A rather dry account of the failure of Communism in Eastern Europe, told by an expatriate Romanian academic (Political Science/Univ. of Maryland)--long on background, well documented, but plodding as narrative. The best feature of Tismaneanu's history is his exposition of recent events in Romania, about which little is known in this country. He is able to place the monstrosities of the Ceausescu regime--its xenophobia, megalomania, and almost Pharaonic obsession with monuments and public works--within the context of what he calls ""Asiatic despotism,"" and from there he makes a distinction between the Balkan states (Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania)--which had never really been considered (or considered themselves) a part of Europe-and the Central European nations (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany), which unmistakably were. The difficulty facing the Balkan states, in Tismaneanu's view, is that their desperate poverty and long history of foreign political administration have prevented them from developing almost any of the attributes of the ""civil society"" upon which all modern democratic states rely (e.g., effective representative governments, strong national--as opposed to tribal--identities, uncontested territorial borders). The Central European nations, he says, while suffering immensely from a neartotal breakdown of industry and commerce, have at least a strong political cohesion and so can face the future with a good deal less dread. The background history that Tismaneanu supplies--especially in regard to the political movements that swept the region between the world wars--is helpful and interesting, but this is essentially a theoretical book, not a history, and pursues its theory on a surprisingly abstract plane. Strangely removed from the events it describes, and needing a much larger dose of praxis. Readers interested in the extraordinary events of 1989 would do better to look at Mark Frankland's The Patriots' Revolution (reviewed above).