Russians seem very interested in my book about how dictatorships end

By | May 4, 2023

Alexander Baunov writes:

It’s a little embarrassing.

Normally, I write about various aspects of Russian politics — the basis of Vladimir Putin’s support, the Kremlin’s media strategy, Russia’s foreign policy. Now, to my surprise, I’m writing about something else: my own book.

Three years in the making, the book came out at the end of January and quickly became a best seller across Russia. The first print run disappeared almost immediately, and since then, there have been three more. While not many of the journalists and outlets remaining in the country have dared to write about it, there has been a huge amount of attention on social media and an extensive series of reviews in Russian-language publications abroad. Objectively — though it’s awkward to say — the book has become a bit of a phenomenon.

But the book, “The End of the Regime: How Three European Dictatorships Ended,” is not about Russia or Vladimir Putin. It’s about three dictatorships — those of Francisco Franco in Spain, Antonio Salazar in Portugal and the colonels in Greece — and how those countries became democracies, returning to the global fold. A large number of Russians haven’t suddenly taken an interest in the history of 20th-century Southern Europe. Rather, discussions of the book have common themes: How do prolonged right-wing dictatorships end? And can Russia become a democracy?

As one might expect, the book is being widely discussed by opposition groups and those calling for an end to the war. More surprisingly, it is also being read by the Russian nomenklatura — those at the apex of the Russian state. It seems that the book has become a pretext for discussion of taboo topics, such as political transition, the health and death of the leader, defeat in a colonial war, the end of isolation and, indeed, the end of the regime. [Continue reading…]