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Putin’s Russia by Anna Politkovskaja

Putin’s Russia (2004)

by Anna Politkovskaja

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This is a set of journalistic reports from Russia in the early 2000s, some of the last ones the author completed before she was murdered in 2006. She provides sickening details on war crimes in Chechnya, but her pieces on the corruption running rampant on all levels of the Russian state are even more disheartening. At the end there's an acerbic harangue against Putin, which many western readers (including myself) would have considered excessive in 2004 when it was written, but which seems accurate and foreboding in 2015. According to the back cover this book has never been published in Russia, and it's easy to see why. At the end the author scoffs at western leaders and emphasizes that "we alone can change Russia's political climate". The complete vacuum of critical journalism in Russia today and the weakness of political opposition sadly show that her murderers identified all too accurately the person whose work might have catalyzed such change.
  thcson | Mar 18, 2015 |
A terrifying and depressing account of Russia under Putin, cataloguing corruption, racism (above all against Chechens) and the croneyism of a government made up of Putin's former KGB/FSB colleagues and allies. The guilty are acquitted while the innocent are beaten to force confessions and have evidence planted on them. With the justice system seeming to provide only show trials and President/Tsar/God Putin building up a cult of personality, the current government appears to be bringing back the worst of the Soviet era.

Politkovskaya pulled no punches and named plenty of names. It's not hard to believe that her outspoken criticisms and naming and shaming of those in power contributed to her assassination in 2006.

I read this after reading an extract in [b:Making The World Legible|9219187|Making The World Legible (Five Years of Writers in Translation)|Various|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1283543202s/9219187.jpg|14099123].
  stevejwales | Apr 26, 2013 |
To say the I liked this book would be too much. I thought it was interesting, though diffucult to read.
Interesting, because it gives a view on what happens behind the walls of the Kremlin during Putin's time. Difficult, because I lost touch with the politicians, the different camps, key players since I am out of University and no longerliving in Georgia (closer to the fire there). Here we / the journalists are looking with western eyes and news usually is presented in a form that is comprehendible for most people, not always doing good to the differences, subtle details etc.

For those who are interested, it is a book worth reading. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
This was a very depressing read. The author was a famous Russian journalist who was assassinated two years after writing this book. She is extremely cynical about Putin's style of rule, and the book is written in a rather unstructured and slightly shrill tone, that is a little reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. While the horrors catalogued in this book are not as widespread and appalling as what happened under Stalin, they strike home with great force as they are very recent and took place while Russia was nominally a democracy and accepted, broadly speaking, as more of an intentional partner than was the case under Stalin, except during the war. The corruption she describes in the armed forces, police and judiciary; the treatment of experienced professionals and new military recruits alike; the barbaric and racist treatment meted out to all Chechens by Russian officials and soldiers on the morally perverse notion that the whole of their nation must be terrorist due to the actions of a few; the use of poison gas killing nearly 200 of the hostages during the Nord Ost theatre siege; all of these combine to leave a very nasty taste in the mouth. Putin has destroyed Russia's post-communist hope, flickering and inconsistent under Yeltsin, but definitely present, through his cynical and callous disregard for many basic human values, and most Russian citizens appear not to care. For the sake of the future of that great nation, let there be some grounds for some optimism and hope for the development of a pluralist and less cynical society in the years ahead. ( )
  john257hopper | Feb 1, 2012 |
This book is essentially one long rant against Putin and the bureaucratic system around him. The first 200 pages could have been shortened by a lot. Although what the author has to say is interesting and important, after a while you get the point, and it is hard to read 200-page rants. After the first 200 pages, I read with renewed interest, because the author turned to stories about people she knows personally, and how their lives have changed in the years following the end of the Soviet era. All in all, I think I learned quite a lot from this book (most notably what a crook Putin is), but I wish it had been half as long.

A final comment: at the very end, Politkovskaya talks about the rivalry between Putin and Chodorkovsky (of Yukos fame). In line with the rest of the book, she paints Chodorkovsky as an angel and Putin as the devil. As it happens I read a bit about this story not long ago, in other (Western) sources, and Chodorkovsky is not quite the incorruptible gentleman that Politkovskaya makes him out to be. It made me wonder what other stories in her book had received this extremely one-sided treatment. ( )
1 vote Edith1 | Mar 26, 2010 |
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Bad history, like cancer, tends to recur, and there is one radical treatment: timely therapy to destroy the deadly cells. We have not done this. We dragged ourselves out of the USSR and into the "New Russia" still infested with our Soviet bedbugs. [...] We now find ourselves surrounded by people trusted by Putin and Putin's friends. Unfortunately they only trust their own kind. The result is that the power structures of New Russia are overrun with citizens from a particular tradition, brought up with a repressive mentality and with an understanding of how to resolve governmental problems that reflects this mentality.
Today's Russian, brainwashed by propaganda, had largely reverted to Bolshevik thinking.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805082506, Paperback)

A searing portrait of a country in disarray, and of the man at its helm, from "the bravest of journalists" (The New York Times)
Hailed as "a lone voice crying out in a moral wilderness" (New Statesman), Anna Politkovskaya made her name with her fearless reporting on the war in Chechnya. Now she turns her steely gaze on the multiple threats to Russian stability, among them President Putin himself.

Putin's Russia depicts a far-reaching state of decay. Politkovskaya describes an army in which soldiers die from malnutrition, parents must pay bribes to recover their dead sons' bodies, and conscripts are even hired out as slaves. She exposes rampant corruption in business, government, and the judiciary, where everything from store permits to bus routes to court appointments is for sale. And she offers a scathing condemnation of the ongoing war in Chechnya, where kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture are begetting terrorism rather than fighting it.

Sounding an urgent alarm, Putin's Russia is both a gripping portrayal of a country in crisis and the testament of a great and intrepid reporter.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Anna Politkovskaya has turned her steely gaze on the man who, until very recently, was a darling of the Western media. A former KGB spy, Vladimir Putin was named President of Russia in 2000. From the moment he entered the public arena, he marketed himself as an open, enlightened leader eager to engage with the West. Unlike European and American journalists and politicians, Politkovskaya never trusted Putin's press image. From her privileged vantage point at the heart of Russian current affairs, she set about to dismantle both Putin the man and Putin the brand name, arguing that he is a power-hungry product of his own history and so unable to prevent himself from stifling civil liberties at every turn. This is not, Politkovskaya argues, the kind of leader most contemporary Russians want. To prove her theory, she tells of Putin's iron grip on Russian life from the point of view of individual citizens whose situations have been shaped by his unique brand of tyranny. Mafia dealings, scandals in the provinces, military and judiciary corruption, the decline of the intelligentsia, the tragic mishandling of the Moscow theater siege - all are subject to Politkovskaya's pitiless but invariably humane scrutiny. This intimate portrait of nascent civil institutions being subverted under the unquestioning eyes of the West could not be more timely."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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