda. The recent convulsions in Soviet history have produced an overwhelming curiosity about the leaders of Russia's ""second revolution,"" and Felshman sets out to add a bit of flesh to the skeletal biographies of Gorbachev and Yeltsin that most Westerners have had to make do with up to now. High Soviet authorities have traditionally kept themselves far from the limelight, revealing so little about their private lives that most independent newspapers have been hard-pressed to file even a standard obituary for many of them (Chernenko, for example, was not known with any certainty to have been married until his wife appeared at his funeral). Unfortunately, perestroika has had little impact on this convention, and most of what Felshman digs up (mainly from secondary sources) doesn't take us very far: the details of education and career, as well as the careful record of Party posts and honors, can't explain two figures as radical (or as radically different) as Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Both began as typical Party apparatchiks, both achieved prominence after long decades of dogged climbing, and both eventually came to the conclusion that something serious had to give way if the Soviet Union was to survive. Felshman makes it clear that Yeltsin is the greater maverick of the two, but this was widely apparent long ago, and it might have been wiser to have devoted more attention to him--Yeltsin is allotted only one chapter out of ten here--since he is the more obscure and (for now) far more interesting of the pair. The sections dealing with Raisa Gorbachev are gossipy and shallow. No great shakes, even for glasnost groupies.