April 21, 2024

New Book Looks at Russia From the Inside


By Patricia Kranz

Gregory Feifer’s timing could not have been better. Following the Sochi Olympics and Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, people around the world are more interested in Russia than they have been since the Soviet Union’s collapse more than two decades ago.

Feifer’s new book, Russians: The People Behind the Power, explores the seeming paradoxes of life in Russia by unraveling the nature of its people: what is it in their history and their conception of themselves that makes them baffling to the West? Feifer corrects pervasive misconceptions by showing that much of what appears inexplicable about the country is logical when seen from the inside.

The former NPR Moscow correspondent draws on his family history and his decade of experience as a journalist there to create a portrait of today’s Russia from the bottom up. From wealthy oligarchs to the destitute elderly babushki who beg on Moscow’s streets, he tells the story of a society bursting with vitality despite living under authoritarian rule. And he makes clear why Putin remains popular at home even as the gap widens between the super-rich and the great majority of people.

In August 1991, Feifer was an undergraduate spending a summer in Moscow when a group of hard-liners tried to carry out an ill-fated coup to extend Soviet rule. He returned in 1999 as a journalist and stayed for eight years. In 2008, he covered the Russia-Georgia war from the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia and traveled to Siberia, Belgrade and Berlin to report on the Kremlin’s use of Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, as an instrument of foreign policy.

In a blurb Stephen Sestanovich says “This is one of the best-ever books written by an American journalist trying to make sense of Russia. Full of wonderfully poignant family reminiscences, acute cultural insight, and off-color Russian jokes.”

Joshua Rubenstein, who reviewed the book for The New York Times, will be the interlocutor. Rubenstein is a longtime Associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the author of biographies of Leon Trotsky and the writer Ilya Ehrenburg.

The Book Night reception at Club Quarters, 40 West 45th Street, begins at 6:00 p.m. and the Talk at 6:30. Books will be available for sale. To RSVP, call the OPC at (212) 626-9220(212) 626-9220  or e-mail.