The Rise of a Dictator
by Darryl Cunningham
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 15 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 15 Feb 2022
Drawn & Quarterly, Drawn and Quarterly
From schoolyard thug to Russian president: Putin’s rise to power comes under the microscope
Darryl Cunningham (Billionaires) returns with the riveting life story of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s infamous autocrat. He traces Putin’s development from schoolyard thug in Soviet-era Leningrad, to KGB officer, to corrupt commodities dealer, all the way to his presidency and beyond. In this educational and frank biography, Putin’s journey is characterized by shifting loyalties, brutal treatment of detractors, and lawless financial dealings. Despite all of this, Putin has retained public support and tremendous importance in Russian society, due to his ever-tightening control over the media and harsh muzzling of critics.
Born in 1952, Putin grew up idealizing the KGB, and he became a member of its ranks by early adulthood. Cunningham posits that the speed with which Putin advanced politically was a reflection of the KGB’s need to cement their control of the Russian political system after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since Boris Yeltsin appointed him to the presidency in 2000, Putin has annexed Crimea, rolled back democratic reforms, and led a life of luxury, all the while fostering a cult of personality. In Putin's Russia, Cunningham situates the contentious leader in an analytical framework that is at times hilarious and always compelling.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
Overall, I found this book interesting and well done. It was informative in illustrating Putin's rise to power in Russia. Graphic novels can be helpful in conveying nonfiction in an accessible way. There were times when this book became dry, and I wasn't sold on the art style, but I generally liked that this book makes learning about modern Russian history more available to people that are interested.
Though occasionally dry, this graphic history of Putin's rise to power is a quick read with easily digestible (and blistering) facts about the Russian ruler. Cunningham's art style is minimalist in its depiction of landscapes yet detailed when illustrating the people within the story--especially their facial expressions.
To read the story of Putin is to better understand the story of Russia, unfortunately. He was born in Leningrad/St Petersburg only eight years after the siege and clawed his way to positions of power and money. He's like the Dick Cheney of Russia, where for every shady situation, you pull back the curtain and there he is.
This is content that probably exists in biographies and other critiques of Putin and his policies, but for me, easier to consume in graphic form. It's really astounding how Putin can have such a high popularity rating when we know about the people he's had killed (goodbye, free press, goodbye, vocal opponents), the countries he's invaded or destroyed, but since we have a person who copies his playbook, it also feels familiar.
I worry I lack the knowledge to understand the subtext of the literature I'm reading, and from that perspective this graphic non fiction book helps provide context about Russia's power and control from the fall of the Soviet Union to the present day. Putin has been there all along....