Pavel Palazchenko served in the Foreign Ministry and in the Executive Office of the USSR President from 1980 to 1991, before which he was an interpreter with the United Nations.
These two memoirs are indispensable sources for historians, diplomats, and students of international affairs interested in Gorbachev's relations with foreign leaders, especially Presidents Reagan and Bush and Prime Minister Thatcher, and in Soviet international diplomacy in the final years of the USSR. Both authors stood at the elbows of Gorbachev and foreign minister Edward Shevardnadze as their interpreter, and it is fascinating to view from behind the headlines the several summit meetings of the period and see how Soviet leaders reacted to their foreign hosts/guests. The authors, particularly Korchilov, have much to say on the human-interest side, offering personal impressions and judgments, for example, that Gorbachev saw California as "paradise on earth, with the sun all year round." Palazchenko is more analytical about how successive Soviet domestic crises affected his and his bosses' jobs. But both books complement each other well, confirming Gorbachev's attractive personality and sharp intelligence, and the former Soviet president is very much the hero of both accounts. The two authors also write feelingly on the collapse of their country. Essential for academic Soviet studies collections and larger public libraries.‘Robert H. Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ontario
"There are gifted linguists with an ear for languages who are deaf to the nuances of politics. Palazchenko, however, is not of that number. His memoirs, My Years with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, show him to be a man of independent judgement and of real political insight and one acutely conscious of the difficulties faced by politicians-not least the two major figures whom he served." -Archie Brown, Times Literary Supplement "Of all the many memoirs by former Soviet officials, Palazchenko's is among the best written and also the most objective. Even his descriptions of U.S. policy are more accurate and judicious than those of some American scholars." -Jack F. Matlock Jr., The New York Review of Books "The historical record is fortunate that a man as gifted and capable as Pavel Palazchenko served as interpreter for Gorbachev and Shevardnadze from 1985 through the fall of the Soviet Union. His is a keen mind, and his recollections and observations add to our understanding of those crucial years." -James A. Baker III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State "Palazchenko was always more than a gifted interpreter, and his book is thereby an especially revealing account of pivotal events and pivotal people. A compelling read." -George P. Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State"
The principal interpreter for both President Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze from 1985 to 1991, Palazchenko attempts to shed light on the demise of the old Soviet order. Unfortunately, this rather plodding memoir only partially succeeds. Palazchenko generally looks for intimate, personal causes rather than larger, historical ones and maintains that it was personal trust between Reagan and Gorbachev that allowed the Cold War to end peacefully. While there are some insights into the role of translators in the most secretive political transactions, there is rather too much emphasis on what he thought of world leaders or about governmental positions‘for example, regarding the "developing relationship" between Rajiv Gandhi and Gorbachev, Palazchenko notes that he "thought then and later, [it] could become an important moral factor in the world for years to come." He even recounts that he informally influenced diplomatic processes. More usefully, Palazchenko records Gorbachev's growing isolation in the latter part of his regime, even from his friend and ally Shevardnadze. Currently a consultant to the Gorbachev Foundation (the Moscow-based think tank), the author consistently defends both of his former bosses and exhibits bitterness about Boris Yeltsin's rise to power. Readers interested in a blow-by-blow recap of the last years of Soviet diplomacy from a glasnost insider will find the book fruitful; those who want some help in interpreting these crucial events, however, will be disappointed. (Apr.)