A new book: Gorbachev: His Life and Times, by William Taubman.

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Just before the deluge.

I’ll never cease to be fascinated by this era.

My European travels during the decade of the 1980s began in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev had been in power only a few months, and ended in 1989, with the Berlin Wall reduced to rubble and the Soviet satellite nations falling like dominoes. Two years later, so ended the USSR.

From an older book …


Ronald Reagan was widely eulogized for having won the cold war
, liberated Eastern Europe and pulled the plug on the Soviet Union. Margaret Thatcher, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Charles Krauthammer and other notables offered variations of The Economist‘s cover headline: “The Man Who Beat Communism.”

Actually, Jack F. Matlock Jr. writes in Reagan and Gorbachev, it was “not so simple.” He should know. A veteran foreign service officer and respected expert on the Soviet Union, he reached the pinnacle of his career under Reagan, serving first as the White House’s senior coordinator of policy toward the Soviet Union, then as ambassador to Moscow. In both the title of his memoir and the story it tells, he gives co-star billing to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Reagan himself went even farther. Asked at a press conference in Moscow in 1988, his last year in office, about the role he played in the great drama of the late 20th century, he described himself essentially as a supporting actor. “Mr. Gorbachev,” he said, “deserves most of the credit, as the leader of this country.”

… to this new one, which I’ll be purchasing. Is the bookseller reading?

How Mikhail Gorbachev ended the cold war

The peasant boy turned Communist Party boss who liberated his people from 70 years of lies and buried the Soviet Union

… Ever since the end of the Soviet Union, the question of “why” has lingered in Western, Russian and Chinese minds. Why did a man at the head of a superpower undermine his own authority? Did he simply fail to understand the consequences of his actions, or did he act out of courage and vision? How did Mr Gorbachev, the peasant boy turned Communist Party boss in a fedora, become the statesman who liberated his people from 70 years of lies and fear, end the cold war and bury the Soviet Union? Was he a product of the Soviet system, as he claimed, or its “genetic error”, as Andrei Grachev, an earlier biographer described him? What made Gorbachev Gorbachev?

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