Russia without Putin

Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
RUSSIA: Putin will leave the Kremlin one day - but don't expect that to change things, argues Tony Wood in his well-researched thesis on power and continuity in today's Russia.

Money, Power and the Myths of the Cold War
Author: Tony Wood
Publisher: Verso Books,

Russophiles and supporters of open democracy will thrill to the title of Tony Wood’s thorough analysis of power in the Russian state – it is, after all, the rallying cry of many an anti-Kremlin demonstration from Moscow to Khabarovsk, St Petersburg to Ekaterinberg. But like the book, the devil is in the details – Wood’s densely packed, but eminently readable thesis is no rallying cry to get rid of Putin and usher in golden shafts of light of the uplands of Slavic freedom. It is all there in the subtitle – and the keyword is myths.

Wood, a New York-based member of the editorial board of New Left Review and contributor to the London Review of Books, is a specialist on Russia and Latin America (both of which share features common to corrupt governance). His central thesis explored through chapters on Putin, money, and power, the legacy of the Soviet past, foreign policy and the major shifts in the Russian polity since Maidan (the revolution in Ukraine of 2014, followed by the annexation of Crimea by Moscow) is the influence of continuity on Russia’s development.

Money, Power and the Myths of the Cold War-Putin-post1

Too much attention

«Too much attention has been paid to the man, and not enough to the system over which he presides,» Wood declares. And lest the unwary reader thinks – well, Putin created the system, didn’t he? – Wood sets about a systematic demolition of many of the holy cows of Russian analysis over the past three decades since the Soviet Union withered and died in the dust of its own internal contradictions.

Terms that are bandied about like a debased currency by scores of media pundits «mafia state», «kleptocracy», or «militocracy» are given short shrift as the authors unpick Putin’s own story – demonstrating that he is neither some kind of a Bond villain nor as omnipotent as some claim – and as much a product of his circumstances as any leader that tries to exude some kind of quasi-divine right to rule.

«My argument…is that Western media coverage and analysis of Russia are overly fixated on Putin’s personality. Time and again, the characteristics of the man are used to explain the behaviour or interests of the state.»

Smooth, clean image

For journalists chasing a byline, Putin’s idiosyncrasies have often . . .

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