Aside from the disintegration of the Soviet core itself, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe is arguably the most important (and most studied) event of our time. Given the mountain of material already written about it, what is there to add? Much -- as is evident right from the start of de Nevers' book. In lucid, unpretentious form, she emerges as an intellectual arbiter, surveying virtually everything written and then fashioning a sensible two-part explanation for what happened and how. De Nevers' account nicely balances subjective and structural factors. One critical element was Gorbachev's revolutionary shift in behavior followed by the cascading demonstration effect of change once underway in the region; another was the self-confidence of East European regimes and, when governments were too fearful to risk reform, the strength of popular disaffection. Along the way, she offers a sharp accounting for the different outcomes in Eastern European countries.
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