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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World, this best-selling account of the collapse of the Soviet Union combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism.

©2015 David Remnick (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A moving illumination.... Remnick is the witness for us all." ( The Wall Street Journal)
"An engrossing and essential addition to the human and political literature of our time." ( The New York Times)
"The most eloquent chronicle of the Soviet empire's demise published to date.... It is hard to conceive of a work that might surpass it." (Francine du Plessix Gray, Washington Post Book World)

What listeners say about Lenin's Tomb

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The moral complexity of a comic book

It is very difficult for me to dislike a book on Soviet history, such an interesting topic. But my god is this author a cry baby. Whine, whine, whine. Its all he does. I felt like I was reading an extended op-Ed piece from vice on Tump, or one on Obama by Fox.

It’s just polemics on polemics sprinkled with rhetoric. I have no sympathy for communism, or the Soviet regime, but my god is he mind numbingly one sided.

It’s a book filled with personal stories, and I have no problem with that. But everyone is either a diabolical villain or a selfless hero. If you’re going for the human interest angle, I expect a little more nuance than that.

Every other account of Soviet history has had the good sense to at least describe the motivations behind why some of the “bad guys” did what they did, and qualified the “good guys” by humanizing them with some faults.

But he just comes off as an arrogant jerk completely unwilling to engage with or try to understand those within the Soviet government. I agree Mr. Remnick, I also think they aren’t the worlds greatest guys, terrible even, but I didn’t buy your book to read your personal opinion or snide remarks about the communist leadership, I bought it to try and learn something, which you as an interviewer can’t facilitate because you’re too busy interjecting your own opinions. There’s not a single word he lets people he doesn’t like get in edge wise without him qualifying it with a pages worth of snarky jokes/comments telling you what to think, and it’s just gives you the impression he’s heavily edited and screwed everything in his own favor.

Remnick has no interest in reality though, or teaching you anything. He’s written an overlong mess with comic-book/nursery rhyme tier moral complexity. In his world there are only innocent victims and evil lecherous wolves. Now that I know he is in fact a professional journalist who writes mostly opinion pieces, this makes sense, but a historian, he is most certainly not.

Buy if you find yourself often listening to talk radio, reading op-Eds, watching cable pundits, etc. It is likely you’ll be comfortable with Remnick’s estimation of your intelligence as a reader (that you can’t be trusted to absorb any information without him expressly telling you how to interpret it and how you should view it).

Why he thinks it’s so necessary to be so blatantly biased with a regime almost no one needs any help to dislike, is a mystery. I think in his head, this book makes him look like some sort of vengeful crusader. It really just makes him look like an insecure journalist with a terminal case of self important arrogance.

There are plenty of books which fairly criticize the Soviet regime and it’s abuses fairly and in detail, it’s not a difficult task. When they do it in this way, there is much more weight to their crimes, because they remain human, even if they have done very evil things. But remnick deals solely in angels and demons.

If you want useful information you can use to draw your own conclusions, a coherent narrative, or some intellectual stimulation, look elsewhere.

14 people found this helpful

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One of the best books I've listened to on Audible

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lenin's Tomb?

There were several. The author's efforts to contact Kaganovich, descriptions of Magadan and Solzhenitsyn, the subtle underlying antisemitism, the origins of Mikhail Sergeyevitch, and more.

What about Michael Prichard’s performance did you like?

I thought it was superb. He was engaging and I always found myself wanting to keep listening.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not an extreme reaction, but I did have a considerably greater desire to keep listening

4 people found this helpful

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Society is sick of history. It is too much with us

"Society is sick of history. It is too mucy with us."
- Arseny Roginsky, quoted in David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb

While Remnick was writing for the Washington Post in Moscow, my family was living in Izmir, Turkey and then in Bitburg, Germany. We got the opportunity to travel to Moscow shortly after the August, 1991 (the beginning of my Senior year) Coup. It was a strange period. So much changed so fast. I was trading my Levi jeans in St. Petersburg and Moscow for Communist flags, Army medals, busts of Lenin. It was only as I got older that I realized both how crazy the USSR/Russia was during that time and how blessed the Washington Post was to have David Remnick writing "home" about it.

I've read other books by Remnick (The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama and King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, and parts of Reporting: Writings from The New Yorker). The New Yorker is where I discovered and fell in love with his prose. So, with Remnick, I was reading backwards. It was time I read what is perhaps his greatest work. Lenin's Tomb is a comprehensive look at the last years of the Soviet Union from the election of Gorbachev (with occasional backward glances at Khrushchev, etc. It was nice to get more information about Andrei Sakharov (I knew only broad aspects of his story, and still need to read more) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (I know more about him, but need to read more of his work).

Some of this isn't dated. No. That is the wrong word. It is history, and by definition all history is dated, but the book ends with a lot of potential energy. It is sad to see that a lot of the potential for Russia's democracy has been lost into the authoritarianism of Putin. It is also scary to read quotes from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and unabaashed neofacists who won 8 million votes in 1991, and hear words that could easily have been spoken by Donald Trump. Nations and regimes are never as solid as we think. Often the corruption that exists for years, like a cavity, eats away at the insitutions until they become empty husks and everything colapses. Perhaps, that is one lesson WE in the United States (and Europe) should learn from the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 90s. Perhaps, it is too late.

11 people found this helpful

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A mixed bag

In the last 50 years there have been few events as important in geo politics as the fall of the Soviet Union and so that event desperately needed a close and thorough examination to see what actually happened, how it happened and what it portended for the future. Mr Remnick, a reporter in the Soviet Union during that time period, has attempted to give us that book, and has both succeeded and failed.

First, the writing itself is superb, almost lyrical at times, and covers a great deal of ground. Often a chapter will start with some individual not known to the general public and we can see through his actions the forces at work behind the scenes of larger events. The first example in the book is that of Colonel Tretetsky who was in charge of the examination of the murdered Polish soldiers near Kalinin. The examination and cataloging of what Stalin had ordered done was at the order of the Soviet government but the KGB tried to derail the examination and ordered it stopped. Through the actions of the colonel we see how average Soviet citizens reacted to events and how that gave a portrait of what was happening in the wider society.

I found every chapter full of information and extremely informative, but often it was hard to see how some of the small details added anything important to the book. Mr Remnick spends a great deal of time talking about his efforts to interview Lazar Kaganovich, the last Stalin intimate still alive at the time. While the ins and outs of his attempts to speak with him are interesting in themselves they do not add anything to the tale of the fall of the Soviet Union. Similarly Mr Remnick seems to not only have had no idea of how harmful some of his actions were during this time, but to not care. He tells the tale of how some Soviet officials, seeing where events were heading, became businessmen themselves. In one report he detailed how these officials were meeting with American businessmen and the two specific names he gave were both Jewish. The official tried to explain how such reporting added to the general anti-semitism in the Soviet Union and Mr Remnick, himself Jewish, but a protected foreigner, seems unable to understand or even care about what he has done. Such things only serve to detract from the book itself and from the author's reputation.

Aside from these detractions the book itself is very good and gives insight into what was happening at the time that was not reported in the US, and found it changed my views of both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the former for the worse and the latter for the better. Still the book's foresight is limited and there is little indication of where the new Russian state might be headed. The book ends in the early 1990s and it seems indicative of that lack of foresight that the name Vladimir Putin never is mentioned anywhere in the book.

Mr Prichard's narration is superb and perfectly matched for the subject. I highly recommend this book, but with the understanding of its limitations.

1 person found this helpful

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A most compelling narrative of the fall of the Soviet Empire

I have seldom found a piece of history so riveting and difficult to ‘put down.’ David Remnick, a superb journalist,
is to be commended for the interviewing of so many who endured the tragic decades of heartbreaking personal deprivation and losses, and reminding the reader of so many key details regarding the reign of terror begun under Lenin and worsening under Stalin. Although so many of the events of the 1960’s and forward occurred during my young adulthood, I am ashamed to admit I had no clue as to the continual ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ which was occurring throughout the Soviet Union at a time when evidently the West had little care or concern for life in the Soviet Union. Many of us living today were children during the Cold War, the era of the Iron Curtain, and the greatly feared nuclear threats from our enemy, the Soviet Union, but to realize the extreme cruel conditions and deprivation under which the common people were forced to exist was definitely off my radar, and this book has been a massive revelation.
The author’s account of events leading up to the coup that eventually brought down Gorbachev was just riveting, and even knowing the outcome in advance did little to quell the suspense surrounding this great historical event.
I had begun by reading the printed word, but thankfully had the good sense to switch to Audible. How beautifully the book has been rendered by Michael Prichard whose fluent pronunciation of Russian names and places have made me realize how melodic the language; I regret not studying it for
a second language.
To receive merit, a book of any genre should leave its reader richer and better for having read it. Because of this outstanding book, I have a newfound interest and concern for the peoples of all those former Soviet countries who have borne suffering, enslavement, and cultural loss and as of yet still have little to nothing to have replaced the dismal status quo of a failed experiment in socialism.
A recurring thought as I was listening to the book was that all the dissident students on our college campuses should be required to read or listen to “Lenin’s Tomb;” perhaps they might have a greater appreciation of what it means to live in a free country with personal liberties versus the collectivist world of Communism, a failed ideology from which Russia is still in the throes of recovering.

1 person found this helpful

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Perfect

All around perfect literary experience. Remnick is a Titan of journalistic history on par with William Shirer. Utterly flawless. Highly recommended.

3 people found this helpful

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Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

If I hadn't become a musician, I am sure I would have become a historian. I love history and reading a well written history book is just heaven for me. This is a very well written book by a man who knew what he was talking about. Mr. Remnick was a (Jewish!) reporter who lived in the USSR through the Gorbachev years right up through the time of Boris Yeltsin when the USSR became Russia again. He spoke with Gorbachev on several occasions, as well as many other high level people in the Soviet government. He took his young bride with him when he received the assignment, and his son was born in Russia, so he was very connected to the country and its people.

His insights, his scope of understanding and his ability to put things into perspective without getting preachy or moralizing helped me to see this part of history more clearly and allowed me to draw my own conclusions. Here is one of my conclusions: God Bless America! When I read of the extreme hardships the Russian people had to endure because of their selfish leadership I truly cried. My heart was breaking as I read of the fishermen who had boatloads of top grade salmon ready to take to market, but had to wait for approval of the government before they could bring them ashore. By that time, the fish that could have fed thousands of starving Russians had rotted. I live in a modest sized home in a fairly nice neighborhood, but I sometimes lament that there is not enough room in my house for everything I want. I was humbled when I realized that many Soviet citizens were living in an apartment the size of my walk-in closet. People who were divorced had to continue living together for years because they could not get a second apartment. Medical care was next to non-existent. And on and on. Our first world problems are sniveling and unimportant when compared with those of this sad country.

And their problems are far from resolved. Although things have improved, the crime has sky rocketed. As one person put it, "Freedom has created more Al Capones and fewer Henry Fords." I hope they can find their way out of this darkness, but i don't think it will be any time soon. It is a country with vast potential, but things must improve before they can come close to reaching it.

Michael Prichard was an excellent narrator for this book. He seemed to understand the Russian pronunciations because they rolled off his tongue with ease. I say this, but not understanding Russian myself I could be mistaken. But compared to what Russian I have heard, it seemed to be spot on.

8 people found this helpful

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Great Info, but Format Awkward

The information in the book is priceless. I learned a lot. However, the organization I hated. Was hard to follow who was speaking at times and how the book was organized. I am sure this is all compounded by it being an audible book. Audible would do itself a great service by adding to it a section where one could see a table of contents and maps/pics.

2 people found this helpful

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Deserving of Its Many Awards

Professional ReportersDa mom vid Remnick did a four year tour in the Soviet Union for his publication. By an accident of timing he happened to be there during the last four years of the existence of the Super-Power as it buckled under the weight of economic forces impervious to Marxist ideology.
As reality reared it’s ugly vengeance upon a state that specializes in ignoring reality, Remnick captured the news of the day as well as the interviews with still-living actors in the rise, breakdown, and fall of the great union.
Every chapter and nearly every page exposes the ironic tragedy of totalitarianism which Lenin invented.
This book won most of the major book awards when it was released in the early 1990s. It deserves them all. It is extremely readable and paints a beautiful picture of an ugly truth.

Anyone interested in the history of the Soviet Union should put this book at literally the top of your list. I own two dozen books on the Soviet Union and this is the one I recommend to friends who want a look at the entire 70 year Soviet story.

You won’t be disappointed.

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Very detailed and incisive, but godless perspctive

The author clearly lived through it and got deep into the political events of the fall of Soviet Empire. But as I mentioned he does not see the hand of God in all that...

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs White
  • 03-16-21

Fascinating

Well written and detailed account of the disintegration of the USSR and the history leading up to its collapse.

I just want David Remnick to write a follow up? I don’t see one on audible.

David Remnick please write about the last twenty years in Russia. PLEASE.

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  • Fat Tony
  • 06-24-18

Great content, good speaker.

the audio quality is not great.

the speaker is good and the book is fantastic.

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  • Kieran Power
  • 04-07-18

Brilliant

Fantastically researched, brilliant and engaging, could not stop listening to this audio book. Very finely narrated. Could not recommend enough.

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  • Shane
  • 05-30-16

Fascinating Topic Well Told

This book was phenomenal. It did a really good job of telling the story though the eyes of a reporter who was there, constantly weaving in personal anecdotes with societal events. The protagonist (the author) clearly has a few bones to pick with the USSR government (as he should) but still manages to be remarkably objective given that this was written so close to the historical events it describes.