The author is at pains to show that the aspirations of the three Baltic peoples to independence are not just a response to present configurations of power but are rooted in history, culture and the interwar experience of independence. Thus, when Gorbachev opened the door to free expression and free elections, there was little room for compromise. This book, better than any other, tells how the local communist parties tried and failed to adapt to the growing popular demands for national self-determination, and how Moscow is now caught in an insoluble dilemma. Most of the attention is on Estonia; Lithuania (in many ways the leader) and Latvia get less attention, although their stories are not ignored. In the later chapters the author explores the question of the future of the Soviet Union and its Russian and non-Russian nationalities; he makes some good points but tends to ramble, in contrast to his rich and factual account of events in the Baltic republics themselves.