The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
(Simon & Schuster, $18)
Triesman’s history aims for a bit more historical context (than the book by Allan Lynch also reviewed in this issue), explicating the post-Soviet experience from 1989 to the present day. Yet, this is still mainly a book about Putin and his rise. The first 80 or so pages focus on the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era, while the next 300 cover the last dozen years under Putin and Medvedev. Deeply informed by the author’s extensive time in country and his broadly cast net of interviews and research (there are 100 pages of footnotes), this is a balanced and detailed historical and Kremlinological account that is sympathetic to (and reasonably optimistic about) rapidly modernizing Russia’s many growing pains. At the same time it is deeply unsympathetic to jingoistic and simplistic views of Russia, which it answers with a welcome, evenhanded assessment of both past and present. Plus it’s just a good read.
Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2012