Monday, March 15, 2010
There Is No Freedom Without Bread: 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), by Constantine Pleshakov
In 1988, no one expected the East Bloc to disintegrate within a year. In Russian historian Constantine Pleshakov’s cheeky, sharply worded account of the last days of the Evil Empire, none of the key players—not Reagan, Bush or John Paul II—had any idea where events would lead. Pleshakov’s insight is that the runaway pace of history was triggered by the quagmire in Afghanistan that crippled the Soviet behemoth and the rise of Solidarity in Poland, which set an example for dissidence throughout the East Bloc. Gorbachev may have symbolized change, but Pleshakov defines him as a mediocre, disingenuous, muddle-headed leader who accidentally caused the collapse of the Communist system he hoped to save.