Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia
by Anne Garrels
Published in December 2015
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
I first heard from this book from one of my favorite YouTubers, Caspian Report. Sadly, however, I can no longer find a link to the video where he reviews this book - the video might have been removed. Here is a link to his channel:
Putin Country is a collection of interviews former NPR journalist Anne Garrels gives to Russians living in the rural countryside. This book helped me realize the degree to which modern day Russia is disorganized. Anne Garrels paints a picture of daily life for the middle and lower middle class plagued by inefficiency, corruption, official brutality, and government incompetence. She reveals that, despite raising living standards, life in Russia has become unpredictable and is just as dangerous as it was in Soviet times.
I found the sections describing the conditions in the prisons and the prison strikes to be particularly chilling. I also found the sections about the mafia to be very interesting. In Russia, daily life is impossible without paying constant bribes to local police.
Many of the criticisms made by friends of mine who are anti-Putin activists were repeated by Garrels. The treatment received by the activists that she describes was very similar to the stories I had heard from the activists that I knew.
Several other aspects of Russia life were de-mystified. I got an insight into the minds of the Russian women who attempt to marry American men to escape the country. The demographic decline’s interpersonal causes and effects also fascinated me. I got many insights reading about the life of ethnic and religious minority Muslims.
This book taught me a lot about modern Russia, and really helped put the many maps with facts and figures in context. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in learning more about modern day Russia.
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