How did Russia get from 1991 to 2015? In the grand tradition of Russian literary classics, Arkady Ostrovsky begins “The Invention of Russia” with a cast of characters, a hint to readers that the relationships will be tangled, the scope of the tale vast, and the drama plentiful.
Instead of politicians or economists, his central characters are journalists, editors, television executives: those in charge of producing and broadcasting the country’s new identity and storyline. Whoever controls the media controls the country; therefore, the fight over Russia’s future played out on television, radio and in newsprint. “The Soviet Union expired not because it ran out of money […] but because it ran out of words,” he writes.
Chock full of anecdotes, the book is an engaging rendition of Russia’s journey from Gorbachev’s illusions of democracy to Putin’s state of “aggression, hatred and chauvinism.” No incident or individual receives sole blame, but that does not mean no one is responsible. Ostrovsky insists that everyone bears responsibility: the media, intelligentsia, oligarchs, politicians, and, above all, the nation as a whole.