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All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews with Vladimir Putin's inner circle, this book presents a radically different view of power and politics in Russia. The image of Putin as a strongman is dissolved. In its place is a weary figurehead buffeted -- if not controlled -- by the men who at once advise and deceive him.
The regional governors and bureaucratic leaders are immovable objects, far more powerful in their fiefdoms than the president himself. So are the gatekeepers-those officials who guard the pathways to power-on whom Putin depends as much as they rely on him. The tenuous edifice is filled with all of the intrigue and plotting of a Medici court, as enemies of the state are invented and wars begun to justify personal gains, internal rivalries, or one faction's biased advantage.
A bestseller in Russia, All the Kremlin's Men is a shocking revisionist portrait of the Putin era and a dazzling reconstruction of the machinations of courtiers running riot.
"Mikhail Zygar is one of the heroes of Putin's Russia, courageously trying to practice honest journalism in a country where honesty increasingly has become an occupational hazard. He is uniquely qualified to take on the subject of Putin and his entourage, and he presents the story of the past 15 years in a way that punctures myths and opens our eyes to events we only thought we understood. He does so with inside reporting, insightful analysis and a cheerful refusal to treat pomposity with respect. --Fred Hiatt, Washington Post
"[All the Kremlin's Men] is absolutely riveting. I have the sense that Mikhail Zygar has gone more profoundly than any other into the deep roots of the Putin Empire. The work is truly brilliant!" --David Andelman, Editor and Publisher, World Policy Journal
"Mikhail Zygar's voice remains one of the most important ones in the rapidly deteriorating media freedom environment in Russia. As a reporter and later as editor-in-chief of Dozhd-TV, Mikhail has been a true advocate for quality journalism and high ethical standards. Anyone interested in journalism and free media should listen to his insights and vast experience. --Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media
"[All the Kremlin's Men] is based on profound research, dozens and hundreds of interviews, and many years of attentive and thoughtful observation. All of that is deep within, and what the reader sees immediately is a 230-page story, bright, well-written, excellent text, truly an exciting piece of non-fiction adventure." --Galina Yuzefovich, literary critic, Meduza
"I read this book in one night, truly a page-turner. It leaves a profoundly scary impression: that's real 'House of Cards.'"--Lev Lurie, writer and historian
"Outside observers, especially those in the West, chronically and routinely overestimate Vladimir Putin's control over the system he runs. We look for grand strategy instead of immediate, tactical considerations. We look for a single, organizing mind instead of a hive of voices competing for his attention. Mikhail Zygar, one of Russia's smartest and best-sourced young journalists, provides a necessary corrective with his new book, All the Kremlin's Men: A Court History of 21st Century Russia. Mr. Zygar, editor of the independent news station TV Rain, obtained rare access to Kremlin insiders, piecing together a portrait of a 'collective Vladimir Putin' that is both less calculating-and more dangerous-than the singular strongman of our imagination."--Ellen Barry, New York Times
"Mikhail Zygar is a rare Russian journalist, objective, refusing to follow the herd, still holding the Putin era to account despite the obvious dangers. Knowing he could always follow many colleagues and activists into jail, hospital, or into the graveyard, Zygar persists nonetheless. He gets behind the propaganda machine in a unique series of in-depth off-the-record interviews with leading Russian politicians, policy makers and oligarchs including some from Putin's inner circle. A must read if anyone is to understand what Putin's game is." --Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent
"...fascinating...[Mikhail] Zygar takes us deep into the secret world of the courtiers whose task is to shape Mr. Putin's access to information so that he makes the "right" decision..." --The Wall Street Journal
"Of the many accounts written about the Russian president, Mikhail Zygar's insider's guide to his court is one of the most compelling...The book charts not just the machinations of the various players...It also acutely traces the evolution of Putin's mind." --The Guardian
"A tale of Russian politics based on personalities, ego and ambition, rather than policy, convictions or ideology...The stream of court intrigue gives 'All the Kremlin's Men' the juicy allure of a Russian thriller." --The Economist
About the Author
- Publisher : PublicAffairs; First Edition (September 6, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1610397398
- ISBN-13 : 978-1610397391
- Item Weight : 1.39 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.25 x 9.63 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #343,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The Kremlin Men themselves have a certain Lake Wobegon quality (where all the children are above average) about them, although one or two are particularly chilling. My own view is that if the author of this book, Mr. Zygal, is indeed the last prominent independent journalist in Russia, it is because he knows which limits not to trespass.
This is not to say that this book is not informative. It does provide a Russian perspective on recent events and explains how the Kremlin understood them or chose to interpret them. At times, one is surprised and even worried at the apparent paranoia of the Kremlin about Western intentions, where steps or slights are interpreted (or is it exploited?) to justify more serious aggressions. One the memorable quotes is the one attributed to president Putin in a meeting with vice-president Biden: "we may look like you but we are not like you". It is true in many ways, but it is also a way to justify policies which are at odds with those of most of the rest of the world.
Still gigantic, yet woefully depopulated, economically sluggish, bordered by a massive China, an unstable Middle East and a rich but rudderless Europe, Russia is trying to find its place in the world. It is a massive undertaking for one man who remains an enigma.
What sets this book aside from all other books on Putin's Russia is 3 things:
1. Approach --> it does not portray Russia as ruled by 1 man, but gives an actual insight in the power structures and factions that rule the Kremlin
2. Author --> The author himself is Russian - he is involved with independent Russian tv station TV Rain (and had to resign after publishing this book because if pressure from the Kremlin). He managed to get very close to many of the men in power at the Kremlin, giving a unique insight from within this very closed group of people & power, instead of reporting from a distance, as is usually the case with books like these.
3. Writing style --> every chapter starts with an anecdote about a powerful figure. These anecdotes are great storytelling, especially the ones on Chechnyan leader Ramzan Kadyrov and head of Rosneft Igor Sechin. Also, the writer clearly tries to maintain a certain neutrality in his writing, whereas most western journalists / writers (Myers, Pomerantsev) clearly write from a certain moral high ground.
It's very refreshing, original, and I definitely recommend the book.
A final big plus: there is a "Who is who" list included in the English version. A very welcome feature, especially for non-native Russian readers like me, for whom
complexity of the many Russian names might be a bit overwhelming sometimes.
The book is a primer on the rise and reign of the Russian Caesar. Ukraine, Georgia, oil, the oligarchs, the massive lies, the assassinations... We learn who Putin is by his behind-the-scene actions and maneuvers, some known to us as reported in the papers, but much that is new. Michael Zygar has a golden Rolodex and has mined the minds of dozens of in-the-know sources. Yet, apparently, he hasn't yet crossed that invisible line that might mark his end. Perhaps Putin likes having his ruthless reputation burnished. This is not a psychological profile of Putin - that would be equally fascinating but perhaps more dangerous territory for a writer to venture into, but we can hope that one exists in Washington. You can bet Putin has his people working on our President-elect's profile.
You are given a pretty good character description of Putin's men, but the Tsar himself remains an unclear character and is still covered in dimmers. What is most surprising is what I thought was a calculative and long-term planning Chekist, rather seems to be a man who reacts for the moment and is afraid to challenge the different power groups in Russia. But the book is readable, because it gives a further picture of the many times mysterious and hard-drawn expressions of the Russian people's soul.
Top reviews from other countries
This is the best book on Putin since I read Masha Gessen's book "The man without a face....."
Both authors write "from the inside". Through his numerous interviews over the years, Zygar is well placed to have in-depth knowledge of Putin and those around him. He writes in a clear, easy to read, style.
A considerable disadvantage with the Kindle is the inability to flick back and forth within the book. For example. at the beginning of this book there is an entire chapter detailing the names, and a sort of brief CV, of the main characters involved. Without being able to readily refer back to this list, I got a bit lost as to who is who within the book; and a lot of characters are mentioned.
Most interesting was the many insights revealed for the first time to me. For example, that the Rotenbergs hold Finnish nationality and that Boris Berezovsky apparently was Russian Orthodox by religion. I always assumed he was Jewish. Was I wrong, or did he 'convert' for convenience ??!! Also, that Putin was not initially in favour of the winter Olympics in Sochi; I thought he was a main player from the start. And so on and so forth.
A question to which I still seek an answer on Putin is: "Is Putin out there to do as he wishes, or are there shadowy figures in the Kremlin who could, if they wish, rein him in ?" Although Zygar indicates that there are individuals, or groups, who have influenced Putin's thinking/actions/attitudes my question largely remains unanswered.
Regardless, thank you Mr. Zygar for a most entertaining and informative read.
Interesting how things work in his hierarchy and institutions, need to read some more to get an even better understanding.
A far better book on the same theme from a different perspective is: Red Notice by Bill Browder.