This Week’s Reading

Anya takes issue with some of the terrible writing that’s surfaced amid the recent renewed interest in Russia. This post makes me wish she wrote more on her blog, as it’s rather fabulous.

The BBC Magazine talks about Putin’s rebuilding of Soviet Russia. This article turns a bit psychoanalytic at times, but is still quite good.

“Putin has really painted himself into a corner by destroying every independent source of power in Russia. He now has only the bureaucracy to rely on, and must keep increasing its funding to keep ensuring its loyalty,” says Ben Judah, the British author of Fragile Empire, a study of Putin’s Russia.

“Eventually, the money is going to run out, and then he will find himself in the same position Soviet leaders were in by the late 1980s, forced to confront political and economic crises, while trying to hold the country together. He looks strong now, but his Kremlin is built on the one thing in Russia doesn’t control: the price of oil.”

Putin has succeeded in building a version of the country of his childhood, one that can act independently in the world, and one where dissent is controlled and the Kremlin’s power unchallenged. But that is a double-edged sword, because the Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, and a Russia recreated in its image risks sharing its fate.

According to Vladimir Bukovsky, a dissident who spent a decade in Soviet prisons before his exile to the West in 1976, Putin is totally genuine when he says the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a “geopolitical catastrophe”.

“He does not understand that the collapse of the Soviet system was predetermined, therefore he believes his mission is to restore the Soviet system as soon as possible,” he says.

As a middle-ranking KGB officer who loved the Soviet Union, Putin lacked the perspective of senior officers, who knew full well the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency rather than because of Western plotting, Bukovsky says.

“It leads him exactly to… repeat the same mistakes. He wants this whole country to be controlled by one person from the Kremlin, which will lead to disaster,” he says.

Having trouble with your speaking skills in a foreign language? Ron has some good tips, including practicing speaking, reading out loud, and writing.

And finally, the post of the week: this woman’s father knew Lavrenti Beria!

What have you read this week?

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