Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

by David Remnick

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"Lenin's Tomb" is one of those rare books that define a moment in history, in this case the collapse of the Soviet empire. When journalist David Remnick arrived in Moscow in 1988 as a correspondent for "The Washington Post," Gorbachev's reforms had already commenced. As Remnick sees it, the most important of these was the restoration of truth, the truth about the… See more details below


"Lenin's Tomb" is one of those rare books that define a moment in history, in this case the collapse of the Soviet empire. When journalist David Remnick arrived in Moscow in 1988 as a correspondent for "The Washington Post," Gorbachev's reforms had already commenced. As Remnick sees it, the most important of these was the restoration of truth, the truth about the brutal Soviet past and the bleak Soviet present. Like an irresistible stimulant, each new revelation demanded another and soon the process became irreversible. The return of history is Renmick's theme. It is also the essence of the revolution that toppled the Soviet system. The leaders of this revolution—Gorbachev, Sakharov, and Yeltsin, whose portraits in this book are unforgettable—embodied this theme and were shaped by it, but it was not, as Remnick shows, these leaders by themselves who restored the truth to the Soviet people. History returned to the Soviet Union like a tide, sweeping over everything in its path. Part of the truth was restored by Soviet troops digging up the remains of Stalin's victims from the Katyn forest, who continued to dig even when the leaders of the August coup ordered them not to. More of the truth was uncovered by Dmitri Yurasov, an intrepid researcher, digging on his own, year after year, through the long-hidden records of Stalin's multitudinous murders to compile a master list of his victims. Still more of the truth was exposed by those irrepressible journalists in their makeshift offices creating, for the first time in Soviet history, a free and independent press. Remnick's portraits of these ordinary citizens, intoxicated by truth, transcend journalism. Whether he shows usSiberian miners defying official lies by refusing to return to their pits until they are given the truth or a self-exiled recluse grilling a salmon to share with his guest on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk as a Soviet trawler idles nearby, its nets full of rotting fish for want of an

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An outstanding account of the unravelling of the Soviet empire; with a new afterword by the author. (May)
Library Journal
In January 1988, Remnick began a tour as a reporter at the Moscow bureau of the Washington Post just in time for a front row seat to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist Party. Assignments brought him into contact with everyone from elite, old-guard communists and neo-Stalinists to liberal democrats and leaders of the reform movement. Remnick recounts the particulars of these interactions in this intimate and personal account of one of the century's climactic events. His chronicle includes interesting vignettes, and his depiction of the abortive 1991 attempt to overthrow Gorbachev is compelling. Nevertheless, perspective and a sense of the monumental are hidden in ponderous, sometimes redundant detail. Of passing interest, this is suitable for popular collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/92.-- James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa
Gilbert Taylor
A talented reporter fluent in Russian, Remnick was among the fortunate journalists who could begin to try, as the Soviets lifted the incubus of censorship, to conduct an American-style journalism of hard news, analysis pieces, and profiles. Remnick tells how he got through to Stalinist fossil Lazar Kaganovich (who was not amused); talked with Nina Andreyeva (a 15-minute wonder and cat's-paw of reactionaries); and interviewed hundreds of less prominent personalities during his 1988-91 posting at the "Washington Post"'s Moscow bureau. Remnick sections his material thematically, presenting people-in-the-news vignettes as the Soviet Union first unveiled its sinister past, shed its torpor, then shook under the enthusiasm of democrats, coal strikers, Jew-baiters, and nationalists, before the rotten edifice crumbled in the inebriated coup attempt. Under the predilection-- inescapable for journalists writing under deadline--for playing up the near-term problems of the people and their dreary, muddy surroundings, Remnick's text vibrates with the energy of a revolutionary moment in history, a street-heat feel that definitive historians of the future will want to sample. For the moment, it inherits that popular readership established by previous reporters' reflections on their Russian tours of duty, and the coast-to-coast publicity will surely bestir it.
New York Times Books of the Century
He argues convincingly that what died in the old Soviet leadership...was its unending assault not only on people but on memory.
Kirkus Reviews
It's hard to imagine any book on the last years of Communism in the Soviet Union surpassing this one by Remnick, who covered the events for The Washington Post. Remnick's story is about far more than simply the economic failure of Communism. For 70 years, he emphasizes, history in the Soviet Union had been the instrument of the Communist Party—and "history, when it returned, was unforgiving." From his own travels, and from conversations with former Soviets at every level of society, Remnick conveys unforgettably the impact of that history. There's the testimony of General Volkogonov, who as a historical researcher and loyal Party member found that on just one day, December 12, 1938, Stalin, after signing the death sentences of about five thousand people—including many the Soviet dictator knew personally—went to his personal theater and watched two movies, including Happy Guys. There's the story of the man Remnick met in Magadan, that "gulag boomtown," who as a young boy lived in a house close to the port, from which long lines of prisoners marched toward the camps scattered for hundred of miles throughout Kolyma. The author spoke to people of every kind—from Politburo leaders to bums in the street; from Gorbachev's first girlfriend to simple people still passionately dedicated to the memory of Stalin—and he has an almost poetic ability to convey character and scenes economically and vividly: One ideologist, he says, "looked like a teacher who specialized in handwriting and never gave an A." Commenting on his findings, Remnick notes that, today, "the fate of Russia hinges, once more, on the skills, inclinations, and heartbeat of one man. This time it is BorisYeltsin...No one knows what would happen should Yeltsin fall from power...The institutions of this new society are embryonic, infinitely fragile." Brilliant, evocative, riveting.

From the Publisher
An engrossing and essential addition to the human and political literature of our time." —The New York Times

The most eloquent chronicle of the Soviet empire's demise published to date.... It is hard to conceive of a work that might surpass it."—Francine du Plessix Gray, Washington Post Book World

"An eloquent and riveting oral history of an epochal moment of change." —Michael Ignatieff, The Los Angeles Times

"Remnick ... has achieved a very rare feat: to make the reader feel he has been present himself at a great turning point in history. It is a stunning book, moving and vivid from the first page to last." —Robert A. Caro

"Utterly absorbing.... If you did not have the opportunity to witness the Soviet empire in its death throes, Lenin's Tomb will take you there." —Jack F. Matlock, Jr.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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1st ed

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