If it were fiction nobody would believe it. Real life events just don’t happen in such dramatic and thematic sync, right? A succession of aged, feeble, and sclerotic Soviet leaders General Secretaries Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko become embodiments of the total moral rot that was the Soviet Union. The next in line, Mikhail Gorbachev, believed in communism and, unlike almost all of his colleagues, admired Lenin. Who would have thought that a man with such beliefs would introduce glasnost (openness), and perestroika (restructuring), and that he would be serious about it? That he would insist upon the unthinkable: that the Soviet satellite states independently make their own political decisions? The Soviet Union was ideologically, militarily, and fiscally bankrupt, and in cutting loose the satellite states, Gorbachev believed these states would choose communism. Victor Sebestyen’s Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire chronicles the transformation of the Soviet leadership under Gorbachev and the revolutions in the six nations of the Warsaw Pact East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria that toppled the old guards of the Soviet Union and altered the course of history.
Sebestyen had access to the Soviet archives, and the finely detailed narrative renderings that pervade Revolution 1989 indicate the archives were extensively used. Paul Hecht, with his rich baseline baritone voice, his precise dramatic control, his evocative vocal cadences and inflections, and careful detailing of characters and events, is the perfect narrator for this book. At 18 hours, 40 minutes in length, the narrative is presented both chronologically and by shifts to and from the six Warsaw Pact states and Soviet Russia. The narrative architecture of the Soviet Union’s deconstruction is a complex and involved and exhilarating story. For this listener and reviewer, the effect of dynamic events of such scale and on all fronts produced a stark, dramatic, and fluid rendering of visual images. Without Hecht’s superb narration I doubt this visual enhancement would have been present in the audiobook. Revolution 1989 is a richly compelling, historically important, and very exciting listen. David Chasey
©2009 Victor Sebestyen; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
I enjoyed this book. I found it an excelent and balanced view of the fall of the Soviet Block. What is chilling is the fact that many of the factors the author points out that lead to the fall of the Soviet Union are present in the current United States: a failure of leadership, the government and medias demonization of opposition, inflation, borrowing, ecessive spending etc. On a positive note, the book also shows what is possible if people are hopeful and persistent.
I only have the slightest memories of the wall coming down when I was 9 years old. This book tells the rich and incredible story of how it all happened. I am very glad I listened.
If you're interested in this topic in a general way, you can't go wrong with this book. It was very readable, with great characterizations of the principals involved, plus lots of subtle humour. If it ever dragged slightly, it was never for long. By necessity, it had to jump from one country to another to cover them all and their interactions, but the descriptions of each were so vivid, I didn't find it hard to keep track. The fall of the Berlin Wall wasn't as emotional to me in its portrayal as it had been in another book, but that's fine too. The other book, one of fiction, works well as a companion piece to this one. The fiction one that I read first was Ken Follett's final book in the Century Trilogy, called the "Edge of Eternity". They each have their place, but really I'd say this one, 1989, is a stronger book, with no bias to speak of and entertaining enough to hold one's interest. Ken Follett's book covers a broader topic than eastern Europe, of course, with a major focus on the civil rights struggle. They are both great for casual history buffs who aren't really willing to slog through anything too dry in their free time!
Learned about many things I was unaware of and it was presented in a very entertaining manner and made a serious subject very human and enjoyable.
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