An analysis of Gorbachev's first four years in power, via interviews with Russia's foremost historian. Among the leading students of Soviet politics, Medvedev is in a class by himself. A Marxist-oriented historian, his meticulously researched study of Stalinism, Let History Judge, was published in the US to wide acclaim in 1972. Medvedev remained in Moscow and produced more historical works for foreign publication--despite KGB harassment--until the arrival of Gorbachev brought him the official recognition that he deserved. While Medvedev may thus be indebted to the Soviet leader, his objectivity and ability to take the long view, as demonstrated by the interviews here, remain intact. Medvedev succeeds in explaining the comparative ease with which Gorbachev has revolutionized Soviet foreign policy, while the domestic side of perestroika is certain to be a protracted battle: a dichotomy sometimes overlooked in American journalistic studies. Medvedev's interlocutor, Italian journalist Chiesa, has such a clear sense of what is significant in political events that Chiesa's introductory chapters would be a lasting contribution to our knowledge of recent Soviet history even if published by themselves. Published first in Italy in 1989, the book covers domestic and foreign policy in 1986-88, with sections helpfully divided by year. An incisive and eye-opening critique.