Long before the meteor strike, longtime NPR correspondent Anne Garrels had Chelyabinsk in her sights. More than 10 years ago, she began visiting the city in order to understand what life was really like in post-Soviet Russia, beyond the confines of the glitzy Moscow metropolis.
In Chelyabinsk, she discovered a populace for whom the new democratic freedoms were as traumatic as they were delightful. A closed nuclear city throughout the Cold War, Chelyabinsk was thrown into disarray in the early '90s as its formerly state-controlled factories were exposed to the free market. And the next 20 years would only bring more turmoil. The city became richer and more cosmopolitan, even as the forces of corruption and intolerance became more entrenched.
In Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia, Garrels crafts an intimate portrait of the nation's heartland. We meet ostentatious mafiosos, upwardly mobile professionals, impassioned activists, scheming taxi drivers with dark secrets, and beleaguered steel workers. We discover surprising subcultures, like the LGBT residents of Chelyablinsk who bravely endure an upsurge in homophobia fueled by Putin's rhetoric of Russian "moral superiority" yet still nurture a vibrant if clandestine community of their own. And we watch doctors and teachers try to do their best in a corrupt system. Through these encounters, Garrels reveals why Putin commands the support and loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they encounter from day to day. Her portrait of Russia's silent majority is essential listening at a time when Cold War tensions are resurgent.
"Former NPR reporter Anne Garrels...delivers a terrific narration of her own fascinating look at the current state of the former Soviet Union.... Whatever news she's delivering, it's mesmerizing." (AudioFile)
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Interesting dive into Russia today
I loved how it gave personal stories about how people are finding ways to survive in a deeply chaotic Russia as well as their history under the Soviet Union and how things have changed yet also remained the same.
The story of the disabled children and the brave people building resources for them. That really hit home as I know that this is a real struggle even in America.
I would say the women who's working toward building the disabled center for children.
I think the scenes involving the struggles of families with disabled children; how the government encouraged them to hand their children over to the States foster system. I was incredulous at that system and how it continues to fail these children and abuse them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I'm a big fan of history and I think this book blended past events with the way things are now in Russia very well. It was a great view into a changed society and how the legacy of the Soviet Union continues to plague the vast territory of the new Russia, and how there's so much more to the situation than just the fall of the wall or glasnost. There's a deeper legacy and it will be interesting to see how things play out for this large country in the decades to come.
- Amazon Customer
Excellent insight to today's Russia