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Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: An Assembly of Ghosts, 21 April 2005

... I missed meeting Mikhail Gorbachev four years ago, at a centenary conference of the Nobel Peace Foundation in Oslo, which matched a selection of Nobel Peace Prize winners with a selection of academics. I had accepted the invitation because he was going to be there, but he didn’t show up, and my opposite number turned out to be Kim Dae Jung of South Korea, an admirable figure no doubt, but not the man who did more single-handedly to save the world from the danger of nuclear war than anyone ...

Year One

John Lloyd, 30 January 1992

Boris Yeltsin 
by John Morrison.
Penguin, 303 pp., £8.99, November 1991, 0 14 017062 6
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The August Coup: The Truth and its Lessons 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
HarperCollins, 127 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 9780002550444
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The future belongs to freedom 
by Eduard Shevardnadze.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 256 pp., £15, September 1991, 1 85619 105 2
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Bear-Hunting with the Politburo 
by A. Craig Copetas.
Simon and Schuster, 271 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 671 70313 7
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The Accidental Proletariat: Workers, Politics and Crisis in Gorbachev’s Russia 
by Walter Connor.
Princeton, 374 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 691 07787 8
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... The Government of Russia has begun the year badly, even ominously. The flailing impotence of Mikhail Gorbachev has been replaced by Boris Yeltsin’s control by stealth. Gorbachev was open about the need for the retention of All-Union institutions: Yeltsin condemned his efforts, helped form the Commonwealth of Independent States – and has since then ensured that Russia controls all of the formerly common mechanisms in its own name ...

Moscow’s New Elite

Ian Davidson, 19 June 1986

GorbachevThe Path to Power 
by Christian Schmidt-Häuer.
Tauris, 218 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 1 85043 015 2
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Gorbachev 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 631 14782 9
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The Soviet Union: The Incomplete Super-Power 
by Paul Dibb.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £27.50, February 1986, 0 333 36281 0
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... The promotion of Mikhail Gorbachev to top job in the Kremlin a little over a year ago has commanded intense interest in the outside world. Two new biographies, one by a West German newspaper correspondent, the other by a Russian émigré, will in their different ways do something to satisfy that interest. But why exactly are we so interested? Common-sense explanations start with the obvious fact of a generational shift in the Kremlin ...

Can Gorbachev succeed?

John Barber, 4 December 1986

Crisis in the Kremlin: Soviet Succession and the Rise of Gorbachev 
by Richard Owen.
Gollancz, 253 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 575 03635 4
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The Waking Giant: The Soviet Union Under Gorbachev 
by Martin Walker.
Joseph, 282 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2719 6
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The Artful Albanian: The Memoirs of Enver Hoxha 
edited by Jon Halliday.
Chatto, 394 pp., £5.95, May 1986, 0 7011 2970 0
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... changes since the death of Brezhnev in November 1982 and particularly since the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary in March 1985, it is still far from clear what their result will be. For all the turnover in the leadership, more extensive than at any time since Stalin’s purges of the late Thirties; for all the attack on ...

Wormwood

Walter Patterson, 29 October 1987

Sarcophagus 
by Vladimir Gubaryev, translated by Michael Glenny.
Penguin, 81 pp., £3.50, April 1987, 0 14 048214 8
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The Star Chernobyl 
by Julia Voznesenskaya.
Quartet, 181 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7043 2631 0
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Chernobyl: A Novel 
by Frederick Pohl.
Bantam, 355 pp., £4.95, September 1987, 0 553 05210 1
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Mayday at Chernobyl 
by Henry Hamman and Stuart Parrott.
Hodder, 278 pp., £2.95, April 1987, 0 450 40858 2
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State of the World 1987: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress toward a Sustainable Society 
by Lester Brown.
Norton, 268 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 393 02399 0
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... the injured and irradiated; and Dr Robert Gale, the American surgeon who joined them. You have Mikhail Gorbachev, the charismatic, controversial Soviet leader, castigated for remaining silent from 26 April to 14 May, who nevertheless seized on the Chernobyl accident to add powerful impetus to his campaign of glasnost. You have the Soviet media ...

What happened to Gorbachev

John Lloyd, 7 March 1991

GorbachevThe Making of the Man who Shook the World 
by Gail Sheehy.
Heinemann, 468 pp., £16.99, December 1990, 0 434 69518 1
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GorbachevHeretic in the Kremlin 
by Dusko Doder and Louise Branson.
Macdonald, 430 pp., £14.95, December 1990, 0 356 19760 3
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The Nationalities Question in the Soviet Union 
edited by Graham Smith.
Longman, 389 pp., £22.50, January 1991, 0 582 03953 3
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... 15 Republics as one national entity. Alksnis is widely believed to have been the man who pushed Mikhail Gorbachev into his current hardline position when, last year, he gave the Soviet President 30 days to get to grips with the dissolution of the Union. Those whom Alksnis most criticised – Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Foreign Minister; Yegor ...

Russians and the Russian Past

John Barber, 9 November 1989

The Long Road to Freedom: Russia and Glasnost 
by Walter Laqueur.
Unwin Hyman, 325 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 04 440343 7
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Glasnost in Action: Cultural Renaissance in Russia 
by Alec Nove.
Unwin Hyman, 251 pp., £15, September 1989, 9780044453406
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Soviet History in the Gorbachev Revolution 
by R.W. Davies.
Macmillan, 232 pp., £29.50, July 1989, 0 333 49741 4
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Beyond Perestroika: The Future of Gorbachev’s USSR 
by Ernest Mandel, translated by Gus Fagan.
Verso, 214 pp., £34.95, May 1989, 9780860912231
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Perestroika in Perspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform 
by Padma Desai.
Tauris, 138 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 1 85043 141 8
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... where the 19th Party Conference of June 1988 had left off. Then followed an uneasy month while Mikhail Gorbachev took his annual vacation. As last year, some members of the leadership took advantage of his absence to make thinly-veiled attacks on current policies, claiming that socialism was being undermined. Pessimistic rumours about his and ...

How frightened should we be?

John Lloyd, 10 February 1994

Russia 2010 
by Daniel Yergin and Thane Gustafson.
Random House, 302 pp., $32, October 1993, 0 679 42995 6
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What About the workers: Workers and the Transition to Capitalism in Russia 
by Simon Clarke.
Verso, 248 pp., £34.95, September 1993, 0 86091 650 2
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After the Soviet Union: From Empire to Nation 
edited by Timothy Colton and Robert Levgold.
Norton, 208 pp., $24.95, November 1992, 0 393 03420 8
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... on the basis of an industrial machine that was already in place. As we all now know, thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev who has told us so time and again in order to justify his extraordinary policies, it ran out of steam in the latter part of Leonid Brezhnev’s long reign – a period of economic contentment for the Soviet people. Reformers clustering ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Corbyn the ‘Collaborator’, 8 March 2018

... entirely sympathetic and told me that everything was about to change because a new broom called Mikhail Gorbachev was on the way up. Some time later I saw the journalist’s name on a long list of alleged Russian spies expelled by the government. I Googled him the other day. He’s now a banker. I can only remember one contact with a Russian ...

Is the Soviet Union over?

John Lloyd, 27 September 1990

Moving the Mountain: Inside the Perestroika Revolution 
by Abel Aganbegyan, translated by Helen Szamuely.
Bantam, 248 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 593 01818 4
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Gorbachev’s Struggle for Economic Reform: The Soviet Reform Process 
by Anders Aslund.
Pinter, 219 pp., £35, May 1989, 0 86187 008 5
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... many who believe that the last chance has gone, who no longer have any faith in perestroika, or in Mikhail Gorbachev, or indeed in the continuing existence of the Soviet Union. A great number of those who, for the past five and a half years, have been Gorbachev’s closest supporters are turning away from him. Some are ...

Ruslan’s Rise

John Lloyd, 8 April 1993

The Struggle for Russia: Power and Change in the Democratic Revolution 
by Ruslan Khasbulatov, translated by Richard Sakwa.
Routledge, 256 pp., £19.99, April 1993, 0 415 09292 2
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... transferred to that of the élite Moscow State University. Another lad from a country village, Mikhail Gorbachev, had been in the same faculty before him, but Gorbachev had been the son of a model Communist, not of a suspect Chechen. An acquaintance of mine who knew Khasbulatov when he was a scholar said he was the ...

Who would have thought it?

Neal Ascherson, 8 March 1990

The Uses of Adversity 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Granta, 352 pp., £5.99, September 1989, 0 14 014018 2
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... relations which included the deployment of Cruise and Pershing II in Western Europe. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. It was apparent that he meant to do something about the ‘stagnation’ of his country, economically and politically. But it was not at all clear that this would mean any fundamental change in the ...

Glasnost

John Barber, 29 October 1987

Socialism, Peace and Democracy: Writings, Speeches and Reports 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zwan, 210 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 1 85305 011 3
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Gorbachev 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 314 pp., £5.95, May 1987, 0 631 15880 4
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The Sixth Continent: Russia and Mikhail Gorbachov 
by Mark Frankland.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.95, June 1987, 0 241 12122 1
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Shadows and Whispers: Power Politics inside the Kremlin from Brezhnev to Gorbachev 
by Dusko Doder.
Harrap, 349 pp., £12.95, July 1987, 0 245 54577 8
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Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine 
by Angus Roxburgh.
Gollancz, 285 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 575 03734 2
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Utopia in Power: A History of the USSR from 1917 to the Present 
by Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich.
Hutchinson, 877 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 09 155620 1
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... Of the various words which Gorbachev has used to describe his reforms, there can be no doubt which has had the most impact. Though perestroika (‘reconstruction’) conveys the intended transformation of the system, it is a vague concept to which all subscribe in theory but whose practical implications few understand ...

Big Man Walking

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev’s Dispensation, 14 December 2017

GorbachevHis Life and Times 
by William Taubman.
Simon and Schuster, 880 pp., £25, September 2017, 978 1 4711 4796 8
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... past the windows. I had not been in the Soviet Union for a few years – not since the advent of Gorbachev and perestroika. Behind lay Poland in crazy convulsions of freedom and inflation, where a return first-class ticket to Vilnius with sleeper cost less than a double espresso in the Holiday Inn. There was a crowd round the iron stove at the end of the ...

Where their real face was known

John Lloyd, 6 December 1990

The KGB: The Inside Story of the Foreign Operations 
by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky.
Hodder, 704 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 340 48561 2
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Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality 
by Vladimir Kuzichkin.
Deutsch, 406 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 233 98616 2
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... of the institutions of the Soviet state had their finest hour under Stalin. More than anyone else, Mikhail Gorbachev has made this clear: his efforts to force the Stalin period to act as a receptacle for much of the odium felt for Communist rule – with the Brezhnev ‘era of stagnation’ in support – have succeeded only in showing that effective ...

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