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Khrushchev: The Man and His Era Hardcover – March, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Amherst College political science professor Taubman's thorough and nuanced account is the first full-length American biography of Khrushchev-and will likely be the definitive one for a long time. Russians, Taubman explains, are still divided by Khrushchev's legacy, largely because of the great contradiction at the heart of his career: he worked closely with Stalin for nearly 20 years, approved thousands of arrests and executions, and continued to idolize the dictator until the latter's death. Yet it was Khrushchev who publicly revealed the enormity of Stalin's crimes, denounced him, and introduced reforms that, Taubman argues, "allowed a nascent civil society to take shape"-eventually making way for perestroika. Taubman untangles the fascinating layers of deception and self-deception in Khrushchev's own memoir, weighing just how much the leader was likely to have known about the purges and his own culpability in them. He also shows that shadows of Stalinism lingered through Khrushchev's 11 years in power: his fourth-grade education left him both awed and threatened by the Russian intelligentsia, which he persecuted; intending to de-escalate the Cold War, the mercurial, blustering first secretary ended up provoking dangerous standoffs with the U.S. The bumbling, equivocal speeches quoted here make Khrushchev seem a rank amateur in international affairs-or, as Taubman politely puts it, he had trouble "thinking things through." Working closely with Khrushchev's children, and interviewing his surviving top-level Central Committee colleagues and aides, Taubman has pieced together a remarkably detailed chronicle, complete with riveting scenes of Kremlin intrigue and acute psychological analysis that further illuminates some of the nightmarish episodes of Soviet history. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
There has been a surprising paucity of information produced about the baby boomers' biggest bogeyman. During the 1960s, Khrushchev's bluster and missile rattling jangled the nerves of a generation of Americans fearing a nuclear holocaust. Khrushchev's antics and methods provided the basis for Soviet behavior for the next 20 years and sowed the seeds of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Taubman (political science, Amherst Coll.; Stalin's America Policy, Moscow Spring) has produced a massive biography that is both psychologically and politically revealing. According to Taubman, Khrushchev's rise in the Bolshevik party and patronage by Stalin can be partially laid to Stalin's diminutive stature. Though only 5'6", he still towered comfortably over Khrushchev at 5'1". Drawing on newly opened archives, Taubman threads together all the unanswered questions that Americans have, e.g., why did Khrushchev de-Stalinize Russia, and was Khrushchev himself implicated in Stalin's terrors? The shoe-banging incident, the Berlin Wall, Sputnik, and the Cuban Missile Crisis are all woven together with the accuracy of an academic and the style of a writer. Recommended for all public, academic, and special libraries.
Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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But even if Nikita Sergeyevitch, right hand man to Stalin, participant(however distasteful) in the Ukraine purges, cold war bully to Kennedy's (and to some degree Eisenhower's) naivete, and shoe banger extraordinaire wasn't Mr. Sentimentality, this book divulges a lot about him we can be grateful for. And in looking at the darker side of this major player of the 20th century, Taubman excels at helping us understand him from all angles: his son Sergei, Khruschev's own papers, the historical record here and in Russia, and indeed the correspondence between Khruschev and Kennedy, which began during the Cuban Missile Crisis and did not end until the fall of 1963 (both undoubtedly expected it to continue).
The last is indeed the most poignant, perhaps just for the American reader, perhaps for all of us, since it does signify the attempts of two great but flawed leaders to struggle with the immense burden on their shoulders and try to come to some kind of understanding for the sake of their nations. In doing so, they seem just about to build a friendship.
I found the book a bit too long, and would like the prose to have gone at a more clipping pace. Better editing may have helped. But I will read it again someday and I'm glad to have it on my shelf. I don't see how it could become outdated or lose its importance.