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Monday, November 06, 2017

Echo- Russia: The Future is History

The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

An "Echo", from "The Week" ~ October 27, 2017 
By Masha Gessen

What game, exactly, is Russia playing? 
(MaineWriter- Whatever it is, it's not a long term solution for visioning the future, that's for sure!)

The Future is History
Longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Nonfiction
Putin's bestselling biographer reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.

What's going to happen in Russia when the nation has been led by Vladimir Putin who's only ideology is anti-Americanism?

That's a question many Americans are currently asking, said Mary Ann Gwinn in Newsday, and if you're one of them, Masha Gressen's "brilliant" new book can provide you answers.

An immersive portrait of today's Russia that seeks to explain why the country retreated from its chance at democracy three decades ago, The Future is History turns out to be "a plunge into the deep end of a very cold pool."  Gessen, a Russian born journalist with a mordant wit and "formidable power of synthesis" weaves together the stories of several contemporary Russians to illustrate how those who still yearn for freedom are vastly outnumbered by conformists who've been persuaded since Vladimir Putin's rise that the United States is Russia's mortal enemy and that domestic stability is worth any abuses the people suffer in its name.

At its heart, this book is about the Moscow intelligentsia by one of its own," said Susan Glasser in The Washington Post. Gessen introduces us to three intellectuals, including one prominent Putin supporter, who've been pondering the Russian character for years. But, the real protagonists are four younger Russians who've been victims of Putin-era repression. One, a gay man, left the country because of homophobic persecution; another is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, a reformer who was assassinated in 2015. Such incidents have become common during Putin's long reign. 

So why do most Russians support Putin?

Gessen, leaning on survey evidence gathered by sociologist Lev Gudkov, "makes a convincing if depressing case that Homo sovieticus did not die out with the Soviet Union." Instead, the typical Russian is still uncommonly fearful and still worships authority.

But, let's not forget that Homo sovieticus is an imaginary creature, said Sean Guillory, in Bookforum.  Gessen at least doesn't use the figure to scapegoat the masses, as past intellectuals have. 

Instead, she shows compassion, arguing that the trauma Russians have endured have caused lasting psychological damage, making them vulnerable to totalitarianism's allure. In the near-totalitarian state Putin has built, "the one missing piece is ideology," said Francis Fukuyama, in The New York Times. Putin's regime has been good at feeding people's anxieties- including such remote threats as homosexual pedophilia- but it has offered no coherent belief system. In Gessen's "fascinating" book, the unanswered question is whether Putin's Kremlin has done anything yet to retain the people's loyalty  in the long run. "I somehow doubt that fear of pedophilia will be a sufficiently grand cause." 

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