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First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President Paperback – May 5, 2000

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First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President + The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin + The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (May 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586480189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586480189
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The product of six interviews conducted by Russian journalists (and translated into English by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick), First Person is a book-length Q&A session in which Russian president Vladimir Putin discusses his childhood, his life as a spy, and his surprisingly rapid rise as a politician in the 1990s. Parts of this unusual autobiography are plainly banal (he weighs 165 pounds and likes beer), but interspersed throughout are candid comments by one of the world's most powerful men. Putin admits that he didn't know much about Stalin's violent purges in the 1930s when he joined the KGB ("I was a pure and utterly successful product of Soviet patriotic education"). He also scolds Soviet leaders for the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the cold war: "These were major mistakes. And the Russophobia that we see in Eastern Europe today is the fruit of those mistakes." At another point, he expresses frustration with some of the things critics have said about him: "Why have they made up so much about me? It's complete nonsense!" On the war in Chechnya, he is predictably defensive: "I was convinced that if we didn't stop the extremists right away, we'd be facing a second Yugoslavia on the entire territory of the Russian Federation--the Yugoslavization of Russia.... We are not attacking. We are defending ourselves." There's also an interview with his wife, who, when asked if her husband ever gets drunk, responds: "There hasn't been any of that." (After Yeltsin, this is apparently of concern to Russians.) The interviewers also ask her whether he ever looks at other women. She replies with a question of her own, intriguingly: "Well, what sort of man would he be, if he weren't attracted by beautiful women?" But Putin is, appropriately, the main show. Readers interested in Russian politics will want to review the final pages closely, as the president discourses on contemporary topics. Confronted with tough questions about Russia's treatment of a journalist who filed negative stories about Chechnya, Putin says, "We interpret freedom of expression in different ways." That's a KGB man talking--and yet another reason Putin is worth watching. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Prior to his sudden rise to the Russian presidency, Putin was virtually a mystery; this transcript of recent interviews goes a long way toward filling the blanks in his past. In eight chapters of q&a, punctuated with anecdotes from friends and family members, Putin recounts his boyhood in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), the three years he spent as a KGB intelligence officer in Dresden, his return to the collapsed USSR and decision to enter politics and, finally, the day Boris Yeltsin asked him to take up the Kremlin reins. In Russia, this slim volume surfaced quickly during the brief interim between Yeltsin's resignation and the March elections. But rather than focusing on his political views and ideology, the interviewers devote the bulk of the text to Putin's biography--an indication of just how unknown the new Russian president is to his constituency. And the book succeeds in humanizing the uncharismatic politician. Through his childhood memories, readers learn that the gaunt, stoic man in the newsreels was once a spunky teen cruising the streets of Leningrad in search of girls and judo matches and dreaming of being a Soviet secret agent. Putin, it would seem, was just the socialist boy-next-door, or, in his own unironic words: "a pure and utterly successful product of Soviet patriotic education." The question he leaves unanswered is: how does such an ordinary and unassuming guy find himself the president of Russia in an era of unabashed political intrigue? (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Gives good detail and does not drag on boring the reader.
Putin admits he was, ". . . a pure and utterly successful product of Soviet patriotic education."
Theodore A. Rushton
I will most likely get more books on Russia, as I want to learn more.
corinne wenzler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Igor Biryukov on September 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable little book of questions and answers. If you read it, you will probably start to understand the enigma called Putin. Almost ten years ago the President of Russia Vladimir Putin left the KGB in the rank of a colonel. One might say that the KGB officer would not be the best person to head a new and democratic Russia. But Putin served in the foreign intelligence and that is the big difference. As he admits in the book, the foreign intelligence officers in the KGB due to many years they spent abroad, were the group most critical towards the Soviet system, because they were able to compare the living standards, economic growth etc.
Soviet foreign intelligence as this type of organization in any other country used to hire the best people, whose tasks included gathering and analyzing information and feeding it back to Moscow. KGB officers saw very vividly the growing gap between the West and the East. Some people defected, but the majority honestly served to the hopeless cause and disintegrating, but their own country.
Putin talks about his family in this book and the story is amazing, albeit not so unusual for a 50 year-old Russian man. His father served in a submarine before WW2, and went to the War as a volunteer. He was almost killed in encirclement. His wounds left him limping for the rest of his life. His mother Maria by miracle avoided death after fainting from hunger in the blockaded Leningrad, but fortunately she moaned and made people aware that she was still alive and was separated from the dead bodies. But the blockade took a life of their son. Vladimir Putin was the only survived child out of their three children.
Life was tough after the war. They were poor. His father worked in a factory and his mother was a simple girl from the province.
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Chapulina R on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
The mysterious new Russian President gives us insight, in his own words, of his background, character, and personality. A series of interviews with his wife, daughters, friends, colleagues, mentors, and even former school-teachers gives a human dimension to this cold-eyed ex-KGB agent. Boris Yeltzin's hand-picked successor, hither-to unknown in the Russian political scene, might have been carefully "packaged" by the press to win the election. His KGB past, while a concern to many Russian citizens, ironically also gives him an image of incorruptability. His handling of the Chechnyan conflict has been popular in Russia while drawing criticism from abroad. Many of his interviewers' questions are quite pointed in regards to the War, and his answers are frank and revealing. His years of involvement in the martial-arts inspire his straight-forwardly aggressive but curiously humble approach to solving Russia's many problems. He might not be America's choice for the Russian leadership! But overall, it seems clear that he has a vision of a unified Russia, economically strong, and in partnership with the rest of Europe and the US. And he may be the only person who can unite the various bickering factions within the Duma, confront the oligarchs and mafiya, and bring internal reform to his country. Maybe of equal importance, after years of Yeltzin's embarrassing corruption, alcoholism, and failing health, the vigorous youthful Putin might instill new self-respect in Russia. I recommend "First Person". This is a very interesting and fast-reading book, giving us an unprecidented intimate look at a powerful new leader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By B. Crosby on May 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting biography format. It's composed almost entirely of interviews with Putin and those who knew and know him. While it's obvious that these people will portray Putin in the best light possible (for fear of being imprisoned), I think it becomes clear that Putin grew up in a totally different time than the old Soviet Stalinist, totalitarian regime we imagine. When he's assigned to East Germany in 1985, he's even shocked at how ideologically backwards they are full of fear and stagnation, a state Russia left three decades ago. (They were however economically better off.) It is evident that the Soviets became relatively more progressive, and he continually contrasts his ideology with KGB old-timers, although you may question the sincerity. But to think that Putin was stationed in East Germany when the Berlin Wall came down puts things into perspective. He is part of a new generation of Russians. Also, being a KGB agent is not necessarily a bad thing, because of all the people in the Soviet Union, it was the KGB agents who had greatest access to the West, and they often discovered completely different perspectives and cultures than their own. I doubt many were shocked and cried, "I knew it all along, these decadent Westerners are impoverished and immoral!" More likely, they wondered why the West so was so wealthy and their citizens were allowed to think and express themselves more freely.

The West (media, corporations, politicians, banks) have excoriated Putin as some old-fashioned, dangerous, dinosaur Soviet KGB agent who wants to bring Russia back to the good-old Soviet days full of purges and war with the West. The real reason they do this is that Putin has made Russia an independent power that will not submit to Western corporate, banking, and political power.
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