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Fore we laugh too muchApart from Nemtsov the characters in Gessen s book survive though most of them leave Russia The book leaves ou feeling firstly that Russians do not deserve their fate Homo Sovieticus notwithstanding and secondly that neither do we in Europe or America and we d bet Gessen s careful telling of the lives of four Russians who saw the Soviet Union collapse and who also saw Putin take power is a thrill to read Their are three additional characters whose position in Russian society and political influence garners attention Despite following the lives of 7 characters across landscapes of city to country life and occupations from psychology to politics Gessen manages to keep the reader on a path toward making sense of what it was like for these people to live and in some ways contribute to the political results Gessen emerges less surprised than she was at the project s outset as a journalist she herself covered this period in Russia With attention the reader will too Bias on top of bias on top of bias I feel about this book the way I felt about The Bronze Horseman It is clearly written by an emigrant from Russia who hates EVERYTHING about Russia There is no attempt to be objective here vitriol in every sentence where even the most innocuous things are described as depressing and dire and BAD free government sponsored mind ou preschools portrayed as a cross between baby prisons and warehouses really how did we all make it then after attending them this is just one of the most ridiculous exaggerations My memories of my standard preschool include playing a lot outside eating and taking naps and doing arts and learning songs and dancing and going to the beach Well I guess this is how Masha Gessen is making her name in the West She can come up with ridiculously convoluted theories of why Russians welcome and love Putin homo soveticus my ass but the reality is simple not many Russians could make it in a cut throat unregulated post perestroika capitalist Russia including my parents who could barely keep it together in the new free market Is This So Hard To Comprehend That Majority Wanted To Go so hard to comprehend that majority wanted to go to the time of paltry but guaranteed income free medical services and uality education They thought Putin would bring back the often imagined rosy past and they still think the same way nowRead Secondhand Time The Last of the Soviets for something balanced a criticism with a perspective and understanding Admittedly this book took me longer to read than most I ve read in the last ear it s because there s at least five books with in this oneThe uality of journalism paired with the incredible insight to the timelines of the USSR are unprecedentedMasha s reporting illustrates far than the growth of a totalitarian culture it gives A Fine Mouse Band you the personal socioeconomic mental 1984 like capacity and so much that all comes along with it I just hope she keeps writing The Future is History by Masha GessenThis book won the National Book Award in 2017 It is an oddly constructed read tracing the last thirtyears of Russia Four Russians born in the 1980 s at the dawn of democracy are profiled as they grow into adulthood of the new Millennium Due to their political beliefs and in some cases sexual identities they become opponents of the Putin regime on the losing side of this political struggle But the story also tracks Yeltsin and Putin so there are in effect six parallel stories In the mid to late 90 s disillusioned Russians felt outrage towards NATO s involvement in the Balkans which included the airstrikes in Serbia Additionally the militants in Chechnya were causing a great deal of outrage too Many Russians were nostalgic for the old days of motherland Lo and behold into the void steps Vladimir Putin He wins an election promoting his neo nationalist agenda Bit by bit his regime dismantles Russia s semi democratic trajectory into what is a totalitarian state today3 stars In a nutshell the writing is good and the author has a great deal of knowledge about Russia but the storytelling is sub par The author should have followed at most one person s story in tandem with the over arching theme of Russia s march to autocracy The book is not particularly dramatic At times it feels like a regurgitation of well integrated newspaper articles about Russia over this period This is understandable since the author is a journalist but in the end the read just fell flat for me Taking the past forty or so ears of Russian history from its emergence from to its retreat back into Totalitarianism this book focuses on individuals who experienced firsthand this false dawn and the broken promise of democracy since the fall of the Soviet Union The stories of individuals and activists getting a breath of freedom only to see it submerged under Putin Gives some interesting insi. Paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all and against the war it waged on understanding itself which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state Powerful and urgent The Future Is History is a cautionary tale for our time and for all tim. Hich is false to grand statements about the Soviet Union such as knowing which way the wind was blowing could mean the difference between life and death Gessen s account on contemporary Russia is about how Russia is not America than how Russia really is At one point she writes Intellectuals were always falling into the trap of mistaking the written word for a true mirror of life I hope the readers of this book won t fall into the same #Trap 4 Stars For The Content And #4 stars for the content and stars for the audioIn The Future Is History Masha Gessen looks at Russia since the mid 1980s to today It s not a pretty picture She focuses on three oung people born in the mid 1980s from different backgrounds She weaves in a lot of history and political theory She essentially argues that contemporary Russia is under a totalitarian regime zeroing on themes like the lack of true elections and state sanctioned homophobiaFor anyone interested in recent Russian history and contemporary politics Gessen s book is very rich It has a real human dimension while providing a lot of deeper political and historical context Gessen herself is originally from Russia so it also feels like her book comes from a place of deep understanding This is a sympathetic portrait of people living in difficult circumstancesBut because there is so much to sympathetic portrait of people living in difficult circumstancesBut because there is so much to book I really don t recommend the audio It was sometimes hard to keep track of people and events Also Gessen narrates this one herself and she reads very fast in a bit of an odd staccato voiceGreat book for those interested in the topic But read it don t listen to it This is an important bookIts purpose is to explain how and why Russia returned to a state of totalitarianism despite the initial hope and democratisation of the Yeltsin period Why did the Russian people not fasten on to their new freedoms in the way that the citizens of the Baltic republics and to a lesser extent those of Ukraine didMasha Gessen s explanation explores via the lives of seven individuals and through three disciplines which did not exist in the Soviet period sociology psychoanalysis and opinion polling the persistence of what she calls Homo SovieticusThis character the opinion polling and a bit less plausibly the psychoanalysis suggest did not fade away after the collapse of the Soviet Union nor even with the passing of generations Putin era Horse Sense youth groups like Nashi differ little from their Soviets euivalents Most citizens fear the open expanse of liberal freedom preferring the narrow corridor of the authoritarian StateMost Russians the book saysearn not for change and opportunity and the responsibility and anxiety that may go with them but for order imposed from above and strength and stability Strong and stable where have we heard that latelyThe book contains a discussion of the precise meaning of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt is uoted along with other writers But the precise meaning is largely beside the point In 2017 opposition politics in Russia is all but impossible If Totally Regressed (An ABDL Story) you oppose Putinou may be murdered like Boris Nemtsov Elections are rigged even if Putin opponents are excluded and rigging is therefore unnecessary Academics are monitored for ideological conformity Demonstrations are all but impossible to stage Protesters may be arrested by the hundred Justice is arbitrary and controlled by the executive Corruption aboundsGessen discusses whether a totalitarian state needs an ideology The answer appears to be not necessarily but it helps especially when The Making of Goldeneye you are getting started andou can change it as circumstances demand And the ideology should be a single simple idea Like MAGA or Brexit perhapsThe current ideology is Eurasia or Greater Russia as people in Ukraine are well aware and its high priest is Alexander Dugin Dugin is the Steve Bannon or Nigel Farage of Russia only worse According to this book Dugin has a personal connection to the American neo Nazi Richard Spencer the Hail Trump guyDugin s ideology is all about traditional family values which are threatened by Western liberalism There are no such things he says as universal human values Liberal social but not economic ideas are to be abhorred they are Western and an affront to white Christian civilisation as epitomised by the Russian World Putin is thus the leader of a movement to restore European Civilisation This is where it gets really scary LGBT people are deviants who deserve to be liuidated the Russian opinion polling on this is devastating And a warning this book contains descriptions of homophobic vigilante violence tacitly state sanctioned that may cost ou sleepTo what extent do people like Bannon Spencer Farage Le Pen and Trump buy into Dugin s despicable ideology How intent are they on spreading it outside of Russia They may seem like comic villains but we should ask ourselves this uestion be. Lows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations some as the children and 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. The slow transition from one form to another We see this process This Morphing Through The morphing through the of several individuals professionals in the 197080s USSR and children born under Soviet control who witness the shifts through each decade of their lives and the paths they each take into adulthoodGessen is an artful researcher and interviewer She shares the lives of her subjects without judgement She reserves her criticisms for the government there is a lengthy discussion on how to define the modern Russian state authoritarian totalitarian illiberal democracy etc but bears these out with the systematic abuses of power and human rights violations and how they affect the lives of all of her subjectsWe trace the days of Gorbachev and perestroika through of her subjectsWe trace the days of Gorbachev and perestroika through fall and rise of Yeltsin and finally the long tenure of Putin as it plays out to 2016 and there s been since She spends chapters on Ukraine and the Orange Revolution the protests in 2010 and on the dissidence of Pussy Riot and other activists and the encroachment in Crimea including a short history of the region and the various ethnic cleansings that took place there in the over the last century Perhaps the most interesting thing that Gessen shows is the mental state and health of a country or several countries as former Soviet states now stand independent and how hopelessness depression and anxiety are used as control measuresI will be chewing on this one for a long while It is a dense read 500 pages interspersing history and politics with personal stories and one of the most important and prescient books that I have read in earsGessen is a top tier writer and I want to return to her work very soon One of the most stunningly brilliant books I have read this Scooby-Doo! and the Farmyard Fright year Ifou are interested in Russia Putinism and the depth psychology of totalitarianism Vee for Victory you will find this book fascinating Gessen is utterly brilliant Imagine the United States collapses in the near future And imagine someone decides to write about the collapse of contemporary America 20 25ears from now focusing only on Trump racism poverty health care etc In order to do so this person follows the rise of Richard Spencer and the lives of a bunch of liberal middle class individuals from NYC LA and let s say Houston Would this be a fair depiction of life in the US Yet this is what Masha Gessen does with the Soviet Union and Russia in her book Gessen is a Jewish woman who was told by her parents that in order to beat the Soviet antisemitic machine they could no longer live in our country something that she herself would tell her children Star Wars years later before leaving Moscow for New York This is what the reader is warned about in the prologue some sort of guidelines to frame the events narrated in the book Gessen traces the life trajectories of six different people who grew up in the post Soviet space plus Aleksandr Dugin who makes sporadic and at times incomprehensible appearances here and there The idea of using other people lives seems to give a lot of credibility to the point Gessen tries to make which to put it bluntly can be summed up as the Soviet Union was a terrible place to be and Russia is not any better The problem though is that ifou choose to portray the life of the son of a party official of the daughter of a famous politician of the grandson of Alexander daughter of a famous politician of the grandson of Alexander etc the picture that Border Peel (Marjorie, you get will get cannot possibly be complete And that s understandable Masha Gessen together with some of her protagonists is an intelligent and she tells the stories of the people she knows and relates to Keep that in mind she tells the story What we hear in the book are not the voices of the six protagonists but their stories filtered by the author s voice which makes all the difference in the world Gessen is a journalist with a specific agenda she is not Svetlana Alexievich The result is a book that tries to explain the slow descent of Russia into totalitarianism without really portraying the people who have been supporting Putin for than twentyears because she dismisses them as the embodiment of Homo Sovieticus who was and is only able of doublethink And the reason is that Gessen doesn t know these people she doesn t want to acknowledge them like Clinton saying that Trump s supporters were deplorables When Gessen talks about Occupy Pedophilia a short lived movement active in 2013 14 she uses the word thug to describe the guys involved in it but the underlying reasoning is the sameGessen is angry at Russia therefore she props up her biased account with negative comments about every possible aspect of life there from the Cathedral of Christ the Savior that looks like a gaudy giant wedding cake to the geometric tiles of the sidewalks in Moscow resembling tombstones from the small number of movies that had been produced in the Soviet Union The essential journalist and bestselling biographer of Vladimir Putin reveals how in the space of a generation Russia surrendered to a virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy Award winning journalist Masha Gessen’s understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled In The Future Is History Gessen fol. ,
The Future Is History How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia