Other Books Spinning out of Soviet History

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COMBINING the firsthand observations of a Reuters correspondent with scholarly research, Boris Yeltsin: From Bolshevik to Democrat, by John Morrison (Dutton, 303 pp., $20), is a compelling account of the Russian leader's career. It tells of his poverty-stricken childhood and bare-knuckles rise to prominence, interweaving the ebb and flow of contemporary Soviet politics, especially the stormy relationship between Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev.

In Twilight of Empire: Inside the Crumbling Soviet Bloc, by Robert Cullen (Atlantic Monthly Press, 310 pp., $21.95), the former Moscow correspondent for Newsweek offers a series of essays chronicling his travels and interviews around the Soviet Union. The essays are remarkable for their depth and the frank remarks made by many Soviet citizens.

I Hope: Reminiscences and Reflections, by Raisa Gorbachev, Mikhail Gorbachev's wife (HarperCollins, 224 pp., $20) could have given much insight into the character of the Soviet leader. Sadly, it does not.

There is some interesting material about their early life as students and struggling just-marrieds. All the students at Moscow University devised techniques for traveling free on the capital's trains and Metro, but Mrs. Gorbachev is coy about whether her husband did the same. And as an ill-paid bureaucrat in Stavropol, Mr. Gorbachev kept a keen eye open during his travels for consumer goods that were in short supply. …