Magazine November 16, 2020, Issue

When the Dream of Russian Democracy Died

Russian president Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 25, 2019 (Alexander Nemenov/Reuters)
Never Speak to Strangers and Other Writings from Russia and the Soviet Union, by David Satter (ibidem Press, 692 pp., $69)

If asked to name the moment when hopes for post-Soviet Russian democracy died, the typical West­ern observer will usually point to something that occurred under Vladimir Putin’s tenure. He might single out the 2003 arrest and imprisonment of anti-Putin oil-and-gas magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky on trumped-up charges, a punishment meant as a warning to the rest of Russia’s oligarch class not to get involved in opposition politics. Or he might point to one of the many government raids on or seizures of var­ious independent media outlets during Putin’s first term as president. He might even choose the strange series of apartment

This article appears as “Reading Russia’s Tragic Spirit” in the November 16, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Nat Brown is a former deputy web editor of Foreign Affairs and a former deputy managing editor of National Review Online.

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