нова книга: Serhii Plokhy, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union

нова книга: Serhii Plokhy, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union

Serhii Plokhy
The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union. Basic Books, 2014

About the book

On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. The enshrining of that narrative, one in which the end of the Cold War was linked to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the triumph of democratic values over communism, took center stage in American public discourse immediately after Bush’s speech and has persisted for decades—with disastrous consequences for American standing in the world.

As prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States. On the contrary, American leaders dreaded the possibility that the Soviet Union—weakened by infighting and economic turmoil—might suddenly crumble, throwing all of Eurasia into chaos. Bush was firmly committed to supporting his ally and personal friend Gorbachev, and remained wary of nationalist or radical leaders such as recently elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fearing what might happen to the large Soviet nuclear arsenal in the event of the union’s collapse, Bush stood by Gorbachev as he resisted the growing independence movements in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. Plokhy’s detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, Plokhy presents a bold new interpretation of the Soviet Union’s final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. By attributing the Soviet collapse to the impact of American actions, US policy makers overrated their own capacities in toppling and rebuilding foreign regimes. Not only was the key American role in the demise of the Soviet Union a myth, but this misplaced belief has guided—and haunted—American foreign policy ever since.

About the Author

Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University. A three-time recipient of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies prize and author of Yalta: The Price of Peace, Plokhy lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


“[Plokhy] provides fascinating details (especially concerning Ukraine) about this fraught, historic time.”--Kirkus

“Serhii Plokhy’s fine book combines a colorful, fast-paced narrative with trenchant analysis of key players in the Soviet collapse: Gorbachev and Yeltsin battling each other to the bitter end; President George H. W. Bush encouraging the former ‘evil empire’ to stay together, while unintentionally facilitating its demise; Ukrainians’ all-out push for independence turning out to be the coup de grace. By far our best account yet of the death spiral of the USSR.”--William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

“At last, a definitive account of the breakup of the USSR: for the first time, Serhii Plokhy tells the story not just from the point of view of Moscow, and not from Washington, but also from Kiev and the other republics where many of the most important decisions were actually made. If you don't understand what really happened in 1991, and if you don't remember the roles played by the former Soviet republics, then you'll find it impossible to understand the politics of the region today. This book usefully eviscerates some of the remaining mythology about the end of the Cold War, and is an indispensable guide to the tensions and rivalries of the present.”--Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History

“Serhii Plokhy’s dramatic account of the high politics behind the collapse of the Soviet Union could not be more timely. Serhii Plokhy examines the choices, fears, personal conflicts and geopolitical delusions of the principal actors in the drama in the US and across the republics of the disintegrating USSR. While the world was spared a nuclear apocalypse, the seeds of new tragedies were sown. As Serhii Plokhy sees it, the mistaken belief that the US had ‘won the Cold War’ led directly to the hubris of the Iraq invasion of 2003. Now, in the context of what many see as a new Cold War between Russia and the West, it is crucial that we understand what really happened in 1991. The Last Empire is a brilliant work of political narrative: vivid, original, urgent and, above all, wise.”--Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov’s Magic Lantern: Travels in Russian History

“Serhii Plokhy’s masterful book provocatively places Ukrainian independence as the central factor in the Soviet Union’s collapse. Gripping reading, full of surprises and revelations for everyone, especially on the American role in this revolutionary event.”--Vladislav Zubok, Professor at the London School of Economics

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