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Moscow, December 25th, 1991

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The implosion of the Soviet Union was the culmination of a gripping game played out between two men who intensely disliked each other and had different concepts for the future. Mikhail Gorbachev, a sophisticated and urbane reformer, sought to modernize and preserve the USSR; Boris Yeltsin, a coarse and a hard drinking bulldozer,” wished to destroy the union and create a ca
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by PublicAffairs,U.S. (first published January 1st 2011)
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John Carter McKnight
An excellent journalistic account of the end of the USSR, using the day of Gorbachev's resignation as a frame for examining the last few years of his rule. Fast-paced but never shallow, O'Clery gives a first-hand account of the final day's events, contextualizing them well.

The end of the USSR is one of history's more extraordinary stories, and O'Clery spins it out as a tale of unintended consequences, personality conflicts, and habits of public obeisance and private back-stabbing developed over
Conor O’Clery’s Moscow 25 December 1991 follows a notably growing trend for picking a pivot point in history and revolving round it to find a popular audience (witness 1066, 1421, 1434, 1491, 1492 etc. All good books by and large but adopting a very similar tact). The date provides a recognizable focus and then the space is open for provide the background and the aftermath in a popular fashion. O’Clery breaks the mold though in a most engaging fashion with the book. I am always in praise of thos ...more
Karl Hafer, Jr.
Documenting the end of the Cold War has become a kind of cottage industry. Most accounts have focused on how it was "won" by the west but few look behind the iron curtain and into the political morass within the USSR in it's dying months. It is still difficult to believe that a conflict posing the distinct possibility of global extinction hanging over the heads of an entire generation ended with the stroke of a pen. There is much more to it than that and O'Cleary documents the dynamic personalit ...more
O'Clery was an American journalist stationed in Moscow for years; as such, he's adept at identifying popular trends and themes current at the moment of historical change. He reports on the jokes as well has headlines. I wasn't sure about the structure of the book, with chapters alternating: between present tense reportage of day-by-day events leading up to the dissolution of the USSR; and between past tense summaries of the years leading up to 1991. Awkward, but thorough.
I lived through these events and still had no idea of the scope of the problems and infighting that occurred. Having young children at the time will be my excuse, but to my shame I have no recollection of the events of Dec. 25, 1991, the day the Soviet Union dissolved. The material was very well presented in a way that carried you along in real time while fitting in the background facts without being a distraction.
This was a book in which I didn't think I'd be interested. I guess I was wrong. Talk about gripping and eye-opening. While the book is technically about the events of one day, it takes us through the background and events leading up to December 25, 1991, including the failed August coup.

This is a book about a rivalry between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, in which Yeltsin definitely comes off the worst. O'Clery lists numerous incidents where Yeltsin broke agreements between him and Gorbachev in the last
An interesting read that flashes back and forth between December 25, 1991, the last official day that the Soviet Union existed as an entity, and the events leading up to the historic moment when the cold war came to an end. A very well researched and well written account, O'Clery writes this book more like a political thriller than a historical account.

The strongest element of the writing is that O'Clery does not engage in hero worship or elevates anyone to larger than life status. Instead, he
The entire history of Russia and the Soviet Union is best viewed through the petty personal squabbles of Mikhail Gorgachev and Boris Yeltsin. Or at least according to [Author:Conor O'Clery], in [Book: Moscow, December 25th, 1991]. The book is a minute-by-minute account of the day Gorbachev turned over the country and the nuclear suitcase to Yeltsin, which a few years of background interspersed. About halfway through, it got a little tiring hearing quotes from the various assistants complaining t ...more
Margaret Sankey
Framed as an exhaustive reconstruction of a single day, this is really a survey of the last three years of the Soviet Union, culminating the rushed signing over of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin with all the juicy details in between. O'Clery, a longtime journalist in Russia with family and social ties knows all the little things--Putin cutting down flagpoles with a blowtorch, staffers grabbing office supplies, hustling UNESCO jobs for Gorbachev loyalists, Yeltsin's drunken lurch down Pennsylvan ...more
Michael Flanagan
An interesting read and behind the scene look at the end the Soviet Union and the people involved in it. Even though this book claims to be about the last day of the Soviet Union it also delivers the events leading up to it. It does this by cutting the last day into sections and introducing and expanding the events surrounding to this momentous day, it takes us from 1985 through to 1991.

All in all this book is a great read that I recommend to one and all it is a highly engaging and entertaining
John Reas
This is an excellent account of the fall and decline of the Soviet empire that Conor O'Clery has written. The date in the title is the day of Mikhail Gorbachev's resignation as the leader of the Soviet Union when that country, which had been in existence since the fall of the Tsar 70 years earlier, ceased to exist. What makes the account even more fascinating is the depiction of the bitter rivalry that existed between Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first president following the Soviet Union's demise, a ...more
Aaron A.
This is a very well-sourced narrative of the breakup of the Soviet Union, focusing largely on Mikhail Gorbachev's final day in office and the actions of both Gorbachev and his chief rival, Boris Yeltsin. I think this results in a more human story than one would normally get from a history of Russia and the Soviet Union, with more insight into how the men were handling the crisis personally. While I think the book is maybe a bit too friendly toward Gorbachev, the author also isn't afraid to show ...more
Dan Johnson
A very good account of the final days of the Soviet Union told through the power struggle between Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev. Focused on the personal and political differences of each leader and their clashing of egos. This book does "jump into" the last days of the Soviet Union, so it would not hurt to have a fairly decent understanding of the years leading up to this period.
Brad Wheeler
A informative, authoritative study of the last years of the Soviet Union, mostly told in "flashbacks" as they relate to events of the last day. Definitely makes the case for both Yeltsin and Gorbachev's pettiness without obviously sympathizing with either. Good use of sources, a strong narrative feel, and good narration clinched this one for me.
I'm just going to say that I don't think anyone came off well in this. Both Gorbachev and Yeltsin seem petty and short-sighted in a lot of ways. The minutiae in this book is fascinating, though.
Patrick Bates
I really enjoyed this book, despite having only a passing knowledge of this period of Russian history prior to reading it. The book is a lot easier a read than I thought when buying it.
An interesting book that gives a detailed account of the end of the Soviet Union. A fairly easy read, but the time switches between chapters can get confusing at times.
Esther Bradley-detally
I was in Moscow in 1990 - on my way to Siberia, Ulan Ude and other places -63 days of touring with a young music group; we as the older stable couple - went to Ukraine, came in and out of Moscow; that's when Soviet Union still in place; we were visiting Kiev during the Coup or Putsch, when the beefy 6 or whatever number took over; i wrote about it in my book, Without A Net, a Sojourn in Russia, Esther Bradley-DeTally, and thus i found it fascinating to read this book.

We lived in Dneperpetrovsk (
Richard Lim
Moscow, December 25th, 1991 is the riveting account of one of the most important moments in recent history, the fall of the Soviet Union. O'Clery's well-researched book combines a novelist's flair for the dramatic with an awareness of the broader historical significance. O'Clery takes us through that fateful day when Mikhail Gorbachev formally resigned his post, effectively ending the Soviet empire and changing the world's geopolitical balance overnight. Interspersed between the narrative of tha ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Moscow, December 25, 1991, The Last Day of the Soviet Union, by Toner O’clery, Narrated by Don Hagen, Produced by Gildan Media Corps, Downloaded from

This book, practically a saga, is about not only the last day of the Soviet Union, but the two enemies who were the main players in this event. The publisher’s note explains it well.
Mikhail Gorbachev, a sophisticated and urbane reformer, sought to modernize and preserve the USSR; Boris Yeltsin, a coarse and
a hard drinking "bulldozer," w
Now that the collapse of the USSR can be viewed with at least some detachment from current events, historical reassessment of this monumental event is overdue. O'Clery does a masterful job of stitching together the disparate and contradictory stories of what caused this superpower to self-destruct. The two pivotal characters in the narrative, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, appear here not as caricatures, or as heroes or villains, but as two powerful men with different goals. An American parallel between ...more
"Moscow, December 25, 1991 is probably great for historians and students of the former Soviet Union, but being neither, it was a little dry for me. This is most likely a matter of my initial expectations rather than an actual critique of the writing. When someone in the publishing industry reviews a book, they can discuss the quality of the material and the writing style. But when I pick up a book, such as this one, it's with a preconceived expectation. And if the book doesn't meet that expectat ...more
Jeff Scott
Most of Conor O’Clery’s book is a sort of denouement of the fall of the Soviet Union. All the action happens before the events of the book. Even the last day itself is filled with formalities with the end already decided. What led to the moment is told in reminiscence, a conversation, an argument, tension, is all explained within this history. The story is well written with a journalist’s eye that can make the smallest detail very compelling. It's much like reading a long New York Times story.

B Kevin
This was an interesting behind the scenes look at the end of the Soviet Union, particularly the dislike between Yeltsin and Gorbachev. It is not just the last day, but tells of the downfall of the USSR in flashbacks, a literary device I find rather confusing. While I enjoyed the book, I probably would have found it very confusing if I did not already know the background. Therefore, before you read this I would suggest

Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen or
The Cold
Manoj Sati
this is a good book - full of anecdotes, etc...

but it carries a real life lesson within in; maybe for our corporate lives too - if you want introduce perestroika and glasnost in your organisation, know what you want and be prepared to meet Yeltsin's along the way.
An absolutely brilliant book which covers the final day of the USSR, and also covers in some depth the changes made to the Soviet Union from the early eighties.
Chris Rodgers
I bought this book because I took my teacher's subject area test and one of the essay questions was about the fall of the Soviet Union and I didn't know enough about the topic to satisfy myself.

It would have been an incredible book if I'd already had the background knowledge I hoped this book contained, but as it stands I was a bit confused coming in with just a passing knowledge of the events.

Even still it was an interesting read as a personal drama between two men with different viewpoints a
This was a great narrative of the end of the USSR with its frame and the author's style. The names became a bit confusing as O'Clery would retell you someone's full name but not their position and due to the sheer number of players involved, I seized trying to follow about half the people for lack of brain space. The side stories that relate back to the main one also sometimes branch oddly, but on the whole the main focus on Gorbachev and Yeltsin was clear and powerful.
Steve Wilson
An excellent book recounting the last day the Soviet standard flew above the Kremlin. Well worth it to gain insight into the politics of the country, and what was going on behind the scenes. It's a brisk read, I recommend it.
Fran Kuseta
Not only a well written account of the last day of the USSR, but it also explains the relationship between Gorbachev and Yeltsin. A good starting book for understanding the collapse of the USSR.
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“Was there perhaps a fable or parable that he might tell to a grandchild about what has happened in his country? Koppel asks. “Here is a fable that I learned some years ago,” replies Gorbachev. “A young ruler wanted to rule in a more humane way in his kingdom. And he asked the views of the wise men. And it took ten years to bring twenty volumes of advice. He said, ‘When am I going to read all that? I have to govern my country.’ Ten years later they brought him just ten volumes of advice. He said that is still too much. Five years later he was brought just one volume. But by then twenty-five years have passed and he was on his deathbed. And one of the wise men said, ‘All that is here can be summarized in a simple formula—people are born, people suffer, and people die.” 0 likes
“A popular anecdote described a dog praising perestroika, saying, “My chain is a little longer, the dish is further away, but I can now bark all I want.” 0 likes
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