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

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

David Remnick. Random House (NY), $25 (576pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42376-8

An outstanding piece of reportage informed by interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Andrei Sakharov and others, this is an account of the unraveling of the Soviet empire. It shuttles temporally across the disastrous 75-year rule of the Communist Party, and geographically from Siberian mines to Riga, Latvia, where Remnick, a former Washington Post Moscow correspondent, uncovered KGB subterfuge aimed at the Baltic independence movements. His dramatic reconstruction of the botched August 1991 putsch underscores Gorbachev's misjudgment in light of top-level fears that a right-wing coup was an imminent threat. Now a New Yorker staff writer, Remnick met farmers, Eskimos, diehard Stalinists, democratic activists, Party hacks, anti-Semites, homeless men and women, Chernobyl evacuees. He tracked down Gorbachev's high school girlfriend and a CIA agent who defected to the KGB. He portrays Yeltsin as a ``theatrical populist'' precariously leading an ``infinitely fragile'' regime. Author tour. (June)