The Long Hangover by Shaun Walker review – Putin’s new Russia

Russian nationalism and nostalgia in a former Moscow correspondent’s account of Putin’s rule

Shaun Walker, for several years the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, describes his book as neither an apology for Vladimir Putin’s policies nor an anti-Putin polemic. It’s a fine line, but he is more successful than most of his western journalistic competitors in exploring the often contradictory attitudes that Russians hold towards their president and the hybrid system he is building on the basis of Russian nationalism, Soviet nostalgia and a striving for international respect.

Walker reports several illuminating interviews with people who hold “an often intangible longing for a past, if not the actual Soviet past, then at least for the sense of meaning that went with it”. There’s a strange but revealing encounter with Ivan Panikarov, a retired power station worker in Kolyma in Siberia, who has created a Gulag museum in his own flat. Amid the ...