Russia needs a truth commission now.

Pope Francis greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for a private meeting at the Vatican June 10, 2015 (CNS photo/Gregorio Borgia pool via Reuters).

At a book event sponsored by Columbia University, I asked the author David Satter, a journalist who writes critically about Russia, whether Vladimir Putin is capable of murder. Satter’s reply was, “Read my book.”

The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin is the history of Russia from the mid-1990s to the present, in which a corrupt president, Boris Yeltsin, and his successor, Putin, try to reconstruct the country as a world power. But it remains corrupt, with a bloated business class and, worst of all, a culture with no respect for human life. Satter demonstrates this with a series of massacres and murders, most of which are never solved nor adequately investigated.

Advertisement

The Less You Know, The Better You Sleepby David Satter

Yale University Press. 240p, $23

In September 1999, a truck bomb blew up in Dagestan killing 64. A few days later, a bomb exploded in a Moscow basement killing 100. Next, an apartment building on a Moscow highway was reduced to rubble with 124 dead. On Oct. 1, Russian troops invaded Chechnya. According to Yeltsin and Putin, Chechen terrorists were responsible for these attacks; Satter and others argue the bombs were planted by Russia’s main intelligence agency, the F.S.B., in order to win public support for another war.

In Dubrovka, 40 heavily armed Chechen terrorists entered the theater and took the audience hostage to force an end to the war. After 48 hours, Putin said he sent an envoy to negotiate; but the F.S.B. forces pumped poison gas into the ventilation system, then swarmed in and killed all 40 terrorists, while 129 hostages died from the gas. Satter visited the scene, convinced that the authorities had facilitated the takeover. He concludes this demanding little volume by arguing that more than anything Russia needs a truth commission. Meanwhile, President Donald J. Trump should approach Putin with caution.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
More: Books / History / Russia

The latest from america

Vanessa Hua reminds the reader that no matter how hard you work, our immigration system can and will still fail you.
Zac DavisSeptember 21, 2018
“No matter how long or short our lifespan,” Barbara Lee writes, “we live our spiritual life in the present.”
James T. KeaneSeptember 21, 2018
Mark Massa invites the reader to reconsider not only the church’s teaching on artificial birth control, but also the methodologies used to arrive at that teaching.
Daniel CosacchiSeptember 21, 2018
Mary Beard's new book is about the viewer as well as the viewed. It prompts us to think about how we construct our sense of civilization and the troubling ways that artistic depictions of the human and the divine serve to cement bias and, sometimes, provoke violence.
Candida MossSeptember 13, 2018