In This Review

My Six Years With Gorbachev
My Six Years With Gorbachev
By Anatoly Chernyaev
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000, 437 pp

Of the many memoirs produced by Gorbachev and those around him, this one rings truest and says the most -- partly because Chernyaev quotes at length from his original notes and internal memoranda, and partly because the author's integrity and frankness emerge from the text itself. Although Chernyaev was primarily Gorbachev's senior foreign policy adviser, he was also drawn to a surprising degree into the key deliberations on domestic matters. Still deeply loyal to Gorbachev, he nonetheless manages to stand outside their relationship and judge him candidly, with stunning insight. Apart from the invaluable detail that the author adds on key events, his account seems to capture Gorbachev as a leader better than any other. He describes a man both idealistic yet politically calculating, with a mix of courage and timidity, egotistical but concerned more with his historical role than his person, charming and persuasive but equally often windy and ineffective, sometimes dismissive -- even nasty -- to his subordinates (including Chernyaev), but harder on himself.