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The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin [Hardcover]

Masha Gessen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
Handpicked in 1999 by the 'Family' surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, with very little governmental or administrative experience beyond having served as deputy mayor of St Petersburg, seemed like the perfect choice in the eyes of an oligarchy bent on moulding the president's successor to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as with ruthless efficiency Putin dismantled the country's media, wrested control and wealth from the country's burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Within a few brief years, 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. As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her horrifying and spellbinding account of how this 'faceless' man manoeuvred his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power will stand as a classic of narrative non-fiction.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847081495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081490
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A brave and important book ... Her engaging prose combines a native's passion with a mordant wit' --Telegraph

`A clear, brave book' --Observer

'A courageous, enlightening account of Putin's rise to power' --Independent on Sunday

`A brilliant new book that describes the gangsterism at the heart of the regime' --Daily Mail

`Gessen is a talented and versatile journalist' --Financial Times

`Gessen's account of the fortunes of those who have suffered at Putin's hands is persuasive and even moving'
--Irish Times

'Gessen writes with raw authority about Putin's rise'

`A luminous study ... Gessen has written a brave book, demolishing numerous myths and legends'


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.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 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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19 of 20 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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24 of 26 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read 29 Aug 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a great read telling me the background to the rise to power of one of the most powerful men in the world. I found out a great deal of what I did not know about the political situation in Russia and how a vitual unknown could be promoted to a position he was then able to retain.
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9 of 10 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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good account of Putin 4 April 2012
By Edna85
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book and felt that it was written very well. Masha provides an interesting background of Putin including his involvement with the KGB, his time as mayor of St Petersburg to his presidency or Russia.

It is diffucult knowing what to believe about Putin as the western media is never going to give the real story. This book being written by a Russian who has lived there during Putin's reign makes the book seem more believable than what western media would. Parts of it I found biase as the writer is anti-Putin, so as with other stories you are never going to get the full truth. All in all, though, I found the book to be very open and thought provoking and a good insight into how many Russians feel about the Putin.

It is very up to date and includes thoughts about the most recent election held in Russia which caused many protests within Moscow and St Petersburg which Masha talks about being involved in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a very interesting book by a Russian Journalist ...
This is a very interesting book by a Russian Journalist. It shows Putin for the character he is, a very nasty calculating individual. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Barbara Tinn
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read in turbulent times
An excellent but scary book. It should be read by anyone who has an interest in understanding Russia of today, and who at times is struggling with understanding the rationale... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Ekberg Jorgen
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative
Wanted to read more about Vladimir Putin and this book fits the bill. Arrived very promptly indeed and was well packed.
Published 2 months ago by Kizzy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - very revealing
This is a very interesting book which gives good insight into Mr Putin's mind and the experiences that have shaped him and motivate him now that he is in power. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nick Dunning
5.0 out of 5 stars Crucial reading during the current crisis in Ukraine
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... Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Hopper
4.0 out of 5 stars More needs to be known
This was the first book I have found which attempts to place Putin into context and give at least a partial explanation of his character. Read more
Published 5 months ago by K. Catleugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Vladimir Putin
Fascinating and frightening. The accounts of Beslan and the Moscow Theater siege seemed so authentic. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book
Excellent read if you want to know what Putin is really like. Would recommend as it goes into more depth than a lot of books I have had previously
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. J. Bray
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
One of the best books I read last year. Got me drawn into russian politcs. I can't wait for Gessen second book on the topic!
Published 5 months ago by maja
3.0 out of 5 stars I struggled with this
I think this was the time when a conventional book would have been better for me to read it. I struggled with it but will not be beaten and will go back to it when I can... Read more
Published 6 months ago by FortyNine and Seven Eighths
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