Billington examines the changes that have occurred in the former Soviet Union over recent years and argues the neccesity of the USA and other Western powers making positive economic, political, strategic and cultural responses to the new circumstances. Billington was in Russia at the time of the coup in August 1991. The events and attitudes he witnessed during the crisis convinced him that the Russian people had at last found the confidence and hope to act for freedom. However, he warns, despite their humiliation in 1991, the Old Guard should not be underestimated. If the new experiment with democracy founders, they will be ready to reassert their hegemony. Hence the need for democratic governments throughout the world to act now to ensure that democracy does survive its birth throes and becomes established throughout the CIS.
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Billington was in Moscow last August during the failed Communist coup and the democratic counter-coup that swept Boris Yeltsin into power. The Librarian of Congress and one of the foremosts expert on Russian history, Billington ( The Icon and the Axe ) views these events as a decisive turning point that transformed the Russian people psychologically, forcing them to accept responsibility for moral choices. In a stirring, perceptive eyewitness account of the coup and its aftermath, he witheringly portrays Gorbachev as a pure child of the Leninist party machine, intent only on limited reform-from-above. Traveling from Arctic Archangel to the Siberian city of Irkutsk, Billington met ordinary citizens, politicians, democratic activists and peasants as he undertook his quest for the sources of a post-Communist Russian identity. He is cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects for democracy, placing his hope in an educated postwar, post-Stalinist generation influenced by contact with the West.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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