Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

Michael Dobbs, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-679-43179-4
Washington Post correspondent Dobbs's firsthand account of the unraveling of the Soviet monolith is a remarkable tour de force, a pulsating human drama that resembles a Russian novel, full of biting ironies, driven personalities, momentous confrontations. The author, Moscow bureau chief from 1988 to 1993, was the first Western journalist admitted to the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk during the 1980 strike led by Lech Walesa; eyewitness to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Tiananmen Square massacre, he covered a beat stretching from the brutal hothouse of Kremlin politics to freezing Romanian orphanages to labor camps in the Urals. Drawing on primary Soviet sources, including interviews and declassified archival documents, he unearths phenomena often overlooked by Western journalists, for example, the leaderless drift of the U.S.S.R. between 1974 and 1982 as Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev suffered a series of nervous breakdowns caused by arteriosclerosis of the brain, or how Gorbachev, ""a master obfuscator and manipulator,"" used the state-run television network to establish a power base among the masses. Unfolding as a series of vignettes extending from the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan through Chernobyl to the wild scramble for property and riches following the collapse of Soviet communism, his epic chronicle charts the breakdown of a system that sidetracked the nation into decades of self-imposed isolation, waste and ideological conditioning. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-679-75151-9
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