The People Behind the Power

Book - 2014
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From former NPR Moscow correspondent Gregory Feifer comes an incisive portrait that draws on vivid personal stories to portray the forces that have shaped the Russian character for centuries--and continue to do so today. RUSSIANS explores the seeming paradoxes of life in Russia by unraveling the nature of its people: what is it in their history, their desires, and their conception of themselves that makes them baffling to the West? Using the insights of his decade as a journalist in Russia, Feifer corrects pervasive misconceptions by showing that much of what appears inexplicable is logical when seen from the inside. And he makes clear why President Putin remains popular even as the gap widens between the super-rich and the great majority of poor. Traversing the world's largest country, Feifer conducted hundreds of intimate conversations about everything from sex and vodka to Russia's complex relationship with the world. What emerges is a rare portrait of a unique land of extremes whose forbidding geography, merciless climate, and crushing corruption has nevertheless produced some of the world's greatest art and some of its most remarkable scientific advances.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York ; Boston : Twelve, 2014.
ISBN: 9781455509645
Characteristics: 372 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


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Apr 26, 2014

The author uses historical events to support his thesis that Russia is different from Western countries due to a hidden culture that is elusive to foreigners and that makes the transition today to a liberal democracy very difficult despite the overthrow of Communism, adaptation of Capitalist institutions like a securities market and freer access to information like the Internet.
The author’s credentials are superb—he speaks fluent Russian, has a Russian mother and a father who reported on and lived in Russia. But in his desire to prove his thesis he reaches back into history to the Middle Ages thru the Czars and Communism to purport that the Russian people are used to and expect tyrannical leaders in order to bring order to the country. He carries forth this logic to the present-day Vladimir Putin, against whom he has a particular dislike. More convincingly he might have compared the leaders of Russia within the framework of their own time and stage of development to more liberal societies.
The future may show that Russia has a second-way to govern that is just as effective and leaves the governed as satisfied as the Western model, flawed as it is, but I think it is too early to judge right after the overthrow of Communism and the end of the Cold War.

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