Kicking the Kremlin by Marc Bennetts & Putin and the Oligarch by Richard Sakwa

by
August 2014, no. 363
Putin and the kleptocrats

Kicking the Kremlin: Russia’s New Dissidents and the Battle to Topple Putin

by Marc Bennetts

Bloomsbury, $27.99 pb, 318 pp, 9781780743486

Book Cover 2 Small

Putin and the Oligarch: The Khodorkovsky–Yukos Affair

by Richard Sakwa

I.B. Tauris, £20 hb, 318 pp, 9781780764597

Kicking the Kremlin by Marc Bennetts & Putin and the Oligarch by Richard Sakwa

by
August 2014, no. 363

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March was a dramatic sign of Russia’s sense that it had recovered from its post-Soviet weakness. Viewed in the West as an outrage, in Russia the seizure was portrayed as a triumph, the culmination of a national resurgence under Vladimir Putin. It remains to be seen how long this mood of triumph will last. 

President Putin’s popularity has long been buoyed by high prices for oil, Russia’s main export. On top of this oil bonanza, which saw national GDP double in a decade, Putin’s popularity has spiked after shows of strength like Russia’s 2008 invasion of the Caucasian republic of Georgia. In 2011–12 his standing slumped when his return to the presidency ruled out a new liberal era in Russian politics. The seizure of Crimea has sent Putin’s approval rating back to 2008 levels, demonstrating the link between Kremlin muscle-flexing and the political balance inside Russia.

Putin and the kleptocrats

Kicking the Kremlin: Russia’s New Dissidents and the Battle to Topple Putin

by Marc Bennetts

Bloomsbury, $27.99 pb, 318 pp, 9781780743486

Book Cover 2 Small

Putin and the Oligarch: The Khodorkovsky–Yukos Affair

by Richard Sakwa

I.B. Tauris, £20 hb, 318 pp, 9781780764597

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Comments (3)

  • Judith Armstrong is quite correct to point out that Khodorkovsky supported the liberal cause. This was both before his arrest, in his financial backing of the liberal opposition in the Duma (as I said in my review); and afterwards in jail, when his writings won plaudits from many sources. But despite this support for liberalism Khodorkovsky’s stance, including his comments that he is not ‘especially a liberal’, that he is ‘for a strong state’, and that it was necessary for former state assets like Yukos to be sold for ‘symbolic prices’ (all quotes from Sakwa's book), is sufficiently nuanced to require a longer analysis than a short review format permitted. And however inspirational his views, Russians – even liberal ones - must wonder whether they would have been better off had Khodorkovsky and his fellow oligarchs not got their hands on Russia’s national wealth for ‘symbolic prices’.
    Posted by Nick Hordern
    29 August 2014
  • I was very disappointed that the review 'Putin and the Kleptocrats' gave such a misleading impression of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The reviewer seemed to have no idea of Khodorkovsky's Damascene moments when he began to understand and adhere to the (small l) liberal underpinnings of a civil society, working on many fronts, and of course against the odds, to try to establish it in Russia. Yes, he was imprisoned, but that did not stop him becoming an iconic inspiration, as Richard Sakwa demonstrates but Mr Hordern bypasses. There is much talk of people underestimating others in this review, but in this case the reviewer has vastly underestimated one of the main subjects, as though Khodorkovsky were no different from the other oligarchs. As if!
    Posted by Judith Armstrong
    29 August 2014
  • Hey Nick

    Great review. Long time no hear.
    Posted by David Leitch
    11 August 2014

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