The late Dmitri Volkogonov emerged in the last decade of his life as the preeminent Russian historian of this century. His crowning achievement is the account of the seven General Secretaries of the Soviet Empire in Autopsy for an Empire, a book that tells the entire history of the Soviet failure.
Having utilized his still-unequaled access to the Soviet military archives, Communist Party documents, and secret Presidential Archive, Volkogonov sheds new light on some of the major events of twentieth-century history and the men who shaped them. We witness Lenin’s paranoia about foreigners in Russia, and his creation of a privileged system for top Party members; Stalin’s repression of the nationalities and his singular conduct of foreign policy; the origins and conduct of the Korean War; Kruschev’s relationship with the odious secret service chief, Beria, and his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis; Brezhnev’s vanity and stupidity; a new view of Poland and Solidarity; the ossification of Soviet bureaucracy and the cynicism of the Politburo; and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Leninism and his role in history.
By profiling the seven successive Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, Volkogonov also depicts in painstaking detail the progressive self-destruction of the Leninist system. In his clear-eyed character assessments and political evaluations, lucidly translated and edited by Harold Shukman, Dmitri Volkogonov has once again performed an invaluable service to twentieth-century history.