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on 25 November 2004
As a student who has studied the Soviet Union extensively for me this was always going to be a fascinating read. I would advise it to anyone that wishes to learn more about the workings and the problems which ultimately doomed the Soviet Union.
For those readers who don't have such a deep political interest, especially readers who are unfamiliar about the Soviet Union and Communist Party structures it could be quite difficult read. Differentiating between a Congress, conference, plenum, oblast, kraikom, gorkom etc can be difficult. While Gorbachev also makes long points on economic reforms both firstly in his home region of Stavropol and then the whole of the Soviet Union, which he himself even admits to be taxing to the reader!
However it's overall fascinating and enjoyable read, the problems emenating from the Brezhnev 'era of stagnation' turbulent times of perestroika and glasnost through to the ending of the cold war and the August 1991 coup. The sharp analytical mind of Gorbachev makes it more understandable to see why the countries of the former Soviet Union are having such problems today.
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on 25 April 2001
In this work Gorbachev seeks to explain the reasons for the situation the USSR found itself in prior to his arrival in power. From there he goes on to detail what he was trying to achieve with his policies of 'Perestroika' and 'Glasnost' and where he feels these were held back.
As with almost all political autobiographies, a certain proportion of the contents are devoted to justifying decisions, opinions and actions of the author. Nevertheless you emerge with the feeling that Gorbachev was that rarest of political species: a true visionary.
In fact you share with him his frustrations as time and again his attempts to move the monolithic Soviet state forward are slowed and even halted by people clinging to the power they had felt was theirs by right.
Later of course Boris Yeltsin (portrayed here very much as an opportunist with a desire for power) and his followers sought to undermine Gorbachev's reforms for the very different reason that they were not moving swiftly enough.
At the end you are left in no doubt of the sincerity with which Gorbachev loves his country and is pained to think of the troubles it has endured. You are also left with the impression that Gorbachev was a man who arrived at the right time and created the platform from which many people regained their freedom and found a place in the world.
For this history will, I believe, judge him to have been a shining light in an otherwise darkened room.
The problem I had with the book was very much one of comprehending what was happening and therefore sustaining interest. Yes the story of Mikhail Gorbachev and the USSR in the latter part of the 20th century is an interesting one, but what I found particularly hard going was the referrals to the various committees, plenums, soviets, and officials involved in running things. At the risk of over-simplifying the complexity of political systems, it seemed to me that one of the biggest difficulties the Soviet Union had in making any kind of progress lay in the incredible levels of bureaucracy with which it organised everything.
The number of times that a committee was formed, or a new department, function, or official role created is almost beyond belief. I found it very hard to work out who was who, what they were meant to be doing and how the whole structure fitted together.
Although this information may be valuable in understanding the USSR and Mikhail Gorbachev it also made the book rather heavy going and not able to sustain my interest for long periods of time.
At the end of the day there is a decision to make if you are thinking of buying this book. You need to weigh up whether the undoubted insight that is provided is worth wading through the rest for. In the end I finished the book, so I guess my own answer would be yes.
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I am a visiting Professor of International Relations and International Law at an American University. I am always reading books on the Soviet Union, to enhance my knowledge of modern history. When I was an undergraduate student, one of the first books we had to read was called The Pursuit of History. Every student of history or politics should read this book. The book poses the following questions, it asks the student, what are you reading, who wrote it and has it any bias? Whilst reading this fascinating book, these questions kept popping into my head. It is a great book, but it does present history in a way that justifies Gorbachev and undermines people like Yeltsin. I am in no way trying to defend Yeltsin and his disastrous mess, but any students reading this book should be aware of the bias of the book.

The book starts by looking at his childhood, then his move to Moscow to study law, his marriage, moving back to Stavropol, his rise through the party ranks, his election to the Politburo, the party games in the Kremlin, his work with Andrpov and Chernenko, his fights with Tikhonov, eventually to his election as General Secretary, the problems with the Party and Cadres, the reforms and his demise. There is great analysis of the coup attempt and minute detail on what was happening at Gorbachev's summer villa. Its all covered. I would have liked more analysation of the relationships and personalities between Moscow and the satellite states of Eastern Europe. The dynamic between the inexperienced new leader and the "Old" guard of the Eastern Block, could have been expanded more. A country by country analysis would have been great.

Overall this is a GREAT BOOK written by a VERY GREAT MAN. It suffers from some bias, but it is Gorbachev's book, and it is not meant to be a University text book. Any student of Soviet Politics and History should read this comprehensive record of Soviet life, politics and leadership, at a very unique time in World History.

Great read, fascinating account..........but some minor flaws.
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on 16 March 2013
Gorbachev's memoirs are a brilliant written account of the political career of Mikhail Gorbachev, primarily focusing on his time in office as the President of the USSR. It provides the reader with a window into the mind of Gorbachev and his thought processes behind his rule as President of the Soviet Union. It helps the reader to see Soviet Russia through his eyes. It was an extremely important book for my university module on Mikhail Gorbachev and is a great read for anyone interested in the political workings of the Soviet Union. The book was in a good condition and delivery was prompt. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Thank you!
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on 11 January 2004
This is not a book for the casual reader. To get through its 1000 pages you need to enjoy political biographies. It also helps to understand something of the complex organisation of the Soviet Union prior to its demise.
Having said that, this is undoubtedly one of the most powerful political biographies I have read. It is the story of a man who, having made it to the top of the world's No. 1 Communist state, decided that that the ideological foundations of that state were wrong. He initiated and steered a revolution from above based on persuasion, respect for the rule of law and rejection of violent methods.
A courageous intellectual, Gorbachev admits he started the reforms without knowing where they would ultimately lead. Those who have read his 1987 book Perestroika, will appreciate that initially he thought that modest reforms designed to promote greater efficiency and accountability were all that was needed. Only with the passage of time did he come to realise that nothing less than a move to a multi-party democracy and adoption of free-market economic principles would do. In other words, rejection of most of what the Soviet Union had stood for.
These memoirs are an account of the roller-coaster ride involved in managing this huge transition, a process which involved continuous manoeuvring to prevent conservative and radical political elements gaining the upper hand. The fact that, ultimately, the radicals got their way in no way diminishes his achievement in carrying the reforms well past the point of no return by the time he left office on Christmas Day, 1991.
The book is much more readable than Perestroika. Indeed, his brisk style (not lost in translation) has one on the edge of one's seat repeatedly. His account of the August 1991 coup is at once convincing and riveting.
A comprehensive list of the major political figures with whom Gorbachev had to deal, with abbreviated CVs, is provided in an Appendix.
All in all, strongly to be recommended. Whatever, the current standing of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, particularly in his own country, anyone who reads this book will have no doubt that it was written by one of the truly great political figures of recent history.
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on 7 August 2015
An interesting insight into another momentous period of Russian history. Some of it was easy to follow, other parts not; I found having my laptop on hand useful to research and fill in more of the detail. I think the reader is left with a clear view of what makes Gorbachev tick and emphasises his steely determination to shift the direction and culture of the former USSR against what ultimately proved, in his tenure as leader, to be an unstoppable tide. The book allows the reader to form opinions on Gorbachev's approach and understand how the introduction of perestroika and its flaws led to the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union.
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