Moscow-based journalist Masha Gessen talks about how Vladimir Putin, a low-level KGB operative, ascended to the Russian presidency. She argues that Mr. Putin has destroyed years of progress and made his country a threat to its own people and to the world. The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin tells how he was handpicked as a successor to Boris Yeltsin, and how his popularity soared even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and dismantled the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.
Vladimir Putin has been called the accidental president. Putin, Russia's current prime minister, is in the midst of campaigning for his third presidential term, but his name was hardly known until 1999, when then-President Boris Yeltsin plucked the former KGB officer from obscurity and thrust him into the Russian spotlight. Russian voters will decide Putin's presidential fate at the polls this weekend, and a new book by journalist Masha Gessen exposes the secrets behind the meteoric rise of the man who has changed the course of Russian history. Gessen chronicles Putin's story through the story of modern Russia, exploring the leader's complicated relationship with the United States and with Russian business and media.