Russians

Russians

The People Behind the Power

Book - 2014
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From former NPR Moscow correspondent Gregory Feifer comes an incisive portrait that draws on vivid personal stories to portray the forces that have shaped the Russian character for centuries-and continue to do so today.

RUSSIANS explores the seeming paradoxes of life in Russia by unraveling the nature of its people: what is it in their history, their desires, and their conception of themselves that makes them baffling to the West? Using the insights of his decade as a journalist in Russia, Feifer corrects pervasive misconceptions by showing that much of what appears inexplicable about the country is logical when seen from the inside. He gets to the heart of why the world's leading energy producer continues to exasperate many in the international community. And he makes clear why President Vladimir Putin remains popular even as the gap widens between the super-rich and the great majority of poor.

Traversing the world's largest country from the violent North Caucasus to Arctic Siberia, Feifer conducted hundreds of intimate conversations about everything from sex and vodka to Russia's complex relationship with the world. From fabulously wealthy oligarchs to the destitute elderly babushki who beg in Moscow's streets, he tells the story of a society bursting with vitality under a leadership rooted in tradition and often on the edge of collapse despite its authoritarian power.

Feifer also draws on formative experiences in Russia's past and illustrative workings of its culture to shed much-needed light on the purposely hidden functioning of its society before, during, and after communism. Woven throughout is an intimate, first-person account of his family history, from his Russian mother's coming of age among Moscow's bohemian artistic elite to his American father's harrowing vodka-fueled run-ins with the KGB.

What emerges is a rare portrait of a unique land of extremes whose forbidding geography, merciless climate, and crushing corruption has nevertheless produced some of the world's greatest art and some of its most remarkable scientific advances. RUSSIANS is an expertly observed, gripping profile of a people who will continue challenging the West for the foreseeable future.

Publisher: New York : Twelve, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781455509645
1455509647
Characteristics: 372 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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SeattleSaul
Apr 26, 2014

The author uses historical events to support his thesis that Russia is different from Western countries due to a hidden culture that is elusive to foreigners and that makes the transition today to a liberal democracy very difficult despite the overthrow of Communism, adaptation of Capitalist institutions like a securities market and freer access to information like the Internet.
The author’s credentials are superb—he speaks fluent Russian, has a Russian mother and a father who reported on and lived in Russia. But in his desire to prove his thesis he reaches back into history to the Middle Ages thru the Czars and Communism to purport that the Russian people are used to and expect tyrannical leaders in order to bring order to the country. He carries forth this logic to the present-day Vladimir Putin, against whom he has a particular dislike. More convincingly he might have compared the leaders of Russia within the framework of their own time and stage of development to more liberal societies.
The future may show that Russia has a second-way to govern that is just as effective and leaves the governed as satisfied as the Western model, flawed as it is, but I think it is too early to judge right after the overthrow of Communism and the end of the Cold War.

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