The Gorbachev Factor

The Gorbachev Factor

The Gorbachev Factor

The Gorbachev Factor


'To understand this singular man, the reader can do no better than to turn to Archie Brown's astute and lucid book. There have been several excellent works on Mr Gorbachev... but none examines the subject as thoroughly as this volume... a rich study, as impressive in its sweep as in itsdetails.' Abraham Brumberg, New York Times 'Archie Brown's book is not only a richly researched, easily readable biography of Gorbachev himself. It should be studied at once in every diplomatic service worthy of the name, starting with our own Foreign Office.' Michael Foot, Evening Standard 'Archie Brown has mastered the material and met the people... he writes with a historical perspective unavailable to authors of the instant biographies which appeared while Gorbachev was in power.' Rodric Braithwaite, Financial Times 'Archie Brown's closely reasoned book... makes a better case for Gorbachev's record as a reformer than Gorbachev's own memoirs... the most thorough exposition of Gorbachev's domestic political record yet to appear.' Jack F. Matlock, Jr, New York Review of Books 'This Oxford don, for years one of the world's most talented Kremlinologists, has already found the memoirs, documents and interviews that allow him to provide a remarkably detailed and authoritative account of the key moments in Gorbachev's career.' Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post 'It is hard to come away from this admirable book without an affection for Gorbachev's insistence on peaceful change, his willingness to let Eastern Europe go and his determination to nurture a pluralist culture.' Nick Cohen, Observer 'Brown's latest book is the product of many years of intensive research: it proves to be the most detailed and revealing study of the man who revolutionised the USSR. Excellent.' Good Book Guide


This book is neither a history of the Gorbachev era nor a biography of Mikhail Gorbachev. It does, certainly, contain a good deal of information about Gorbachev's life and background, not all of it, I believe, familiar to the Western (or, for that matter, Russian) reader. It discusses, too, many of the major events of the final seven years of the Soviet system. But its main concern is to understand and interpret Gorbachev's contribution to the dramatic changes which took place in the Soviet Union and in that state's relations with the outside world in the second half of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s—a time in which East-West relations were transformed and Communist power came to an end in Eastern Europe. There is discussion, too, of Gorbachev's unavailing struggle to preserve any kind of a union in the former USSR in the face of growing nationalist assertiveness.

The most central task of this book, however, is to examine how important Gorbachev was as a mover or facilitator in the Soviet Union's transition from orthodox Communism to a different kind of political system. This involves discussing 'the Gorbachev factor' not only in terms of his contributions in different policy areas but in respect of his political power, outlook, and style. It entails considering the strength of the opposition to Gorbachev and the constraints upon his political actions at different times. It also necessitates making judgements about Gorbachev's mind-set and the development of his views over time.

Although these are not easy issues to settle, it is perhaps of at least some advantage that I have been paying attention to Gorbachev for a long time—well before it was common to do so in either the Soviet Union or the West. There were quizzical looks in my audience at Yale University when, in one of my Henry L. Stimson Lectures delivered there on 22 October 1980, I said: 'An event of extraordinary potential significance took place in Moscow yesterday—the promotion to full membership of the Politburo of Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev.' My reasons for saying this were twofold. The first was that I had come to the conclusion that any future General Secretary would, like his three predecessors, be drawn from the ranks of those I called 'senior secretaries', i.e. the small group of people who were both full members of the Politburo and Secretaries of the Central Committee. Gorbachev had just joined that category and he was by some twenty years the youngest member of the group.

Second, I was convinced that Gorbachev would be a serious reformer. It was a view I held long before it became fashionable and which I continued to hold after it had ceased to be fashionable, at any rate in Russia. My interest in . . .

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