The Memoirs of Yegor Ligachev
Email this review


 Fascinating and unusually (though not completely) frank insider's account of Kremlin politics during the Gorbachev era. Ligachev, Gorbachev's former deputy, comes off here as both more interesting and more complicated than the conventional picture of him as the ``arch villain'' of the democratization process. As Stephen Cohen says in his valuable introduction, even political figures loyal to Gorbachev have characterized Ligachev as being ``deeply sincere, proudly incorruptible, and habitually straightforward in his political relations.'' One indication of this was Ligachev's relegation for 17 years to the Party organization in Siberia. He was recalled to Moscow in 1983 by Andropov and seems sincerely to have shared Gorbachev's vision of a reformed Communism, in part because his own and his wife's families suffered severely under Stalin. Ligachev testifies to the general acceptance by the bureaucracy of the need for reform. He was deeply impressed by Gorbachev, he says, but at some fairly early stage, Gorbachev went further than Ligachev thought appropriate. Time and again, Ligachev returns to the question of what caused Gorbachev's downfall. Was it the Soviet premier's attraction to the aura of the ``enlightened monarch''? Was it a lack of practicality, or was it that Gorbachev was surrounded by those who, in Ligachev's view, deliberately led him astray? Ligachev says that he repeatedly tried to persuade Gorbachev of the coming debacle, sometimes with biting humor. Of one of his letters to Gorbachev, he says here that ``under Stalin, you would have lost your head for a letter like that. Under Khrushchev, you would have been fired. Under Brezhnev, you would have been made an Ambassador to Africa. And under Gorbachev, you were simply ignored.'' Ligachev doesn't go into the history of the attempted coup, and he often seems trapped by rhetoric--e.g., attacking ``slander'' against the Party. Still: a valuable contribution to the history of the period, and an absorbing self-portrait. (B&w photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41392-8
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992


NonfictionRUSSIA'S DEAD END by Andrei A.  Kovalev
by Andrei A. Kovalev