Owen Matthews

Forces in a Vacuum

Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin

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Allen Lane 398pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

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Granta Books 515pp £20 order from our bookshop

In 1947 a young US diplomat named John Fischer published an earnest little book called Why They Behave Like Russians. Fischer, who had served in postwar Kiev and Moscow, was attempting to explain to a bewildered US public why their wartime ally Joseph Stalin, recipient of billions of dollars in American Lend-Lease aid, had suddenly turned on Washington, declaring it a deadly enemy, and seemed hellbent on starting a third world war. Seventy years later, Fischer’s question is more pertinent than ever as we find Russia not only at war with its neighbours but also, as the journalist Masha Gessen puts it, ‘waging an information war on Western democracy as a concept and a reality’.

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