In This Review

General Alexander Lebed: My Life and My Country
General Alexander Lebed: My Life and My Country
By Alexander Lebed
399 pp, Regnery Publishing, 1997

There are three reasons to read this autobiography: first, the smart money says that if elections were held today, Lebed would be Russia's next president. He comes across as a rather simple military man, distinctly untutored on the larger political issues he now claims to have mastered. While he is physically courageous and has a strong sense of fair play, he appears bull-like in getting a task done and not too concerned about the means employed. When younger, he was also quick to use his fists when necessary, which during his years in the military appears to have been fairly often. Second, because his military career occupies much of the book, one learns much about the Soviet and Russian officer corps: its habits of mind, codes of behavior, petty (and these days not-so-petty) corruptions, attitudes toward politicians, treatment of underlings, and politics up and down the chain of command. Third, Lebed held commands in the Afghan war, during the violence in Azerbaijan in 1988 and 1990, in Georgia in 1989, and in the separatist conflict in Moldova's Transdniestr. His account in all these instances, while one-sided, provides an informative ground-level military view.