Newsweek's former Moscow bureau chief charts the disintegration of the Soviet Empire--through solid reporting conducted in Moscow, the Baltic states, Romania, and Transcaucasia in 1989 and 1990. Arrested and deported by Romanian dictator Ceausescu's Securitate for interviewing a dissident, able to speak to a top conservative Soviet official (Ligachev) usually unavailable to the press, and adept at finding sources on all sides of any given conflict, Cullen, fluent in Russian, provides impartial firsthand accounts. He witnesses the religious and ethnic clash between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Transcaucasia, questioning ordinary people on both sides as well as soldiers, and is present during the rise of independence in the Baltic states--where, he notes, in the absence of an established opposition philosophy professors try to play politician to lead the rebellion. Examining the obstacles to the release of the republics from the USSR, Cullen describes the interlocking economies and the large contingent of Russians who have settled in many of the republics. Rather than report on all the countries in the Soviet bloc, the author focuses on only a few locales, then visits them repeatedly as events unfold over 1989 and 1990. Visiting Romania before the revolution and twice afterward, for example, he explores concerns that the new regime, having awarded itself the old leadership's power and perquisites, will continue to forbid any real change. Strong portrait of life under radical change, examining both the passions of the citizenry and the more abstract movements of political events.