Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire
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Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  309 ratings  ·  39 reviews
"Revolution 1989 "is the first in-depth, authoritative account of a few months that changed the world.
At the start of 1989, six European nations were Soviet vassal states. By year's end, they had all declared national independence and embarked on the road to democracy. How did it happen so quickly? Victor Sebestyen, who was on the scene as a reporter, draws on his firstha...more
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published July 30th 2009)
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Paul
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 Wojkyla got the big promotion and became Pope John Paul II in October 1978. A Polish Pope! An Anti-communist Polish Pope! Who imme...more
Chin Joo
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...more
Jon Spoelstra
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...more
Marc
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 Dealino
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...more
Evelyn
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.
Wendy
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
Liviu
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
Doug Vanderweide
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...more
Melinda
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
Marco Caetano
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...more
John
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...more
Jacob
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kirsten
Feb 08, 2011 Kirsten rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Sean Mccarrey
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
Scott
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.
Jillayne
I randomly picked this book up from the lease book area of the library because I know almost nothing about the post WWII world. I found the book interesting but rather difficult to get through because all the names of the Russian and Polish people are so different that I couldn't remember them and then had a hard time keeping up with what happened. Still, I feel like I know a bit more about the Cold War era and how it ended. How could I get out of High School without knowing "how" the Berlin Wal...more
Frank Rosenblat
This is a nice survey of events in Eastern Europe in 1989, covered country by country (minus Yugoslavia), during the breathtaking transformation from static, dismal castles of oppression to truly free, self-determining societies. Good, but not heavily detailed, postwar historical context is provided for each country. This is an excellent read for those of us who watched these events occur through the media in 1989, and at the beginning of 1990 were forced to ask ourselves - "Wait a minute...what...more
Jimmy Kiteley
This book is more than just the Soviet Union and the Satellite States in 1989. The book covers just about every event from 1979 to fall of Ceausescu in December 1989. For me the book is great example of the mixture of history from above with history from below. There are some great profiles on Václav Havel, Lech Walesa, Erich Honecker, Nicolae Ceausescu, Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, General Jaruzelski, Todor Zhivkov, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior and Janos Kadar. I can’t recommend this book...more
Christopher
Apr 05, 2012 Christopher rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christopher by: Chris Hedges
I got exactly what I wanted out of this book -- the cold hard facts. Each chapter has a date and a location, and the dates get closer to 1989 as the book goes on. It mainly deals with the Central & Eastern European countries in the Soviet Empire and a little about Afghanistan. Wouldn't have minded more about domestic Soviet Union stuff, but there was enough to understand the context of the revolutions during the 1980's and the USSR's involvement (or lack thereof). Great book!
Assem Salih
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.
Paul
This is an excellent read on the end of the Cold War from the Eastern European point of view. Though the book ends in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, it tells the story of the 1980s in the Soviet Bloc. Relaying through vivid details the social pressures, economic conditions, and personalities that helped to topple an empire, this book stands as a great introduction to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
B Kevin
clearly written, this is a gripping account of the behind the scenes events leading up to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the democratic revolutions in Easter Europe. It felt live living the events themselves. This is a must read for anyone interested in European history.
Mikey Green
Sebestyen keeps things simple but yet extremely informative in this account of the last decade or so of the Soviet Union and it's allies. Definitely worth the 5 star rating I gave. It gives both formal and informal accounts from high ranking government officials right down to ordinary people giving you a vast perspective of life in the declining Eastern Bloc.
Evan Thomas
A very tight overview of the personalities and timelines of collapse in Eastern Europe on a country-by-country basis. It adds an overlooked dimension by touching how foreign debt underminded the Socialist regimes. It also nicely touches on the role of the overthrown in their own demise, not just the more familiar stories of the revolutionaries.
Barry
A very readable account of the chain of events which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall. Using vignettes of life and developments in the former Warsaw Pact, it reminds you vividly of the repression so many Europeans endured until less than 25 years ago, and of the excitement and joy the fall of the regimes prompted.
Gerald Churchill
This book is excellent. It is a well-written, well-researched account of the end of Communist rule in central and eastern Europe. Victor Sebestyen has plumbed the archives in many countries and has produced an informative, nuanced account of the end of the Soviet empire that is a joy to read.
Alex
quite good synopsis of and description of the social pressures behind what happened in the 6 warsaw pact countries prior to the revolutions of 1989, from the long (but largely peaceful) march of solidarity in poland to the bloody overthrow of Ceauşescu in Romania.
Freyja Vanadis
Jan 11, 2012 Freyja Vanadis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in the fall of European Communism
I loved this book! It was written in an exciting, fast-paced style that made it extremely easy to read. I've read so many other non-fiction books that were dry, scholarly, dusty tomes and took forever to read. Not so with this one.
Jean
A terrific book to read after Anne Applebaum's The Crushing of Eastern Europe. Biographies of the actors in the multiple dramas of Eastern Europe and Russia are interwoven with the events leading up to the fall of the Soviet empire.
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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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