Get the key ideas from

Putin's People

How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West

By Catherine Belton
21-minute read
Audio available
Putin's People by Catherine Belton

Putin’s People (2020) is a shocking account of the corruption and political schemes that swirl around Russia’s infamous president, Vladimir Putin, and his close inner circle. The KGB is well-known as the former Soviet Union’s secret police force – but that was far from its only role in the Soviet government and economy. This is the story of how the KGB lost its power, gained it back, and has been exploiting it ever since.

  • Fans of political intrigue and international relations
  • Students of Russian history and culture
  • Anyone curious about the inner workings of Vladimir Putin’s regime

Catherine Belton is an investigative journalist who currently works as a special correspondent for Reuters. Formerly, she served the Financial Times as its Moscow correspondent and then its legal correspondent. She was shortlisted for Business Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2008.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
4,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Putin's People

How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West

By Catherine Belton
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Putin's People by Catherine Belton
Synopsis

Putin’s People (2020) is a shocking account of the corruption and political schemes that swirl around Russia’s infamous president, Vladimir Putin, and his close inner circle. The KGB is well-known as the former Soviet Union’s secret police force – but that was far from its only role in the Soviet government and economy. This is the story of how the KGB lost its power, gained it back, and has been exploiting it ever since.

Key idea 1 of 13

Before entering politics, Vladimir Putin was a member of the KGB.

From childhood, Vladimir Putin dreamed of joining the KGB, the Soviet Union’s secret police force. He was eager to follow in his father’s footsteps – so eager, in fact, that he called up the local Leningrad KGB office and asked to join before he’d even graduated school.

Throughout his education, Putin was careful to enroll in exactly the programs and classes which the KGB office directed him toward. He followed their orders with the utmost precision. All the while, he vented his aggression by practicing judo.

As a newly minted member of the KGB, Putin arrived in Dresden, East Germany, in 1985. It was there that he first encountered secret missions, smuggling, and assassinations.

The key message here is: Before entering politics, Vladimir Putin was a member of the KGB.

When Vladimir Putin arrived in Dresden, the city was known as little more than an East German backwater. In total, there were just six KGB officers posted there. Meanwhile, East Germany itself was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the ruling Communist Party was in danger of collapse.

Sensing these issues, the KGB launched a secret mission called Operation Luch. Its goal was to build up a network of agents to join political circles. That way, the KGB’s presence in Germany would survive, even if the country was reunified.

Much of Putin’s role in this operation remains a mystery. But what we do know is that Putin eventually became the main KGB liaison officer with the Stasi, the East German secret police. He even had his own Stasi identification card. That gave him access to Stasi buildings and made it easier for him to recruit agents for Operation Luch.

Terrorism was also a major part of the mission. In particular, the secret police were deeply involved with the Red Army Faction, a Marxist group in West Germany that helped to protect KGB interests. On one occasion, the chairman of the major financial institution Deutsche Bank was driving to work when a grenade in his car was detonated, killing him instantly. It’s possible that the blast was triggered by a Red Army Faction member, and we know that this group learned precise military detonation techniques at training camps connected to the Stasi. With the chairman’s death, Deutsche Bank was weakened, and a Stasi-affiliated bank had an opportunity to gain strength.

These secret operations with the KGB and the Stasi were just the start of Putin’s long rise to power.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.