The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire Summary

John B. Dunlop

The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire

Richly documented with Russian and English-language sources, THE RISE OF RUSSIA AND THE FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE has the tone and perspective of a journalist’s firsthand account of arguably the century’s most remarkable revolution. Dunlop assigns much of the blame for the Soviet collapse to the actions or inaction of Mikhail Gorbachev and much of the credit for Russia’s rise to the courageous stance of Boris Yeltsin. The author examines their power struggle within the context of an overarching and ongoing clash between “empire-savers” and “nation-builders.” This struggle recalls the intense and unresolved dispute dating far back in history between advocates of a Western orientation for Russia and those in favor of Panslavism.

Beyond the treatment of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the book introduces an impressive array of secondary characters engaged in the high drama of this new “Time of Troubles.” Dunlop does an excellent job of revealing the many factions suddenly vying for power and influence in the fragile new democracy. These include not only “democrats” and “democratic statists,” those in favor of a larger Slavic state, but also “neo-Stalinists” and “proto-fascists” such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Befitting a treatise on Russia, the key chapter on the August coup contains five “riddle” sections, featuring inexplicable events and behavior at critical moments by leaders, commanders and troops, followed by a section on “the Gorbachev enigma.” All that is needed is mystery. Ultimately, that too is delivered by this timely book, for it raises almost as many questions as it answers about the sudden fall of the world’s largest empire, the rise of democratic Russia, and its crucial future direction and orientation.