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Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  150 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
"One of the great stories of our time . . . a wonderful anecdotal history of a great drama."
--San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

As Washington Post correspondent in Moscow, Warsaw, and Yugoslavia in the final decade of the Soviet empire, Michael Dobbs had a ringside seat to the extraordinary events that led to the unraveling of the Bolshevik Revolution.From Tito's funeral
Paperback, 528 pages
Published January 12th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Paul Bryant
This is one of the great stories of history, the rapid, astonishing and total collapse of one of the largest, most monolithic empires which at the same time represented the grand alternative to capitalism, the dream of equality for all, international brotherhood and peace, the dream that caused the world to live in fear of nuclear wipe-out for 50 years. It was so huge, it was Mordor, its troops and tanks numberless, and yet in a couple of years it melted away like snow on the water. And with ...more
During the thousand years of her history, Russia had seen many great things. During the Soviet period the country had seen global military victories, vast construction sites, whole new cities, dams across the Dnieper and the Volga, canals joining different seas. The country had seen mighty tractors and skyscrapers… There was only one thing Russia had not seen during this thousand years: Freedom.

- Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows

Where the Russian flag has once been hoisted, it cannot be lower
Oct 06, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it

Many on the political right contend that Reagan single-handily caused the Soviet Union’s collapse. Michael Dobbs, a Washington Post reporter and its bureaus chief in Moscow and Warsaw, demonstrates in his far ranging history that the right could not be more wrong.

Dobbs believes the slow collapse began with formation of Solidarity and Lech Walesa in the Gdansk, Poland shipyard in 1980. Workers struck causing for the first time confusion and hesitation in the ranks of the Polish Communist leaders.
Lars K Jensen
May 01, 2016 Lars K Jensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"I tog en beslutning. Det er op til os at få tingene til at stemme."

Ordet falder via radiokommunikation mellem medlemmer af det sovjetiske luftværn, da de skal finde ud af, hvad er det for en prik, de kan se på deres radar i maj 1987 - og ikke mindst, hvad man skal blive enige om at sige, det er. Det viser sig at være Mathias Rust på vej mod Den Røde Plads.

For mig er den sætning en central passage i Dobbs' fremragende bog. Dels fordi den siger noget om, hvad der sker i et totalitært styre, og hv
Richard Lim
Oct 28, 2012 Richard Lim rated it it was amazing
Down With Big Brother is an entertaining and ambitious account that seeks to chronicle the entire fall of the Soviet Union in one volume. The author, Michael Dobbs, was present for many of the critical events (Solidarity in 1980, Tiananmen in 1989, and Moscow in 1991), giving the book a pseudo-memoir feel. The result is an fast-paced, action packed account that makes it a perfect first draft of history. Dobbs zigzags across the geopolitical landscape of the 1980s, taking the reader from ...more
Mar 04, 2014 Martin rated it really liked it
I started reading this to help me prepare for the second season of “The Americans”, and it has instead dovetailed with the Vladimir Putin’s takeover of the Crimea. This book works as a fantastic bookend to Dobbs’ own “Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill and Truman—From World War to Cold War” or Anne Applebaum’s “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1945-56”.

The author was a foreign correspondent in many of the countries where Communism began to tear apart at the seams, and when h
Feb 04, 2014 Jaqen rated it it was amazing
I didn't know Michael Dobbs before reading his One minute to midnight book over the Cuban missile crisis. Given how fantastic that book was, I was naturally tempted to catch on this one.

I wasn't disappointed. This book is great, very well researched and masterfully narrated. It can keep you hooked page after page even when retelling events you already know well, and will surely surprise you too with details and facts you probably didn't know or suspected.

Dobbs is very good at giving you a lifeli
Aug 14, 2016 Frederik rated it it was amazing
Qui était la responsable de la chute du communisme? Reagan? Gorbi? Lech Walesa? Le pape? A croire l´écrivain de ce troisième tome dans la serie magistrale de la guerre froide, le pier ennemi du communisme et l´idéologie même. Aussi bien économiquement que politiquement, le communisme ne pouvait survivre á long terme. Mais 1989 ne marquait pas la fin de l´histoire, non, en 1989 le communisme était remplacé par une autre idéologie, le nationalisme et avec cette histoire on n´en toujours pas finit. ...more
Patrick Perish
Oct 24, 2016 Patrick Perish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dobbs does an incredible job of organizing and telling what is ultimately the compelling story of a superpower's last days, despite the complicated and diffuse nature of the details. As a western journalist at the forefront of this drama, Dobbs adopts a pretty scathing view of the Soviet Union, and his tone is at times biting and sarcastic, but, I mean, what do you expect? It's the friggin Soviet Union!
Chris Walker
Jun 08, 2016 Chris Walker rated it it was amazing
This is the second great book on this subject I've read in recent months (the other one was Victor Sebestyen's Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire).
Dobbs' treatment of the subject is similar to Sebestyen's - each chapter begins with a setting and a date (eg. Beijing, May 17, 1989), as the chronological narrative takes in developments from the 1979 Invasion of Afghanistan through to the resignation of Gorbachev and the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Like Sebestyen, Dobbs writes
Hunter Marston
Dec 02, 2014 Hunter Marston rated it really liked it
A monumental work. I finally finished Dobbs' Cold War history trilogy. I think this was the second best of the three, my favorite being Six Days in 1945. In this, his first work, Dobbs takes the reader deep into the years between 1986-1991 during the final years of the Soviet Union. He paints a fascinating picture of events on the ground in various Soviet states, from the battle for Afghanistan, to the workers strikes in Poland, and he masterfully describes the personalities of Soviet leaders ...more
Graham Page
Jan 05, 2016 Graham Page rated it really liked it
Fascination with the Soviet system seems natural because I was raised in a generation to see the USSR as "The Evil Empire" and even had to take a class in high school called Comparative Economic Systems but lovingly referred to Americanism versus Communism.

This book was informative and a great history lesson to boot. Take the time to read because it sheds light on the current situation that Russia finds itself in specifically how the vacuum that happened after the fall of communism created the
Tom Schulte
Sep 06, 2013 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a political history, this has a brisk, fly-on-the-wall vibe like the best of Bob Woodward. It is amazing in our era of bloody democratic uprisings in an Arab Spring to read of such largely effective transitions out of the decrepit Soviet Union. The failed coup that saw Yeltsin replace Gorbachev and the military imposition on Vilnius while the world (and the U.S.) was rapt with Desert Storm were particular close calls all eclipsed by the bloody horror of Serb and Croat race war in the ashes ...more
Todd Watson
May 26, 2015 Todd Watson rated it really liked it
This is the second Dobbs' book I've read (the first was "Six Months in 1945"), and I enjoyed this one as much or more so than the first. It paints nice, broad strokes over the fall of the Soviet Empire, and even after 19 years since it was written, provided me great insight into why we are where we are with Putin's Russia and made intimations of how it might have ended up differently if Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and even the U.S. had paid more attention to what came after the end of the revolution in ...more
A bit breathless and starry-eyed in its recounting of the crumbling of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but well-assembled and gripping nonetheless. (For a book written in the mid-1990s, Dobbs can be forgiven to some extent for not forseeing that the transition to capitalism would not be quite as smooth for Russia and the former Soviet republics and satellites as he expected it would be.)
Apr 13, 2014 Sammypbaird rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love to learn more about history, but I don't like the feeling that I'm reading a history book. In this regard, this book was great. It was quick paced, while still giving the facts and details about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While reading about the conflict right now in Ukraine and Crimea, I realized I didn't know much about it's history and relationship with Russia. With these current events, this was a great book to get an overall background of these countries.
Jun 27, 2013 Dennis rated it really liked it
Extremely well written and researched book! It really read like a good fiction work and held my interest from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book to anyone curious about the period of time that includes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union.
Dec 10, 2013 Dennis rated it really liked it
Ah, the good old days. This is like comfort food for those who worked in Russia or Eastern Europe in the early 1990s...
Aaron Shields
Feb 22, 2014 Aaron Shields rated it it was amazing
Great. Can't imagine a better book on the last 12 years of the USSR and insight into Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and various influential Eastern European leaders. Learned a bunch
Vasil Kolev
Feb 26, 2016 Vasil Kolev rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Very well researched and interesting. Too bad it ends at 1991-1992, there was a lot going on afterward.
Mar 20, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, own
Fantastic account of the final fifteen years of the USSR, by a journalist who witnessed many of its most dramatic events first-hand.
Jul 16, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
Interesting historical read. Scary though how so much of what happened in the Soviet Union is happening now in the United States.
Randal White
Feb 05, 2013 Randal White rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! An excellent history of the fall of the Soviet Union by a man who was there to observe it in person. Highly recommend.
Ayush rated it really liked it
Mar 13, 2016
Karie Mayman
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Luca Sommariva rated it it was amazing
Jan 07, 2015
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Dec 26, 2014
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Michael Dobbs was, almost literally, a child of the Cold War. His diplomat parents whisked him off to Russia at the age of six weeks. As a child, he lived through the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and the construction of the Berlin wall. As a reporter for the Washington Post, he witnessed the birth of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the hope and tragedy of Tiananmen Square, th ...more
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“Communism was not defeated by any one individual or even a combination of individuals. In the last resort communism defeated itself.” 0 likes
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