- This is indeed an enlightening book, but not one that I can write much on given it’s rather peripheral to my philosophical concerns.
- Apart from general interest, like many people I suppose, I wanted to get some idea of the background to the present war in Ukraine, particularly from the Russian perspective.
- The book takes a negative view of Gorbachev (and would probably do likewise for Yeltsin if it didn’t cut off before he fully took over the reins in Russia).
- Gorbachev gets a good press in the West, but not in Russia. For good reason on both sides. He ended the Cold War but unleashed both economic and social chaos by lack of strong decision-making and a clear vision. That said, he was let down by his supporters in the West. He’d been expecting the equivalent of the Marshall Plan, but only got a few loans.
- I’d not realised how indebted Gorbachev was to Lenin.
- I’ll probably get a better idea from "Plokhy (Serhii) - The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine", but my feeling is that the creation of the Ukrainian state was barely legal in the chaos of the break-up of the Soviet Union; that the loss of the Crimea and the Donbas to Russia was always going to cause tension. The Ukrainian SSR only made sense in the context of the USSR, not as an independent state. Khrushchev wouldn’t have set it up as he did had he anticipated the break-up of the USSR.
Amazon Book Description
- In 1945 the Soviet Union controlled half of Europe and was a founding member of the United Nations. By 1991, it had an army four-million strong, five-thousand nuclear-tipped missiles, and was the second biggest producer of oil in the world. But soon afterward the union sank into an economic crisis and was torn apart by nationalist separatism. Its collapse was one of the seismic shifts of the twentieth century.
- Thirty years on, Vladislav Zubok offers a major reinterpretation of the final years of the USSR, refuting the notion that the breakup of the Soviet order was inevitable. Instead, Zubok reveals how Gorbachev’s misguided reforms, intended to modernize and democratize the Soviet Union, deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism. Collapse sheds new light on Russian democratic populism, the Baltic struggle for independence, the crisis of Soviet finances – and the fragility of authoritarian state power.
- Vladislav M. Zubok is professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of A Failed Empire, Zhivago's Children, and The Idea of Russia.
Back Cover Blurb & Reviews
- Was the break-up of the Soviet Union inevitable? Thirty years after its collapse, Vladislav Zubok offers a major reinterpretation of the final years of the USSR. He reveals how Gorbachev’s misguided reforms deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism. Collapse sheds new light on Russian democratic populism, the struggle for independence, the crisis of Soviet finances — and, ultimately, the fragility of an authoritarian state.
- “Comprehensive, detailed and original... A treasure trove of newfound material about the power struggles within the Kremlin and the fledgling democratic and nationalist movements that launched their own anti-communist revolutions.”
→ Victor Sebestyen, Sunday Times
- “A compelling account... Masterly analysis.”
→ Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal
- “A remarkably reliable narrative... [Zubok’s] exactitude punctures many a myth, especially on the economy, as he sifts an immense body of research.”
→ Stephen Kotkin, Times Literary Supplement
- “A must read for those seeking to understand how a nuclear superpower could have imploded peacefully — and why today’s Russian leaders are so determined to restore Russia’s great power status.”
→ Angela Stent, author of Putin’s World
- “Thoroughly and deeply researched and emotionally engaging for the reader, it is difficult to envisage how there could be a better book on the subject.”
→ Geoffrey Roberts, Irish Times
- “The author seems to have read practically everything currently available, both published and unpublished, of relevance to his subject... [Zubok] writes very stylish and idiomatic English, which makes his work a real pleasure to read.”
→ Martin Dewhirst, East-West Review
- “Such a huge event in world history as the collapse of the Soviet Union will undoubtedly be retold. When it is, Zubok’s impressive book will have to be consulted.”
→ James Rodgers, History Today
- “Using remarkably copious archival sources, which he has mastered with impressive thoroughness, Zubok presents an almost day-by-day, or even hour-by-hour, account ... A powerful, detailed picture of puzzling events of great importance.”
→ Gary Saul Morson, New Criterion
- “Meticulous... offers an impressive close-up of the hectic political and diplomatic activities between August 1991, the time of the failed Communist coup, and December of that year, when the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist.”
→ Maria Lipman, Foreign Affairs
- “Zubok... has cutting insights on the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and the ‘where’ and the ‘when’.”
→ Gabriel Gavin, Reaction
- “A drama of epic proportions, the Soviet collapse never looked so contingent on human courage and follies, accidents and missed opportunities, as in this book ... The best narrative of the Soviet Union’s end we have so far.”
→ Vladimir Pechatnov, co-editor of The Kremlin Letters
- “This is a deeply researched indictment of Mikhail Gorbachev’s timidity and mercurial policies that backfired. Zubok invokes George Kennan’s hope at the dawn of the Cold War that the USSR would experience ‘gradual mellowing’. Instead, Russia at the turn of the 21st century was ripe for the rise of Putin.”
→ Strobe Talbott, Former US Deputy Secretary of State and author of The Great Experiment
- “A deeply researched, gripping account of the final Soviet unravelling: Gorbachev’s growing weakness, infighting among his opponents, breakaways to independence by the USSR’s constituent republics, including Russia itself, all in the face of growing reluctance of the Bush administration and the Western alliance to help Gorbachev salvage a democratic union.”
→ William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, and of Gorbachev: His Life and Times
List of Illustrations – ix
Dramatis Personae – xi
Acknowledgments – xvi
Maps – xxi
Introduction: A Puzzle – 1
- PART I: HOPE AND HUBRIS, 1983-90
- Perestroika – 13
- Release – 43
- Revolutions – 70
- Separatism – 98
- Crossroads – 126
- Leviathan – 154
- PART II: DECLINE AND DOWNFALL, 1991
Conclusion – 427
- Standoff – 181
- Devolution – 206
- Consensus – 229
- Conspiracy – 255
- Junta – 279
- Demise – 311
- Cacophony – 336
- Independence – 365
- Liquidation – 397
List of Abbreviations – 440
Notes – 441
Selected Bibliography – 502
Index – 511
Orion Spring (18 Nov. 2021). Hardback.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)