WINNER OF THE ORWELL PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • “Unforgettable . . . a book about Putin’s Russia that is unlike any other.”—Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain
From a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, a groundbreaking portrait of modern Russia and the inner struggles of the people who sustain Vladimir Putin’s rule
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—NPR, Kirkus Reviews
In this rich and novelistic tour of contemporary Russia, Joshua Yaffa introduces readers to some of the country’s most remarkable figures—from politicians and entrepreneurs to artists and historians—who have built their careers and constructed their identities in the shadow of the Putin system. Torn between their own ambitions and the omnipresent demands of the state, each walks an individual path of compromise. Some muster cunning and cynicism to extract all manner of benefits and privileges from those in power. Others, finding themselves to be less adept, are left broken and demoralized. What binds them together is the tangled web of dilemmas and contradictions they face.
Between Two Fires chronicles the lives of a number of strivers who understand that their dreams are best—or only—realized through varying degrees of cooperation with the Russian government. With sensitivity and depth, Yaffa profiles the director of the country’s main television channel, an Orthodox priest at war with the church hierarchy, a Chechen humanitarian who turns a blind eye to persecutions, and many others. The result is an intimate and probing portrait of a nation that is much discussed yet little understood. By showing how citizens shape their lives around the demands of a capricious and frequently repressive state—as often by choice as under threat of force—Yaffa offers urgent lessons about the true nature of modern authoritarianism.
Praise for Between Two Fires
“A deep and revealing portrait of life inside Vladimir Putin’s Russia. . . . Yaffa mines a rich vein, describing his subjects’ moral compromises and often ingenious ways of engaging a crooked bureaucracy to show how the Kremlin sustains its authoritarianism.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Few journalists have penetrated so deep and with so much nuance into the moral ambiguities of Russia. If you want insight into the deeper distortions the Kremlin causes in people’s psyches this book is invaluable.”—Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible
“A stunning chronicle of Putin’s new Russia . . . It celebrates the vitality of the Russian people even as it explores the compromises and accommodations that they must make. . . . This embrace of contradictions is what makes Between Two Fires such a poignant and poetic book.”—Alex Gibney, Air Mail