In This Review

Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia
Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia
By Anne Garrels
240 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

Garrels, knowing that Moscow is not Russia, chose the city of Chelyabinsk as her portal into “Putin country.” Located east of the Urals, the city was once closed to nonresidents owing to the sensitive military facilities it housed. Garrels first visited it in 1993, when the city was in the midst of a chaotic transition from the old system to a new one. Her impressions from that year serve as a water line against which she measures the dramatic changes she encountered on return visits that began in 2012. Garrels met people from every corner of the city: young professionals, the parents of disabled children, single mothers, LGBT residents, doctors, religious fundamentalists, drug addicts, schoolteachers, and more. She tells their stories with sensitivity, and her reporting is driven by a highly intelligent curiosity. In the end, one comes away with a portrait of contemporary Russian society that is deeper and more vivid than the ones often presented by data-laden sociological studies.