Nothing Is True and Everything is Possible is a journey into the glittering, surreal heart of 21st century Russia: into the lives of oligarchs convinced they are messiahs, professional killers with the souls of artists, bohemian theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, supermodel sects, post-modern dictators and playboy revolutionaries. This is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, where life is seen as a whirling, glamorous masquerade where identities can be switched and all values are changeable. It is a completely new type of society where nothing is true and everything is possible – yet it is also home to a new form of authoritarianism, built not on oppression but avarice and temptation.
Peter Pomerantsev, ethnically Russian but raised in England, came to Moscow work in the fast-growing television and film industry. The job took him into every nook and corrupt cranny of the country: from meetings in smoky rooms with propaganda gurus through to distant mafia-towns in Siberia. As he becomes more successful in his career, he gets invited to the best parties, becomes friend to oligarchs and strippers alike, and grows increasingly uneasy as he is drawn into the mechanics of Putin’s post-modern dictatorship.
In Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, we meet Vitaliy, a mafia boss proudly starring in a film about his own crimes; Zinaida, a Chechen prostitute who parties in Moscow while her sister is drawn towards becoming a Jihadi; and many more. These 21st century Russians grew up among Soviet propaganda they never believed in, became disillusioned with democracy after the fall of communism, and are now filled with a sense of cynicism and enlightenment. Pomerantsev captures the bling effervescence of oil-boom Russia, as well as the steadily deleterious effects of all this flash and cynicism on the country’s social fabric. A long-nascent conflict is flaring up in Russia as a new generation of dissidents takes to the streets, determined to defy the Kremlin’s and fight for a society where beliefs and values actually count for something.
The stories recounted in Nothing is True and Everything is Possible are wild and bizarre and lavishly entertaining, but they also reveal the strange and sober truth of a society’s return from post-Soviet freedom to a new and more complex form of tyranny.