Qty:1
  • List Price: $30.00
  • Save: $6.60 (22%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Usually ships within 1 to 2 months.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Used: Good | Details
Sold by giggil
Condition: Used: Good
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire Hardcover – October 27, 2009


See all 9 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$23.40
$5.17 $1.26
Audio CD
"Please retry"


Frequently Bought Together

Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire + The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel
Price for both: $33.83

One of these items ships sooner than the other.

Buy the selected items together

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1ST edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425325
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 5.9 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Victor Sebestyen on Revolution 1989
  • The principal reasons the Soviet empire fell was the USSR's disastrous decade-long war in Afghanistan, which is eerily reminiscent of the conflict the West is involved in now. Soviet generals of 20 or 25 years ago were saying almost identical things about their war against the Mujahideen (The Army of God) as NATO soldiers are saying now fighting the Taleban. Just substitute the names and it would be hard to spot the difference. Even more topically, many of the places where battles are being fought now are the same as then.
  • Almost nobody predicted the sudden and speedy collapse of Communism--and its defeat was the last war that the West won. Almost nobody in politics, diplomacy, the military, the media or academia saw it coming. Least of all was it predicted by the intelligence agencies.
  • Despite trillions of dollars and rubles spent on spying in forty years of Cold War--as well as a vast industry in espionage books and movies--the spooks in the East and West were hopelessly ill informed. The CIA consistently over-emphasized the strength of the Soviet bloc. Even in the Spring of 1989 the then Director of the CIA, Robert Gates, said the Soviets would use force to keep their hold on the East Europe states and, amongst other wrong calls, said the Kremlin would "never" let the Berlin Wall come down. Robert Gates is now US Secretary for Defense.
  • Ronald Reagan was a great President, but he is admired for the wrong reasons. The classsic explanation for the collapse of Communism is that Reagan's tough rhetoric against the "Evil Empire" and his arms build-up defeated the Soviets. Quite the opposite is true. We can now take a more nuanced view. When he took a hard line Reagan got nowhere. In fact, it nearly led to a nuclear war by accident. He was successful when he took a soft line and began negotiating with the Russians, in particular with Mikhail Gorbachev. His greatness was in seizing that opportunity--not by ideology. It is hard to see why Reagan is a hero amongst conservatives at all.
  • Western bankers did more to bring down Communism than did Presidents or Prime Ministers. Foreign debt forced a crisis in countries like Poland and East Germany and Hungary, which were spending three quarters of their income on paying the interest on loans from the West. The debt crisis--another topical theme now--was a vital factor in the story of 1989.
  • The book reveals new information about how the first President Bush tried to slow down the process of change in 1989. He was worried the revolutions were happening so quickly that "global security" was at risk and that some of the East European dissidents were not ready to take power. There is a dramatic scene in the book when George Bush goes to Poland in the summer of '89 to plead with the Communist general in charge of the country to cling on to office for a while longer. —Victor Sebestyen

(Photo © Stacey Mutkin)


Review

U.S. Praise for Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire
 
“Vivid personal glimpses and striking details . . . Victor Sebestyen’s book is full of sharp snapshots and crisp narrative.”
—Timothy Garton Ash, The New York Review of Books
 
“A sturdy examination of events that led to the collapse of Eastern Europe’s communist regimes. . . Sebestyen’s episodic, skillfully narrated account . . . [is] a well-crafted, constantly revealing study of the world-altering changes of recent history.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“Sebestyen’s brilliantly written narrative unfolds in brief, gripping episodes . . . A must-have accounting.”
—Andrew Bast, Newsweek

“In the last few months, numerous books have come out that attempt to synthesize the compelling story of the fall of communism, but Revolution 1989 comes closest to being the essential volume. Sebestyen’s elegant narrative lays out in crisp episodes what was happening in Russia, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan throughout the tumultuous 1980s. His portrait of Gorbachev is particularly sharp—and asks us to reconsider the Soviet leader’s surprising role 20 years ago. As a refugee from Hungary in 1956, Sebestyen brings a personal touch to these historic moments.”
The Daily Beast

 
 . . . and from the UK:
 
“Sebestyen’s strength is his sharp focus and racy prose . . . Here is history written like a Greek tragedy . . .”
—Michael Binyon, The Times (London)
 
“Victor Sebestyen’s vivid, panoramic work is a fine account . . . The writing is taut, the scene-setting dramatic, giving the book an almost cinematic feel.”
—Adam LeBor, The Sunday Times (London)
 
“Pacy and vivid . . . [Sebestyen] is a thoroughly professional writer with a gift not only for exposition but also evocation.”
—Anthony Howard, The Daily Telegraph
 
“A compelling and illuminating account of a great drama in the history of our times which showed once again that ordinary men and women really can change the world.”
—Jonathan Dimbleby, The Mail on Sunday
 
Revolution 1989 is a lucid primer on the background to, and events of, that magical year. Sebestyen’s narrative is clear, entertaining, and sure-footed.”
—Angus Macqueen, The Guardian
 
“It’s a complex story spanning many countries, but this exciting yet deeply researched work brings it impressively to life . . . Compelling.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Observer
 
“A rollicking mix of high drama and sordid reality . . . spiced with telling quotations.”
The Independent
 
“A thrilling read . . . Sebestyen is good at sketching the leading players but he also succinctly conveys what life was like for ordinary citizens.”
—Christopher Sylvester, Daily Express
 
“Victor Sebestyen brilliantly pulls together the events that led to the fall of the Soviet empire . . .”
—Richard Beeston, The Spectator
 
“The tale fair rips along . . . A solid piece of storytelling of an exhilarating and enspiriting moment of history.”
—Misha Glenny, Evening Standard
 
Revolution 1989 is a superbly written and impressively documented chronicle of the year John Paul II described as an annus mirabilis . . . A vivid portrait.”
—Vladimir Tismaneanu, The Times Literary Supplement
 
“Sharp focus and racy prose capture the events and decisions that fed into the growing turmoil across Eastern Europe as the East German regime crumbled.”
The Times (London) “We’re Reading” section
 
“Sebestyen has made an excellent job of organising his disparate material, so that the reader can recapture, with the same sense of bafflement and elation, the events that made the Europe we live in—and after twenty years he can add understanding too.”
—Michael Fry, Scotland on Sunday
 
“Sebestyen has got the pace and the balance just right.”
The Scotsman
 
“Sebestyen’s record of the 1980s is a compelling, page-turning read . . . a precise, step-by-step account of the high politics and the big-name political players in the years between the August 1980 strikes in Gdansk and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall nine years later.”
—Denis MacShane, Tribune
 
“A digestible and colourful history of that miraculous year.”
The Economist

and for Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
“A small masterpiece that should be read and treasured by all who value mankind’s eternal quest for freedom.”
New York Post

“Excellent . . . A gripping, detailed reconstruction.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A fast-paced journalistic narrative built scene by scene, moving deftly among the key players . . . Steeped in detail.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Sebestyen is excellent at bringing to life the revolutionary movement. Personalities leap from his pages.”
Financial Times

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
19
4 star
5
3 star
2
2 star
1
1 star
0
See all 27 customer reviews
It was a very enjoyable and informative book to read.
BernardZ
Mr. Sebestyen is a very good writer in the tradition of British journalism, and this book is an easy and pleasant read.
Ronald van Vollenhoven
This is an excellent overview of the satellite countries of the Soviet Union and there fall.
GB

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Ronald van Vollenhoven on October 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is subtitled "the fall of the Sovjet empire"- which may sound a bit melodramatic. But it is, in fact, hard to overstate the magnitude and drama of the change that occurred in the pivotal year of 1989 when the six countries of eastern Europe in the Sovjet block one by one replaced their single-party communist systems with multi-party democracy, cut their allegiances to Moscow and the Warsaw pact, and embraced western style market-capitalism, social democracy, the European Union, and NATO.

In this book, Viktor Sebestyen, known from the acclaimed "Twelve Days" about the Hungarian uprising of 1956, takes us through the decade and a half preceding the year 1989. Chapter by chapter the book moves back and forth through the six countries under Sovjet dominion: Eastern Germany, Poland, Chechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, providing us glimpses of those countries' unique histories and the manner in which they ended up being Sovjet vassals, the pivotal events in each of these countries that would have major repercussions - sometimes years later - such as the election of Polish pope John Paul II, and up until when, finally, the actual mostly peaceful overthrow of the communists' reign took place. Naturally, there is attention for the events in the Sovjet Union, where the succession of Leonid Brezhnev by Mikail Gorbachov (with two other leaders briefly in-between) led to sweeping changes in its policies and goals. However, that is not the focus of this particular book (I rather suspect Mr. Sebestyen is working on a separate book on that story) and here it is only given to the extent it helps us understand the events in the six East-block countries. The book does not describe paralel events in Yugoslavia or Albania, either.

Mr.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Christopher D. Mcbride on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I am by no means an authoritative figure on the subject of the Soviet Union, or its collapse. However, I did write a 100 page thesis titled "The Soviet Military and the Collapse of the USSR." I spent a year writing it, most of it on just researching both primary and secondary sources. I read dozens of books, Eastern European journals, and Russian reports. I also went to the National Security Archives in Washington D.C. and examined thousands of 1980s CIA documents on the USSR and cables between diplomats of those countries and the US.

Sebestyen's comparison between the West's war in the Middle East and the USSR's struggle against the Mujahideen is a poor attempt at making his work seem more relevant in our current time. That is unfortunate, because the collapse of the USSR is an exceedingly interesting topic on its own. It certainly does not need to be propped up by current affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The differences between now and then are stark and dramatic. There are many reasons for the Soviet military failure in Afghanistan: drug use, hazing, corruption, alcoholism, and a disjointed and divided armed forces. The need for drugs and alcohol was so bad that the Soviet troops routinely sold arms and ammunition to the Mujahideen in exchange for them. Many of the troops in Afghanistan were sent there for bad behavior of some sort, and there was always a divide in the Soviet military due to the language barrier. The military was made up of all the republics, but Russian was the official language. A huge percentage spoke little or no Russian, which added to an already strong ethnic divide.

Sebestyen claims, "Almost nobody predicted the sudden and speedy collapse of Communism--and its defeat was the last war that the West won.
Read more ›
7 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is one of a handful of books published on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. Unlike some others, REVOLUTION 1989 does not focus solely on the events of 1989. Two-thirds of the book cover background developments, going back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the occupation strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk and formation of Solidarity in 1980.

Author Sebestyen reported on the events of 1989 for the London "Evening Standard", and the book has a distinct journalistic feel. Its 400 pages are divided into 48 chapters, which jump back and forth among the Soviet Union and the six countries that broke free of Soviet domination in 1989 -- Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

REVOLUTION 1989 is rich in anecdotes and so-so in analysis. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic angle of the book is to give so much causative significance to the Soviet excursion into Afghanistan for the crumbling of the Soviet empire in Europe. "The Soviets' disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan made them reluctant to send troops into battle anywhere else. Without the implied threat of force, they were in no position to hold on to their empire in Europe." The other principal factor, according to Sebestyen, was the crippling foreign debts run up by the Eastern Bloc countries, which the USSR no longer was able, or willing, to underwrite. To put it in a nutshell, "The USSR lost its will to run an empire."

Sebestyen is generally critical of Gorbachev and he is surprisingly complimentary of Ronald Reagan, whom he presents as a visionary of peace and a closet nuclear disarmer. George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, comes off badly.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews