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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome RUSSIAN account of Putin
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...
Published on 16 July 2012 by Bill Tell

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good account of Putin
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...
Published on 4 April 2012 by Edna85


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome RUSSIAN account of Putin, 16 July 2012
By 
Bill Tell (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
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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
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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
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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
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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. She also maintains a proper distance from some of the less wholesome opponents of the regime, whom she has nevertheless grilled as part of her research.

Given the life expectancy of articulate opponents of Mr Putin, who tend if not sent to the labour camps like Khodarkhovsky to get poisoned or gunned down like Politovskaya, Ms Gessen is also enormously brave. She did not retire to the West to research in a library, she stayed in Russia and she deserves our deep respect for that alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crucial reading during the current crisis in Ukraine, 17 Mar. 2014
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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. The fall of the Soviet Union seems to have left him initially bewildered and confused as it meant the relatively sudden collapse of the system that had made him what he was; in the 1990s, he played lip service to notions of reform and democratisation and seems to have been able to fool enough people to get on, including the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who effectively made him what he became towards the end of that decade.

All this certainly explains Putin's recent actions - along with a large number of his fellow countrymen, he hankers after the certainties of the Soviet system, but unlike them he has a firm grip on the levers of the state with which he can make reality fit with his vision. He has no compunction about the methods he uses in order to achieve this, as he has been used to getting his way after nearly a decade and a half at the top of the Russian state and effectively thinks he can get away with almost anything. He follows a very old (as old as the Tsars) Russian political tradition of completely blackening all political and personal opponents. Seen in this light, his actions in almost certainly sending troops into the Crimea, while denying having done so, abrogating Ukraine's treaty rights, and portraying the Ukraine authorities as fascists who are supposedly suppressing the rights of Russian speakers, make a kind of sense. An important book at the current time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read, 29 Aug. 2012
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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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good account of Putin, 4 April 2012
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read, 18 May 2015
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This review is from: The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (Paperback)
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 Russians in thrall to his obsessive power. Any Western leader would love to have a mite of his 85% approval rating. Gessen explains how Putin came to power from obscurity to thrust Russia back into the consciousness of the West; how he poses with his bodyguards to portray a machismo which is not obvious from his (lack of) physical stature; drags his guards late at night to play ice hockey and even altering his facial appearance through surgery to negate his ageing. This dangerous man uses his ex-KGB connections to further his image of Russia to the rest of the world and Gesson cites many compelling examples of this activity. A must-read written in an accessible way with the author's strength being she is a local journalist with huge insight. I loved it and recommend it unreservedly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read in turbulent times, 22 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (Paperback)
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 behind some of the actions of Russia/Vladimir Putin. Things fall into place with a brutal logic. Not the least the current activities in Crimea/Ukraine. Unfortunately the book makes it hard to be an optimist about Russia.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spotlight on the character of a tyrant, 7 May 2012
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Interesting insights into the rise of a middling KGB man to lead the mighty Russia. Strikes me that the author has had to interpret much with limited background information. Trouble with writing about Putin is that Putin keeps very close control of his image. A very good effort with plenty of insightful analysis - however tinged with a partisanship that is thoroughly understandable. A valuable work shedding a little light on an otherwise opaque, undemocratic and powerful state. Particularly liked the detail regarding Putin's impromptu acquisition of a glass kalashnikov from a US museum. Along with the incredible sums he "redirected" to build a personal fortress/pleasure castle by the sea. Good value!
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The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen (Paperback - 3 Jan. 2013)
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