​Kozyrev, Andrei (2019) The Firebird: The Elusive Fate of Russian Democracy. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 352 pp.

​ISBN: 978-0-8229-4592-5

Matthew Evangelista

Cornell University

Read more about this book: upittpress.org

​This engagingly written memoir by Andrei Kozyrev, the first foreign minister of post-Soviet Russia, should be of great interest to students of international politics and the end of the Cold War. Kozyrev offers a first-hand account of events that have attracted considerable attention elsewhere, such as problems for US-Russian relations posed by the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and NATO’s military reaction to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. But he also treats lesser-known developments in fascinating detail, including his diplomatic efforts to ease the transition from the USSR to a Commonwealth of Independent States, representing most of the former Soviet republics, and his visits to such ‘hot spots’ as Transdnistria and Abkhazia, where nationalists invoked threats to minority rights to advocate the use of force. Kozyrev feared that Russia could go the way of Yugoslavia, with Russian imperialists promoting military intervention in neighboring countries – actions whose casualties would include not only innocent civilians but Russia’s democracy itself. Support for democracy, as the subtitle signals, was a major preoccupation for the author and it faced many threats: Boris Yeltsin’s use of the army to put down a rebellion in the Supreme Soviet, the brutal war against Chechnya, as well as efforts of nationalists and communists to recreate what Kozyrev calls a neo-Soviet foreign policy. Aside from citation of the occasional newspaper article or memoirs of his foreign counterparts, Kozyrev provides no documentary sources; his reconstructed, often-dramatic conversations with foreign leaders and domestic allies and rivals are presumably based on the author’s contemporaneous notes and diary entries.  They enhance a lively and insightful account of world-changing events.