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Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB Hardcover – May 22, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alex Goldfarb, Ph.D., was a dissident scientist who left Russia in the 1970s, joining the faculty of Columbia University. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he went to work for George Soros directing charitable initiatives in Russia. He befriended Alexander Litvinenko in the 1990s. Goldfarb later helped Litvinenko work on his memoirs and supported his efforts to expose the abuses of the newly ascendant FSB. Goldfarb is currently the executive director of the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, set up by Boris Berezovsky as an umbrella group for human-rights activists.

Marina Litvinenko first met Alexander at her thirty-first birthday party, in 1993, when he was a young officer in the FSB. They married and she gave birth to a son thereafter. In 2000, the three of them sought asylum in the United Kingdom, and she continues to live in London with her twelve-year-old son.

From AudioFile

The death of Alexander Sasha Litvinenko in London in November 2006 was a cause clbre, but few people know of the political intrigue that went on behind the scenes. This was no random hit--this was an execution in the style of the Cold War-era KGB. This chronicle by friend Alex Goldfarb and Litvinenkos wife, Marina, reads like the best le Carr or Clancy, and Dennis Boutsikaris is a wise choice for narrator. His portrayal of various East European accents is flawless. Under the spell of Boutsikariss hypnotic voice, we follow the Litvinenkos as they flee Russia for safety (they hoped) in England. Along the way, we learn of Sashas KGB past, his discovery of major crime at the heart of the state, and his poisoning and painful death. B.D.J. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 369 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press; 1St Edition edition (May 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416551654
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551652
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been interested in this story ever since it first broke back in November, and I got this book after seeing an interview with Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko on Charlie Rose. It is a fascinating look at the events that led up to Litvinenko's poisoning. The story begins with Goldfarb helping Litvinenko and his family escape to Britain via Turkey in November of 2000. The book discusses the relationship between Putin, Berezovsky and Litvinenko against the backdrop of KGB/FSB's rise to control in modern Russia. The book also discusses the Politkovskaya murder, the 2002 Dubrovka theater hostage crisis where 129 people were killed, and how these events and others may be related to the FSB. This book does not sensationalize for the sake of selling, but at the same time remains a compelling read. Fascinating, intelligently-written, and easy to follow along with, this book has offered much insight and inspired me to do even more research on these topics. A great read for anyone interested in analysis of modern politics and power plays.
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Format: Hardcover
Emotional and detailed account of events that lead to a tragic death of a former Russian intelligence officer Aexander Litvinenko.
Deep and competing political and financial agendas at play.
Great book, could not put it down untill finished!
Recommend to all who are interested in politics in general and Russia in particular.
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Format: Hardcover
I am always looking for a book that can take a complex subject and make it seamless. Boris Berezovsky fighting with Vladimir Gusinsky, Anatoly Chubais fired and rehired by Yeltsin, Chubais knuckling under to Putin, a surprise in the form of Vanessa Redgrave coming to the aid of Akhmed Zakayev, a former Chechen commander who the Russians try to extradite from Denmark, Berezovsky fired by Yeltsin but instrumental in advancing Putin, Roma Abramovitch's handshake with the devil, the Moscow Theatre hostage crisis, the Ryazan incident, good and bad Chechens, hundreds of thousands of dead Chechens, the re-empowerment of the Russian bureaucratic state, the oligarchs and dissidents verses the War Party, and on and on, in a tightly packed, gripping narrative. What Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko provide is context in the dizzying array of shifting alliances of post-Communist Russia. It grabs you the way Victor Kravchenko's book, "I Chose Freedom" did in the 1940s.

You feel for the incredibly brave souls, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Duma members Sergei Yushenkov andYuri Shchekochikhin whose fate is death at the hands of the FSB; they are all tough, resilient, fearless and doomed. Yet Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko make you feel for all these people, make you wish that we could do something more to help, make you ache for their tragic and vicious fate.

But in tragedy we see what Sasha Litvinenko sees. The joy of fighting back against people who care for nothing but themselves, and have no compunction about ruining the life of anyone who resists them. Like real life James Bonds, Litvinenko, Goldfarb and Berezovsky marshal their resources to poke Putin in the eye daily, taking their pleasures where they find them.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading Politkovskaya's Putin's Russia & A Russian Diary, Klebnikov's Godfather of the Kremlin and Felshtinsky's Blowing Up Russia, I have to admit this book is excellent as it corraborates all the information and adds more details to the information printed in the aforementioned books. The only thing I believe is not accurately depicted is Berezovsky himself. It is true he looted, it is true he made his money in dubious ways like all of the oligarchs. Goldfarb's positive treatment of Berezovsky must have something to do with them being friends, but this is to be expected. Overall, however, Berezovsky is not a bda character and the book itaelf is excellent.
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Format: Hardcover
Picking up this book I thought it would read more like a biography of Alexander Litvinenko's life and events leading up to his death - a bit exciting, but mainly mysterious. What I got instead was an unexpected surprise! A wonderful book detailing first hand accounts of some of the corruption plaguing Russia which lead up to Litvinenko's death; making his death appear less mysterious but inevitable.

Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko should be commended for writing such a brave, and wonderful book. Russia, Chechnya, and the politics surrounding a lot of big players, (too extensive to list here), become less puzzling. I enjoyed the italicized paragraphs detailing events playing out right along with the story; so for a while I could easily follow the Chechen war.

I did have difficulty keeping up with all of the names, where even pronouncing them was sometimes difficult. This caused me to forget who someone was, which is important to understanding the significance of certain events. I ended up filling up pages and pages in a small notebook trying to keep the players straight. This may sound a bit tedious but it really opened up the story. I plan to continue further readings, so having this resource is helpful.

In any event, I think the book is best summed up with Alex Goldfarb's Author's note: "I have written the personal story with the benefit of firsthand knowledge. I have written the history with confidence that it conveys Sasha Litvinenko's beliefs and conclusions, and my own. I do not propose that I am a neutral observer. I do maintain that I am an honest one and one who, with Marina's assistance, can best speak for Sasha."

If anyone is interested in the movie that is mentioned in the book, "The Assassination of Russia," you can search for it online and find it free on many websites. Very compelling.

Many thanks to Goldfarb and Marina for writing a courageous book.
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