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The Soviet Union has established a number of puppet governments across its bordering states in eastern Europe, effectively bringing nations under its control without formal annexation. The Iron Curtain descended over half of the continent, and a new period has begun which was to last for over 50 years - the Cold War, a technological and ideological competition between the Soviet Union and the other remaining superpower: The United States.

Famous photo of Soviet soldiers raising the Soviet Flag over the Reichstag on May 2 in , after the fall of Berlin. The post-war history of eastern Europe until the final dissolution of the USSR has to be the greatest charade of the 20th century. Governments have been replaced and whole countries have been ruled by proxy; history books have been rewritten to accommodate communist ideology and glorify the Soviet Union, and carefully hide its crimes.

Citizens were forced to live in repressive condition, often lacking basic necessities. State propaganda was ever-present - in schools, in television, in cinema, in literature. Yet still people were able to see through this veil and created a powerful counter-culture, and developed a dark sense of humor.

They mocked and ridiculed the system among themselves and between the lines in public. Dobbs begins his book in the waning days of the Soviet Union, and follows the events which lead to its dissolution and the breakup of communism in eastern Europe, and the violent Yugoslav wars. Different nations view the end of Soviet hegemony differently: Americans have their Reagan, whom they see as a brave fighter against the Evil Empire and whose efforts brought it down.

Solidarity started an international series of peaceful revolutions where the puppet governments were gradually stripped of their power. History changed once again with the Round Table Talks, and the fall of the Berlin Wall which divided the city for 50 years.

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The Fall of Communism in eastern Europe was marked by extensive civil resistance and non-violent campaigns - except for Romania. He outlawed abortion - which resulted in deaths of women who attempted to perform it themselves, and a drastic rise of infant mortality and number of unwanted children. The Romanian armed forces captured Nicolae and Elena as they were trying to flee the country and performed a televised show trial, which ended with both the dictator and his wife being sentenced to be shot by a firing squad. All of it was videotaped and shown across Europe.

Whatever you do, don't mess with the Romanians. My mother has visited the Soviet Union in the same year that Dobbs begins his book and when Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, which would turn into a decade long conflict - She has won the school Olympic in Russian Language, and was one of just a few people from the whole country to board the Polish-Soviet friendship train and venture into the empire itself.

She went to the Belorussian capital of Minsk and then into Russia, on each station being greeted by a special committee in regional clothes with a warm welcome for the Polish friends. She stopped at Katyn forest, where Russian officials told her about the massacre of Polish soldiers by the Germans. She went to Leningrad, where she stayed at the newly completed Pribaltiyskaya Hotel, where she experienced luxuries beyond her wildest dreams and toured the Winter Palace, residence of the former Tsars and one of the most beautiful buildings that she has ever seen.

She also went to the Lion's den itself - the Kremlin. Polish arrivals were greeted with great joy and aplomb by Soviet comrades at every stop, and treated like kings; meanwhile many Soviet citizens had trouble finding basic means to survive, Lithuanians have been struggling to regain independence from the USSR into which they were forcibly integrated, and the truth about Katyn was one of USSR's deepest held secrets, guarded safely in a special room inside the Kremlin. Dobbs described the room as a special place where all the dirty laundry of Soviet history was stored, including the Katyn order signed by Stalin himself and the Russian original of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

They were available only to the General secretaries of the USSR - official history available to the public consisted of denial and negation. Vyacheslav Molotov went to his grave rejecting the existence of a document he himself had signed. General Staff Building is in the back.

The Tsar Cannon on the grounds of the Kremlin in Moscow. The Pribaltiskaya. By the time Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, the Soviet Union was on life support. The Afghan war was a disaster, draining the hopeless planned economy down and diminishing the morale of the army, which became disillusioned with offering "fraternal assistance" to the Afghans in "spreading socialism".

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The USSR, being an ideological state, sent a ton of its resources at hugely discounted prices to its fellow communist states, often not even receiving a payment at all. Dobbs portrays Gorbachev as an ambiguous figure - a reformist but also a believer, whose policy of openness Glasnost and reformation Perestroika put a death sentence on the USSR instead of saving it as planned. Gorbachev was a skilled orator capable of elaborate scheming, but could also commit hopeless blunders - such as his anti-alcohol reform. Ignoring the American experience Gorbachev introduced partial prohibition, which did result in a decline in consumption but also in increase of moon shining, organized crime, and a great loss of revenue to support the dying Soviet state.

What Gorbachev employed with the intention of preserving the USSR turned out to be the tools of its own undoing, and on 26 December of the Soviet Union officially dissolved and 15 new countries appeared on the map. Contrary to fears and expectations the Soviet Empire went out with a whimper, not a bang.

I am running out of space and have to quit. This is obviously a personal interest of mine can you tell? Dobbs's book is a great narrative story of the dying days of the Soviet superpower, its absurdities, atrocities and eccentricities. I have one complaint, though - why not a single photo? As it's the story of the end, I couldn't help but recounts the facts and events which led to the creation of the USSR in the first place and its history before the invasion of Afghanistan.


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His work is a great piece of historical journalism, crafted into a great story of the end of the world's first socialist state. Don't miss it. View all 28 comments. Oct 06, Bill rated it really liked it. Michael Dobbs, a Washington Post reporter and its bureaus chief in Moscow and Warsaw, demonstrates in his far ranging history that the right could not be more wrong.

Dobbs believes the slow collapse began with formation of Solidarity and Lech Walesa in the Gdansk, Poland shipyard in Workers struck causing for the first time confusion and hesitation in the ranks of the Polish Communist leaders. This was a crack in what had been a successful, forceful, controlling and feared Communist leadership.

This mere listing greatly understates the importance of these events, they were monumental, and they led to the downfall of an evil empire. One man, Mikhail Gorbachev, more than any other person was responsible for the events leading to the collapse. He believed the economic and political systems must be reformed. As General Secretary of the Communist Party, the top Soviet position, he introduced perestroika, reform, and glasnost, greater personal and press freedom. On November 9, the Berlin Wall fell.

Down with Big Brother

East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia soon broke away from Soviet control. In August, Soviet hardliners waged an unsuccessful coup against Gorbachev. During the coup Yelstin gained addition political power and international fame when he climbed to the top of a tank turret where he opposed the coup. Slightly more than a month later, December 8, Yeltsin and the leaders of the Ukraine and Belarus dissolved the Soviet Union.

Down With Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

This is at best an outline of what Dodd describes so well. He was present for many of these events and had access to archival documents made available following the collapse. Dodd is an accomplished journalist and keeps the narrative moving.

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Sep 17, Richard Lim rated it it was amazing. Down With Big Brother is an entertaining and ambitious account that seeks to chronicle the entire fall of the Soviet Union in one volume. The author, Michael Dobbs, was present for many of the critical events Solidarity in , Tiananmen in , and Moscow in , giving the book a pseudo-memoir feel. The result is an fast-paced, action packed account that makes it a perfect first draft of history. Dobbs zigzags across the geopolitical landscape of the s, taking the reader from Afghanis Down With Big Brother is an entertaining and ambitious account that seeks to chronicle the entire fall of the Soviet Union in one volume.

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Dobbs zigzags across the geopolitical landscape of the s, taking the reader from Afghanistan, to Warsaw, Poland, Chernobyl, and Washington, DC. With the skill of a journalist, he introduces the major figures on a personal level, as we learn the influences that impacted their decisions. He also shows us the experiences of the strikers in Poland, the power plant workers in Chernobyl, and the leaders of the Soviet Politburo giving a human face to an era of great political upheaval.