October 21, 2011

“Explosive” Putin biography and its precedents


Masha Gessen‘s new book, The Man Without a Face: The Rise and Crimes of Vladimir Putin, has been stirring up the Frankfurt Book Festival for its controversial take on the current Russian PM. Publisher’s Weekly quotes a Riverhead representative saying that the book contains “explosive” information about Mr. Putin, which could potentially put Gessen’s life in danger when it is officially released in March 2012. Gessen also wrote Two Babushkas: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler’s War and Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia after Communism, among other titles.

The Moscow-based journalist is the Russian correspondent for US News & World Report and is no stranger to controversy she has received death threats and has seen first-hand what happens to writers in Russia who know too much. Earlier this year, we published the late Anna Politkovskaya‘s last book, Is Journalism Worth Dying For?  The author of Putin’s Russia and correspondent for the newspaper Novaya gazeta was murdered six years ago — and the three men charged with her murder were acquitted in 2009. (Keith Gessen, Masha’s brother and the co-editor of n+1, wrote about the Politkovskaya trial for the New Yorker, which you can find here.)

We hope that Gessen remains safe, and that her book is a smash hit.

As we write this, Putin is seeking a third term in office, and will run again for president in March. He’s widely expected to win. For those interested in learning more about the former KGB operative, and former director of the FSB (the Federal Security Bureau, in English), look no further than After Putin’s Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain (Edited by Stephen K. Wegren and Dale Roy Herspring), which provides a great analysis of how Russia lost its political freedoms and gained (limited) economic traction. In the final chapter, Wegren and Herspring write, “While the term ‘thug state’…may be too strong a description, certain behaviors suggest movement in that direction.”

For those interested in economics, Juliet Johnson‘s trenchant book, A Fistful of Rubles: The Rise and Fall of the Russian Banking System, provides a wealth of information about how and why the banks failed. This was written in 2000, and is worth reading to find parallels with our latest financial collapse.

What are some books about Russia that have haunted you, dear readers?