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There Is No Freedom Without Bread!: 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism [Hardcover]

Constantine Pleshakov
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)


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Book Description

October 27, 2009 0374289026 978-0374289027 First Edition

The conventional story of the end of the cold war focuses on the geopolitical power struggle between the United States and the USSR: Ronald Reagan waged an aggressive campaign against communism, outspent the USSR, and forced Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

In There Is No Freedom Without Bread!, a daring revisionist account of that seminal year, the Russian-born historian Constantine Pleshakov proposes a very different interpretation. The revolutions that took place during this momentous year were infinitely more complex than the archetypal image of the “good” masses overthrowing the “bad” puppet regimes of the Soviet empire. Politicking, tensions between Moscow and local communist governments, compromise between the revolutionary leaders and the communist old-timers, and the will and anger of the people—all had a profound influence in shaping the revolutions as multifaceted movements that brought about one of the greatest transformations in history.

In a dramatic narrative culminating in a close examination of the whirlwind year, Pleshakov challenges the received wisdom and argues that 1989 was as much about national civil wars and internal struggles for power as it was about the Eastern Europeans throwing off the yoke of Moscow.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe was a collection of complex domestic conflicts and economic discontents, argues this shrewd historical study. Historian Pleshakov (Stalin's Folly) surveys upheavals in postwar Eastern Europe, with a special focus on Poland, the mother of the Eastern European revolution. He finds a variegated tapestry of states with different degrees of economic and political liberalization and often considerable popular support for the welfare protections and social mobility they guaranteed citizens. They also enjoyed substantial latitude from Russia: the Berlin Wall, the author reports, was an East German initiative, only reluctantly approved by Moscow. The turbulence leading to 1989 was equally complicated and factional; the disturbances that brought down Communist regimes were often touched off by their own violations of Marxist orthodoxy—especially with that reliable riot starter, food price hikes. (Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, with his proletarian opposition to industrial speedups, comes off here as something of a primitive communist himself.) Pleshakov's characterization of 1989 as a civil war is perhaps overstated, but his sardonic narrative offers a savvier, richer take than the usual hymns to national liberation. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for There Is No Freedom Without Bread

“Clear and beautifully lyrical . . . Of all the books that mark this anniversary, [There Is No Freedom Without Bread] is one that must be read. Pleshakov writes history with a human face.” —Gerard DeGroot, The Washington Post

“A savvier, richer take than the usual hymns to national liberation.” —Publishers Weekly

“Pleshakov embeds original perspectives into a lively narrative . . . The human factor comes out in this readable rendition of the end of communism.” —Gilbert Taylor, Booklist


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374289026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374289027
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,656,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars demythologizes the Cold War and provides reality November 16, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Adherents to the conventional Western view of the Cold War will be surprised by Pleshakov's book. With fine research and a good command over relevant primary sources, he provides impressive accounts of the political bickering and, what he terms civil wars, over decades in all communist East European nations, except Yugoslavia. In so doing, he demolishes naive notions that have been relentlessly pounded into us for forty years. After reading the book, no one should believe the self-glorifying slogan that "we won the Cold War." Pleshakov, for this historian, provides a major contribution to what I believe is the correct conclusion, namely, everyone lost during the Cold War.

He starts, quite correctly, in World War II with Catholic Poland, the nation which suffered the most and with admirable objectivity and balance describes wartime and post-war events. He focuses in Karol Wojtyla who, later as the Polish Pope, makes a decisive contribution to the fall of communism. While weaving the dramatic tapestry of Poland, Pleshakov skillfully and appropriately selects relevant historical facts and literature and synthesizes them in ways that enhance the reader's understanding of complex events. He fulfills the profound task of the historian to connect seemingly unconnected events into a meaningful whole.

This is not a book that pays tribute to anyone. It is not a paean nor panegyric to anyone. It relentlessly describes realistically the personal characters and deeds of Gomulka, Walesa, Jaruzelski, Kadar, Gorbachev, Honecker, Zhivkov, Havel, Ceausescu, et al., the good and the bad, the ironies and the duplicities and the successes and failures.

What emerges is an eerie similarity and not its opposite to Western political machinations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of the region and period October 20, 2010
Format:Paperback
Constantine Pleshakov's little volume is an excellent summary of what socialism and the "New Order" of 1944 meant to those who lived it between Berlin and the Black Sea. As such it is an excellent companion to Jules Grandin's "The Last Colonial Massacre" on the cold war in Latin America. Like Grandin, Pleshakov writes in an anecdotal, rambling style that can frustrate those not as familiar with the subject as himself; and similarly focuses on one country in the region as exemplary of the whole, in this case Poland. The most entertaining example in the book - for me - was his account of "reform" in Bulgaria.

The book is like a tour of an overdug archaological field. Pleshakov goes out expecting to make fresh digs and extract new bones and surprisingly manages to do so, exploring little-traveled corners that provide new perspectives of the whole ground. He overturns the notion that "Ronald Reagan won the cold war," a mentality that attributes victory only to generals and statesmen, slighting the common soldier and civilian. One point I'd make: seeing Solidarity Poland as the beginning point of 1989, he slights the continuous tensions from 1944 that were as much buildup to 1989 as Lech Walesa scaling the gates at the Lenin Shipyard. Like Fidel Castro's assaulting the Moncada Barracks, it became a worldwide symbol of insurrection, but this process did not begin with either. If Walesa's act planted the seed of the mass movements of a decade later, it was Dubcek's "socialism with a human face" a decade before that inspiring perestroika and glasnost, without which there could have been no mass movements from below.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air January 4, 2010
Format:Hardcover
The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this November is sure to witness a multitude of new books, republications, retrospective news stories and countless replays of Ronald Reagan's stirring 1987 Berlin speech ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!").
But what we can be sure of is that there will be few in-depth news reports, and many of the same tired, superficial conclusions about Cold War winners and losers. (In the end, it was not Gorbachev who tore down the wall, but masses of young Germans, after a confused, weakened East German leader misspoke.)
And so a book like Pleshakov's is a breath of fresh air. Delving deep into the events leading to the collapse of the Soviet empire, Pleshakov portrays them in the context of domestic imperatives. Within each regime were those for and against the status quo, and most times events were the result of these two groupings clashing with one another in some guise, independent of larger, international forces. The 1989 revolutions were less battles of Germans or Romanians against occupying Russians, than Germans versus Germans, Romanians versus Romanians.
Chock full of revelatory details, There is No Freedom Without Bread! offers invaluable context for anyone interested in understanding how, and why, the world fundamentally changed two decades ago.As reviewed in Russian Life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Kindle edition June 14, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great book, it was the kindle edition, so no problems with the shipping. Author Constantine Pleshakov really knows his stuff, read Inside the Kremlin's Cold War before this and that's why I bought this one.
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