Russians: The People Behind The Power by Greg Feifer (4 out of 5)
Nothing says the fun of a long day at the VA hospital like reading this doozy of a book. Okay, to be fair, I started it Sunday night when it became apparent that my dad’s illness wasn’t going to let me sleep, but finishing it while waiting for bureaucratic confetti to rain upon my exhausted noggin, was a stroke of pure, unadulterated whimsy. I got this from Twelve Books about six or seven months back, and since I’m reading my way through my bookshelves, this was the most daunting thing upon it, so I read it. I’m now passing it onto one of my customers who likes to read about Russian life. I figure, he’ll dig this book. I dug it.
Mr. Feifer does a bang-up job of trying to decipher that which is the Russian. What makes them tick? He uses personal stories and histories to try to get to the bottom of the mystery that is Russia. Greg Feifer has a decade’s worth of experience as a journalist, and uses that, as well as uncanny intuition on some matters, about why the Red State is universally viewed as one not to be trusted (well, that’s Putin’s fault, but that’s just my opinion). He takes apart and examines with a microscope the trade agreements, energy producing unions, not to mention Putin’s tenuous hold on reality and relationships with the outside world. There’s no doubt after reading Feifer’s book that for every one positive he walked away with, there were five negatives. You learn a lot, and then there’s the stuff that you already knew that has just been re-confirmed by a journalist with extensive background.
Feifer also draws the reader’s attention to the pop culture side of Russia. From sex to vodka, to plutocrats in the Kremlin, no samovar is left unlit. Feifer looks at the hypocrisy in the current regime, while taking it back in time to the past Soviet leaders, to compare and contrast the style of rule. This is a well researched, personal work that he has brought to the shelves for those of us curious about what the hell could be going on in Putin’s little pea brain. If you want a side of every part of Russian history over the last twenty years, along with Russia’s impact on the pop culture scene, then this is the book for you to pick up and read. It’s not dreary, tedious, or tasking, as other histories have been. This is a fair, well-balanced, neutral history of Russia. Anyone who likes history and current events, will enjoy this book.