Chernenko: The Last Bolshevik : the Soviet Union on the Eve of Perestroika

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Transaction Publishers, 1989 - Biography & Autobiography - 308 pages
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Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko. a fig­ure wtm appeared to the outside worid as a commonplace Russian bureaucrat cut from the mold of a Gogol short story, was elevated in 1984 to the post of general sec­retary of the Communist party of the So­viet Union. Thus, a post held by such awesome, fearsome figures as Lenin and Stalin passed into the hands of someone perceived as a nondescript bureaucrat, de­void of ideas or initiative, and crippled by old age and infirmity.

A singular merit of this work is that it shows how far from the mark were these perceptions. This is the only full-length treatment of Chernenko. in contrast to the vast tomes written on his five predecessors as well as on the present incumbent, Mkrhail Gorbachev. The work delves into archival materials never before reported in either the East or West. The picture that emerges is not of some run-of-the-mill ap­paratchik, but of a figure who in the con­text of the Brezhnev era came forth with ideas that were revolutionary, at least in the sense of a realization of the deep mal­aise into which Soviet economy and so­ciety had fallen.

Zemtsov's volume explains the paradox of a servile conservative member of th Politburo becoming an innovative, even courageous, leader during the thirteen fateful months he held Soviet power, ft is a tribute to this effort at reconstruction that what emerges is a rounded human being and not simply a political actor. This ana­lytical study of the transformation of a peasant into a politician fills out a missing link without which the current impulse to reform in the U.S.S.R. is hard to under­stand or appreciate

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About the author (1989)

Ilya Zemtsov was born in the Baku region of Russia. He holds advanced graduate degrees in philosophy and sociology. Prior to his departure from Russia in 1973, he was a member of the executive board of the Soviet Sociological Association, and director of the department of social science at institutes of higher education in his -native Baku and in Yaroslav. After his emigration to Israel, he was a professor at the Hebrew University. Presently, he is the director of the International Research Center on Contemporary Society, and editor in chief of Crossroads, a quarterly journal issued in England. He has authored several books on Soviet society and polity, including a major study of Gorbachev published earlier this year by Transaction. Dr. Zemtsov is a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

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