Sunday, May 13, 2018

Book: Masha Gessen's "The Future Is History"

I seem to be reading a lot of political books this year.  My latest read is the story of the birth and death of the Russian democracy told through the eyes of four diverse Russians.

Masha Gessen's "The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia" is a deep dive into the history of post-soviet Russia from the end of the 80s through the 2010s.  The author examines the events of these years through psychology, sociology, LGBT relations (i.e. homophobia), and the experiences of four very different people (along with their parents and grandparents) from very different socio-economic groups.  All four were very young when the Soviet Union collapsed and grew up with the new democracy and the rise of Putin.

While I complained that "How Democracies Die" did not dig deep enough, Gessen's book almost digs too deep.  Parts of the book are a bit thick but her writing style keeps you reading.  It was often hard for me to keep people straight mainly because of the unfamiliar Russian naming conventions.

The thing that hit me is how some of the things that happened as Russian democracy transitioned into authoritarianism sound scarily similar to things happening in America today.  Definitely made me wonder if I'm one of the frogs treading water in the pot.

I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads because it darkly illustrates how authoritarianism is often welcomed by the people who have the most to lose.

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