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All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin

All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin

by Mikhail Zygar

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“I read this book in one night, truly a page-turner. It leaves a profoundly scary impression: [Putin's court is the] real House of Cards.” —Lev Lurie, writer and historian

All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews


“I read this book in one night, truly a page-turner. It leaves a profoundly scary impression: [Putin's court is the] real House of Cards.” —Lev Lurie, writer and historian

All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews with Vladimir Putin's inner circle, this book presents a radically different view of power and politics in Russia. The image of Putin as a strongman is dissolved. In its place is a weary figurehead buffeted—if not controlled—by the men who at once advise and deceive him.

The regional governors and bureaucratic leaders are immovable objects, far more powerful in their fiefdoms than the president himself. So are the gatekeepers—those officials who guard the pathways to power—on whom Putin depends as much as they rely on him. The tenuous edifice is filled with all of the intrigue and plotting of a Medici court, as enemies of the state are invented and wars begun to justify personal gains, internal rivalries, or one faction's biased advantage.

A bestseller in Russia, All the Kremlin's Men is a shocking revisionist portrait of the Putin era and a dazzling reconstruction of the machinations of courtiers running riot.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Outside observers, especially those in the West, chronically and routinely overestimate Vladimir Putin's control over the system he runs. We look for grand strategy instead of immediate, tactical considerations. We look for a single, organizing mind instead of a hive of voices competing for his attention. Mikhail Zygar, one of Russia's smartest and best-sourced young journalists, provides a necessary corrective with his new book, All the Kremlin's Men: A Court History of 21st Century Russia. Mr. Zygar, editor of the independent news station TV Rain, obtained rare access to Kremlin insiders, piecing together a portrait of a ‘collective Vladimir Putin' that is both less calculating—and more dangerous—than the singular strongman of our imagination.” —Ellen Barry, New York Times

“To those who believe that Vladimir Putin's rise to power followed an inexorable master plan of control, this book will come as a shock. Mikhail Zygar, editor-in-chief of Russia's only independent TV station, says everything that happens in Putin's Russia is tactics: ‘a real-time response to external stimuli devoid of an ultimate objective.' Based on interviews with members of Putin's inner circle and with key actors in Russia today, Zygar charts the evolution of Vladimir Putin from a fan of the West to the West's nemesis, from reformer to what Zygar calls a ‘hurt and introverted outcast.' Fifteen years after Putin came to power, many still are trying to answer the question ‘Who is Mr. Putin?' Mikhail Zygar has some answers.” —Jill Dougherty, Former CNN Anchor and Foreign Affairs Correspondent

“Mikhail Zygar is one of the heroes of Putin's Russia, courageously trying to practice honest journalism in a country where honesty increasingly has become an occupational hazard. He is uniquely qualified to take on the subject of Putin and his entourage, and he presents the story of the past 15 years in a way that punctures myths and opens our eyes to events we only thought we understood. He does so with inside reporting, insightful analysis and a cheerful refusal to treat pomposity with respect. —Fred Hiatt, Washington Post

“[All the Kremlin's Men] is absolutely riveting. I have the sense that Mikhail Zygar has gone more profoundly than any other into the deep roots of the Putin Empire. The work is truly brilliant!” —David Andelman, Editor and Publisher, World Policy Journal

“Mikhail Zygar's voice remains one of the most important ones in the rapidly deteriorating media freedom environment in Russia. As a reporter and later as editor-in-chief of Dozhd-TV, Mikhail has been a true advocate for quality journalism and high ethical standards. Anyone interested in journalism and free media should listen to his insights and vast experience. —Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media

“[All the Kremlin's Men] is based on profound research, dozens and hundreds of interviews, and many years of attentive and thoughtful observation. All of that is deep within, and what the reader sees immediately is a 230-page story, bright, well-written, excellent text, truly an exciting piece of non-fiction adventure.” —Galina Yuzefovich, literary critic, Meduza

"I read this book in one night, truly a page-turner. It leaves a profoundly scary impression: that's real 'Hours of Cards.'" —Lev Lurie, writer and historian

“…fascinating…[Mikhail] Zygar takes us deep into the secret world of the courtiers whose task is to shape Mr. Putin's access to information so that he makes the “right” decision…” —The Wall Street Journal

“Of the many accounts written about the Russian president, Mikhail Zygar's insider's guide to his court is one of the most compelling…The book charts not just the machinations of the various players…It also acutely traces the evolution of Putin's mind.” —The Guardian

“A tale of Russian politics based on personalities, ego and ambition, rather than policy, convictions or ideology…The stream of court intrigue gives 'All the Kremlin's Men' the juicy allure of a Russian thriller.” —The Economist

“Mikhail Zygar is a rare Russian journalist, objective, refusing to follow the herd, still holding the Putin era to account despite the obvious dangers. Knowing he could always follow many colleagues and activists into jail, hospital, or into the graveyard, Zygar persists nonetheless. He gets behind the propaganda machine in a unique series of in-depth off-the-record interviews with leading Russian politicians, policy makers and oligarchs including some from Putin's inner circle. A must read if anyone is to understand what Putin's game is.” —Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent

Library Journal
★ 10/01/2016
Zygar is a highly experienced journalist associated with Russia's disappearing independent media, and his book provides a detailed chronicle of Vladimir Putin's rule. The author depicts an unusual authoritarian governing style reconciling Putin's absolute power with a varied cavalcade of chief advisors. At his best, Zygar interprets intersecting webs of legal and political power wielded by shifting loyalties, tactics, and agendas. For some, such as Nikolai Patrushev, the former director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), ties to Putin may be redeemed in prosperous political longevity. The more common fate shared by many with the "tandem" president and "liberal" Dmitry Medvedev express sporadic conflict and political humiliation. Episodic events such as the annexation of Crimea, war in Chechnya, and the oppositional Bolotnaya mass protest are described in detail. Putin's unpredictability becomes mired in assumptions contrary to Western thinking. The content is well explained and consistently plausible, but in depending on extensive personal interviews, some accounts cannot be confirmed. Far less plausible are prospects for any "reset" in Russian-American relations. VERDICT This excellent book contains a continuous account of Putin's years in power seasoned with details that are poorly known to most readers, if known at all.—Zachary Irwin, Behrend Coll., Pennsylvania State Erie
Kirkus Reviews
A veteran journalist and former editor-in-chief of Russia’s only independent TV news station paints a revealing group portrait of the entourage influencing Vladimir Putin.With the likely exception of Dmitry Medvedev, the hand-picked successor whose 2008-2012 reign allowed President Putin to skip over the constitution’s annoying bar to a third consecutive term, few of the names Zygar highlights will resonate with a Western audience. Yet these bureaucrats, politicians, and businessmen, each with his own ego, ambition, and agenda, each attempting to divine the will of the leader, each reacting to events, account for Putin’s decision-making. Based on his own research and close observation of the Russian scene for the past 15 years and a large number of personal interviews, Zygar pieces together the depressing story of Putin’s declension. It’s a regression exposed by the president’s choice of best friends among the world’s leaders: from Bush and Blair to Schroeder and Chirac, Berlusconi and al-Assad. It’s a downward slope from necessary economic and military reforms and a commitment to combating Islamic terrorism to the effort to manipulate public opinion, discipline the oligarchs, suppress internal opposition, and steel the government against the “color revolutions” springing up in the post-Soviet and Arab states. Finally, there are the military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, the seizure of Crimea, a shrinking economy, and a forthright anti-West foreign policy. Zygar touches on all the headline-making events familiar to Western readers—the Kursk submarine tragedy, the Chechen terrorist attack in a Moscow theater, the army hazing scandals, the Pussy Riot arrests, the Sochi Olympics, and the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya—but this time we see these events through the eyes of Putin’s inner circle, courtiers intent on retaining power and propping up their man. Certainly for Kremlinologists but also for readers wishing to better understand how Putin’s Russia has come to look so much like the old Soviet Union.

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Meet the Author

Mikhail Zygar is the editor in chief of the only independent TV station in Russia, Rain TV (Dozhd). The channel's coverage of politically sensitive issues, such as the Moscow street protests in 2011 and 2012 and the conflict in Ukraine, has been dramatically different from the official coverage by Russia's national television stations. Despite immense pressure from the government, the channel continues to operate and is the most popular Russian-language channel in many of the former USSR republics. In 2014, Zygar received an award from the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und GerdBucerius fund for his work to preserve freedom of speech in Russia. The Committee to Protect Journalists in the United States also awarded him with the International Press Freedom Award and Vice news recently named him "the last journalist in Russia." Previously, Zygar worked for Newsweek Russia and the business daily Kommersant, where he covered the conflicts in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Serbia, and Kosovo. He is a fluent English speaker.

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