The best books on contemporary Russia

David Satter Author Of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin
By David Satter

Who am I?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the U.S.S.R. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He has been a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, and an associate of the Henry Jackson Society in London.

I wrote...

The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

By David Satter,

Book cover of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

What is my book about?

In December 2013, David Satter became the first American journalist to be expelled from Russia since the Cold War. The Moscow Times said it was not surprising he was expelled, "it was surprising it took so long." Satter is known in Russia for having written that the apartment bombings in 1999, which were blamed on Chechens and brought Putin to power, were actually carried out by the Russian FSB security police.

In this book, Satter tells the story of the apartment bombings and how Boris Yeltsin presided over the criminalization of Russia, why Vladimir Putin was chosen as his successor, and how Putin has suppressed all opposition while retaining the appearance of a pluralist state. As the threat represented by Russia becomes increasingly clear, Satter's description of where Russia is and how it got there will be of vital interest to anyone concerned about the dangers facing the world today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Moscow Bombings of September 1999: Examinations of Russian Terrorist Attacks at the Onset of Vladimir Putin's Rule

Why did I love this book?

The Russian apartment bombings of 1999 consolidated the criminal system put in place by Russian president Boris Yeltsin and created the conditions for Vladimir Putin to take power. In this book, Dunlop describes in meticulous detail the story of the bombings and shows that they were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) which means that they rank as the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.

By John B. Dunlop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moscow Bombings of September 1999 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The five chapters of this volume focus on the complex and tumultuous events occurring in Russia during the five months from May through September 1999. They sparked the Russian invasion of Chechnya on 1 October and vaulted a previously unknown former KGB agent into the post of Russian prime minister and, ultimately, president. The five chapters are devoted to: * The intense political struggle taking place in Russia between May and August of 1999, culminating in an incursion by armed Islamic separatists into the Republic of Dagestan.* Two Moscow terrorist bombings of 9 and 13 September 1999, claiming the lives…

Book cover of 57 Hours: A Survivor's Account of the Moscow Hostage Drama

Why did I love this book?

Vesselin Nedkov was in Moscow on a business trip when he decided to buy a ticket to the Broadway style musical Nord-Ost, which was being shown at the Theater on Dubrovka. This book is his harrowing account of the ordeal as the theater and its thousand visitors were seized by armed terrorists and held for 57 hours before being "liberated" by the Russian special forces who attacked the theater with lethal gas. Rich in detail, his book also raises the many unanswered questions about the massive loss of innocent life. 

By Paul Wilson, Vesselin Nedkov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 57 Hours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To celebrate the last night of a business trip in Moscow, Canadian resident Vesselin Nedkov and a friend picked up two tickets to the hottest musical in town. Halfway through the show, his life was changed forever. 57 Hours is Nedkov's harrowing account of being trapped between two immovable and unpredictable forces: inside the theatre, suicidal Chechen rebels, loaded with explosives, demanded an end to the bloody civil war that was ravaging Chechnya; outside, Russian special forces prepared to storm the theatre, refusing to negotiate with the rebels. Through fifty-seven hours of fear and fatigue, Nedkov discovered courage and ingenuity…

Book cover of Post-Soviet Russia: A Journey Through the Yeltsin Era

Why did I love this book?

Russian historian Roy Medvedev, who has written classic works on Stalinism, recounts in this detailed and highly informed book the true consequences for Russia of Yeltsin era "shock therapy," including the impoverishment of the people, the destruction of the nation's health, and the rise of a criminal business oligarchy which in the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn was totally indifferent to the Russian people or "even if they survived at all."

By Roy A. Medvedev,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Post-Soviet Russia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Roy Medvedev, one of the world's best-known Russian scholars and a former consultant to both Gorbachev and Yeltsin analyzes the main events that have transpired in the Russian federation since late August 1991. He looks at the plans that were meant to restructure a society in crisis but-for reasons both complex and obvious-were destined to fail. From the drastic liberalization of prices and "shock therapy" to the privatization of state owned property and Yeltsin's resignation and replacement by Vladimir Putin, this is an intricately fascinating saga of good intentions, philosophical warfare, and catastrophic miscalculations. Among the many compelling facts detailed…

Book cover of Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?

Why did I love this book?

The late Karen Dawisha offers the best account so far of Putin's early career and the connections and corruption that paved his path to power. Her historical examples of Putin's greed and connections with organized crime shed important light on the way Russia is ruled today.

By Karen Dawisha,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Putin's Kleptocracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.

Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the…

Book cover of Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism

Why did I love this book?

This biography by Paul Klebnikov, who was assassinated in Moscow in 2004, describes the criminality that accompanied Russia's transition from communism to capitalism as reflected in the life and activities of the most successful new capitalist, Boris Berezovsky. Through the prism of Berezovsky's career, he shows how the wealth created by the combined efforts of an entire people was successfully siphoned off by corrupt insiders to create the fortunes of the members of Russia's new oligarchic ruling class.

By Paul Klennikov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Godfather of the Kremlin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From nuclear superpower to impoverished nation, post-communist Russia has become one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. Paul Klebnikov pieces together the previous decade in Russian history, showing that a major piece of "the decline of Russia' puzzle lies in the meteoric business career of Boris Berezovsky.
Transforming himself from a research scientist to Russia's most successful dealmaker, Berezovsky managed to seize control of Russia's largest auto manufacturer, largest TV network, national airline, and one of the world's biggest oil companies. When Moscow's gangster families battled one another in the Great Mob War of 1993-1994, Berezovsky was in…

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