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pdf The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, ebook The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, epub The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, doc The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, e-pub The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union 1bc023972db On Christmas Day Mikhail Gorbachev Resigned As President Of The Soviet Union By The Next Day The USSR Was Officially No And The USA Had Emerged As The World S Sole Superpower Award Winning Historian Serhii Plokhy Presents A Page Turning Account Of The Preceding Five Months Of Drama, Filled With Failed Coups D Tat And Political IntrigueHoning In On This Previously Disregarded But Crucial Period And Using Recently Declassified Documents And Original Interviews With Key Participants, He Shatters The Established Myths Of And Presents A Bold New Interpretation Of The Soviet Union S Final Months Plokhy Argues That Contrary To The Triumphalist Western Narrative, George H W Bush Desperately Wanted To Preserve The Soviet Union And Keep Gorbachev In Power, And That It Was Ukraine And Not The US That Played The Key Role In The Collapse Of The Soviet Union The Consequences Of Those Five Months And The Myth Making That Has Since Surrounded Them Are Still Being Felt In Crimea, Russia, The US, And Europe TodayWith Its Spellbinding Narrative And Strikingly Fresh Perspective, The Last Empire Is The Essential Account Of One Of The Most Important Watershed Periods In World History, And Is Indispensable Reading For Anyone Seeking To Make Sense Of International Politics Today

10 thoughts on “The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union

  1. says:

    Simply put, this is a stunning book It s not every day an author is able to rewrite history, and do so credibly When I read, on the inside cover, the following sentence the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States, I feared that it was going to attempt to diminish the role the U.S played On the contrary I have read about 20 books on the subject and this is one of the best accounts of US Russia relations from 1980 present Hoffman s The Dead Hand is another After reading The Last Empire, I have a greater appreciation of the actions George Bush HW took and accomplished during this time The significant impact of Secretary of State George Schultz was revealing as well.Plokhy takes you right into private meetings all over the world during a six month period in 1991 From the unbelievably tense meetings between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, to meetings by leaders of former Soviet states namely Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus about the nature of the role they will play in this new world, there is no shortage of intrigue in The Last Empire.This book is not only for those who are interested in the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union The timing, with what is currently happening in that part of the world this book, is perfect The author is an expert on Ukranian affairs he is director of the Ukranian Research Institute at Harvard University and spends a lot of time discussing Ukraine s significant role in the breakup of the Soviet Union He even spends time on Crimea, which makes this book as relevant today as it was 25 years ago, if not so After reading The Last Empire, I feel like I have a much better understanding of what Putin s Russia is trying to do which doesn t make it any less disturbing Whether you are interested in 1991 Russia, 2014 Russia, or both, The Last Empire absolutely must be added to your library You won t be sorry.

  2. says:

    It wasn t quite the fourth of July John Stepanchuk, acting US consul in Kiev.Plokhy s stated goal here is to dispute the narrative, which according to him is generally accepted in the west, that the United States won the Cold War, arguing that the primary causes were internal to the Soviet Union the crumbling economy, Gorbachev s democratic reforms, the hatred that existed between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, etc Whether or not the triumphal narrative is particularly strong, or particularly widely believed, an attempt at clarification is generally a good thing.The irony of the aforementioned narrative, according to Plokhy, is that George H.W Bush and most of those in his administration with the exception, perhaps ominously, of Dick Cheney were not unreservedly enthusiastic about the prospect of the Union s collapse, one seemingly reasonable reason for this being the question of nuclear disarmament there was also a general sense of hesitancy and caution about what would follow that collapse Bush seems to have exercised this caution despite domestic pressure, for example from the Ukrainian diaspora in America apparently large enough to be electorally significant , to act, to push Gorbachev to recognize Ukrainian independence Plokhy, who is Ukrainian, refers in passing to H.W Bush s Chicken Kiev speech, in which he hedged on the issue of Ukrainian independence, as a gaffe I m not sure that it was, and I m not sure that Plokhy s book really supports the idea that it was, either The book is notable for its focus on Ukraine and the Ukrainian independence movement One thing that jumped out at me immediately is the way in which the current problems in Ukraine seem to have been foreshadowed Yeltsin, upon the Union s having or less ceded central power to Russia, warned that if any republic breaks off Union relations with Russia, then Russia has the right to raise the question of territorial claims When Yeltsin s press secretary was asked to be specific about which republics Yeltsin was addressing, the secretary mentioned parts of northern Kazakhstan, Abkhazia in Georgia, and the Crimea and Donbass in Ukraine Yeltsin continued to threaten Ukraine with partitioning until the Ukrainian referendum, the result of which, according to Plokhy, was 90.32% in favor of independence David Remnick wrote that it was a few votes shy of 90 percent In the Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts, now disputed territories, the results were 83% and 77%, in favor of independence Even in Crimea, than 54% voted in favor Of course, this is not evidence that the referendums that have been held in those areas during the past couple of years are illegitimate, even though they are The Russian ark , as Plokhy says, was leaving the harbor, economically speaking, and one gets the sense that many Ukrainians, even in the east, saw their neighbor as a dead weight but my anecdotal, second hand understanding is that life in the 90s for the average Ukrainian was not any easier than for the average Russian, financially speaking.The US seemed to influence events inadvertently Bush, for example, threatened to withhold economic assistance from the Union, economic assistance that the Union needed, if Gorbachev sent Soviet troops to crush resistance movements in the Baltics When the central government displayed a disinclination to use force, the Baltics knew they could break away It seems that the Bush administration understood that things could happen that way But one of the points that Plokhy makes quite clear is that it wasn t necessarily an advantage for the United States to have to deal with a splintering superpower, a potential Yugoslavia with nukes Better, really, to deal with a relative moderate rendered somewhat complaisant, who could still maintain a level of control over the whole.There are a number of passages about Gorbachev losing his struggle for power and relevancy with Yeltsin, and the indignities that Yeltsin later subjected Gorbachev to, that take on the tone of Greek tragedy At one point Plokhy writes that he changed the world and his country for the better by his actions but failed to change himself I m not really sure what that last part means, but Plokhy also summarizes Gorbachev s achievements the end of the Cold War, the dismantling of the totalitarian system, the democratization of Soviet politics, and the opening of the country to the world Not damn bad, I would say The writing in this book is kind of dry, and the dryness includes the occasional hooks that seem out of place in a history book One chapter, for example, begins with the sentence He knew he was being followed There are some grammar mistakes, and Plokhy repeatedly confuses the words former and latter Plokhy is Ukrainian, and I found myself wondering throughout the book whether or not it was translated there is no indication on the cover or the title page that it is Then, in the acknowledgments section, I noticed that he thanks an editor for Englishing his prose Grammar mistakes from a non native speaker are entirely understandable, but it makes it seem like the book hasn t been edited very thoroughly, and that perhaps it was rushed to publication in order to capitalize on the fact that Russia is back in the news There is also a kind of awkward coda where Plokhy circles back to discrediting the narrative of American triumphalism, forgotten for hundreds of pages, and criticizing H.W Bush for employing rhetoric to that effect as he began his re election campaign in 1992 I think it s kind of difficult to condemn Bush for simply taking rhetorical advantage of the situation Bush allegedly even told Gorbachev, in private, not to pay any attention to what he would say during the presidential campaign , never mind that he lost the election anyway Plokhy then links this triumphal narrative to a growing false sense that America needed to provide moral clarity in and police other parts of the world, and therefore, to Bush II s disastrous invasion of Iraq That seems like a bit of a stretch to me Of course, there is always this song by Kino, Changes , which according to a member of the Russian Duma was written by the CIA to encourage dissatisfaction among the people

  3. says:

    A clear, well researched, and well written history of the fall of the Soviet Union While the idea that the US caused the Soviet Union s collapse has been discredited, this myth has suited both the Americans who have used it for political gain and the Russians who have used it to dodge blame and accusations of incompetence Despite these, Plokhy stresses the role played by pure chance.In a lively, readable narrative Plokhy covers all of the private negotiations within the Soviet government and between the leaders of the foreign states He also emphasizes the often forgotten desire of President Bush both a an ally and personal friend of Gorbachev and US policymakers to prevent a Soviet collapse, a prospect they compared to a Yugoslavia with nukes Plokhy covers Gorbachev s policies and how they led to the Soviet Union s ultimate breakup, all the while stressing the contingency of events and especially the interaction between Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and the opportunistic Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk Plokhy discusses how Kravchuk s decision to declare Ukraine s independence led Yeltsin to do the same, and how the the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union led to the collapse of Gorbachev s political career Plokhy s rendition of the August coup is particularly dramatic Gorbachev comes off as idealistic and out of touch, Yeltsin as boorish and erratic.Plokhy credits the efforts of these republics with the Soviet Union s collapse, and convincingly argues that the US was a bit player Again, although frequently overlooked, US policy was to preserve the USSR s integrity, since the US viewed Gorbachev as an ally and because of fears that a breakup could result in a regional war, and potentially a nuclear one There was concern that a breakup could damage the nuclear agreements between the US and the USSR, and the immediate goal of the US was to extract as many Soviet diplomatic and arms control concessions as possible before the Soviet Union collapsed The ultimate breakup of the Soviet Union was not the result of US foreign policy, and Plokhy covers the often overlooked effect that Soviet electoral politics, the Gorbachev Yeltsin rivalry, and Russian Ukrainian relations had on the USSR s fate The Russians valued their alliance with the US since it gave them legitimacy While not able to exercise much influence over events, Plokhy argues that the diplomacy of Bush and Baker was sensible and realistic In the final analysis, Plokhy concludes, George Bush s policies contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, but they often did so irrespective of the desires of his administration, or even contrary to them A few parts are a bit plodding and tedious, but Plokhy succeeds in telling a nuanced, insightful and human story.

  4. says:

    This details the undoing of the Soviet Union, basically between July and December, 1991, in very clear and readable prose I came to this book because, despite its being one of the great historic moments of the twentieth century at least , I knew next to nothing about it or its major players.Gorbachev who had ended the Cold War in 1989 had unloosed the democratic demon, leading to elected parliaments in the republics that formed the Soviet Union While he tried to maintain the central role of the Union and his own presidency, Yeltsin in Russia, and the Ukrainian and Belarus leaders, chosen by those freely elected parliaments, moved toward independence for their republics In August, hard liners had attempted to turn back the democratic movements and to re establish Union control at the center, isolating Gorbachev, but, due in large part to Yeltsin, they failed.The US concerned itself with the nuclear issue as weaponry was placed in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in order to avoid upsetting the status quo, the Bush 41 administration attempted to keep Gorbachev and the USSR in existence and succeeded longer than they might have otherwise.The Union was undone on 8 Dec 1991 when Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus opted for independence, later signing with the Islamic republics all of them save the Baltics who had been given their independence from the USSR earlier and Georgia which sent a representative were signatories, and the Union was done Gorbachev would give his resignation speech on 25 December and was treated shabbily by Yeltsin in the aftermath The book offers much in the way of specifics, interplay, and evolution of the stance of the republics.Plokhy rejects the US claim of victory as campaign rhetoric introduced by Bush in his comments after Gorbachev s resignation The pope is never mentioned as an influence.What was is very interesting is the role of Ukraine and its first president, Leonid Kravchuk There was fear that the various republics would see ethnic strife as the Union lost power, and Ukraine has a large ethnic Russian population, but they voted in a majority for independence Russia could not do without Ukraine, but Kravchuk was every bit Yeltsin s match, managing to get his way on a variety of issues Reading this, however, one can understand Putin s desire to regain Russia s dominance in Ukraine but also in the other republics, perhaps recreating a Russian union in the image of the Czarist and Communist empires A turn to the West, as Ukraine has done, can only be viewed from the Kremlin as intolerable.Besides Kravchuk, Secretary of State James Baker comes off very well.

  5. says:

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  6. says:

    The Last Empire, by Serhii Plokhy, is a comprehensive and detailed account of the last few months of the Soviet Union It starts with the August Coup and ends with Gorbachev s resignation in December The book focuses on the Bush, Kravchuk, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin perspectives.This is a must read for those studying Soviet Russian history and is an excellent start to studying both the fall of the USSR and Gorbachev s reign.

  7. says:

    The Last Empire The Final Days of the Soviet Union answered a lot of my questions about the disintegration of the Soviet Union Especially the role of the Bush Presidencies involvement in the future of Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union.

  8. says:

    I picked The Last Empire up thinking it would be about the decline of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and into the early part of the 90s Little did I realize that the USSR fell apart rather rapidly in 1991, only now do I realize how fortunate the world was that it fell apart with a whimper and not a bang or nuclear holocaust.Plokhy does a good job of providing a day by day of the events of 1991 From Gorbachev s last days, the liberalizations of Russia, Ukraine, and other nations formerly of the USSR, America s foreign policy towards the USSR in its last days, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin, this book comes at you from all angles and definitely brings a non expert up to speed quickly.This was a topic I admittedly knew very little about but found quite interesting I felt some of the book provided two much detail but for the most part, it was entertaining to read I will say that Mikhail Gorbachev must be the tragic hero of the USSR His policies of glasnost and perestroika led to the rise of the opposition that ultimately took him and the USSR down He seems to be, since he is still among us, a man of principle in his own way It is interesting to note that the USSR crumbled from within, to the point where Gorbachev was a man without a country at all He became a man without a purpose, largely due to what he initiated I can t imagine how lonely he must have felt in the waning days of the USSR.Plokhy s main argument is that the USSR fell from within Ukraine wanted out and the Russia didn t want in without Ukraine Russia did not want to be out voted by non slavic nations and knew that in its weakened state, it couldn t support the even weaker former members in a new union.The US foreign policy at the time was impressive, and this book certainly goes into great detail on the matter It is ironic that we tried to keep the USSR in existence and its president in power in order to make sure that the region did not descend into a Yugoslavia with nukes, especially when you consider that that very country was at one time our main nemesis.

  9. says:

    This is a good book and an unique perspective on the collapse of the Soviet Union However, I think Mr Plokhy s thesis is at best circumstantial His claim is that the Soviet Union was falling not because of the financial difficulties and the archaic government system, but because of the independence movements in the nations that comprised of the Union, including Ukraine and Russia But the way that he presents the evidence makes it seem as the the nations declared their independence form the Union because of all of the economic and political turmoil that was happening with Gorbachev and Yeltsin Also, the claim that Bush wanted to keep the Soviet Union alive is laughable at best Bush wanted to make sure the countries didn t declare independence immediately and find a way to peacefully dissolve the union and not start a wave of ethnic cleansing, like the situation that happened in Chechnya in the early 90 s Good history, evidence loosely backs up the thesis.

  10. says:

    In short this is an excellent book Plokhy provides a masterful account of the Soviet Union s final days through regular first person accounts of the main players Readers new to the subject and intimidated by its apparent complexity may rest easy as the who, what, when, where, and why questions are not answered merely once and then dropped, but are referenced constantly when considering each stage of events The text takes the reader through the August Coup to Gorbachev s resignation speech on Christmas Day Wisely, the author concentrates most of his attention on the power struggle between Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the other republican leaders in the aftermath of the coup attempt American efforts, to influence events in the crumbling Union also receive a thorough treatment My only criticisms relate to the author s consideration of the smaller republics and his final conclusions Regarding the former, Plokhy does a superb job of discussing Russia, Ukraine, and, to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan However, the other republics receive scant attention Some, such as Georgia and Tajikistan, are mentioned only two or three times in passing While the author may have regarded them as incidental, a bit information would have been welcome.Secondly, the final conclusions regarding American actions in the past decade seem tacked on This is not to say they are invalid, but rather that they are introduced and settled far too quickly.Despite my complaints, this is a remarkable and worthwhile read.

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