Long before the meteor strike, longtime NPR correspondent Anne Garrels had Chelyabinsk in her sights. More than 10 years ago, she began visiting the city in order to understand what life was really like in post-Soviet Russia, beyond the confines of the glitzy Moscow metropolis.
In Chelyabinsk, she discovered a populace for whom the new democratic freedoms were as traumatic as they were delightful. A closed nuclear city throughout the Cold War, Chelyabinsk was thrown into disarray in the early '90s as its formerly state-controlled factories were exposed to the free market. And the next 20 years would only bring more turmoil. The city became richer and more cosmopolitan, even as the forces of corruption and intolerance became more entrenched.
In Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia, Garrels crafts an intimate portrait of the nation's heartland. We meet ostentatious mafiosos, upwardly mobile professionals, impassioned activists, scheming taxi drivers with dark secrets, and beleaguered steel workers. We discover surprising subcultures, like the LGBT residents of Chelyablinsk who bravely endure an upsurge in homophobia fueled by Putin's rhetoric of Russian "moral superiority" yet still nurture a vibrant if clandestine community of their own. And we watch doctors and teachers try to do their best in a corrupt system. Through these encounters, Garrels reveals why Putin commands the support and loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they encounter from day to day. Her portrait of Russia's silent majority is essential listening at a time when Cold War tensions are resurgent.
©2016 Anne Garrels (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"Former NPR reporter Anne Garrels...delivers a terrific narration of her own fascinating look at the current state of the former Soviet Union.... Whatever news she's delivering, it's mesmerizing." (AudioFile)
I loved how it gave personal stories about how people are finding ways to survive in a deeply chaotic Russia as well as their history under the Soviet Union and how things have changed yet also remained the same.
The story of the disabled children and the brave people building resources for them. That really hit home as I know that this is a real struggle even in America.
I would say the women who's working toward building the disabled center for children.
I think the scenes involving the struggles of families with disabled children; how the government encouraged them to hand their children over to the States foster system. I was incredulous at that system and how it continues to fail these children and abuse them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I'm a big fan of history and I think this book blended past events with the way things are now in Russia very well. It was a great view into a changed society and how the legacy of the Soviet Union continues to plague the vast territory of the new Russia, and how there's so much more to the situation than just the fall of the wall or glasnost. There's a deeper legacy and it will be interesting to see how things play out for this large country in the decades to come.
This audiobook (read by the author) was very interesting and informative. I was captivated the whole way through, never bored. I loved hearing the stories of the Russians in this book and learning a bit about how they think, it's a great insight. I'm recommending this book to my friends & family.
I remain very interested in what is happening in Russia and how its people are handling the changes since the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Putin. However, this book was a struggle for me to finish. The author correctly chose to focus on an out of the way city, but I found her reporting excessively detailed and minute. For me, there were just too many details about poorly educated people trying to live their lives. This book could have been half as long but better edited and made more of an impact.
This book benefits mostly from the writer/narrator being a seasoned radio journalist. Garrels has a wealth of great stories and insights about contemporary Russia, and delivers everything in an economical, highly listenable way.
There are probably better, more intensive books about contemporary Russia and all its peculiarities, but this is a great listen for anyone who wants a relatively quick and easy listen on the topic.
It's always interesting gaining a perspective into the lives of those different than us. Russians are certainly amongst those who have lived markedly different lives.
Anne Garrels spent years in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk getting to the heart of the "Real Russia." The results are fascinating but eventually feel a bit repetitive. More or less everyone we hear from has had the same experiences. Tales of corruption, shakedowns, and brutality abound.
Interesting - even if Russia's tourism board is bound to hate it.
Superb book, that deals with every day life in Russia & exposes at an everyday level what it is like to life in a country where corruption is now the law as the law no longer exist. It is shocking as to how this country has fallen into utter chaos. Shocking & very well written.
I was keen to get this book after I heard the author interviewed on NPR. I know little about Russia, and Garrels does an excellent job of explaining how the changes of the last 30 years (and the Soviet era before) have affected people's lives.
As a broadcast journalist, she does her own narration, which adds a lot to this first-person account.
Highly recommended for anyone who is curious about how and why Putin is so popular, and what Russians really think about their country's situation.
Excellent look inside Putins Russia. Well researched, beautifully told story of modern Russian heartlands. A must for anyone who wants to know why Russians support Putin.
I am filled with a mixture of emotions. Sorrow for the suffering of others, anger for the abuses in all their forms, compassion, and wonder. Thank you Anne Garrels for taking me with you to places I will never physically get to go. I'm grateful that I heard a recent radio interview, and chose to listen to your book!
José M. Batista
This turns out to be a propoganda piece desguised as journalistic reporting. It sets western ideals (not reality) as references against which carefully selected bad examples are compared and generalizations made.
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