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There Is No Freedom Without Bread!: 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism

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The conventional story of the end of the cold war focuses on the geopolitical power struggle between the United States and the USSR: Ronald Reagan waged an aggressive campaign against communism, outspent the USSR, and forced Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” In There Is No Freedom Without Bread!, a daring revisionist account of that seminal year, the Russi The conventional story of the end of the cold war focuses on the geopolitical power struggle between the United States and the USSR: Ronald Reagan waged an aggressive campaign against communism, outspent the USSR, and forced Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” In There Is No Freedom Without Bread!, a daring revisionist account of that seminal year, the Russian-born historian Constantine Pleshakov proposes a very different interpretation. The revolutions that took place during this momentous year were infinitely more complex than the archetypal image of the “good” masses overthrowing the “bad” puppet regimes of the Soviet empire. Politicking, tensions between Moscow and local communist governments, compromise between the revolutionary leaders and the communist old-timers, and the will and anger of the people—all had a profound influence in shaping the revolutions as multifaceted movements that brought about one of the greatest transformations in history. In a dramatic narrative culminating in a close examination of the whirlwind year, Pleshakov challenges the received wisdom and argues that 1989 was as much about national civil wars and internal struggles for power as it was about the Eastern Europeans throwing off the yoke of Moscow.


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The conventional story of the end of the cold war focuses on the geopolitical power struggle between the United States and the USSR: Ronald Reagan waged an aggressive campaign against communism, outspent the USSR, and forced Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” In There Is No Freedom Without Bread!, a daring revisionist account of that seminal year, the Russi The conventional story of the end of the cold war focuses on the geopolitical power struggle between the United States and the USSR: Ronald Reagan waged an aggressive campaign against communism, outspent the USSR, and forced Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” In There Is No Freedom Without Bread!, a daring revisionist account of that seminal year, the Russian-born historian Constantine Pleshakov proposes a very different interpretation. The revolutions that took place during this momentous year were infinitely more complex than the archetypal image of the “good” masses overthrowing the “bad” puppet regimes of the Soviet empire. Politicking, tensions between Moscow and local communist governments, compromise between the revolutionary leaders and the communist old-timers, and the will and anger of the people—all had a profound influence in shaping the revolutions as multifaceted movements that brought about one of the greatest transformations in history. In a dramatic narrative culminating in a close examination of the whirlwind year, Pleshakov challenges the received wisdom and argues that 1989 was as much about national civil wars and internal struggles for power as it was about the Eastern Europeans throwing off the yoke of Moscow.

30 review for There Is No Freedom Without Bread!: 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    I found this a surprising look at the events leading up to and including the 1989 overthrow of communism. Pleshakov disagrees with the usual interpretation of events--that the communist countries were entirely under the thumb of the Soviet Union and overturned its power in 1989. "There is nothing in the story," he writes, "to support the conventional image of the good masses throwing off Moscow. Rebellion was a domestic matter. Eastern Europeans were, naturally, very happy to see the Soviets go, I found this a surprising look at the events leading up to and including the 1989 overthrow of communism. Pleshakov disagrees with the usual interpretation of events--that the communist countries were entirely under the thumb of the Soviet Union and overturned its power in 1989. "There is nothing in the story," he writes, "to support the conventional image of the good masses throwing off Moscow. Rebellion was a domestic matter. Eastern Europeans were, naturally, very happy to see the Soviets go, but they were fighting not the empire, as in 1989 it was at its nadir, but their own rulers. What happened in Eastern Europe was a clash of classes revealed as a civil war in Poland and Romania, nonviolent revolution in Czechoslovakia, and peaceful transfer of power in Hungary and Bulgaria." (236) Pleshakov believes that there was a good amount of "buying in" to the system by its citizens--certainly more than most of us have been taught--and that their revolts came from their belief that the government(s) had failed to fulfill its obligations under this system. Food shortages and food price increases being a primary example of this failure. Interesting revisionist look.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Finally, Eastern European scholars are using Eastern European archival material to recast 1989 as a complex and non-monolithic struggle between generations of communist leaders, regional struggles amongst Poland, Hungary and their poorer neighbors, and internal cultural and religious disputes involving the pope and Bulgarian Muslim Turks.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Interesting to read that Communism in Eastern Europe was not instituted by the Red Army or the Soviets, but as a popular response to the failures of the immediately-postwar governments? Aside from some political quibbles like that, it read very well, and flowed nicely through the events of the 1980s, when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact were fading faster than anyone knew.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick Wallace

    A great revisionist account of the origins and dissolution of the communist governments in Eastern Europe.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patricrk patrick

    Very readable account of the end of communism in Eastern Europe. A revisionist explanation of why what happened from a leading proffesor/history writer of Russian history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Felicia Chiok

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fatmanmclone90

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Beth

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Moulton

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Kirsch

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Monika

  14. 5 out of 5

    James

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dcramer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bob.lieberman

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gogeorge

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick Paul

  20. 5 out of 5

    John

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fatima Ahmed sidi

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Rivers

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gabe

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frank Lockwood

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ken Smith

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Arnett

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kat

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