The Future Is History

The Future Is History

How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

Book - 2017
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Putin's biographer reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2017.
ISBN: 9781594634536
Characteristics: xii, 515 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Chicago Public Library recommends this title as one of the best books published in 2017.

2017 National Book Award winner, Nonfiction

The latest from Gessen, acclaimed commentator and author of biographies of Vladimir Putin and punk band Pussy Riot, is a brilliant look at Russia from the 80s to the present day. Gessen focuses on the experiences of several interesting individuals who grew up in the aftermath of the USSR's breaku... Read More »

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Aug 07, 2018

Excellent, well-written, and thoroughly researched. A previous reviewer was critical because Gessen spends a good deal of time discussing the bans on the fields of sociology and psychology. However, this is hugely important as it demonstrates how bereft the intellectual and psychological lives of Russians were at the end of the Cold War, why it was difficult--and perhaps impossible--for them to catch up to where other countries were, and perhaps most importantly, why they were so receptive to propaganda.

Gessen does explore the lives of "every day" Russians, and through them all we can see the way the country looked like it was beginning to become more open and free and then the way it began to contract. I'm hopeful that readers will abandon any thoughts about "cultural relativism" by the end of the book; there's no excuse for targeting and murdering the LGBTQ population, and the level of modern anti-Semitism now in Russia is shocking.

This isn't a feel good book--you feel worse after finishing it--but it will give everyone an understanding of the depth of work that needs to be done.

May 01, 2018

Unlike the preceding reviewer, I really liked how the author interwove personal stories with the checkered history of the social sciences in Russia. I learned a lot from both parts and highly recommend this book.

Apr 10, 2018

I was really excited to read this book but was left completely disappointed! I only made it 60 pages into a 486 page book (with very tiny print at that!) and I just had to stop. I couldn't read another page. The book description talks about the author following the lives of four Russians from childhood to adulthood and the experiences that they acquire. This sounded very appealing to me, especially considering Russia's history. However, 60 pages into the book and the only thing the author was continuing to go on and on about was the lack and/or outright ban of the fields of sociology and psychology in Russia. It was hard to follow, but more so the content was boring and dull. I kept waiting to read about the four individuals mentioned in the description, with only a small snippet of one of them given here and there throughout the first 60 pages. Maybe if I gave it more time, the author would have gotten to their stories? I used to hate quitting books before reading them through, but now I'm of the mindset that life is too short for bad books! If you can't catch my attention and make me enjoy what you're writing (definitely by page 60), then I'm moving on! To each his own, but this one was just not for me!

Feb 13, 2018

A bleak book that shows how the hopes of a liberal democracy arising in Russia have been squashed.

Dec 05, 2017

Read about 50 pages in and realized it's such a good book that I don't want to rush it. Also, I'm not feeling the love for reading more about Russia and dystopia right now.

Masha Gessen is a brilliant writer, and drew me in quickly with the protagonists and their stories. But I feel like I know this story, know the unhappy endings, know the crushed hopes. I keep thinking I'm happy not to have this squelched life and narrow opportunity life.

She writes this as a sort of warning for what she sees we're heading toward, and no one regrets overestimating Hitler, but it's still difficult to read with open eyes when you're so sensitive to the political atmosphere of 2017.

So maybe later.

Dec 01, 2017

Wow! This is an excellent book, beautifully written. It is also very frightening. I highly recommend.


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