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

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Overview

International views of Russia have changed drastically in the last decade, due in part to the leadership of the decidedly pro-Western President Yeltsin. It was not without concern that we saw the next elected leader pulled from the ranks of the former KGB.
Andrew Jack, former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, uses in-depth research and years of journalistic experience to bring us the first full picture of Vladimir Putin. Jack describes how Putin grew to become the most powerful man in Russia, defying domestic and foreign expectations and presiding over a period of strong economic growth, significant restructuring, and rising international prestige. Despite criticism of his handling of the war in Chechnya and of the controls he introduced on parliament and the media, Putin has united Russian society and maintained extraordinarily high popularity.
Inside Putin's Russia digs behind the rumors and speculation, illuminating Putin's character and the changing nature of the Russia he leads. It highlights some of the more troubling trends as he consolidates his leadership during a second presidential term marred by the Beslan tragedy, the attacks on Yukos and Russian policy towards Ukraine. Now with a new Epilogue by the author, this invaluable book offers important insights for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of Russia.

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Editorial Reviews

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

"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

"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

"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

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

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.
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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 a journalist for the Financial Times, currently based in London. He was based in Russia from 1998 to 2004, covering the end of the Yeltsin era, the rise to power of Vladimir Putin, and his entire period in office.

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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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