This is by far the best English-language book on the nature of both the Russian state and Russian society during the disastrous period of Putin's (mis)rule. As it is very likely that Putin will remain in power for at least several more years, this volume is a 'must' read for those interested in and worried about the dire impact that the Russian mafiosi are having on their own country and, inevitably, on the rest of the world. Unlike most Westerners, Harding perceives the very essence of many of those in power in Moscow - their shady past, their criminal mentality, their selfish preoccupations, their professional incompetence and, perhaps most important and dangerous, their brilliant ability to lie and to deceive so many of their fellow-citizens as well as naive and poorly informed foreigners. It's astonishing that the author saw through this pretence (sometimes known as Potemkin villages) so quickly. Moreover, he writes stylishly and vividly. Essential reading. I'm so glad it's now available in paperback!
Martin Dewhirst, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, Scotland