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3 Nonfiction Books on Modern Russia in the NYT 1/17/2020

From Russia With Blood: The Kremlin's Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin's Secret War on the West by Heidi Blake, 323 pages. "Blake's reporting - based on BuzzFeed investigations - helps expose the aims of a Mafia state in which the government is so intertwined with organized crime, they're best described as a unified organization".

Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia by Joshua Yaffa, 356 pages. The author, a New Yorker magazine correspondent, profiles prominent figures in Putin's regime in Russia.

Pravda Ha Ha: True Travels to the End of Europe by Rory MacLean, 343 pages. The author, a travel writer, retraces his steps across the crumbling Soviet bloc in 1989 as the Berlin Wall came down.

I haven't read them yet but they sound intriguing. I'm going to Russia, St. Petersburg & Moscow in Sept. I thought this could start a discussion!

Posted by
444 posts

Just finished the last of these three - took me awhile to get a hold of a copy.

Have you read them? What are your impressions?

Posted by
2460 posts

Where did you get a copy of Pravda Ha Ha? Actually, in late January, after I posted this, I had transferred my St. Petersburg tour to Poland for September. Then RS just cancelled the tour so I haven’t read any of these books.

Pravda Ha Ha appeals to me because of the time frame, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the travel perspective of the author.

What did you think of the other books?

Posted by
444 posts

Well, for Pravda Ha Ha I just bit the bullet and got a subscription to audible (first month free, so the bullet will survive the bite, if I remember to cancel).

Like I wrote elsewhere, for a similar timeframe but a much more readable (and somewhat less patronizing and proselytizing) take, I'd recommend checking out Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (incidentally, I had learnt about the book from Rick's podcast featuring an interview with Lisa, which I would also wholeheartedly recommend: ).

Out of the three book featured in NYT, I liked Yaffa's "Between Two Fires" the best (you can listen to the recent interview with Yaffa on Sean's Russia Blog podcast, to see if it's your cup of tea).

The other two are kind of shallow, generic, and disappointing, each in its own way, but both quite indicative of the current trends in public political discourse (and NYT's position in that discourse).