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Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Unionby Scott Shane
Synopses & Reviews
By the 1980s the Soviet Union had matched the United States in military might and far surpassed it in the production of steel, timber, concrete, and oil. But the electronic whirlwind that was transforming the global economy had been locked out by communist leaders. Heirs to an old Russian tradition of censorship, they had banned photocopiers, prohibited accurate maps, and controlled word-for-word even the scripts of stand-up comedians. In this compellingly readable firsthand account, filled with memorable characters, revealing vignettes, and striking statistics, Scott Shane tells the story of Mikhail Gorbachev's attempt to renew socialism by easing information controls. As newspapers, television, books, films, and videotapes flooded the country with information about the Stalinist past, the communist present, and life in the rest of the world, the Soviet system was driven to ruin. Shane's unique perspective also places one of the century's momentous events in larger context: the universal struggle of governments to keep information from the people, and the irresistible power of technology over history.
"A critical book to understanding the era....Shane tells the story with grace, sympathy, and intelligence." David Remnick
"What did the people know, and when did they know it? Probing these questions, Shane — who from 1988 spent 39 months as the Baltimore Sun 's Russian bureau chief — shows how information technology doomed the Bolshevik experiment....Although the events he relates are familiar, Shane's perspective is fresh and instructive." Publishers Weekly
"Rich in human interest details....Shane covers the process in Soviet literature, film, music, TV, and even stand-up comedy, as well as journalism. Some key events, like Chernobyl, are missing, but otherwise this highly readable volume is exemplary for putting the story into a historical framework while skillfully conveying the drama of its unfolding." Library Journal
A brilliant and original account of how Gorbachev's casing of information controls destroyed the illusions of communism and drove the Soviet system to ruin.
Dismantling Utopia is Scott Shane's brilliant and original account of how Mikhail Gorbachev tried to "renew socialism" by easing information controls - and how the new freedom enjoyed by newspapers, TV, books, films, videotapes, and the popular culture destroyed the illusions of communism and drove the Soviet system to ruin. On the scene in Moscow as correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, Shane witnessed firsthand how Gorbachev's experiment produced a revolution that proved fatal to his party, his government, and his own political career. Shane's compellingly readable story is filled with memorable characters, revealing vignettes, and striking statistics.
A brilliant and original account of how Gorbachev's easing of information controls destroyed the illusions of communism and drove the Soviet system to ruin. Shane writes with such bracing authority, such startling insight, that Dismantling Utopia must be regarded as one of the essential works on the fall of the Soviet Union. --Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times
Includes bibliographical references (p. 293-304) and index.
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