Tismaneanu's book is less a political history of communism than it is a thorough account of leadership battles in the Romanian Communist Party from its origins at the turn of the nineteenth century to its demise in 1989. Born to parents who were well-connected party members, Tismaneanu was among the first into the archives, and he uses new material not simply to fill the gaps but to shed light on the paradoxes of Romanian communism: how a pariah party that was Stalinist to the core eventually turned on its Soviet master and embraced nationalism -- and how "national Stalinism" was acceptable to the West as long as it meant autonomy from Moscow. That is, until it became grotesque in Nicolae Ceausescu's last decade, leading to the regime's violent death. Still, Tismaneanu argues, history notwithstanding, the refurbished party remains a central force in Romania.
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