100 books like All the Kremlin's Men

By Mikhail Zygar,

Here are 100 books that All the Kremlin's Men fans have personally recommended if you like All the Kremlin's Men. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

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

From my list on contemporary Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

David's book list on contemporary Russia

David Satter Why did David 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 Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult

Mark Galeotti Author Of We Need to Talk about Putin: Why the West Gets Him Wrong, and How to Get Him Right

From my list on understand today’s Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s all about the stories. Although I have been a professor, a think-tanker, and a secondee to the Foreign Office, by training I am a historian, so I love compelling, vivid, extraordinary stories, and for me, the best ones come from Russia. Having been traveling there since Soviet times, done my Ph.D. on it, drunk there with spooks and gangsters, talked late in the night in the kitchens of artists and journalists, I am as hooked as I ever was, and privileged to be able to write, teach, lecture and think about this splendidly bizarre place.

Mark's book list on understand today’s Russia

Mark Galeotti Why did Mark love this book?

Most studies of modern Russia, under the shadow of Vladimir Putin, start from the top down. This elegantly quirky study, by a journalist working in Russia, looks bottom up: why has Russia so often been ruled by autocrats, and why did the Russian people – at first, at least – accept this rather grey ex-KGB officer as their new tsar so enthusiastically? It’s a biography of modern Russia more than anything else, framed around a range of characters Arutunyan encountered in her travels around this fascinating country.

By Anna Arutunyan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH RUSSIA’S 21ST CENTURY TSAR Vladimir V. Putin has confounded world leaders and defied their assumptions as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again. The Putin Mystique takes the reader on a journey through the Russia of Vladimir Putin, named by Forbes magazine in 2013 as the most powerful man in the world. It is a neo-feudal world where iPads, WTO membership, and Brioni business suits conceal a power structure straight out of the Middle Ages, where the Sovereign is perceived as both divine and demonic, where a man’s riches are…


Book cover of Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia

Mark Galeotti Author Of We Need to Talk about Putin: Why the West Gets Him Wrong, and How to Get Him Right

From my list on understand today’s Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s all about the stories. Although I have been a professor, a think-tanker, and a secondee to the Foreign Office, by training I am a historian, so I love compelling, vivid, extraordinary stories, and for me, the best ones come from Russia. Having been traveling there since Soviet times, done my Ph.D. on it, drunk there with spooks and gangsters, talked late in the night in the kitchens of artists and journalists, I am as hooked as I ever was, and privileged to be able to write, teach, lecture and think about this splendidly bizarre place.

Mark's book list on understand today’s Russia

Mark Galeotti Why did Mark love this book?

Russians are not intrinsically good, bad, or ugly, they’re just like the rest of us. But living in Putin’s era often forces all kinds of compromises on people, especially if they want to live well and make a difference to the world around them. New Yorker’s Yaffa digs deep into the experiences of eight such ambitious Russians, some of whom deformed themselves to thrive, others of whom were all but broken by the experience. It’s not always the easiest book to read, but it’s an excellent exploration of what living in today’s Russia can mean.

By Joshua Yaffa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between Two Fires as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING

In this penetrating exploration of contemporary Russia, Joshua Yaffa meets a variety of Russians - from politicians and entrepreneurs to artists and historians - who have built their careers and constructed their identities in the shadow of the Putin system. Torn between their own ambitions and the omnipresent demands of the state, each has found that compromise is essential for survival and success. Between Two Fires is an intimate and probing portrait of a nation much discussed but little understood, and an urgent lesson about the nature of modern authoritarianism.


Book cover of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

Stephan Lewandowsky Author Of The Debunking Handbook 2020

From my list on the perils facing democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had a lifelong interest in history and in particular the history of democracy. When I became a cognitive scientist, I initially studied basic memory processes using a mix of computer simulations and experimentation. I became interested in misinformation during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the purported “Weapons of Mass Destruction” never materialized but large segments of the American public continued to believe in their existence. Some 20 years later, misinformation has taken center stage in public life and has metastasized into a danger to democracy in many countries around the world. The books on this list should present a warning and inspiration to all of us.

Stephan's book list on the perils facing democracy

Stephan Lewandowsky Why did Stephan love this book?

This is a page-turner that I read in one go from front to finish. It reads like a thriller and keeps you hooked, although it is also a very serious analysis of contemporary Russia by one of the UK’s most skilled journalists and authors. It is as thrilling as it is frightening because there are so many signs that western countries are heading in a similar direction—a country that “is a dictatorship in the morning, a democracy at lunch, an oligarchy by suppertime, while, backstage, oil companies are expropriated, journalists killed, billions siphoned away”, as Peter put it in one of his memorable phrases.

By Peter Pomerantsev,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the new Russia, even dictatorship is a reality show. Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the glittering, surreal heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship--far subtler than twentieth-century strains--that is rapidly rising to challenge the West. When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook…


Book cover of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

You may recognize Fiona Hill from her damning testimony in the first impeachment of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, at which time she was senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she—along with co-author Cliff Gaddy—were two of the top minds on Russian politics at the Brookings Institute.

Together their book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin goes beyond the standard biographies of Vladimir Putin’s rise from the streets of Leningrad to the KGB to the Kremlin. More importantly, it highlights the variety of roles that Putin plays in the role he currently occupies: the embodiment of the state, the interpreter of Russian history, the survivalist, the outsider, the free marketeer, and the case officer. Understanding how Putin switches from one role to another atop the Russian political system is crucial to understand that system.

By Fiona Hill, Clifford G. Gaddy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mr. Putin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fiona Hill and other U.S. public servants have been recognized as Guardians of the Year in TIME's 2019 Person of the Year issue.

From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West.

Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go?

The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge…


Book cover of The New Autocracy: Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin's Russia

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

How is it that political strongmen—from Putin in Russia to Hungary, Venezuela, Peru, and beyond—are able to impose their authoritarian control without the mass bloodshed of dictatorships past? UCLA Political Science Professor Daniel Treisman—along with Russian economist Sergei Guriev (Sciences Po)—have developed a New Autocracy model suggesting that individuals are less concerned with democracy per se, and more with competent government. Leaders, accordingly, use mechanisms of media manipulation and selective suppression to build the image of government competence. In this edited volume, Treisman and his co-authors demonstrate convincingly that this framework better explains political outcomes—including the annexation of Crimea—than alternative explanations, from Russia as the reincarnation of the Soviet Union, a mafia kleptocracy, a KGB state, or other formulations of “illiberal democracy”.

By Daniel Treisman (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Autocracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Corruption, fake news, and the "informational autocracy" sustaining Putin in power

After fading into the background for many years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia suddenly has emerged as a new threat-at least in the minds of many Westerners. But Western assumptions about Russia, and in particular about political decision-making in Russia, tend to be out of date or just plain wrong.

Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin since 2000, Russia is neither a somewhat reduced version of the Soviet Union nor a classic police state. Corruption is prevalent at all levels of government and business, but Russia's…


Book cover of Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

The most recent book on the list, Timothy Frye’s Weak Strongman brings together many of the different factors and perspectives from previous readings. Rather than playing to contemporary stereotypes of the omnipotence of the Russian political system and its leader, Frye explores the limits of Putinism. It highlights the importance of maintaining a positive image for Russian public opinion, and how that weighs into the various policy tradeoffs and strategic decisions made by the Kremlin. These more distant, theoretical questions are couched in prescient and timely discussions of Putin’s enduring popularity, the prospects for Russia’s resource-based economy, the role of strategic repression and media manipulation, the roots of frayed relations with the West, and the questionable utility of foreign election meddling and cyber-warfare.

By Timothy Frye,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Looking beyond Putin to understand how today's Russia actually works

Media and public discussion tends to understand Russian politics as a direct reflection of Vladimir Putin's seeming omnipotence or Russia's unique history and culture. Yet Russia is remarkably similar to other autocracies-and recognizing this illuminates the inherent limits to Putin's power. Weak Strongman challenges the conventional wisdom about Putin's Russia, highlighting the difficult trade-offs that confront the Kremlin on issues ranging from election fraud and repression to propaganda and foreign policy.

Drawing on three decades of his own on-the-ground experience and research as well as insights from a new generation…


Book cover of First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President

Andrew Monaghan Author Of Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition

From my list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures. I started to learn Russian in 1998, and intrigued by the language, I began to study Russia more—delving into history and politics and then doing a PhD in Russian foreign policy. Ever since, trying to learn about and understand Russia has been my professional focus. Alongside books in Russian, these books are all to hand on my reference shelf, well-thumbed and marked up, as I try to write my own work. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! 

Andrew's book list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing

Andrew Monaghan Why did Andrew love this book?

So much has been written about Vladimir Putin since he came to power, from long biographies to short psychological assessments to fleeting conspiracy theories, all to try to better understand Russia’s long-term leader. This book is a publication of a series of interviews he gave to three Russian journalists when he first came to power back in 1999/2000. So much has happened since, but I found this book to be full of fascinating insights into Putin himself, but also how he views Russian (political) culture, and also those around him that he has continued to rely on ever since. “Surely there are more details?” one of the interviewers asks. “Yes, there are,” comes his reply. But I think this is the place to start.

By Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who is this Vladimir Putin? Who is this man who suddenly- overnight and without warning- was handed the reigns of power to one of the most complex, formidable, and volatile countries in the world? How can we trust him if we don't know him? First Person is an intimate, candid portrait of the man who holds the future of Russia in his grip. An extraordinary compilation of over 24 hours of in-depth interviews and remarkable photographs, it delves deep into Putin's KGB past and explores his meteoric rise to power. No Russian leader has ever subjected himself to this kind…


Book cover of A Short History of Russia: How the World's Largest Country Invented Itself, from the Pagans to Putin

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

From the Kiev of ancient Rus’ to today, Mark Galeotti has stuffed the history of Russia into one jaw-dropping book of just over 200 pages. I loved the book because it was concise, informative, and cleared up misconceptions we may have about Russia.

Mr. Galeotti’s book provides a thoughtful perspective in an overview that brings context to today’s Russia. He claims he’s debunking myths. Were the Mongol invasions truly devastating? He offers stories we may not have heard. How did Catherine the Great really come to power? He challenges us to examine why the Russian people tolerate a man like Putin, but will we ever know for certain?

By Mark Galeotti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Short History of Russia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Fascinating... One of the most astute political commentators on Putin and modern Russia' Financial Times

'An amazing achievement' Peter Frankopan

Can anyone truly understand Russia?

Russia is a country with no natural borders, no single ethos, no true central identity. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it is everyone's 'other'. And yet it is one of the most powerful nations on earth, a master game-player on the global stage with a rich history of war and peace, poets and revolutionaries.

In this essential whistle-stop tour of the world's most complex nation, Mark Galeotti takes us behind the myths to…


Book cover of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

David Sax Author Of The Future Is Analog: How to Create a More Human World

From my list on picks for book club.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer by profession, but until recently I was never in a book club. My wife was, briefly, and my friend Ben’s wife was (he’s also a writer). One day I said to Ben “why don’t we start a book club?”, and we did. Seven years later, the club is not only going strong, but it has assumed a central place in the lives of the seven of us who make it up. The book is the excuse to get together, to create and deepen friendships, to build a community around ideas. Start a book club. Choose some books. These are a good start. At least in my opinion.

David's book list on picks for book club

David Sax Why did David love this book?

I have always been fascinated with Russia, and love reading any book about Russia and Russians, whether the classic fiction of Dostoyevsky, or the absurdist work of Gary Shteyngart. But for insightful political analysis of Putin’s destruction of Russia’s democracy and society, written with a love for the people and country, and a keen eye toward their humanity, nothing beats this dead-eyed read from the great Masha Gessen. Her analysis of modern Russia under Putin’s grip came out a few years before the invasion of Ukraine, which is sort of a culmination of the ideas and stories here. This book is a portrait of individual tragedies woven together as a collective, where the historical resentments of one man (Putin) doom the future of an entire people. If you want to understand how Russia got here. Or what it might feel like to be a young Russian, caught up in this…

By Masha Gessen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Future Is History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Future is History Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own - as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring…


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