Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels

Title: Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia
Author: Anne Garrels 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Farar, Straus, and Giroux
Publish Date: March 15, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "More than twenty years ago, when NPR correspondent Anne Garrels first visited Chelyabinsky--a gritty military-industrial center a thousand miles east of Moscow--her goal was to chart the aftershocks of the USSR's collapse. Returning again and again, Garrels found that the city's new freedoms and opportunities were both exciting and traumatic. As the economic collapse of the early 1990s abated, Chelyabinsky became richer and more cosmopolitan while official corruption and intolerance for minorities grew more entrenched. Sushi restaurants proliferated; so did shakedowns. In the neighboring countryside, villages crumbled into the ground. Far from the glitz of Moscow, the people of Chelyabinsk were working out their country’s destiny, person by person.

Putin Country crafts an intimate portrait of Middle Russia. We meet upwardly mobile professionals, impassioned activists who champion the rights of orphans and disabled children, and ostentatious mafiosi. We discover surprising subcultures, such as a vibrant underground gay community and a circle of determined Protestant evangelicals, and watch as doctors and teachers trying to cope with inescapable payoffs and institutionalized negligence. As Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power and war in Ukraine leads to Western sanctions and a lower standard of living, the local population mingles belligerent nationalism with a deep ambivalence about their country’s direction. Drawing on close friendships sustained over many years, Garrels explains why Putin commands the loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they regularly encounter."

My Two Cents:

Russia is one of my favorite places to read about whether in fiction or non-fiction. I think it is a fantastically interesting place but much of what I read (fiction or non-fiction) set there always seems to be set in the big cities. What I really liked about "Putin Country" is that the author gets us out into the less-traveled places in Russia to explore how Russians feel about their leader Vladimir Putin.

Drawing on interviews with every day people in Chelyabinsk (a fairly industrial city), Garrels explores the mayhem and the mystique that surrounds Putin and his government. The answers about what she finds are especially interesting in light of what we have going on in our country right now with our own government.

We see people explaining away some of the government corruption and deception that permeates everything from newspapers to television. We get a view of why Putin maintains popularity after so much time in the spotlight. It's fascinating! This book definitely shed some light for me and made me think about things in a different way - something I always appreciate about a good book!



  1. Any book that can open my eyes and make me see things in a different way is a good book to me. The world has become so small, I think it's important that we educate ourselves about others.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. Good review. A book, that I would like.


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