Image: The former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev (center), waving, as he walks with Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (right) on the U.S. Capitol grounds across the street from the Library of Congress.
The Economist This is the definitive biography on one of the most important and controversial figures of the 20th century. Drawing on interviews with Gorbachev himself, transcripts and documents from the Russian archives, and interviews with Kremlin aides and adversaries, as well as foreign leaders, Taubman's intensely personal portrait extends to Gorbachev's remarkable marriage to a woman he deeply loved, and to the family that they raised together. Nuanced and poignant, yet unsparing and honest, this sweeping account has all the amplitude of a great Russian novel.
When Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader in March 1985, the USSR was still one of the world's two superpowers. By the end of his tenure six years later, the Communist system was dismantled, the cold war was over and, on 25 December 1991, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist. While not solely responsible for this remarkable upheaval, he set decisive changes in motion. Assessments of Gorbachev could not be more polarised. In the West, he is regarded as a hero. In Russia, he is widely hated by those who blame him for the collapse of the USSR. Admirers marvel at this vision and courage. Detractors, including many of his Kremlin comrades, have accused him of everything from naivete to treason.