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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 P 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.


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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 P 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.

30 review for Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    An open letter to everyone who thinks journalists are enemies of the people You often hear these days that journalists are generically enemies of the people. Anna Politkovskaya was a journalist, so I guess that made her, specifically, an enemy of the people. But let's try and be more precise. No one can really be an enemy of all the people; people have such different agendas that you're almost certain to end up being on somebody's side. In practice, you're going to be an enemy of one part of the An open letter to everyone who thinks journalists are enemies of the people You often hear these days that journalists are generically enemies of the people. Anna Politkovskaya was a journalist, so I guess that made her, specifically, an enemy of the people. But let's try and be more precise. No one can really be an enemy of all the people; people have such different agendas that you're almost certain to end up being on somebody's side. In practice, you're going to be an enemy of one part of the people, and a friend of another part of the people, and then there will most likely be a third part that doesn't much care one way or the other. So, looking at this book, of which part of the people was Politkovskaya an enemy? Politkovskaya is mostly writing about the Russia of the early 21st century, during the first four years of Putin's reign, and she certainly seems to be taking sides. If you happened to be one of the people who, according to her account, got extremely rich by bribing judges to rule that your takeovers of former state-owned companies were not fraudulent and that your subsequent asset-stripping of those companies was fully legal, I'm pretty sure you'd consider her your enemy. She names names and provides a lot of details. And it's not just the oligarchs. Many of the judges who are claimed to have been paid off would no doubt also have considered her their enemy. I am not so certain about the people who had worked at the companies that got sold and asset-stripped, and then found they had no job. They wouldn't necessarily think she was their enemy. In fact, they might even think she was their friend. But I guess they're less important: they were just losers. Perhaps this was the Politkovskaya's big problem, that she liked losers. She seems to have spent a lot of time talking with members of the Russian armed forces. I'm sure that Colonel Budanov, who was convicted of abducting and murdering a young Chechen girl after a lengthy series of trials, considered Politkovskaya his enemy. And I would imagine that the many senior Russian military officers, politicians and psychiatrists who tried to defend Budanov also considered her their enemy. The Chechen family whose daughter was kidnapped, raped and strangled may have thought she was their friend, but they were obviously losers. And as for her description of the special forces veteran who had carried out dozens of insanely dangerous missions, been wounded multiple times, but then got on the wrong side of his commanding officer when he snapped one day and called him a coward who'd just sat behind a desk while he'd been out risking his life... well, I think the commanding office, who is described in a most unflattering light, must also have decided Politkovskaya was his enemy. The special forces guy may have liked her - another loser. If he'd had any sense, he'd obviously have put his skills at the service of the Russian Mob, who are very happy to recruit that kind of person and pay well. He seems to have been burdened with a ludicrously sensitive conscience. Politkovskaya was certainly an enemy of the people who decided to end the Nord-Ost theater siege by gassing the entire audience, resulting in over two hundred civilian casualties. She insisted on following up the story in quite unnecessary detail, for example suggesting that many lives might have been saved if only the authorities had made preparations to have adequate medical care available. The judge who presided over the, according to her description, cursory and insulting inquest must also have thought she was an enemy. It's possible that some of the victims' families considered her a friend. For example, the wife of the young musician with the Chechen name, whose husband apparently received no medical attention at all and was left to asphyxiate. I need hardly point out that Chechens are Muslims, and as such are automatically losers. Whose side are you on? Last but not least, I rather think Vladimir Putin considered Politkovskaya an enemy. She says some very unflattering things about him, and, as usual, backs them up with annoying facts. If you're a friend or admirer of Putin, you may be relieved to hear that this enemy of the people was killed, in a professional-looking hit, on October 7 2006. Some misguided citizens say they're sorry she's no longer with us. But, you know, losers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ✺❂❤❣

    Dated. Very dated. The discussion about army (though not only Russian army should have been mentioned but the whole post-Soviet block) and its extreme hardships very well done and true but dated by about a decade. Which is only expected, since the author, sadly, was killed in 2006. Today it's gotten reformed, even if not to the Switzerland or Israel standards. The author's death is sad. Extremely sad. May God rest her soul in a world better than what Russia was in 1990s and early 2000s. It was a Dated. Very dated. The discussion about army (though not only Russian army should have been mentioned but the whole post-Soviet block) and its extreme hardships very well done and true but dated by about a decade. Which is only expected, since the author, sadly, was killed in 2006. Today it's gotten reformed, even if not to the Switzerland or Israel standards. The author's death is sad. Extremely sad. May God rest her soul in a world better than what Russia was in 1990s and early 2000s. It was a very sad place, with lots of violence, lawlessness, terrorism and pretty much free-for-all anarchy. It has improved since, a lot, even though it's still not the paradise we all seem to want to inhabit. Anyway, people often prefer to criticize it outright anyway, even though the perspective and the improvement trends are there and are pretty much obvious. Concerning Putin, it seems that no matter what the guy does, people will criticize him for it. Karma bitch? Likely. The urban legend says she was killed on Putin's birthday. I've no idea if it's true and don't care about it enough to factcheck. But, if it's true, then I think it's the best proof that someone somewhere needed to make of her a martyr of the new regime of the Mordorous Russia. Which is sad, since democracy shouldn't kill. I don't think anyone sane should really believe that ex-spy would be this obvious about killing some critical journalist. Seriously, a birthday? Some people should definitely read/watch less thrillers. The book was written without grammatical mistakes, which is well enough to earn it +1 star. In Russian, I mean. The English version is quite heavy-handedly translated. Very inconsistent fabula, overall this reads as a bunch of journalist vignettes written on the topic of 'What else is wrong about Russia? Let's take it out of context and twist it all beyond recognition and pin it on Putin!'. +/-1 star, since it's storytelling at its best and worst. At best, because, for example, I actually felt for the story of ex-military Rinat who seemed to be incapable of having life other than in the Chechen-wars army. Lots of other stories also rang true and devastating. Still, this issue is not unique to Russia and wasn't caused by Putin but rather by human nature. We get easily traumatized: by everything but particularly by wars. So, this leads us to a new understanding that this book simultaneously illustrated storytelling at its worst: it deals with anecdotal instances without paying attention to the big picture. Do we know how many ex-military worldwide have these issues? No, we don't, we don't pay attention to that. What we do is love, LOVE, ADORE stigmatizing Russia. We get our kicks out of kicking the underdog, right? All the while, the only sane way to deal with this issue worldwide is not to have wars, at all, anywhere on this frigging planet we have the misfortune to share with each other. Beslan... Seriously, Beslan is the responsibility of the jihadis who got there with all that weapons and explosives shit. How do you free a school chockful of young, terrified and brutalized kids, their parents and teachers, all suffering of heat, extreme dehydration, hunger and brutality? Think 1972 massacre of Munich. Think of all the hostage situations ever gone horribly wrong. This was one of them. Actually, a bunch of soldiers/civilians died saving people out there. Chechnya? How about asking where it got its weaponry and military training, in the first place? Qui bono? -1 star Also, how about realising that Chechen wars started before Putin? He got to become the leader of a country in shambles and he's actually doing well, to compare things, just look at Ukraine, where it got with its.... uh... so-called democratic leaders? The rest is a pointless rant on how Putin single-handedly hasn't made life the living paradise for the good people of Russia. Where are the action plans for getting Russia better, for dealing with corruption and everything else?-1 star I haven't seen a single word here of how this gal suggests improving things.-1 star Criticizing is easy, doing things is not. What should be done and how - these questions have been left, sadly, unaswered. Q: When the Fascists entered Denmark, the Jews were ordered to sew yellow stars on their clothing so they could be easily recognized. The Danes promptly sewed on yellow stars, both to save the Jews and to save themselves from turning into Fascists. Their king joined with them. (c) This, very inspiring. +1 star for this. Q: This political line is wholly neo-Soviet: human beings do not have independent existences, they are cogs in the machine whose function is to implement unquestioningly whatever political escapades those in power dream up. Cogs have no rights. (c) This, not so inspiring. Where are Maria Butina's human rights in the US of 2018? The gal's getting treated like a rabid dog, all because someone decided she's too active a political acivist and her libido's too oversized?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    Yet another example of how Anna Politkovskaya was a courageous representative of truth on this damaged and confused planet. She sheds light on the misery and harm induced by the flagrant abuse and elected ignorance of the powers that be in Putin’s Russia. Throughout this book, as well as her others, she exhibits an open minded willingness to grasp for the truth. Her way could never have been comfortable. In her search she was not one to close her eyes, ears and heart to that which made her vulne Yet another example of how Anna Politkovskaya was a courageous representative of truth on this damaged and confused planet. She sheds light on the misery and harm induced by the flagrant abuse and elected ignorance of the powers that be in Putin’s Russia. Throughout this book, as well as her others, she exhibits an open minded willingness to grasp for the truth. Her way could never have been comfortable. In her search she was not one to close her eyes, ears and heart to that which made her vulnerable. As an open and generous soul she could relate to other being’s suffering and truly listen to what the people involved told her. This kind of empathy was central to her guiding principles. She sought to end suffering on both personal and universal levels by becoming aware of the root causes of political problems. When she picked up the sword of truth she had the wisdom and understanding of how to use it to defend those who suffered. There is a sparkling glow that surrounds her words. They are written with a genuine warmth and open mindedness. They effectively work against the dictatorial and brutal regime that sought to crush spirits and take up weapons to destroy. She invites us all to defend the disadvantaged and stand and fight with facts. It saddens me that she is gone She is a legendary person who teaches us all to strive for justice.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Anna Politkovskaya was murdered via contract killer on Putin's birthday 2006 Translated from the Russian by Arch Tait Opening: The Army in Russia is a closed system no different from a prison. Nobody gets into the Army or into prison unless the authorities want them there. Once you are in, you live the life of a slave. This is definitely THE book to browse before the 9th May extravaganza in Red Square. All those shiny new tanks - all those poor bullied soldiers. Re criminals (p 30)'[..]people who a Anna Politkovskaya was murdered via contract killer on Putin's birthday 2006 Translated from the Russian by Arch Tait Opening: The Army in Russia is a closed system no different from a prison. Nobody gets into the Army or into prison unless the authorities want them there. Once you are in, you live the life of a slave. This is definitely THE book to browse before the 9th May extravaganza in Red Square. All those shiny new tanks - all those poor bullied soldiers. Re criminals (p 30)'[..]people who are not fighters but who just happen to be Chechens when someone needs to be convicted.' Look at the poor sods who have been scapegoated for Boris Nemtsov's murder along the Kremlin wall. Re the Budanov rape case (p 101): 'Lynch law was encouraged from the Kremlin itself - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We discovered that we were moving backwards, from stagnation under Brezhnev to the out and out arbitrariness of Stalin. It was terryfying to reflect that we probably had the government we deserved.' Judge Bukreev's defence claims trial protraction This book marks an important stepping-stone on the road to where we are now but it does feel dated, so much has happened since Anna's assassination. Well worth a skim through yet it is worth reading word by word from page 269 to the end, it is an impassioned summation. Named and Shamed: Sergei Ivanov Anatoly Cherepnev Yuri Budanov - On 10 June 2011, Budanov was shot dead in Moscow by an unknown perpetrator

  5. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I've signally failed here. I read maybe 30 pages of this, to find that it is so horrifying I can't stand to continue. And then again, I've failed with Winter is Coming by Garry Kasparov because his style makes me distrust everything he says. I'm moving on from both. I spent a lot of time with my Russian friend Genia, before she died, talking about Russia. Both being historians, we seemed to think in similar ways and we found allies in each other. May the world produce two - or one hundred - Politko I've signally failed here. I read maybe 30 pages of this, to find that it is so horrifying I can't stand to continue. And then again, I've failed with Winter is Coming by Garry Kasparov because his style makes me distrust everything he says. I'm moving on from both. I spent a lot of time with my Russian friend Genia, before she died, talking about Russia. Both being historians, we seemed to think in similar ways and we found allies in each other. May the world produce two - or one hundred - Politkovskayas for each one that is murdered. If she has inspired others to carry on her work, then her life and death have not been in vain. We should all pray that is so.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Ms. Politkovskaya exposes several layers of corruption and malfeasance in Putin’s Russia. She takes us through the disastrous war in Chechnya where Russian soldiers are underpaid or not paid at all. This would seem to be endemic to the Russian army where during the Afghanistan war the same corruption happened – actual weapons were sold to the Mujahideen in order to make money. The brutality of the Russian towards the Chechen population is almost equal to the cruelity of Russian officers to their Ms. Politkovskaya exposes several layers of corruption and malfeasance in Putin’s Russia. She takes us through the disastrous war in Chechnya where Russian soldiers are underpaid or not paid at all. This would seem to be endemic to the Russian army where during the Afghanistan war the same corruption happened – actual weapons were sold to the Mujahideen in order to make money. The brutality of the Russian towards the Chechen population is almost equal to the cruelity of Russian officers to their own soldiers. She also exposes the corruption on how the Russian mafia has taken control over vast swaths of the country, as in the Urals for instance. It has taken over industries and controls the police and judiciary – often by violent methods. Putin is attempting, as per Ms. Politkovskaya to be a mini-Stalin. He abstains from debate and appoints “yes-men” – Russia is regressing to the old Soviet ways. The Chechen war in now becoming a scapegoat for all other problems and a moral drain on the country, but few overtly protest. It must always be remembered that Anna Politkovskaya paid with her life for telling the truth.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Willardson

    Politkovskaya's bleak outlook can be a bit hard to take in large doses. I picked up this book to re-read in light of the current situation in Ukraine. Putin's Russia is one that is unseen and virtually unfathomable to western readers - especially those that haven't spent a lot of time on the ground outside of Moscow or St. Petersburg. One of the quotes that I picked up on during this reading concerns the stability of the Russian state. Yes, stability has come to Russia. It is a monstrous stability Politkovskaya's bleak outlook can be a bit hard to take in large doses. I picked up this book to re-read in light of the current situation in Ukraine. Putin's Russia is one that is unseen and virtually unfathomable to western readers - especially those that haven't spent a lot of time on the ground outside of Moscow or St. Petersburg. One of the quotes that I picked up on during this reading concerns the stability of the Russian state. Yes, stability has come to Russia. It is a monstrous stability under which nobody seeks justice in courts that flaunt their subservience and partisanship. Nobody in his or her right might seeks protection from the institutions entrusted with maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt. Lynch law is the order of the day, both in people's minds and in their actions. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The president himself has set an example by wrecking our major oil company, Yukos, after having jailed its chief executive....Putin considered Khodorovsky to have slighted him personally, so retaliated. A country as rich, as beautiful, and with as much history as Russia deserves better governance - but its history is so hard to escape.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martine

    I have to admit I don't care overly much for Anna Politkovskaya's writing style. An objective reporter she is not (or rather was not -- she was murdered a few years after publishing this book); her indignation at the social ills she exposes comes across loud and clear, and she frequently goes so far as to tell her reader to share her indignation, occasionally to the point of being rather insistent. Personally, I would have appreciated a slightly more objective, less cynical approach. That said, I have to admit I don't care overly much for Anna Politkovskaya's writing style. An objective reporter she is not (or rather was not -- she was murdered a few years after publishing this book); her indignation at the social ills she exposes comes across loud and clear, and she frequently goes so far as to tell her reader to share her indignation, occasionally to the point of being rather insistent. Personally, I would have appreciated a slightly more objective, less cynical approach. That said, there is no denying that Politkovskaya had good cause to be indignant, and her writing succeeds in making the reader share that indignation, or rather pessimism. It's hard to remain optimistic about Russia's future after reading this book. The present doesn't seem to offer much scope for hope. In Putin's Russia Politkovskaya describes in seven chapters what has happened since Vladimir Putin assumed power in the Kremlin. She starts out by charting abuses in the army, more specifically in parts of the army stationed in Chechnya. This turns into a lengthy and fairly shocking expose of corruption in Russia's legal system, where high-ranking army officers are exonerated from terrible crimes and where the rich and well-connected get away with absolutely outrageous business practices. She then describes poverty in the navy (apparently the commanders working on the world's most expensive submarines are nearly starving to death), the terrible position of Chechen citizens in Russia and the aftermath of the Nord-Ost and Beslan disasters. It all adds up to a rather dreary conclusion: Putin's Russia is an utterly callous and corrupt place which in many regards seems to be regressing into Soviet-style politics and situations. In fact, some things now seem to be worse than they were during the worst years of the Soviet era. I already knew that from the news, but reading Politkovskaya's stories really drove the fact home for me. As I said, I don't care much for Politkovskaya's writing style, but there's no doubt that she has come up with a convincing, well-researched document here. She quotes many interesting people from all walks of life, has unearthed many legal documents to illustrate her stories and comes up with some wry observations about why certain changes for the better took place at a certain time (usually coinciding with the visit of some foreign dignitary Putin wished to impress) and about the Russian national character in general. It's a bit heavy-going at times, and some of the army stuff drags, but even so it's a powerful indictment of Putin's Russia, always shocking and occasionally quite mind-boggling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Steeden

    07-Oct-2006 and the author, Anna Politkovskaya, is murdered in the elevator of the block of flats where she lived. This book is from 2004. At that time the West appeared to have a different view of Putin than we do now. Politkovskaya wants to tell the truth about him. She goes over the way that Russian soldiers are treated. Putin’s handling of the second Chechen war including a terrible incident when a Russian colonel raped and killed an 18-year-old Chechen girl. How a small-time hoodlum can ris 07-Oct-2006 and the author, Anna Politkovskaya, is murdered in the elevator of the block of flats where she lived. This book is from 2004. At that time the West appeared to have a different view of Putin than we do now. Politkovskaya wants to tell the truth about him. She goes over the way that Russian soldiers are treated. Putin’s handling of the second Chechen war including a terrible incident when a Russian colonel raped and killed an 18-year-old Chechen girl. How a small-time hoodlum can rise to be an Oligarch. As you can probably guess he does not get to where he is using legal means. ‘This is how it is in Russia now: you kill, someone you get respect’. How Judges have to become corrupt or there will be consequences as one judge will attest as he was crippled after being savagely beaten by his attackers with iron bars. ‘Almost nobody in Russia believes the Russian judicial system is fair’. Then there is the terrorist attack on a theatre. Russian troops used gas and stormed the theatre killing all the terrorists. 200 hostages were killed. Her dislike of Putin is plain to see and she goes on to fully explain why. There were parts in the book that I was struggling to keep up especially where she is explaining the rise of the small-time hoodlum that became an oligarch. It’s not a book that I could have just sat and read in one reading. I read it in bite-sized chunks. What was interesting for me is the perception of Putin then by the West compared to now. Politkovskaya appeared to know the truth about him then that was slowly realised over the years by the West. Unfortunately, she paid the price for airing her views.

  10. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Vignettes, many beautifully written, about the grim realty Putin's Russia. Politkovskaya herself was murdered, 2006, shot in her elevator by a professional hitman https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_... Vignettes, many beautifully written, about the grim realty Putin's Russia. Politkovskaya herself was murdered, 2006, shot in her elevator by a professional hitman https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    This is a sad and sobering read of life in Putin's Russia. It was a tough slog, but I do recommend slogging through it if you are curious about how Russia currently operates and how Putin and his ilk would perhaps like western democracies to operate in the future. Politkovskaya relays several journalistic stories from the turn of the millennium to demonstrate how the Russian state never made a successful transformation to a western-style democracy but rather slid backwards into the society of co This is a sad and sobering read of life in Putin's Russia. It was a tough slog, but I do recommend slogging through it if you are curious about how Russia currently operates and how Putin and his ilk would perhaps like western democracies to operate in the future. Politkovskaya relays several journalistic stories from the turn of the millennium to demonstrate how the Russian state never made a successful transformation to a western-style democracy but rather slid backwards into the society of corruption and nomenklatura that was de rigueur in the days of the Soviet Union. Perhaps it was the journalistic style, or the translation, or just the downright hopelessness of the situations being described, but the book was somewhat hard to get into and follow. Perhaps I have led too sheltered a life and cannot follow such devious, sad, and criminal behavior that has become normalized in Russia. For example, many of the author's stories related criminal trials where the ins and outs of Russian politics and judicial practices are complicated enough to follow without the elements of corruption and graft layered on top. Military generals are absolved of terrible crimes against both civilians and soldiers under their authority. Business people use all sorts of dirty tricks to get their way, such as calling on security guards to put up roadblocks to shareholder meetings. Although Putin talks about law and order, the law and order that rules in Russia is the law of personal relationships, kick-backs, and violence. My favorite parts of the book, which were still heart-wrenching and depressing, were the ones in which Politkovskaya relates the stories of everyday Russians, some of whom she knows personally: their careers, their marriages, their business successes and failures, their alcoholism, their broken dreams, their endless struggle to survive in a corrupt system. These seem to come to life (albeit sad lives) for me in ways that the more news-story items did not. What I found the scariest of all was the normalization of all of this corruption and graft in Russian life and business. No one blinks when told they must pay a thug to "protect" their business. No one bothers voting against Putin, because they know that that candidate will be sidelined in prison or eventually killed if they get in the way. No one speaks up too loudly, as they know they themselves can be killed, just as many journalists have been, including Anna Politkovskaya herself. And I keep finding links, in books by Timothy Snyder or Andrew McCabe, about how Russia wants to export all this fine way of life to the west. It gets harder to point out Russia's faults if other countries start behaving in the same way... But...nah... Where else could one see wealthy patriarchs trying to impose their crooked business schemes, nepotism, and the narrative of a press that is the "enemy of the people" into civil-society and the political life of a nation in order to ensure their own personal profit? It could never happen here...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mariana Pinheiro

    After finishing this book, I found out that its writer was murdered. There could be no better proof to everything she tells us in this book. As she says in the beginning, she is not a political analyst, she is only telling her accounts of her motherland. That is why this book tends to be regarded as “biased” or too personal. She does express her indignation very clearly and, for some, this took out its objectivity. Not for me. I really liked the stories she told in order to show the reality in R After finishing this book, I found out that its writer was murdered. There could be no better proof to everything she tells us in this book. As she says in the beginning, she is not a political analyst, she is only telling her accounts of her motherland. That is why this book tends to be regarded as “biased” or too personal. She does express her indignation very clearly and, for some, this took out its objectivity. Not for me. I really liked the stories she told in order to show the reality in Russia. Particularly, I am shocked to see the situation in the army. I knew that the soldiers weren’t well paid, but I thought they were regarded and treated like heroes. I have seen some Putin’s speeches and they are always full of praise to the Armed Forces. I thought being in the army was a sign of status. I am saddened that, in one of the most powerful and biggest armies in the world, these beatings seem ceaseless. People who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country are extremely impoverished and suffer all kinds of moral and physical harm, not from enemies, but from their own superiores. And the thing is that most of them don’t mind it, because their love for their Motherland and the sense of duty are bigger than the hatred towards the government and superiores. This sense of duty towards one’s country is truly impressive. The second thing that shocked me the most was the lack of rule of law in Russia. The stories related in this book are hard to believe. Coming from Brazil, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, reading about the Russian judicial system almost makes Brazil a paradise to me. It seems that the Russian Constitution is just for show and the law is only applied when it favors the likes of the oligarchy. However, something that makes this book be less than 5 stars to me, is that the author seems to believe that all this system is only there because of Putin. That it is all his doing. But, in reality, the corruption and the lack of civil responsibility in Russia have been there for imemorial times. Since the times of the Tsars. Putin is merely a product of this system. In case he doesn’t play by it’s rules, he will be cast out by the empowered oligarchy just like all the judges and businessmen who try to be honest. Of course everything is taking major proportions now with capitalism: the bribes will grow ever bigger and, therefore, the theft will surpass the Communists’ dreams. But that is only because capitalism gathers much more capital than Communism ever could.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leland

    Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist and the author of Putin's Russia, was gunned down in her apartment elevator in Moscow in 2006, most likely for something she wrote, possibly in this book. Her depiction of Russia is stunning, insightful and passionate. This book is a must for anyone who is interested in global politics, human rights, justice, and good journalism.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    What I loved about Anna Politiskya's commentary is that she gave details, names and effects of terrible acts not abstracted in any way. For this reason her book was disturbing in the extreme but I felt it was necessary to my studies into contemporary Russia. She was an amazingly brave person who despite great personal danger persisted in exposing 'the truth'. I hope her courage is not overlooked or her mission forgotten.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Although I spent two years of college as a declared history major with a concentration on Russian history, I am certainly no expert, particularly as regards events since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. A friend from the former Yugoslavia recommended that I read the assassinated Politkovskaya as a window onto what has happened in Russia since the disastrous Yeltsin years. This was the first of two of her books that I read one after another.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    This book serves as the foreshadowing of the Putin regime of the 200os into what we have today (some might say). The book illustrates the death of democracy in Russia and the rise of totalitarianism. The book was very anti-Putin and written with much bias. The author subsequently was assassinated for this book and other journalistic endeavors that have criticized the Putin regime, their hard-fisted authoritarian policies, and the numerous human-rights violation military tactics in dealing with t This book serves as the foreshadowing of the Putin regime of the 200os into what we have today (some might say). The book illustrates the death of democracy in Russia and the rise of totalitarianism. The book was very anti-Putin and written with much bias. The author subsequently was assassinated for this book and other journalistic endeavors that have criticized the Putin regime, their hard-fisted authoritarian policies, and the numerous human-rights violation military tactics in dealing with the Chechen terrorist plight.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Incredibly disturbing. And considering the book is a bit dated by now, cannot be overlooked as an important contribution to current Russian politics. Politkovskaya's writing style is sometimes almost too condescending to be read smoothly, but considering who she was, it is perhaps her way staying enough removed from the story to be able to tell the story at all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ilze

    Two incidents make the reading of this book paramount: The gunning down of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and Time magazine’s “Person of the Year (2007)”: Vladimir Putin. Somehow there must be a link, but somehow the events seem too extreme to link them up. The Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, who died of polonium-210 radiation poisoning in the UK (2006), accused Putin of his (and Politkovskaya’s) fate. Putin’s Russia gives an honest look at what used to be the USSR, except that it doesn’t seem as Two incidents make the reading of this book paramount: The gunning down of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and Time magazine’s “Person of the Year (2007)”: Vladimir Putin. Somehow there must be a link, but somehow the events seem too extreme to link them up. The Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, who died of polonium-210 radiation poisoning in the UK (2006), accused Putin of his (and Politkovskaya’s) fate. Putin’s Russia gives an honest look at what used to be the USSR, except that it doesn’t seem as if the Iron Curtain has lifted under Putin’s hand. Thanks to this journalist, the truth sneaks into the Western world (even if they choose to ignore it). The accounts move from the way the army is treated and the Chechen War (I & II), to the judiciary, the monopolisation of the trade industry, what happens to war veterans/pensioners and ends with the tragedy surrounding the theatre on the evening it played Nord-Ost (23 Oct.2002). Hundreds of people were taken hostage, almost as many died, but no-one knows who fired the shots and why. In fact, some form of gas was released into the hall, but still no-one knows what its origin was. Again, a hushed-up scenario, but why? “This is unbelievable! I hear my reader cry. This is exactly how, during the Yeltsin years, organized-crime syndicates were born and grew to maturity in Russia. Now, under Putin, they determine what happens in the state” (page 127). It certainly seems a sign of the Times that he was chosen as their “man”.

  19. 4 out of 5

    B.

    What she writes about is both disturbing and informative, but I was thrown off by her writing style. She appears to be very biased and is never objective in her statements. Also, the over-use of hyperbole gets old, fast. The Russian text that I read (which was taken from a blog?) does this even more; she even writes in all caps during various passages (which I forgive because it's on the internet and not a book). Also, as far as the English translation goes, I would describe it as 'okay' at best What she writes about is both disturbing and informative, but I was thrown off by her writing style. She appears to be very biased and is never objective in her statements. Also, the over-use of hyperbole gets old, fast. The Russian text that I read (which was taken from a blog?) does this even more; she even writes in all caps during various passages (which I forgive because it's on the internet and not a book). Also, as far as the English translation goes, I would describe it as 'okay' at best. I do feel that this is an important book to read, and admire Politkovskaya's writing. She felt very strongly about things and wasn't afraid to show that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    Politkovskaya's (or her translator's) style is not the easiest to read sometimes. You're going to want to make a list of the characters in some of the "Scandals". She's really at her best when she talks about the human toll of Putin's policies as opposed to talking about lengthy bureaucratic snafus and corruption. I'd love to read her books about Chechnya, I think they would be significantly less dry. However, this is her last book written before she was murdered and is worth a read just because Politkovskaya's (or her translator's) style is not the easiest to read sometimes. You're going to want to make a list of the characters in some of the "Scandals". She's really at her best when she talks about the human toll of Putin's policies as opposed to talking about lengthy bureaucratic snafus and corruption. I'd love to read her books about Chechnya, I think they would be significantly less dry. However, this is her last book written before she was murdered and is worth a read just because of that fact.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Viktoriya

    I wanted to read Anna Politkovskaya for quite a while, so I was really glad when this book came across me via bookcrossing. To be honest, this book was sort of a let down for me. Nothing that the author wrote is new, yet she singlehandedly blames Vladimir Putin for everything that's wrong with Russia. Seems a little unfair and bias.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Simmons

    "There is not much wrong with our laws in Russia," writes Ms. Politkovskaya. "It is just that not many people want to obey them." This unsparing indictment of the new Russia targets businessmen, mafiosos, judges, police and politicians alike. A depressing and eye-opening read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Konstantinos

    Nothing special here - most of the events have nothing to do with "Putin's" Russia.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pauline Muñoz-Olsö

    One of the most horrible books Ive read, but a very important one! Gives an insight to a part of Russia that scares me deeply.

  25. 5 out of 5

    E.P.

    What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven't already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike "A Dirty War," which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as "A Russian Diary," which are presented more or less as diary entries, "Putin's Russia" is a collection of essays about different facets of the post-Soviet experience. There are several essays on Chec What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven't already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike "A Dirty War," which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as "A Russian Diary," which are presented more or less as diary entries, "Putin's Russia" is a collection of essays about different facets of the post-Soviet experience. There are several essays on Chechnya and the army, of course, and a particularly harrowing/tearjerking one about the Nord-Ost crisis, but there are also essays on other social issues, one of the best being "Tanya, Misha, Lena, and Rinat: Where Are They Now?" In it Politkovskaya catches up with old friends whose fortunes have changed significantly under Yeltsin: Tanya was once a miserable engineer from the provinces, looked down on by her husband's Muscovite intelligentsia family, but after the fall of the USSR she took up market-trading and became first the support of the whole family, and then a wealthy New Russian, complete with bribery and a much younger lover; Misha was a rising translation star whose career derailed, sending him to drink, religion, and violent threats against his wife, Lena; and Rinat, a decorated special forces officer who is contemplating becoming a contract killer in order to support his family. In the essay Politkovskaya paints a picture of a society turned upside down, giving opportunities to those who before had few, true, but also wrecking people's lives and forcing people to abandon all considerations of honor and morality in order to survive, as families are torn apart and crime becomes the most common form of earning a living. Politkovskaya was critical of Putin, especially later, but here she also demonstrates an understanding of why people might prefer his brand of authoritarianism to the criminal free-for-all that was the '90s. These essays are not only full of social interest, but, written as they as essays or extended pieces of investigative journalism aimed at a Western audience, rather than short newspaper articles or diary entries, they have more of a narrative arc than much of Politkovskaya's other work, and are especially easy to read and follow. Her trademark brand of high moral outrage and blistering invective leveled at the corrupt, callous, or merely incompetent, however, is still in full force, and Western readers who have not read Politkovskaya before are in for a treat of a very definite and mindblowing kind. I would like to say that, for all the serious issues that Politkovskaya covered, there was some light at the end of the tunnel and the book ends on a happy note, but alas, that is not case. Between when she first wrote the book and when it went to press, the Beslan crisis happened, and the book ends with a Postscript dedicated to that. Ten+ years later, the main resolution to the issue has been, not justice for all the victims whom Politkovskaya wrote about, but the murder of Politkovskaya herself, and while the person who allegedly pulled the trigger is now behind bars, the person who paid him to do so is still at large. Which makes it all the more important for Politkovskaya's words to be read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    There is a special place in the pantheon of journalists for people like Anna Politkovskaya. Courageous though the accomplishments of people like Zenger, Zola, Pulitzer and Mencken may be, they didn't face murder. "Putin's Russia" reveals Politkovskaya, who was in fact murdered (the trial of those accused of that murder is a story unto itself), as probing and eloquent, but fundamentally interested almost in an anthropological way, in how Russians and their institutions emerged from that truly ear There is a special place in the pantheon of journalists for people like Anna Politkovskaya. Courageous though the accomplishments of people like Zenger, Zola, Pulitzer and Mencken may be, they didn't face murder. "Putin's Russia" reveals Politkovskaya, who was in fact murdered (the trial of those accused of that murder is a story unto itself), as probing and eloquent, but fundamentally interested almost in an anthropological way, in how Russians and their institutions emerged from that truly earthshaking transition from the Soviets, through the robber baron era of the nineties to the Putin era of state control. The book is full of engaging portraits, of the judges who can choose between enforcing the law and supporting power, of the voracious regional gangsters-turned-businessmen, and of how ordinary Russians responded to the complete upheaval of their world: an academic turned into a homeless drunk with a detour through a monastery, a housewife who becomes a predatory businesswoman, honored military men struggle to house and feed their families, a champion milkmaid and a champion cowherd try to save their forest from the voracious bulldozers of redevelopment. Through all this is the sympathy for the underdog, crushed by the judicial system, murdered by drunken soldiers, falsely accused, trampled in general by the state's passion for order regardless of justice and its cozy embrace of wealth accumulated by all means necessary. There are few writers of whom it can be said that our vision and understanding of the world are lessened by their passing. It is true of Politkovskaya.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luxvivens

    Anna Politkovskaya risked her life and livelihood in search of the truth(s) about Putin's Russia, so this was my primary reason to read this book. It contains uncomfortable facts about the injustices in Russian society and an appalling account of how little human lives are worth in comparison to political and economic interests. Take note that no western journalist would have been murdered for exposing any of these things in their home countries, where criticial journalism is part of our daily l Anna Politkovskaya risked her life and livelihood in search of the truth(s) about Putin's Russia, so this was my primary reason to read this book. It contains uncomfortable facts about the injustices in Russian society and an appalling account of how little human lives are worth in comparison to political and economic interests. Take note that no western journalist would have been murdered for exposing any of these things in their home countries, where criticial journalism is part of our daily lives. It's a rough read nonetheless, especially in consideration of current events (re-election of Putin, Pussy Riot, etc) and taking into account that not much has changed for the better (and probably even more worsened) since this book was published in 2004. Unfortunately, I found Ms. Politkovskaya's writing style in parts redundant and in part polemic, taking away from the effectiveness of her argument. I had also expected more information from this book than it did in fact deliver. But considering the circumstances under which this book (and Ms. Politkovskaya's other works) were written, the lack of a proper editor and the feeling you get all of this was written in a hurry on the go is completely understandeable and thus forgiveable. The second part of the book is much more concise and organized than the first, thus while I found the early chapters to be a drag to read (regurgitating a lot of information over and over), the last two hundred pages were definitely much better and I had to refute my verdict of not ever reading a book by her again.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Simon Jones

    This book shone a great light on one of the world's more forgotten wars: Chechnya. Politkovskaya took us through a journey into the lives of those lost in this war, the people of the ground, the soldiers (and their respective families) whom had been neglected by the state and what circumstances led to the interventions there. Much focus was paid to the corrupt and complex Russian system of local governments and how power struggles and backhand dealings with both business, militia groups and orga This book shone a great light on one of the world's more forgotten wars: Chechnya. Politkovskaya took us through a journey into the lives of those lost in this war, the people of the ground, the soldiers (and their respective families) whom had been neglected by the state and what circumstances led to the interventions there. Much focus was paid to the corrupt and complex Russian system of local governments and how power struggles and backhand dealings with both business, militia groups and organised criminal gangs were responsible for controlling vast swaths of production. Her first hand accounts and eagnerness to seek truth, with an uncompromising style give this book weight in any political analysis of Putin's Russia up until 2005 on both a macro and micro level. It was a wonderful thing to meet her and hear her speak on Chechnya and freedom from oppression and it was such a sad day indeed when she was murdered in late 2006, a truly vile act where justice is yet to be found. Thank you Anna, thank you for pushing for accountability from government and thank you for your tireless efforts in this cause until your final day.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara G

    This is a fantastic critical look at Russia in 2003-2004, on the cusp of Putin's (first) re-election. Politkovskaya was killed by "unknown assailants" in 2006. She's not the only journalist critical of the Russian state to be killed. Reading this book, I can see why they thought she was such a threat. She isn't afraid to name names - she tells us which army officers are complicit in covering up abuses, which oligarchs have ruined cities all in the search of a profit, and which judges completely This is a fantastic critical look at Russia in 2003-2004, on the cusp of Putin's (first) re-election. Politkovskaya was killed by "unknown assailants" in 2006. She's not the only journalist critical of the Russian state to be killed. Reading this book, I can see why they thought she was such a threat. She isn't afraid to name names - she tells us which army officers are complicit in covering up abuses, which oligarchs have ruined cities all in the search of a profit, and which judges completely disrespect victims of terrorism. It was a really interesting and enlightening read, especially the parts about the war in Chechnya. Russia is an enigma to those of us in the West, but I keep trying to understand.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Heartbreaking. Politkovskaya isn't necessarily an objective journalist (although I would argue that few, if any, journalists are actually objective), but she is writing about something that for her, and for millions of Russians, is intensely personal. I do agree that the style was a little hard to read a times, but I don't know if that was due to Politkovskaya's writing or to the interpretation of the translator. I got bogged down in a few spots, but I definitely feel that this book is worth rea Heartbreaking. Politkovskaya isn't necessarily an objective journalist (although I would argue that few, if any, journalists are actually objective), but she is writing about something that for her, and for millions of Russians, is intensely personal. I do agree that the style was a little hard to read a times, but I don't know if that was due to Politkovskaya's writing or to the interpretation of the translator. I got bogged down in a few spots, but I definitely feel that this book is worth reading.

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