The best books on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network
By Sarah B. Snyder

The Books I Picked & Why

How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

By Slavenka Drakulić

How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

Why this book?

In How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulić details the everyday indignities of living under communist Yugoslavia, including thin toilet paper and no access to luxuries such as strawberries or fruit juice. Her essays show the impact of high politics on everyday living but also how communism failed – to produce washing machines, manufacture tampons, or meet the needs of its citizens.


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Empowering Revolution: America, Poland, and the End of the Cold War

By Gregory F. Domber

Empowering Revolution: America, Poland, and the End of the Cold War

Why this book?

Domber details how Americans aided and supported the Polish trade union movement Solidarity in the 1980s and the ways U.S. assistance was effective in aiding Poland’s democratic transition. Importantly, in Domber’s account, it was the Polish opposition, leading by moral example, who became heroes to Americans inside and outside the government, and American officials in Washington and Warsaw who looked to Solidarity for guidance on U.S. policy rather than the reverse.


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The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR

By Chris Miller

The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR

Why this book?

In The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy, Chris Miller compares the political and economic reforms undertaken in the Soviet Union and China in the 1980s. His account portrays Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as weak and unable to make difficult choices, and Miller reveals the dire consequences of Gorbachev's policies for the cohesion of his country. Miller argues effectively that Gorbachev did not have the option to follow the “authoritarian path” of China’s Deng Xiaoping.


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1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe

By Mary Elise Sarotte

1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe

Why this book?

Writing about the end of the Cold War, Mary Sarotte argues the fall of the Berlin Wall was not inevitable and that the United States was not the dominant player. She focuses instead on the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s drive for German reunification and a new architecture for post-Cold War Europe. More significantly, her book was one of the first to treat 1989 not as an endpoint in international relations but as a beginning.


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Unwanted Visionaries: The Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War

By Sergey Radchenko

Unwanted Visionaries: The Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War

Why this book?

In Unwanted Visionaries Radchenko reveals the very different ways the Cold War ended in Asia, not with the jubilant breaching of the Berlin Wall and largely peaceful transitions of power, but with the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Vietnamese departure from Cambodia. 


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