The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Political Leaders From Lenin to Gorbachev

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9780002557917: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Political Leaders From Lenin to Gorbachev

After biographies of the giants of Soviet history – Stalin (1991), Lenin (1994) and Trotsky (1996) – Volkogonov delves deeper into the Soviet archives to produce new character evaluations and political assessments of the leaders who ruled the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1991: Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev.

A former general in the Soviet Army’s propaganda department, Director of the Institute for Military History, and Defence Adviser to President Yeltsin from 1991 to his death from cancer in December 1995, Dmitri Volkogonov had unrivalled access to Soviet military archives, Communist Party documents and secret presidential files. Basing his new book on these inside sources, he has continued his pioneering work of revealing the truth behind the activities of the world’s most secretive political leaders.

He throws new light on: Lenin’s paranoia about foreigners in Russia; his creation of a privileged 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; Brezhnev’s vanity and stupidity; the Afghan War; Poland and Solidarity; Soviet bureaucracy; Gorbachev’s Leninism and role in history.

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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.'

PRAISE FOR DMITRI VOLKOGONOV

''LENIN: LIFE AND LEGACY''

'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.'
DOMINIC LIEVEN, 'Spectator'

'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.'
ROBERT CONQUEST, 'New Republic'

'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'

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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