It has been a while since I have reviewed a book on my blog but I felt the timing was good and the book was worth it. It seems Russia has come back in our media and politics. Resurrected from its cold war hangover and reborn by one man, Vladimir Putin. The book is well written and researched by Mr. Myers taking us from Putin’s childhood in St Petersburg, through his time as a KGB agent to his eventual rise to power..
What we learn about his early years is this was a young man who did not stand out. He was not an academic genius. He was a typical kid who showed no great ambitions. Like many it was film that inspired him and the Soviet spy thrillers that influenced him to want to be a KGB foreign spy. He would never get the job in the west having to settle for a posting in Dresden, East Germany, where the KGB kept check on the Stasi. He would be there until the collapse of East Germany.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union,like many at the time he was a drift. A life that seemed so structured was no longer. That lack of structure was a very difficult issue for Putin. He would work for people in St Petersburg, on local campaigns and what you learn about Putin is he was loyal to whomever he worked for and he worked hard for those people he reported to. Loyalty and structure would drive him moving forward and define his personality.
He eventually found himself in Moscow working in the Boris Yeltsin apparatus Again he worked very hard until he started to get noticed by Yeltsin. After many Prime Ministers came and went under Yeltsin, Putin was eventually offered the role. He was picked by Yeltsin to become President once Yeltsin stepped away, primarily for health reasons. It is really amazing this unexpected rise, but all of a sudden a former KGB man is leader of Russia.
The biggest influence in Putin’s first term were two-fold: terrorism and Chechnya. They went hand in hand and Putin did as he was trained he came down on those who threatened Russia with force. During this early time as the crisis unfolded he also took steps to reign in the media and put them under state control. The oligarchs who had made billions were also brought in line. Those who did not fall in line were brought to trial and sent to Siberia (Yukos Oil). The people who really made out during Putin’s first eight years were old fiends from Petersburg, KGB etc..Corruption was contained but it was also alive and well in Putin’s Russia
The biggest event that lead to Putin’s break with the west was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. After this point Vladimir Putin changed. He became the man to resurrect Russia as a major player on the global stage. The book covers his time where he stepped back for 4 years as Prime Minister, while Medvedev was his appointed President. During this time primarily managing the corrupt Sochi Olympics and being a power broker behind the scenes.
There is a lot covered in this book by Mr.Myers and I just touched on some, but why you would admire Vladimir Putin is a mystery to this reader and I think to Mr. Myers as well. As Angela Merkl told President Obama, “Putin is in his own world” The Russia Putin believes in is based on history, history of a great past that is pre-Soviet. It is a fascinating account of what makes up a man who has created a cult of personality. He will be a major player for some time, through the 2018 elections (there is no competition in Russian elections…as we learn they are not Democratic). Read the book. It is a great read and will make you feel uneasy about the future.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann December 28, 2016