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Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  463 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Journalist Victor Sebestyen witnessed much of the 1989 fall of the Soviet empire at first hand and in this book, he reassesses this decisive moment in modern history.
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published July 30th 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,200)
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Paul Bryant
Dec 28, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: communism
The new leader of the USSR was late for a meeting with some Western diplomats in 1985. He apologised – “I’m sorry, I had to deal with some urgent agricultural problems.” “Oh,” said one diplomat, “when did they begin?” “1917” said Gorbachev. He had a sense of humour and a nice smile. He was…unusual.

When did Soviet Communism begin to disintegrate?

Answer 1 : When Karol Wojtyla got the big promotion and became Pope John Paul II in October 1978. A Polish Pope! An Anti-communist Polish Pope! Who imme
Dec 28, 2014 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book on the 12th of June 2012, the day Poland drew against Russia in the Group Stage of Euro 2012 held in Poland and Ukraine. I was at a book launch of some Argentinian novel held in a quaint bookshop in a very posh part of West London and while I enjoyed the book talk and the free wine I was also inconspicuously (or so I thought at least) checking the score on my phone. It was very stressful, because for over half an hour between the 37th minute of the game (Dzagoev’s goal) and th ...more
Published in 2009, Victor Sebestyen's book is a good gift to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of what has since been called "The Autumn of Nations" - a wave of revolutions which swept across eastern Europe in 1989, and resulted in profound changes in the whole world. The Berlin Wall fell, and Germany was reunified; one by one, countries of eastern Europe - which have been satellite states of the Soviet Union for more than 50 years - have regained their independence through democracy and she ...more
I think this is a fabulous book of non-fiction. It is clear, interesting from start to finish and the amount of detail is perfect. It is not dry, not ever.

It follows the fall of the totalitarian regimes in the six countries of the Warsaw Pact: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. You come to understand why the USSR fell apart. It follows the significant role played by leaders and dissidents in these six nations and Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bu
Chin Joo
Aug 10, 2014 Chin Joo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-war
1989 was an amazing in the history of the Cold War. It was the year when the satellite states of the Soviet Union in East Europe rid themselves of Communist Parties that have been ruling them for more than 40 years and decided that they deserved a better life. This book, Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen was a very good introductory reader for anyone wanting to have an overview of the events in the various states.

A journalist who covered the events in Eastern Eur
Jon Spoelstra
Mar 10, 2010 Jon Spoelstra rated it it was amazing
In November 1989 I was reading in USA Today that the Berlin Wall was going to come down. Impossible! I remember when it went up. I remember Kennedy speaking near it. I thought this wall would never come down.

I said to my wife, "Let's go see history in the making."

She said, "No, I can't, but you go."

I did. In fact, I think I was one of the first Americans to travel in East Germany since World War 2.

Now there is a book about WHY it came down. Economics.

REVOLUTION 1989 focuses on Poland, East Ge
Dec 11, 2012 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brisk, concise account of the inspiring story of the people's revolutions that led to the decline and collapse of the six Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe. The emphasis is on Poland and Czechoslovakia (where the dissident movements were most most disruptive and effective) and East Germany (where the ultimate collapse was most visible and dramatic). Less coverage is given to Hungary (which was the first of the six countries to abandon Communism, but where the process was more gradual a ...more
Michael Gerald
Oct 30, 2012 Michael Gerald rated it it was amazing
This book is among the books that came out in 2009, the twentieth anniversary of the democratic revolutions that toppled the smug communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe. I've read of those events in college and read about them in another commemorative book, "The Year That Changed the World".

The theme that was common in all the countries in Eastern Europe that underwent revolutions in 1989 was the presence of geriatic, despotic dictatorial systems so detached from the realities of their societ
If you want an easy to read, fully accessible and engaging history overview of the downfall of the Soviet Empire, then this is the title for you. I've picked up (and inevitably also put down) many books on this era and found the majority dull and far too dense for me. It's almost like you need a Masters in Eastern European history just to look at some of them! So I was very happy to stumble across this one as it's a great starting point / introduction to whet your appetite with.
Özgür Şahin
Oct 25, 2014 Özgür Şahin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well-written book telling the revolutions in the Eastern European states. An easy to read history book. It encourages reading all those countries' stories seperately. It includes interesting details describing the mood of the crowds in those countries during the 1980s. The approach of the former USSR to the revolutions is also told in a well-balanced way. It also includes a chapter devoted to the expulsion of ethnic Turks from Bulgaria in late 1980s. Good work in sum.
Marco Caetano
May 22, 2011 Marco Caetano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No passado 9 de Novembro foi comemorado o vigésimo aniversário da queda do muro de Berlim. No âmbito desta comemoração a Editorial Presença teve a gentileza de me convidar a ler esta obra de Victor Sebestyen que de uma forma geral relata os últimos dias da Guerra Fria e de todo o Império Soviético.

Na altura de toda esta revolução, era eu ainda uma criança, tudo para mim era algo que acompanhei muito ao de leve na televisão. Mas de facto não tinha uma noção real do que passaram milhões de pessoas
Apr 02, 2016 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, cold-war, europe
Unlike most of the books I’ve read about the end of the Cold War and the downfall of the Soviet Union, this book focuses on the Eastern European satellite states. It begins with the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu (no spoiler alert, because honestly), then goes back in time to the creation of Solidarity in Gdansk. As the book progresses, we jump from satellite to satellite, telling the often absurd stories of the regimes and the activists who confronted them. At times, we see the Kremlin’s point ...more
Chris Walker
Mar 14, 2016 Chris Walker rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and wide-ranging account of the decade long Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. Sebestyen writes with a journalistic intensity, with an eye both for the personal anecdotes and political big picture. All the major players of the era are here and I gained a new appreciation in particular for Ronald Reagan, whose view of what needed to be done in international relations changed to the point we he needed to stand up to his hawkish advisors. I would have liked more on the character and ...more
Assem Salih
Jul 01, 2011 Assem Salih rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As in Dubcek’s famous political reform program slogan from the 1968 Prague Spring “Socialism with a Human Face”, this book presents history with a human face. An excellent brief account of the events leading to the fall of communism in the 1980-1989 time span written in a very delicious style. I only wished if the author could’ve added few more chapters covering the post revolution era and the success & failures in the democratic transition in the 5 nations.
Dec 27, 2009 Liviu rated it really liked it
As a witness to the events of 1989 in Romania and of what came before of course, I found this book among the better ones on the topic published for the general "Western" audience; too short and reduced to a bare bones story, I agree with its thesis but I wish the author had the space for considerable more analysis and background
Rachel Jones
Dec 14, 2014 Rachel Jones rated it it was amazing
One of the most perfectly-written historical non-fiction books I've ever read.
Martin Samuels
Jan 23, 2016 Martin Samuels rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, well-written and thought-provoking study of one of the most important events in modern world history. Drawing on his rich journalistic experience and knowledge, Sebestyen conjours up an eyewitness immediacy, while drawing in sufficient background to provide a context for the dramatic events of 1989. In essence, Sebestyen argues that the revolution was due to the combination of the imminent economic of the Eastern European countries, which since the mid-1970s had borrowed vast sums ...more
Mar 04, 2014 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I don't turn pages on books recounting history so when I found this on audio at the library I checked it out. Just fascinating and full of things I didn't know that happened during my lifetime. Also fascinating to hear the things I heard about on the evening news in the 70's and 80's analyzed in retrospect. I did not realize that Nicolae Ceausescu was really the Hitler of our (my) time, why Rumania had so many orphans, and that despite Gorbachov's appalling lack of knowledge about economics, he ...more
Doug Vanderweide
Jul 03, 2010 Doug Vanderweide rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
A well-written and interesting look at what is actually the history of the Warsaw Pact countries during the 1980s.

It doesn't plow much new ground in terms of research. Sebestyen agrees with conventional wisdom that the seeds of Soviet failure were sown decades before, with disastrous economic policies modeled on a fundamentally bankrupt plan to export Soviet materials to Iron Curtain countries, and have Russia import finished goods produced there.

It does do a very nice job of interrelating the
May 11, 2013 Melinda rated it really liked it
I remember the fall of 1989, when in rapid succession, the Communist governments of the countries of Eastern Europe fell. Mostly without bloodshed, regimes that had retained power through fear and intimidation collapsed. Journalist Victor Sebestyen has written a very compelling and highly readable account of that amazing year, with enough historical context -- the rise and fall of Solidarity before it returned (never really gone) in the Round Table Talks in Poland in 1989; Mikhail Gorbachev's ri ...more
Apr 10, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written book that keeps the reader engaged in what could easily be a boring topic by telling great stories. (Though, for me, it seemed to slow down in the third section.)

I, as an American reading this in March 2011, kept thinking about the following parallels to modern day America and other world events:
* Afghanistan war (Gorbachev wanted to pull out as soon as he could because Russia couldn't afford a war they couldn't win; the Soviets were there for 10 years; US will hit the 10 year an
Feb 08, 2011 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe, History of Communism
A highly readable book about the collapse of the Soviet's satellite empire in Eastern Europe. The chapters are broken up into pretty short doses, which makes it a quick read.

The book covers some of the failed coups that had taken place earlier, and then shows the shift within Moscow itself from the old guard to Gorbachev. It's especially fascinating to see the indifference Moscow showed towards the loss of their satellites and how little help was extended to Comrades in power.

The second half of
This book details what happened in the Warsaw Pact states in 1989: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Each chapter is a short summary of a specific event in a location, and most chapters are no more than 3 or 4 pages long. The first half of the book explains the events leading up to 1989 and why Communism fell in that year, staring from about 1970. The second half is all about different events in 1989 throughout Eastern Europe. There is no discussion about event ...more
Sean Mccarrey
Aug 25, 2012 Sean Mccarrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the kind of book that can easily lead down a path to volumes of other books on the subject of the fall of Eastern European Communism. At times it seems like the author's decision to place all these histories into the same volume was a schizophrenic one, but everyone in a while the timelines would come crashing back together with a glaring uniformity, which to me is the epitome of history. Not only was 1989 a great example of events that still shape our daily lives, but they were events ...more
Mike Dettinger
Feb 23, 2015 Mike Dettinger rated it it was amazing
This wonderfully readable and compelling history of the downfall of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe is well worth finding and reading. I was a grown man in 1989 but so much of this was only heard about in ways heavily veiled by the tight hold that the various communist regimes had on information in and out. It's an astoundingly exciting and interesting history. So much to know. Eg I somehow never knew that the opening of the Berlin Wall happened due to a string of simple (?) communication er ...more
Nov 06, 2015 Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This 400-page micro-history provides a fascinating account of the collapse of communism in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. There doesn't seem to be an overarching thesis or interpretation regarding the events, and none of the things mentioned in this book is entirely new.

The detailed and stimulating narrative can certainly be enjoyed by the average reader, but unfortunately provides little scholarly value given its journalistic nature.
Feb 05, 2015 Slackjaw rated it really liked it
Charts the fall of the Soviet Union's Eastern European Bloc with a rather human perspective- it's linear chronology jumps to several different locations, letting the reader follow several interweaving perspectives to their ultimate (and overall, rather positive) conclusions. Filled also with historical anecdotes, presents an interesting history in the series of cock-ups that lead to the fall of the Soviet Union in Europe. Quite interesting.
Jan 31, 2014 Scott rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. It is well written and easy to read. Victor Sebestyen did well at relating the ‘back story’ of the end of Communist rule in central and Eastern Europe. I found it insightful enlightening. I strongly recommend this book.
Daniel Esquivel
Dec 23, 2015 Daniel Esquivel rated it it was amazing
Excellent recapitulation of the events that brought down the soviet empire. Lots of information... to much actually, it is like an encyclopedia.
Feb 28, 2010 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Victor Sebestyen was born in Budapest and was only an infant when his family left Hungary. He has worked for many British newspapers, including the Evening Standard. He lives in England.
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