Democracy. Russia. CIS.

Book Review: “Putin’s Labyrinth.”

Posted by democratist on June 6, 2010

June 6th 2010

Over the past couple of days I have been reading “Putin’s Labyrinth” by Steve LeVine (Random House – 2008).

The book provides a good survey of a number of aspects of the domestic development of Russia between Putin’s appointment as PM in 1999, and the rigged elections that installed Dimitry Medvedev as President in March 2008. However, it lacks an especially clear sense of focus; while the over-arching theme is the contempt the the Putin regime for the lives of it’s own citizens, and its complicity in a culture of impunity, and in the encouragement of violence towards those who are prepared to criticise the regime (with interesting and detailed chapters on the Klebnikov, Politkovskaya and Litvinenko cases), the book uncomfortably mixes an attempt to set out a serious history of the period with a disjointed memoir-like quality. And while he certainly provides some illuminating nugets, LeVine tends to be rather selective in his coverage – for example, there is very little about the horrific massacre of school-children in Beslan in 2004 (and contributory ineptitude of the local authorities). This is surprising given the book’s central theme.

While an engaging read, “Putin’s Labyrinth” is therefore more for the seasoned Russia-watcher in search of additional background detail than the beginner.

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