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Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union Paperback – June 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The collapse of the Soviet Union figures among the important events of the latter half of the century. David Satter, a reporter in Moscow for the Financial Times of London from 1976 to 1982, recorded with great detail the failings of the Soviet Union during the time and has cast those failings into a telling postmortem on the Communist state. The bulk of his material comes in the form of vignettes from people who suffered through the iron rule and the oppression and bleakness it fostered. Their stories provide personal insights as to why the empire collapsed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on two decades of reporting from the Soviet Union for the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times of London, Satter's riveting montage takes us inside KGB interrogation cells, factories sabotaged by theft, collective farms awash in vodka, labor camps where a prisoner's slightest protest brings slow starvation in an isolation cell, psychiatric hospitals stuffed with political dissenters who are force-fed psychoactive drugs and tortured. By jump-cutting between historic events-the abortive 1991 coup against Gorbachev; the breakaway by the Baltic republics and Ukraine; the coal miners' strike of 1989-1990; the storming of the Russian parliament by Yeltsin's troops in 1993, which left 150 dead-and the struggles of ordinary Soviet citizens to survive in a society built on official lies and illusions, Satter provides an astonishingly intimate look at the unraveling of the Soviet system on a personal as well as a political level. We meet daring illegal border-crossers, refuseniks who won't rat on Anatoly Shcharansky for the KGB, fanatic right-wing nationalists and whistle-blowers with grievances against their workers' collectives who are thwarted by a kafkaesque maze of Moscow agencies that sidetrack their complaints. Satter also chronicles Russia's religious revival and the alarming rise of extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300087055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300087055
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dalton C. Rocha on February 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this good book, here in Brazil.The book "Down With the Big Brother", by Michael Dobbs is better, than this book and talks about the same subject.I must tell you that this book follows a unlinear way.The Epilogue and afterword are really about late soviet fall.
In fact, the first chapter "The Coup" is about the soviet coup of 1991.The best chapter of this book is the number six "The Economy".The description of a soviet colletive farm makes me remeber, the also calamitous collective farms of MST,here in Brazil.
About Ukraine, there's desciption of apparition of Virgin Mary.
Among the best parts of this book:

a)Page 151:"Recently, there was a program on Soviet television called 'Rural America' that showed conditions on American farms.We saw veterinarians riding out in medical vans to give injections to pigs with disposable syringes.In Novokuznetsk, we don't even have disposable syringes for human beings".

b)Page 188:"To support their private plots, farmers engaged in constant stealing.Adults stole, as did their children.It was possible to stand in a collective farmer's house surrounded by wire, hammer, nails, wheels, machine oil, and lumber, only to realize that not a single item had been purchased."

c)Page 265:"The other pole of unseen world was the psychiatric hospitals where political prisoners were destroied with the help ofdrugs.The most commonly employed drugs were the halopelidol, wich turned off part of the brain; aminazine, wich reduced the victim to a half-stupor; majeptil, wich led to acute psychological distress; and sulfazine, wich , injected intramuscularly, usually in the buttocks, caused a sharp rise in body temperature and excruciating pain.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a sleeper, and should have been read much more widely when it was first published in 1996 to gain a better understanding of why the USSR fell apart and the chaos that subsequently reigned.

Satter was the Financial Times reporter in the Soviet Union for 6 years beginning in 1976, and later spent more time in the USSR and FSU. He knows well of what he speaks.

In many dozens of vignettes, Satter vividly describes the physical and moral rot and corruption of the Soviet system. He details how glasnost, which Mikhail Gorbachev had only wanted to use to get his way within the Communist party, exposed a regime whose perceived total power and all-encompassing ideology was nothing but a tissue of lies. Once the truth came out, the system had nothing to prop it up, and it fell among demands for freedom into post-Soviet chaos.

Satter spends 8 of his 424 pages directly on the repression of Jewish refuseniks, and makes other references to anti-semitism rife in Soviet official and personal life. "Age of Delirium" puts the anti-Jewishness within the wider context of the evil of the Soviet regime. One does not need to be politically rightwing to understand what Satter reports, only sensitive to the need for the freedom of the human spirit.

In the passage of time since the Kremlin's fall 23 years ago, we might tend to forget why truth-seekers, Prisoners of Conscience, Jewish refuseniks and others within the USSR fought so tenaciously when the odds seemed stacked against them, "Age of Delirium" brings it all back, with obvious lessons about oppressive regimes of today. Take out time and read this book.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on April 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
David Satter's stunning book is one of the most vivid accounts I've ever read about the day-to-day reality of life in the old Soviet Union. He was a reporter in and out for the last 18 years of the regime and interviewed many, many inhabitants, dozens of whose stories he tells in this riveting, horrifying book. It turns out that Orwell's "1984", which is fiction for most of us, was documentary reality for these poor people. It's a chronicle of wasted lives and blasted hopes. Satter tells of a total lack of human freedom in the smallest aspects of human life (typified by the internal passport, a document which dictates where you live, what your job is, and even who you can marry.) The most basic concepts of compassion and even common courtesy were swept away, and many people admit that behaving like animals was standard practice in relating to other people. Add to this the grinding poverty, the bullying by local authorities (because you have no rights as an individual, you are at the mercy of "the good of the collective"), and the atmosphere of the total lie in newspapers, television, and even conversation with your "friends" who may be informers. Satter diagnoses that the basic problem of the Communist experiment was it attempted to do away with the idea of transcendent morality. Becuase matter is all that is, you can do anything you want to it--thus producing the mass slaughter of the Stalin years (which only came to light in Russia during Gorbachev's ill-fated glasnost. The new knowledge destroyed the remaining moral authority of the regime.) After finishing the book, you will be shaken enough to admit that the phrase "evil empire" was totally appropriate.Read more ›
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