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Collapse cover art

Collapse

By: Vladislav M. Zubok
Narrated by: David de Vries
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Summary

A major study of the collapse of the Soviet Union - showing how Gorbachev's misguided reforms led to its demise

In 1945, the Soviet Union controlled half of Europe and was a founding member of the United Nations. By 1991, it had an army four million strong, 5,000 nuclear-tipped missiles, and was the second biggest producer of oil in the world. But soon afterward, the union sank into an economic crisis and was torn apart by nationalist separatism. Its collapse was one of the seismic shifts of the 20th century.

Thirty years on, Vladislav Zubok offers a major reinterpretation of the final years of the USSR, refuting the notion that the breakup of the Soviet order was inevitable. Instead, Zubok reveals how Gorbachev's misguided reforms, intended to modernize and democratize the Soviet Union, deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism. Collapse sheds new light on Russian democratic populism, the Baltic struggle for independence, the crisis of Soviet finances - and the fragility of authoritarian state power.

©2021 Vladislav M. Zubok (P)2021 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Collapse

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Superb history of hugely important period

Having read (or listened to) many history books, I have found that many of the more recent texts are not written very engagingly, although they may have a tremendous depth of scholarship. An example of this is the highly rated "The Pursuit of Power" by Richard J Evans. Evans is a retired professor of history at Cambridge, and is widely regarded as a brilliant scholar. Sadly, at least in my view, his written style is leaden and uninspired. To be fair, I do not mean to pick on Evans, since there are very many other leading historians I could mention whose style does not impress.

This book, by contrast, written by a man for whom English is a second language, sparkles.

It is very long, and yet it never palls. The events, of course, are fascinating, and the perspective provided is one entirely new to most Western readers. The insight into Gorbachev, a vastly significant figure in world history, is invaluable. The implications of this history for the scelerotic bureaucracies in the West are both ominous and interesting. In particular, it is instructive to compare George H W Bush and James Baker III with Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. In describing one of the most puzzling and yet significant changes in recent history, I have never read anything so clear, fair and comprehensive. In illuminating the background to the current terrible events in Ukraine, it is also very valuable.

I can only hope that the author writes more. In particular, a history of Yeltsin's time in office, with Putin's rise to power, would complete the picture of a country moving through a period of crisis.

Finally, the performance of the reader is also excellent. His voice is easy to listen to, and he handles the (numerous) difficult foreign names and words, in several languages, with aplomb. At least to my ears...

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5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Heavy going, but ultimately worth the effort

This book is very heavy going. It’s ultimately worth persevering. In the coverage of the Aug 1991 attempted coup, it really comes into its own though, providing an excellent commentary into how the circumstances that lead up to & effectively facilitated the coup were created. It also explains very clearly, why the coup very quickly withered on the vine.

Perseverance is the key to getting to the end of the book, it is worth it.

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1 person found this helpful

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I'm sure the book is great, but I hate the voice

Couldn't bear to listen to more than a few minutes of this book, so returned it. The narrator's voice and speaking style just really grated on me. Just don't think I could stand listening to it for 1 hour let alone 23 hours.

Shame, because it looks like an interesting book going by the other reviews.

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Analysis of the paths not taken

A very thorough summary of the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, with highlights of the choices made that had they been different, might have produced a very different outcome. Provides a good balance to Western sources as it has context missing from a lot of main stream discussion.

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Interesting for history fans

Struggled with the narrator the whole way through but a very interesting, detailed analysis, if a bit "textbooky" at times.

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Excellent

Fantastic detail and analysis, well written and read and good sound quality. A slightly overwhelming amount of information but provides a great amount of insight

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A masterful chronical

This was superb, intimate yet broad, not sure there is a better book on this period.

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A warning from history.

This book is an excellent analysis of the political deadlock, ideological stagnation and economic decline that ultimately led to the dissolution of the USSR. Frighteningly, many of the problems discussed in this book are currently tearing apart the fabric of the Western liberal order and its socities, and we should be prepared to learn the lessons from Gorbachev's time and take corrective courses of action.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Political history of the end of the USSR

Very in depth look into how the USSR and the cold war ended. My only problem is with not explaining how the Soviet economy got so bad during the Brezhnev era.

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Collapse by V. Zubok

Excellent and comprehensive study of the fall of the Soviet Union, showing how the collapse was not sudden but rather the result of a long decline with economic strains at the centre. This is a detailed study that will prove to be the new standard work on a critical period in world history that still has ramifications today.

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