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Khrushchev: The Man and His Era Paperback – 6 Jun 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; New edition edition (6 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743275640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743275644
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 7.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A portrait unlikely to be surpassed any time soon in either richness or complexity....shines with mastery and authority.--Leon Aron

About the Author

William Taubman is the Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science at Amherst College. In addition to having spent fifteen years researching this volume, Taubman is the author of STALIN'S AMERICAN POLICY (1982) and MOSCOW SPRING (1989).

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 April 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was encouraged to buy this book by the reviews it's been getting and was not disappointed. As much about Soviet Russia, in its most important decades, as about Khrushchev himself, it is a wonderful, sweeping and gripping biography, full of pace and intrigue. Taubman has apparently spent over a decade researching and writing it, and it shows! A fantastic achievement and surely one of the best books ever written about the Soviet Union.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Scholefield on 15 Aug. 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is so readable that one barely notices as the 650-odd pages go by. While it is an excellent narrative account there are clear themes within so that it does not feel like just one thing after another. Taubman also, uses another technique that works well, by analysing the outcome of a narrative before recounting the detail. In fact, the whole book starts with Khrushchev's own downfall! This does not spoil in any way the reading experience but helps one to retain the facts by giving a higher priority and structure to their meaning.

The author's use of quotes is masterly and almost gives the reader a feeling of being an eye-witness to the events. After reading Taubman's Khrushchev, one can no longer view that period of Soviet history after Stalin as a rather murky, grey haze.

Taubman is damning of Khrushchev's weaknesses (his lack of education, arrogance, self-centredness, impulsiveness, foul-mouthed bad-temperedness and cruelty, to name but a few), being so merciless that it is hard to see how the biographer can remain, in any way, sympathetic toward his subject. But what Taubman is really doing here is exposing Khrushchev's very humanity to the reader, a humanity that is full of contradictions and vulnerabilities. He can ridicule Soviet writers and artists, who have flowered under his own de-Stalinisation programme, with one breath, then later regret his mistake and apologise. This very humanity makes Khrushchev, as a personality, both appealing to the reader and contrasts starkly with his grey contemporaries in the rest of the Soviet elite. Indeed, even Khrushchev declares that if he had nothing left but to beg on the streets of Moscow, he would, at least, get enough to live on, while his fellow bureaucrats, in the same position, would likely get nothing!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Staffan in Stockholm on 22 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
After having read Montefiori's biography on Stalin I started wondering how Khrushchev was able to survive Stalin's rule for three decades without being sent off to Siberia or shot as an alleged "enemy of the people" or "spy"? And how much did he change the course of history in the Soviet Union when he got rid of his rivals after Stalin's death and became his own man? And how was the decisionmaking done in the politbureau?

By reading this book I got answers to all my questions and many others as well. It is amazing that so many details of those years in the secretive Communist state are now available to historians and journalists. And Taubman has really made a great researching effort and managed to write the ultimate biography in my view. He deals with all the major conflicts of that time and give great insight into Khrushchev's deliberations and decisions - with a wide range of sources including in depth interviews with his son Sergei.

This book is enlightening and entertaining.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 July 2010
Format: Paperback
There is a case to be made out that Khruchshev, of all the Soviet leaders, was the most complex and the most interesting one, crude, boastful, insecure, volatile, blustering and frequently drunk though he was. Here was a man who, on the way to the top, was deeply stained with the violence of the Stalin era. His purge of so-called "rightists" and of West Ukrainian nationalists was brutal. He accepted denunciations: between 1938 and 1940, when he was in charge of the Ukraine, some quarter of a million people were arrested and he signed some 54,000 death sentences. Between 1944 and 1952 he presided over some 600,000 arrests in the Western Ukraine, with about a third of that number executed. Some of this was done out of conviction, some of it out of fear that, unless he accepted the denunciations, he would himself be liquidated. So even when the NKVD arrested his closest colleagues, he did nothing to save them. For the same reason he grovelled to Stalin in every way: fulsomely agreeing with him on everything, apologizing abjectly whenever Stalin found fault with something he had done, and in the dictator's later years, when Khrushchev was in Moscow, laughing sycophantically at Stalin's crude jokes, eating and drinking with him late into the night. All that was the price of remaining in Stalin's good books. When Khrushchev, the architect of de-Stalinization, after his fall came to write his memoirs (on which Taubman draws extensively), he has to explain all this: he claims, both unconvincingly and inconsistently, that he was not fully aware of the extent of the monstrosities and that, even during Stalin's last and most paranoid years, "I valued him highly and strongly respected him"; and his memoirs are still full of pride that, in turn, Stalin showed that he thought highly of him.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very good biography of Khrushchev, with some very insightful passages, especially about the years dealing with the Russian leader's rise to power. The author also provides some telling opinions about Khrushchev's rivals, such as Brezhnev, and gives us detailed background information to important world events like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Moreover, from the point of view of the meticulous nature of the research carried out for it, this book is also very useful for those who wish to study the history of the USSR in some detail.

My only criticisms of the narrative provided concern the pro-American stance taken by it about episodes like the Cuban missile crisis and the fact that - in its later stages - the author writes the book paying too much regard to the knowledge that Khrushchev was to fall from power in 1964. While accepting William Taubman's comments about the weaknesses of Khrushchev's educational background in relation to his needs as a world leader, I believe that he fails to give the Russian ample credit for what he did achieve, especially in 1962-3. The placing of missiles on Cuba was very risky for world peace but it did ensure that the USA has never tried to invade the island since. It also led to the removal of American missiles from Turkey, the establishment of a Hot Line between the two world leaders and a Test Ban treaty, all in 1963. Moreover,It was surely not unconnected that the military establishments of the two super-powers resented the attempts by the two leaders to establish détente a full ten years before it was achieved and the fact that both of them had been removed from power by the end of 1964.
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