Putin's opponents and supporters of an open democracy will probably think the title of Tony Wood's book on power in Russia is exciting – this is what is being called for from many anti-Kremlin demonstrations in Moscow, Khabarovsk, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. But the devil is in the details – Wood's tightly packed but easy – to – read dissertation is not a call to get rid of Putin – take a closer look at the subtitle, because the key word here is myths.
New York-based Wood is an editorial board member of the New Left Review, a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and a specialist in Russia and Latin America – countries with features that are compatible with a corrupt form of government. His central point is the influence of continuity on Russia's development, which he explores through chapters on Putin, money and power, the legacy of the Soviet past and the major shifts in politics since the Maidan revolution in Ukraine 2014, followed by the annexation of Crimea.
Too much attention
"We have given Putin too much attention, and not looked carefully enough at the system he rules," Wood claims. And then the reader thinks: Well, Putin created this system, did he not?
Wood systematically sabotages many of the sacred cows in the analysis of Russia over the past three decades, and makes short work of popular terms such as "mafia state" and "kleptocracy". He highlights Putin's background and history to show that the man is neither a James Bond villain nor as omnipotent as many claim – and that he is as much a product of circumstances as any leader trying to radiate a kind of divine right to rule.
Putin's alleged interference in US (or British) elections is simply a reflection of
American and Western interference in Russian politics in the 90s, the author claims.
"My argument […] is that the media coverage in the West and the analyzes of Russia, are. . .
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