Inside Putin's Russia: Can There Be Reform without Democracy?

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Written by Andrew Jack, the Moscow Bureau Chief of the Financial Times, and featuring a new preface and conclusion for the U.S. edition, here is a revealing look at the meteoric rise of Vladimir Putin and his first term as president of Russia. Drawing on interviews with Putin himself, and with a number of the country's leading figures, as well as many ordinary Russians, Jack describes how the former KGB official emerged from the shadows of the Soviet secret police and lowly government jobs to become the most powerful man in Russia. The author shows how Putin has defied domestic and foreign expectations, presiding over a period of strong economic growth, significant restructuring, and rising international prestige. Yet Putin himself remains a man of mystery and contradictions. Personally, he is the opposite of Boris Yeltsin.

A former judo champion, he is abstemious, healthy, and energetic, but also evasive, secretive, and cautious. Politically, he has pursued a predominantly prowestern foreign policy and liberal economic reforms, but has pursued a hardline war in Chechnya and introduced tighter controls over parliament and the media and his opponents, moves which are reminiscent of the Soviet era. Through it all, Putin has united Russian society and maintained extraordinarily high popularity. Jack concludes that Putin's "liberal authoritarianism" may be unpalatable to the west, but is probably the best that Russia can do at this point in her history. Inside Putin's Russia digs behind the rumors and speculation, illuminating Putin's character and the changing nature of the Russia he rules. Andrew Jack sheds light on Putin's thinking, style and effectiveness as president. With Putin's second term just beginning, this invaluable book offers important insights for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of Russia.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In assessing Vladimir Putin's first term as Russia's president, Jack, Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times, answers a very limited "yes" to the subtitle's question. His finely wrought political record of the country's last four years argues that a detailed understanding of Russia's particular combination of circumstances-Cold War security-state trauma; out-of-control crony capitalism; a simmering, terror-centered civil war-make Putin's autocracy more comprehensible, if not palatable or sustainable. A familiar introductory profile of a smart, engaged Putin; sketches of gulag survivor culture; Putin's rise from Petersburg-based bureaucrat to Yeltsin's handpicked successor, then autocratic ruler; and Chechnya's role in shaping Putin's rule since his appointment to the presidency in 2000 (with subsequent elections) form the book's succinct first half. The book's second half finely renders the fallout from Russia's disastrous privatization in the 1990s; in chapters like "Autumn of the Oligarchs," Jack (The French Exception) sees Putin as attempting to get the power brokers created by Yeltsin to serve the country with a combination of shrewd legislation, media control and raw power. It can be tough to keep track of the players in the shady doings of Yukos, Lukoil and other energy companies still in the news, but Jack's familiarity with and skepticism of them makes for directed reading. The result is an excellent (and wary) political and economic overview of an often opaque U.S. ally. Agent, Andrew Nurnberg. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Inside Putin's Russia is as much about getting inside Putin himself, at least insofar as intelligent, informed speculation can penetrate a naturally closed personality. Jack, The Financial Times' Moscow bureau chief, focuses on five critical areas that Putin has shaped (and they him): the war in Chechnya, media relations, trimming the oligarchs, institutional reform, and foreign policy. These are twice-told tales, but Jack reconstitutes them very well, adding fresh detail and a reporter's keen eye. Jack sees Putin as a "liberal chekist like his Soviet mentor, [Yuri] Andropov," who has presided over a decreasingly troubled but increasingly troubling Russia: less troubled because of the stability he has brought, more troubling because of his methods. He also sees Putin as a "'fair-weather leader,' yet to prove himself in more difficult circumstances." Given recent events, that may be about to change.
Library Journal
Jack, Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times, sketches political events in Russia since 1998, drawing on his access to nearly all of the pols and political hacks who have shaped the current scene. His main concern is that "Putin appears to believe that reforming the economy to modernize the country is a far more urgent priority than building a democracy." The recent siege of the school in Beslan, which transpired after this book went to press, demonstrates one of Putin's real demons: the war in Chechnya. The tragedy in Beslan has put an even greater strain on democracy because it has allowed Putin to ask for even greater personal power, ending the direct, popular election of regional governors. Confirming the findings of more academic works, e.g., Lilia Shevtsova's Putin's Russia and Chrystia Freeland's Sale of the Century, though stylistically more like Anne Nivat's interview-based The View from the Vysotka, Jack's work argues persuasively that so far Russia's democracy has been a "virtual democracy" only and that the Russian people must learn the basics of democracy to make it work. Recommended for public libraries.-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Or: Can democratic reform be entrusted to a former agent of the Soviet secret police?Boris Yeltsin took pains to present himself as a new breed of Russian democrat, writes Financial Times Moscow bureau chief Jack (The French Exception, not reviewed). But Yeltsin took even greater pains to create "a supra-presidential system," engineered a constitution that gave most powers to himself, and allowed him to designate his successor. That man, Vladimir Putin, has taken the challenge of reform seriously enough, Jack suggests, especially given his nation's lack of peaceful oppositional politics, even while playing both sides against an elusive middle and asserting "the restoration and clear reaffirmation of pride in the Soviet Union, stripped of its former ideology." Putin has weathered all kinds of storms, using the "unexpectedly popular" mess in Chechnya much as President Bush has used 9/11, forging alliances with labor leaders, going after the privileged elite for tax evasion and money laundering, and attempting to set reforms in motion to get workers paid and move things along. He has also made missteps, especially with regard to international relations: drawing close to the US, for instance, instead of the European Union, "much easier . . . if only because it was dealing with a single group of interlocutors, and a more consistent message," then drawing away to strike a pose of leadership at the start of the Iraq war. Though he evenhandedly gives credit and assigns demerits to the leader, Jack attributes some of Putin's success to luck-but more to Putin's ability to use his luck effectively and judiciously, proving in the bargain to be "a far more reliable partner than Yeltsin, with a morerealistic view of his country's capabilities." That luck is likely to hold, Jack says: Though the signs are clear that reforms will continue without greater democracy, at least the Russian economy is looking up. Now, if only Putin would dispense with designating his successor. A clear-eyed, highly readable look at modern Russia, with all its ongoing enigmas and mysteries.
From the Publisher

"In the most comprehensive account of Putin's first term in office now in print, Jack presents a judicious account of his achievements: tax reform, balanced budgets, sharply reduced international lending and a booming economy." --Michael McFaul, Washington Post Book World

"A fluent, detailed and balanced account of Russian power politics, with a lively emphasis on the Kremlin's onslaught against independent media and stroppy tycoons."--The Economist

"A clear-eyed, highly readable look at modern Russia, with all its ongoing enigmas and mysteries."--Kirkus Reviews

"Jack's book is, as the title suggests, an attempt to see Russia from within, to understand it on its own terms. Jack is not sympathetic to the regime, but he is fascinated by the country.... We learn a huge amount about Putin's Russia along the way.... The restraint and the skepticism that run through Jack's book do even more credit to the author now that Putin's credentials are going up in smoke."--Robert Cottrell, New York Review of Books

"A must-read for avid Russia-watchers...masterfully reveals the inner workings of Putin's Kremlin.... Jack draws on extensive first-hand knowledge from his six years as Moscow bureau chief for London's Financial Times to enliven his narrative.... Jack's book is well written and meticulously researched, exhibiting refreshingly few of the oversimplifications that too often pepper popular accounts of contemporary Russian politics.... An impressive book that goes a long way toward improving our collective understanding of what motivates Russian politics today."--Juliet Johnson, Globe & Mail

"An excellent (and wary) political and economic overview of an often opaque U.S. ally."--Publishers Weekly

"Lively, fluent and well-informed." --Guardian

"Andrew Jack has been responsible for some of the best coverage of Russian affairs in recent years. Inside Putin's Russia is intelligent, meticulously researched and readable: everything a political biography should be." --Sunday Times

"Andrew Jack could hardly have picked a better time to come out with a book on Vladimir Putin. It helps contextualize some of the new concerns about Putin's leadership and about whether Russia, once seemingly on the path to democracy, is lurching instead toward dictatorship. Jack puts the president's moves into perspective."--Anna Kuchment, Newsweek International

"Inside Putin's Russia is as much about getting inside Putin himself, at least insofar as intelligent, informed speculation can penetrate a naturally closed personality. Jack, The Financial Times' Moscow bureau chief, focuses on five critical areas that Putin has shaped (and they him): the war in Chechnya, media relations, trimming the oligarchs, institutional reform, and foreign policy. These are twice-told tales, but Jack reconstitutes them very well, adding fresh detail and a reporter's keen eye."--Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

"A helpful overview of the Putin era since 2000.... Jack, who is Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, gives us a country with 'chill breezes returning from the past,' possibly headed toward a new political Ice Age."--Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Jack gives considerable attention to the regime's takeover of NTV, the most independent of the Russian television channels, by the state-controlled energy company Gazprom. This is a story that has been told before, but what makes Mr. Jack's narrative particularly useful is that he describes the extent to which NTV was corrupt itself.... Jack provides valuable background to the Chechen conflict."--David Satter, The New York Sun

"A sober look at the new Russia."--Denver Post

"Jack's work argues persuasively that so far Russia's democracy has been a 'virtual democracy' only and that the Russian people must learn the basics of democracy to make it work."--Library Journal

"Admirable.... Jack shows in fascinating detail how [the so-called oligarchs] came by their wealth." --Spectator

"Andrew Jack has given us a vivid, sophisticated picture of Russia's political and economic culture under President Vladimir Putin. Jack offers a penetrating analysis of Putin's contradictory path as a modernizer of Russia--and of where this path might lead." --Mark Medish, former senior director for Russian affairs, U.S. National Security Council

"Inside Putin's Russia provides astute and accurate observations on what Russia has become under President Putin. In a lucid and highly readable book, Jack shows devastatingly how Putin has systematically curtailed democracy in Russia, while capitalism has triumphed. No other book gives such a clear feel of Putin's Russia." --Anders ├ůslund, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Andrew Jack's work is a valuable contribution to the literature on Russia at the start of the 21st Century: intelligent, fair-minded, and enlivened by the author's experiences as a journalist in Russia, and by his meetings with some of the leading figures there." --Anatol Lieven, author of the forthcoming America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195189094
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Jack is Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times. He has been based in Russia since 1998, covering the end of the Yeltsin era, the rise to power of Vladimir Putin, and his entire period in office. He was the Financial Times' Paris correspondent in the mid 1990s, and previously worked in London and New York. He is the author of The French Exception.

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Table of Contents

Dramatis Personae vii
Foreword to the US Edition xiii
Introduction: In the Kremlin Library 1
Coming to Terms 7
The Man From Nowhere 42
Prisoner of the Caucasus 88
Shooting the Messenger 131
Autumn of the Oligarchs 174
The Price of Reform 216
A Bridge Too Far 255
Towards Liberal Authoritarianism 297
Epilogue 341
Index 353
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