Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders

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Examining the strategies employed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin to build leadership authority, George Breslauer focuses on the power of ideas, as leaders use them to mobilize support and to craft an image as effective problem solvers, indispensable consensus builders, and symbols of national unity. Throughout the book, Breslauer compares Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and Khrushchev and Brezhnev, analyzing the changes in policy, the strategies, and the political dilemmas that are common to all four administrations. He addresses such questions as: Could Yeltsin have pursued a more beneficial path to a market economy, despite Western advisors and actions of the International Monetary Fund? For the chapters about Gorbachev, Breslauer was able to interview former members of the leader's politburo, including those who plotted Gorbachev's overthrow. Interested in how leaders make changes, Breslauer looks at how these leaders justified their actions and outflanked their opponents. Breslauer sheds new light on the end of Soviet communism and Russia's transition to a market economy. George W. Breslauer, is Dean of Social Sciences and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written and edited ten books about Soviet and post-Soviet politics and foreign policy, including Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics (Princeton University Press, 1996) and Khrushchev and Brezhnev as Leaders (London: Allen and Unwin, 1982). In 1998, he was awarded the Chancellor's Professorship for combining excellence in research, teaching, and university service and was most recently appointed Dean of Social Sciences at Berkeley.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"George Breslauer's Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders is the most insightful analysis of recent Russian statecraft yet to appear. Unlike many scholars who treat Gorbachev and Yeltsin as either heroes or failures, Breslauer carefully balances their successes and their shortcomings, examines conflicting interpretations of events, and offers a fascinating comparison of their respective styles of leadership. The book is a landmark in the study of political leadership and of Russian politics. It cannot be ignored by anyone seriously interested in present-day Russia." Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Visiting Professor, Princeton University, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union

"George Breslauer offers a fascinating and intelligent analysis of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin as leaders. In a systematic way, he evaluates their strategies for mobilizing support, developing their authority and pursuing their goals. Both leaders were far more successful at building their initial power than at sustaining it. And both were far more adept at destroying the political order they inherited than in constructing new institutions and a more promising political and econimic reality. Professor Breslauer's assessment of them as leaders—given the constraints they faced—adds to our understanding of who these men were, whether things could have been different, and the potential in Russia more generally." Dennis Ross, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Former Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Office, and Special Middle East Coordinator

"This is the first book that puts Boris Yeltsin's leadership of Russia solidly into a historical perspective, and it's likely to be the best for a long time to come. It's more than a work of history: its insights into the forces that have shaped Russia's transition are of direct relevance to the task of charting U.S. and Western policy toward that process as it continues." Strobe Talbot, Yale University, Former Deputy Secretary of State

"George Breslauer has provided an exceptionally clear-headed analysis of Gorbachev and Yeltsin as transformational leaders. He brings to this interpretation and evaluation of their historic roles both impressive insight and deep understanding of the Soviet and post-Soviet political context." Archie Brown, Oxford University

"This will be the definitive work on the fascinating struggle for power and the fate of Russia between Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Breslauer presents a balanced assessment of these two 'transformational' leaders, who both experienced early success and subsequent disillusion." Choice

"[Breslauer's] analysis is perceptive, and his conclusions are convincing and well-supported. He provides an excellent overview of the way Gorbachev and Yeltsin governed their respective countries." Political Science Quarterly

"Breslauer does not disappoint-this is an excellent book on every front. Exceptionally written and eminently accessible to th nonspecialist...an immensely enjoyable read." Rachel Walker, University of Essex, The Russian Review

"Breslauer...makes giant strides in clearing up the mysteries surrounding the fall of communism and the rise of "democratic" leadership." Library Journal

Library Journal
Though Gorbachev and Yeltsin are the fathers of contemporary Russia, they are still enigmas in the West. We rarely understand the leadership dilemmas of the former "Evil Empire"; our popular press does not dwell on, or even connect, either man's leadership qualities with his political past, though the Communist Party in fact allowed for a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that could shape leadership styles. Breslauer (dean of social sciences, Berkeley), whose prior books include Khrushchev and Brezhnev as Leaders, makes giant strides in clearing up the mysteries surrounding the fall of communism and the rise of "democratic" leadership. He argues that while leadership can be viewed in many ways, as it is most commonly understood Gorbachev was the better leader, handling his part of the transformation from socialism to capitalism more deftly than Yeltsin handled nation building and economic transformation. Both leaders are compared at many junctures with Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and Breslauer shows that all four leaders had a similar leadership cycle of wresting authority, consolidating authority, and then melting down. The solid evidence presented allows us to formulate accurate opinions about the cautious Gorbachev and the brash Yeltsin. Breslauer's analytical and academic style makes this original work most suitable for collections of Soviet/Russian history and academic libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Breslauer (political science, U. of California, Berkeley) documents the political leadership strategies of Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev at various stages in their careers. The political programs of the two leaders are reconstructed from an analysis of their public rhetoric and political maneuvers. The public communications of the leaders are seen as an integral part of their efforts to gain support from targeted constituencies. Breslauer argues that both leaders were impressive in their abilities to gather political authority for their programs, but each had more limited success in actually implementing their political visions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521814867
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2002
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Leadership strategies after Stalin; 2. Gorbachev and Yeltsin: personalities and beliefs; 3. The rise of Gorbachev; 4. Gorbachev ascendant; 5. Gorbachev on the political defensive; 6. Yeltsin versus Gorbachev; 7. Yeltsin ascendant; 8. Yeltsin on the political defensive; 9. Yeltsin lashes out: the invasion of Chechnya (Dec. 1994); 10. Yeltsin's many last hurrahs; 11. Explaining leaders' choices, 1985–99; 12. Criteria for the evaluation of transformational leaders; 13. Evaluating Gorbachev as leader; 14. Evaluating Yeltsin as leader.

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