CONVERSATIONS WITH GORBACHEV: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism

Mikhail Gorbachev, Author, Zdenek Mlynar, Author, Zdenek Mlynar, Joint Author , intro. by Archie Brown, trans. from the Russian by George Shriver. Columbia Univ. $24.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-231-11864-4

Only a little more than 10 years ago, Mikhail Gorbachev was the one of the world's two most pivotal leaders. Now, more often than not, he appears to be a historical relic. This volume, which features an extended, dry conversation between Gorbachev and former Czech dissident Mlynar, does nothing to dispel the perception that events have passed Gorbachev by. The two cover the similarities in their biographies: the attraction of socialist ideas when they were both young, their rise to power in their respective Communist parties. But it's the differences in their lives that are most striking. After the Prague Spring of 1968, Mlynar became a dissident, first leaving his post in the Communist Party, then fleeing to the West. Gorbachev, on the other hand, remained a Soviet apparatchik, rising to become party secretary and then the Soviet president in 1990. As they reminisce, Mlynar presses his longtime friend to explore other possibilities: that he could have taken a more critical stance within the Soviet Union before he began to try to reform it, that he might have taken steps to prevent the U.S.S.R.'s dissolution, which occurred on his watch. Despite Mlynar's pressing, Gorbachev is unwilling to probe behind his well-known views on this—the U.S.S.R.'s collapse occurred, Gorbachev contends, because of the "vindictiveness of the reactionary forces and the excessive revolutionism of the radicals"—or on other issues, leaving this book with little new or surprising to offer. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/20/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-231-11865-1
Open Ebook - 255 pages - 978-0-231-52927-3
Ebook - 200 pages - 978-0-231-50505-5
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