Review: Putin’s Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain

(This is a review of the 2004 3rd edition. The latest edition [6th], published last year, is great as well, but was checked out of my local library. 😦 )

As controversial as Vladimir Putin may be, education on the matter of his time and politics is a matter of crucial and serious study. Fortunately, Dale Herspring offers a careful scholarly study to match the gravity demanded of the subject. Putin’s Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain is a collection of essays which cover all of the issues significant to Russian politics and of interest to the West. Authors include Peter Rutland (on Putin’s relations with oligarchs), Boris Lanin (on culture), and Thomas F. Remington (on political parties surrounding the late Russian presidency). Despite this plurality of authors, the articles are balanced in their criticisms when read altogether, and the professional tone and detailed research conducted within each gives Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain a premier quality.

The common motif interwoven throughout the articles is the sometimes onerous actions leaders take when faced with chaotic situations. This is a fitting motif, as Putin assumed office as the successor of unpopular presidential policies. In Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain, pros and cons are presented in equal measure, giving a balanced perception of the man who has shaped his country in the midst of political reform, terrorism, shaky relations with the west and a demographic crisis inherited from the ’90s. Since this is a work by several academics, readers should expect multiple observations that may require some extra research into the various authors’ backgrounds to understand the angle of each.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in early Putinism (especially other students) and the series as a whole to anyone seeking to educate themselves about modern Russia.

★ ★ ★ ★




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