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Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire Hardcover – 30 Jul 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (30 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029785223X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297852230
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Victor Sebestyen's vivid panoramic work is a fine account... the writing is taut, the scene-setting dramatic, giving the book an almost cinematic feel (Adam LeBor SUNDAY TIMES)

Sebestyen has made an excellent job of organising his disparate material, so that the reader can recapture, with the same sense of bafflement and elation, the events that made the Europe we live in - and after 20 years he can add understanding too. (Michael Fry SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

the tale fair rips along... a solid piece of storytelling of an exhillarating and enspiriting moment of history (Misha Glenny EVENING STANDARD)

Victor Sebestyen brilliantly pulls together the events that led to the fall of the Soviet empire... it still takes your breath away 20 years on. (Richard Beeston THE SPECTATOR)

digestible and entertaining (THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

pacy and vivid... a considerable achievement... [Sebestyen] is also a thoroughly professional writer with a gift not only for exposition but also evocation. (Anthony Howard DAILY TELEGRAPH)

a thrilling read... Sebestyen is good at sketching the leading players but he also succinctly conveys what life was like for the ordinary citizens (Christopher Sylvester DAILY EXPRESS)

Sebestyen has got the pace and the balance just right (THE SCOTSMAN)

rollicking mix of high drama and sordid reality... conventional history, spiced with telling quotations. (THE INDEPENDENT)

a compelling and illuminating account of a great drama in the history of our times which showed one again that ordinary men and women really can change the world. (Jonathan Dimbleby THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Sebestyen's strength is his sharp focus and racy prose... Here is history written like a Greek tragedy... In Revolution 1989 nothing is taken for granted until the last triumphant page. (Michael Binyon THE TIMES)

Sharp focus and racy prose capture the events and decisions that fed into the growing turmoil across Eastern Europe as the East German regime crumbled. (THE TIMES 'We're Reading')

It's a complex story spanning many countries, but this exciting yet deeply researched work brings it impressively to life... compelling. (Simon Sebag Montefiore THE OBSERVER)

Revolution 1989 is a lucid primer on the background to, and events of that magical year. Sebestyen's narrative is clear, entertaining and sure-footed (Angus Macqueen THE GUARDIAN)

Victor Sebestyen's book is worth a dozen rehashes of World War II by Andrew Roberts and his clones... Sebestyen's record of the 1980s is a compelling, page-turning read. Finely edited by his publisher, his book is a precise step-by-step account of the high politics and the big-name political players in the years between the August 1980 strikes in Gdansk and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall nine years later (Denis MacShane TRIBUNE)

Vivid personal glimpses and striking details... Victor Sebestyen's book is full of sharp snapshots and crisp narrative (Timothy Garton Ash New York Review of Books)

Revolution 1989 is a superbly written and impressively documented chronicle of the year John Paul II described as an annus mirabilis... Sebestyen provides a vivid portrait of the Stalinist leaders and their endless cynicism (Vladimir Tismaneanu TLS)

a digestible and colourful history of that miraculous year (THE ECONOMIST)

Sebestyen's brilliantly written narrative unfolds in brief, gripping episodes (NEWSWEEK)

masterly handling of this complex and fast-moving story and its ever-changing cast (DAILY MAIL)

Sebestyen's writing is as exhilarating and powerfully emotional as the events he describes... In a narrative as intoxicating as it is intricate, Revolution 1989 not only encompasses the political confrontations which fomented revolt but uses brief, skilful vignettes of ordinary lives to recreate the world behind the Iron Curtain. (Lisa Hilton THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

a superb concise retelling of the collapse of the Soviet Empire... this book is superlative and an essential read for anyone wishing to understand the development of the EU since 1989. (JOURNAL OF THE LAW SOCIETY SCOTLAND)

Book Description

How the Soviet Union's European empire collapsed in a dizzying few months of revolutions that changed the world.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An impelling and informative account of the decline and fall of the Soviet Empire.

This book is a highly readable and impelling account of the decline and fall of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe. It is written in short and succinct chapters, most of which are of less than ten pages in length. The author's account dispenses with non-essential data and concentrates attention on the cardinal aspects of the subject, namely, the progressive disintegration of Soviet power and influence in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany (German Democratic Republic), Hungary, Poland and Romania. The origin of the debacle can be traced to a minor incident that occurred in the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, in August 1980. Anna Walentynowycz, a diminuative crane driver, was arrested for 'stealing' candle ends, to be melted down to make new candles, which were then to be used again to illuminate a shrine dedicated to forty-four 'martyrs' who had been killed during a crackdown in 1970. It was that incident, in particular, that led to the creation of the Solidarity movement, and that event subsequently resulted in the progressive formation of `democratic' governments in those countries in Eastern Europe to which reference has been made above.

The transformation that initially occurred in Eastern Europe, in general, can be likened to a cascade - an inexorable succession of events - which also had profound transformative effects within the Soviet Union itself. Those chapters that discuss the policies adopted by Mikhail Gorbachev - glasnost and perestroika - after he was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party, in March 1985, are of particular interest.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book as I had lived through these times and all the preceding events leading up to the final collapse of the East European systems. Up until then, people in the west were not well informed as to what was going on and, in consequence, developed a curiosity which, in my case, has been fulfilled by this excellent book. It is written in such a way that each chapter is a short history in its own right. Highly recommended

Alistair Macpherson
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Format: Hardcover
This a must read for anyone under 30 who will not remember the extraordinary events of 1989 when the whole world order changed with almost no bloodshed. This book reads like a thriller screen script and keeps you wanting to turn over page after page even though you know from the start that the tale has a happy ending. If you are feeling frustrated and depressed about world events this book shows how really important and major change occurred for the better for millions of people without recourse to war. Gorbachev set off the chain of events that led to the collapse of Communism - not be design but by accident - events veered out of his control and were taken up by a number of unlikely heroes - a Polish female crane driver and a carousing Czech playright are amongst a cast of amazing and colourful characters - stranger and much better than fiction
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most compulsive page-turner I've read for a very long time, and that's not something I was expecting to say about a weighty book covering an era which I thought I already knew something about. Instead, it delivers a gripping account of the awesome power, deceit, ruthlessness and collapse of six communist states. I came to this book as a result of being interested in East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall, so I applaud Victor Sebestyen for widening my view of that time by writing such a reader-friendly account of a staggeringly complicated period in the 20th Century, and for introducing me to the incredible stories of so many other countries' shift from communism.

"Revolution 1989" is an over-simplistic title because the book covers the decades building up to the amazing groundswell which led to the year when the communist satellite states all fell over and their corrupt, wretched dictatorships were overthrown. It covers a huge range of politics, economics and society for Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and East Germany, and does so by dedicating its chapters to specific dates or times when things were happening - so for instance, if one chapter is about what was happening in Poland when Solidarity was beginning, the next will cover what was happening in Hungary or Romania and how the USSR government were involved. And this goes on until you find that day by day at the end of 1989 everything was going on at the same time. It's very, very well written!
I was hooked from the start and found out so much about things which previously I wasn't aware of, for example the massive significance of the arrival of a Polish Pope, and the way that the communist satellite states' destinies were so closely intertwined with each other.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very readable account of the end of communism in eastern Europe, but it’s more journalism than serious history, and I wasn’t surprised when I found out that the author had written for the Daily Mail. Indeed, you would get a good flavour of the book if you think of it as how the Daily Mail would write an account of the end of the cold war. It's purely descriptive, with no depth of analysis to it, and the various actors in the drama are portrayed in a very black and white way – they are all either fools or knaves or heroes – with no sense of the subtleties and nuances of personality that you know must have actually been there. And it finishes at the end of the exciting bit – the overthrow of the communist regimes in eastern Europe – without going on to look at the duller but more important question of what happened next, at how the newly liberated countries faced up to their new challenges, or indeed what happened to the Soviet Union itself. So, an exciting read, but for real understanding, look elsewhere.
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