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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  3,784 ratings  ·  286 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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"Society is sick of history. It is too much with us."
- Arseny Roginsky, quoted in David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb


While Remnick was writing for the Washington Post in Moscow, my family was living in Izmir, Turkey and then in Bitburg, Germany. We got the opportunity to travel to Moscow shortly after the August, 1991 (the beginning of my Senior year) Coup. It was a strange period. So much changed so fast. I was trading my Levi jeans in St. Petersburg and Moscow for Communist flags, Army medals, busts o
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 07, 2007 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."
Apr 23, 2017 added it
Shelves: russian-history
Having to put this one on hold for awhile, as while I was loving the book wasn't I wasn't happy with the audio version as this is one that needs to be read in order to underline and get the best from the book and my Library trying to source a copy for me as they don't have one in stock. Terrific read so far and really hoping I get my hands on a hard copy soon.
Sep 19, 2010 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 30, 2014 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.
Dec 01, 2012 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 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 18, 2015 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
Brendan Monroe
Some years ago, I traveled to Tallinn with a then-colleague. While there, we paid a visit to the Occupation Museum. Aghast at the level of Soviet atrocities against the - in this case - Estonian population, I turned to my American colleague for his thoughts. "I'd like to hear the Soviet side of it," he said, unmoved. His claim was that museums such as Tallinn's were, along with Western histories of the Soviet era and its personalities, slanted and reflected an unfairly western, anti-Soviet bias. ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Tim McIntosh
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lenin's Tomb by David Remnick is one of those books that makes you want to tell — no, command —your friends, "Stop whatever you're reading and pick up this book!"

The story: Remnick's report about the fall of the Soviet Empire begins with the nightmare of the Stalinist Era. I had heard horror stories about Stalin. But I had no idea just how bad it was. Compared to Stalinist Russia, the Third Reich sounds as harmless as a knitting party. Estimates range from 40 to 60 million.

Lenin's Tomb is powe
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mongolia-studies
I suppose it’s hard to digest post-1917 Russian history from an entirely objective point of view as a Mongolian, their histories have been entangled too much. Indeed one thought kept creeping from the back of my mind while reading this book: Mongolia became an independent country for the first time in its history just 25 years ago. 1921 doesn’t count: how can it when its leaders were routinely brought to Moscow for bullet-wounds or forced exile. Before that was the Qing. And before that – an era ...more
Ben Mokaya
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Last Days of the Soviet Empire are succinctly expressed by Remnick himself...

“Where once the Russian landscape was littered with one kind of propaganda — “We Are Marching Toward Leninism!” etc.-television, radio, the newspapers are now filled with a propaganda of a different sort: advertisements for unaffordable luxuries, fantastic commercials geared toward lives that hardly exist. One minute you are Homo Sovieticus surrounded by the aggressive blandness of communism, the next minute you are
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics, economy
This is one huge journalistic effort, chockfull of interviews with everyone from a miner who is waking up to the idea of being able to go on strike, to Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. In fact, Remnick probably interviewed everyone except Stalin (and Stalin's elusive right-hand man, who avoided being interviewed during the late 1980's for obvious reasons).

You get to know and understand Russian society at a critical juncture in its history, which unavoidably leads to digging in the past for
Michael Huang
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author of the books spent years living as a reporter in USSR. The book is a collection of his observations, interviews, and historical accounts of the latter part of the communist regime. You find how people live under that regime; how Gorbachev set out to transform the union through perestroika and glasnost but did so with decidedly ambivalent attitudes; how the end of the soviet unit came rather swiftly; and how things go after the fall of the iron curtain.

I grew up in communist China and
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
A harrowing look at the nightmare of ordinary life in the Soviet Union, told from the perspective of its last days. Remnick has remarkable access to the most important figures of the last regime, but the best parts of the book in my opinion were the interviews with ordinary Soviet citizens. These vignettes were often quite moving and the descriptions of those who tried to survive the sheer drudgery and oppression of life in the USSR are powerful. From the perspective of those who live in relativ ...more
Lauren Albert
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-european
Amazing vivid rendering of the events before during and after the end of the Soviet Union. He was there and he makes you feel like you are there as it happens. Remnick was prescient in that you can see in the narrative the roots of the dysfunctional Russia of today.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked and respected this book but should have loved it. I read the paperback version and flagged dozens of passages. The writing is crisp, analytical and funny. The subject matter - the crumbling of the USSR - is of great importance, yet I was glad to be done with the book. I think my lack of complete affection had to do with my lack of understanding of the pervasive cruelty of life in the USSR. (I subsequently read "I Speak for the Silent Prisoners of the Soviets" by V. Tchernavin and ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
Very interesting, like a bunch of extended New Yorker "Talk of the town" features. But like those, this can be hit or miss. Occasionally it is tiresome, and occasionally it is brilliant. Remnick doesn't give too much background; he often assumes that you basically know everyone and know the basic events. The selected background he does give I found to be very useful. In the current context of course the stories are a bit dated, but I still found them to be insightful for understanding modern Rus ...more
Hank Hoeft
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is one thing to know a fact intellectually--to know, for instance, that Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 20 million and 60 million Soviet citizens--but it is another thing altogether to know it--to feel it--on a gut level. Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire really drives home the reality of life in the old Soviet Union. I started to write "life in Stalinist Soviet Union" but that is redundant. Stalin took control of the state in the 1920's, not l ...more
Aug 07, 2009 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
Alex Zakharov
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another painful read on Soviet regime through a collection of vignettes depicting facets of different periods from 1930s to early 1990s. Remnick weaves historical events with first-person accounts, and the combination is emotionally devastating and intellectually horrifying.

“A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic” – in this book you get to witness both, and all of a sudden statistics lose their impartial dryness. Highly recommended as a companion to more traditional linear
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't know anything about the USSR nor was I all that interested, but I read it because I love Remnick and you know, pulitzer prize. It was so fascinating and though it was written a while ago, it's still so relevant to current events. Remnick has a way of telling a big picture story through conversations and vignettes. It took me a while to read because it's pretty slow-paced, but it was worth the long haul.
Rod Zemke
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This a truly great work by David Remnick. It is the second time reading this book. I read it shortly after publication and just finished for the second time. A great historical account of the Soviet Union and its demise. I think this book helped propel Remnick into the upper ranks on nonfiction writers and into the editorship of the New Yorker.
Nick Black
Jun 04, 2008 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.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Maybe the most impressive piece of journalism I have ever read. The author let the many characters speak for themselves, adding flashes of his personal life only when necessary. How very lucky Remnick was to have been where he was, when he was. With this book, I felt like I was there.
Joshua Polanski
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it
No doubt, Remnick's account of the demise of the USSR lives up to its Pulitzer Prize winning reputation. His style can double as a textbook covering new journalism and his voice is unmatched. Reading "Lenin's Tomb" makes plain his influence on The New Yorker. His narrative about the fall of the Union is clear, persuasive, and engaging.

The way Remnick genuinely respects Gorbachev, just two years after his resignation, was ahead of the curve, even in the West. But, his authentic picture can be a
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 1989-1991 I did not understand the complexities that led to the fall of the Soviet Union--could not even had I wanted to. The ensuing fallout of the USSR's collapse meant nothing to me, a young teenager. Instead, I eventually became a bandwagon American who gloated over a Cold War victory through much of which I didn't live, and to which I contributed nothing.

Good had vanquished evil! Capitalism's invisible hand slit communism's throat! Freedom will always win! Right?

Books such as this are p
Tom Shannon
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although this guy writes a book that has not one good thing to say about the Soviet Union, it was very interesting to get the reports from the inside that many people outside the country would not have ever heard if it were not for his reporting.
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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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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” 10 likes
“The Communist Party apparatus was the most gigantic mafia the world has ever known.” 7 likes
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