Top positive review
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First class account of contemporary Russian history.
on 24 December 2013
'Fragile Empire' is a copiously researched (from travel and interviews as well as written sources), meticulously footnoted, and comprehensively indexed account of how Vladimir Putin's stated intentions, upon becoming President of Russia in 2000, to construct a 'dictatorship of law' and 'vertical of power' failed. More than that, it provides snapshots of often overlooked, out-of-the-way places deep within the Russian Federation, presenting evidence of both the relative weakness of state structures and the pervasiveness of corruption and disorder; and shows clearly how living standards and the social expectations voiced in the provinces are a world away from those of the liberal intelligentsia in Moscow. The book's conclusions, while bleak, are not apocalyptic, and the author appears to have a strong gap of the subject, demonstrating good judgement throughout. The one section in which I found the arguments presented not to be altogether compelling was that concerning the 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine: I this was approached rather too much from a Russocentric/geopolitical perspective, downplaying non-geopolitical motivations for the protests that resulted in a rigged election being annulled. But it is perhaps unfair to expect an author with such a depth and breadth of knowledge about Russia, writing principally about Russia, to have an immediate grasp of the Byzantine complexities of its neighbour and mother... But: all in all, this is an outstanding work, and perhaps the best presentation of 'where Russia is today, and why it is there' that I have read, and I greatly look forward to reading more from the author in future.