“It reads less like a biography and more like a political thriller with drama, romance and – Russia being Russia – vodka.”
Featured in NPR’s Book Concierge Great Reads of 2017.
“A biography of the peasant who grew to supreme Soviet power, then shattered the system and brought the Cold War to an end.”
Featured in Washington Post’s 50 Notable Non-Fiction Books of 2017.
William Taubman is a political scientist at Amherst College and he has does an extraordinary job in this new biography, Gorbachev: His Life and Times. He immersed himself in Russian and Soviet archives, memoirs and diaries to deliver a masterful novel to gives an almost day-by-day account of the one of the last century’s great dramas.
This was the Soviet Union’s turbulent move to democracy and its ultimate collapse. He tells this tale told in the first person of one of its principal figures, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev: His Life and Times is not Taubman’s first biography of a famed Soviet leader. He gained his 2003 Pulitzer Prize for his work with Khrushchev: The Man and His Era.
Taubman went further with this research on Gorbachev and included hours of interviews with his subject, who is in his eighties and living in Moscow. Taudman’s words show a clear admiration, and even affection, for the figure head. To some, that might put into question Taubman’s impartiality but the biography is a convincing case for Gorbachev’s “decency” and gives a fundamental understanding of Gorbachev himself.
The biography begins with insight into Gorbachev’s peasant childhood in southern Russia, which gives clues on the man he would become, citing that he gained his kindness from his father, Sergei. He also traced Gorbachev’s devotion to socialism and his vision of economic equality from his maternal grandfather Pantelei Gopkalo. World War II was the primary reason for his aversion to the use of force.
The biography also gives great insight into other facets of Gorbachev’s personality and life before and after his career in politics. There are contributions by Gorbachev’s former allies, colleagues and foes. This book is a gripping read that reveals how Gorbachev’s actions then are having impact even in current times.