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.)
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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