(p. A13) What makes Chelyabinsk compelling is its people. They are largely decent and undeniably intelligent, protective of what they have achieved, wary of the unknown, and, above all, clever and flexible at adapting to changing times. In a word, they are . . . wily men (and women) . . .
. . .
Perhaps most telling is Alexander, who lives in a village five hours from the city. He admires Mr. Putin and the system the president has built, even as he complains that corruption is rife, governance is poor, and the local economy is held back by an overbearing and rapacious state. Alexander’s criticisms mirror those of the citizens in the book who consider themselves dissidents and activists, though Alexander would never consider himself either one. “He is proud of Putin,” Ms. Garrels writes, “and between him and those who dread their country’s current course, there is an unbridgeable divide.”
This sort of internal contradiction isn’t unique to Alexander. Many of the Russians Ms. Garrels meets hold views that seem impossible to reconcile. She cites polls that show that two-thirds of ethnic Russians call themselves Orthodox believers, but many of those very same people say that they do not believe in God. At one point, the author visits a prestigious state secondary school where the students offer a curious mix of heroes: Joseph Stalin, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Gandhi. The search for a post-Soviet ideology has, in Chelyabinsk and across Russia, led to a strange mishmash, at once faithful and mystical, distrustful and fatalistic.
For the full review, see:
JOSHUA YAFFA. “BOOKSHELF; Russia’s Wily Men and Women; Russians hold views that seem impossible to reconcile. Students at a reputable school offer a curious mix of heroes: Stalin and Steve Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., April 18, 2016): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 17, 2016.)
The book under review, is:
Garrels, Anne. Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.