Vladimir Putin sees his regime as a triumph – one that has turned a bankrupt state into an energy superpower, built a new middle class out of post-Soviet wreckage, and defended NATO expansion, while Russian incomes boomed more than 140 per cent.
However, Ben Judah argues that Russia’s leader is not the strongman he appears. Putin may be victorious as a politician, but he has utterly failed to build a modern state. Once loved for his forcefulness and the spreading of new consumer lifestyles, Putin’s regime is now increasingly loathed for incompetence and corruption. Rather than modernizing Russia’s institutions, Putin has enthroned a predatory bureaucracy, leaving the regions a patchwork of fragmented and feudalized entities – some ruthlessly technocratic, others almost lawless.
Ben Judah has had rare access to the oligarchs and officials who made the Putin era and the new opposition who are trying to destroy it. An exceptionally talented young writer and reporter, Ben takes the reader through a scarred nation – from the battlefields of the Caucasus and the tank factories of the Urals to the impoverished farmers toiling for Chinese settlers in the cold fields of the Far East.’
Ben Judah was born in 1988, less than three years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He studied at Oxford University and has travelled widely in Russia and Central Asia. He has reported from the abandoned Gulags of Kolyma, tracked a Yeti in Tajikistan, and covered the Georgian war and revolutionary violence in Kyrgyzstan.
His work has featured in the Financial Times , the Economist , the New York Times , Prospect , Standpoint and Foreign Policy . He reported for Reuters in Moscow before joining the European Council on Foreign Relations in London as a Russia analyst. He is currently a visiting fellow at the European Stability Initiative.
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