Putin Mystique, The
Inside Russia's Power Cult
published 2015 • 6” x 9” • 330 pages
“A fascinating exegesis of power in Russia…as entertaining and readable as it is informative, very deserving of a place on every Russia-wonk’s shelves.”
—Mark Galeotti, New York University, Center for Global Affairs
“In a lucid study of power, journalist Arutunyan exposes the cult of personality that surrounds Vladimir Putin as part of a larger Russian mythology. She shows how Russians view Putin in near-mystical terms, as a feudal monarch greater than any one institution of government. Mixing personal stories with history and on-the-ground reports, Arutunyan deftly explains how Putin and his cronies take advantage of the ‘repressive apparatus’ underlying the corrupt system created in the wake of the Soviet Union’s breakup. Each of the book’s four sections—‘The Subjects,’ ‘The Oprichniki,’ ‘The Boyars,’ and ‘The Sovereign’—describe the subtleties of current political and economic reality in the lives of specific people. In one chapter we meet police officer Alexei Dymovsky, who took to the Internet to complain directly to Putin about corruption in his department in a video that went viral. Dymovsky, who was subsequently jailed as a dissident and later became a celebrity activist, provides another example of how Russia and its citizens are still stuck in a ‘patrimonial state.’ Arutunyan goes on to cover recent events, including the Pussy Riot trial and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, that continue to keep Putin at the center of the world stage. This far-ranging book stands as a solid contribution toward understanding Putin’s power and the people who follow him.”
More Reviews »
GETTING TO GRIPS WITH RUSSIA’S 21ST CENTURY TSAR
Vladimir V. Putin has confounded world leaders and defied their assumptions as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again. The Putin Mystique takes the reader on a journey through the Russia of Vladimir Putin, named by Forbes magazine in 2013 as the most powerful man in the world. It is a neo-feudal world where iPads, WTO membership, and Brioni business suits conceal a power structure straight out of the Middle Ages, where the Sovereign is perceived as both divine and demonic, where a man’s riches are determined by his proximity to the Kremlin, and where large swathes of the populace live in precarious complacency interrupted by bouts of revolt. Where does that kind of power come from? The answer lies not in the leader, but in the people: from the impoverished worker who appeals directly to Putin for aid, to the businessmen, security officers and officials in Putin’s often dysfunctional government who look to their leader for instruction and protection.
In her writing career, Anna Arutunyan has traveled throughout Russia to report on modern Russian politics. She has interviewed oligarchs and policemen, bishops and politicians, and many ordinary Russians. Her book is a vivid and revealing exploration of the way in which myth, power, and even religion interact to produce the love-hate relationship between the Russian people and Vladimir Putin.
Anna Arutunyan is author of The Media in Russia (McGraw-Hill, 2009) and co-author (with Vladimir Shlapentokh) of Freedom, Repression and Private Property in Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The Moscow News, where she is an editor and senior correspondent. She has lectured on Russian power, politics and media at Tampere University in Finland and at Michigan State University. A bilingual Russian-American, she was born in the Soviet Union in 1980 but grew up and received her education in the United States. In 2002 she returned to Moscow to write about Russia. Anna Arutunyan lives in Moscow with her husband and daughter.
Olive Branch Press
“This fascinating book is an examination of a dance between ruler and ruled, swirling on amid the ruins the Soviets left behind… To understand Putin’s power, it is essential to consider the millions of Russians who have molded him ‘into a sort of sacred king.’”
—The Wall Street Journal
“In a lucid study of power, journalist Arutunyan exposes the cult of personality that surrounds Vladimir Putin as part of a larger Russian mythology... This far-ranging book stands as a solid contribution toward understanding Putin’s power and the people who follow him.”
“Anna Arutunyan, a Moscow-based Russian-American writer, is regarded as one of the sharpest observers of the Kremlin leader and his court. She gets to grips with the almost mystical bond between Russia’s leader and its led. Arutunyan unravels the extraordinary personality cult by crisscrossing Russia talking to individuals who have been sucked into Putin’s orbit. 'The Putin Mystique' is as much about followership as about leadership. The true comparison, says Arutunyan, is not with Stalin but with the tsars…Arutunyan is a journalist but really her intriguing and insightful book is a work of anthropology.”
—The Times, London
“Why do so many Russians go on giving uncritical support to Putin? Arguing that Russians hold a quasi-religious respect for the state and its leader, this illuminating book delves into the intertwining of the sacred and the political in history and today. Fresh vignettes of Putin in action illustrate both the supreme leader’s attitude to his subjects and their needs, desires and fears that make him the kind of leader he has become.”
—Caroline Humphrey, University of Cambridge
Submit a Review »