Bearing in mind the recent elections in Russia this makes an interesting read.
When protesters denounce Vladimir PutinÂ’s puppet political party, United Russia, as Â“the party of crooks and thievesÂ”, who is it theyÂ’re thinking of and who, in the party of crooks and thieves, is the chief thief?
The Russian protesters think they know. As a service to the rest of us, Masha Gessen makes their belief (which she shares) quite clear. GessenÂ’s clear, brave book makes a strong case that Putin is not merely turning a blind eye to embezzlement and skimming. He is, an arch-practitioner.
ItÂ’s that image of the street-fighting, motherland-loving tough guy that Putin cultivates, and Gessen offers intriguing details of the scratching, biting, hair-tearing, undersized, brawling boy Putin, refusing to be bullied in the grubby back yards of Leningrad, nursing grievances.
He remains proud of his youthful violence Â– he often picked fights in the street as a young KGB officer Â– and itÂ’s that yearning for noble vor-like toughness that unites his obsession with posing stripped to the waist in PR shots with his penchant for public displays of scatological menace Â– threatening to Â“wipe terrorists out in the toiletÂ” or to have a French journalist castrated.