The name Vladimir Putin comes up again and again in news headlines with his confrontation of Obama over Syria and now with the ongoing Ukranian crisis. Yet how much does the average American (or Westerner) know about this Russian President? This book is a biography about Putin written by a Russian female journalist who worked for US News and World Report. She has lost colleagues and friends involved in investigative journalism in Russia which faded her early optimism for Russia. Readers should appreciate what the author is up against when she wrote this book.
The book covers Putin’s early years growing up in St. Petersburg and his youthful infatuation with the KGB. It also discusses how Putin portrays himself including the stories he like to tell of him fighting people as a youth. Putin’s desire to enter the KGB made him desire to go to college to the surprise of some. Surprisingly this fighter went on to complete a doctoral degree later in life but according to the author much of Putin’s thesis was plagiarized.
The author’s coverage of Putin in the KGB is quite informative especially his days working in East Germany. Although the author insists that Putin was merely a low level KGB officer, I think one must not forget that he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He resigned from the KGB in 1991 during the KGB’s failed coup.
The most intriguing part of the book was on Putin’s rise to power, beginning with Putin’s entry as a low level official in the city of St. Petersburg and moving upward towards Moscow. The book discusses about how some wanted to take credit for Putin’s rise to power but we must not miss how Putin is an ambitious man and not just a crony to be manipulated by others. Yet it is this perception of Putin as a yes man with no personality that led Boris Yeltsin to appoint Putin to become the acting president of Russia when he stepped down.
The book also talks about plots, corruption and killing by those around Putin. Most heart breaking was the book’s discussion of the disaster of the Russian submarine Kursk and how he handled it poorly. Specifically, Putin would rather let those men die than allow other nations to help rescue those men for the sake of national honor. The hostage situation in a school in Belsan was also covered, with Putin’s disregard for the lives of the hostages.
This book is an important read because it gives a little window into the life and thinking of Putin. I hope there will be more works like this in order for the West to understand more accurately who this man really is in light of current affairs.