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The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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“Anyone who has spent time in Russia over the past 30 years should be deeply grateful for Arkady Ostrovsky’s fast-paced and excellently written book. Too often, the story of post-Soviet Russia is presented through a Western prism as a clash of good Westernizers and evil reactionaries, or as a lamentation about what the West could, and should, have done once it “won” the cold war. Mr. Ostrovsky doesn’t waste time on that. A first class journalist who has spent many years covering Russia for The Financial Times and The Economist, he is also a native of the Soviet Union, with an instinctive understanding of how politics, ideas and daily life really work there…. For better or for worse, Mr. Putin has forced the world to reckon with a surly and combative Russia again. Mr. Ostrovky provides a much needed, dispassionate and eminently readable explanation of how it happened.”
– Serge Schmemann, The New York Times
“A real insiders’ story of Russia’s post–Soviet ’counterrevolution’—an important and timely book.”
—Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag
“This dazzling book flags up the conflicts over ideas, morality, and national destiny in Moscow politics from Gorbachev to Putin—a triumph of narrative skill and historical empathy based on personal experience and rigorous research.”
—Robert Service, author of Comrades! A History of World Communism
“Essential, timely, and always gripping… with the narrative flair of a true chronicler of the mysteries of the Kremlin.”
—Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of Stalin
“How did Putinism come to pervade the psyche of the nation?… Ostrovsky’s sparkling prose and deep analysis provide a sweeping tour d’horizon of Russia’s malaise.”
– The Wall Street Journal
“Russia has always been a place where intellectuals, propagandists, viziers, and prophets have played a grand role. All the gangster-, KGB-, and oligarch-focused analyses of the country’s recent history have overlooked the men of ideas behind the tumultuous changes. Now comes Arkady Ostrovsky with a gripping intellectual history of the newspaper editors, ideologues, television gurus, and spin doctors who invented post–Soviet Russia.”
—Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible
“Ostrovsky is particularly good at hearing the nuances and seeing how identity, ideology and personal experience undermined hopes for democracy and reform.”
–The Washington Post
“A clear-eyed and honest account… informed, insightful and highly readable.”
–The Dallas Morning News
“Arkady Ostrovsky traces the descent from the heady days of 1991 with deep local knowledge, a journalist’s fluent style and sharp eye for detail, and wit. He places much of the blame on those who owned and dominated the media in the fifteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union.”
—Dominic Lieven, author of The End of Tsarist Russia
“For a decade Arkady Ostrovsky has been the most insightful foreign correspondent in Moscow, and in The Invention of Russia he uses his deep understanding of the country he loves to tell the gripping, tragic story of its recent history. A brilliantly original, illuminating, and essential book.”
—A. D. Miller, Booker short-listed author of Snowdrops
"A focused, bracing look at how the control of the media has helped plot the Russian political trajectory from dictatorship and back again. . . astute, accessible, and illuminating"
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
About the Author
Arkady Ostrovsky is a Russian-born journalist who has spent fifteen years reporting from Moscow, first for the Financial Times and then as bureau chief for The Economist. He studied Russian theater history in Moscow and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Cambridge University. His translation of Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia has been published and staged in Russia. He has appeared on morning edition, CNN, the BBC and Sky News. The Invention of Russia won the Orwell Prize and was a Financial Times Book of the Year.
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Top Customer Reviews
As a recent visitor to Russia, I was astounded to find that a country with a 1000 years to grow cynical about totalitarian leaders nevertheless had genuine enthusiasm for their newest Moscow strongman. This book does an exceptional job explaining how the "aggressive obedience of the Russian people" interacted with a dangerously unprepared and unregulated free-market to create the current situation; he also does an exceptional job documenting the cold-blooded manipulation of TV and murder of journalists that have protected Putin's grip on power. This is not a neutral or balanced book, but it is exceptionally well-written and the most intelligible introduction to modern Russia for westerners I've seen.
It was reassuring that the US government had it right and due to the strong leadership of Ronald Reagan and the reasonable gentlemen from the USSR, everything was going to work out fine.
Well folks, there is always more to the story and this book, especially the final chapters, tells a roller coaster back story that all politicos can relate to. While horrifying to me, there is an appreciable quality in recognizing the Russian struggles in their climb to democracy (Gangs of NY come to mind).
I think I'm more optimistic than the author, as I put great faith in rational actors, but as the book capably paints, these guys are all over the map!
As a first-time reader of so many Russian names and terms, the "Dramatis personæ" was greatly appreciated.
If a reprint is requested, and I hope it is, some maps and pictures would be very helpful.
Five stars because I actually finished the book.