It is impossible to think of Russia today without thinking of Vladimir Putin. More than any other major national leader, he personifies his country in the eyes of the world, and dominates Western media coverage. In Russia itself, he is likewise the centre of attention both for his supporters and his detractors. But, as Tony Wood argues, this focus on Russia’s president gets in the way of any real understanding of the country. The West needs to shake off its obsession with Putin and look beyond the Kremlin walls.
In this timely and provocative analysis, Wood explores the profound changes Russia has undergone since 1991. In the process, he challenges several common assumptions made about contemporary Russia. Against the idea that Putin represents a return to Soviet authoritarianism, Wood argues that his rule should be seen as a continuation of Yeltsin’s in the 1990s. The core features of Putinism — a predatory elite presiding over a vastly unequal society — are in fact integral to the system set in place after the fall of Communism.
Wood also overturns the standard view of Russia’s foreign policy, identifying the fundamental loss of power and influence that has underpinned recent clashes with the West. Russia without Putin concludes by assessing the current regime’s prospects, and looks ahead to what the future may hold for the country.
“There are few journalistic books about Russia that take its complexity seriously enough not to fall back on simplistic, essentialist, or Orientalist frameworks. Russia Without Putin is unquestionably one of them. The interpretation it develops should already have been the baseline for a larger discussion, instead of a desperate response to a debate about the Putin menace that has come entirely unmoored from reality. [Russia Without Putin] is not only praiseworthy but vital.”
“Tony Wood brings a cool eye and analytical acuity to a systematically misrepresented subject. The result is a concise book that is continuously startling in its revelations, and sobering in its reminders of the vast tracts of Russian experience that paranoid commentary about the country has disregarded.”
“Tony Wood masterfully readjusts the lens through which we see contemporary Russia. This lucid, concise book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the economic, social, and political factors that have made Russia what it is today, and that will shape Russia’s future.”
“Tony Wood is the best and most eloquent writer on Russia that we have. A book from him on the deep dynamics of the entire post-Soviet era, free of obsession with the personality of Putin, is nothing less than a gift.”