Collapse of the Soviet Union

Our Review of the Week features a compelling account of the Soviet Union's collapse

The last empire: the final days of the Soviet Union

Plokhy, Serhii. Basic Books, 2014
489p index, 9780465056965 $32.00

The last empire book cover

Plokhy (Harvard) documents in great detail the last months of the Soviet Union, telling the story of how and why the country collapsed. He especially focuses on the negotiations for dissolution that occupied the summer and fall of 1991, drawing on new documents from US and Russian archives to illustrate the difficult and uneasy time as the world’s largest empire peacefully imploded and separated into 15 new states. Plokhy reveals that US president George H. W. Bush supported maintaining Gorbachev in power rather than local leaders, such as Boris Yeltsin in Russia, who were emerging in the 15 provinces of the collapsing empire. The book provides an essential chronological framework to understand more fully this dramatic event of recent history and shows the importance of ethnic identities and their role in the ultimate collapse. This work will stand as a tremendous achievement that highlights the internal politics of the Soviet Union and its relationship to the world as the country ceased to exist. A valuable work for both specialists and general readers interested in this subject.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.
Reviewer: W. B. Whisenhunt, College of DuPage
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Central & Eastern Europe
Choice Issue: Nov 2014