(Lavra Bell Tower, Kyiv, Ukraine)
How did we get here? On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighbors to the southwest, marking a steep escalation to a conflict that began in 2014. We’ve put together a list of books by Russia experts to help shed light on Russia, its people, and what Putin wants.
The stunning story of Russia's slide back into a dictatorship-and how the West is now paying the price for allowing it to happen.
The ascension of Vladimir Putin-a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB-to the presidency of Russia in 1999 was a strong signal that the country was headed away from democracy. Yet in the intervening years-as America and the world's other leading powers have continued to appease him-Putin has grown not only into a dictator but an international threat. With his vast resources and nuclear arsenal, Putin is at the center of a worldwide assault on political liberty and the modern world order.
For Garry Kasparov, none of this is news. He has been a vocal critic of Putin for over a decade, even leading the pro-democracy opposition to him in the farcical 2008 presidential election. Yet years of seeing his Cassandra-like prophecies about Putin's intentions fulfilled have left Kasparov with a darker truth: Putin's Russia, like ISIS or Al Qaeda, defines itself in opposition to the free countries of the world.
As Putin has grown ever more powerful, the threat he poses has grown from local to regional and finally to global. In this urgent book, Kasparov shows that the collapse of the Soviet Union was not an endpoint-only a change of seasons, as the Cold War melted into a new spring. But now, after years of complacency and poor judgment, winter is once again upon us.
Argued with the force of Kasparov's world-class intelligence, conviction, and hopes for his home country, Winter Is Coming reveals Putin for what he is: an existential danger hiding in plain sight.
A journey into the glittering, surreal heart of 21st century Russia, where even dictatorship is a reality show
Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the wild and bizarre heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship-far subtler than twentieth-century strains-that is rapidly rising to challenge the West.
When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook and corrupt cranny of the country. He is brought to smoky rooms for meetings with propaganda gurus running the nerve-center of the Russian media machine, and visits Siberian mafia-towns and the salons of the international super-rich in London and the US. As the Putin regime becomes more aggressive, Pomerantsev finds himself drawn further into the system.
Dazzling yet piercingly insightful, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is an unforgettable voyage into a country spinning from decadence into madness.
An extraordinary behind-the-scenes portrait of the court of Vladimir Putin, the oligarchs that surround it, and the many moods of modern Russia that reads like a "real House of Cards"(Lev Lurie).
All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews with Vladimir Putin's inner circle, this book presents a radically different view of power and politics in Russia. The image of Putin as a strongman is dissolved. In its place is a weary figurehead buffeted -- if not controlled -- by the men who at once advise and deceive him.
The regional governors and bureaucratic leaders are immovable objects, far more powerful in their fiefdoms than the president himself. So are the gatekeepers-those officials who guard the pathways to power-on whom Putin depends as much as they rely on him. The tenuous edifice is filled with all of the intrigue and plotting of a Medici court, as enemies of the state are invented and wars begun to justify personal gains, internal rivalries, or one faction's biased advantage.
A bestseller in Russia, All the Kremlin's Men is a shocking revisionist portrait of the Putin era and a dazzling reconstruction of the machinations of courtiers running riot.
A Library Journal Best Book of 2015
A NPR Great Read of 2015
The Internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both.
On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government's front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world's most intrusive listening device, monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks.
But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia's antagonists abroad -- such as those who, in a massive denial-of-service attack, overwhelmed the entire Internet in neighboring Estonia -- there is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home.
Drawing from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. From research laboratories in Soviet-era labor camps, to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and Internet communications in the 1990s, to the present day, their incisive and alarming investigation into the Kremlin's massive online-surveillance state exposes just how easily a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare. Dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world's most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world of The Red Web.
Learn how the perception of truth has been weaponized in modern politics with this "insightful" account of propaganda in Russia and beyond during the age of disinformation (New York Times).
When information is a weapon, every opinion is an act of war.
We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where dark ads, psyops, hacks, bots, soft facts, ISIS, Putin, trolls, and Trump seek to shape our very reality. In this surreal atmosphere created to disorient us and undermine our sense of truth, we’ve lost not only our grip on peace and democracy — but our very notion of what those words even mean.
Peter Pomerantsev takes us to the front lines of the disinformation age—from Kiev to Manilla--where he meets Twitter revolutionaries and pop-up populists, “behavioral change” salesmen, Jihadi fanboys, Identitarians, truth cops, and many others. Forty years after his Ukranian dissident parents were pursued by the KGB, Pomerantsev finds the Kremlin re-emerging as a great propaganda power. His research takes him back to Russia — but the answers he finds there are not what he expected.
Blending reportage, family history, and intellectual adventure, This Is Not Propaganda explores how we can reimagine our politics and ourselves when reality seems to be coming apart.