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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 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.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Peter Schleider on 09-26-17

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.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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