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The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen

Posted by Caitie F on October 18, 2012


Title: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
Author: Masha Gessen
Hardcover: 314 pages
Pub Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Riverhead (Penguin)
Rating: +++++

Summary from goodreads:

The chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the “family” surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country’s fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.


This is probably the best nonfiction book I have ever read, That isn’t an exaggeration at all. I think this is a book that most people in the world need to read, especially those who are interested in world news, current events, and Russia in general. Even if you aren’t interested in these things, this book will show you that you should be.

If you think Russia has become a Democratic country since the USSR dissolved…well you would be wrong. I knew Putin had done some bad things, but this book opened my eyes to so much the US media has ignored since Putin took office. I won’t talk about everything, because I really think you should read this book, but here are a couple examples.

There used to be elections for the county’s representatives. Now they are appointed. In fact, the only elected position in the national government became Putin.

Many people were murdered for disagreeing with Putin. The KBG is still alive and well in Russia and their tactics haven’t changed.

In the tragedy of Beslan, most of the people (who were mostly children) that were killed, were killed by the government, not the terrorists. In fact, once the government started attacking the building, the terrorists kept trying to move their hostages to safe areas to limit casualties.
And there is so much more that is very well researched and documented.

Masha Gessen writes in a compelling and accessible way. You don’t need to know much about Russia in order to read this book, but she doesn’t write in a way that makes it felt like she is talking down to readers either. I found it so hard to put this book down, something that rarely happens with a book like this. I had to know more and was engaged the entire time.

And in case you don’t read the book, know that it ends with hope. It ends with things starting to get better because the normal Russian people, the people that are there like you and me, started taking a stand. We know by the news that things aren’t perfect, but it is getting better and I really hope Masha Gessen writes about it more.

I hope you pick up this book. It will make you think and look at the world a little differently.


3 Responses to “The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen”

  1. Wow, you’ve made that sound like a must read. I really haven’t kept up and didn’t know all of that about Putin.

  2. Falaise said

    I’ve had this sitting on my Kindle for a few months now and this has reminded me to get going on it – thanks. Good review!

  3. […] The Man Without A Face by Masha Gessen. This book changed my opinion on Russia. It is the best nonfiction book i have read and everyone needs to read it. […]

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