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Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
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Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,965 ratings  ·  108 reviews
In the tradition of John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World, this bestselling account of the collapse of the Soviet Union combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism. "A moving illumination . . . Remnick is the witness for us all." —Wall Street Journal.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published April 26th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Chris
Sep 19, 2007 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
just incredible - this is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read. I don't have any deep interest in Soviet/Russian history, but Remnick's writing is mesmerizing. And clever - plus it contains one of the best lines I've ever read: "I'm not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia."
Gini
This book, an account of the collapse of the Soviet Union published in 1993, humbled me in many ways. First and foremost, it's hard to come to terms with how uniformed I was during the time of periostrika. I had no idea of how Gorbachev lost his way during the transition, and Boris Yeltsin's leading role in it. From watching them on the U.S. news I thought Yeltsin was just kind of a drunk and a boob, and Gorbachev, a noble man. Regardless of his behavior while Russia's elected leader, Yeltson wa ...more
Mikey B.
A stupendous chronicling of history in the making! We are presented with several differing viewpoints on the collapse of the Soviet regime and its splintering, in these truly tumultuous years. As the author points out, whereas other empires, like England, took decades to recede and change – this took place within a few years. Within days sometimes, overwhelming transitions took place.

The efficacy of this book is the internal focus on the people in the country itself; there is none of this hyperb
...more
Daniel
I was about 100 pages into LENIN'S TOMB before I realized what this book was. I had it in my head that it would be a traditional top-down story about perestroika, glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, a fly-on-the-wall story in the corridors of power. What Remnick is after is arguably more ambitious and interesting: he's trying to chart the changing of attitudes that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet state in 1991. (Perhaps I should have taken a clue from Remnick's THE BRIDGE, which a ...more
Jonfaith
My and I were driving to Columbus, OH in 2007 for a work seminar for her new job. We heard about Boris Yeltsin's death on NPR. The palace coup, Yeltsin's dancing on TV and the two Chechnyean wars occupied the next stretch of our drive. I found this book in a shop in Columbus a few days later and snatched it on the spot.

Remnick approaches his subject with an even hand. There is no Western arrogance about matters. When he discovers fault, he reports it.

I remember when Yeltsin resigned. I was going
...more
Philip Kuhn
Best book out there on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remnick traveled to Moscow for a story, and the coup by the old army generals happened when he was there, and the kidnapping and holding of President Gorbachev. Gee, I don't know, which story should I cover--the summit talks next month between Pres. Bush and Gorbachev, or the coup?!

Remnick deftly brings together facts about the USSR and other stories into a single narrative. For example, the first chapter is called "A forest childhood." No
...more
Matt
This was a really really good book. Asked point blank by goodreads what I learned from this book, I'd have to say I learned about the Gorbachev period, which had sort of a dead zone in my knowledge.... not entirely, of course, since I lived through parts of it, but I certainly have more of a handle on it now than I did before.

There's a lot to like here-- Remnick shows his level of access to ordinary and extraordinary people here, and it's deep. He talks to lots and lots of people, and obviously
...more
Michael Gerald Dealino
One of the best works about the last days of the once-arrogant empire of lies, David Remnick succinctly presents the different factors that led to those heady events: the hypocrisy of the Communist Party of Lenin itself, which supposedly set about to create an egalitarian society, but only crafted a new "ruling class" of their own and left a heap of corpses as its track record. However the Party tried hard to portray itself as a great power, the reality in the last days of the empire were the ta ...more
Rachel Jackson
David Remnick's monumental historical book Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire is certainly one for the ages. It's an utterly fascinating, impressive study and researched account of the last several years of the USSR's existence, along with the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev and the rise of Boris Yeltsin. As somewhat of a Russian history aficionado, I read along enthralled by the adventures of the Soviet government as it scraped its way through its last bit of history. Although the turmo ...more
John
This had been in my stack of unreads since pre-Kindle days, and I am glad I dusted off the hard copy at last and opened it. Reading now, in the light of Putin's recent actions, sheds some light on thinking about what has and hasn't changed in Russia. You can feel some relief that nothing got even worse in the last 20 years, and, still, gratitude that the demise of the U.S.S.R. brought relatively little bloodshed.

You can also stand in awe of astounding reporting, although at this point the events
...more
tomsyak
I haven’t yet had a chance to read Said’s “Orientalism,” but it seems that neither had Remnick. He makes sweeping statements about “the Russians” which I think he would never have made about “the Americans.” He is trying to complicate his story: neither Gorbachev nor Yeltsin are unambiguous, and yet in the end his narrative turns out to be as black-and-white as can be. An interesting point that he never addresses is his own persona: in interviews with such a rare bird as an American journalist, ...more
zltg
I cannot stop thinking about the parallel to the past and future of China when reading. Remnick's personal account is full of detailed texture without the overall structural view. He left an impression to me that the the materials were arranged due to availability, not necessity or logical coherence. The book merely glances over a vast surface of this history, and left me with a feeling of deep unsatisfaction. "The most awful thing about it is that this cannot merely be shed, like taking off an ...more
Nick Black
apparently there was a late soviet Wheel of Fortune clone called Fields of Dreams, which awarded as its grand prize boxes of Tide. also, the Forbes magazine's corporate jet is named The Capitalist Tool.
Nick
I've heard it said that "the plural of anecdote is not data", and this is what I kept thinking while reading this book. It's kind of a mess; Remnick's narrative history pieces aren't in order, and the 2 - 3 page anecdotes he keeps dropping in feel totally disconnected from the surrounding material. I could see this book working either as a straight narrative history or as a collection of essays, but the length of the anecdotes didn't really work for me, and between that and Remnick's jumping aro ...more
Bob
This is a very good book about the fall of the Soviet empire. My only complaint was that it tended to be non-chronological and difficult to follow. The author was a reporter for the Washington Post, and many sections seemed like newspaper articles. It was pithy and did not shrink from describing people and events in dramatic fashion. I thought it was fascinating how truly rotten the Soviet system was. Before I read this book, I just had a general picture of a bad dictatorship, but this book show ...more
Aaron
I thought Lenin's Tomb was a masterpiece. I decided to read it because we are at the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union. And I remember it well! Almost twenty years after it was written, the book is still relevant. Remnick stated that "time will help sort out the Gorbachev era." However, there is no doubt that Lenin's Tomb is an excellent source for understanding the downfall of the Soviet Regime. Now if you ask my right-wing friends the sources of that downfall, they will give ...more
Frank Edwards
The 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning "Lenin's Tomb" is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Russian history. David Remnick was a Washington Post reporter living in Moscow during the late 80's and early 90's and was thus a first-hand witness to Gorbachev's rise and fall and the final weakening of Stalin's horrific legacy. (Remnick is now a staff writer for the New Yorker). Fluent in Russian and a first rate wrier and intellect, Remnick shows us a dramatic historical event unfolding as seen from ...more
Mike
My one small gripe with this otherwise fantastic book: not so much that it’s opinionated, but I thought there were too many times Remnick allowed his personal opinions to bleed over into people and/or situations he was describing in ways that seemed to be trying to validate his beliefs. For example, in the chapter on the 1991 coup attempt, Remnick describes one of the Party leaders on the side of the putschists (whom Remnick pretty clearly doesn’t like) who’s yelled at by the liberal mayor of Le ...more
Matthew
This book is excellent. I wish it weren't so editorial, at points, but the opinionation is humane (which is more than you can say for most).

Like I do with most non-fiction, I struggled to keep a solid pace with this book; but unlike most non-fiction, I was assiduous, and often eager, in returning.

Any book, let alone a quasi-historical text, that contains a paragraph like the following wins.

"I arrived at the October Regional Party Committee, a gray concrete hulk. In the lobby, an old woman with
...more
Kirk Lowery
Jul 24, 2011 Kirk Lowery added it
Shelves: history
A fascinating account of the end of perestroika and glasnost by one who was there, who had access to the principals and can tell a very good -- and often disturbing -- tale. Remnick reported for the Washington Post, and was posted to Moscow during the final years of Communist Party rule. What is clear is that the rule of the Party failed because it rotted out from within: corruption, drunkenness and the Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" syndrome. He delves back into Soviet history to see the ...more
Rob
This book jumps around a bit, but stick with it. It is well worth it.
I most enjoyed reading how baseball was introduced to the Soviet Union in 1986. My favorite line, "...the Russians developed the tics and affections of their American brethren. Scratching, spitting, bubble-blowing. It took a while to get them all down pat. In one game, a guy took his gift of Red Man chewing tobacco and gobbled it down like chocolate. He threw up and spent the rest of the game in a hopeless daze. He struck out
...more
Bill
Turns out Gorbachev was not the visionary hero I thought he was... And Reagan barely appears in this story (and I agree with Remnick's take on that). This is a fascinating account of a society that collapsed under the weight of a selfish, greedy,inept leadership and bureaucracy. I'd read a follow up by Remnick on what has happened in Russia since the end of the USSR in a heartbeat.
John Alexander
I don't know how many editions there are at this point, but I wonder what Remnick's afterword would say in 2014. From the 1994 afterword: "it turns out that the fall of the old regime, which had been so morally satisfying, has left the new regime in an impossible moral position. The choice is stark: Behave with the manners of a western democrat and allow the current anarchy to overwhelm Russia, or take "decisive measures" and risk flouting any semblance of civil society."

This was one of the man
...more
Joyce
Jun 16, 2010 Joyce rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Remnick's "Lenin's Tomb" is one of the most educational books I have ever read. It is well-worth the read. The writing is excellent and therefore easy and enjoyable to read. It is also well researched, having been written from Remnick's personal experiences in the Soviet Union while these events were occurring and endless interviews he had with both the everyman and key figures.

I recommend this book to everyone, for it offers everyone something to learn. For me, the majority of the information w
...more
Jeff Davis
well written and extremely well researched account of one of the most important periods of the 20th century. I am admittedly biased towards this period/subject but I think this was actually quite readable and in parts fun considering the weight of the subject matter. also, this makes a great prequel to the book "Moscow December 25th 1991". great read
Zazu
This is a surprisingly smooth, easy, and completely enrapturing read. It's, in fact, incredible. Non-fiction, as educational and interesting as it may get, tends to get pushed to the last in my reading list because, let's face it, it's kind just more boring. Remnick is not only a compelling and honest writer, ut everything that he writes about, all these people from the USSR, he's writing from first-hand experiences! This doesn't read quite like fiction, but no really like straight up non-fictio ...more
Christopher
Almost better to have read this book for the first time in the midst of Putin as it makes the lack of democratic institutions/customs, desire for stability above all else in much of the population, and the central societal role of the KGB jump out at you in an even more pronounced fashion. Especially early on this too frequently reads as "David Remnick experiences the end of the Soviet Union." Sometimes this works well (e.g. Remnick arch response to being accused of fanning anti-Semitism in his ...more
Mitchell
Interesting to read this book a couple of decades after the Soviet collapse and look back. Younger readers may have difficulty understanding why so much of what Remnick writes about was as momentous and surprising as Remnick makes it sound. To his credit, Remnick steered clear of predictions, which gives this book a lasting value. The best is reading his descriptions of people from the great and powerful like Yeltsin and Gorbachev down to ordinary workers in Siberia. There are also the forgotten ...more
John
This is an excellent book about the time from 1985 to 1992 as the soviet empire and the Party collapsed under Gorbachev, leading to Yeltsin. Mr. Remnick seemingly was everywhere and interviewed everyone during this time providing a sweeping view of people's lives as these changes happened to the country(s). It is a long book, but I never tired of the stories. Despite the dreariness of soviet life for most people, Mr. Remnick maintains your interest, exposing how their world got this way and how ...more
David
Fascinating and incredibly well-researched and well-written book about the last days of the Soviet Union. Remnick' access to people in power - on both sides of the issue - and to numerous others is incredible. Those of us in America had little knowledge of the real Soviet Union and what happened as Gorbachev worked to reform a dying, corrupt state. Remnick brings all of that to light in a masterful way.
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David Remnick (born October 29, 1958) is an American journalist, writer, and magazine editor. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin s Tomb The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker magazine since 1998. He was named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000. Before joining The New Yorker, Remnick was a reporter and the Moscow correspondent for Th ...more
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“In the lobby, an old woman with legs wrapped in elastic bandages mopped the floor with filthy water. She kept missing the same spot, over and over. There was the overpowering smell of disinfectant, bad tobacco, and wet wool. This was the smell of Russia indoors, the smell of the woman in front of you on line, the smell of every elevator. Near an abandoned newsstand, dozens of overcoats hung on long rows of pegs, somber and dark, lightly steaming, like nags in a stable.” 3 likes
“The Communist Party apparatus was the most gigantic mafia the world has ever known.” 1 likes
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