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Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century (Random House, 1996) and Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (St. Martin's, 1993).

"The end of communism helps clear the path for the end of ideological competition," Kaplan argues. "In a world with less politics but more materialism, the struggle for scarcer resources by an increasingly larger number of human beings will sharpen. It will dawn on people that not all cultures are equal. Oh, sure, they may be equal abstractly or morally, but cultures have never been equal in regard to their ability to produce exportable material wealth. For a guide to this kind of cultural competition in the postcommunist world, I recommend Francis Fukuyama's Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (Free Press, 1995), because it dispenses quickly with cant about cultural equality, and goes on to generalize bravely about what peoples can be expected to create the optimum social conditions for wealth production."

Tina Rosenberg, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and author of The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism (Vintage, 1996), winner of the National Book Award.

Rosenberg stresses that new research on postcommunism is only as good as its understanding of communism. "I found out about Adam Hochschild's The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Viking, 1995) after I finished The Haunted Land," she says, "but I wish I had read it while I was still working on my book. I admire Hochschild greatly for his use of personal narratives to understand the human response to terror. The question of why many Russians continue to revere Stalin-even some who suffered greatly during his regime-is one whose importance permeates Russia's current political crisis and indeed will endure long beyond it."

Vladimir Tismaneanu, associate professor of politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe From Stalin to Havel (Free Press, 1992).

"Berkeley political scientist Ken Jowitt's New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (California, 1993) is a pathbreaking contribution to understanding the postcommunist condition, that ambiguous place where liberal and illiberal political paradigms compete for the souls of individuals shell-shocked by the demons of populism, nationalism, and corporatism. Jowitt doesn't flinch from facing down the toughest issues: the legacy of authoritarian mentalities, the enduring nostalgia for paternalistic institutions, the debilitation of liberal commitments and loyalties. What is it like to live under such conditions? See the Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic's essay collection Balkan Express: Fragments From the Other Side of the War (Norton, 1993) and Hungarian critic George Konrad's The Melancholy of Rebirth: Essays From Post-Communist Central Europe (Harcourt Brace, 1995). Both books brilliantly explore the signal postcommunist sentiments: frustration, malaise, and civic demobilization."

David Remnick, New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Lenin'sTomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (Random House, 1993).

"Although Russian studies departments have taken a terrible hit in the academy, the new era has produced an exciting new breed of scholars. Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Cornell, 1994), Yuri Slezkine's study of the northern peoples of Russia under Soviet rule, and Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (California, 1995), Stephen Kotkin's magisterial case study of life in the Urals, are both magnificent works of scholarship. Slezkine, an emigre now at Berkeley, and Kotkin, the head of Russian studies at Princeton, both go beyond the Cold War pissing matches of their elders, who so often sacrificed the demands of scholarship for the polemics of the day."

Stjepan G. Mestrovic, professor of sociology at Texas A&M and author of Habits of the Balkan Heart: Social Character and the Fall of Communism (Texas A&M, 1993) and editor of Genocide After Emotion: The Postemotional Balkan War (Routledge, 1996).

"If you believe that free markets and democracy can be transplanted to the former communist states, then Anatoly M. Khazanov and Philip J. Cohen will shatter your faith. Khazanov's After the USSR: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Politics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (Wisconsin, 1995) argues that Gorbachev was a devoted communist to the end, more interested in preserving the Soviet empire than in fostering democracy. He adds that if Yeltsin retains power, the first item on his agenda will be to cement Russian dominance over the ethnic nationalisms that erupted as an unanticipated consequence of perestroika. Philip Cohen's book, Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History (Texas A&M, 1996), argues that the Bosnian case is roughly parallel: Serbia waged a war of deception in order to reclaim its dominance over the nationalities that declared their freedom after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Both agree that authoritarianism and xenophobia, more than Western-style liberalism, will form the crucible of postcommunist societies."

Ellen E. Berry, director of women's studies at Bowling Green State, editor of Postcommunism and the Body Politic (NYU, 1995), and co-editor of Re-Entering the Sign: Articulating New Russian Culture (Michigan, 1995).

"Mikhail N. Epstein's new collection of essays, After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture (Massachusetts, 1995), is a major contribution to the emerging field of postcommunist studies. The founder of such innovative Moscow-based institutions as the Bank of New Ideas and the Laboratory of Contemporary Culture, Epstein documents a remarkable moment in Russian history-the perestroika era-from the perspective of a major participant in its unfolding, and elaborates a uniquely Russian version of cultural studies. Despite the monstrous results of past Russian projections of the future, Epstein, against all odds, wants 'to restore [a] love of the future, not as a promised state, but as a state of promise, as expectation without determination.'"

Michael D. Kennedy, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Michigan, editor of Envisioning Eastern Europe: Postcommunist Cultural Studies (Michigan, 1994), and author of Professionals Power and Solidarity in Poland: A Critical Sociology of Soviet-type Society (Cambridge, 1991).

"Understanding how actually existing socialism worked, and how its legacy shapes the present, are central problems of post- communism. Katherine Verdery's book What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, 1996), the fruit of years of ethnographic work, has the historical sense, theoretical agility, and critical spirit to provide genuine insight into these matters." Kennedy notes that much of the best work written in the former communist states remains untranslated, and that the best work of all may be...a comic book. PRL dla Poczatkujacych (The Polish People's Republic for Beginners) by Jacek Kuron and Jacek Zakowski (Wydawnictwo Dolnoslaskie, 1996) is an illustrated history of Poland's communist state, told through the life story of Kuron, a founder of Solidarity and last year's presidential candidate for one of Poland's leading parties, the Union of Freedom. The book is designed to narrow the gap between those who lived through communism and youth who have come of age since 1989. And it focuses on the country's ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Could it be that a critical examination of the communist past and an examination of the social problems of the present belong together? Kuron and Zakowski convincingly make the case; and they should set a worldwide example."

Andrei Codrescu, NPR commentator, editor of the literary journal Exquisite Corpse, and author of The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution (Avon, 1992).

"The specialists on communism, including the CIA, had so much egg on their faces when the Big Surprise of 1989 came that they are still scrubbing. The literature on postcommunism is written in large part by this egg-faced army, just as the postcommunist governments are composed in large part of former communists. Reheated cold warriors, go home to your offices. Stay there. Desist from postcommunism. There are few books on this subject touched by the rosy freshness of wonder and poetry. One of these, though masquerading as a political treatise, is Vladimir Tismaneanu's Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel (Free Press, 1992). Here is a man who does not allow the seriousness of the subject to distract him from the gran commedia of Hell's collapse. He writes intelligently and apprehensively about the necessity to rethink all our notions of the world, West and East. I do not recommend any books written by Americans or Western Europeans. These books, especially the naive lucubrations of Robert D. Kaplan visiting Serb monks, are driven by the eternal fascination of Americans with moldy objects and their presumed ancestry in some romantic shtetl."

--Rick Perlstein

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