Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post and Slate, and runs the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute. Her most recent book is Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956. (April 2016)
“Tell Them We Are Starving”: The 1933 Soviet Diaries of Gareth Jones
edited by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk, with an introduction by Ray Gamache
In later years, there would be bigger demonstrations, more eloquent speakers, and more professional slogans. But the march that took place in Kiev on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1917 was extraordinary because it was the first of its kind in that city. The Russian Empire had banned Ukrainian books, newspapers, theaters, and even the use of the Ukrainian language in schools. The public display of national symbols had been risky and dangerous. But in the wake of the February Revolution in Petrograd, anything seemed possible.
Karen Dawisha’s Putin’s Kleptocracy tells the remarkable story of how one group of unrepentant, single-minded, revanchist KGB officers, horrified by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the prospect of their own loss of influence, successfully plotted a return to power.
Sheryl Sandberg is disinclined to talk about luck, and this makes sense: If that’s all it was, then what lessons can she sell to women in Lean In? What will women talk about at Lean In circles? What will they write on the Lean In Facebook page? Her lack of interest in the mechanics of her own career is equally understandable. One can quite see that “Be dishonest about your working hours” or “Be at the right place at the right time” doesn’t have the same ring as “Opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” That sort of advice wouldn’t have made this book into a best seller.
In 1947, Stefan Jędrychowski, a Communist veteran, member of the Polish Politburo, and minister in the government, wrote a memo to his colleagues on a subject close to his heart. Somewhat pompously entitled “Notes on Anglo-Saxon Propaganda,” the memo complained, among other things, that British and American news services were …
The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service
by Andrew Meier
Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution
by Robert Service
Nowadays, we tend to place spies into a cold war narrative: East vs. West, intrigue around the Berlin Wall, Graham Greene’s Vienna, and George Smiley’s London. But the first and most successful Soviet spies emerged much earlier. The 1930s, W.H. Auden’s “low dishonest decade,” were a period of extraordinarily creative skulduggery for Soviet espionage.
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
by Masha Gessen
By his own account, Vladimir Putin was drawn to the KGB’s glamour, secrecy, and power from an early age. “I was most amazed by how a small force, a single person, really, can accomplish something an entire army cannot,” he told his official biographers. “A single intelligence officer could rule over the fates of thousands of people. At least, that’s how I saw it.” Putin, Masha Gessen concludes in The Man Without a Face, “wanted to rule the world, or a part of it, from the shadows.”
In Bloodlands, a brave and original history of mass killing in the twentieth century, Tim Snyder argues that we still lack any real knowledge of what happened in the eastern half of Europe in the twentieth century. The book’s title is not a metaphor. Snyder’s “bloodlands,” which others have called “borderlands,” run from Poznan in the West to Smolensk in the East, encompassing modern Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus, and the edge of western Russia. This is the region that experienced not one but two—and sometimes three—wartime occupations. This is also the region that suffered the most casualties and endured the worst physical destruction. More to the point, this is the region that experienced the worst of both Stalin’s and Hitler’s ideological madness.