This is a riveting account of one of the most shocking political assassinations in recent history. Alexander Litvinenko was a high-ranking FSB agent (Russia’s post-Soviet successor agency to the KGB) before he fled to the London, where he became a prominent critic of the Putin regime. There he was poisoned by two men with ties to the Russian government. Harding shows how UK investigators proved the killings were ordered at the highest level of the Russian government, and in doing so reveals the extent to which Putin and his inner circle rely on murder and human rights violations to carry out their geopolitical objectives and silence dissent.
Masha Gessen is one of the best contemporary writers on Russian society and politics today. Here she delves into a fascinating and sad page of Russian-Jewish history, when after the Bolshevik revolution Jews were granted their own homeland in far-eastern Siberia where they were promised cultural and political autonomy. However soon after Stalin’s rise to power Birobidzhan’s Jewish identity began to be suppressed. Gessen skillfully uses example of the life of David Bergelson, one of the 20th Century’s most renowned Yiddish writers and a Birobidzhan emigrant, to personalize the tragic story of this remote area that was briefly a beacon of hope for the Jewish people.