The Enigma of 1989: The U.S.S.R. and the Liberation of Eastern Europe

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The Enigma of 1989: The U.S.S.R. and the Liberation of Eastern Europe

By Jacques Levesque
University of California Press, 1997
267 pp. $35.00
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There are now many books describing the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, nearly all of them focused on the successor states. The Soviet Union stands off to the side, a looming but ambiguous presence. Levesque offers the first systematic study of the Soviet part in these events. Based on a careful review of contemporary histories, memoirs, limited archival material, and his own interviews with participants, his book reconstructs Mikhail Gorbachev's course from the beginning of perestroika in the mid-1980s through Poland's breakout in spring and summer 1989 to the opening of the floodgates that fall. Out of this story comes the conclusion that the revolution owed much to the Soviet leadership's poor understanding of the deeper forces at work in Eastern Europe and benevolent uncertainty over what to do when faced with the choice of acting.