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The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of…

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012)

by Masha Gessen

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I was looking for more of a biography and this offering certainly had some of that, but to me got bogged down into the expose of a journalist on a political operative. Conclusion Vladimir Putin is a bad guy who crushes the opposition with guile and subversive force. Surprise.

Masha Gessen delves into the rise from the shadows of this man who learned his politics from within the KGB and we witness the outcome in what we see coming out of Russia on the world scene everyday. It should not be surprising that such a figure would emerge from what had been a long unending line of these characters save maybe Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

Some of it was interesting, much I found not as she drones on and on about how Putin orchestrates everything on the political scene in the guise of open democracy which is really nothing of the sort. And that is pretty much the purpose of the book.

What will come after Putin exits the scene will be interesting but I suspect more of the same. Because in reality the power of political muscle and in Russia that clearly is muscle will usually if not always prevail. And so the story goes. ( )
  knightlight777 | Apr 25, 2018 |
From Putin's earliest beginnings until his reelection in 2011, this book covers his childhood up to his leadership and reelection in Russia and many controversial points in between. It paints a very grim picture of the country and Putin's practices, mostly told from the original sources (or their relatives since quite a few have met untimely ends). Definitely a must read as Russia and Putin become even more spotlighted on the global stage with their actions in Ukraine, Crimea, and currently global elections. ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
While it's well enough written, it's nothing especially newsworthy. If you somehow thought Putin was an interesting or fair person, you needed to read this book. If you thought he was a thug, then you didn't need a whole book to reaffirm what you thought. ( )
1 vote pgiltner | Oct 30, 2017 |
This book, like many other recent nonfiction works I've read, doesn't use footnotes. So, despite the 16 pages of notes and sources,the work often seemed speculative to me as I read it. There is nothing in the text to indicate when something is referenced in the notes. I hope this is a short-lived fad and not a “new normal”.

Another trend I've noticed in my recent nonfiction reading is evident here: this is a book which is not quite about what its title, or more specifically, its subtitle, implies. Ms. Gessen documents many of the ways in which Russia under Putin is corrupt and is convincing in her argument. Yet we actually find out very little about how he came to be the leader of Russia. I found I knew almost nothing more about how he came to be leader than before I read the book. But, how much can we really know in a country which controls information so carefully?

I'm not convinced, though, that Putin's rise was "unlikely". His strong-man persona appealed to those looking for a leader to bring them through tough economic times. In fact, some information on the economic and social context of the times surrounding Putin's rise would have strengthened the book. Another reason his rise to power may not be "unlikely" is that there is virtually no culture of democracy in Russia and few institutional or non-governmental agencies to support this form of governance. Marching in protest isn't enough to build a democracy...is anyone prepared to take the reins if the protests succeed?

Towards the end, the book becomes more of a memoir/story of Ms. Gessen and her family. I liked that part and feel the author was very brave to right this book.

At its root, this book presents a type of conspiracy theory. Ms. Gessen is a highly respected journalist with solid credentials. She is also an activist with an agenda -- she's open about that. In the end, until/unless more evidence is discovered, each reader will decide how much they believe, and want to believe, about Mr. Putin. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Sep 13, 2016 |
Christ, I have so much admiration for Masha Gessen. Her career as a journalist working under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable has been remarkable to watch over the years. I'm eager to read her newest book on the Boston Marathon bombers, as I have no doubt she'll bring incisive insight to the brothers, the cultural milieu in which they were raised, and the historical context that informed some of their upbringing.

On to Putin. I'm fascinated by his rise to power. And I write this review on a day when news breaks that a data breach reveals that Putin aided associates in moving two billion dollars offshore. After reading Gessen's book on Putin, I'm surprised only that it was not more. The reason I give Gessen's book three stars (I should explain my rating after all of this build up, I suppose) is because while it is contextually rich, it's poor on specifics about Putin. I felt that it made some conjectures and assumptions which, while logical, made me feel uncomfortable due to the lack of evidence, or even specifics. I thought she might nail Litvinenko's death on Putin--and she tries to--but I was disappointed by how little connection she was able to draw. There were almost no sources for her chapter on Putin's early life nor his rise to power, besides her own reading between the lines of his official biography, which was carefully crafted and vetted before being published.

Anyway, I was grateful to get a better look at the appalling journalistic situation that exists in Russia at the moment, and was chilled to the bone at the very idea that Putin's old KGB cronies could be the prime movers behind some apartment explosions and behind the unspeakable mistakes made at Beslan. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Gessen's clear, brave book makes a strong case that Putin is not merely turning a blind eye to embezzlement and skimming. He is, she asserts, an arch-practitioner.
added by Shortride | editThe Observer, James Meek (Feb 26, 2012)
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(Prologue) I woke up because someone was shaking me.
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"In 1999, the "Family" surrounding Boris Yeltsin went looking for a successor to the ailing and increasingly unpopular president. Vladimir Putin, with very little governmental or administrative experience--he'd been deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, and briefly, director of the secret police--nevertheless seemed the perfect choice: a "faceless" creature whom Yeltsin and his cronies could mold in their own image. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see in him the progressive leader of their dreams--even as Putin, with ruthless efficiency, dismantled the country's media, wrested control and wealth from the business class, and destroyed the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Within a few brief years, virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave"--Back cover.… (more)

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