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

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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.

624 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

David Remnick

55 books297 followers
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 The Washington Post. He has also served on the New York Public Library’s board of trustees. In 2010 he published his sixth book, The Bridge The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.

Remnick was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, the son of a dentist, Edward C. Remnick, and an art teacher, Barbara (Seigel). He was raised in Hillsdale, New Jersey, in a secular Jewish home with, he has said, “a lot of books around.” He is also childhood friends with comedian Bill Maher. He graduated from Princeton University in 1981 with an A.B. in comparative literature; there, he met writer John McPhee and helped found The Nassau Weekly. Remnick has implied that after college he wanted to write novels, but due to his parents’ illnesses, he needed a paying job—there was no trust fund to rely on. Remnick wanted to be a writer, so he chose a career in journalism, taking a job at The Washington Post. He is married to reporter Esther Fein of The New York Times and has three children, Alex, Noah, and Natasha. He enjoys jazz music and classic cinema and is fluent in Russian.

He began his reporting career at The Washington Post in 1982 shortly after his graduation from Princeton. His first assignment was to cover the United States Football League. After six years, in 1988, he became the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent, which provided him with the material for Lenin's Tomb. He also received the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism.

Remnick became a staff writer at The New Yorker in September, 1992, after ten years at The Washington Post.

Remnick’s 1997 New Yorker article “Kid Dynamite Blows Up,” about boxer Mike Tyson, was nominated for a National Magazine Award. In 1998 he became editor, succeeding Tina Brown. Remnick promoted Hendrik Hertzberg, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter and former editor of The New Republic, to write the lead pieces in “Talk of the Town,” the magazine’s opening section. In 2005 Remnick earned $1 million for his work as the magazine’s editor.

In 2003 he wrote an editorial supporting the Iraq war in the days when it started. In 2004, for the first time in its 80-year history, The New Yorker endorsed a presidential candidate, John Kerry.

In May 2009, Remnick was featured in a long-form Twitter account of Dan Baum’s career as a New Yorker staff writer. The tweets, written over the course of a week, described the difficult relationship between Baum and Remnick, his editor.

Remnick’s biography of President Barack Obama, The Bridge, was released on April 6, 2010. It features hundreds of interviews with friends, colleagues, and other witnesses to Obama’s rise to the presidency of the United States. The book has been widely reviewed in journals.

In 2010 Remnick lent his support to the campaign urging the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of ordering the murder of her husband by her lover and adultery.

In 2013 Remnick ’81 was the guest speaker at Princeton University Class Day.

Remnick provided guest commentary and contributed to NBC coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia including the opening ceremony and commentary for NBC News.

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Profile Image for Dmitri.
181 reviews123 followers
January 24, 2023
“In the years after Stalin’s death, the state was an old tyrant slouched in a corner with cataracts and gallstones, muscles gone slack. He wore plastic shoes and a shiny suit that stank of sweat. He hogged all the food and fouled his pants. In the mornings his tongue was coated with the ashen taste of age. He mumbled and didn’t care. His thoughts drifted like storm clouds and came clear only a few times a year to recite the old legends of Great October and the Patriotic War. The state was nearly senile but still dangerous enough. He kept the border key in his pocket and ruled every function of public life. Now and then he had his fits and the world trembled. A magnificent life support system of agents, informers, police, wardens, lawyers and judges worked at his bedside to keep the old tyrant breathing.” - David Remnick, ‘Lenin’s Tomb’


David Remnick won the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ in 1994, and became editor of the New Yorker in 1998. Prior to that he wrote as a Washington Post Moscow correspondent for four years, from 1988 through the demise of the Soviet Union. He draws from interviews and personal experiences of his time in Russia, as well as historical research. The book is a journalistic account and benefits from it. Remnick begins with the 1991 exhumation of 22,000 Polish people who were murdered by Stalin’s KGB in 1940. The work is ordered to stop as a coup against parliament is staged by right wing military forces. Russians became deluged with information that had been suppressed about the Stalinist dictatorship.

Remnick tells of his arrival in Moscow at an apartment with bugged rooms, little heat or hot water, slush and ice eight months of the year. He has a casual voice, at times comic, which doesn’t detract from the serious issues that he covers; endless wait lists for housing, lack of services and empty shelves. With glasnost came protests and criticism of the government, something unheard of before. People read about wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan, the literature of George Orwell, and Robert Conquest on the Great Terror and Famine. Children of Khruschev’s thaw, Politiburo members were intent to save the structure of socialism but cheating, loafing and double dealing were endemic to the system.

Remnick attends meetings in 1988 of Moscow intellectuals who give speeches and debate a future society. He discusses the ‘return of history’ during Gorbachev’s tenure. Without an assessment of the past a transition to the future wouldn’t be sustainable. It was proven in Khrushchev’s 1956 reforms being reversed by Brezhnev in 1964. A historian collects the data of people who died in state custody. A filmmaker shoots a movie where a daughter digs up the dictator’s corpse who killed her father. On the 70th anniversary of the Revolution Gorbachev gives a speech denouncing Stalin for eliminating ten of thirteen original Bolshevik leaders, two thirds of the Central Committee and thousands of Red Army commanders.

Remnick meets with the Litvinov family, whose grandfather had been a foreign minister under Stalin, and his dissident grandson. Leading a protest in Red Square against the 1968 invasion of Prague he was exiled to Siberia for five years. In an upscale apartment block reserved for Party apparatchiks is the last member of Stalin’s inner circle. Remnick pursues an interview with Kaganovich, the People’s Commissar who had deported millions to labor camps. He was then a 96 year old blind man. Remnick’s grandparents escaped Russia on foot, fleeing from the Tsar’s pograms of Jews. When they heard he was learning Russian in high school, and planned to live in Moscow, they concluded he was out of his mind.

Remnick visits Anna Larina, the wife of Nicolai Bukharin, a General Secretary executed by Stalin in 1938. Gorbachev and others co-opted his ideas for a mixed economy and a limited pluralism as a model for perestroika reforms. She had waited decades for his rehabilitation, imprisoned as the wife of an enemy of the people. Bukharin’s confession in the 1936 show trial was an indictment of Stalin, used by Arthur Koestler in his ‘Darkness at Noon’. Anna remained in exile until the late 1950’s for refusing to denounce her husband. During 1988 Bukharin and nineteen of his ‘conspirators’ had convictions posthumously overturned. The news made world headlines, Anna emerged for interviews, publishing a memoir in 1991.

Remnick describes a play that mocked Lenin, supported by the liberal faction. A controversial letter from an old Stalinist woman is circulated in papers, approved of by conservatives. Meeting her in St. Petersburg, she argues ‘If Gorbachev was alive in the 1930’s we would have put him up against a wall.’ The right wing answered criticism of Stalin with widespread attacks against Jews and the intelligentsia. In 1989 100,000 Jews emigrated to Israel and the West. Remnick meets with a physician who survived Stalin’s ‘Doctor’s Plot’. He describes his experiences from the Tsar’s time until 1989. Stalin was preparing mass deportations of Jews to labor camps when he luckily died in 1953. Nothing much had changed for the Jews.

Remnick follows activists for a memorial to Stalin’s victims. In the five years after 1935 twenty million were arrested; of those seven million were executed. They were remembered by Andrei Sakharov, nuclear scientist and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner who promoted atomic disarmament, peace and human rights. The economy was in shambles, the Politburo divided between hardliners and reformers. At a democracy conference Boris Yeltsin called for more radical change but Gorbachev stood by his belief in socialism. Baltic movements for independence were a threat to the Soviet Union, calls for private property a betrayal of ideals. By 1990 polls showed only 20% of Russians believed socialism was still viable.

Remnick provides sketches of Gorbachev and Sakharov, meeting with their families and friends. Gorbachev came from a poor village the south west, a hardworking farmer’s son and top scholar who migrated to Moscow to study law. Sakharov was the co-inventor of the nuclear bomb that first exploded in Kazakhstan in 1953, five months after Stalin’s death. Both had family connections with people who died in labor camps, and Stalin’s demise marked a turning point in their lives. Each were believers in communist doctrine who began to question Stalinism. Gorbachev released Sakharov from exile in 1986 and he returned to Moscow, resuming his dissident activities, as Gorbachev worked within the system.

Remnick revisits the years after Khrushchev was overthrown by Brezhnev in 1964. A pervasive system of corruption took the place of ideology. From the lowest levels of industry and agriculture kickbacks flowed all the way up to the Kremlin and Brezhnev himself. Positions in government and business were for sale at established prices and the Politburo was run like the mafia. Remnick meets Party bosses in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan who had been ousted by Gorbachev. Yeltsin, fired from the Politburo for criticizing slow paced reforms, denounced corruption within the Party. His popular appeal sparked protests and political action groups. The rise of private enterprise was another threat to Party business.

Remnick notes a great oil boom had kept the economy afloat until the mid ‘80s. By 1988 destitution, homelessness and decrepitude were everywhere. Before the Revolution Russia had been ranked 7th in per capita consumption, now 77th. The large majority lived below the poverty line and began to connect it with failure of the Party. Glasnost made mention of its failures permissible. In Central Asia infant death rates were as high as 1 in 10, typically under reported. Remnick visits Turkmenistan to see the conditions for himself. Even with glasnost the local Party bosses repressed free speech. Planners in Moscow had turned cotton into a monoculture, drained the Aral Sea and poisoned people with pesticides.

Remnick travels around to the first elections for Gorbachev’s new Congress in 1989, as demonstrating students in Beijing were massacred. It was still a one party system, often with one candidate in rural areas, but in Moscow and large cities democracy fever ran high. Party Congress was a two week affair, televised for the first time. Nearly everyone in Russia had state issued televisions, essential in past propaganda. A month later massive demonstrations and strikes rocked the Kremlin from Ukraine to Siberia, dispelling the illusion of a gradual revolution. Workers who had lived in desperate conditions and never dared to protest rose in hundreds of thousands, overflowing into the city squares and streets.

Remnick recounts rebellion of Soviet Republics from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan. Gorbachev thought that he could replace local leaders with Russians but this only increased the calls for independence. His visit to East Berlin sparked a revolt that tore down The Wall within weeks. With Lech Walesa in Poland and Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia socialist states began to secede one by one. Nationalists in Ukraine’s city of Lviv promised the second largest republic of the USSR would be independent. Lenin had once written: “For us to lose the Ukraine would be to lose our head”. Ukrainian disillusionment had reached its limit in 1986 with the handling of the disaster at Chernobyl.

Remnick relates how after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Gorbachev began to move to the right as the KGB, police and army pressured him to end political and economic reforms. The old dictatorship and new democracy existed side by side, the danger of a military coup was imminent. Massacres in the Baltics and Caucasus destabilized the Republics. In 1991 Yeltsin was elected President. Gorbachev remained Secretary, but the right wing cabal demanded that he agree to martial law. Refusing, he was arrested, an emergency declared and institutions seized. Yeltsin barricaded Parliament and rallied a resistance. Soldiers and civilians began to ignore orders of the leaders, and the putsch collapsed along with the Party.

As a journalist Remnick’s chapters are almost like extended newspaper features or magazine articles. They could be read as stand alone pieces, although there is a common thread throughout. This could be good or bad depending on your preferences. Some of the characters he interviews are very interesting and others less so. If you weave the people and events in this book together it’s a tapestry that makes for a coherent whole but requires some effort. A criticism may be Remnick seems to include every incident from his four year stay, some that are likely outtakes from his Washington Post reports. Most of these concerns are alleviated by Remnick’s writing, which is always excellent and at times brilliant.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,648 followers
January 20, 2020
"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 of Lenin. It was only as I got older that I realized both how crazy the USSR/Russia was during that time and how blessed the Washington Post was to have David Remnick writing "home" about it.

I've read other books by Remnick (The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama and King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, and parts of Reporting: Writings from The New Yorker). The New Yorker is where I discovered and fell in love with his prose. So, with Remnick, I was reading backwards. It was time I read what is perhaps his greatest work. Lenin's Tomb is a comprehensive look at the last years of the Soviet Union from the election of Gorbachev (with occasional backward glances at Khrushchev, etc. It was nice to get more information about Andrei Sakharov (I knew only broad aspects of his story, and still need to read more) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (I know more about him, but need to read more of his work).

Some of this isn't dated. No. That is the wrong word. It is history, and by definition all history is dated, but the book ends with a lot of potential energy. It is sad to see that a lot of the potential for Russia's democracy has been lost into the authoritarianism of Putin. It is also scary to read quotes from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and unabaashed neofacists who won 8 million votes in 1991, and hear words that could easily have been spoken by Donald Trump. Nations and regimes are never as solid as we think. Often the corruption that exists for years, like a cavity, eats away at the insitutions until they become empty husks and everything colapses. Perhaps, that is one lesson WE in the United States (and Europe) should learn from the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 90s. Perhaps, it is too late.

Some of my random pieces by Remnick related to Russia:

Notes From Underground - Review of John McPhee's The Ransom of Russian Art

The Historical Truth-Telling of Arseny Roginsky

Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War
Profile Image for Maru Kun.
215 reviews472 followers
October 31, 2015
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 August by a contingent of five trusted soldiers of the Felix Dzerhinsky division, dispatched from the Nemchinovka barracks at 03:33 travelling south west on the road to Krasnoznamensk.

The August 1991 coup by soviet hardliners was very well plotted, but wholly lacking in planning.

Why wasn’t the Russian Parliament building, the White House, sealed and surrounded to prevent the Russian democratic parliamentarians from taking refuge in it, copying the techniques of democratic supporters in Vilnius only a few months before? How did Yeltsin drive past whole brigades of tanks to make his last stand there? Why were practically none of the people on the arrest list actually arrested?

Here is some more advice: lock up the drinks cabinet. Being ‘zapoi’ – the Russian word for several days of drunkenness when one withdraws from society – seemed to be a requirement for high office in a restored Soviet State. If the plotters had sobered up enough to issue some half decent emergency decrees and order a few summary executions they would have probably succeeded.

Of Yanayev, made President of Russia by the plotters:
"...He was a vain man of small intelligence, a womanizer, and a drunk. I'm not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia..."

My Thai friend told me that there were so many coups in the country because Thailand has a food surplus. Demonstrators on the barricades are never quite hungry enough to decisively overthrow the state; at the end of the day they can go back home and eat. This seems to explain the deteriorating quality of the Russian coup over the seventy odd years from 1917 to 1991. The plotters lived a life of privilege, of Zils, Dachas and caviar. They just weren’t hungry enough.

Gorbachov started channeling Shakespeare around 1985. Like Lear he had a vision of a harmonious state, failing to foresee how vested interests and human rivalry would make it impossible; like Hamlet he is suspicious and not as innocent as he seems but is also vacillating and indecisive at key junctures; like Macbeth he believes he is bigger than the situation, headed for a greater destiny. When the curtain closes he is reviled by all sides and lucky to be alive.

The audience to this play is kept in a state of high dramatic tension. Gorbachov is blind to his friends of forty years changing to enemies, oblivious as they cut him off from rivals who, in truth, are the only people he can trust. For God’s sake Gorbachov, the butler did it! Of course the Head of the KGB is plotting your downfall. It isn’t the State Minster for Woman’s Issues that’s going to knife you in the back for heaven’s sake.

This is a great book, well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. The tension grows leading up to the final section with details of the coup.

If this was a thriller it would all be too thrilling. But as a work of non-fiction, reality intrudes with all its messy reality. Events are driven by dumb luck, ambition, personal grudges and – that key to understanding all human endeavors - routine incompetence. Even so some outstanding characters worthy of the finest novelist appear on its pages: saints – Sakharov; villains – Ligachev; buffoons – Yanayev; tragic heroes: Gorbachov, Yeltsin.

The events of August 1991 in Russia have faded into memory. Things could have gone much worse for Russia and the world that summer. But as observers saw at the time once these events were over and done with Russia’s future remained very uncertain, as it still remains today.
Profile Image for Max.
337 reviews288 followers
March 30, 2015
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 change, but cannot envision where that road will lead. Overtaken and cast aside by the democratic forces he unleashes, the reformer who broke the chains of Bolshevism ends up disillusioned and bitter.

Remnick shows how history itself is an agent of change. The turning point was facing the truth of Soviet history. Tightly controlled since Stalin’s consolidation of power in 1928, Russians were fed a mythological version touting the greatness of the Party and its tyrannical leaders. Young students were indoctrinated through "The Short Course" text taught in all Soviet schools. Disagreement was severely punished. In 1956 Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his purges in his “Secret Speech” given only to the Party Congress. The truth began to leak out amidst Khrushchev’s “thaw”. But when Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev in 1964, the Soviet Union entered a neo-Stalinist era of renewed repression.

Russia was deeply divided. The right wing, Stalin’s defenders, had their identities intertwined with his and his mythological history. The millions murdered and imprisoned had been enemies of the state, disruptors of the order and deniers of the greatness of Russia. On the left were the dissidents, the minorities, the oppressed, the families of the victims. They knew the truth, but it took great courage to speak out against the belligerent right with the KGB on their side. The key was the control of history. As the Stalinist’s lost it, their dominance eroded.

Gorbachev grew up in simple circumstances. His academic success earned him admission to law school at Moscow State University, where unlike other courses of study, students were exposed to traditional Western thought from Roman law to the US Constitution. He and many supporters led double lives maintaining Party loyalty while instigating change. Gorbachev survived and prospered by keeping his thoughts to himself until the right time. A clever politician, he carefully orchestrated his television and media image.

Gorbachev took over in 1985, with his policy of glasnost, Russia began to come to terms with its past. In 1986 he allowed Andrei Sakharov to return to Moscow from internal exile in Gorky. The physicist turned dissident spoke out with influential moral authority. Gorbachev’s speech in 1987 on the 70th anniversary of the October revolution, while praising the Party, recounted Stalin’s crimes. By 1989 many previously forbidden books were becoming publicly available including Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago.

The Communist Party was a mafia. Corruption and bribery were the norm. Everyone participated from the lowest service worker to the very top of the party. Jobs and perks were controlled by the Party. The Party elite lived in beautiful dachas with access to the finest Western goods. Leaders in some regions lived like kings in their fiefdoms. But most Soviet citizens lived in or near poverty. Everyday items taken for granted in the West were not affordable for most people and those available were of vastly inferior quality. Workers toiled in primitive conditions in factories that spewed pollution sickening the residents. Farms were so badly managed they barely functioned at all. Working in the mines was the worst. Soap wasn’t even available to wash with. Mine waste made lakes so toxic that they dissolved bones. Not surprisingly, miners were the first to strike in 1989. This was the beginning of the end. Eastern Europe was in turmoil and the Baltic States would soon lead the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

Just as Khrushchev could not take the next step after denouncing Stalin in his Secret Speech, so too could Gorbachev only go so far in his perestroika. While for party reform he was against true democracy with multiple parties. While delegitimizing Stalin, he held onto the myth of Lenin. Despite Sakharov’s warning to Gorbachev that the only viable course was to come completely over to the side of the dissidents, Gorbachev straddled, moving ahead blindly with no plan. The old guard fought him tooth and nail, but they too would not prevail. As the truth came out, everyone saw that Lenin and the Party was culpable of horrendous crimes against society. Gorbachev, unwilling to go that far, would also be swept aside. As things unfolded he became more conservative.

In March 1990, the first elections allowing new parties were held. New times also meant a new breed of young entrepreneurs began set up shop. Some were wildly successful, ignoring the law, and became rich. Crime, including protection rackets, followed. Crime, once the sole province of the Party, was now open to everyone. Young Russians fell in love with American pop culture, the music, the Hollywood stars, even baseball and then there was McDonalds. Things were changing fast. The 1990 Mayday parade in Moscow showed how far the dissidents had come. In the regular parade the usual communist propaganda slogans were gone and in the parade that followed dissidents openly criticized the party and extolled freedom for the Soviet Republics. Gorbachev put on a good face, but clearly was upset.

On October 16, 1990, one day after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Gorbachev rejected the 500 Day Plan to dismantle the old order and initiate capitalism. This step back to forestall an attempt at counter-revolution by the right wing and KGB would not work. In December 1990, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze resigned saying a new dictatorship was coming. The first politically independent newspaper, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, began and openly criticized the Party. Gorbachev defended the Party and increasingly became its hostage. In January 1991, tanks rolled into Lithuania in a botched attempt to depose the government which had declared its independence. Gorbachev was now completely discredited as a reform leader. In June 1991 Yeltsin, who had outmaneuvered the hardliners by changing the law to call for direct election of the Russian President, was elected President of Russia. Yeltsin could now challenge Gorbachev, the President of the rapidly imploding Soviet Union.

In August 1991, the old guard, many of whom Gorbachev trusted, led an ill-fated coup attempt. Poor planning and lack of the brutal will of their Bolshevik antecedents led to failure. Many in the military and other high positions would not carry out their orders. The conspirators put Gorbachev under house arrest announcing that the “Committee” was now in charge. Yeltsin acted decisively. With thousands of supporters he barricaded himself in the Russian White House. As the days wore on it became apparent the “Committee” lacked the resolve and the support to carry out its coup. Yeltsin prevailed and became a hero of Russia. Gorbachev lost respect as he was shown to be naïve about those around him. Even after the coup attempt was over, Gorbachev wanted to stick to reform through the now entirely discredited Communist Party. He still didn’t get it. Yeltsin forced the dissolution of the Party and Gorbachev soon found himself out of a job, unwanted and unloved by the democratic forces he refused to embrace and hated by the old guard whose demise he had led.

While honored in the West, one cannot ignore Gorbachev’s duplicity throughout his years as Party General Secretary and Soviet President. He did nothing to help the working class while he lived in opulence. He talked democracy but approved many of the repressive tactics used to squash it. Gorbachev began the process of democratization but it took a man he had denounced, Yeltsin, to finish it. Sadly Yeltsin too would prove ineffective and today Putin, Yeltsin’s chosen successor, leads Russia ever further from democracy. Lenin’s Tomb ends in 1991, a time of hope that unfortunately is yet to be realized.
7 reviews4 followers
September 19, 2007
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."
Profile Image for Gini.
Author 2 books18 followers
September 19, 2010
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 was a brave and impressive activist for change.
And the author David Remnick's power of reportage and writing talent is equally humbling. I had no prior interest in the subject material. I picked up this book in my mother's bedroom and opened it without intending to read. Anyone who can get an initially unmotivated reader to be wondering "what happens next" in a 500+ page book on contemporary Russian history is a masterful story teller. For me, with the exception of some impatience I felt toward the end, this was a page turner. No wonder Reminick's head at the New Yorker.
I don;'t know whether Remnick has followed up on the aftermath but it'd would be intriguing to learn his take on modern moscow. When I visited a journalist friend there in 2008, the impression that lingered with me is that capitalism is a razor-sharp double-edged sword.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,176 reviews1,067 followers
April 23, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Cora.
160 reviews35 followers
July 31, 2014
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 adopts a similar structure to explore the significance of Obama's 2008 election.)

His approach has a loose narrative through-line but is generally kaleidoscopic, traveling from miners' strikes in central Asia to nationalist protests in the Balkans, from the swaggering 'millionaires' who used arbitrage opportunities left by poor central planning to profit handsomely to the aging Stalinists who see the decline of collectivism in the same way that American evangelicals see the rise of gay marriage. It is best in presenting a series of memorable moments in the passage from one regime to another: young Communists in Leningrad cheering for Gordon Gecko in an official screening of WALL STREET; 'Miss KGB', a beauty queen who does photo ops for the secret police to sell a pro-perestroika message (she reminded me of the CIA twitter feed); and the self-pity of Party officials who--for the first time--have to deal with angry calls from constituents about garbage collection and potholes.

Remnick's thesis is that perestroika enabled a rare moment where the general population of Russia could engage with its history, and where attempts to dislodge the truth about the Soviet state were of general concern. With his focus on memory and atrocity, Remnick often reminded me of the documentary THE ACT OF KILLING (about the atrocities that accompanied Suharto's rise to power)--LENIN'S TOMB often has a similarly searing quality to it.

If I have a complaint--and perhaps this is unfair, for a book written in 1993--it's that the kaleidoscopic quality makes it a little hard to see causality. The book's strongest portion concerns the August 1991 coup, which is a straightforward story (involving many of the figures already profiled in the book) that demonstrates Remnick's thesis about the changing attitudes. (Although as I'm writing this, I'm not sure why I felt as if Remnick not being strong on the narrative was a failing; THE PROMISE OF THE NEW SOUTH is one of my favorite history books of all time, and that's pure kaleidoscope. Perhaps it's that Remnick is trying to show a process of change, but his style sometimes obscures that process.)

I picked up this book because I've been thinking about Russia a lot lately, and I thought it would help me understand that country a bit more. I feel as if it certainly did so, and I would recommend it.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,895 reviews156 followers
October 5, 2021
"Lenin's Tomb" was a superb read. It was also chilling. Why? Some of the passages and the descriptions of the Communists and their various tricks could be applied to the US and the so-called "progressives" (Socialist/Marxists). One of the major failings of Western Society was in not having War Crimes Trails, such as Nuremberg, for the mass murdering war criminals known as Communists. The reason is simple- while Communism is as despicable and foul as Nazism, the "Left" (not to be confused with "liberal" even though they hide behind that term) has taken such a firm root in Western Society that the Comuunists are air brushed.

Lenin's Tomb is a factual, on the site, heavily researched and phenomenal look at the death camps, indoctrination and flat out murder and sadism that are part and parcel of Communism. The books points out, all the empty phrases aside, it NEVER worked. It will NEVER work. It's only a means to redistribute wealth, but the lower classes will still stay lower class and the elite will still live in Dachas, drive nice cars and have stocked grocery stores.

The book also shows that Communists are as muerderous, callous, inhuman and cruel sadists on par with their kindred from the far right. This book taces the fall starying with Gorbachev and leading into the counter-revolution led by the KGB and the hard liners.

Any intelligent person should be nervous when hearing about "Doublespeak" and "New Thought" and how the media manipulated the news or didn't report certain things or put a spin on others. This sounds awfully like the state of the modern American "media" which are merely propoganda outlets for the Leftist wing of the Democrat party. It is telling that the author seems to get that George Orwell's "1984" was about COMMUNISTS and their doublespeak. Communism is a totalitarian system, like Nazism. There are no "good" Nazis and no "good" Communists. Merely opposing sides of the same coin. Once you pick one of these "sides" or spout their rhetoric (no matter how "modernized") then you show that you have NO moral ground, merely a side.
Profile Image for Xander.
404 reviews140 followers
March 12, 2022
Journalist David Remnick went to live and work in Moscow in 1988 and stayed there during the breakdown of the Soviet Empire. In Lenin's Tomb he documents the developments of these years - the rise of Gorbachev, the new policies of glasnost and perestroika, the uprisings in the Baltics and Georgia, the democratization of society and the reactionary responses.

Throughout this long book, you'll view and feel a mighty empire unravel before your eyes. Remnick uses interviews with individual Russians to paint a picture of the everyday situation and the subject involved. This makes for fascinating stories and a highly effective tool to convey abstract developments.

In general, Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and sought to modernize the Soviet economy in order to better obtain the political goals (which were the same as before - being the contender of capitalist USA). To do this, he liberalized society (more individual freedoms) and the economy (more room for individual investment, etc.). One of the pillars in this new course was the reckoning with the Soviet past. For the first time in history the atrocities of Stalin were researched and published, Memorials for the victims of the 1930s purges and the gulag system were erected. The younger generations started to grasp more and more how repressive the Soviet system was and how much change was needed. People started to have a past - and with that, a future as well.

The problem with such processes is their uncontrollable consequences. By the time the Communist Party started to see their own pet project unraveling, it was already too late to get the genie back into the bottle. 1989 and 1990 saw the revolts in Soviet republics as diverse as Lithuania and Georgia as well as internal uprisings and strikings. During 1990, Gorbachev increasingly came under pressure from the Party apparatchiks and he shifted more and more towards a conservative political course. But now there was a huge liberal and radical bloc within the Russian political system (with Boris Yeltsin as the most prominent leader) which was much more in tune with the people and their wishes and needs.

During 1990-91 Russian President Yeltsin - a clever and opportunistic politician if there ever was one - worked towards a new Union Treaty in which the Soviet republics would de facto become autonomous and thus would herald the end of the Soviet Union. When, in august 1991 the Union Treaty would become official, the conservative apparatchiks in the Communist Party decided to intervene: they locked up Gorbachev in his vacation house in Ukraine, and installed a State of Emergency.

But they were too late (and their planning was too ad hoc). Yeltsin organized a democratic and popular resistance and in just 3 days the Soviet Union was finished and Russia's future was open again. Due to his personal network the army and KGB were not all on the side of the Party and the internal divisions, in the end, were what saved Yeltsin and his clique during these days in august 1991.

In all, this book is a fascinating read, offering the reader time capsules of the Soviet years 1988-1991 (as well as earlier big events). While reading, one is continuously nauseated by the utter despair and sinister repression within Soviet society - the hypocrisy, the policing, the worthlessness of human life, the mind numbing routine. Together with Solzhenytsin's Gulag Archipelago, Lenin's Tomb is a highly necessary read for anyone interested in the Soviet Union, communism, or modern day Russia. I wish books like this were more widely read and taught in school - especially concerning the uptick in popularity of socialism and communism with the younger generations in the West.
Profile Image for Mike.
297 reviews134 followers
March 23, 2015
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 Leningrad, Anatoly Sobchak (whom Remnick pretty clearly likes), as spending the rest of the meeting (which Remnick doesn’t seem to have been present for), after being yelled at by Sobchak, “whimpering in his chair, a beaten dog.” In another chapter, Remnick describes a tour group at the Museum of the Revolution in Leningrad: “The tourists did not care, and Kira (the tour guide) cared less. I have rarely seen eyes so blank.” This may very well have been true, but it also fits Remnick’s belief that people were tired of the old party lines, of hearing about Lenin, and wanted something new (and of course a lot of people did- but I don’t think it would threaten Remnick’s book if the tourists on this particular day had been interested and/or enthusiastic about hearing about Lenin, which I’m almost certain some tourists occasionally were). It also may be true that the supporters of the putsch were in general cowardly and pathetic, but again, I’d rather have been allowed to draw this conclusion myself.

That being said, I loved this book 99% of the time. Remnick speaks Russian (maybe not fluently- he mentions at one point that he suspects someone he’s speaking to is dumbing down his Russian for him- but well enough to have long conversations about politics, history, etc), and lived in Moscow in the late 80s and early 90s, and his intimacy with the culture and the people shows. It’s history on both the macro and micro scale: there’s the great dramatic chapter on the coup attempt, but also a lot about everyday people- miners, clerks, teachers, etc.- and their stories and personal tragedies. Or maybe what the book reminded me of is that the distinction I often find myself making- between sweeping historical narrative/the spectacle I see on the news and humble everyday life- is a false one, and that history is made up of individual lives. About halfway through, reading a chapter about Stalin’s Terror, I remembered that line from Ulysses about history being a nightmare. I think that Remnick gave me a sense of something that's alien to a person with my background: the scale of how indiscriminate the USSR was, in those days, with regards to human life: how easily and indiscriminately you, with your personal interests and hopes and passions, could be cast into the black hole of history.

I recommend this highly for anyone who’d like to know more about 20th C Russian/Soviet history/culture, especially around the fall of the Soviet Union.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
962 reviews348 followers
June 6, 2013
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 hyperbole on how Ronald Reagan solely dismantled the evil empire! The book is about the Soviet Union – there is little on the break-away of the Eastern Bloc countries like Poland or East Germany. Mr. Remnick presents us with a wide array of people across this vast land – from various dissidents to various neo-Stalinists. We experience their anguish as the grim and brutal history of their country becomes revealed as once secret archives are exposed.

This book is well-written, engaging and sprinkled with some wry humour. If you are interested in this epoch it is a truly marvellous and first-hand account.

Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
554 reviews147 followers
July 7, 2016
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.

It was this exchange that I found myself reflecting on while reading "Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire". I wish that former colleague of mine took the time to read it too - though he'd likely brush it off with the same dismissive wave he'd used back at the Occupation Museum. To call "Lenin's Tomb" mere "Western propaganda" though, is a claim that any reader of Remnick's masterful work would be hard-pressed to make. Not to say that Remnick doesn't have his opinions, he does, and he isn't shy about voicing them. But the amount of research into the atrocities committed - not only by Lenin, but by the entire Soviet system - leaves little room for doubt.

It's hard to even review this book. How do you review so thorough a journey into the horrifying past of a once expansive empire? I'm not old enough to remember when the Soviet Union was still around, but having lived in Ukraine for nearly 3 years and taken trips to various corners of the former U.S.S.R., it's clear that the last vestiges of the once vast empire have left much visible decay - both material and psychological. Even though Remnick wrote this Pulitzer Prize winner more than 22 years ago - back in 1994 - it feels surprisingly relevant.

To say that this book was the product of years of research is evident to anyone who reads it. Remnick - now the editor of The New Yorker - traveled the length of the U.S.S.R, from the mines of Donetsk, Ukraine, to the port city of Magadan, the gateway to the Kolyma region in Russia's far east. Along the way he meets and interviews all manner of characters. From Neo-Stalinists to Gorbachev's liberal opposition - and all shades between - Remnick found them and interviewed them all.

The scale of the author's research is enough to make my head hurt. Talk about racking up the miles. But the result is extraordinary. So comprehensive, so total in its exhumation of past sins, it's little wonder that this thing won the Pulitzer Prize. Though certain chapters appealed to me in ways that others didn't, this is never a boring read. The least interesting part of this book to me - the events surrounding the August 1991 coup - were events I knew absolutely nothing about, and were told in a fascinating, real-time setting.

Perhaps the greatest myth Remnick busts is one that so-called liberals and Russian "reformers" have been making for decades: that Stalin was merely a bad apple and that socialism and Soviet rule, as imagined by Lenin, are not to blame for the seemingly endless list of crimes committed. Remnick shows, through interviews and historical accounts, that Lenin was responsible for the expansion of the gulag system, the initial series of purges, and for instilling a system of fear, doubt, and suspicion that, to this day, still permeates the mentality of former Soviet residents.

There are curiosities here. Remnick praises Boris Yeltsin a bit too highly, though this is easy to say in hindsight, and speaks of the great Russian writer Solzhenitsyn - who, before his death in 2008, praised Putin's work as President - as some kind of champion of freedom. This latter instance is surely though more a curiosity on Solzhenitsyn's part, though it could be argued - though perhaps not well - that Putin's more authoritarian side wasn't revealed until after Solzhenitsyn's death. Nevertheless, for a man with Solzhenitsyn's background to praise a man as vicious and power-mad as Putin makes for an odd-couple easily topping that of any buddy cop film.

What Remnick's book does so well, finally, is to leave us with a view of a Russia torn apart in the years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. That this would create the perfect stage for Vladimir Putin is written, if not in the lines, in-between them.

"Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire" is an unforgettable autopsy on an empire that - in ways both obvious and not - is still very much alive.
Profile Image for Tim McIntosh.
59 reviews96 followers
November 28, 2018
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 powerful because Remnick rarely traffics in such large numbers. Instead, his attention are drawn to the families whose fathers were dragged into the night by the KGB. Several only learned that their family-members had died when receiving letters returned from a gulag marked, "deceased" or in one case, "Cannot deliver: recipient moved to cemetery."

The style: Lenin's Tomb is in the tradition of the "New Journalism" that emerged during the 1960s and 70s. By contrast, in traditional journalism the journalist was "invisible". But the New Journalists (think Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Truman Capote) are present in their work. Remnick shows up frequently in his book. He mentions that he and his wife attend dinner with Russian friends, attend protests in Red Square, etc. The effect is morally profound. You can feel Remnick's outrage and despondency while he reports the horrors of the Soviet regime. One of the most chilling moments of the 624-pg book occurs when Remnick (himself a Jew) interviews anti-Semites who blame the Jews for all of the troubles of the Soviets; they are either oblivious to the fact that he is Jewish or perhaps worse — they simply don't care.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It earned its 1994 Pulitzer and its plentiful accolades. Though readers should be warned: This book gave me nightmares. How could human beings treat other human beings this way — and on such a sprawling scale? Week-old newspapers seemed more valuable during Stalin's regime. That reality is deeply disturbing.

Remnick's story is brutal but his vision isn't nihilistic. He is a deeply moral writer who celebrates the lives of bravery of men like Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Men who stood as witnesses against the regime.
Profile Image for Artak Aleksanyan.
244 reviews80 followers
February 22, 2018
Շատ երկար ժամանակ չէի կարդում պատմական non-fiction, գուցե այն պարզ պատճառով, որ առաջին կրթությամբ լինելով պատմաբան, հոգնել էի դրանցից։ Ուղիղ 20 տարի անց, կարդացի։

The New Yorker ամերիկյան հեղինակավոր ամսագրի գլխավոր խմբագիր Դեյվիդ Ռեմնիկը 1988-1991 թվականներին աշխատել է The Wahsington Post-ի սեփական թղթակից Մոսկվայում և ըստ էության ականատեսի աչքերով է նկարագրում ԽՍՀՄ փլուզումը։

Այս գիրքը, չնայած կանխատեսլեի ամերիկյան «բնական» հակասովետականությանն ու բառապաշարին, այնուամենայնիվ բացառիկ է առաջին հերթին այն յուրահատկությամբ, որ ցույց է տալիս ԽՍՀՄ փլուզման նոմենկլատուրային պատճառները, քաղաքական պրոցեսների հեղինակներին, Կրեմլյան ինտրիգները։

Այն չի կենտրոնանում ԽՍՀՄ մյուս հանրապետությունների վրա։ Ղարաբաղյան հակամարտության, Բաքվի ջարդերի մասին խոսք անգամ չկա։ Այս գիրքն այն մասին է, որ թե ինչպե՞ս էր կայսրության կենտրոնն աշխատում, ովքեր էին հիմնական մրցակիցները ու ինչպես էր ընթանում պայքարը։ Գիրքը դետեկտիվի նման է, որի հանգուցալուծումը 1991 թվականի օգոստոսյան հեղաշրջման փորձն էր, որից հետո, ի դեպ, հնարավոր դարձավ և ՀՀ անկախություն և ԽՍՀՄ փլուզումը։

Բայց այս գիրքը արժեքավոր է, քանի որ օգնում է հասկանալ ժամանակակից Ռուսաստանը, ինչպե՞ս և ինչո՞ւ ելցինյան դարաշրջանից հետո եկավ Պուտինը և արդյո՞ք նրա քաղաքականությունն արտահայտում էր միայն Պուտինի, թե՞ ավելի խորը գաղափարական ճամբարի հայացքները։

Շատ ճանաչողական, մանրամասն ու որակյալ լրագրողական աշխատանք է, որն, արժանացել է Պուլիցերյան մրցանակի։ Ու չնայած հաստափորությանը, ընթերցվում է միանգամից ու մեկ շնչով։
Profile Image for Elisa.
458 reviews56 followers
March 26, 2018
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 the seeds and weeds that are too deeply rooted to just yank out. When you read the personal accounts of those who suffered and survived directly the Bolshevik/Leninist/Stalinist/Communist structure, you can't help but empathize with the people of this vast, unconquerable, and unique country, including how hard it's been for a lot of people to shake off the yoke and ghost of Stalin, used as they were for most of their lives to the random daily terror inflicted by a paranoiac but also to a strong personality taking care of everything, for better or worse.

Stalin's shadow is dark and gigantic and his imprint is still everywhere. The communists just changed coats and now they're greedy, ruthless capitalists who run all sorts of businesses like mafiosos. It's going to take a long time to clean the slate. My hatred for Stalin has grown after reading this book. You can f*** up a whole nation's psyche in just one generation...
Profile Image for Michael Huang.
804 reviews35 followers
March 15, 2019
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 had to suffer the completely idiotic brain wash of the regime (to get in college, you have to take a test fielding questions such as “why only the communist party can save China”). The paths the two countries took are like parallel universes. In the 1970s, communists realize their Marxism-Leninism experiment didn’t pan out as expected. Something has to change. They thought hard about what to do. And in communist speak, China chose economic reform first while the Gorbachev glasnost essentially leads to political perestroika first, whether or not that was the plan. The Chinese leaders abandoned planned economy and managed to make people richer but made sure they don’t talk about politics. Gorbachev essentially allowed the people to vote him out of Kremlin. But thanks to that, a lot of secrets are now known. (One can only guess how much parallel is there in the Chinese system.) The author does a good job walking you through this period. You should read it.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,822 reviews1,324 followers
May 2, 2013
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 to a fancy soiree w/ some friends for New Years (don't ask) There was no way in 1999 one could predict the steely constictions of the Putin Imperium. Remnick's book offers a sober nudge to all predictions concerning Russian politics. The same can be said for political animals from almost every other land as well.
84 reviews12 followers
October 23, 2015
Remnick tried here to sell the idea of the inevitability of the "collapse" of the Soviet Union-at least it is the only way it is presented, kind of an external version of "manifest destiny" (anyone or anything taking on the west would fall to its superiority). Here is what an another reviewer here in goodreads says, tellingly: "His sources on Soviet history are mainly Pipes, Conquest, and Cohen, all three very problematic in their own ways." Calling them merely problematic (in reality liars, distorters) is an understatement. But the point is made: shoddy work based on shoddy sources (my understatement).
92 reviews33 followers
October 13, 2017
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 of stagnation? ennui? Since the death of Ligden in 1634, Mongolia hasn’t been independent in any way shape or form. With authoritarian communism as the only relevant-in-the-modern-age system of government known to Mongolians, with the modern day political parties playing a demented game of musical chairs every election cycle – each one drawing on its organisational structure of the MPP/CPSU – did Mongolia ever have a chance to develop? I suppose the most maddening part of it all is that Mongolia somehow managed to import even its own modern miseries from its “big brother” as well – still not independent.

This book is great, but most interesting from own point of view is its echoes in modern Mongolia (copied from my Kindle clippings):

Venezuelan and Korean soap operas, staples of 90s childhood, somehow still going strong.

“I am sure if Nadezhda Mandelstam … would be ruthlessly critical of the inequities and absurdities of politics in post-totalitarian Russia. She would warn of the problem of expecting an injured and isolated people to make a rapid transfer to a way of life that no longer promises cradle-to-grave paternalism. She would, despite her own love of Agatha Christie novels, warn against the new tide of junk culture—the sudden infatuation with Mexican soap operas and American sneakers.”

Just think of the interactions between Mongols and Inner Mongols.

“For all of us, this is the saddest thing. We know nothing of ourselves. We have had in here in our building a Jewish boy, with a Jewish face and appearance. A funny little boy. Another boy came from Central Asia. And there was a fight between the two boys. One mother asked the Jewish boy why he was fighting the Central Asian. The little Jewish boy said, “Because he is not Russian!” The poor child didn’t even understand that he was not Russian either”

A description of the road to Zaisan.

One afternoon, we rode around in Guly’s tiny Moskvich “looking for constituents.” … The roads were generally miserable, but suddenly we found ourselves on a strip as fine as a German autobahn. Guly laughed and said, “You want to know why the road is so smooth? This is the road from Party headquarters downtown to where all the Party big shots had their dachas. They wanted a good road for themselves, and that’s all there was to it. Presto! It was built! As for the rest of us …”

Sarandavaa and World Energy Centres, anyone?

The sixth-century historian Agathias recalled “charlatans and self-appointed prophets roaming the streets” after an earthquake in Byzantium. “Society,” he wrote, “never fails to throw up a bewildering variety of such persons in times of misfortune.” In the last years of the czarist regime, Rasputin, an illiterate Siberian, convinced the Romanovs of his magical powers. The royal family was sure Rasputin was curing the heir to the throne of his hemophilia.

“Syncretic” Buddhism.

“With the Russian people,” he said, “Christianity is superficial. They are largely pagan. They observe rituals without understanding the essence. Under the political situation today, mysticism increases, and with such a low cultural level it acquires outrageous forms.”

Aside from these, the snippets of prescience in relation to Putin’s Russia are illuminating, and slightly worrying

The historian Yuri Afanasyev, a deputy now in the Russian parliament, told me he thought the Russian scene was one of dangerous flux. “The old system will never regain its shape, but all kinds of possibilities exist for the future of Russia,” he said. “We could look like South Korea, or, say, Latin America with a taint of Sicily. It is a far from sure thing that we will resemble the developed Western democracies. The pull of the state sector, the authoritarian tug, is still a very dangerous thing. Fascism, in the form of national socialism, is a major threat. And it is finding supporters not only in the lunatic fringe, but in the alleged center. The Russian consciousness has always been flawed by a yearning for expansion and a fear of contraction. Unfortunately the history of Russia is the history of growth. This is a powerful image in the Russian soul, the idea of breadth as wealth, the more the better. But the truth is that such expansion has always depleted Russian power and wealth. Berdyaev was right when he said that Russia was always crippled by its expanse.”

Many influential liberals in politics, such as Yeltsin’s former adviser Galina Staravoitova, feel that Russia’s economic failure and wounded self-esteem are so profound and combustible that the rise of a charismatic authoritarian movement in Russia cannot be ruled out. “One cannot exclude the possibility of a fascist period in Russia,” Staravoitova said on the radio station Echo of Moscow. “We can see too many parallels between Russia’s current situation and that of Germany after the Versailles Treaty. A great nation is humiliated, and many of its nationals live outside the country’s borders. The disintegration of an empire has taken place at a time when many people still have an imperialist mentality.… All this is happening at a time of economic crisis.”

And this bit is just great – its interesting to try and relate to the modern Mongolian mindset.

And so they staked their lives on a new Russia and tried to understand the pathology of the old. “Igor would quote Paul Tillich, who said there are two great fears: the fear of death and the fear of vastness, senselessness,” Seriozha said. “Death and suffering are the same for all, but senselessness means different things in different cultures. Europe chose the undeniability of death as a principle, refusing to construct anything everlasting, so life ends with the end of life and is senseless. Previous old cultures and modern Oriental cultures chose another explanation. One possibility is to create something that lasts forever, a form of eternity. So we are together and there is no death. When some cells in an organism die in one organ, the organism still lives on, because it is social and not individual. The problem of death is solved. The idea that the ego has borders that are the same as the borders of the self is a new idea; it began with Descartes’s idea ‘I think, therefore I am.’ If you ask a representative of old Roman culture or European medieval culture, ‘Does human life coincide with the life of one man?’ he’d say no.
“This was the case with Russian culture. And in Russia, this medieval mind-set has lasted until very recently. The serfs in Europe were liberated in the mid-fifteenth century, but it happened in Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. The idea of community was more important; that way the physical unit lasted eternally. The idea that the individual was of absolute value appeared in Russia only in the nineteenth century via Western influences, but it was stunted because there was no civic society. This is why human rights was never an issue. The principle was set out very clearly by Metropolitan Illarion in the eleventh century in his ‘Sermon on Law and Grace,’ in which he makes clear that grace is higher than law; you see the same thing today in our great nationalists like Prokhanov—their version of grace is higher than the law. The law is somehow inhuman, abstract. The attempts to revise this principle were defeated. The Russian Revolution was a reaction of absolute simplification. Russia found its simplistic and fanatic response and conquered its support. What we are living through now is a breakthrough. We are leaving the Middle Ages.”

But yeah, read the book. If anything, it has moments of great dry humor (the one who said this apparently completely serious):

More often than not when I called and asked how he was, he would say dryly, “My health is awful. I’m spending the week in a sanatorium. I may die.”
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,402 followers
July 18, 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 relatively "free" societies, it is difficult to even imagine lives being so fraught and hopeless. Not only did nothing truly work as it was advertised, the pervasive level of corruption in the Soviet leadership trickled down into every pore of society. And in a society that is corrupt from top-down it becomes essentially impossible for any individual person to live morally. Everyone needed to bribe and scam everyone else to even have a hope of getting what they needed to survive.

Meanwhile, as many people described to Remnick, the Communist system turned ordinary people into "robots," forced into pointless work for the sake of a grand lie and denied any sense of the transcendent or an inner life. Reading the book and coming to the grips with the scale of atrocity committed by the USSR (the segments on the mass slave labor camps that comprised much of the country were chilling) it becomes possible to imagine what the world would've been like had the Nazi system endured for decades longer. There is much to complain about in the contemporary United States and it isn't the obvious paradise that someone like Remnick may see it as, but its nothing like the Soviet system that annihilated Russia and Central Asia over the past century.

This book was written at a moment when the United States and its socioeconomic system seemed to have cleanly triumphed over all competition. As such there is an undercurrent of liberal triumphalism throughout the book, which feels a bit dated now. Nonetheless it is an unmatched history of the late-Soviet period and probably still a must-read for those interested in the Cold War. In the demise of the USSR that Remnick witnessed, there were already hints of the shape that post-Soviet Russia would take. The KGB and its apparatus of power were ready and able to take power even as the larger edifice of the regime collapsed. Understanding this history, as well as the nightmarish 20th century that Russia and those under its imperial rule endured, is vital to understanding that country's attitude towards the world today.
Profile Image for tomsyak.
141 reviews8 followers
November 30, 2014
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, his interlocutors are bound to say things very different from what they would tell their Russian friends. He is stuck on anti-Semitism, which he is using to dismiss the views of people like Nina Andreeva. If you went through the trouble to interview her, why not find out what it is about Stalin that people like her find so appealing? At the same time, he chooses to completely ignore Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Semitism. His sources on Soviet history are mainly Pipes, Conquest, and Cohen, all three very problematic in their own ways. He takes hearsay at face value whenever it suits his interests. He also treats Soviet Union as an entity stuck in time, with bad weather, constant purges, and low standard of living all at similar levels throughout its history. This is a book we really need, but I wish it had been written by someone else.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,663 followers
December 15, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Lauren Albert.
1,797 reviews158 followers
February 25, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Shahrzad.
209 reviews218 followers
August 27, 2019
عجیب است که آدمیزاد از تاریخ درس نمی‌گیرد.
کاش می‌شد سیاستمداران چنین کتاب‌هایی را بخوانند ، شاید در رفتارهایشان تجدید نظر کنند.
Profile Image for Pritam Chattopadhyay.
1,678 reviews134 followers
January 21, 2021
To be at the accurate place at the veracious time is an advantage that most historians are occasionally privy to. That, however, was not the case with David Remnick, a Washington Post reporter residing in Moscow during the historic late 80's and early 90's and thus a direct witness to Gorbachev's undulation and the final wearying of Stalin's horrendous legacy.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union began on the peripheries in the non-Russian areas. The first region to produce mass organised dissension was the Baltic region, where in 1987, the Government of Estonia demanded autonomy.

This move was later followed by comparable moves in Lithuania and Latvia, the other two Baltic republics.

The nationalist movements in the Baltics constituted a robust challenge to Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost. He did not want to crack down too harshly on the participants in these movements, yet at the same time, it became progressively obvious that allowing them to run their course would spell catastrophe for the Soviet Union, which would entirely fold, if all of the periphery republics were to demand liberation.

After the initiative from Estonia, similar movements sprang up all over the former Soviet Union. In the Transcaucasus region (in the South of the Soviet Union), a movement developed inside the Armenian populated autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabagh, in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Armenian population of this region demanded that they should be granted the right to secede and join the Republic of Armenia, with whose population they were ethnically linked.

Massive demonstrations were held in Armenia in solidarity with the secessionists in Nagomo-Karabagh. The Gorbachev government refused to allow the population of Nagorno-Karabagh to secede and the situation developed into a vehement territorial dispute, ultimately degenerating into an all-out war which continues unabated up to the present day.

Once this ‘Pandora’s box’ had been loosened, nationalist movements emerged in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Byelorussia and the Central Asian republics. The authority of the Central Government was ominously weakened by these movements they could no longer rely on the cooperation of government figures in the republics.

Finally, the situation came to a head n August of 1991. In a last-ditch effort to save the Soviet Union, which was struggling under the impact of the political movements which had emerged since the implementation of Gorbachev’s glasnost, a group of ‘hardliner’ communists organised a coup d’état. They kidnapped Gorbachev and then, on August 19th August, 1991, they announced on state television that Gorbachev was very ill and would no longer be able to govern.

Remnick divides his book into five parts: -
Part I) By Right of Memory;
Part II) Democratic Vistas;
Part III) Revolutionary Days;
Part IV) “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce”;
Part V) The Trial of the Old Regime.

Remnick begins Part I with that indispensable instant — the return of history in the Soviet Union — and then moves on in Part II to the beginnings of democracy and in Part III to the hostility between the old regime and the new political forces.

Part IV is an attempt to designate, from manifold points of view, the August putsch — that most strange and climactic of episodes — and its outcome.

In Part V, the reader sees the concluding attempt of the Communist Party to justify itself while, all around, a new country is being born. Throughout, Remnick tells the story largely through the eyes of a few representative men and women, some well-known, others not.

In due course, the country went into an uproar. Massive protests were staged in Moscow, Leningrad and many of the other major cities of the Soviet Union. When the coup organisers tried to bring m the military to quell the protestors, the soldiers themselves rebelled, saying that they could not fire on their fellow countrymen. After three days of colossal protest, the coup organisers surrendered, realizing that without the collaboration of the military they did not have the power to overcome the entire population of the country. The massive demonstrations of the ‘August days’ had demonstrated that the population would accept nothing less than democracy Gorbachev conceded power, realising that he could no longer contain the clout of the population. On 25th December 1991, he resigned.

By January of 1992, by popular demand, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In its place, a new entity was formed. It was called the Commonwealth of Independent Republics’ and was composed of most of the independent countries of the former Soviet Union. While the member countries had complete political independence, they were linked to other Commonwealth countries by economic and in some cases, military ties.

Now that the Soviet Union, with its centralized political and economic system, has ceased to exist, the fifteen newly formed independent countries which emerged in its aftermath are faced with an overwhelming task. They must develop their economies, reorganize their political systems and in many cases, settle bitter territorial disputes. However, despite the many hardships facing the region and bold steps are being taken toward democratization, reorganization and rebuilding in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Remnick’s book outlines the following general conclusions:

1) The Soviets underestimated the degree to which the non-Russian ethnic groups in the country (which comprised more than 50% of the total population of the Soviet Union) would resist assimilation into a Russianized State.

2) Their economic planning failed to meet the needs of the state which was caught up in a vicious arms race with the United States. This led to gradual economic decline, eventually necessitating the need for reform.

3) The ideology of communism which the Soviet Government worked to instill in the hearts and minds of its population, never took firm root and eventually lost whatever influence it had originally carried.

This 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner is a page turner. Remnick opportunely happened to be present in Moscow just after the collapse. He got a full glance at the massive state archives and made the most of it.

The author clairvoyantly observes, “It will take many books and records to understand the history of the Soviet Union and its final collapse. We are, after all, still debating the events of 1917. To write history takes time. When asked what he thought of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai said, “It’s too soon to tell.” To understand the Gorbachev period will require a new library covering an immense range of subjects: U.S.-Soviet relations, economic history, the uprisings in the Baltic states, the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Central Asia, the “prehistory” of perestroika, the psychological and sociological effects of a long-standing totalitarian regime…..

Optimism is a belief in a gradual and painful rise from the wreckage of Communism, a confidence that the former subjects of the Soviet experiment are too historically experienced to return to dictatorship and isolation. Already there are signs all over Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union of new generations of artists, teachers, business people, even politicians on the rise. People “free of the old complexes,” as Russians say. A day may even come soon when getting from one day to the next in Russia will no longer require the sort of miracles we witnessed in the last several years of the old regime. Perhaps one day Russia might even become somehow ordinary, a country of problems rather than catastrophes, a place that develops rather than explodes. That would be something to see.”
Profile Image for Trevor Durham.
255 reviews4 followers
May 4, 2016
Lenin's Tomb follows Solzhenitsin's lead with bravado- perching on the high shoulders, Remnick enters the crumbling Soviet Union from 1988-1991, saw the entire dissolution, and spoke to some of the Politburo. To hear these first hand accounts, from Stalin's first purges up until Gorbachev's resignation, is a non-fiction narrative that brings up tears and nausea. To read this is to feel Russian, in 1991, to hear the truth of your history crashing down around you, and realizing that your entire existence, from birth until then, has been a lie. It is unreal to imagine, let alone to feel this prose. This work deserved the Pulitzer and it shines proudly, without a sign of age.
Profile Image for Ben Mokaya.
36 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2020
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 watching a Slavic vixen sucking on a maraschino cherry and telling you which casino to visit.”

-David Remnick.
Profile Image for Nick Black.
Author 1 book697 followers
October 28, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Dmitry.
667 reviews64 followers
August 1, 2019
(The English review is placed beneath Russian one)

На сегодняшний день, мне труднее всего дать оценку именно этой книге, по то простой причине, что автор - непрофессиональный историк, но журналист, а книга, как-никак, претендует на историчность. При этом по сути своей, это огромная газетная или журнальная статья, а не классическая книга по истории. Поэтому задаёшься таким вопросом: можем ли мы изучать историю по газетным/журнальным статьям? С одной стороны, ничего плохого в этом нет, при условии, что автор изложил верифицированные данные. С другой, мы нарушаем тем самым правило – «не плакать, не смеяться, но понимать уроки истории» - поднимая такую книгу на один уровень с классическими книгами по истории (книга крайне эмоциональна). Это дилемма. По крайне мере для меня. И да, в книге будет много эмоционально, из-за чего мы не всегда будем способны дать трезвую оценку той ситуации, что была в прошлом. Это даже при том, что со всем или почти со всем, что пишет автор, я согласен.
Итак, к содержанию. Как можно понять уже по обложки книги речь пойдёт о последних годах существования СССР. Так, но не совсем. Первая половина книги будет неким путешествием в прошлое, в периоды истории СССР, когда у руля были Сталин, Хрущёв, Брежнев и пр. Цель всего этого, показать, что хоть генсеки и менялись, но жизнь менялась не сильно, т.е. как была ужасающая, такой она и оставалась вплоть до начала Перестройки. Конечно, пишет автор, тех ужасов, что были при Сталине, уже нет, но страх, нищета и несвобода, продолжали существовать за красивым фасадом в Стране Советов.
Интересно, что автор начинает свой вояж в прошлое с попытки в конце 80-х взять интервью у одного из соучастников сталинского режима – Кагановича (наверно, он был тогда последним, кто был ещё жив). Поэтому, мы познакомимся ��актически с его жертвами, но только он будет уже являться не самим собой, не Кагановичем, а лицом или символом всего репрессивного аппарата. Этот аппарат, как и сам Каганович, будут жить на протяжении всего существования СССР. И попытка взять у него интервью, само посещение или попытка посетить Кагановича, это некая символическая возможность прикоснуться к самому духу или символу террора.
Вместе с автором, мы объездим СССР вдоль и поперёк и пообщаемся с жителями страны. Связующем звеном всех их историй окажется слово «репрессии». Репрессии станут такой же банальностью как утренний душ или поход вечером в кинотеатр. Это будет автономный зверь, вырывающий из толпы совершенно разных людей, без какой-либо определённой системы. Как пишет автор, в разгар репрессий 1937 года, Сталин подписал распоряжение о расстреле нескольких тысяч ни в чём не повинных людей, а потом сразу после этого пошёл смотреть фильм «Весёлые ребята».
Автор показывает, что под репрессии попали все, начиная от тех, кто стоял на самых высоких ступенях политической иерархии и до тех, кто стоял на самой последней ступеньки общества. И самым ужасным был план. План, когда нужно было расстрелять такое-то число людей. Ни за что. Написали бы другую цифру – расстреляли бы тогда столько. Убийство, превращённое в конвейер. Без причины. И без вины. Прямо как в Камбодже времён красных кхмеров. В общей могиле окажутся родственники, как тех, кто в конце 80-х будет за либерализацию и перестройку так и тех, кто будет называть себя сталинистами, чьим лицом станет Нина Андреева (чьё письмо стало основой для статьи «Не могу поступаться принципами»). Наверно, это единственное что будет объединять эти не объединяемые группы граждан.
Во второй части книги, мы пройдём с автором через зарождение, вскармливание и появление ГКЧП, где и встретимся с тем же самым Кагановичем, но уже в лице Янаева с его трясущимися руками.
В последней части книги – дни ГКЧП и первые несколько лет новой России – автор покажет, что взяв власть, либералы во главе с Ельциным, не смогли (или не захотели) грамотно ею распорядиться из-за чего ситуация скоро стала напоминать возрождающийся авторитаризм, но с добавкой в виде «Бандитского Петербурга» распространившегося на всю Россию (правда, автор пишет, что началось всё это («дикий капитализм») где-то в 1989 году). Как точно подметил автор, последний генсек - Горбачёв - был так же и последним, кто пользовался ЗИЛом, а не Мерседесом. Исходя из этого, почему то больше веришь в то, что Горбачёв искренне верил в социализм с человеческим лицом, чем в будущие антизападные заявления Ельцина.
И последнее, но не менее важное. Возникает стойкое ощущение, читая последние главы, что это всё тот же пресловутый третий закон диалектики Гегеля, который так ненавидел Сталин и который опять выпрыгнул из кустов - «Отрицание отрицания».

Today, I find it most difficult to evaluate this book, as the author is not a professional historian, but a journalist, and the book, after all, claims to be historic. At the same time, in essence, it is a huge newspaper or magazine article, not a classic book on history. So you ask yourself this question: Can we study history by newspaper/journal articles? On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with this if the author has provided verified data. On the other hand, we break the rule "not to cry, not to laugh, but to understand the lessons of history" by raising such a book to the same level as classical history books (this book is extremely emotional). This is a dilemma. At least for me. And yes, there will be a lot of emotion in the book, which is why we will not always be able to give a sober assessment of the situation that was in the past. This is even though I agree with everything or almost everything that the author writes.
So, to the content. As you can understand from the cover of the book, we will talk about the last years of the Soviet Union. This is so, but not quite. The first half of the book will be a kind of journey back in time, in the history of the USSR, when Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, etc., were at the helm. The purpose of all this is to show that even though the General Secrets changed, but life did not change much, i.e. as it was terrible, it remained so until the beginning of Perestroika. Of course, the author writes, the horrors that were under Stalin, no longer exist, but fear, poverty and lack of freedom, continued to exist behind a beautiful facade in the Land of Soviets.
Interestingly, the author begins his journey back in time with an attempt to interview one of the Stalinist regime's accomplices – Kaganovich – in the late 1980s (he was probably the last person to be alive at the time). Therefore, we will actually get acquainted with his victims, but only he will no longer be himself, not Kaganovich, but a face or a symbol of the entire repressive apparatus. This apparatus, like Kaganovich himself, will live throughout the entire existence of the USSR. And an attempt to interview him, to visit him or to visit Kaganovich, is a kind of symbolic opportunity to touch the spirit or the symbol of terror.
Together with the author, we will tour the USSR along and across and talk to the people of the country. The word "repression" will be the connecting link in all their stories. Repression will become as banal as a morning shower or a trip to the cinema in the evening. It will be an autonomous beast that pulls completely different people out of the crowd, without any particular system. As the author writes, in the midst of repressions in 1937, Stalin signed an order to shoot several thousand innocent people, and then immediately after that he went to watch the movie "Merry Guys".
The author shows that everyone, from those who stood at the highest levels of the political hierarchy to those who stood at the very last step of society, was subjected to repression. And the most horrible was the plan. The plan is when you had to shoot a certain number of people. Not for any reason. A murder turned into a conveyor belt. For no reason and without guilt. Just like in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge era. In the common grave will be relatives of those who in the late 80's will be in favor of liberalization and perestroika, as well as those who will call themselves Stalinists, whose face will be Nina Andreyeva (whose letter became the basis for the article " I Can’t Give Up My Principles "). This is probably the only thing that will unite these unifying groups of citizens.
In the second part of the book, we will pass with the author through the origin, feeding and appearance of GKChP, where we will meet with the same Kaganovich, but in the person of Yanayev with his shaking hands.
In the last part of the book - the days of the GKChP and the first few years of the new Russia - the author will show that taking power, the liberals, led by Boris Yeltsin, could not (or did not want to) handle it properly, because of which the situation soon began to resemble a resurgent authoritarianism, but with the addition of the "Banditskiy Peterburg" (Bandit Petersburg is a Russian detective television series) that spread throughout Russia (though the author writes that all this (wild capitalism) began somewhere in 1989). As the author has precisely noticed, the last general secretary - Gorbachev - was also the last one who used ZIL, not Mercedes. Based on this, for some reason you believe more in the fact that Gorbachev sincerely believed in socialism with a human face than in Yeltsin's future anti-Western statements.
And last but not least. There is a strong feeling, reading the last chapters, that it is still the same notorious third law of Hegel's dialectics, which hated Stalin so much and which jumped out of the bushes again - "Denying Denial".
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