I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Reconstruction and Collapse

Reconstruction and Collapse

Conor O'Clery
Conor O’Clery is working on a new book about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here he considers the literature that has gone before, from the most immediate reports of the journalists who were there at the time A great mass of books and articles has been written about the collapse of the Soviet Union. The basic narrative is well known. Mikhail Gorbachev emerged from the stagnation of the early 1980s, tried to revive socialism through glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction), opened up to the West, ended the Cold War, survived an attempted coup, was usurped by Boris Yeltsin and exited stage left as his empire disintegrated. The entire process involved a titanic power struggle, combining elements of ideology, tragedy, farce, personal antagonisms, betrayal and bloodshed ̵̶̶ though in the circumstances not so much of the latter.   The consigning to history of a great superpower has become one of the most written about episodes of the twentieth century; as a subject it is surpassed in the volume of works it has given rise to only by the two world wars. The first books to appear in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union were those written by journalists intent on cashing in on heightened public interest and on their own fleeting fame as chroniclers of history on the move. Almost every correspondent I knew in Moscow when based there for The Irish Times during the Gorbachev years wrote a memoir. These included my own effort, Melting Snow, published by Appletree Press in 1992, the title being both a metaphor for the disintegration of an empire seemingly frozen in place and – presciently – a reference to global warming, in that the last few winters of the Soviet Union were among the mildest on record. The gold standard for reporters’ works was Lenin’s Tomb, by David Remnick of the Washington Post, published in 1993, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. Remnick had the good fortune to be there not just for the Gorbachev years but for the denouement (some of us left for other posts just before the August 1991 coup), and was able to seize the moment and get his book out when the topic was still red hot. Not so fortunate was his great rival, the correspondent (and now editor) of the New York Times, Bill Keller, who left Moscow a few months before the end and, having received a large advance to write the definitive account of perestroika…

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