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The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladmir Putin [Kindle Edition]

Masha Gessen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Vladimir Putin, an unimportant, low-level KGB operative, was rushed to power by a group of Oligarchs in 1999, he was a man without a history. Within a few brief years, Putin had dismantled Russia's media, wrested control and wealth from the country's burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave.

Drawing on information and sources no other writer has tapped, Masha Gessen's fearless account charts Putin's rise from the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, to the 'faceless' man who manoeuvred his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power.

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"In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia... Although written before the recent protests erupted, the book helps to explain the anger and outrage driving that movement." -"The Wall Street Journal
"Powerful and gracefully written... Gessen's book flows on multiple tracks, tracing Putin's life back to boyhood, the story of his hometown of St. Petersburg, and finally the last quarter-century of Russian history... For all of the ghoulish detail, Gessen's account of Putin's Russia is not overwrought... [she] displays impressive control of her prose and her story, painting a portrait of a vile Putin without sounding polemical." -"San Francisco Chronicle"
"Written in English but with Russian heart, Gessen focuses on the places and institutions that bred the nation's most resolute leader since Stalin... Some might say that Gessen's interpretation is political. Of course it is... but more importantly, it is thorough. She has seen fellow journalists killed, has been harassed herself, and yet continues to write from Russia... Her urgency is felt on nearly every page." -"Bookforum"
"[Gessen] shines a piercing light into every dark corner of Putin's story... Fascinating, hard-hitting reading." -"Foreign Affairs "
"Although Gessen is enough of an outsider to write beautifully clear and eloquent English, she is enough of an insider to convey, accurately, the wild swings of emotions, the atmosphere of mad speculation, the paranoia, and, yes, the hysteria that pervade all political discussion and debate in Moscow today." -"The New York Review of Books"
"Illuminating... It is with [the] explosive revelations that Gessen truly excels... an electrifying read from what can only be described as an incredibly brave writer." - --Columbia Journalism Review

Bold, detailed, and eloquent. --'Paperback of the Year', Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and author, and editor of the Russian-language Snob magazine, aimed at Russians living abroad. She has contributed to Granta, Slate and the New Statesman, among other publications. She is the author of several previous books, most recently Perfect Rigor and Blood Matters. She lives in Moscow.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 869 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0078XFTTE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,317 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome RUSSIAN account of Putin 16 July 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The strengths of this book is that it is written by a Russian journalist living in Russia and it is up to date. Most accounts of Russian politics, and Putin in particular, are by non-Russian analysts so I was intrigued to see if a Russian account would throw up anything different. Masha Gessen's view that Putin schemed, bullied and manipulated to establish an authoritarian regime with himself at the centre is not new. However, she suggests some interesting insights into Putin's mind-set and the processes through which he was recruited to, and then took control of, the power networks that claimed Russia. Along the way she tells some good stories about people and scams from the chaotic post-soviet period that enabled Putin to rise unseen to the top. She also tells us what it was like to be part of the opposition protests that took place between the Duma and presidential "elections".

This is a journalistic account and Gessen makes it clear from the outset that she is strongly opposed to the Putin regime. It is not an impartial analysis that you could quote for an academic essay but it is very readable and, in the end, quite optimistic. I recommend it to anyone interested in Russian politics.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting 7 April 2012
By Mathew
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books on modern Russia I have ever read. Masha Gessen follows the mysterious background of Vladimir Putin, Russia's strong man, and discovers many unknown facts - and most of them rather frightening ones. It's a must to read for everyone who takes an active interest in Russia. But the book is so well written it can also be read by people who just want to generally know what's going on in world politics.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative 5 Aug. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are in any way a Putin admirer then best you don't read this book. I had learned to totally dislike and mistrust Putin before reading this book, but did not feeel I knew that much about him. Books such as Putin's Russia by Lilia Shevtsova only seemed to skim the surface as I suspect she was very much looking in from the outside in the same way that most western authors/journalists/observers would be doing. However, with this book I have the strong feeling that it is written by someone with a real understanding of what is going on as only a national of the country can do.

Gessen is clearly a skilled journalist who, for me, has clearly described what she sees and feels in no uncertain terms and I finally feel I have got to know Vladimir Putin. He's a very dangerous and very unlikeable animal.

There is, however, one aspect of modern Russian life I still am not clear about and that is whether the inner workings of the Kremlin are still pulling all the strings or not. I feel that there are some bodies behind Putin who have, as it were, simply unleashed him for him to do as he wishes.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 30 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reading this extraordinary book I kept thinking of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Bertolt Brecht's recasting of Hitler as a Chicago greengrocer and gangster. Putin as here depicted has the same unswerving greed, obsessive ambition and total banality. He has absolutely no shame.

Everyone with the remotest interest in politics, Russia or just the future of the world should read this book. For years the media in the West have shut their eyes to the true nature of Mr Putin's Russia. Liberal opinion has sort of assumed that he was entitled to the benefit of the doubt - long after there was any doubt to have the benefit of - from decades of practice in giving the benefit of the doubt to the Soviet Union. For years it was only some far-right-wingers who, to their credit, noticed and wrote about the enormity of what was being inflicted on the Russian people.

This includes theft on a titanic scale, both of money and elections, the calculated destruction of democratic structures and the rule of law, and the murder of Russian citizens when short-term political considerations suggest it. It is all dispassionately set out here.

As an account of Mr Putin's gruesome career it is hard to fault this book. For a start it is beautifully written. This is not just in the sense that it is elegant and cliché-free and reads as compellingly as a novel, but, more importantly, in that Ms Gessen manages to get across complex matters clearly and succinctly - and some of the shenanigans by which various enormous sums of money reached various back pockets were complex.

She is also fair. She obviously loathes her subject, but she attributes particular atrocities to him only where there is clear evidence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a timely read, in light of events in Ukraine/Crimea in the last few weeks. The author, a Russian journalist with, unusually, joint Russian and US citizenship, shows how Putin emerged from relative political obscurity to become head of the FSB in 1998 then Yeltsin's successor as President in 2000; how many of those who had supported him ceased to support him when they realised his true nature, and how he pursued them vengefully using various semi-legal or illegal processes. It also describes how he has suborned the political and judicial systems to his personal rule. In short, the author concludes that he has basically restored Soviet norms and assumptions of arbitrary rule, but within a system based on his personal rule, not the rule of an identifiable political ideology such as communism (the dominant ideology, to the extent that there is one, is a form of state capitalism, but Putin appears to stand for nothing).

From a series of official interviews with the man himself in 2000, and from interviews from some of his former friends and associates, a picture emerges of Putin as he was under the Soviet system. Essentially he was an unremarkable young man, but with a self-confessed tendency from boyhood towards violence when he did not get his own way. He unsuccessfully volunteered his services to the KGB when he was still at school and was in turn sought by them while at university. During the years of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost, Putin was a minor KGB operative in Dresden in East Germany, gathering low level information from newspapers and attempting to persuade Latin American students to become spies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Insider view of Russian aspirations
Fascinating book about Putin's background and state of Russia today. A disturbing account of self-aggrandisement and corruption.
Published 8 days ago by Kindle Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars books like The Man Without a Face need to be read ...
I give this two stars because it's a readable account that gives some flavour of the times, much as a historical novel will. Read more
Published 1 month ago by philip
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener Into a Murky World of Intrigue
A well written account of the rise of Putin from obscurity to today's mafia leader role in a Russia that is dominated by corruption, political assassinations and rabid nationalism. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. D. Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars A real life horror story
I'm shocked both by the contents of this book and by the fact that anyone can even consider leaving negative reviews slandering the author as a "feminist lesbian" and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by G. Marshall
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening and informative
Eye opening and informative. Really well written and a pleasure to read.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read
If you are remotely interested in today's Russia, this is the book for you. I couldn't put it down; Putin is depicted as a neurotic, power-driven megalomaniac determined to keep... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sheila
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 4 months ago by Matin
3.0 out of 5 stars More an anti Putin polemic than an objective political biography but...
Hopefully my ownership of it will not count against me when the Russian tanks are rolling down Picadilly.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Helene Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars The unlikely King - Putin
I loved the book, it was very well informed / researched & bought to life the move from Communism to Yeltsin & the unlikely beneficiary Putin, who is described as a thug & petty... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jason Oakley
4.0 out of 5 stars A chilling portrait
Published in 2012, Masha Gessen's biography of Vladimir Putin covers events to 2011. Nothing that has happened since invalidates her narrative and the conclusions she drew from... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul Bowes
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