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Inside Putin's Russia [Hardcover]

Andrew Jack
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Mar 2004
He emerged from the shadows of the Soviet secret police and lowly government jobs to become the most powerful man in Russia. Since Vladimir Putin was propelled into the Kremlin in 2000, he has defied domestic and foreign expectations, by presiding over a period of strong economic growth, significant restructuring and rising international prestige. Yet Putin himself remains a man of mystery and contradictions; he has pursued an increasingly pro-western foreign policy and liberal economic reforms, while continuing a hardline war in Chechnya and introducing tighter controls over parliament, the regions and the media, moves which are reminiscent of the Soviet era. "Inside Putin's Russia" digs behind the rumours and speculation, tracing Putin's rise to power and assessing how he has performed in office and the changing nature of the Russia he rules. It draws on interviews with Putin himself, and a number of the country's leading figures, as well as many ordinary Russians. With his re-election imminent, it is possible to draw conclusions about Putin's thinking, style and effectiveness as president. The lessons are important for anyone interested in the recent past and future of Russia.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (12 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862076405
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862076402
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,909,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Intelligent, meticulously researched and readable: everything a political biography should be' -- Sunday Times

‘Jack’s post has given him excellent access, including to "Vova" himself’ -- The Times

‘Lively, fluent and well-informed’ -- The Guardian

‘The Financial Times’s excellent correspondent in Moscow…fills his book with chilling examples of the authoritarian nature of the country’s president’ -- The Spectator

About the Author

Andrew Jack is currently the FT's chief Moscow correspondent. While based in the UK he was part of the award-winning investigative team reporting on the BCCI and Robert Maxwell scandals. While based in Paris from 1994-1998 he wrote the critically acclaimed book The French Exception. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside Putin's Russia 1 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback
From Chaos to Order, and Beyond
Although it was not widely recognised at the time, the choice of Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister of Russia in 1999 appears to have marked the beginning of a transition from chaos to order in the once communist nation. The question is, in moving away from chaos, might the pendulum swing once again towards the repression of the Soviet years?. But, while Western political pundits and politicians talk of a return to Stalinism, the majority of Russians appear to be unconcerned; Putin and his nationalist policies enjoy high levels of support.
Despite what many commentators would have us believe, the situation in Russia is complex; fortunately, Andrew Jack's 'Inside Putin's Russia' offers help in understanding it. The book provides us with a well documented and equally well balanced account of the surprising rise of Russia's President, and of the struggle for power and control over an emerging society. Jack, a former Moscow Bureau Chief for the Financial Times, tracks the course of Putin's career, from his rather low-profile time with the KGB, to his development into a more polished and more authoritarian President whose efforts to place the country back under the control of the central government have met with mixed reviews in the West.
Personal history aside, the real value of Inside Putin's Russia is that it provides us with a richly detailed description of the political context in which to judge the man and his actions. Control of the media is one key area. The Russian President has been strongly criticised for bringing independent media under state control, but as Jack points out, the Russian media has enjoyed very few, and very short, periods of independence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a very well written and extremely well informed account of a fascinating period in Russia's history. The evnts described are in themselves so extraordinary that this book makes for quite a gripping read, and the clarity of the analysis make for a very thought-provoking one as well. Definitely a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in Russia, or to anyone who is interested in a serious (though very readable) book about politics.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Chaos to Order and Beyond 9 Mar 2005
By Gerard Coffey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although it was not widely recognised at the time, the choice of Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister of Russia in 1999 appears to have marked the beginning of a transition from chaos to order in the once communist nation. The question is, in moving away from chaos, might the pendulum swing once again towards the repression of the Soviet years?. But while Western political pundits and politicians talk of a return to Stalinism, the majority of Russians appear to be unconcerned; Putin and his nationalist policies enjoy high levels of support.

Despite what many commentators would have us believe, the situation in Russia is complex; fortunately, Andrew Jack's 'Inside Putin's Russia' offers help in understanding it. The book provides us with a well documented and equally well balanced account of the surprising rise of Russia's President, and of the struggle for power and control over an emerging society. Jack, a former Moscow Bureau Chief for the Financial Times, tracks the course of Putin's career, from his rather low-profile time with the KGB, to his development into a more polished and more authoritarian President whose efforts to place the country back under the control of the central government have met with mixed reviews in the West.

Personal history aside, the real value of Inside Putin's Russia is that it provides us with a richly detailed description of the political context in which to judge the man and his actions. Control of the media is one key area. The Russian President has been strongly criticised for bringing independent media under state control, but as Jack points out, the Russian media has enjoyed very few, and very short, periods of independence. At the time of Putin's first presidential victory most 'independent' sources were to a large extent under the control of commercial interests, principally those of 'Oligarchs': the men who gained ownership of much of Russian state assets in exchange for financial or media support of Boris Yeltsin's presidency.

The struggle for control of the television channel NTV, once owned by the Oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, has been portrayed in Western media as a simple issue of freedom of the press, but as Jack's presentation makes obvious, there are other important aspects. Media independence is an important element in a pluralistic society,it is therefore a problem that much of the Russian media now functions as an organ of the state. However, it would be nave to assume that the press is free where it is not under state control. The ground rules must be clearly set out, but the question is, by whom, the state or the super rich? In western liberal democracies the answer is also not as clear as we might wish while Rupert Murdoch and Silvio Berlusconi continue to increase their influence over political processes. The Russians are not the only people with problems, and it ought to be more of a concern.

Putin's Russia has also come under attack as being 'undemocratic' but it would be wise to take into account that the country is not, and has no history of being, a liberal democracy. As Jack rightly points out, most of its citizens believe the role of the state to be fundamental, hence the approval of policies involving greater state control. Much of the criticism has its roots in American efforts to pre-empt any future Russian threat, and their need for continued access to increasingly important Russian oil. The campaign has, meanwhile, proved a useful vehicle for more personal agendas. As part of his own anti-Putin crusade, Boris Berezovsky is funding Human Rights groups, some of which paint the Oligarchs - particularly the now jailed Mikhail Khodorkovsky - as 'victims' of Human Rights abuses rather than the beneficiaries of a highly unethical, although technically legal, massive transfer of public funds to private pockets.

The case for respecting Human Rights is more evident in Chechnya. Whether Putin has made a Faustian bargain with the military, allowing them free rein in order to concentrate on other areas, or whether he himself is directing operations, the results of the re-occupation of Chechnya and the 'dirty war' being waged there now the official conflict is over, are brutal. No matter that one unnamed Russian officer is quoted as claiming that the army is 'only' responsible for 50% of disappearances. It remains to be seen if the situation can be changed and the army curbed. For the military, the occupation now appears to have become, as Jack puts it, 'its own raison d'etre', while the roots of the 'Chechen Problem' itself go back beyond the first war of 1994-6, beyond even the chaos and corruption that invaded the region after the collapse of the USSR.

Inside Putin's Russia manages to find a way through the Chechen minefield without veering too much to one side or another. It is to Andrew Jack's credit that he does not lend himself to simplistic analyses and presents information on which we can form an opinion. That does not mean that the tangle of characters and vested interests is always easy to follow, but Jack can hardly be blamed for that, and he has taken the trouble to provide a helpful Dramatis Persona.

As for Putin's legacy, in many respects he deserves credit for curbing the excesses of the Yeltsin period and bringing financial resources back under state control. But the Russian President has questions to answer, in particular over Chechnya, and in his quest for order he may have, or may be tempted to go too far. Overall, Jack is probably correct when he states: "He (Putin) is unlikely to go down in history as a great transformational leader. But he may yet be viewed as playing an essential role of cohesion, stability and predictability - in domestic and even international affairs". After the roller coaster ride of the Yeltsin years, that will be no small achievement.

Gerard Coffey is European Correspondent of the South American journal, Tintaji.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detail rich, but substance poor 13 Feb 2005
By Igor Biryukov - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Andrew Jack is Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times, which is a pro-Big business UK paper. The paper hasn't been particularly focused or interested in Russia, except occasion critical outbursts of FT columnist Quentin Peel. The author is one of the whole crew of young Anglo-American correspondents who felt compelled to write a book after several years in Russia. The sweep of the book is broad - it is the Russia's business elite, GULAG, transitional economy, KGB, communism, city of Moscow, Russian political system, and Chechnya. It is impressive for anyone to cover all these topics in one swift stroke, but inevitably questions arise about a depth of such a book and its usefulness in predicting the Russia's future. The book didn't impress me very much on either of these counts. The author, who is essentially an investigative reporter, has undeniable strengths, which are in his knowledge of details: a date, a name, an event, some important personal detail. But a solid big picture unfortunately is not among them. The book is filled with little nuggets of information about Russia, Russian `oligarchs', and politicians, but I don't think it has a real depth, nor I am convinced that the book offers an objective portrait of `Putin's Russia'. In the book Russia is portrayed essentially as an imperfect, if not unsuccessful, disciple of laissez-faire capitalism practiced by US and UK. Also, the author does not appear to be as peeved as Marquise De Custine, but comes close sometimes.

Jack writes in crisp, short sentences. He is obviously familiar with Russian language and throws lots of names around, but his anglicizing of Russian names is annoying. For example, on page 37 he mentioned `Old' Square in Moscow. In Russian language it is `Staraya' Square. With the same success one could call the Kremlin `the Tower'.
Many pages are filled with author's personal `disappointments' in Russia from his description of unsuccessful attempts to buy fresh lattice to his accounts of agonizing encounters with Russian traffic police - the feared GAI. A lot of it appears to be a natural frustration of a foreigner, who is just trying to figure out what makes the Russians tick.

The most important weakness of this book is its failure to examine Russia on its own terms, not to try to fit it into `the bed of Procrustes' of Anglo-American model, code of behavior, and virtues of US-style market democracy. Of course, Jack is right then saying that Putin's priority is modernization of Russia, not building a `democracy that bears more than a superficial resemblance to the variance recognizable in the west.'
But the author's attitude, as shown in his choice of words, is quite wrong. Looking at the examples of countries like Japan and Singapore, how could one say that the Anglo-Saxon way of market democracy is the only way to achieve prosperity and modernization? Why, if fact, it should be desirable in Russia?

The massage of the book is pedestrian `Russia in 2008 is likely to be a country in better shape than some now fear, but not as impressive as it might have been had Putin used his potential to the full' (page 339).
The tone of patronizing superiority notwithstanding, one doesn't have to go through 350 pages to figure that out. I was impressed with his exercise in semantics when he called Russia a country, which `is shifting from anarchic liberalism towards liberal authoritarianism', but it really explains nothing. `Liberal' means different things to different people. In Russia `Young liberals' is a contemptuous name (even a swearing word) for a group of reformers who carried out `the shock therapy' of the early nineties. Incidentally, these `young liberals' have had little to do with liberalism, but were adherents of rightist Thatcherism, standing for massive privatization, withdrawal of price control, trickle-down economics, and general free-market fundamentalism.

What is particularly puzzling is Jack's failure to notice a most striking feature of Kremlin's policies. It is not Putin's connection to KGB, which makes him noteworthy, but his Russian version of Gaullism. Like De Gaulle, Putin is a nationalistic, populist leader, insistent on a strong presidency, and determent to actively encourage a `multi-polar' world, in order to check US dominance. All these have clear earmarks of French Gaullism a la Russe, and, incidentally, and not surprisingly France has been the closest Russian ally in the world. Mr. Jack who was stationed in Paris before Moscow didn't seem to bother to make a connection.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many factual errors 15 Sep 2007
By JG, Oslo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In my opinion Andrew Jack's book has some interesting passages, but the book seems to contain too many factual errors to get a high score.

I'll restrain myself to the following example: On page 18 of the paperback edition he refers to the spy-cases of Aleksandr Nikitin and Grigory Pasko, who according to Mr. Jack were two navy journalists who reported on radioactive waste in respectively the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean. They were, says Mr. Jack, "released from prison, but not technically acquitted" (and implicitly not convicted either). In this short passage there is no less than four factual errors.

First, Aleksandr Nikitin was not a navy journalist, but a former nuclear engineer/submarine officer, who later was the head of the nuclear safety inspection of the Russian Ministry of Defence, a position he quit in 1992.

Second, Mr. Nikitin co-wrote a report on radioactive contemination from the Russian Northern Fleet, which is based on the Kola Peninsula. Thus, his writings did not have anything to do with the Baltic Sea, but rather with the Barents Sea.

Third, Mr. Nikitin was imprisoned and charged with treason through espionage in February 1996. He was released from prison in December that year, and acquitted of all charges first by the St. Petersburg City Court in December 1999, then by the Collegium of Criminal Cases of the Russian Supreme Court in April 2000, and finally by the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court in September 2000.

Mr. Pasko on the other hand was convicted for treason through espionage by the Court of the Russian Pacific Fleet in December 2001, but was released from prison after having served two thirds of his four-year's conviction (including time spent in pretrial detention) in January 2003.

I hope for the sake of the book that its other sections contains a little less errors. But I am not by any means convinced.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written book! 6 Jun 2009
By Damon Bradley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When I first got this book from the public library I was so astounded by the information that I had to buy a second, permanent copy (from Amazon). This inside look of Russia after the fall of Communism and the (dangerous) rise of Vladimir Putin to the head of this dying thugocracy is one of the best books written about modern day Russia. The author has gained (nasty) details on what is really happening inside Russia, information that the mainstream media won't bother to tell you. A well written book; excellent! Buy it today!
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise for Inside Putin's Russia 13 Mar 2006
By Publisher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"[T]he best book ever about Alger Hiss." -- The Wall Street Journal

"Andrew Jack has given us a vivid, sophisticated picture of Russia's political and economic culture under President Vladimir Putin. Jack offers a penetrating analysis of Putin's contradictory path as a modernizer of Russia--and of where this path might lead." -- Mark Medish, former Senior Director for Russian Affairs, U.S. National Security Council

"Inside Putin's Russia provides astute and accurate observations on what Russia has become under President Putin. In a lucid and highly readable book, Jack shows devastatingly how Putin has systematically curtailed democracy in Russia, while capitalism has triumphed. No other book gives such a clear feel of Putin's Russia." -- Anders slund, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Andrew Jack's work is a valuable contribution to the literature on Russia at the start of the 21st Century: intelligent, fair-minded, and enlivened by the author's experiences as a journalist in Russia, and by his meetings with some of the leading figures there." -- Anatol Lieven

"An extraordinary book, packed with information and fresh insights. Part detective story, part cultural history, part psychodrama--I couldn't put it down." -- Cass Sunstein

"[T]his innovative and brilliant new book...provide[s] the final unmasking of Alger Hiss, and, one hopes, put an end once and for all to the campaign waged on the traitor's behalf." -- National Review

"If you accept Hiss's guilt, as most historians now do, you will profit from G. Edward White's supplementary speculations about why, after prison, that serene and charming man sacrificed his marriage, exploited a son's love and abused the trust of fervent supporters to wage a 42-year struggle for a vindication that could never be honestly gained." -- The New York Times Book Review

"An intriguing portrait of an enigmatic man who stood center stage during the most electrifying moments of the Cold War." -- Library Journal

"A significant contribution to a subject that continues to fascinate Americans...." -- New York Sun
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