Review by James Baxter Giant of the Senate
he often does, in the third person— observed: “Gorbachev is hard to understand.” Perhaps, but in Taubman’s able hands, less so.
These days, Russia under Putin appears in many ways like the Soviet Union of old—ruled by a cold-eyed autocrat with little tolerance for dissent. That doesn’t concern most Russians, as Putin maintains his long grip on power and high approval rating in polls. A key difference between the two, Taubman concludes, is that “Gorbachev weakened the state in an attempt to strengthen the individual” whereas Putin strengthened the Russian state by “curtailing individual freedoms.” Perhaps, for the average reader in the West, it’s not so much Gorbachev who is hard to understand as the mindset of the country he tried so hard to change. Anthony Wilson-Smith, a former Moscow correspondent of MacLean’s, is president and CEO of Historica Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org