Rodric Braithwaite was British ambassador to Moscow during the critical years of Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the failed coup of August 1991, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin. From the vantage point of the British Embassy (once the mansion of the great 19th-century merchant Pavel Kharitonenko) with its commanding views across the Moscow River to Red Square and the Kremlin, Braithwaite had a ringside seat. With his long experience of Russia, as Margaret Thatcher's ambassador, on good personal terms with Mikhail Gorbachev, he was in a privileged position close to the centre of Russia's changing relationship with the West. But this is not primarily a memoir. It is an intimate account of momentous change and the people who drove it, against the background of Russia's long history and its unique but essentially European culture. Braithwaite watched as Gorbachev and his allies struggled to modernise and democratise a system which had already reached the point of terminal decay. Against the opposition of the generals, they forced the abandonment of the nuclear option, and as the Soviet Empire fell apart a demoralised army crept home from Afghanistan, from Eastern Europe, and eventually from the outlying parts of the Soviet Union itself. The apex of the drama came in August 1991 when a miscellaneous gang of generals, politicians, and secret policemen, converging outside Moscow's White House, attempted to reverse the course of history and succeeded only in accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union. Braithwaite left Moscow with Russia at its lowest ebb, grappling with the problems of an unfamiliar market economy on its uncertain path towards becoming a modern liberal state. This is an account of one of the 20th century's most dramatic reversals of fortune.About the Author:
Rodric Braithwaite and his wife Jill were based in Moscow from September 1988 to May 1992. He retains business and educational interests in Russia.
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