In This Review

A Democracy of Despots
A Democracy of Despots
By Donald Murray
Westview, 1996, 258 pp

By "democracy," Murray, a Canadian broadcast journalist, means the process through which Russia has been lurching since the Soviet Union's last days. By "despots" he means Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and the men on whom they have relied, whom he watched on the spot from 1988 to 1994. While he respects what each man accomplished, he is a partisan of neither and, as the title suggests, a critic of both. Least does he suffer the habit of many observers both inside and outside Russia who seem to think that giving one man his due means denying it to the other. Two things particularly recommend this book: spare, incisive analysis of the turmoil, heightened by its choice of a few telling episodes, rather than a great mass of detail, and lean, well-crafted prose.