Legendary Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s recounting of the bizarre rise to power of Vladmir Putin. How did a run of the mill kid from St. Petersburg rise to a position of power in first the Russian secret police and then all the way to the prime minster of a global super power? Short answer? Extreme corruption and an egomaniacal will to power. Longer answer? Read the book about how he manipulated situations (and people) from the time he was a junior politician in St. Petersburg through his time as a KGB all the way up to today. Along the way silencing (and perhaps killing) enemies and amassing for himself and his associates incredible wealth. It’s a shocking story of how, in a weak democracy, one person can assume almost unlimited power.
There’s plenty of lessons in here for all of us today.
While the book has some weaknesses (its digressive, feels like it relies on previously written material, and puts Gessen’s own story near the center) it’s also a very valuable read for understanding one of the most important and enigmatic leaders in the world today.