5 Books to Understand Putin’s Russia

After Russia
3 min readFeb 23, 2023

Books are available in English

Source: Amazon
  1. The Red Mirror: Putin’s Leadership and Russia’s Insecure Identity (2020) by Gulnaz Sharafutdinova

Professor of Russian Politics at King’s Russia Institute (King’s College London) who was born in Tatarstan — one of the most ethnically diverse Russian regions of Russia where Tatars make up a numerical majority — explores the sources of Putin’s leadership, shared collective perspectives of Russian citizens, and how the past was used by propaganda to shape the present.

Source: Amazon

2. Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century (2022) by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman

The book shows how today’s authoritarian regimes differ from “fear dictators” of the past. What Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Viktor Orban, and Vladimir Putin (till February 2022) are doing to control their citizens. Authors argue that the main methods are distorting information and simulating democratic procedures. Even though, after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has shown its true colours, the book is worth reading to understand how Vladimir V. Putin could survive as a country leader for more than 20 years.

Source: Wikipedia

Masha Gessen is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of many books on Russian history, politics and culture, including “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin” and the National Book Award-winning “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.” And, perhaps most important, Gessen has been on the ground in Russia in recent weeks trying to understand how ordinary Russians are seeing and interpreting the world around them.” — The New York Times

Source: Amazon

3. The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (2017) by Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen, who identifies as a non-binary and transgender, is a journalist and Putin’s biographer. In this book, they follow the lives of four people and use these stories to highlight the most significant turns in Russian history of the last 30 years, from the dawn of democracy to the return of dictatorship.

Source: Amazon

4. The Man without Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012) by Masha Gessen

How a low-level KGB agent turned out a dictator terrorising his own people and the whole world. Masha Gessen, a journalist in Moscow at the time, not only experienced the history themself, but also used the sources no other authors had.

Source: Amazon

5. All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin (2015) by Mikhail Zygar

Mikhail Zygar, the former Dozhd’s editor-in-chief and an openly gay happily married to his partner, answers the question: Who are those in the inner circle of the president? All the intrigues behind the high Kremlin’s walls described in this book certainly deserve their own TV show. In his recent interview, the acclaimed Ukrainian director and producer Alexander Rodnyansky revealed that he is working on the series about Putin, which is partially based on this book, for one of the streaming giants.

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