- Hardcover: 934 pages
- Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st U.S. ed edition (March 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780312251857
- ISBN-13: 978-0312251857
- ASIN: 0312251858
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life Hardcover – March 1, 2000
"Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb
"This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book." ―Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Arriving just months after Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation, Aron's biography is a timely reminder of the events that first made Yeltsin a hero to his people and then eroded his promising reputation, leaving him a political disappointment to much of the world. Even more remarkable than the timeliness of this excellent book is its prescience. The final chapter discusses the financial collapse of August 1998 and uses that crisis as a springboard for the author's weighty conclusions about Yeltsin's legacy. And yet, even though it leaves off six months before Yeltsin's actual political end, Aron's biography perfectly captures the pathos of the televised New Year's address in which a tired and beaten warrior handed over his regalia with apologies and self-criticisms: in an eerily prophetic line, Aron describes Yeltsin as "fatally wounded by his own errors by his inability to deliver miracles to make freedom, heal the sick, punish the corrupt and feed the poor--the man at the rope became too weak and too sick to manage the revolution and to justify his people's trust." Strongly sympathetic to his subject, Aron tends to play down Yeltsin's well-known faults (among them, irascibility, egoism, political inconsistency) and to praise his admirable qualities (initiative, courage, a determination to dismantle the old Communist system). He treats Yeltsin's loudest opponents, both on the Left and the Right, with liberal scorn. But the sheer weight of the author's extensive research and academic analysis (Aron is director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute) gives the lively history an objective and scholarly tone. Intelligently argued and often moving, this book is recommended for anyone interested in contemporary Russia. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Aron, born in Moscow and now director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, has written a weighty volume (in content and size) on the hottest topic of the last quarter of the 20th century--the fall of the Soviet Union. Focusing on the personalities (Yeltsin and friends) that have attempted to remake Russia, this work is a massive apology for its post-1989 history. Aron disputes the current Western press view of Yeltsin as an alcoholic and works hard to show that Yeltsin--who's been overcoming adversity from the time he was nearly drowned by a tipsy batushka at his baptism--has faced difficulties from the beginning of his presidency. "As the pace of the revolution quickened," Aron argues, "Boris Yeltsin's personal history became more tightly entwined with his country's history." Now with Yeltsin's early retirement, scholars will begin a closer examination of his impact on the emerging Russian democracy. His epitaph will likely read, "He made irreversible the collapse of Soviet totalitarianism." Not the last word on the Yeltsin presidency but recommended for public libraries.
-Harry V. Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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In this massive biography, Leon Aron attempts to rehabilitate his hero. He writes an often compelling account of Yeltsin's life and career (through late 1998, when the Russian leader was rapidly being reduced to a figurehead status). However, it is fatally compromised by its one-sidedness. The most widely used sources are Yeltsin's own self-serving memoirs, interviews with his hand-picked officials, and articles written by Yeltsin-friendly journalists in both the Russian and Western media. A dominant source is Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, the Cold War-era propaganda service.
While all of these biased accounts are accepted at face value, the views of Yeltsin's foes are presented (when they are presented at all) in the worst light possible. Yeltsin's two main political opponents, Yegor Ligachev and Gennady Zyuganov, are both badly misrepresented, or even slandered, in this book. Fortunately, both have authored books of their own which are available in English (_Inside Gorbachev's Kremlin_ by Ligachev and _My Russia_ by Zyuganov) so we can hear the views of these two thoughtful and patriotic men in their own words and judge for ourselves.
The Boris Yeltsin of Aron's book is like two different people. First and foremost, he is the "democratic" leader who freed Russia from the Communist "experiment", dismantled the Soviet "empire", and laid the foundations of a "modern" state and economy. The corrupt and authoritarian ruler that emerged later was an aberration, not the "real" Yeltsin. Aron even implies that his top advisors isolated him and ruled in his name (the same excuse given by apologists for Tsar Nicholas II and Josef Stalin). He is only fooling himself, though. There were not "two" Yeltsins. The demagogue with a talent for inciting the public was destined to become a dictator who ignored them. Opportunism was his hallmark. After he failed to rise to the top of the Soviet Communist government, he joined with the forces dedicated to bringing it down. He stood with the Russian Parliament in defense of the constitution during the "August Coup" of '91, then tore up the same constitution and sent tanks against the same Parliament two years later when they stood in the way of his own plans. Yeltsin acted as a "democrat" when it suited his purposes, not out of genuine conviction. He did not bring about the reforms of glasnost and perestroika, he exploited and ultimately hijacked them to satisfy his own ambition. The "unrecognizable" Yeltsin of the mid-'90s, whose behavior is so baffling and frustrating to Aron, is perfectly recognizable to those who saw through Yeltsin's game from the beginning.
Yeltsin was a daring and shrewd politician who battled his way to the top, but his political triumph has been a disaster for Russia. The population is now decreasing at a rate more than twice as high as during the worst years of famine and Stalinist terror in the 1930s. Instead of producing a free and prosperous Russia, the catastrophic economic experiments of Yeltsin's regime have impoverished his nation to the benefit of a tiny minority. Crime, drug use, suicide, and malnutrition are at an all time high. In the final analysis, no amount of excuse-making by apologetic works such as this can refute that Yeltsin's true legacy is one of humiliation, failure, and ruin.