The Man Without a Face

The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

Masha Gessen

Published: 3 January 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781847084231


When Vladimir Putin, an unimportant, low-level KGB operative, was rushed to power by a group of Oligarchs in 1999, he was a man without a history. Within a few brief years, Putin had dismantled Russia's media, wrested control and wealth from the country's burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave.

Drawing on information and sources no other writer has tapped, Masha Gessen's fearless account charts Putin's rise from the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, to the 'faceless' man who manoeuvred his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power.

About the author

Image of Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen is a journalist who has written for Slate, the New Republic, the New York Times and other publications. She is the author of several books, including Dead Again, Two Babushkas, Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier and The Man Without a Face. Her latest book is Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot published by Granta Books in 2014. More about the author


‘[A] courageous, enlightening account... Despite the suppression of the media and the murder of critics and political rivals, brave voices like Gessen's, and those before her, have helped shed some much needed light on Putin's "criminal tyranny"’ Lucy Popescu



‘[A] fiercely critical biography’ Anita Singh

‘A clear, brave book... Gessen offers intriguing details of the scratching, biting, hair-tearing, undersized, brawling boy Putin, refusing to be bullied in the grubby back yards of Leningrad’ James Meek

‘A compelling and exhaustive portrait’

‘A luminous study’ Luke Harding

‘A rivetingly combative biography... utterly chilling’

‘An astonishingly brave and eloquent book’ David Evans

‘Bold, detailed, and eloquent’ David Evans, Books of the Year

‘Brilliant’ Edward Lucas

‘Courageous and shocking’ Katy Guest, Books of the Year

‘Gessen conveys the atmosphere - whether of the last months of the Soviet Union, the chaotic years of Yeltsin, the strange transfer of the presidency to Putin or the disappointments of his period - more accurately than any recent chronicler of the period’ Mary Dejevsky

‘Gessen fearlessly tells the story of the unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin’

‘Gessen has written a brave book, demolishing the numerous myths and legends that have accumulated around her subject’ Luke Harding

‘Gessen is a talented and versatile journalist’ John Lloyd

‘Gessen's engaging prose combines a native's passion with a mordant wit and caustic understatement that are characteristically Russian’ AD Miller

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