cover image Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia

Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia

Paul Starobin. Columbia Global Reports, $17 trade paper (128p) ISBN 979-8-987-05360-7

For this incisive report, journalist Starobin (A Most Wicked Conspiracy) interviewed Russian citizens who have fled their homes in protest of President Vladimir Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Describing the complexities of their plight—from broken ties with family members to fears of repercussion from Russian state security operatives—Starobin argues that these exiles (an estimated one million Russians have fled the country since fighting began) are “agents of change” in the tradition of Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Herzen, who while abroad honed “their visions of a better order of things.” Subjects include a 46-year-old businessman living in Switzerland, who helped design and manufacture a noise-sensor system that Ukrainian soldiers deployed to detect and shoot down Russian cruise missiles and drones; a 19-year-old anarchist who relocated to Armenia and donates his earnings as a delivery boy to a militant pro-Ukraine organization within Russia; and an Orthodox priest exiled in Georgia who dreams of replacing Putin’s brand of national orthodoxy with a “People’s Church.” Though Starobin contends that “the rebellion... has the potential to achieve its objective of a better Russia,” the picture he paints is of a community too widely dispersed and at odds with itself to be truly effective in instigating change. Though Starobin falls short of proving his thesis, this offers captivating insights into a community in crisis. (Jan.)