Political science professor sees success with book

Written by Victoria Slater, CAS communications intern

When Karen Dawisha, Miami University political science professor and Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, compiled five years of research into a 500-page book, she had no idea it would become a bestseller and land her a spot on the acclaimed TV program Frontline.

Her book, Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? delves into the controversy surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin and his links to organized crime. The report, published September 30 by Simon and Schuster, includes pages of evidentiary footnotes, and, according to Dawisha, "reads like a legal brief."

As of the time of writing this article, the book is the number one bestseller on Amazon in the category of Russian & Former Soviet Union Politics. According to a review published in the Wall Street Journal by journalist Anna Arutunyan, Dawisha's work "delivers precisely the kind of meticulously researched evidence one would hope for in a work preceded by such controversy [and] is an important and valuable work because it provides the most exhaustive investigation into the patterns of Russian government corruption to date."

"Reactions to the book have been very good," Dawisha said. "There has been a lot of press about it. I have been speaking at universities on my book tour. We have already ordered a second reprint. It has been amazing."

Dawisha also appeared on PBS's Frontline in a segment called "Putin's Way" that aired January 13. She discussed the accusations surrounding Putin's presidency, especially how he secured the position.

"Frontline is a very special show," she said. "The program was loaded—a complete hour on the subject of my book. It was pretty great, and I got a lot of good feedback."

Such feedback is warmly welcomed, given Dawisha's long time publisher, Cambridge University Press, originally censored her book in adherence with the UK's strict libel laws. Because the publisher refused to print the book in the UK, Dawisha turned to the American company Simon and Schuster.

"The book has been very popular, but we are yet to publish outside the United States," Dawisha said. "That may change."

The controversy surrounding Dawisha's investigations is evident; she will probably not return to Russia for her usual yearly trip because she will likely be denied a visa. However, she said she has received many more positive reactions than negative.

"I expected a lot more criticism when I wrote the book," she said. "I think everyone is beginning to see the kind of person Putin is. What he did in Ukraine crossed a line, and that really mobilized the media to portray him as what he really is."

While Dawisha is yet to receive any response from the Russian government in response to her claims, she said her book is circulating throughout Russian social media and therefore is having some impact—however small—in the country.

"I never meant for this book to bring down Mr. Putin; its purpose is to be educational," she said. "It may support certain points of view and provide evidence, but I would really just like it to educate readers about Russia, about Putin's presidency, and politics."

[For more information, see the U.S. News & World Report article, "Unmasking Team Putin: Author Karen Dawisha explains how Vladimir Putin and his cronies climbed to power."]