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This review is from: Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia (Hardcover)
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.