In This Review

Why Gorbachev Happened: His Triumphs And His Failure
Why Gorbachev Happened: His Triumphs And His Failure
By Robert G. Kaiser
Simon & Schuster, 1991, 476 pp

A veteran journalist of The Washington Post who reported from Moscow in the 1970s and has followed Soviet affairs closely gives his own account of the Gorbachev years and paints a portrait of Gorbachev himself as a product of both Russian society and the Soviet system. He sees two Gorbachevs-the bold reformer and the conservative apparatchik-often in conflict with each other. The failure of reform and Gorbachev's turn to the conservative line in 1990 lead Kaiser to pessimistic conclusions, although perhaps he underestimates his subject's adaptability. This book is a view of politics at the top-the succession of economic reforms, the constitutional laws, the changing roles of party and government, the struggles for power inside and outside the apparat, the aims and tactics of Gorbachev himself-rather than of forces at work at the level of the people, Russians and non-Russians.