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Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia

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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  53 ratings  ·  13 reviews
From a leading journalist in Moscow and correspondent for The New Yorker, a groundbreaking portrait of modern Russia and the inner struggles of the people who sustain Vladimir Putin's rule

"Unforgettable . . . This is a book about Putin's Russia that is unlike any other."--Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing

In this rich and novelistic tour of contemporary Russia,
...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Tim Duggan Books
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David Wineberg
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Russia has always been a mystery. How is it that Russians put up with so much, and come back for more? From their perspective, this is largely the way life is, and it is the West that is perverse. In Joshua Yaffa’s Between Two Fires, Russians have improvised a Darwinian adaptation to dictatorship. They have developed what he calls wiliness that helps them survive and sometimes even thrive.

The book is a collection of personality profiles, very long, magazine-length stories of people with public
...more
Marks54
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few phrases are more common in the popular media that those exhorting individuals to “make a difference”, “contribute to society”, and other ways to “achieve something” while “helping others” at the same time. If you hear messages like this too frequently, it is easy to get a little cynical. It is hard to make a real impact. It is hard to really contribute to helping others. It is hard to both strive towards individually motivated accomplishment and self-fulfillment while at the same time ...more
Trevor Groce
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I was swept away by the complex portraits of conflicted individuals facing compelling conflicts that make up this book. The author has clearly spent a great deal of time interacting with most of the subjects he details, and with close associates of those he was unable to meet. It was a breath of fresh air to read humanizing accounts of Russians navigating challenges in their politics and culture, really viewed from a much different angle than what we've seen in American news over the past ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nancy Pelosi told Donald Trump that with him it all leads back to Putin. In Russia, just about everyone finds that is true in their own lives. Joshua Yaffa, an American journalist, has spent much of the 21st century reporting on Russia, which means reporting on Putin, who came to power in 2000. Between Two Fires explores the lives of the general manager of the most popular television station in Russia, a theater producer, a Chechnyan aid worker, an orthodox priest, a high school student, and ...more
Scott Martin
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook) This work is a good telling of life in Russia, noting how the country has transitioned from the time of the Soviet Union and the current reign of Putin. The author talked with various people from all levels of life and the government, focusing on Crimea, Ukraine, Chechnya and Russia proper. He notes that people find different levels of success and failure within the new Russia. Yaffa incorporates the rise of the Orthodox Church, moving out of the shadows to be a viable political and ...more
Venkatesh
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is pretty much examples of people in Russia making moral choices or 'compromises' to be able to be able to achieve some goals that are important to them. They're deep dives on specific people and situations, without condemnation or judgement. How do you judge someone for being wilfully blind to be able to save lives (as a doctor or a human rights worker)? How would I do in even attenuated versions of these circumstances?

The epilogue isn't the greatest, it declines to pass judgement
...more
Miguel
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Between Two Fires focuses on six or so characters who lived or are living in Putin’s Russia (or former Soviet Union) as we get a glimpse into the personal hardships of everyday Russians (and Ukrainians) and their thoughts on their lives and the trajectory of the country. We also are given a wider view of individuals dealing with the endemic corruption but as well the aspirations of those living in the modern Russian State as driven by Putin and his cronies. Most are very sympathetic characters ...more
Nadja
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, nonfiction
A series of short biographies of individuals in Russia, focusing on the topic of moral compromise in the face of a non-democratic state.

There are many books about Russia these days, and some are so cliche-ridden as to be useless or damaging. Yaffa approaches more complicated topics with nuance. How does a human rights activist who started work in the Chechen Wars become a supporter of Putin? How does the Church play a role? What is the role of Soviet history? I don't know if there are
...more
Ietrio
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
This is an emotional fairy tale that tries to convince you of the author's dogma. Is there some truth? Maybe, but it is probably irrelevant. The rest is cheap drama (the planes are screaming) about nobodies and how Yaffa has seen in his crystal ball what was going on a particular day.
Mary Tharp
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting.
Deborah Shaw
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author explained well the reason individuals in Russia deal with the politics of their country the way they do. It also made me consider even more what is happening here in our own country.
James Allan
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
4.5* The Elizaveta Glinka chapter was the best.
Sasha
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
First I would like to state that I have received this book through goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. This book was a very interesting read. It pulls you in and keeps you wanting more. I would recommend this book to others. It is a very good read
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Joshua Yaffa is a correspondent for The New Yorker in Moscow. For his work in Russia, he has been named a fellow at New America, a recipient of the American Academy’s Berlin Prize, and a finalist for the Livingston Award.