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Moscow, December 25,1991

The Last Day of the Soviet Union
Narrated by: Don Hagen
Length: 12 hrs and 55 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (68 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The implosion of the Soviet Union was the culmination of a gripping game played out between two men who intensely disliked each other and had different concepts for the future. Mikhail Gorbachev, a sophisticated and urbane reformer, sought to modernize and preserve the USSR; Boris Yeltsin, a coarse and a hard drinking “bulldozer,” wished to destroy the union and create a capitalist Russia. The defeat of the August 1991 coup attempt, carried out by hardline communists, shook Gorbachev’s authority and was a triumph for Yeltsin. But it took four months of intrigue and double-dealing before the Soviet Union collapsed and the day arrived when Yeltsin could hustle Gorbachev out of the Kremlin, and move in as ruler of Russia.

Conor O’Clery has written a unique and truly suspenseful thriller of the day the Soviet Union died. The internal power plays, the shifting alliances, the betrayals, the mysterious three colonels carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes, and the jockeying to exploit the future are worthy of John Le Carré or Alan Furst. The Cold War’s last act was a magnificent dark drama played out in the shadows of the Kremlin.

©2011 Conor O'Clery (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

Critic Reviews

“Shrewd political history…. O’Clery presents a colorful human-scale saga, full of pathos and pettiness. (As Gorbachev was preparing his farewell address, Yeltsin sent minions to evict his family from their dacha.) But he also illuminates larger historical forces: the revival of nationalist politics in the breakaway Soviet republics; the desperate food shortages as the command economy lost its authority; the social enervation that left no one willing to defend the Soviet system by force. The result is a revealing portrait of one of history's greatest upheavals.” ( Publishers Weekly, June 15, 2011)

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Excellent

This book carefully and expertly weaves narratives of Gorbachev's time in power with practically ever hour of his last day in office. It's both extremely engaging and full of historical detail. The narrator's performance is also very good. One of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Political Thriller.

Engaging and absorbing. One of the best modern histories I have ever heard. Chapters alternate between general Soviet history between the death of Brezhnev and the end of the Soviet Union, and an hour by hour account of final three days of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev's career.

If you like biography with lots of personal (and gossipy) details, you will love this. The events, of course, were of monumental historical importance, not just for the Soviet Union but for the world.

In the perpetual debate between the importance of broad historical forces and personality in the determination of historical events, this book makes a strong case for personality. That is not surprising, because in a totalitarian regime the personality of the dictator cannot help but have an excessive effect on current events. On the other hand, the other lesson is that rule by personality that runs against irresistible historical forces cannot last long: seventy years is not the long run

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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Best at 1.5x

The reader is soooooo slow. Thank goodness for dynamic speed. With that out of the way, the book is fantastic.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Gorbachev is GOD!

Basically this author thinks Gorbachev is God, or at least that's what I assume from reading the books since the only good person in the book, according to him, is Gorbachev. Yeltsin is such a cartoon character in this book that it makes me question what I read, how much of it, if anything, is true. I'm an American, I have no "guy" in the fight between the two, but when a book is so incredibly one sided and biased it's hard to take what you're reading seriously.

As for the book itself it's not bad - but it's really not what the subject matter says it is. While it does go over the final day of the USSR, most of the book are stories setting up the events, and the last couple of hours are what happened afterwards. This isn't really a negative, but it doesn't match the title and description. The book moves along at a fair pace, I never found it boring, but it's really only the story from one side - and with a book like this, meant to focus on a single day, I thought you'd get some sweeping narrative of what each camp was doing, etc - and that is not the case here at all. Still, again, the issue I really have is just how unbalanced the book is, it's clearly only half the story written by someone who worships Gorbachev.

The reader did a fine job, nothing special, but nothing bad.

Overall 3 stars for the book - which means it's OK. It's not bad, it's not good, it's just OK. Had the author attempted to balance the content and been more than a Gorbachev fanboy I think the book could have some real value, but that's beyond the scope of this book.

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For history nerds, not the casual reader

Its not the most enthralling topic to begin with but it did bring clarity to a subject often overlooked in the history taught in schools. As a history teacher I would recommend as a one time read to my fellow history nerds but not to those that are just looking for an entertaining read

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Iain
  • 01-10-12

Takes a while to get going but worth the wait

The detail in the retelling of the events of December 25th seem to drag somewhat. However, the account of the long and tempestous relationship between Gorbachev and Yelstin is fascinating and full of insight. It seems almost surreal that the fate of the Soviet Union was ultimately sealed by personal as well as social, economic and political issues.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Yvonne
  • 11-18-17

amazing insight

What amazing insight into a truly historic period of time that changed the world.

While a bit challenging keeping up with all of the players, it was compelling listening from start to finish.