Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin

In This Review

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin
By Ben Judah
Yale University Press, 2013
400 pp. $30.00

Among the cascade of recent books about Vladimir Putin, this one stands out for three reasons. First, it is not quite a biography or an explanation of the man but rather a history of how he and those who surround him built the system that has guided Russia for the last 13 years -- and now misguides it, Judah argues. Second, in laying out the dysfunctions of a centralized but weak state, an all-powerful but corrupt bureaucracy, and an alienated but impotent society, Judah illustrates his case in particularly dispiriting detail, from the machinations on high to the grubby politics below, from the venal battles in Moscow to the empty despair in godforsaken corners of the hinterlands. Finally, he gathers much of his material from telling interviews with a wide range of sources -- opposition leaders, fallen oligarchs, and even dissolute teenagers in villages on Russia’s Chinese border -- and weaves them together with a fine selection of secondary sources. Judah packs familiar stories with unfamiliar details and freshens familiar judgments with unfamiliar insights.

Enjoy more high-quality articles like this one.

Become a subscriber.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles posted daily online and almost a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now

More Reviews on Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Republics From This Issue

Browse All Capsule Reviews

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.