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The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin
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The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  470 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Once you accept that the impossible is really possible, what happens in Russia makes perfect sense

In December 2013, David Satter became the first American journalist to be expelled from Russia since the Cold War. The Moscow Times said it was not surprising he was expelled, “it was surprising it took so long.” Satter is known in Russia for having written that the apartment
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Yale University Press
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Start your review of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Succinct, serious, and informative, with a title as good as that of Peter Pomerantsev's Russia book. Satter links and explains Yeltsin and the 1999 apartment bombings, the 2002 Moscow theater siege, the 2004 Beslan school siege, and the rise of Putin. Lots of names that I will not remember, but the analysis adds to my understanding of the corruption and insidious threat of Putin's regime.

Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
To understand modern day Russia one has to go back to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 'privatization' (read 'theft') of Russia's resources and industries by Yeltsin and his cronies. To avoid being held accountable for their grand larceny he orchestrated the election of Putin who has since furthered the process of turning Russia into a criminal oligarchy and has used terror, murder, corruption and war (including Crimea and Ukraine) to bolster his position and subdue opposition. David Sat ...more
Andrew Davis
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A fast paced relation of Russian history following the fall of Communism.
Timeline of Events
• 25th of December 1991 – Gorbatchev resigns
• 26th of December 1991 - the end of the Soviet Union
• 2nd of January 1992 – Yegor Gaidar frees prices. In 10 months they rose by factor of 25 to 30.
• October 1992 – privatization starts with distribution of vouchers.
• 21st of September 1993 – Yeltsin issued decree number 1400, abolishing the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Sovi
Satter investigated the apartment bombings that catapulted Putin to power in Russia and unlike others who also investigated this crime, lived to tell about it. This book recaps a tiny bit of that investigation. Its primary focus was describing the absolute corruption that took place when Yeltsin and Putin tried to "fix" Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

While reading the news about Trump and his associate's ties to Russia, I always want to know more about how Putin rose to power and how
Heather Reads Books
This book is aptly named. A crash course history on Russia's post-Soviet era, much of it containing assertions so shocking to the Western conscience that I found myself often checking end notes and following up with Google searches so I could find the source material. But they were sound, and David Satter himself is no slouch – with four decades as a Russian correspondent, he conducted some of the most hair-raising research firsthand. And I've seen glimmers of the thesis he puts forth in my own ...more
Alex O'Connor
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Succinct and terrifying look into the inner workings of the Putin and Yeltsin regimes. Ukraine, the elections, and Putin himself make a lot more sense after reading this book.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent and chilling read. The page which most impressed me, as I had not heard these details before, was Page 157: "Among the false reports intended to stoke nationalist hysteria were the story of a three-year-old boy who was allegedly tortured and crucified by the Ukrainian military in Slaviansk, a report on the raising of the levels of the Lopan and Kharkov rivers so that NATO submarines could reach Donetsk, a report on the cancellation of the May 9 World War II commemoration in Kiev and ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
A short, riveting, well-sourced (if somewhat conspiracy minded) account of the corruption and utter moral depravity of the Yeltsin and Putin years, and the road to dictatorship in Russa.


Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-reading
This is an easy to read account of modern Russia's history. The most important events that lead to the 2nd Chechen War, and to the annexation of Crimea, along with the disappearances and murders of famous dissident all chronicled here. The author, David Satter, is a long time Russia expert who works at the Hudson Institute (think tank). This book is full of names and details that would be impossible to write about unless Satter had inside information. Happy reading! ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
A terse, already outdated recitation of facts that suffers from all the flaws of book-length works authored by journalists. There are careless errors--Otto Pohl, not Paul Otto--that call into question both the Satter's authority and the editors' diligence. Surprised that this was published by Yale U Press. ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very helpful and discouraging in my understanding the mind and methods of Putin. Lest there be any doubt, he is not like any Western leader. More like a Mexican drug lord as described in the writing of Don Winslow. David Satter reiterates that he places no value on human lives other than his own and his cronies. If you wonder about Putin, read this one.
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I didn't really know too much about the apartment bombings or the gassing of hostages or any of the other controversial topics going into this. If these events were conspiracies by the Russian government, or "provocations", it wouldn't really surprise me. In fact, the idea that we need to "believe the unbelievable" in order to understand Russia is probably the most ridiculous thing about this book. Not only is there nothing unbelievable about governments harming their own citizens in order to ad ...more
Adam Orford
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
In the United States, to believe that the government would set off bombs in buildings and kill its own citizens for political ends is to be seduced by crankery or worse. Nonetheless, according to David Satter, this is what happened in Russia in 1999, when the Russian domestic spy agency detonated bombs in Russian civilian apartment buildings and blamed it on Islamic terrorism in order to build popular support for the Second Chechen War and bring Vladimir Putin to power. What is the difference? T ...more
Erin Bottger (Bouma)
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an eye-opening book for anyone wanting to understand the trajectory of Russia after the fall of communism. Satter chronicles both the Yeltsin and Putin years and the crimes against the people committed by the Russia state under them.

"Russian citizens during the Yeltsin years experienced the trauma of losing an entire worldview that had given meaning, however falsely, to their lives. In response, the government removed all restrictions on the sale of alcohol. The result was that at that
Gideon Kalischer
As a fly-by history of the big event in modern Russian history, this book succeeds. Its well-written and reads very quickly. And for a short book it gives a good level of depth on the juicy events.

But this book is not an in-depth look at Russia as a society or its geopolitical strategy. I was hoping for a little more analysis of Putin's strategy and thinking. The author presents a simplified version of Putin - that he is only interested in consolidating power and getting rich. All of Putin's tac
Jim Milway
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yet another condemnation of the Russian people. The Czarist regimes were monarchy and feudalism at its worst (and that's saying a lot). Communism was a bizarre chapter in human history that lasted much of the 20th century. And then as this book describes the post-communist state in Russia is kleptocracy and repression writ large.

Yeltsin was a buffoon, but the author makes a case for his role in the apartment bombings that were used as an excuse to fight in Chechnya. On the face of it, it's ridi
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
My goodness this was eye-opening. I simply wanted to know a small history of Russia post-cold war. I came away with an understanding and history of a governmental regime that will haunt me for the rest of my life. From the falsified terror attacks on their own people, to framing and murdering of dissenters, journalists, and political opponents to the collusion with cult religions to test chemical weapons, I can't even fathom the evil that this power has created in their government structure.
Roger B
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Satter is part of the Hudson Institute, so the conclusions were as one would expect. Still, a good look at the problems of the post-communist regimes in Russia and the methods by which political stability is achieved. Satter sees small chances for a democratic Western-style government emerging. Have to agree that it does seem it will be Putin for life, however Satter does concede that most of the population does not seem to be affected by the machinations in Moscow. Furthermore, Satter saves his ...more
Ian Hamilton
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Satter's book should be required reading for the uneducated masses of this country whose worldview is nothing more than what is espoused on cable news about Russia. There are no huge revelations here for anyone who is already familiar with how Putin has consolidated near absolute power in post-Soviet Russia over the past few decades, but Satter effectively presents how modern Russia is built upon and sustained by a perpetual string of existential crises from Chechnyan terrorist attacks to nation ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
So much sounds like conspiracy theory, but more and better substantiated. Why the conspiracy tone (in my opinion)? Well, the thought that a government or organizations would undertake these described actions in these days is difficult to believe. On the other hand, the narrative does seems well supported (although much reference material is other journalists... getting to primary source documentation is limited, and for me impossible).

The narrative, overall, is generally convincing and definitel
Jānis Lībeks
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A meticulous account of Russia's evolution and failures since the collapse of the USSR. The history of modern day Russia is a difficult subject since any narrative differing from that of the Russian government is quickly shot down as anti-Russian propaganda. What is true anymore? (I'd recommend the book "Nothing is True and Anything is Possible" by Peter Pomerantsev) most everyone would agree about the basic facts, but the why's and how's depend very much on whether you've accepted Putin's parad ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty confusing with all the Russian names that are unfamiliar, and the dates jumping around among the years, and dates and days of the week. However this book is very good for getting all in one place the story and what is known about the major terrorist events in Russia, the murders, and the sequence in Ukraine and Crimea.
The real reasons not to sleep well are that the people aren't more outspoken over the way these things seem to have happened (here and there) and that there are echoes from
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thorough overview of the Putin administration's rise to power, from the end of the Soviet era, the wars and the many terrorist acts claiming the lives of its citizens. Satter, having lived and worked in Russia himself, instead of being an outside observer posits credible evidence that the various tragedies were, at best, questionable, at worst originated by the Russian authorities themselves to remain in power. Further research is needed but this is an excellent starting point. ...more
Juraj Húska
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This a must read for people who have to meet and dispute with uncritical Putin/Russia lovers. Book is loaded with multiple facts, and author is properly citing its sources. It is clear what is an assumption (backed up with multiple indirect evidences) and what is a fact. Thoughts and evidences are put down in understandable fashion. It should provide you with enough bullets for your evening polemics with propaganda victims.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Explanatory, good for a first insight (namely for a person unacquainted with russian affairs), with a very useful essay on privatization, if somhow conspirational in aspects. Certainly good as one of many viewpoints, but hardly to be taken at face value - not in the least for lack of not-english-speaking sources.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
All that is needed is to read the first chapter, the penultimate chapter, and the last. Then, see if you can stomach the US govt. having a close relationship with VP. If you want to see what happens to a society that truly no longer values life, this (nonfiction) account will outline the regression.
Elijah Boston
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for the current political climate. Hyperbole free and backed up with tons of citations. I was expecting this to be a somewhat dry history lesson, but Satter is masterful in his pacing and weaving together his personal experiences with first-hand accounts from survivors and witnesses.
Emily Sinclair
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Yet another phenomenal book on the true situation in Russia. This belongs on the shelf next to "The Man Without a Face" and "Winter is Coming", a fantastic read for anyone who wants to educate themselves on what really goes on behind the scenes in Russia that's so hard for our Westernized thinking to understand. ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, russia
A true history with more confirmation of the disturbing criminality of both Yeltsin and Putin. Yes, the Russian government bombed and killed it's own citizens. No, it wasn't Chechen terrorists. It was a false flag operation so vote could be delayed and martial law declared. ...more
Joseph Novak
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
The leaders of Post-Communist Russia are just as corrupt as their Communist colleauges were. Always drunk Yeltsin is followed by power-hungry Putyin, in whose mind terror and wars are useful tools to calm the Russians' desire for normalcy. And his devilish method seems to work... ...more
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David Satter is senior fellow, Hudson Institute, and fellow, Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He was Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times from 1976 to 1982, then a special correspondent on Soviet affairs for the Wall Street Journal.

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46 likes · 4 comments
“As Russia faces the future, it has three serious problems: a deteriorating economy, a fratricidal war whose cost is almost certain to increase, and a moral disintegration that may leave the regime without defenders if it faces a serious challenge. Taken together these factors are more than sufficient to undermine the system’s stability.” 1 likes
“If the Putin regime faces a democratic revolt, it will seek to defend itself by claiming it is under attack by foreign agents. The apartment bombings demonstrate that it is the Putin regime itself that is the enemy of the population, and that the regime will not hesitate to use any means at its disposal to stay in power. At the same time, the apartment bombings, more dramatically than any other episode in recent Russian history, demonstrate the inherent criminality of the Russian authorities’ view that individuals exist for the benefit of the state.” 1 likes
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