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sighted: by 1996, the private sector and

the major media companies were suf-

ficiently mature to understand what was

at stake in the choice between Yeltsin

and his communist rival. The back-

room bribe was a tawdry own goal that

helped discredit democratization, the

media and big business all in one go.

Having secured Yeltsin another term,

this new elite then tore itself apart in the

“bankers’ war” and associated battles.

As a chronicle of the creative class

of journalists, businessmen, campaign

impressarios and reformers, Ostrovsky’s

title is deceptive: the book is less about

the invention of Russia and more about

the failure of this new elite to invent a

new Russia that embodied and safe-

guarded the values they espoused.

In Ostrovsky’s words, they lacked “the

most important attribute of an elite —a

sense of responsibility for, and historic

consciousness of, their own country.”

The failure to articulate, define

and defend the new Russia left a huge

void for a different cast of political and

intellectual entrepreneurs to fill. These

included nationalists, officers nostalgic

for their fallen superpower and reborn

communists who coalesced around the


n the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the new Rus-

sia this year, a great many books have been written to

chronicle, analyze and attempt to understand the momen-

tous events and leading personalities involved in the dis-

solution of the Soviet Union and subsequent emergence

of a changed Russia and 14 independent nations.

Several publications and think tanks have presented

thoughtful reviews and useful lists of some of those titles.

Among them, “Putin’s Russia” in the

New York Review of


, “Return to Cold War: Russia and the Former Soviet

Union” in

Foreign Affairs

and the Center on Global Inter-

ests’“Russia: A Reading Guide” stand out.

Benjamin Nathans’ essay, “The Real Power of Putin,” in


Sept. 29 New York Review of Books ,

explores Putin, the

individual, and his role in the evolution of Russia since the

end of the USSR. Recognized as a “conservative patriot,”

as Nathans puts it, Putin appeared to be soberly pursuing

Russia’s national interest at the turn of the 21st century.

“What happened? Why did Putin’s Russia jump the

rails? Why is the talk (not to mention the book titles) in

the West no longer of transition but regression, with a

‘new tsar,’ a ‘new Russian empire,’ and a ‘new cold war’?”

Nathans asks.

He draws on the insights offered in nine recent titles

on Russia to frame the answers. In the process, we are

reminded of Russia’s long history of authoritarianism,

empire and the importance of ideas in its rich culture.

With a focus on “Putin’s Russia,” the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs includes Columbia University Professo


Emeritus Robert Legvold’s brief review of six recent titles

ranging from

The RedWeb: The Struggle Between Russia’s

Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries


Velvet Revolutions: An Oral History of Czech Society


On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in

Soviet Politics.

In the same “Recent Books” feature, Angela Stent,

director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East

European Studies at Georgetown University, reviews

Legvold’s own new volume,

Return to ColdWar.

In August, to usher in the new academic year, the Cen-

ter on Global Interests posted

“Russia: A Reading Guide.”

In this unique resource, a variety of experts share the

books that shaped their own understanding of Russia and

titles that policymakers should read to better understand

Russian society, politics, culture and foreign policy.

Twelve Russia experts—from former CNN Moscow

correspondent Jill Dougherty and former

New York Times

Moscow correspondent Steven Lee Myers to former

Senior Director for Russia on the U.S. National Security

Council Thomas Graham (a former FSO) and former U.S.

Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul—offer, as CGI puts

it, an eclectic blend of fiction and non-fiction, new and old

works, classic and more obscure.

Anyone in search of just the right reading list to become

informed about Russia and Vladimir Putin will certainly

find these choices to be an excellent start.

–The Editors