David Satter is one of the minority of historians of Soviet Russia not to be deceived into false optimism by its collapse. His three earlier works were provoked by the gangsterism of Yeltsin’s oligarchs and by the Hitlerian cynicism of Putin, blowing up his own citizens to give himself a pretext for bombing Chechnya to smithereens. This book, its title deliberately inviting a loud shout of ‘No!’, is more vehement than his previous studies of post-Soviet Russia, but just as impeccably argued.
He begins with a transcript of a twenty-three-minute phone call to the Moscow emergency services from one Taras Shugaev, who passed out in the street in 2002 and came to inside one of the two Moscow rubbish trucks fitted with a shredder. He pleaded with operators and the rescue service,