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The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Political Leaders From Lenin to Gorbachev Paperback – 20 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; (Reissue) edition (20 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006388183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006388180
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 3.1 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

For the seven decades of its existence, the Soviet Union was governed by seven men. In his final work the Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonow reveals, from personal knowledge of the last four rulers and through unrivalled access to Soviet military archives, Communist Party documents and secret presidential files, the truth behind the activities of the world's most secretive political leaders.

In vivid, devastating and sometimes surreal detail, the author shows how the Leninist system progressively self-destructed. He throws new light on Lenin's paranoia system for top Party members; Stalin's repression of the nationalities and his singular conduct of foreign policy; the origins and conduct of the Korean War; Khrushchev's relationship with the odious secret service chief Beria and his handling of the Cuban missile crisis; Brezhnev's vanity and stupidity; the Afghan war; Poland and Solidarity; the ossification of Soviet bureaucracy and the cynicism of the Politburo; and Gorbachev's Leninism and his role in history.

As the later leaders (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko) fiddled, believing that nothing in Leninist politics needed altering – merely 'perfecting' – so the Soviet empire began to unravel. In his clear-eyed character assessments and political evaluations, lucidly translated and edited by Harold Shukman, Dmitri Volkogonov has once again performed an invaluable service to twentieth-century history.

Harold Shukman is University Lecturer in Modern Russian History at Oxford and a Fellow of St Antony's College, where he was also Director of the Russian Centre from 1981 to 1991. He has edited and translated the memoirs of Andrei Gromyko, Dmitri Volkogonov's biographies of Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky, the novels of Anatoly Rybakov ('Heavy Sand' and 'Children of the Arbat'), and the plays of Isaac Babel and Yevgeni Shvarts. He is general editor of Longman's multi-volume 'History of Russia', a member of the editorial board of the journal 'Istoricheskii arkhiv', published by the Russian State Archive Commission, and author of 'Lenin and the Russian Revolution' and 'The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution.'



'Volkogonov has performed a great service to history… he has done a remarkable job of researching into the newly available archives and reducing the to this manageable size. Harold Shukman has done an equally valuable job of editing and translating. Between them they have "demolished the icon".'
DAVID FLOYD, 'Daily Telegraph'

'Serious and impressive… Volkogonov's biography is all more moving in being the attempt of an honourable and honest representative of the Soviet military establishment to come to terms with the ideology, institutions and symbols which shaped his lifetime.'

'Written with insight and authority… excellently translated by Harold Shukman.'
IAN McINTYRE, 'The Times'

''Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary''

'Indispensable for an understanding of Trotsky's spectacular rise and even more spectacular fall.'
RICHARD PIPES,'New York Times Book Review'

'Absorbing… I now place Volkogonov's great biographical triptych [Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky] at the top of my reading list on the Russian revolution.'
NIALL FERGUSON, 'Sunday Times'

'In every part of his narrative Volkogonov has deployed previously unknown detail, often in striking and illuminating fashion.'

'A most perceptive study of the great revolutionary… Volkogonov deserves a place of honour in the ranks of Russian historians.'
ADAM ULAM, 'Wall Street Journal'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Dmitri Volkogonov was a Colonel-General in the Soviet Army’s propaganda department until his views came to be regarded as ‘un-Soviet’. The biographer of Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky, he became Defence Adviser to President Yeltsin. He died in December 1995, shortly after completing this book.

Harold Shukman, who also translated Volkogonov’s Stalin and Lenin, is a Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By djs71@cam.ac.uk on 18 Sep 1999
Format: Paperback
Volkogonov's study of Soviet leaders continues in the vein of his biography of Lenin; the former Red Army general remains virulent in his critique of the founder of the Soviet Union and the political system he created. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire should not be read as a general history of the USSR - which in all fairness, it makes no pretence to be - but as a series of vignettes, each casting some illumination on the rulers of the Soviet Union. The significant flaw in this approach is that as the role of the General Secretary became increasingly subordinated to that of the party apparatus in the post-Stalin era, other political figures assumed a greater importance - and this book, with its primary focus on the supreme figurehead fails to devote sufficient attention to them. Volkogonov's attention to detail in the study of each Soviet leader is admirable but it is perhaps questionable whether the chapters on Andropov and Chernenko should, together, occupy a greater volume of the book than that devoted to Gorbachev. Nonetheless these are minor criticisms of what is, for all intents and purposes, Volkogonov's final comment on the Soviet system. Given the atmosphere of petty bickering and rivalry which dominates much Anglo-American historical writing, Volkogonov's willingness to submit his most basic ideological precepts to complete re-evaluation should be saluted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Konni93 on 27 April 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to delve deeper into Soviet history, its value lying in the perceptive comments and unexpected revelations that are found in it. This is especially the case in the chapter on Lenin. Also interesting is the very detailed oversight of the Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko period, both as it is informative and because this period is often skipped in other books. Of course the prime value lies in the fact that Volkogonov has at his hands the collected infromation of decades of meticulous Soviet archives. This distinguished the book from many other books on the subject, which diminish the strength of their own arguments every few pages by lamenting the unreliability and especially infrequency of Soviet sources.

Yet there are quite a few limitations, the first stemming from the sources themselves: the book is essentially a collection of quotes with a few interspersed author's comments. While this sounds normal for a history book, given the extreme subjectivity and at times overemphasised anti-Leninism of Volkogonov, the analysis is less than what may be wished for. This makes especially the chapter on Gorbachev tedious to read and at the same time uninformative (this is in my personal conception the "worst" chapter of the book).

Overall, the book is certainly a good SUPPLEMENTARY resource for people who already posess knowledge of Soviet history. The few original twists make the lengthy paragraphs of subjective ranting against Leninism between which they are hidden worth ploughing through. The strong focus on the leaders' personalities are also interesting. Overall (without having read it) I would say that, given that the chapter on Lenin is by far the most valuable in terms of perceptive insights, one might prefer to read Volkogonov's book on Lenin only.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John on 21 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
A pale shadow of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. This is no grand strategic view of the Soviet Union and its leaders. The book does provide contemparaneous accounts of the soviet leaders and gives insight into the environment in which they operated. Formulating the text into any sort of cohesive view of the Soviet Union is like trying to solve a cryptic puzzle. You learn many interesting things that you know are relevant and, at the end of the day, understand nothing. The author just assumes too much prior knowledge of the Soviet Union. Given that the author clearly has a fantastic knowledge of the material it is a real shame that more time has not been spent placing events into a proper context. I am sure that a select few will feel this to be unnecessary but by neglecting this top and tailing the value of this title to a wider audience is dramatically diminished.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marty on 30 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a great starting point for looking at the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. However it is bitsy and disjointed in places and I would recommend Volkogonov's lengthy biogs on Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky as great, solid reads. This volume does have a grand sweep and it works in a surprising way, whereby you can hear the author's disillusionment with the system which he believed in for most of his life. It reeks of integrity and guts - being able to face inconvenient reality and wonder if you just wasted your life. Powerful between the lines.
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By DavidB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Insider's Account of the Lives of the Soviet Leadership 1 Dec 2013
By John Desmond - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work consists of 7 brilliant bios of all Soviet leaders by an insider that tells the history of the USSR. You can feel the passion of General Volkogonov about the tragedy that Russia has been through. The best single volume treatment of the subject out there.
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