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

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,409 Ratings  ·  137 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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Best Russian History Books
12th out of 303 books — 251 voters
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Pulitzer Winners: General Non-fiction
13th out of 58 books — 200 voters

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Community Reviews

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Maru Kun
If you are a hard line communist apparatchik about to launch a coup d’état against those who libel World Socialism and defame the noble memory of Stalin then here is some advice: plan your coup well and don’t confuse planning with plotting.

This is plotting:

the traitor Yeltsin will be arrested and held accountable for his crimes; Yanev will replace him as President of a new USSR, its historic glory restored.

This is planning:

Yeltsin will be arrested at his Dacha in Vnukovo at 04:00 hours on 19 Aug
Sep 19, 2007 Chris rated it it was amazing
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."
Sep 19, 2010 Gini rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 31, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it
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
Mikey B.
Jun 06, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
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
May 02, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 29, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
This is history told with verve. We see how the corruption and repression of the Communist Party led to its downfall. We witness the Soviet Union disintegrate. We are there as it happens with interviews of participants from striking coal miners and political prisoners to top officials and leading dissidents. Particularly fascinating is the portrayal of Gorbachev as the tragic transitional figure with one foot in the future and one foot that could never leave the past. He starts down the road to ...more
Philip Kuhn
Feb 09, 2012 Philip Kuhn rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 23, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Aug 07, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Nick Black
Oct 27, 2014 Nick Black rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-nyc
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.
Aug 25, 2011 Aaron rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Gerald
Aug 10, 2013 Michael Gerald rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2014 Rachel Jackson rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2014 John rated it really liked it
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
Nov 29, 2014 tomsyak rated it it was ok
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
Ashok Sridharan
Feb 07, 2015 Ashok Sridharan rated it it was ok
Lenin's Tomb is an eyewitness account of the last years of the Soviet Union, starting in the late 1980s and ending with the dramatic collapse of the communist state in 1991. The author David Remnick, then Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post, brilliantly describes what it felt to live through the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union.

On the flip side is the propagandist tone of this book, which was written in the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the USA w
Omar Halabieh
Sep 06, 2015 Omar Halabieh rated it it was amazing
I recently finished reading the Pulitzer Prize winning book: Lenin's Tomb - The Last Days of the Soviet Empire - by David Remnick.

Below are key excerpts from this masterpiece:

In the years after Stalin's death, the state was an old tyrant slouched in the comer with cataracts and gallstones, his muscles gone slack. He The state was nearly senile, but still dangerous enough. He still kept the key to the border gate in his pocket and ruled every function of public life. Now and then he had fits and
Apr 11, 2014 zltg rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
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
May 21, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
The Decline and Fall of Soviet Russia. Describes the ignominy and total corruption of the state, and the horrors and drudgery that the Soviet people endured, with penetrating detail. Excellent reading, and highly recommended for anybody interested in the era.
Mar 11, 2016 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-reference
... ¿estamos preparados para afirmar que Hitler era un enemigo puesto que su historia no fue escuchada? En Lenin's Tomb, David Remnick cuenta sus intentos, durante su visita a Moscú en 1988,de conocer a Lazar Kaganovich, último superviviente del círculo más próximo a Stalin, que dirigió el programa de colectivización de 1929-1933 y fue responsable de muchas destrucciones y de mucho sufrimiento. Siendo un nonagenario, llevaba una vida de reclusión en un apartamento solitario. Lo que fascinaba a R ...more
Apr 29, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it
A truly fascinating and absorbing account of the last days of the Soviet empire. He had so many firsthand accounts of meeting with Russian politicians and everyday people which made for very interesting anecdotes.
Adam Clark
Dec 18, 2015 Adam Clark rated it really liked it
A very impressive account of the last few years of the Soviet Union – drawing on an enormous amount of reports but properly compiled into a book form, the cracks only show occasionally.

Above all impressive in the human qualities of its accounts of the compromises people made under the system, especially those of the Gorbachev mould who were stuck halfway between the old and new.

Major message taken away was the potential power of civil society - such as the arch Stalinist housewife whose letter
Oct 01, 2014 Nick rated it it was ok
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
Nov 16, 2015 Fred rated it really liked it
"Nina Aleksandrovna seemed like a logical conservative in her arguments until she "somehow slid into the subject of Jews." Once here she sounded eerily similar to older members of the American conservative parties that have been heard speaking about blacks or homosexuals."

Journalists have a certain writing style that differs from professional hisotrians and someone familar with it could be given a passage of this book and easily tell it was written by a journalist even if they knew nothing else
Erik Roejskjaer
Jan 14, 2016 Erik Roejskjaer rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in the period
Kevin Vejrup
Aug 24, 2015 Kevin Vejrup rated it liked it
Story based on interviews and personal experience of an american journalist moving to Russia shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. It is way longer than it needs to be, if you're solely interested in historic events. Difficult to read due to many Russian names and many less relavant stories.

Gorbachev became head of the communist party in 1985 and initiated glasnost (openess) and perestroika (restructuring). Until august 1991 Gorbachev struggled to balance between forces for democratic ref
Damayanti Purkayastha
Sep 08, 2015 Damayanti Purkayastha rated it it was amazing
This book is eye-opening, a revelation and just an amazing read. I learnt so much from this book, not just about Russian/ Soviet history in terms of the eye-watering cruelty of the regime, the flaws and politics of the perestroika period, but most importantly, about humanity. All sides of it. By talking to the hard-liners and Stalinists, Remnick shows us how/why some people in the face of hard truth will still not see the light. Their world would collapse and these are also people who like cert ...more
Patrick Mcfate
Mar 04, 2015 Patrick Mcfate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in hearing descriptions of men in the worst-fitting suits, like, ever.
It was a relief to see how little this book revolved around Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev -- they're profiled and they play a role in the narrative throughout the second half of the book, but much of the action surrounding the politics of 1989 and 1990 is played out through a large supporting cast who are not only more important to the overall story, but are also way more compelling. The build-up takes us through the growing dissent of the '80s, and then Perestroika, all weaved between mat ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Bob rated it really liked it
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
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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.” 4 likes
“I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” 3 likes
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