Fragile Empire How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin Ben Judah

Publication date:
15 May 2013
Yale University Press
400 pages: 235 x 156mm
20 b/w illus.

From Kaliningrad on the Baltic to the Russian Far East, journalist Ben Judah has travelled throughout Russia and the former Soviet republics, conducting extensive interviews with President Vladimir Putin’s friends, foes, and colleagues, government officials, business tycoons, mobsters, and ordinary Russian citizens. Fragile Empire is the fruit of Judah’s thorough research: a probing assessment of Putin’s rise to power and what it has meant for Russia and her people.
Despite a propaganda program intent on maintaining the cliché of stability, Putin’s regime was suddenly confronted in December 2011 by a highly public protest movement that told a different side of the story. Judah argues that Putinism has brought economic growth to Russia but also weaker institutions, and this contradiction leads to instability. The author explores both Putin’s successes and his failed promises, taking into account the impact of a new middle class and a new generation, the Internet, social activism, and globalization on the president’s impending leadership crisis. Can Russia avoid the crisis of Putinism? Judah offers original and up-to-the-minute answers.

Ben Judah is currently a visiting fellow at the European Stability Initiative. His work has been featured in the Financial Times, the Economist, Prospect, Standpoint, and Foreign Policy.

"Ben Judah, a young freelance writer, paints a more journalistic – and more passionate – picture in ‘Fragile Empire’. He shuttles to and fro across Russia’s vast terrain, finding criminals, liars, fascists and crooked politicians, as well as the occasional saintly figure." —The Economist

"A beautifully written and very lively study of Russia that argues that the political order created by Vladimir Putin is stagnating – undermined by corruption and a failure to modernise economically. Judah’s reporting stretches from the Kremlin to Siberia and has a clear moral sense, without being preachy." — Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

"Judah is an intrepid reporter and classy political scientist [...] His lively account of his remote adventures forms the most enjoyable part of Fragile Empire, and puts me in mind of Chekhov's famous 1890 journey to Sakhalin Island." — Luke Harding, The Guardian

"The best of a recent crop of books on the Russian president, it describes the essential corruption of the system Putin created (supposedly) to clean up the country. It spans the extent of this huge country as well as the decade and a half that Putin has been in power." — Oliver Bullough, The Telegraph

“Judah’s outstanding Fragile Empire travels up and down the curve of Putin’s popularity. . .This is a familiar narrative but Judah, only in his mid-twenties, explains it all with economy and panache. . .What makes Fragile Empire important, however, is its dissection of Putin’s decline in popularity in 2008. It is the first to tell the story not just of the Moscow protest movement but of the less visible, but no less real, dissatisfaction beyond the capital.”—Neil Buckley, Financial Times

“[Judah’s] excellent book provides a wide-ranging and highly critical account of the current state of Russia. . . He also gives an insightful historical perspective on the rise of Putin.”—Amy Knight, New York Review of Books

"Fragile Empire [is] a fluent and plausible account of Russian politics and society in the wake of the recent protests."—Andrew Monaghan, TLS

“[An] astute new book on Russia.”—David Frum, The Atlantic