War and Punishment

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399609012

Price: £22

ON SALE: 13th July 2023

Genre: Society & Social Sciences

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‘History is made up of myths,’ writes the renowned Russian dissident journalist Mikhail Zygar. ‘Alas, our myths led us to the fascism of 2022. It is time to expose them.’ Drawing from his perilous career investigating the frontiers of the Russian empire, Zygar reveals how 350 years of propaganda, bad historical scholarship, folk tales and fantasy spurred his nation into war with Ukraine.

How did a German monk’s fear of the Ottoman Empire drive him to invent the fiction of a united Russian world? How did corny spy novels about a ‘Soviet James Bond’ inspire Vladimir Putin to join the KGB? How did Alexander Pushkin’s admiration for a poem by Lord Byron end with him slandering the legendary chief of the Cossacks? And how did Putin underestimate a rising TV comic named Volodymyr Zelensky, failing to see that his satire had become deadly serious, and that his country would be a joke no longer?

A noted expert on the Kremlin with unparalleled access to hundreds of players in the current conflict – from politicians to oligarchs, gangsters to comedians (not least Zelensky himself) – Zygar chronicles the power struggles from which today’s politics grew, and digs out the essential truths from behind layers of seductive legend. By surveying the strange, complex record of Russo-Ukrainian relations, War and Punishment reveals exactly how the largest nation on Earth lost its senses. A work of history can’t undo the past or transform the present, but sometimes it can shape the future.

In fact, that’s how the story begins.

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Reviews

Excellent . . . Cleverly weaves the story of independent Ukraine with an amusing look at the career as a comedian and actor of its president, Volodymyr Zelensky . . . Although a committed supporter of Ukrainian independence, Zygar is honest about Ukraine's record in the past three decades. While other recent works sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause elide over the epic corruption there, Zygar is clear that before Zelensky was elected Ukraine was near to being a failed state
Victor Sebestyen, Sunday Times
Why is my country fascist - and what is my role in that? For Russia to ever change these are the questions Russians will need to ask. Zygar does it with a searing mix of history and self-reflection.
PETER POMERANTSEV, author of THIS IS NOT PROPAGANDA
Zygar demolishes Putin's myths about Ukraine with a fury born out of shame at what is being done in his country's name. It is just possible to dream that, one day, War and Punishment will be taught in Russian schools in place of the Kremlin's deadly lies.
OLIVER BULLOUGH, author of BUTLER TO THE WORLD
Passionate and perceptive, one of Russia's best journalists busts the myths underpinning the country's turn towards ultra-nationalism. Read it - and hope that Russians do too.
ANNA REID, author of BORDERLAND
One of those important thinkers who helps us to not lose our memory
Nadya Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot
A superb account of all that led to Vladimir Putin's brutal and misbegotten invasion . . . Provides an ardent, informed understanding of the present
The New Yorker
A sweeping, ambitious and impassioned chronicle... makes for compelling reading with its searing portrayal of the "long road to war". It's a fiery, informed reckoning of past and present relations... A bold prediction from a brave writer.
Irish Times
Knowing he could always follow many colleagues and activists into jail, hospital, or into the graveyard, Zygar persists
Christiane Amanpour, CNN
To account for Russia's descent into the abyss and the most bloody war in Europe since WWII, Zygar invites us to walk an uneasy path of reconsideration of the recent past. His book is not only a guide to that past but also a powerful call to change the present.
SERHII PLOKHY, author of THE GATES OF EUROPE
The pattern of anti-Ukrainian persecution repeats from one era to the next, in Zygar's haunting telling . . . a sorry tale of big brother chauvinism and oppression. He seeks to demolish, myth by myth, the "imperial mindset" that led to the current conflict . . . A fine book
Luke Harding, Observer
Zygar approaches history like he's interviewing it - listening to what those involved had to say and expertly putting that in context. The result is a riveting unfolding of history as it was being lived
Foreign Policy
Zygar is one of the heroes of Putin's Russia
Washington Post
Zygar has invented a new genre. If Tolstoy's story is a wide river and Proust's is a slow river, Zygar's is a chase.
DMITRY MURATOV, WINNER OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE 2021
PRAISE FOR MIKHAIL ZYGAR Of the many accounts written about the Russian president, Mikhail Zygar's insider's guide to his court is one of the most compelling
Guardian