In This Review

Yeltsin's Russia: Myths and Reality
Yeltsin's Russia: Myths and Reality
By Lilia Shevtsova
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1999, 320 pp.

One comes away from this very thoughtful, intelligent account saddened and chastened -- saddened that Russia has been so ill served by its politicians (including Yeltsin) and their short-sighted games for small-minded stakes, and chastened because the course of events has departed so much from what most observers, even Russia's sharpest critics, had expected. In terms of intellect and political contacts, no one is more qualified to explore this complex, unhappy evolution than Shevtsova. To be fair, she does not paint a simple picture of villains and missed opportunity. On the contrary, she fully respects the intricate forces at work in postindependence Russia that have pulled its politicians in various directions and left its people adrift. Nor is her portrait of Yeltsin a one-sided diatribe. Throughout the book and particularly in her masterful conclusion, she depicts a figure extraordinary both in his talents and his disabilities. His limited greatness, however, lies mostly in what he has saved Russia from, not in what he has done to secure the country's future. No Adenauer, no Mandela, and certainly no Jefferson is he.