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Putin's Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia [Hardcover]

Steve Levine
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 24 2008
The new Russia is marching in an alarming direction. Emboldened by escalating oil wealth and newfound prominence as a world power, Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, has veered back toward the authoritarian roots planted in Imperial/Czarist times and firmly established during the Soviet era. Though Russia has a new president, Dmitri Medvedev, Putin remains in control, rendering the democratic reforms of the post-Soviet order irrelevant. Now, in Putin’s Labyrinth, acclaimed journalist Steve LeVine, who lived in and reported from the former Soviet Union for more than a decade, provides a penetrating account of modern Russia under the repressive rule of an all-powerful autocrat. LeVine portrays the growth of a “culture of death”–from targeted assassinations of the state’s enemies to the Kremlin’s indifference when innocent hostages are slaughtered.

Drawing on new interviews with eyewitnesses and the families of victims, LeVine documents the bloodshed that has stained Putin’s two terms as president. Among the incidents chronicled in these pages: The 2002 terrorist takeover of a crowded Moscow theater–which led to the government gassing the building, and the deaths of more than a hundred terrified hostages–seen here from new angles, through the riveting words of those who survived; and the murder of courageous investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, shot in the elevator of her apartment building on Putin’s birthday, purportedly as a malicious “gift” for the president from supporters. Finally, a shocking story that made international headlines–the 2006 death of defector Alexander Litvinenko in London–is dramatized as never before. LeVine traces the steps of this KGB-spy-turned-dissident on his way to being poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope. And in doing so, LeVine is granted a rare series of interviews with a KGB defector who was nearly killed in strangely similar circumstances fifty years earlier. Through LeVine’s exhaustive research, we come to know the victims as real people, not just names in brief news accounts of how they died.

Putin’s Labyrinth is more than an immensely readable exposé. It is highly personal, with the flavor of a memoir. It is a thoughtful book that examines the perplexing question of how Russians manage to negotiate their way around the ever-present danger of violence. It calculates the emotional toll that this lethal maze is exacting on ordinary people, even as they enjoy a dramatically heightened standard of living. Most ominously, it assesses the reopening of hostilities with the West, and the forces that are driving this major new confrontation.

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Review

“If Steve LeVine’s aim in his new book, Putin’s Labyrinth, was to chill us to the marrow about post-communist Russia, he has succeeded. . . . LeVine’s investigations and interviews are thorough and his conclusions sober.”—Chicago Tribune

Putin’s Labyrinth is an extremely readable account that is as timely as today’s news stories. I recommend it without reservation.”—David M. Kinchen, HuntingtonNews.net

“[A] hot-off-the-presses exposé . . . LeVine’s important take on the all-too-real machinations and bloodthirstiness from which espionage thrillers are made is both unnerving and intriguing.”—Booklist

“A riveting look at today’s Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.”—Kingston Observer


From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Steve LeVine is the author of The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea. He is the chief foreign affairs writer for BusinessWeek and is based in Washington, D.C. He was a foreign correspondent for eighteen years, posted in the Soviet Union, Pakistan, and the Philippines, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, Financial Times, and other publications.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Putin the Terrible Nov. 2 2008
By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
What is the new Russia? What is really going on there? Does anyone know who Putin really is and where is he taking the country? These are the questions that LeVine attempts to answer in his new book "Putin's Labyrinth".

As a journalist, the book is necessarily made up of a string of interviews, documenting the trail of tears that Putin has left behind since his ascendancy in 2000. LeVine's central thesis is: Russians are accustomed to violence, especially state violence and are therefore conditioned to accept a higher threshold of terror and censorship by the state so long as their standard of living remains at an acceptable level.

Overall, the book is an easy read (less than 200 pages) and a very good overview of the dark side of Russia today. LeVine does heavily rely on the books "Blowing up Russia" and "Putin's Russia" by the late Litvinenko and the late Politkovskaya respectively. I haven't read those books but I imagine that if you have, nothing in LeVine's book will surprise you.
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