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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad times for Russia
This is a easy to read account of the author's time in Russia as a journalist for the Guardian. The characterization of the present regime as a Mafia state is well chosen and is supported with numerous anecdotes. Harding, as a British journalist in Moscow, was probably never in serious danger of being murdered despite the veiled and not-so-veiled threats against him and...
Published 6 months ago by Deadsparrow

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very interesting
While I enjoyed reading this book and found it interesting, it felt a bit weak in story, felt like a load of articles loosely tied together which I suppose it was!
Published 20 months ago by kindleaddict


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad times for Russia, 4 Jun 2014
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This is a easy to read account of the author's time in Russia as a journalist for the Guardian. The characterization of the present regime as a Mafia state is well chosen and is supported with numerous anecdotes. Harding, as a British journalist in Moscow, was probably never in serious danger of being murdered despite the veiled and not-so-veiled threats against him and his family that he records. But any objective reader will come away from his account feeling great admiration for those Russian journalists and human rights workers who do risk being murdered - and occasionally are murdered - for attempting to keep their fellow citizens informed of what is happening to their society. Unfortunately, it may be a losing battle any way. Harding notes that something like 95% of their fellow citizens get their information from a television news media that is largely controlled by the state and its operatives. Imagine getting all your news from RT, every day. That by itself is a form of murder. Sad times for Russia.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read!, 27 April 2012
This review is from: Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia (Paperback)
Luke Harding's Mafia State is the most compelling book about today's Russia I have read. Harding writes with understated passion for the country he has come to love during his four years there as a Moscow Guardian correspondent. His account of break-ins into his family home, harassment, and deportation, all orchestrated by the FSB, should be an embarrassment to all involved into this, and similar cases in Russian self-proclaimed democracy.

What makes this book stand out is the personal element, and a touching honesty with which the author writes about his family and their Russian experience.
The book is well structured, and Harding's excellent journalistic skills make it an easy read even when he writes about complex political issues. I recommend this book to anyone who interested in trying to understand what political and social forces move within Russia today and how they affect the lives of its own citizens and those in the world at large.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book, 18 Mar 2012
This review is from: Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia (Paperback)
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
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for understanding why Putin's Russia is what it is., 10 Mar 2014
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As I'm writing this, Russian backed forces are present in large parts of Ukraine and currently occupy Crimea with a referendum on independence being held later this week. Remarkably enough this book, written 18 months earlier, predicts this course of events precisely.

This is a chilling expose of a nation whose ruling elite have destroyed all boundaries between government, organised crime and business.

Harding describes both his own personal harassment at the hands of Russia's security agencies- with his flat being broken into and veiled threats being issued against his family- along with a wider exploration of Russia's descent into corruption.

In Harding's view the direction that Russia has taken comes down to Vladimir Putin putting the FSB- formally the KGB- at the heart of his regime. Most of Russia's senior officials have known links to the organisation and from that flows the regime's other problems. A secret police needs an external enemy to justify it's existence so relations with neighbours must inherently be confrontational and paranoid. Internal opponents are enemies to be jailed, killed or exiled. The FSB's crude thuggery is barely even hidden- as the very public murder of Alexander Litvinenko shows.

Not that Putin's Russia is exactly like the USSR. Whereas the Soviets were motivated by a utopian ideology, the new Russia is driven primarily by the need to remain in power so as not to disturb the looting of Russia's wealth by those linked to the Kremlin and FSB. Putin's own self enrichment seems to be a particularly sensitive subject for the regime which suggests that it is true.

It is impossible to understand precisely how such a secretive regime works but Harding's observations seem to be grounded in evidence and logic- various factions have de facto independence to operate free from the rule of law as long as they don't upset the Kremlin. This extends to committing murder- various opponents of Chechen governor Ramzan Kadyrov have been murdered both within Russia and abroad for example. Most of the Putin era oligarchs are linked to the FSB. Above them, the government uses its control of Europe's gas supplies to ensure that no serious repercussions are suffered by the regime.

Other chapters explore elements such as the rise of a vicious neo-Nazi movement that has carried out a series of racist murders in the country, the economic stagnation of the rural poor and the incredibly sinister youth organisation, NASHI, that harasses Putin's enemies and conducts bizarre mass weddings among it's members.

Harding doesn't see much hope for things improving any time soon and unfortunately it is hard to disagree.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zersetzung, 9 Nov 2011
Luke Harding was the Guardian Moscow correspondent from 2004 until he was kicked out of Russia in 2011. His book is part collection of articles on contemporary Russia, part personal memoir of the events leading up to his final goodbye. I found the personal side of the book particularly powerful: break ins into his family home, bugging, and then termination of the accreditation, its reversal, deportation, reversal of that, and the effect all of this has on his family life, particularly his two young children. Some pretty important people must have been wasting a lot of time on his case. With the net-result of now finding their country accurately described as a "Mafia State" in this book.

In one of the last chapters entitled "The File" Harding describes how he suddenly realized what had happened to him: a dose of the soft terror perfected by the secret police in former Eastern Germany under the heading "Zersetzung" (dissolution). I had heard of "Zersetzung" as in "Wehrkraftzersetzung", the weakening of the will to fight in WWII, which was punishable by death. Harding discovers that under the last East German leader Erich Honecker Zersetzung became an academic discipline with the aim of discouraging the victim to such an extent that (s)he simply shuts up; for which there is another nice German word: "mundtot". He meets an ex-Professor of "operational psychology" (read Zersetzung), who still takes some pride in the methods he helped develop. This is amusing only with historical distance. But at least the man has regained enough moral clarity since the demise of his former bosses to realize that his behavior had been a mistake.

The East-German methods of Zersetzung were used throughout the former Warsaw Pact countries. And as Harding tells us in disturbing detail, they are now resurfacing in Russia. Combined with the "hard terror" of persecuting and even murdering dissenters, about which he also writes. Read this book to learn what it means to live in a state run by people who cannot abide being criticized.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harding`s Mafia State, 2 April 2014
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Very interesting account of the Kremlin`s attitude to journalists, especially those from Russia. Explanation of Georgian conflict helps us understand Kremlin attitude towards Ukraine
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amongst 2011's Outstanding Books, 24 Oct 2011
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Jim (Blackheath, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Luke Harding's chilling account of his four years as Moscow correspondent of the Guardian newspaper is one of the finest journalism memoirs I have read. Indeed it's one of the outstanding books of 2011. Written with the pace and immediacy of a cold war thriller, Harding describes how the modern face of Russia propagated by the Putin/ Medvedev governments is merely a sham and that it frequently descends into a hybrid of Soviet Union-paranoia and Sub-Saharan klepotocracy.

In painting this image of modern Russia he skilfully intersperses his own experiences as a reporter (including an extraordinary psychological war waged against him and his family by the FSB, including break ins to their home, phone hacking, surveillance and all manner of dirty tricks) , which culminates in his expulsion from the country last year. The most vividly told parts are Harding's 2008 reports from Georgia, when invading Russian troops in concert with militia groups carried out appalling acts of ethnic cleansing. This is an unflattering but necessary account of a complex and an oft-misunderstood country, whose people have been pillaged by a class of oligarchs and whose rulers remain as vicious and uncompromising as they did in the depths of the Cold War.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifyingly eye-opening., 10 April 2014
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Luke Hoare Greene (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I didn't know much about Vladimir Putin before reading this book, as much as most people really -he has a strange dislike for gay rights and likes to invade Crimea - but having read Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia I can safely say that I know enough to be strangely in awe of him, but not in a good way.

Luke Harding does an amazing job at showing us what the real Russia is like, from the seedy and corrupt Kremlin to the Soviet-loving countryside. Harding shone a bright light on the real goings on of `Vlad and Dima', not that he's the first to do so, but he managed to do it in a very readable and enjoyable manner.

I was a bit worried that the book would read like a play-by-play of what happened, something I could read on Harding's Wikipedia page but thankfully there's a lot of colour and story injected into the fold which kept my interest peaked throughout.
The methods that Russia has gone to and as recent activities in Crimea has proven, will continue to go to is mind-boggling, that a wannabe world superpower can and does act like such a bully is worrying.

Luke Harding is brave, but in a way I think that he shouldn't be considered such - simply telling the truth shouldn't require bravery but unfortunately that's the way of life in the Russia that Putin has created.

Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia is perfect for anyone seeking to get a better understanding of Putin and Russia, especially these days.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shame about the end, 11 May 2014
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F. A. Perry (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This book is a good read, and explains life in Russia for a western reporter. I couldn't put it down but my only disappointment was the ending when LH was surprised he was kicked out of Russia, surely it must have been no surprise. Considering the other crimes that the state commits against people, killings etc I'm not sure why HR dwelt on the fact that his family were disrupted etc. Surely this only detracted from the serious crimes the state commits and not sure why this was included, I almost got the impression these concerns where greater than the killing of people who questioned the state. Very strange ending for me but a very good book all the same.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read, 22 Mar 2014
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I FOUND it hard to put this book down, and reading much of it while on holiday in Russia made it even more powerful.
The fact Mr Putin's fascinating country was also in the process of taking back Crimea at the same time added to this.
It is well-written, quietly dramatic, informative and darkly fascinating.
Even if you have just a basic interest in today's Russia, I think you will love it.
Harding's book on Edward Snowden, which I'm halfway through, is also a great, scary read, but the personal/family aspects of this one really add to its power.
I can't recommend it highly enough, but I still plan future further holidays to Russia!
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