Book Review – Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

Revolution 1989

The daily commute from Reading into Paddington necessitated buying a few paperbacks to make the most of the journey.  There’s only so much time you can spend listening to music or browsing Facebook on the Kindle.

So, my first Saturday in Oxford involved a visit to Blackwells bookshop in Oxford.  Thirty minutes later, purchases completed, one of them Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.

Overall, a real page-turner, and very well-researched, judging by the personal anecdotes and insights revealed in every chapter, as well as the lengthy bibliography at the back, the size of several chapters.

An original way of writing about the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A country by country examination.  The first chapter – a brief introduction by way of Ceauscescu’s execution.  (His fault.  He did tell his wife he needed a Christmas present like a hole in his head.)  Then a country by country examination, starting with Poland.

  • It seems the Soviets were satisfied with Poland as a member of the Warsaw Pact militarily, but tolerated a not purely socialist economy, and a certain amount of dissent.
  • The Soviets then realised the USSR was stagnating badly.
  • They decided to sort out their own problems, of which there were many.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of bankrolling her Comecon children with guarantees to loans from Western capitalist banks.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of selling cheap oil to the Comecon countries, who then sold the oil onwards to make plenty of dollars to pay into their leaders’ secret Swiss bank accounts.
  • “Sort your own problems out,” said Gorbachev to his comrades.
  • Solidarity in Poland.
  • Hungary opened her border with Austria.
  • And the Wall came tumbling down.
  • Then Bulgaria.
  • Then Romania.
  • Then Albania.

This book discusses a lot of the psychology and biographies of the key players, eg the devout Catholic Lech Walesa, the aristocratic Jaruzelski, the incorruptible Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, themes that have previously not been so deeply explored in one single book.

If you are a history buff, or if you have time to fill on a commute, go out an buy a copy.

Have a literary day, won’t you!

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