My Years W/Gorbachev & Shevard.-CL

Pavel Palazchenko, Author, P. Palazhchenko, Author, Don Oberdorfer, Author
Pavel Palazchenko, Author, P. Palazhchenko, Author, Don Oberdorfer, Author Pennsylvania State University Press $57.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-271-01603-0
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
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The principal interpreter for both President Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze from 1985 to 1991, Palazchenko attempts to shed light on the demise of the old Soviet order. Unfortunately, this rather plodding memoir only partially succeeds. Palazchenko generally looks for intimate, personal causes rather than larger, historical ones and maintains that it was personal trust between Reagan and Gorbachev that allowed the Cold War to end peacefully. While there are some insights into the role of translators in the most secretive political transactions, there is rather too much emphasis on what he thought of world leaders or about governmental positions--for example, regarding the ""developing relationship"" between Rajiv Gandhi and Gorbachev, Palazchenko notes that he ""thought then and later, [it] could become an important moral factor in the world for years to come."" He even recounts that he informally influenced diplomatic processes. More usefully, Palazchenko records Gorbachev's growing isolation in the latter part of his regime, even from his friend and ally Shevardnadze. Currently a consultant to the Gorbachev Foundation (the Moscow-based think tank), the author consistently defends both of his former bosses and exhibits bitterness about Boris Yeltsin's rise to power. Readers interested in a blow-by-blow recap of the last years of Soviet diplomacy from a glasnost insider will find the book fruitful; those who want some help in interpreting these crucial events, however, will be disappointed. (Apr.)
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