Alex Goldfarb, Ph.D., was a dissident scientist who left Russia in the 1970s, joining the faculty of Columbia University. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he went to work for George Soros directing charitable initiatives in Russia. He befriended Alexander Litvinenko in the 1990s. Goldfarb later helped Litvinenko work on his memoirs and supported his efforts to expose the abuses of the newly ascendant FSB. Goldfarb is currently the executive director of the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, set up by Boris Berezovsky as an umbrella group for human-rights activists.
Marina Litvinenko first met Alexander at her thirty-first birthday party, in 1993, when he was a young officer in the FSB. They married and she gave birth to a son thereafter. In 2000, the three of them sought asylum in the United Kingdom, and she continues to live in London with her twelve-year-old son.
While Vladimir Putin has been president and prime minister of Russia, the Kremlin has deployed the security services to intimidate the political opposition, reassert the power of the state, and carry out assassinations overseas. At the same time, its agents and spies were put beyond public accountability and blessed with the prestige, benefits, and legitimacy lost since the Soviet collapse.
The security services have played a central— and often mysterious—role at key turning points in Russia during these tumultuous years: from the Moscow apartment house bombings and theater siege, to the war in Chechnya and the Beslan massacre. The security services are not all-powerful; they have made clumsy and sometimes catastrophic blunders. But what is clear is that after the chaotic 1990s, when they were sidelined, they have made a remarkable return to power, abetted by their most famous alumnus, Putin.
Hailed as "a lone voice crying out in a moral wilderness" (New Statesman), Anna Politkovskaya made her name with her fearless reporting on the war in Chechnya. Now she turns her steely gaze on the multiple threats to Russian stability, among them Vladimir Putin himself.
Rich with characters and poignant accounts, Putin's Russia depicts a far-reaching state of decay. Politkovskaya describes an army in which soldiers die from malnutrition, parents must pay bribes to recover their dead sons' bodies, and conscripts are even hired out as slaves. She exposes rampant corruption in business, government, and the judiciary, where everything from store permits to bus routes to court appointments is for sale. And she offers a scathing condemnation of the ongoing war in Chechnya, where kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, rape, and torture are begetting terrorism rather than fighting it. Finally, Politkovskaya denounces both Putin, for stifling civil liberties as he pushes the country back to a Soviet-style dictatorship, and the West, for its unqualified embrace of the Russian leader.
Sounding an urgent alarm, Putin's Russia is a gripping portrayal of a country in crisis and the testament of a great and intrepid reporter.