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Putin's Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia Hardcover – Jun 24 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 24 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066858
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.3 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #486,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 2 2008
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Tragedy of Russia July 15 2008
By P.K. Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a solid and compelling piece of investigative journalism on the state of affairs in contemporary Russia. Levine sets out to depict the shadowy and violent zeitgeist of the "New Russia" that has unfolded with the ascension and consolidation of power by Vladimir Putin. After the Soviet collapse, and the haphazard, gangster infested transition years of Boris Yeltsin, many Russians longed for another strongman that could replace the corruption and anarchy with the stable and powerful Russia of old. In many ways, Putin has succeeded in doing just this. The problem, says Levine, is that while the reckless and bloody gangsterism of the 90's has been mostly cleaned up, Putin has effectively turned Russia into a quasi-fascist (my word) state. Political murders have replaced criminal murders, and anyone seen as opposing the state is branded as fair game for retribution. Russian nationalism is on the rise and the country's rising stability and prosperity is enough for most Russians to look the other way.

Central to Putin's mindset and thus the general direction of the country is his connection to Russia's intelligence services. This once undistinguished KGB agent, who managed to become director of the FSB (the successor to the KGB) before being anointed President by Yeltsin, has apparently made his former livelihood the backbone of the new Russian state. His ex-FSB cronies occupy many of the top governmental positions and the secretive "us against them" mentality seems to be the mood of the day. To highlight the tragic consequences of Russia's current trajectory, Levine uses the stories of several high profile victims of the current political climate. Most notable are the murders of renowned journalist Anna Politkovskaya and defector Alexander Litvinenko, just to name two. The book reads like a spy novel at times; poisonings, shootings, allegations of inside jobs, and an array of other bizarre occurrences litter the pages in every chapter. The subject matter is not only compelling, but at times extremely sad as well.

Overall, I thought this was a very informative and intriguing read. It was a bit slow in the middle, but by the end I was completely fascinated. Levine is a solid journalist who has clearly done his homework. I found it to be quite objective as well. While Levine is clearly critical of Putin and the new Russian state, he does his best to separate fact from fiction whenever possible. Highly recommended.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Excellent short book July 4 2008
By Justin Doolittle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a tremendous read for anybody with a general interest in Putin's Russia, and stories of spies, deception, and assassination. LeVine is a truly gifted writer, and his style makes this book read like a thriller. The two most notorious recent assassinations, of Andrew Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya, are covered fairly in-depth. Russia is such an intriguing country, at least to me it is. My only complaint is that LeVine seems to have made a conscious effort to keep this book short (166 pages!). I'm not sure why, maybe his publishers thought a short one would be more likely to sell. He could have gone into much greater detail about Putin himself, and his governing style and connection to the KGB and FSB. But I can't complain. A great quick read, and a real page turner.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The high cost of democracy July 26 2009
By D. S. Samarasinghe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After reading "Putin and the Rise of Russia" by Michael Stuermer, which was a very measured assessment of Vladimir Putin, I decided to read "Putin's Labyrinth" by Steve LeVine. This book is a passionate anti-Putin book drawn mainly from the views and opinions of people opposed to his rule such as Alexander Litvinenko, the poisoned former FSB agent turned dissident and the assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya. LeVine blames Putin for a string of assassinations that took place in Russia mainly targetting media persons.he also endorses the view of some dissidents that the string of bombings that struck Russian appartment blocks were stage managed to bring about Putin's rise to power.
The central theme of the author is that Russia is really "a facade democracy" which has many repressive aspects to it- in fact not so different to the old Soviet Union. In this society, like in the USSR, those who speak against the system are at risk.
At the same time he acknowledges that Vladimir Putin and his government are extremely popular for giving the country again confidence and strength.
What the reader needs to determine whether Russia has gained from the rule of Vladimir Putin who has brought pride and wealth to that importasnt country and whether the costs which leVine has highlighted are worth paying. There is no doubt, given the popularity of Vladimir Putin thta most people in Russai prefer a strong system to an indecisive one. That's the main strength of Putin and his government.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Compelling read that brings the news to life July 14 2008
By shazza - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Putin's Labyrinth is the kind of book that only a journalist -- a particularly good journalist -- could write. It takes the news and pulls and prods at it, showing you how it turns on the actions of people, some ordinary, some extraordinary. I'd been mildly curious about what is happening inside Russia these days, and seeing how the book purported to tie together so many recent headlines of the last few years, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. I put it down about 48 hours later, finished and satisfied that I will never look at events in Russia the same way again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not pretty Oct. 13 2011
By Mr. Paul I. Medew - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Very engaging book written by someone who was there (or if he wasn't, he knew someone who was). Great investigative journalism. Renewed my interest in the dark world of Russian politics especially with Putin clambering back as top dog. All rather disturbing really.

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