His Life and Times


‘In the centenary year of the Russian Revolution, the standout biography is about the man who lowered the hammer and sickle flag. Gorbachev: His Life and Times (Simon and Schuster) is a fitting sequel to William Taubman’s previous biography of Nikita Khrushchev, which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2004’  John Bew, New Statesman

'A phenomenally researched life of the man who did more than any other to change Europe and the world in the last half of the 20th century'. Jonathan Steele, The Guardian

' ... deeply penetrating history and engrossing psychological study.' Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs Magazine

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and his Era 

'An engaging, poignant portrayal of one of the most significant of Russian leaders.' Kirkus review.

'William Taubman's Gorbachev, like his Khrushchev, is an extraordinary achievement, full of new information, filled with shrewd judgments, a two-in-a-row triumph in the writing of great lives.' - John Lewis Gaddis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life

‘Nobody before Taubman has achieved an in-depth psychological portrait…what made Gorbachev tick, as a man and a leader, has always been hooded in speculation…A highly readable, reliable and accurate work, one that will be used by all future generations of historians…  This monumental biography will become the standard personal portrait, especially of the years before Gorbachev became party secretary.  Taubman has charmed more out of him than any of his subordinates ever managed to’ Robert Service, Literary Review  
‘Impressive… full of fascinating detail’ Peter Conradi, Sunday Times
‘Comprehensive and immensely readable’ The Economist

‘Superb…  [Gorbachev] thought he could save the Soviet Union and make socialism great again. In Taubman’s hands, the journey is an extraordinary story of one man and history in a tense wrestling match’   The Washington Post

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.90 illustrations

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 25th 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.
  • Simon & Schuster UK | 
  • 880 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781471147968 | 
  • September 2017
List Price £25.00 (price may vary by retailer)


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‘Taubman delivers a political and biographical tour de force, something approaching a definitive work' Simon Sebag-Montefiore, The Financial Times

‘Outstanding, superbly gripping and surely definitive’ Daily Telegraph

'Taubman has produced an utterly convincing picture of the contradictory Khrushchev, from his peasant origins and meteoric rise, through purges, politburo plotting, brave de-Stalinisation and the erratic, blustering,...

About the Author

William Taubman

William Taubman is Bertrand Snell Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Amherst College.  His 2003 book, Khrushchev: The  Man and his Era, won both the Pulitzer Prize for biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography in 2004.  Taubman has been the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and chairs the Advisory Committee of the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington.