- Hardcover: 836 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 24, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679413766
- ISBN-13: 978-0679413769
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union Hardcover – October 24, 1995
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Top Customer Reviews
Ambassador Matlock covers the collapse of Soviet Union starting from Mikhail Gorbachev's appointment as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1985 through the early travails of the Russian Republic under Boris Yeltsin in 1992-92. He provides a detailed chronology of the events in this story and vivid descriptions of the multitude of personalities who played significant roles in them. Rather than attempt to describe or summarize these events and personalities, I hope in this review to provide a high level overview of the situation, conflicts, and strategies underlying the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union was not a normal country. It was founded on the Marxist theory of the class struggle. The existence of non-Marxist states abroad or non-Marxist parties domestically were considered direct threats to the USSR and the CPSU. To counter the threats abroad, the early foreign policy of the USSR was based on supporting world-wide revolution by local communist movements. Following World War II, this policy evolved into support of wars of national liberation by communist forces in the developing countries and the Cold War with the US and its allies. To counter domestic threats, Article VI of the Soviet Constitution gave the CPSU a "Leading Role" in setting and executing the policies of the Soviet government.Read more ›
Besides having odd biases, the writer's tone is generally unclear. His narrative is something of a blend between biography and history, and he hops around a lot from talking about Russians, Americans, and his own personal activities. Someone as politically influential as he was at the time definitely has a good perspective on things, but it would have been better if he simply stuck to his own story. It frequently feels like he's talking about things he doesn't understand, or else talking about his own perceptions. It also seems pretty odd that an American would have such insight into the activities of Gorbachev and other Russian politicians. An author with more of a historical and less of a political background would be preferable.
While there are things to learn from this book, particularly about Soviet politics, the author does not feel reliable. Better books on Communism are Life and Death in Shanghai, The Gulag Archipelago, and Mao: the Unknown Story. The Red Flag is also good for the history of Communism and its origins.