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Publisher's Summary

The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.

Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the rise of the Ozero cooperative, founded by Putin and others who are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes; the links between Putin, Petromed, and "Putin’s Palace" near Sochi; and the role of security officials from Putin’s KGB days in Leningrad and Dresden, many of whom have maintained their contacts with Russian organized crime.

Putin’s Kleptocracy is the result of years of research into the KGB and the various thriving Russian crime syndicates. Dawisha’s sources include Stasi archives; Russian insiders; investigative journalists in the US, Britain, Germany, Finland, France, and Italy; and Western officials who served in Moscow. Russian journalists wrote part of this story when the Russian media was still free. "Many of them died for this story, and their work has largely been scrubbed from the Internet, and even from Russian libraries," Dawisha says. "But some of that work remains."

©2014 Karen Dawisha (P)2014 Simon & Schuster

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Steven
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA, United States
  • 11-23-14

A Cautionary Tale, to how Democracy Gets Hijacked

Most Americans suspect that Putin is a thug. Troops with unmarked uniforms, face masks, and Russian accents, that populate break away Ukrainian territories are displayed on the nightly news. But like an iceberg, the majority of Putin's deviousness remains hidden from popular view, that was until this book. Whether Putin was an accidental prime ministerial candidate pushed forward by the oligarchs desperate to replace an ailing Yeltsin, or part of a deliberate plot by KGB and organized crime as advocated in this book, remains speculative. What is clear is that Putin, a man of mediocre abilities, reactionary tendencies, a crook, and probably a murderer, (can you say plutonium poisoning kiddies) now has a stranglehold on Russia. Now, the Russian mass media is merely a propaganda arm for Putin spinning the virile, shirtless myth, that some people are stupid enough to believe, and creating two star Audible reviews, to what is a well written book.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book! Well researched and well written.

Where does Putin's Kleptocracy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is the best book I've read/listened to on the subject. Another one I would recommend is "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" by Masha Gessen. Even though I've tried to keep with the subject by following the news and reading the books, I've found a lot of new material in this book. Some books filled with facts become hard to follow. This one is filled with facts but it is extremely well written, you listen to the story as if it was a Count of Monte Kristo, except that it is the real thing. This should be a must-read for members of Congress and U.S. Presidents as well as European politicians so that they would not "look into Putin's eyes and see his soul" or something like this, but instead would have a clear understanding what they are dealing with.

Any additional comments?

The artist reading the book -- Robert Petkoff -- is doing a pretty good job, even pronunciation of Russian terms and names is better than average in other audiobooks.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Incredible depth. Compelling if complex

Tremendous deep dive into the organized chaos of the modern Russian state. Shocking reveal of the inner workings of the Putin presidency and his rise to power. Moves beyond anecdotal accounts to find the real evidence for this stolen power. It can be difficult to stay with the author in this format, considering the complexity of story lines, but the macro explanations give a context to the Russian position that is missing from headlines. After reading, my deepest sympathies are with the Russian people, their stolen rights, and their stolen presidency.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Much too dense for audio

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Round off almost all of the numbers, there is no need to know the balance of every bank account to the last ruble to understand the story.

What could Karen Dawisha have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Follow a single narrative to it's conclusion before jumping to the next topic. This book is presented chronologically which means the author touches on people for a scant second before listing several others involved and detailing every action at that point. It's near impossible to follow unless you know quite a bit about this topic already.

What character would you cut from Putin's Kleptocracy?

75% of those mentioned for less than a paragraph.

Any additional comments?

This is like reading a chronological accounting of every step of Putin's rise to power. People are introduced for two lines and then not mentioned for a hundred pages or disappear altogether. Unless you have an eidetic memory or prior knowledge of modern Russian history you will have very little chance of following the story with anything other than an overview. This might be a 4-5 star review for Russian historians or deep political researchers, but as an Audio book, it's much too much detail.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Sad but well done!

Amazingly similar to the oligarchs in many countries!
One can judge the efficacy of a political system by the condition of the least among us. Oligarchs in the USA are the same as in Russia only the common folks still have it better here but the oligarchs are gaining day by day and have more control of the political system. Elections are rigged by big money and this toxic suasion is getting worse. The false flags in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were even many times worse than Dagestan and Chechnya. Read the book to understand our own country and political system. Putin is the same vintage of psychopath that we have running this country and in fact is following much of our play book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Research for this book is extensive

unveils the vail on the late decline of Russia, and how things have gone till and likely will. civil war might arise yet again in Russia

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Who owns Russia

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, few Americans understand what Putin is.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The revelation of Putin's pervicacious thievery.

What does Robert Petkoff bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I would not have time to read the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Description of Putin's maneuvering in 1998-9 for the highest office.

Any additional comments?

Russia may never recover from kleptocracy.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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very, very informative

This book scandalized me about how much I didn't know about Russia and Putin. Superb!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Read it for the document not the story

A vital document but not as captivating a story as I had hoped. I felt the writer was getting this down for the record - all power to her for that. But I was wanting more of a narrative than is found in here.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

In depth study of confusing economic corruption

Any additional comments?

Detailed and engaging expose of how modern Russia and its economy came under the kleptocracic control of Vladimir Putin. Dawisha goes back to the days before the fall of the Soviet Union, and chronicles (with extensive sources) how various KGB members and other Soviet operatives funneled money out of the country in advance of the Soviet breakup. In addition to financial research, she takes the time to explain how in the wake of the Soviet collapse, the struggle for power and for a course forward (democracy, autocracy, something else?), and Putin's eventual elevation to the presidency and subsequent consolidation of power. Dawisha then follows the multiple aspects of corruption, coercion, and threats that Putin brought to bear over the course of his rise, with the closest attention paid to how Putin amassed economic control. To tell this story, we are also introduced to election shenanigans, press suppression, and political maneuverings. The story is convoluted but strongly sourced, showing the byzantine connections between Putin and the major businesses in Russia. A must read for those who want to understand Putin's economic power.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful