The swearing-in of Vladimir Putin for his fourth term as president of Russia was not a scenario envisaged in 1999 when his only administrative experience was as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.
But for the oligarchy bent on molding Russia’s political figure to its own designs, he was perfect. Suddenly the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared.
But he was not the progressive Russia an infatuated West thought they were getting. With ruthless efficiency Putin dismantled the country’s media, wrested control and wealth from the country’s burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy.
Within a few brief years, virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or the grave.
As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand.
Drawing on previously untapped information and sources, her horrifying and spellbinding account of how this “faceless” man maneuvered his way into absolute — and absolutely corrupt — power will stand as a classic of narrative non-fiction.