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The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putinby Masha Gessen
Synopses & Reviews
Early in the morning of February 21, 2012, five young women entered the enormous Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, took off their overcoats to expose neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, climbed up on the dais and began to perform a punk prayer” beseeching the Mother of God” to get rid of Putin.” Although the performance was quickly shut down by security, thanks to YouTube the event began to make its way around the world. And in the weeks and months that followed, instead of fading from public awareness, Pussy Riot went viral, as three of the women were arrested and tried, and two of them were sentenced to a remote prison colony. From their cage-like confines in the courtroom, they spoke out with exceptional eloquence and bravery to condemn not only the circumstances of their own detention but the Putin regime and its massive corruption and abuses of power, including its unholy alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. The world took notice. The trial captured international headlines and celebrities—Madonna, Bjork, the Red Hot Chili Peppers—raced to vocalize their support. It became increasingly clear that Pussy Riots punk prayer” had been no prank and no accident but a uniquely well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed act of political confrontation that surpassed what years of dissent and months of public protest had attempted: in a society built entirely on lies, it reinvented the power to tell the truth. It was a great work of art.
This riveting account, based on Masha Gessens exclusive, extensive access to the principals—she was the journalist they wanted to tell their story—tells how such a phenomenon came about. Centered around Nadya, the groups unofficial leader, and including the stories of several other members of the group and additional important major secondary characters, it portrays how a society at an Orwellian extreme of hypocrisy spawned a group of women determined, from a very young age, to confront it and to make their confrontation heard and felt. And it also portrays the devastating loneliness and isolation that is the price of such success.
A chilling and unflinching portrait of one of the most fearsome figures in world politics.
In 1999, the “Family” surrounding Boris Yeltsin went looking for a successor to the ailing and increasingly unpopular president. Vladimir Putin, with very little governmental or administrative experience—he’d been deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, and briefly, director of the secret police—nevertheless seemed the perfect choice: a “faceless” creature whom Yeltsin and his cronies could mold in their own image. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see in him the progressive leader of their dreams—even as Putin, with ruthless efficiency, dismantled the country’s media, wrested control and wealth from the business class, and destroyed the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Within a few brief years, virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave.
Masha Gessen has experienced and reported this history firsthand, and brings it up to its present moment of unrest and uncertainty. Her spellbinding account of Putin’s rise and reign will stand as a classic of narrative nonfiction.
The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.
Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.
As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.
About the Author
Masha Gessen is a journalist and the author of several previous books, most recently Perfect Rigor. Editor of the Russian-language Snob magazine, she has contributed to Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Granta, and Slate, among other publications.
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