Dunlop was always an exception among Soviet specialists, as someone who studied Russia and the Russians even more than the Soviets and the Soviet Union. He puts this background to very good use here in a book explaining the crucial role of Russia in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although he includes a brief section on the period of Russian independence, the book really deals with the Gorbachev period. It widens from a detailed treatment of the two key protagonists, Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the way each played the Russia card, to the two key contrasting political forces the Democrats and the so-called Statists (or conservatives) to, finally, the way these figures and forces culminated in the fateful events of August 1991. Through a judicious mix of well-chosen detail and a good feel for the peculiarities of the Russian scene, Dunlop has produced a book equally valuable to someone trying to understand how Gorbachev's perestroika came a cropper and to someone who needs to know the immediate background of the Russia we now have.
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