Cover image for Fatal half measures : the culture of democracy in the Soviet Union
Fatal half measures : the culture of democracy in the Soviet Union
Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich, 1933-2017.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown and Co., [1991]

Physical Description:
xiii, 357 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Translated from the Russian.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK288 .Y48 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In essays and poetry, the author reveals the growth of his own intellectual and artistic development, and that of his contemporaries and the cultural and social pressures they continually confronted. He defends his theory that perestroika has been quietly underway since the death of Stalin.

Author Notes

Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Gangnus on July 18, 1933, in Zima Junction, a remote lumber station on the trans-Siberian Railway in the Irkutsk region of Siberia. He became a poet whose work inspired a generation of young Russians in their fight against Stalinism during the Cold War. His poems included Zima Junction, My Beloved Will Come, Stalin's Heirs, Babi Yar, and Russian Tanks in Prague. He also wrote two novels including Don't Die Before You're Dead. He died on April 1, 2017 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Not everyone who rattled the Soviet authorities in the days before glasnost was a saint, and one or two sought to make themselves taller by cutting down Yevtushenko. But the articles collected here tell of an equally daring, if less loud-mouthed, resistance. There is a telegram sent to Brezhnev criticizing the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, a letter supporting Solzhenitsyn (1967), and stories of his subtle differences with the saintly Sakharov and of his successful attempt to persuade a tormented Shostakovitch not to sign a piece of government propaganda. Here, too, is an absurd tale that could have been lifted from a novel by Joseph Skvorecky: Robert Kennedy pulling Yevtushenko aside (he is on a tour of the U.S.), taking him to the bathroom, turning on a shower, passing on sensitive information; Yevtushenko relaying the information; and finally, Yevtushenko being called to the Soviet embassy and questioned by two heavyweights who talk about "accidents" happening on the streets of New York--all of which turns out to be nothing really, a little overzealousness perhaps, almost a joke. . . . Yevtushenko's intellect is no more massive than his courage, but it is substantial, and these pieces give a thoroughly nonsensationalized picture of what it was like for those who learned all manner of strategies to survive and frustrate a system that did not want them. ~--Stuart Whitwell

Publisher's Weekly Review

This astonishingly rich collection of essays, articles, manifestos and speeches gets off to a slow start, with many incidental pieces addressed to a Soviet audience, and with poet Yevtushenko's self-serving analysis of the poetry of his generation as ``the cradle of glasnost .'' But Yevtushenko, now a congressman from the city of Kharkov, proves himself a tireless, outspoken exponent of democratic reforms, as well as a world citizen. He links the ``mass psychosis'' of Stalinism to its present-day residue, ``fear of glasnost .'' He rails against chauvinism, racism and anti-Semitism, and deems superpower ``a disgusting term'' because it places ``two nations above all other countries.'' Along with a discussion of the unequal status of Soviet women and travel pieces on Alaska/Siberia (``unjustly divided twins''), Thailand and Moscow, there are encounters with Robert Kennedy, Pasternak and Picasso, and uncanny appreciations of Tolstoy, Shostakovich, poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Marina Tsvetayeva. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Yevtushenko, one of the USSR's leading poets, has participated in and observed the ferment racking Gorbachev's Soviet Union. In these selections from his telegrams to Kremlin leaders, speeches, letters, reminiscences, and other writings not clearly identified, Western readers can share his personal vision of perestroika as he pleads the causes of liberalization, openness, and human dignity while decrying Stalin's betrayal of revolution and people, the forces of reaction, and racism. The translation transmits much of the poet's eloquent spirit and often touches a universal conscience, but some extracts seem too piecemeal and others somewhat disconnected. Most public and academic libraries should consider this collection, although demand will likely remain light.-- James R. Kuhl man, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A collection of some of Yevtushenko's essays published over a period of two decades that has been ably translated and annotated. Yevtushenko is probably the Soviet poet/political activist best known outside the USSR. Publicly outspoken first during the Khrushchev period (1953-64), he has continued to protest official Soviet actions and policies ever since. Despite his varied activities (fiery poetry readings critical of his government's policies, participation in demonstrations, etc.) Yevtushenko has managed to remain in the good graces of the political regime and the Soviet Writers' Union, was permitted to travel abroad frequently and in high style when others were not, and has met many of the world's most prominent writers, artists, film stars, and musicians. Among the most interesting essays in this volume are "Improper Upbringing," which describes how difficult travel is in the USSR in the hands of Aeroflot and Intourist, and "Wooden Moscow," in which the poet recalls his teenage years and later adult life in the capital. Unfortunately, Bouis, the very capable editor and translator, does not indicate where the essays were originally published. Very readable and interesting. Highly recommended for students at all levels and for general readers.-J. S. Zacek, SUNY at Albany