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.
Scott Shane was the Baltimore Sun's Moscow correspondent from 1988 to 1991. A graduate of Williams College and Oxford University, he also studied at Leningrad State University. He is now a special project reporter for the Sun and lives in Baltimore.