cover image Russia’s Dead End: An Insider’s Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin

Russia’s Dead End: An Insider’s Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin

Andrei A. Kovalev, trans. from the Russian by Steven I. Levine. Potomac, $34.95 (392p) ISBN 978-1-61234-893-3

Kovalev, a career bureaucrat in the Soviet and Russian foreign ministry, dampens hope for democratic reform in this behind-the–Kremlin Wall account. He begins with the Gorbachev years, during which Kovalev believes that Russia had its first—and last—chance for real change. Kovalev tells how fledgling reforms were trampled in 1991 during the August coup, which he suggests was the brainchild of the KGB, and which paved the way for the “kleptokrats.” He goes on to call Putin’s policies “madness.” (Kovalev immigrated to Belgium in 2007 due to Putin’s oppressiveness.) The book’s tone is shrill, its message dire. Russia is “a disintegrating ecological and chemical time bomb,” Kovalev writes, and he accuses Putin of fostering a new Russian imperialism characterized by infantilism, aggression, cruelty, and xenophobia. Readers may tire quickly of Kovalev’s ranting, rendered faithfully in translation, but he gets the details right. Stressing that perestroika got off to a bad start (an antivodka campaign soured many Russians on Western-style democracy), Kovalev examines why perestroika failed and revanchism become foreign policy. Kovalev delivers a long-winded answer, but in so doing he unmasks the Russian body politic in all its Gogol-like grotesquery. [em]Agent: Peter Bernstein, Bernstein Literary. (Aug.) [/em]