Moscow's Heavy Shadow tells the story of the collapse of the USSR from the perspective of the many millions of Soviet citizens who experienced it as a period of abjection and violence. Mikhail Gorbachev and the leaders of the USSR saw the years of reform preceding the collapse as opportunities for rebuilding (perestroika), rejuvenation, and openness (glasnost). For those in provincial cities across the Soviet Union, however, these reforms led to rapid change, economic collapse, and violence.
Focusing on Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Isaac McKean Scarborough describes how this city experienced skyrocketing unemployment, a depleted budget, and streets filled with angry young men unable to support their families. Tajikistan was left without financial or military resources, unable and unprepared to stand against the wave of populist politicians of all stripes who took advantage of the economic collapse and social discontent to try to gain power. By May 1992, political conflict became violent and bloody and engulfed the whole of Tajikistan in war. Moscow's Heavy Shadow tells the story of how this war came to be, and how it was grounded in the reform and collapse of the Soviet economy that came before.