The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Emigres, and Agents Abroad

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. PublicAffairs, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5417-3016-8
Moscow-based investigative journalists Soldatov and Borogan (The Red Web) give an absorbing account of Russian governments’ attempts to “use the Russian émigré community to achieve their goals [and] to neutralize any potential dangers posed by Russians abroad.” The Russian diaspora, numbering 30 million, is the third largest in the world after India’s and Mexico’s; many were forced out of the country for political reasons. Since Soviet times, the Kremlin has attempted, through ominously named special directorates such as “Department K” and the “Fifth Section,” to control those living beyond its borders and to bring together emigrés and Russian residents into a single “Russian world.” The authors narrate Russian spymasters’ attempt to produce “a sanitized version of its own bloody history specifically geared to a Western audience” in the 1990s; the plan backfired when its operative author defected with eight notebooks filled with top secret material. They also argue that president Vladimir Putin used both the media and the Russian Orthodox Church to sway communities of Russians abroad into supporting his policies. Colorful characters and piquant details (“Overweight, suspicious policemen in black uniforms... guarded storefronts featuring pre-reform Cyrillic signage”) make this a lively story. Readers curious about Russian political affairs and espionage will eat it up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/16/2019
Release date: 10/08/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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