Across the Moscow River: The World Turned Upside Down
Rodric Braithwaite was British ambassador to Moscow during the critical years of Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the failed coup of August 1991, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin. From the vantage point of the British Embassy (once the mansion of the great nineteenth-century merchant Pavel Kharitonenko) with its commanding views cross the Moscow River to Red Square and the Kremlin, Braithwaite had a ringside seat. With his long experience of Russia and the Russians, who saw him as 'Mrs. Thatcher's Ambassador', on good personal terms with Mikhail Gorbachev, he was in a privileged position close to the centre of Russia's changing relationship with the West.
But this is not primarily a memoir. It is an intimate analysis of momentous change and the people who drove it, against the background of Russia's long history and its unique but essentially European culture. Braithwaite watched as Gorbachev and his allies struggled to modernise and democratise a system which had already reached the point of terminal decay. Against the opposition of the generals, they forced the abandonment of the nuclear confrontation as the Soviet Union fell apart. The climax of the drama came in August 1991 when a miscellaneous collection of conservative patriots - generals, politicians and secret policemen - attempted to reverse the course of history and succeeded only in accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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