Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin by Ben Judah [PDF]


Publisher: Yale University Press (March 25, 2014)

From Kaliningrad on the Baltic to the Russian Far East, journalist Ben Judah has travelled throughout Russia and the former Soviet republics, conducting extensive interviews with President Vladimir Putin’s friends, foes and colleagues, government officials, business tycoons, mobsters, and ordinary Russian citizens. Fragile Empire is the fruit of Judah’s thorough research: a probing assessment of Putin’s rise to power and what it has meant for Russia and her people. Despite a propaganda programme intent on maintaining the cliche of stability, Putin’s regime was suddenly confronted in December 2011 by a highly public protest movement that told a different side of the story. Judah argues that Putinism has brought economic growth to Russia but also weaker institutions, and this contradiction leads to instability. The author explores both Putin’s successes and failed promises, taking into account the impact of a new middle class and a new generation, the Internet, social activism and globalization, on the president’s impending leadership crisis. Can Russia avoid the crisis of Putinism? Judah offers original and up-to-the-minute answers.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Judah’s dynamic account of the rise (and fall-in-progress) of Russian President Vladimir Putin convincingly addresses just why and how Putin became so popular, and traces the decisions and realizations that seem to be leading to his undoing. The former Reuters Moscow reporter maps Putin’s career and impact on modern Russia through wide-ranging research and has an eye for illuminating and devastating quotes, as when a reporter in dialogue with Putin says, “I lost the feeling that I lived in a free country. I have not started to feel fear.” To which Putin responds, “Did you not think that this was what I was aiming for: that one feeling disappeared, but the other did not appear?” His style, however, feels hurried, an effect of which is occasional losses of narrative clarity. In some cases limited information is available, and his pace-maintaining reliance on euphemistic, metaphorical, and journalistic language can leave readers underserved and confused. Judah is at his best when being very specific, and perhaps the book’s achievement is that it makes comprehensible how Putin got to where he is; those wondering how Putin became and remained so popular will benefit from this sober, well-researched case. (June) –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“‘Judah is an intrepid reporter and classy political scientist.’ (Luke Harding, The Guardian) ‘The best of a recent crop of books on the Russian president, it describes the essential corruption of the system Putin created (supposedly) to clean up the country. It spans the extent of this huge country as well as the decade and a half that Putin has been in power.’ (Oliver Bullough, The Telegraph) ‘A beautifully written and very lively study of Russia that argues that the political order created by Vladimir Putin is stagnating – undermined by corruption and a failure to modernise economically. Judah’s reporting stretches from the Kremlin to Siberia and has a clear moral sense, without being preachy.’ (Gideon Rachman, Financial Times) ‘Ben Judah, a young freelance writer, paints a more journalistic – and more passionate – picture in Fragile Empire. He shuttles to and fro across Russia’s vast terrain, finding criminals, liars, fascists and crooked politicians, as well as the occasional saintly figure.’ (The Economist) ‘this detailed and impressive account of Putin’s years in office’ (Ian Critchley, The Sunday Times)”

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