Putin's People by Catherine Belton - is about Putin's rise to power. It was published in 2020 so it discussed a lot of stuff from the perestroika years of Mikhail Gorbachev to the annexation of Crimea and the frozen conflict in Ukraine. The book's subtitle is "How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the World."

I did not like this book because it is dishonest. When I was a kid, my dad had a subscription to an American magazine called Reader's Digest. It had articles, jokes, medical advice and commentary on politics, economics and lots of other subjects all from an American perspective. It wrote from a perspective that America was a net force for good in the world. That any actor or action opposing its will is motivated by evil or has objectives less noble than those spurring America. And so leaders of countries are portrayed in a negative manner - rash, impulsive, physically unattractive, lacking mental acuity and so on. This book is written in that style. One line I remember from the Digest was "Ghaddafi had a split personality, both sides evil'. The portrayal of Putin is that of a cunning bureaucrat who is in power partly because the interests that put him there want him there and partly because he is using his position to enrich himself and thus does not want to leave. This negative portrayal prevails throughout the book. Everything they do is described as murky. He and the KGB people are described as cynical, duplicitous manipulators; the non KGB people who worked with them as gullible, conniving, opportunists who got their just desserts; the communists as rigid ideologues who yearn for the past not because they think it was better for the country but because it was better for them; the liberals as naïve. Even the Russian people who suffered privation, inflation and poverty are somehow portrayed as willing victims. Being recent history, many of the characters who drove the action are still alive and even if they aren't, there is sufficient information about them for a detailed picture to be presented. Unfortunately, the author seems ignorant of nuance and so portrayed all of them as bastards. If someone is a victim today, it is because he did something yesterday that justifies his victimization today. Thus, it is not possible to sympathize with any of them. The only bit of the book that elicits some sympathy is the situation of Ukraine. I think that country is one of the most unfortunate in the world. It has been a battleground for almost 900 years.

Russia has done some pretty amazing things technologically, courtesy of being in the most violent neighborhood on earth i.e. Europe. These things are even more impressive given how backwards it was at the time of the October Revolution. However, given its potential, it could be said to have underperformed. In this way, it is similar to my country, Nigeria. It is one of 4 countries that I think have many similarities to along with Brazil and Indonesia. All four are resource rich and all have somehow failed to live up to expectation. Also, corruption in Russia, like in Nigeria, is mind boggling. If what the book said about the scale of corruption and its magnitude in Russia is true, then honestly Nigeria is not so different from lots of places, Russia inclusive. I concede though, that the author might be exaggerating since the book is blatant western propaganda.

As I said, the book is dishonest. If Western suspicion of Russia is justified on security grounds, the author did not put anything in the book about Western actions that made Russia react the way it did. After the dissolution of the USSR, the West walked roughshod over Russian interests including openly crowing about interfering in elections. None of that was appeared in the book. Making it really one sided.

This book is not worth reading