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Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy Hardcover – 27 Dec 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (27 Dec. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805079300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805079302
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.9 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,499,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
The brave Anna Politkovskaya reveals the reality of Russia today in this sad, sometimes horrifying book. After a brief window period of freedom under Yeltsin, Russia has rapidly become a vast swamp of corruption, oppression and deception under Putin.

Politkovskaya tells of the trouble and suffering of ordinary people who are humiliated and exploited by the criminal nomenklatura. For example Nina Levurda, who in trying to establish the truth about her son's death in the Chechen War, became a victim of this system that when not cruel, is completely indifferent to the individual. This and other cases are discussed in the chapter My Country's Army And Its Mothers.

In Russia, people imitate the man at the top, thus Putin is the one who shapes Russian society. It is mainly he who is to blame for the brutality and extremism prevalent in the army and the state apparatus. There are sections dealing with war criminals, brutality against privates in the military, government complicity in crime, the corruption in the judiciary, the struggle to survive in places like Kamchatka, and racism against people with a non-Slavic appearance.

Russia's stability is of a monstrous type, where power means everything, few people hold the law in any regard, bribes keep business and the state running, and a free press has almost disappeared. Putin's bureaucrats have taken corruption to new records, unheard of even under Yeltsin or the Communists. As a lieutenant-colonel who never made it to the rank of colonel, he has the mentality of a Soviet secret policeman. The Yukos affair and the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky demonstrate what a vindictive little man Putin is and how he is steering the country towards fascism.
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By Erik persson on 20 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Briiliant and courageous book, i used it in a lecture,which was very well received
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 44 reviews
94 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Publisher's Weekly Reviewer is off the mark 8 Oct. 2006
By Kian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Publisher's Weekly Reviewer is off the mark in his closing statement that 70 percent of the Russian population voted for Putin. S/he has no clue about the true political situation in Russia. During elections, competing political parties have no chance in gaining votes due to the Kremlin's firm grip on campaign activities. What the Kremlin wants is what the Russian people get. Does this reviewer really think the elctions are free and fair and that 70 percent is anything close to an accurate figure? There is no real democracy in Russia, and the majority of voters are so impoverished economically and uneducated (through no fault of their own) that when it comes to elections that you can't really expect them understand how to vote when they can't even buy medicine or food. Politkovskaya was murdered today. Sure her work was often over-emotional and perhaps it isn't brilliant in translation, but she was one of the few brave journalists to tackle the tough issues and to not self-edit. Her death follows that of Starvoitova, Gongadze (Ukraine), Khlebnikov and countless other post-Soviet journalists. Do some homework next time you write a book review.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Not Afraid to Speak the Truth 9 Aug. 2007
By Kristine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Choosing journalism as an occupation in modern day Russia can result in dangerous and often deadly consequences. Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who chose such a career in spite of these potential risks. Fearless and honest, she refused to compromise her integrity as a journalist by writing nothing but the truth.
Working for one of the last liberal Moscow newspapers, "Novaya Gazeta", Politkovskaya committed herself to writing the truth about the war in Chechnya (which she openly and vehemently opposed), and the blatantly corrupt Russsian government.
In her third book, "Putin's Russia...", Politkovskaya exposes the instability of today's Russia due to the above mentioned corruption that infiltrates everything from business to politics to the military and to the court systems. Bribes are simply accepted as a way of life by bureaucrats and ordinary citizens alike. Although corruption and other forms of political and governmental "ugliness" exist in all countries, none exist to the extent witnessed in today's Russia. And for all of this Politkovskaya blames one man, Vladimir Putin (though she also places some blame on the western countries that have "bought into" the mask of democracy Putin wears during public appearances). Politkovskaya however, seeing through the guise, accurately defines Putin as a throwback from the past, as a ruthless, Soviet-style dictator.
All of Politkovskaya's "accusations" are supported by incontrovertible facts and examples. If nothing else, she was thorough in her research. She had no hidden agenda or score to settle in writing this or any of her books - she merely wanted to truth to be told.
Sadly, for telling the truth Anna Politkovskaya paid the ultimate price. On a Saturday afternoon in October 2006 she was shot twice in the head in the elevator of her apartment building while returning from grocery shopping. The shooting was, without a doubt, a contract killing and was probably approved, if not ordered, by Putin himself.
Though disturbing and sometimes difficult to stomach (as the truth often is), this book is a must read for all Russophiles and/or those just interested in the truth about modern day Russia. In addition, I highly recommend her three other books as well - "A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya", "A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya" (neither of which were ever allowed to be published in Russia), and "A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia".
K. Larson Amador
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
This is Journalism! 9 Dec. 2006
By Sergei - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review applies to Small Corner of Hell and Putin's Russia. I read almost all of Anna's books and reports for Novaya Gazeta. It always struck me how dedicated and fearless (sadly she paid the ultimate price) she was to helping regular civilians living in Chechnya, and not just Chechens but Russians too. Her critics acuse her of being pro-chechen, but she also did plenty of reporting about Russian families who got stuck in the basements of Grozny during Russian carpet bombing campaign and for whom nobody in Russia really cared. She also wrote about regular Russian soldiers who are basically used as modern day slaves (Russian army is not voluntary).

If you are a Western reader trying to understand the roots of this conflict, Politkovskaya's books are probably a wrong choice. For that you have to read some history books addressing Russian history of the last 200 - 300 years. Start with Richard Pipes or something similar. Her books are reports of what's going on there now. As such they are great examples of what the REAL journalism should be. They also serve as a good source on what's really going on in Russia today. They would make a good foundation for a War Crimes Tribunal for both Russian and Chechen sides (or are they really just the same Gang), which hopefully will take place some day.

Finally, as others pointed out here the Publisher Weekly reviewer frankly does not know what he is talking about. He probably thinks Kim Jon Il is a legitimate ruler because 98% of North Koreans "vote" for him, too.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Good book. Great point. But it falls a bit short. 6 Sept. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The AUTHOR'S NOTE states: "... this book is not an examination of Putin's policies. I am not a political analyst. I am just a person among many, a face in the crowd, like so many.... These are my immediate reactions, jotted down in the margins of life as it is lived in Russia today."

Well, Politkovskaya doesn't all together stick with this decree, but touches upon Putin's "policies" by way of presenting his lack of policy in helping his people.

There are many events detailed in this book: soldiers being beaten and tormented by their commanding officers. Family members trying to find out the truth about their loved one's death, or murder. Corruption plaguing the Russian judicial system. Yury Budanov's kidnapping of a young Chechen girl, her rape and murder trial. Examples of friends the author has known and how their lives (good and bad) have been affected by the changes in the wake of the New Russia. The gangster life being rife throughout Russia, given in the example of Pavel Anatolievich Fedulev. The storming of the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow during the "Nord-Ost" musical by Chechen terrorists wishing to end the war, and how the government unleashed an unknown gas that ended up killing 200 hostages. The waging of "Antiterrorist Operation Whirlwind" that caused the Chechen people living in Russia to be harassed, framed, and forced to sign confessions that they plotted the attack; many were sent to prison or lost their jobs. According to Politkovskaya it was "Putin's belief that an entire people must shoulder collective responsibility for the crimes committed by a few" pg 224. The hostage situation in the town of Beslan on the day of "Lineyka," the celebration of the beginning of school when many families were at the school. 100 people went missing and the government said that they fled with the terrorists (hu?).

One can't deny that something is happening in Russia. But I can't say I was won over with Politkovskaya's argument that Putin is entirely to blame for it's current state. This is partly due to the author's writing style, which must have been affected by the translation process (there are many words and phrases that come off sounding disjointed), which make for weak arguments. The stories Politkovskaya's shares with us are stories we outsiders have heard for a number of years under the old Soviet Union. Just because one has a new government everything cannot be expected to change quickly. It takes time. It does sound like Russia has reverted to old habits either because that's all its' leader's know, or it's their intentions to align themselves with communist ways in order to gain more power for themselves. The truth is, I don't know what progress has been made under Putin, and certainly you wont find any in Politkovskaya's book. The problem is that politics usually attract power and corruption. Place people with this tendency in a government rife with corruption and things are bound to fail. Unless Russia can find someone courageous enough to stand up to it, willing to put their life on the line, I fail to see how things will ever change.

One things for sure, I'm always amazed by the resilience of the Russian people. I always get a strong sense that they love their country dearly and want nothing more than to live in a free society where the rules are fair. Hopefully one day they will have this. Unfortunately the fact that Politkovskaya died for writing stories like this shows how far Russia still has to go in acheiving freedom.

"My Country's Army and Its Mothers"
"Our New Middle Ages, or War Criminals of All the Russias"
"Tanya, Misha, Lena, and Rinat: Where Are They Now?"
"How to Misappropriate Property with the Connivance of the Government"
"More Stories from the Provinces"
"Nord-Ost: The Latest Tale of Destruction"
"Akaky Akakievich Putin II"
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Communism was a dead loss for Russia, today is even worse 10 Nov. 2009
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anna Politovskaya was an important observer of the Russian society and a formidable investigative journalist; otherwise she wouldn't have been killed.
Her analysis of Putin's Russia is not less than devastating.

Since the end of the Soviet era, the author sees three different historical changes in Russia.
The first one is the introduction of a market economy and the fall of the Soviet ideology. The second one is the debt default of the Russian State, which wiped out all personal savings. The third one is the actual hybrid system of a free market, controlled politically by a new nomenklatura, economically by oligarchs (owners of former State monopolies) and socially by organized crime syndicates with their hit-men (murdering in the interest of `their' (all the former groups) State).
Its population is brainwashed by propaganda. Political and social apathy is rampant.

More than six thousand members of the KGB/FSB followed in the footsteps of Putin in order to occupy the highest offices and key governmental positions.
The judiciary is subordinate to the executive branch. As the author states, `lawlessness is more powerful than the law.'
`Democratic' elections are a pantomime.
Moreover, the political-psychiatry-to-order system has returned (search for social justice is seen as a symptom of mental illness). But, as in the Soviet era, those in power remain highly sensitive to criticism from abroad.

Soldiers are deserting in droves, fleeing a violent environment created by their superiors. Alcoholism is endemic. Officers even `sell' new recruits as cheap labour (working only for food). Those, who are staying, are living on survival wages (if paid).
But more importantly, the Navy with its nuclear submarines is breaking down.

Putin is a product of Russia's murkiest intelligence services. But, he is and continues to be supported by the West.

Why did Anna Politovskaya attack head-on dangerous forces wielding nearly dictatorial powers? To be free, to live in freedom and not to be a simple cog as people were in the former Soviet system.

This courageous book should be an example for all true journalists.
It is a must read for all Russian scholars and for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
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