Rare book on Putin reviewed in NYRB
It has barely anything to do with this blog but I happen to be quite interested in what’s happening in Russia for various reasons (Russian friends visit us regularly during the summer, my wife used to live and work in Russia, I used to prepare a “news from the East” bulletin for a certain foundation, and there’s also Nabokov, though there’s not much connecting him to the country as it is today :roll:).
The latest issue of “The New York Review of Books” has a very lengthy article on Putin and his country. I actually find some of the assumptions expressed by the author (Amy Knight) benevolently naive. She may think she’s describing a terrifying police state – but she’s not doing it accurately enough. For instance, she seems completely unaware of the fact that when Putin becomes prime minister he will actually gain even greater power: the moment he is sworn in, which will happen in a couple of days, it will become quite reasonable to speak of modern Russian “absolutism”, with Putin as the absolute monarch – holding in his grasp both presidency (Medvedev is clearly just a stand in for Putin) and the Duma (Putin is now the leader of United Russia – the party which holds a 70% majority there). Even the author’s view of Russian ”independent” press is inaccurate: calling “Kommersant” an “independent” newspaper is certainly a bit of an overstatement… And I really don’t see in what way today’s Germany does stand up to Russia? Merkel may criticize human rights’ abuse but that’s about it. After all, Germany was one of the countries which blocked the acceptance of Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO MAP earlier this month! The suggestion that people in today’s Russia live well is quite preposterous. Except for Moscow and Petersburg, the country makes a really depressing impression.
But these are minor qualms. In the end, the article does give a pretty good idea of what Russia looks like these days, and does it in a very balanced way. And anyway, it is a long read so I’m not adding any more of my rant to it. 😉