A swift-moving account of the crumbling of the Soviet Union by a longtime student of the ethnic question. The book is not so much a searching explanation for the collapse of the empire as a readable, chronological recounting of the steps by which it came apart--from the original riots in Alma-Ata in December 1986 through the eruption of conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, to the April 1989 violence in Tbilisi, on to the emergence of the popular front in the Baltic. The author attaches an epilogue summarizing the final post-putsch breakup, but the weight of the book deals with the key episodes on the way to this event, episodes that acquired cumulative force because of the unseeing leaders whom they besieged.
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