Tuesday, October 10, 2006

book of books – Putin’s Russia


Although this review might not seem immediately related to current reading it is a way of remembering the murdered journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya who was a voice of conscience in a world of secrecy and corruption

When I read the book a couple of years ago the note I made in my book of books was: “This is journalism of the highest order and it is amazing that this woman hasn’t been killed.”

Contents summary
The reason for that is she lifts the rock and lights the darkness underneath in Putin’s Russia. She points out that Putin was KGB and now 6,000 jobs in the government system have gone to KGB cronies. One of the symptoms of the ill state of Russia is the way it treats those that are charged with defending the country and she catalogues solider abuse and the ruthlessness with which the hostages in the Moscow theatre, when they used gas without telling the victims what they used.

Of course what most people remember Politkovskaya for is her expose of what was really happening in the war in Chechnya and some of those abuses are covered here as well to illustrate the point about the approach Putin takes.

What really disgusts Politkovskaya is that the West are silent about the things that Putin does and help keep him in power.

Is it well written?
It is partly because of this book that Politkovskaya died last week and very few people have the guts to take on a regime that is prepared to go to extreme lengths to silence its critics. She knew that because the evidence was contained on the pages of her books and in her journalism but that didn’t stop her. It would be easy to get carried away with a tirade of anger but she manages to use a series of personal stories to illustrate a point that things are rotten in the state of Putin.

Should it be read?
For anyone interested in Russia and as a background to what has happened in Chechnya this is vital but for most people it is the sort of political/historical book that gets overlooked, which is a great shame.

Leads to – Either similar contemporary stuff, some of which is also by Politkovskaya, or back into the past, into the time of the Tsars.

Version read – Harvill Press paperback

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