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The last empire: the final days of the…

The last empire: the final days of the Soviet Union (2014)

by Serhii Plokhy

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A compelling, detailed and on the whole, well written account of the end of the Cold War and he fall of Communism, as well as a study of the power structures in the old Soviet Union and their relationship to Gorbachev, the Communist party and the centre of the Soviet Empire. On the whole, engaging and interesting, in places, gossipy and discursive, but in general main, a good, systematic and intelligent handling of the course of events. ( )
  aadyer | Jan 19, 2016 |
5280. The Last Empire The Final Days of the Soviet Union, by Serhii Plokhy (read 27 May 2015) This 2014 book by a Ukrainian now a professor at Harvard tells carefully and chronologically of the events from July to December in 1991, covering the Bush-Gorbachev Summit in July, the attempted coup in August, Yeltsin's successful thwarting of said coup, and then the bitter clash between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, and the vote on Dec 1, 1991, by Ukraine for independence, resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Empire and Gorbachev's final fall from power. The book makes clear that the actions of the U.S. were not the chief cause of that collapse--in fact the Bush Administration strove to prevent the collapse--but the energetic effort by Yeltsin which caused the coup to fail and then the successful effort of Yeltsin to end Gorbachev's hold on power are what ended the Soviet empire.. The book is not flamboyant but tells the story clearly and step-by-step.. Thus while the events are exciting and world-changing the account is sometimes a bit dry. But there is no doubt that the account is clarifying as to the events of that exciting time. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | May 27, 2015 |
This is a very well researched analysis of the events of July to December 1991 related to the collapse of the Soviet Union. At key points in this narrative, the author explains the historical and political events which led to the decisions made in late 1991 by the primary players in Russia, Ukraine and the USA - Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Kruvchuk and George H.W. Bush. This book does much to explain the current state of play between Russia and Ukraine which has evolved from the longer term historical relationship between these two large Slavic states and the events of late 1991 which have created a strategic dilemma for Russia today. In short, the author challenges the premise that the Cold War was won by the West. He distinguishes between the end of the Cold War, the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union as related but different things. His key point is that the electoral democracy introduced by Gorbachev in the early years of his leadership turned out to be incompatible with the continuing existence of the Soviet Union. Once Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, the edifice of the Soviet Union collapsed because such a Union could not continue without a Slavic majority dominated by Russia. It places the current situation in Russia in much clearer perspective - the borders of the old Russian empire shrinking under the encroachment of NATO and the EU in the west and the rise of the independent Muslim states in the south and east. ( )
2 vote LeonG | May 23, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465056962, Hardcover)

On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. The enshrining of that narrative, one in which the end of the Cold War was linked to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the triumph of democratic values over communism, took center stage in American public discourse immediately after Bush’s speech and has persisted for decades—with disastrous consequences for American standing in the world.

As prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States. On the contrary, American leaders dreaded the possibility that the Soviet Union—weakened by infighting and economic turmoil—might suddenly crumble, throwing all of Eurasia into chaos. Bush was firmly committed to supporting his ally and personal friend Gorbachev, and remained wary of nationalist or radical leaders such as recently elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fearing what might happen to the large Soviet nuclear arsenal in the event of the union’s collapse, Bush stood by Gorbachev as he resisted the growing independence movements in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. Plokhy’s detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, Plokhy presents a bold new interpretation of the Soviet Union’s final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. By attributing the Soviet collapse to the impact of American actions, US policy makers overrated their own capacities in toppling and rebuilding foreign regimes. Not only was the key American role in the demise of the Soviet Union a myth, but this misplaced belief has guided—and haunted—American foreign policy ever since.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:59 -0400)

Describes the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, dispelling the myth that the event was spurred on in part by the close relationship between George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev.

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