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Publisher's Summary

When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the USSR was one of the world's two superpowers. By 1989, his liberal policies of perestroika and glasnost had permanently transformed Soviet Communism and had made enemies of radicals on the right and left. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the Cold War, and in 1991, after barely escaping from a coup attempt, he unintentionally presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union he had tried to save.

In the first comprehensive biography of the final Soviet leader, William Taubman shows how a peasant boy became the Soviet system's gravedigger, how he clambered to the top of a system designed to keep people like him down, how he found common ground with America's arch-conservative president Ronald Reagan, and how he permitted the USSR and its East European empire to break apart without using force to preserve them. Throughout, Taubman portrays the many sides of Gorbachev's unique character that, by Gorbachev's own admission, make him "difficult to understand". Was he in fact a truly great leader, or was he brought low in the end by his own shortcomings as well as by the unyielding forces he faced?

Drawing on interviews with Gorbachev himself, transcripts and documents from the Russian archives, and interviews with Kremlin aides and adversaries as well as foreign leaders, Taubman's intensely personal portrait extends to Gorbachev's remarkable marriage to a woman he deeply loved and to the family that they raised together. Nuanced and poignant yet unsparing and honest, this sweeping account has all the amplitude of a great Russian novel.

©2017 William Taubman (P)2017 Recorded Books

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 12-30-17

The Man Who Changed The Course Of History

William Taubman has written an excellent biography of Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ). Taubman describes how MG went from the son of a peasant from a remote province to the leader of the Soviet Union.

The first third of the book is about MG’s early years. The next part of the book reveals his rise to power. Taubman reports that gradually MG saw that use of force had solved nothing. MG began to question the massive-over centralization of the Soviet system. In 1983 on a trip to Canada he discussed with the Soviet Ambassador to Canada Alexander Yakovlev (1923-2005), his concerns. Yakovlev would become an architect of MG’s new thinking. In 1985 when he became president he started making changes to the system. He allowed open debate and criticism and he pushed for nuclear disarmament. “The Soviet Union fell apart after MG weakened the State in an attempt to strengthen the individual” according to Taubman.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. I learned an enormous amount from the book. I lived through the events, but this book provided the inside information and a good review of the history. I highly recommend this book. Taubman won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971). Taubman is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Amherst College.

The book is long at almost thirty-three hours. Henry Strozier does an excellent job narrating the book. Strozier is an actor and an award-winning audiobook narrator. He won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator in 2014 and 2015.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Must read/listen

The insights about the Gorby times are tremendous, cant recommend this book high enough for those that want to really understand more details of how Russia and the USSR republics got where they are today.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Everything you need to know

Great book. The narrator, though, kept stumbling over pronunciation of Russian words. It should have been someone familiar with the language. Also familiar words used in English were mispronounced. For example, “forte” is not pronounced “fort “. I’d definitely get another book by this author, but hopefully with a different narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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MoscCO

No one connected with this book bothered to see the pronunciation corrected. The capitol city is mentioned over and over and over, till it finally took me down. If I had adequate vision, I would read it, I do not recommend audible;s production

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting, but a bit dry.

A fascinating slice of Russian history that forever changed the world. I also loved the slices of Russian thought and culture that would rise to the surface here and there. At times however the sheer volume of facts poured in could get a bit dry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I learned a lot

I have long been a fan of Gorbachev and blamed Reagan and Bush for the traffic Lee's than optimal outcome of the ending of the cold war. That view hasn't changed. I more have a much deeper understanding of the difficulties faced by Gorbachev and his unwinnable situation. I recommend also listening to Body Economic by David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu to understand some of the tragic negative fallout which could have been avoided if the United States had a more sympathetic president or if Europe was stronger.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An impressive biography.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would, for the history for the most part.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Gorbachev?

Too many to choose from.

Have you listened to any of Henry Strozier’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have, just as good as the others.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Nope.

Any additional comments?

A must-have for fans of Soviet history, des;ite the original summary being about CKhrushchev, which has now been fixed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

Well written and brilliantly performed. Second half became recitation of facts and seemed to lack psychological context, but overall a great biography with occasional brilliant analysis and top notch narration.

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  • Susan
  • Bay Village, OH, United States
  • 03-17-18

Gorbachev has always been a hero of mine<br />

Real insight into what was going on in Russia. I always only saw him from the outside. Russian names are hard even when you know how to pronounce them. Too many characters I knew nothing about. I once tried to see him in SF, though I'm not usually one to follow celebrities.