No Illusions: The Voices of Russia’s Future Leaders. BY ELLEN MICKIEWICZ. Oxford University Press, 2014, 264 pp. $29.95.
Twenty years ago, while working for the National Democratic Institute in Russia, I found myself observing a focus group in the town of Khimki, not far from Moscow. In a drab apartment, my colleagues and I strained to understand what local residents thought about candidates running in a by-election for the Russian parliament. It was a disorienting time, that early post-Soviet period, before the wars in Chechnya, the collapse of the ruble, and President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. But for some, it held a tantalizing hope: that Russia would ultimately transition to democracy. I, too, felt optimistic watching the men and women in that first group discussion. They seemed eager to debate the candidates’ relative merits and clearly relished their newfound political voice.
In the decade and a half afterward, I observed
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