Although he has ruled Russia for twelve years, Vladimir Putin remains a mystery. His family life is hidden, as is much of his life story. His wealth is the subject of speculation, with some insisting he is the richest man in Europe. But evidence is difficult to come by. His enemies regularly turn up dead and he attaches little value to human life. Yet he has presided over the sharpest rise in Russian living standards in the last 100 years.
Two recent books examine the paradox of the man. The Strongman by Angus Roxburgh, a former BBC and Sunday Times Moscow correspondent who later worked as a public relations adviser to Putin’s government, tells the story of Putin’s times, while the well-titled The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen,