TEN YEARS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: The Gorbachev Era as Witnessed by His Chief of Staff by Valery Boldin

TEN YEARS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: The Gorbachev Era as Witnessed by His Chief of Staff

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reproachful, revelatory recollections of a protracted GÖtterdÄmmerung from a former aide of the Soviet Union's last emperor. Boldin had a ringside seat in the Kremlin from 1981 -- when an upwardly mobile apparatchik named Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev raided Pravda to recruit him as an assistant -- through 1991, when he was imprisoned for participating in an abortive coup against his erstwhile boss. The author's insider status allows him to offer illuminating insights on those who presided over (or precipitated) the collapse of both the USSR and Communist Party. By his censorious, discontinuous account, Gorbachev was a vain, ambitious opportunist overly mindful of Western opinion, who unleashed forces he did not fully understand and could not control, much less direct. According to Boldin, moreover, Gorbachev was surprisingly indecisive and hence ineffective in crisis situations -- from the Chernobyl disaster through the unanticipated consequences of glasnost and perestroika. The author's disclosures and perspectives, however, come at a price. To begin with, readers must wade through a welter of teary prose detailing how, sick or well, Boldin was forced to work like a galley slave for an unappreciative, insensitive, and autocratic master. Further, in addition to assigning Gorbachev sole responsibility for the fall of a once-united state (plus such unwelcome side effects as industrial paralysis, a crime wave, reduced birth rates, and lower standards of living), the author charges him with a host of venial shortcomings. At several points, for example, he goes out of his way to make nasty comments about Gorbachev's regional accent. Nor does Boldin shrink form reiterating the central role selfless patriotism played in his own conversion from comrade to culpable critic. Revisionist history with a vengeance -- and residual values for all the bitterness.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic Books