The longtime home of the Soviet nuclear program, the Chelyabinsk region contains beautiful lakes, shuttered factories, mysterious closed cities, and some of the most polluted places on earth. Based on her recent book Putin Country (Farrar, Straus&Giroux, 2016), Garrels charts the aftershocks of the U.S.S.R.’s collapse. Having returned again and again to Chelyabinsk, Garrels argues that the area’s new freedoms and opportunities were exciting but also traumatic. As the economic collapse of the early 1990s abated, the city of Chelyabinsk became richer and more cosmopolitan, even as official corruption and intolerance for minorities grew more entrenched. Today, as Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power and Western sanctions continue to lower the standard of living, the local population mingles belligerent nationalism with a deep ambivalence about their country’s direction. Through it all, Garrels sympathetically charts an ongoing identity crisis. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union, what is Russia? What kind of pride and cohesion can it offer? And why does Putin command the loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they regularly encounter?
Anne Garrels has been honored with numerous journalism awards, including the Peabody and the Polk. Garrels is on the board of Oxfam America and the Committee to Protect Journalists. For almost 25 years Anne Garrels was the senior foreign correspondent for NPR, reporting from Russia and the other former Soviet republics, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, China, Mongolia, and Iraq. She arrived in Baghdad six months before the 2003 U.S. invasion, stayed during the U.S. bombing campaign and continued to cover Iraq for the next six years. Before joining NPR in 1986 she was chief correspondent in Moscow and Central America for ABC, and the State Department correspondent for NBC.
Putin Country (Farrar, Straus&Giroux, 2016) will be available for purchase and signing.