The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

Introduction

Between 1985 and 1991, the Soviet Union was shaken to its core by a series of remarkable social and political developments. Throughout this period, I monitored these developments and recorded my impressions in a series of essays, which were subsequently published in major North American newspapers and periodicals, including the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Toronto Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Those essays, which were essentially "snapshots" of current events, have been compiled into the book you now hold before you. If they are good-- if they are focused, if the important subjects are within the frame, if they capture crucial events--the snapshots on the following pages should help you recall and relive the spirit, flavor, and intimate details of the Gorbachev era. As you view these snapshots, I hope that you will gain some insight into Soviet life, and will experience the events of glasnost as if you were there.

The images captured in any snapshot, including those contained in this book, reflect two realities: the objective reality of the thing or event being photographed, and the subjective reality seen through the photographer's viewfinder. Although the former remains constant, the latter changes significantly depending on the photographer's perspective. Thus, the snapshots that follow reflect not only the facts of history, but my own perspective as an observer.

I believe that I am able to combine advantages unavailable to either "pure" Western or "pure" Soviet observers: On one hand, I have the "trained eye" that comes from a lifetime of living in and studying the Soviet Union, and my snapshots should benefit from my contacts with decades worth of col-

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