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Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union Paperback – August 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What did the people know, and when did they know it? Probing these questions, Shane--who from 1988 spent 39 months as the Baltimore Sun 's Russian bureau chief--shows how information technology doomed the Bolshevik experiment. In a system that withheld even local street maps and phone books and distributed material to its apparatchiks only on a need-to-know basis, Gorbachev's loosening of information controls ultimately destroyed the government he set out to reform, stresses the author. Although the events he relates are familiar, Shane's perspective is fresh and instructive. In his discussion of economic reforms, for example, he relates the populace's anger over market-driven prices to the disinformation disseminated about subsidized costs in the former U.S.S.R. But it was the revelations of the extent of the Soviet terror, Shane argues, that returned historical memory to a people who had accepted lies as truth. The populace rejected Gorbachev's cost-benefit contention that collectivization, industrialization and military victory counterbalanced Stalinism. About the current chaos in Russia, Shane simply concludes that information told people of their predicament, but didn't solve it.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The former Moscow correspondent of the Baltimore Sun looks at the role of information in bringing down the Soviet regime and finds that loosened restrictions on the press and the worldwide revolution in information technology probably had more to do with communism's downfall than the personalities of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Rich in human interest details, his analysis shows how information control in the form of phony prices and statistics had so endangered the Soviet economy as to make even the KGB a proponent of glasnost--that is, until liberalization of the press led to an information explosion and fatally undermined the Communist myth. Shane covers the process in Soviet literature, film, music, TV, and even stand-up comedy, as well as journalism. Some key events, like Chernobyl, are missing, but otherwise this highly readable volume is exemplary for putting the story into a historical framework while skillfully conveying the drama of its unfolding. For Soviet studies and larger public international affairs collections.
- Robert Decker, Palo Alto, Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: How Information Ended the Soviet Union
  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; 1st Elephant paperback ed edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566630991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566630993
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scott Shane is a reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, where he covers national security. His new book, Objective Troy: A Terrorist, A President and the Rise of the Drone, examines the life and death of the late American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011 at the orders of President Obama. In addition to the debate over terrorism and targeted killing, he has written on the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden's leaked documents; WikiLeaks and confidential State Department cables; and the Obama's administration's prosecution of leaks of classified information, including a lengthy profile of John Kiriakou, the first C.I.A. officer to be imprisoned for leaking. During the Bush administration, he wrote widely on the debate over torture, and his 2007 articles on interrogation, written with several colleagues, were a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has also written on the anthrax investigation, the evolving terrorist threat, the government's secret effort to reclassify historical documents and the explosion in federal contracting.
From 1983 to 2004, he was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, covering a range of beats from courts to medicine and writing series of articles on brain surgery, schizophrenia, a drug corner, guns and crime and other topics. He was The Sun's Moscow correspondent from 1988 to 1991 and wrote a book on the Soviet collapse, Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union, which the Los Angeles Times described as "one of the essential works on the fall of the Soviet Union." In 1995, he co-wrote a six-part explanatory series of articles on the National Security Agency, the first major investigation of NSA since James Bamford's 1982 book The Puzzle Palace. His series on a public health project in Nepal won the nation's top science-writing award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001.
He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Francie Weeks, who teaches English to foreign students. They have three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Scott Shane's "Dismantling Utopia" is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary Russia. David Remnick (Lenin's Tomb) called it "A critical book [written] with grace, sympathy and intelligence." I can't improve upon that assessment. I do think Shane is one of the United States' best journalists, and could make any subject interesting reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charles Hooper on August 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. What an interesting book. Scott Shane was in the right spot and had the right skills to interpret the demise of a great empire, the Soviet Union. We don't have the luxury to run controlled trials in society, but sometimes they happen for us. The Soviet Union was one of history's biggest experiments. As we now know, it failed miserably. If we can't learn lessons from such a colossal failure, we aren't very good students of history and human behavior. The lesson from Scott Shane, that gives the book its subtitle, is that information can set us free. The lesson I draw is that governments should serve the people, not visa versa.

Charles L. Hooper, coauthor Making Great Decisions in Business and Life
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eugene A Jewett on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Scott Shane, an American educated journalist who also studied at Leningrad State University, was the Baltimore Sun's Russian speaking Moscow correspondent from 1988-1991. His book is the story of the Communist rulers of the USSR and their failure to comprehend the implications of the global telecommunications revolution. In trying to match the USA in military might, a feat presumed by many to be a foregone conclusion in 1980, the inhabitants of the politburo instead locked their country out of the global telecom revolution hastening the implosion of their already rotten and inefficient communist system. Shane weaves a fascinating tale of this unexpected transition, an event from which Hard Leftists of the world have yet to recover.
At the outset Shane tells of the banning of books, of the speech codes and of the virtual thought control so pervasive in the communist system. One can't help but compare it to the speech codes so popular today with the tenured radicals who run American universities. Moving right along Shane morphs into the early 80's when Gorbachev asked Andropov how much the USSR spent on defense? Andropov brushed him off. It was then that Gorbachev realized that nobody knew! This was a time when personal computers were 8 bit with 64K of RAM. Contrast this with the >10 gig PC hard drives of today, selling at a fraction of the cost of the 1980 PC. Contrast the decline of the Soviet economy with the rise of Americas' and you have the essence of this book.
As the Communist leviathan unraveled its shortage of hard currency became an untenable burden. They made more of everything than anyone else, but nobody wanted any of it. They couldn't feed their people and compete with American military might.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have lived in Russia for the past three years and am a personal friend of Andre Mironoff. I have taught Human Rights in Russian Universities, and have had Andre as a guest lecturer in my classe.
I recommend with out reservation reading this book to have a better understanding of life that still exists in modern Russia. There are more paradoxes than solutions to the complexities existing in Russia's difficult transition. I found Scott Shane's book to give a better understanding to the paradoxes existing today than did David Remnicks "Lenin's Toumb". Shane skillfully and accurately identified the power of informtion in the Soviet Union's collapse, the paradox being, the lack of coodinated information desemination in Russia today being a major barrier to reform.
Andrei is still pursuing Human Rights in Russia, and many others like him are vital to keeping the foundation of reform alive----that is a civil society with an appreciation of the importance of recognizing Human Rights of its citizens.
This book also has a great potential not in classes relating to Russia's current transition, but to Human Rights classe in general...The theoretical aspects are grounded into a practical reality for a reader of Shane's book.
To any reader,,,the importance of media in our modern society is underscored by this account. This book is an excellent gift to share with friends, It also allows readers to understand the importance of supporting reform in Russia
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