Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin” as Want to Read:
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  9,319 ratings  ·  835 reviews
The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin,
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Man Without a Face, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Man Without a Face

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,319 ratings  ·  835 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Masha doesn't like Putin. And he has no idea about it. This could have been a very suitable alternative description of this book.

Even though the last time I checked Masha Gessen was no Vladimir Putin, this is basically a story about her. Which would have been entirely cool, had she thought to rename this to 'Masha Gessen and her progress on the quest for the fame and great stories'.
I felt all great stories were my freedom. (c)
Of course. Attention-seeking is perfectly ok. Just name books appr
This should be more appropriately titled "Why you Should Hate Vladimir Putin."

It is not really a biography on Putin, but rather feels more like a few long essays about random parts of Putin's life that have been laid out in chronological order with a bunch of horror stories sprinkled in. Often times large chunks of chapters aren't even about his life, but rather give background information on random people and their causes, which are then followed by how they were most certainly poisoned/shot/b
Mal Warwick
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Vladimir Putin, the KGB, and the Restoration of Soviet Russia

Every once in a while I’m shocked to learn anew that the American news media has missed the mark in its reporting of events around the world. Masha Gessen’s recent portrait of third-term Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face, is an excellent case in point.

For example, one year ago, in December 2011, we learned about large demonstrations in Moscow protesting the obviously rigged outcome of the latest Russian elections
Artiom Karsiuk
Feb 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I hate books like this. I hate them with a passion. Books that mix speculation with facts are the worst, because you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.
For this book to have any worth, you have to at least divide it into two parts: before Putin comes to power in the year 2000 and after. The first before part that discusses Vladimir's childhood, education and his KGB (later FSB) career is complete and utter trash. Those chapters have minimal factual basis or sources and are littered w
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Strictly speaking, Putin was not running a campaign (...) An influential political consulting firm called the Foundation for Effective Politics...was tasked with creating the image of Putin as a young, energetic politician who would advance much-needed reform".

"The Babitsky story made my life easier ...So I had no illusions. I knew this was how he understood the word patriotism-just the way he had been taught in all those KGB schools: the country is as great as the fear it inspires, and the
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia-bio-hist
Masha Gessen is brave. As a dual American and Russian citizen she chose to live openly in Russia as a (married in the US) lesbian journalist investigating corruption from 1991 to 2013 . This book is a short introduction to the life and character of Russia’s current President, which is, essentially a book on how corruption got rooted in post-glasnost Russia with the rise of Vladimir Putin.

Despite its sturdy infrastructure in Moscow, the American press let the country (and perhaps the world) down
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Masha Gessen does a marvelous job on her chronicle of Russian politics. The book is courageous, easy to read and well researched - for a book of this length. Gessen covers roughly the last 25 years of Russian politics. She shows how the attempt at democracy has failed, so far, and manages to place most of the blame on Putin. Her descriptions of Putin and his actions over the last 25 years will keep your eyes wide open far into the night. I am not sure that I would call his rise to power unlikely ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Some pretty scary stuff here! Fascinating stuff about the head of Russia. Sometimes it seems too crazy, as wild allegations (such as bombs killing Russian citizens set up by Russian security forces) can't be backed up by evidence. But other stories are, and are shocking enough. The author thinks that Putin is a small minded, incompetent KGB man, longing for Soviet greatness, and compulsively taking whatever he can, but surely he there has to be more to him than that.
The characterizations of Put
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I thought that this would be a portrait of the thug who rules Russia. Sadly, it was more about Masha Gessen than Vladimir Putin. Poorly written in tedious prose that has no spark and evokes little interest in the reader. It is also exceedingly self referential and the objectivity is suspect. Lots of speculation. I don't recommend it. Surely someone can do a better job of telling Putin's story within the context of the events that have shaken up the former Soviet Union. ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting and quite disturbing. However there is too much background which is loosely connected to Putin himself. Furthermore, there are too many speculations and Gessen is too emotionally involved (it is obvious she despise Putin). So, if you’re looking to read a serious work with facts rather than personal emotions you should pass. Different reviews here on goodreads described this as a long newsletter article, a description that I absolutely agree with.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a history, really, not an essay. But reporter Masha Gessen somehow manages to make a 3oo page recent-events history feel as streamlined and narrative as an essay, which is definitely no small thing.

It's also a Vladimir Putin biography, which by definition must span the disintegration of the Soviet empire and the reformation of whatever it is we're calling modern Russia these days. With her reporter's sense of what matters, Gessen runs thru the dirty wars in Chechnya, the gross incompete
Richard Block
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: just-read
Stalin 2 - the Sequel

I finished Masha Gessen's evisceration of Vladimir Putin's neo-Stalinist regime the day after Boris Berezovsky's death/murder suicide - how timely was that? Gessen is a Russian journalist who has charted events since the demise of the Soviet Union. She exposes Putin as a mafia boss leading a mob state, all corruption, illegal seizures of money and business, state ownership of media fake elections, and clear suppression of freedom - and that Stalinist standby - the political
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the most important book I've read this year - pretty much everything in this book was new to me. I haven't studied Modern Russian history and am not a policy wonk but at the same time I don't live with my head in the sand. Still, the book was revelation after revelation. If you want to hear about what's been going on in Russia, particularly but not only with Putin, since the U.S. lost interest this is the book for you! If you just want to understand what's behind the jailing of Pussy ...more
Kressel Housman
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More than just a biography of Vladimir Putin, this book is a journalistic account of the pro-democracy movement in Russia, and not just today, but when communism first fell. I’ve been wanting to read a book on that subject for years, and I always thought I’d find it in a good biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, but it turns out that the real story lies in the protests by every day folk on the street. Gorbachev never intended to topple the Soviet Union. He opened the door a crack, but it was the peop ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gessen, a Russian journalist who saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, discusses how Vladimir Putin got to where he sits today. She covers the bombings Putin and his cronies at the FSB are suspected of organizing in 1999, providing plenty of circumstantial evidence to back up her claims, like the two conscripts who went into a warehouse full of bags marked "SUGAR" to get some sugar for their tea, and found that the bags actually contained RDX, the explosive used in several of the attacks. Gessen ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it did not like it

DNF @ 59%. I read almost 200 pages of this book and I've learned NOTHING about Vladimir Putin. Masha Gessen has no analytical ability and mediocre writing skills only. Her bias is enormous and gets in the way of explaining events coherently and logically, because she seizes on flimsy "evidence" and concocts or accepts conspiracy theories to personally lay the blame on Putin for literally everything that is wrong with Russia, including affirming that he is the mastermind behind all of the t
Angela Elizabeth
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Stunning, brilliant, compelling non-fiction! Gessen's biography/history/expose of Vladimir Putin reads like a spy novel and is just as addictive, but of course so much worse for being truth. How Putin still remains in power is a mystery. Gessen's book rivals Anna Funder's 'Stasiland' for compelling reading. Its only downfall is translation - it fails to read quite as beautifully as Funder's. But in every other way, Gessen is easily Funder's equal, both in journalism and bravery. A must-read for ...more
Caidyn (he/him/his)
I'm not quite sure how to rate this book.

Gessen has a major bias. She doesn't agree with Putin's politics and she links everything back to him as the big orchestrator for horrible occurrences that make international news. And, the hardest thing is that, as the title suggests, Putin is a man without a face. Sure, you could link things back to Putin circumstantially, but there will never be any concrete evidence against him. That makes this book difficult. Gessen has amassed so much information ab
The writing included a little too much personal opinion for my taste. While I find Russian history fascinating, by almost halfway I hadn't really learned much about Putin yet.
I got the feeling that the entire book is supposition. There are facts but how they pertain to Putin is entirely opinion. It reads like a blog, a well done one, but still one persons opinion on how things were/are. Well educated guesses but still guesses. Some of it can come across as a bit conspiracy theory.
And the concl
Mar 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
I got about halfway through this book and could no longer read it. I just don't like the way Masha Gessen writes. I have attempted to read some of her other books and it's always the same problem. She's more of a journalist than an author and so the writing is factual with no essence. ...more
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Once a spy, always a spy." You could read this and definitely come away with the impression that Putin is not a very nice person. What surprised me is his pettiness. I was hoping for a pardon for Pussy Riot, but after reading this book, I knew they didn't stand a chance. A magnanimous gesture seems beyond Putin, even one that would make him look good.

Sept. 13, 2000 Duma session: 'The speaker had interrupted the session by saying, “We have just received news that a residential building in Volgod
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I do not think I have read a more chilling account of a modern day political leader. It made for a wonderful distraction to the politics of the 2012 election season. And we think we have it bad.

I'd like to see more people in the U.S. pick up this book, especially men and women of faith who could spend their efforts in a much more constructive way fighting for 'freedom of the press' in oppressive countries like Russia, rather than flaunting our freedom so carelessly with our unguarded tantrums fi
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
About what I expected from the prospective of a liberal journalist now living in self exile. It's a real page turner, but the sceptic in me is dying to fact check and cross reference Gessen's sources. Putin comes out as the unambiguous bogeyman, and maybe that's fair, but I'm still left wanting for a nuanced biography of the man himself. Also, the book stops around the turn of 2012, a low point in Putin's popularity, which I believe relieved Gessen from the task of explaining or addressing his s ...more
Sep 29, 2014 marked it as dnf
I was pretty excited to read this book. Then I started reading it. This is one of the driest books I have ever read. I could not even finish it, and I almost always push through a book, hoping it will get better. I didn't have hope for this book. Masha Gessen is a little too biased for my taste. I wanted an objective rundown of who Vladimir Putin is and how he rose to presidency. That brings me to another point. A lot of this isn't even about Vladimir Putin directly. This book is more about the ...more
Barry Sierer
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Masha Gessen’s book is completely biased against Putin but she clearly outlines her reasoning behind her conclusions and backs them up with evidence when possible, though solid evidence often seems hard to come by in her circumstances. While it would be wise to view her accusations against Putin’s regime (including using the FSB to orchestrate the apartment bombings that led to the Second Chechen war as well as the Moscow theatre siege), it is also a fascinating tale of criminal shenanigans that ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Not objective enough. Not comprehensive enough. She missed the mark . I was looking for an understanding of Putin as a man and his politics as this title suggests. She spends most of the book demonizing him, sometimes with little evidence. I lost count of the number of times Putin is called a thug. Okay , he is a thug, why does that work?
Nevertheless , a good introduction to Putin's politics. Looking for a better book.
This book had too much speculation in it for my liking. You could really tell that the author hates Vladimir Putin, which makes her fallible to placing her opinions as facts.

Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, biography
There are probably a lot of people in the West who think that Russia, having lost in the Cold War, and having ceded it's title of a super power, is no longer worth caring about. They can't be more wrong: Russia remains the largest country in the world, the richest in mineral resources, a nuclear power and a country who takes active - and aggressive - stance against its neighbors and towards world politics in general. All the more reasons to keep close attention to it - and, it being a country le ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-politics
A political biography of Vladimir Putin by a Russian American journalist who chronicles his rise to power in the wake of Yeltsin’s unpopular presidency. How did a low level, not terribly charming former KGB agent become president of Russia? Few people in power knew anything about him. Boris Berezovsky claims to have advanced him in the belief that he was a liberal with democratic aspirations for the new Russia. Berezovsky hires a stable of writers to produce a biography of Putin in record time i ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
How much of this book do you buy? 2 46 Jun 12, 2014 05:20AM  
Vladimir Putin and his unlikely rise to power 1 19 Jul 10, 2012 05:15PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?
  • America's Daughter (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #2)
  • Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
  • Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia
  • First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President
  • Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference
  • Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day
  • Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
  • Ostara: Customs, Spells & Rituals for the Rites of Spring
  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • Een tipje van de sluier: islam voor beginners
  • The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin
  • Africa's Child (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #1)
  • I Am Spock
  • The Gropes
  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne
  • Losing Jon: A Teen's Tragic Death, a Police Cover-Up, a Community's Fight for Justice
  • Met de kennis van toen: Actuele problemen in het licht van de geschiedenis
See similar books…
Masha Gessen (born 1967) is an American-Russian journalist, translator, and nonfiction author. They identify as non-binary and use they/them pronouns.

Born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Russia, in 1981 they moved with their family to the United States to escape anti-Semitism. They returned in 1991 to Moscow, where they worked as a journalist, and covered Russian military activities during the

Related Articles

  Walter Isaacson, it’s safe to say, is not afraid of tackling the really big topics. In 2011, he wrote about our ubiquitous computer culture...
105 likes · 20 comments
“No one is easier to manipulate than a man who exaggerates his own influence.” 19 likes
“It turned out that capitalism alone could make people not only rich and happy but also poor, hungry, miserable, and powerless.” 16 likes
More quotes…