by Anna Politkovskaya - £10.99 The Harvill Press (2004)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781843430506 | ISBN 10: 1843430509
Former KGB spy Vladimir Putin, named Prime Minister of Russia in 1999 and, one year later, President, has been something of a media darling in the West, having successfully marketed himself as an enlightened leader with both feet planted firmly on the Eastern borders of Europe. Anti-establishment journalist and human-rights activist Anna Politkovskaya disagrees strenuously with this point of view.
In her new book she trains her steely gaze on, as she puts at, Putin "without the rapture". From her privileged vantage-point at the heart of Russian current affairs, Politkovskaya reports from behind the scenes, dismantling both Putin the man and Putin the brand name, arguing that he is a power-hungry product of his own history in the security forces and so unable to prevent himself from stifling dissent and other civil liberties at every turn. After centuries of living under tyrants, Politkovskaya argues, this is not what contemporary Russians want.
The book is, however, not simply a biography or an analysis of Putin's presidency. Politkovskaya's writing is known for its humanity and its passion, and her focus is on individual human beings and their stories. As she puts it, "my book is jottings made on the margins of life in Russia. For the time being, I cannot analyse that existence. I'm just living and noting what I see."
So her readers are treated to expose of mafia dealings and scandals in the provinces, of corruption in the military and the judiciary, of the decline of the dissident intelligentsia and concomitant rise of street traders, and of the truth behind the Moscow theatre siege. Other shocking stories fill out an intimate portrait of nascent civil institutions being subverted under the unquestioning eyes of the West.
(Price & availability last checked: June 2018)