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Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy Paperback – January 9, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At a time when many Westerners are ambivalent about Russian President Vladimir Putin, famed war correspondent Politkovskaya (A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya) argues that there is little to admire about the man or the country he has remade in his image. By recounting stories of the winners and losers in today's Russia, Politkovskaya portrays the country as a place where decency is punished, corruption rules and murder is simply a means of getting to and staying at the top. "Putin may be God and Czar in Chechnya, punishing and pardoning, but he is afraid of touching... Mafiosi," Politkovskaya writes. She's an attentive and compassionate storyteller, and the stories she tells are worth reading. The same cannot be said of her simplistic analysis. Politkovskaya's claims that Russia is more corrupt than ever before and that it's reverting to Stalinism, for example, may strike readers as provocative exaggerations. As someone frustrated with the Putin regime and furious about the war in Chechnya, which she argues is an omen of the state's future inhumane treatment of all its citizens, Politkovskaya is passionate and sometimes convincing. But she never adequately explains why, if life under Putin is so awful, 70% of Russian voters chose him for their president in 2004. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Politkovskaya, an award-winning journalist for the Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta, makes no excuses for her dislike of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his leadership style, reminiscent of the late Soviet period. Over the past five years, Putin has strived to reverse the centrifugal forces that had acted upon political and state power in Russia during the Yeltsin years. And according to Politkovskaya, his most notorious ploy is the second Chechen war. But the war isn't the only factor in Russia's "failing democracy." Corruption at every level of government seems to be the order of the day. Politkovskaya provides anecdotal evidence of provincial oligarchs, corrupt judges, and dozens of horror stories from Muscovites and province dwellers. Politkovskaya has built an excellent case for her premise, but one wonders whether she is a Cassandra in her own country. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082500
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Publisher's Weekly Reviewer is off the mark in his closing statement that 70 percent of the Russian population voted for Putin. S/he has no clue about the true political situation in Russia. During elections, competing political parties have no chance in gaining votes due to the Kremlin's firm grip on campaign activities. What the Kremlin wants is what the Russian people get. Does this reviewer really think the elctions are free and fair and that 70 percent is anything close to an accurate figure? There is no real democracy in Russia, and the majority of voters are so impoverished economically and uneducated (through no fault of their own) that when it comes to elections that you can't really expect them understand how to vote when they can't even buy medicine or food. Politkovskaya was murdered today. Sure her work was often over-emotional and perhaps it isn't brilliant in translation, but she was one of the few brave journalists to tackle the tough issues and to not self-edit. Her death follows that of Starvoitova, Gongadze (Ukraine), Khlebnikov and countless other post-Soviet journalists. Do some homework next time you write a book review.
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Format: Hardcover
Choosing journalism as an occupation in modern day Russia can result in dangerous and often deadly consequences. Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who chose such a career in spite of these potential risks. Fearless and honest, she refused to compromise her integrity as a journalist by writing nothing but the truth.
Working for one of the last liberal Moscow newspapers, "Novaya Gazeta", Politkovskaya committed herself to writing the truth about the war in Chechnya (which she openly and vehemently opposed), and the blatantly corrupt Russsian government.
In her third book, "Putin's Russia...", Politkovskaya exposes the instability of today's Russia due to the above mentioned corruption that infiltrates everything from business to politics to the military and to the court systems. Bribes are simply accepted as a way of life by bureaucrats and ordinary citizens alike. Although corruption and other forms of political and governmental "ugliness" exist in all countries, none exist to the extent witnessed in today's Russia. And for all of this Politkovskaya blames one man, Vladimir Putin (though she also places some blame on the western countries that have "bought into" the mask of democracy Putin wears during public appearances). Politkovskaya however, seeing through the guise, accurately defines Putin as a throwback from the past, as a ruthless, Soviet-style dictator.
All of Politkovskaya's "accusations" are supported by incontrovertible facts and examples. If nothing else, she was thorough in her research. She had no hidden agenda or score to settle in writing this or any of her books - she merely wanted to truth to be told.
Sadly, for telling the truth Anna Politkovskaya paid the ultimate price.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review applies to Small Corner of Hell and Putin's Russia. I read almost all of Anna's books and reports for Novaya Gazeta. It always struck me how dedicated and fearless (sadly she paid the ultimate price) she was to helping regular civilians living in Chechnya, and not just Chechens but Russians too. Her critics acuse her of being pro-chechen, but she also did plenty of reporting about Russian families who got stuck in the basements of Grozny during Russian carpet bombing campaign and for whom nobody in Russia really cared. She also wrote about regular Russian soldiers who are basically used as modern day slaves (Russian army is not voluntary).

If you are a Western reader trying to understand the roots of this conflict, Politkovskaya's books are probably a wrong choice. For that you have to read some history books addressing Russian history of the last 200 - 300 years. Start with Richard Pipes or something similar. Her books are reports of what's going on there now. As such they are great examples of what the REAL journalism should be. They also serve as a good source on what's really going on in Russia today. They would make a good foundation for a War Crimes Tribunal for both Russian and Chechen sides (or are they really just the same Gang), which hopefully will take place some day.

Finally, as others pointed out here the Publisher Weekly reviewer frankly does not know what he is talking about. He probably thinks Kim Jon Il is a legitimate ruler because 98% of North Koreans "vote" for him, too.
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Format: Paperback
The AUTHOR'S NOTE states: "... this book is not an examination of Putin's policies. I am not a political analyst. I am just a person among many, a face in the crowd, like so many.... These are my immediate reactions, jotted down in the margins of life as it is lived in Russia today."

Well, Politkovskaya doesn't all together stick with this decree, but touches upon Putin's "policies" by way of presenting his lack of policy in helping his people.

There are many events detailed in this book: soldiers being beaten and tormented by their commanding officers. Family members trying to find out the truth about their loved one's death, or murder. Corruption plaguing the Russian judicial system. Yury Budanov's kidnapping of a young Chechen girl, her rape and murder trial. Examples of friends the author has known and how their lives (good and bad) have been affected by the changes in the wake of the New Russia. The gangster life being rife throughout Russia, given in the example of Pavel Anatolievich Fedulev. The storming of the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow during the "Nord-Ost" musical by Chechen terrorists wishing to end the war, and how the government unleashed an unknown gas that ended up killing 200 hostages. The waging of "Antiterrorist Operation Whirlwind" that caused the Chechen people living in Russia to be harassed, framed, and forced to sign confessions that they plotted the attack; many were sent to prison or lost their jobs. According to Politkovskaya it was "Putin's belief that an entire people must shoulder collective responsibility for the crimes committed by a few" pg 224. The hostage situation in the town of Beslan on the day of "Lineyka," the celebration of the beginning of school when many families were at the school.
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