Russia's Dead End: An Insider's Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin

Russia's Dead End: An Insider's Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin

Russia's Dead End: An Insider's Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin

Russia's Dead End: An Insider's Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin


Elite-level Soviet politics, privileged access to state secrets, knowledge about machinations inside the Kremlin--such is the environment in which Andrei A. Kovalev lived and worked. In this memoir of his time as a successful diplomat serving in various key capacities and as a member of Mikhail Gorbachev's staff, Kovalev reveals hard truths about his country as only a perceptive witness can do. In Russia's Dead End Kovalev shares his intimate knowledge of political activities behind the scenes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kremlin before and after the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, including the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Kovalev analyzes Soviet efforts to comply with international human-rights obligations, the machinations of the KGB, and the link between corrupt oligarchs and state officials. He documents the fall of the USSR, the post-Soviet explosion of state terrorism and propaganda, and offers a nuanced historical explanation of the roots of Russia's contemporary crisis under Vladimir Putin. This insider's memoir provides a penetrating analysis of late-Soviet and post-Soviet Russian politics that is pungent, pointed, witty, and accessible. It assesses the current dangerous status of Russian politics and society while illuminating the path to a more just and democratic future.


Peter Reddaway

Andrei Kovalev’s powerful book argues that Russia’s trajectory since 1985 has been circular. First, Mikhail Gorbachev and his colleagues carried out an improbable series of revolutionary reforms, taking their country all the way— as baseball fans would say— from home plate to first base and on to second. After a revolution did in fact occur and the Soviet Union fell apart, Boris Yeltsin presided over a Russia that stumbled back and forth on its way to third base, where he handed it over to Vladimir Putin. Then Putin quietly flooded the system with his colleagues from the secret police, thus infusing it with a Committee for State Security (KGB) mentality. in so doing, he took Russia back to a version of home plate, to a rootless, corrupt, authoritarian, de-ideologized version of the Soviet Union.

Regarding the future, Kovalev sees little likelihood of change in the near term. Domestic policy will continue to become gradually more authoritarian, and foreign policy will feature additional unpredictability and hostility toward the West and its allies. Further ahead, he fears, lie greater dangers, including the possibility of territorial fragmentation. But he hopes that eventually Russia will rebuild itself from the bottom up and join the world community. This monumental task will probably take three generations.

In short, Kovalev’s book examines how and why, from 1985 to the present, Russia’s domestic and foreign policies evolved in the ways they did. Only occasionally does it look at Western policy toward Russia. When it does, the author often chides the West for not evincing enough interest or generosity toward his homeland, or for showing a disturbing naïveté in appeasing hard-liners in the administrations of Yeltsin and, especially, Putin.

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