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The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin [Kindle Edition]

Masha Gessen
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.

As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.

Editorial Reviews


A Slate and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012

"[An] absorbing portrait… Gessen is most illuminating when she details the historical accidents that allowed an unexceptional bureaucrat to rule Russia." –The New Yorker  

“Part psychological profile, part conspiracy study… As a Moscow native who has written perceptively for both Russian and Western publications, Gessen knows the cultures and pathologies of Russia… [and has] a delicious command of the English language… A fiercely independent journalist… Gessen’s armchair psychoanalysis of Putin is speculative. But it is a clever and sometimes convincing speculation, based on a close reading of Putin’s own inadvertently revealing accounts of his life, and on interviews with people who knew Putin before he mattered.” –The New York Times Book Review  

“In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia… Although written before the recent protests erupted, the book helps to explain the anger and outrage driving that movement.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Thanks to her fearless reporting and acute psychological insights, Masha Gessen has done the impossible in writing a highly readable, compelling life of Russia's mysterious president-for-life.” –Tina Brown, The Daily Beast 

"Gessen's brave, impassioned and darkly comic biography is a damning portrait of the Russian leader." –San Francisco Chronicle

“Engrossing and insightful.” –Bloomberg

"Gessen shines a piercing light into every dark corner of Putin's story… Fascinating, hard-hitting reading." –Foreign Affairs

“[An] incisive bildingsroman of Putin and his regime… Alongside an acute apprehension of the post-Soviet dynamics that facilitated Putin’s rise, Gessen balances narratives of Putin-as-bureaucrat and Putin-as-kleptocrat with a wider indictment of the “Mafia clan” that retains him solely as its Godfather.” –The Daily

“Illuminating… Gessen sprinkles telltale signs of the Putin who would eventually emerge and rule Russia with an iron fist…It is with these explosive revelations that Gessen truly excels… [She] presents her case calmly, picking holes in Putin’s character, his policies, and his rule without stooping to hysterical condemnation… an electrifying read from what can only be described as an incredibly brave writer.” –Columbia Journalism Review

“A chilling and brave work of nonfiction… Gessen has succeeded in convincingly portraying the forces that made Putin who he is today.” –Bookpage

"Although Gessen is enough of an outsider to write beautifully clear and eloquent English, she is enough of an insider to convey, accurately, the wild swings of emotions, the atmosphere of mad speculation, the paranoia, and, yes, the hysteria that pervade all political discussion and debate in Moscow today." –The New York Review of Books

“What Gessen sees in Putin is a troubled childhood brawler who became a paper-pushing KGB man and, by improbable twists and turns, rose to the top in Russia… [She] does not attempt to weigh up Putin’s record but rather examines his biography, mind-set and methods… as a thug loyal to the KGB and the empire it served who never had a clue about the Earth-shattering events that blew the Soviet Union apart.” –The Washington Post

“An eye opening story with all the drama and intrigue of a novel.” –Popmatters

“Written in English but with Russian heart, Gessen focuses on the places and institutions that bred the nation's most resolute leader since Stalin… Some might say that Gessen's interpretation is political. Of course it is… but more importantly, it is thorough. She has seen fellow journalists killed, has been harassed herself, and yet continues to write from Russia… Her urgency is felt on nearly every page.” –Bookforum

About the Author

MASHA GESSEN is a journalist and the author of several previous books, most recently Perfect Rigor. Editor of the Russian-language Snob magazine, she has contributed to Vanity Fair, New Republic, Granta, and Slate, among other publications. She lives in Moscow.

Product Details

  • File Size: 440 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594488428
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,518 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 105 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Subject Matter Doesn't Match Expectations June 23, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Following the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union, political, economic and social chaos ensued across Russia as reactionary and progressive democratic factions attempted to shape the future of Russia. As the economy collapsed and the initial optimism and hope of post-totalitarianism began to fade, a power vacuum existed and the question was who would fill it. The who became Vladmidir Putin and the hope of many around the world for a more democratic, economically and politically open country aligned to the West became dashed.

After hearing an interview of Masha Gessen when this book was published, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle although never got around to reading until a few weeks ago. Based on the interview with Gessen, I was quite optimistic to read "The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin", but was disappointed with the fruits of Gessen's labor. I recognize some of the fiercest critiques of this book come from Russian individuals who consider this a hack job on Putin. I think much of their criticism is unwarranted as the reality of Putin's methodical and systemic crushing of political opposition, the free press and a growing capitalistic economic infrastructure is without question. To dismiss legitimate and real concerns about the brutal crackdown of Putin and his cronies is to ignore reality and impugn ones own credibility. Gessen is an ardent critic of Putin's and while I expected a book that covered the reality of his impact on Russia, I wasn't expecting the overt polemic that this book really is. Gessen's language is so ruthless and loaded about Putin that the book reads more like a couple hundred page op-ed than an investigative and highly researched biography.
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111 of 145 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Masha Gessen deserves a standing ovation for this brave work. In a society where the press has been routinely crushed, terrorized and indeed killed for their writings, she has created a deep look into the past of this very powerful man. I am thoroughly enjoying her writing style and the depth of her research into Putin's past. Putin just this week in his latest address post election characterized the USA as adversarial. I recommend this book for anyone who seeks peace and freedom. I am reading this book on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

I have now finished the book. Highly recommend. The number of people Putin hurt, killed, destroyed is amazing. Sad that he is still skimming BILLIONS from the society for his own estate and "CASTLE."

I got a giggle from the "comment." They must have a track on the book and dis it whenever they can to try to convince people to NOT read it. Power does corrupt in so many cases.
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39 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but very biased with own agenda May 1, 2012
By Byron
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read the whole book and it was fascinating. The author really did a disservice though which left me questioning the validity of all of their assertions. By the end it was clear the author supported the big oligarchs who had obviously made their money from unregulated practices. There was no attempt to be critical of them, and even sought to be apologetic and supportive of their plight. This I found to ruin the credibility of the whole book. It is really wrong to be critical of one lot of people for doing 'not good things' then apologise for others when they're doing the same 'not good things' but that's ok, cause they seemingly didn't win.. If its not ok, then you can't apologise for any one of them..

One lot gained political success through a period of turmoil and unregulated structures, the other lot made billions of $$. I can't feel sorry for either, and I'm not sure if I believe the author after reading they want us to feel sorry for the ones who made billions..

Otherwise it was interesting, a good insight into how someone inside Russia views their own country. How true what they say is, is now not so certain. But still interesting.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Every once in a while I'm shocked to learn anew that the American news media has missed the mark in its reporting of events around the world. Masha Gessen's recent portrait of third-term Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face, is an excellent case in point.

For example, one year ago, in December 2011, we learned about large demonstrations in Moscow protesting the obviously rigged outcome of the latest Russian elections, which had awarded nearly 50 percent of the vote to the President's party, United Russia. What I didn't learn from the reports I read here in America was that estimates of the crowd in Moscow ran as high as 150,000 and that "[p]rotests were held [the same day] in ninety-nine cities in Russia and in front of Russian consulates and embassies in more than forty cities around the world." Reports in The New York Times and other U.S. news sources gave the impression that the events were the work of Russia's tiny, long-beleaguered liberal minority and meant little. In fact, the demonstrations and marches were far more broad-based than the liberals had ever shown themselves to be capable of organizing. Masha Gessen tells the whole story in The Man Without a Face.

Or consider the experience of the brave souls who put themselves forward as candidates for President to replace Putin. It's possible but unlikely that you came across something awhile back about Garry Kasparov, the world's most famous Russian and the most celebrated chess player of all time, when he announced he was running for President. Kasparov could easily have attracted crowds of thousands anywhere in the vast expanses of Russia, but everywhere he went he found the doors locked at the venues he'd arranged and often found himself speaking to 50 or 100 people out-of-doors.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent factual story - took me a while to digest ...
Excellent factual story - took me a while to digest but got there in the end.
Published 1 day ago by John Roberts
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Disgusting anti Putin rubbish
Published 6 days ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and horrifying
Gripping and horrifying. I'm looking forward to reading more by Ms. Gessen.
Published 13 days ago by Anna
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative but contains a good deal of information...
Interesting and informative but contains a good deal of information that seems to be more hearsay than verifiable - not unlike many things in current Russia
Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars I felt like reading a detective story
I couldn't stop reading it when I once started. I felt like reading a detective story.
Published 25 days ago by Marja-Leena Ketonen
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Interesting look at Mr. Putin and his rise to power.
Published 1 month ago by chaz 2014
2.0 out of 5 stars Conspiracy theories supported by circular logic; this book was a major...
A jumbled conglomeration of conspiracy theories supported by circular logic; this book was a major disappointment. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Will
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great writing and great book. It arrived as scheduled and in the condition advertised.
Published 1 month ago by Ron Heard
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative book, a bit bias against Putin.
Excellent insight on Putin, I don't much like the authors slanderous stance though.
Published 2 months ago by Bach Schumann von Mozart
4.0 out of 5 stars The author is certainly not objective and obviously anti Putin so it...
Very informative and compelling read. Got rather bogged down with all the Russian names and changing alliances within the Russian beaurocracy. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robyn Douglas
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