Author: Masha Gessen
Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2012

Given we live in the latter days one of the signs of the times that we are likely to witness is the expected rise of a man the Scripture describes as Gog. He is to be the man at the top, the pre-eminent Autocratic Ruler, Prince of all the Russias (Rosh, Meshech and Tubal)  and the dictator of Central Europe and Germany (Magog). In the past  we have been rightly reticent to say  that a particular Russian leader may be the Gog, yet Christ’s return is imminent. It would be wonderful  if the generation that will witness Christ’s return could also recognise the Gog of Ezekiel 38. He will  be the one who will assemble the mightiest army in the history of mankind as well as being the last  enemy endeavouring to annihilate the Jews, God’s chosen people, on the mountains of Israel, who will meet him with none to help.

This book review is about a man  who may or may not be the Gog; but  if he isn’t, then Gog will be someone  just like him for Vladimir Putin is portrayed in this  book as “one who is so emotionless, cruel, merciless, corrupt and so utterly void of remorse”, that he will  relentlessly pursue anyone perceived as his personal enemy, through trumped up charge after charge in the corrupt Russian court system or by more subtle means  outside of his own borders, just like a small minded  thug seeks revenge on his enemies.

Even in his personally massaged autobiography,  included in this book, he delights in calling himself a thug who as time has shown now runs his empire like a mafia boss.

Masha Geeson, the female Russian journalist and author, describes this man’s amazing rise to power, so amazing because he was almost unknown in his own country at this level: without qualifications, political experience or credentials to become the President of  Russia.

The first chapter entitled ‘The Accidental President,’  describes the closing days of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency.  By 1999 Yeltsin found himself on top of a very fragile  pyramid with no successor, fearing persecution and  imprisonment once he stepped down.  His handful of loyal followers called  “the family” went looking for someone  they could trust and guide. The author  describes the almost ridiculous events  that brought Vladimir Putin to power  as Prime Minister at the hands of  Boris Yeltsin on the 9th August, 1999.  Within 3 weeks a series of bombings  began in major cities across  Russia, terrorising their citizens.  Panic ensued. Chechnya was blamed. The new Prime Minister had been  in office for just over 1 month yet he ordered troops to be sent in (which  was illegal for any Russian Prime Minister to do). The same day Putin made one of his first TV appearances. The author notes that Mr Putin used  a very different kind of rhetoric from Yeltsin. He didn’t promise to bring the terrorists to  justice, nor did he express compassion for the hundreds  of Russians victims of the explosions. The language was of a leader who was planning to rule with his fist. His popularity soared amongst the Russian people who longed for a return of their Super Power status.

Soon it was decided Yeltsin should retire early, which by law would make Putin acting President. Mr. Putin addressed the people of Russia as its new acting  President on New Year’s Eve, 1999. The book goes on  to describe the election process that swept him into power, which included a hastily put together biography  that was deemed necessary because no one really knew  anything about him! In fact,on January 26th, 2000, exactly 2 months before the election, at the Annual World  Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the question was asked: “Who is Mr Putin?” The 4 Russian panellists looked very anxiously at each other. Over 30 seconds of  silence passed then the room exploded in laughter. The author notes, “the world’s largest land mass, a land of oil, gas and nuclear warheads, had a new leader and its business and political elites had no idea who he was.”

The rest of the book goes through the many changes he has made in Russia to take it back to ‘the Soviet  State’, which was a paranoid, closed system that strove to control everything and to wipe out anything that it could not control. Also included are many aspects of his Presidency until 2011 as well as the sufferings of  many citizens by this evil man. Many incidents and names will be remembered as brief news articles in our newspapers that disappeared because the West wanted  to perceive Russia as a democracy.