In This Review

Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders
Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders
By George W. Breslauer
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 331 pp

Breslauer succinctly explores the strategies by which Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin pursued and used power, and, when it waned, how they struggled to recoup it. As in his earlier work on Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, the author is interested less in the simple quest for power and more in the choices that these men made to carry the day as leaders. In the process, he builds a fairer and more systematic framework for evaluating the effectiveness of their leadership than anyone else has done. Not surprisingly, both sides of the ledger for the two men are fat. In the end, each was better at taking the old apart than at building the new, but Breslauer sees Gorbachev as the more impressive of the two -- if only because the constraints he faced loomed larger. Whatever one thinks of Breslauer's extended comparisons of Gorbachev and Yeltsin with Khrushchev and Brezhnev, the book adds handsomely to both the field of leadership studies and our understanding of the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods.