Meet Aage Storm Borchgrevink - Selected Title Author
We are happy to present our selected title author Aage Storm Borchgrevink. He has written The Rise and Rule of a Kremlin Warlord (original title: Putin. Krigsherren i Kreml). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2023.
Read our interview with Aage here.
What inspired you to write this book?
The shock at the catastrophic attack on Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. I wrote the book over the course of a few months last summer, but I’ve been working with Russia for many years. As an adviser to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, I’ve met generations of Russian democracy advocates – from venerable Soviet dissidents to queer activists with no memories of the Soviet Union.
Some of the people I knew, such as journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Chechen Natalia Estemirova, were killed after having criticized Vladimir Putin. The book is the result of a nearly thirty-year-long conversation at work and visits to a number of crime scenes. I’ve investigated Russia’s crimes in Georgia, Ukraine, and Chechnya – which to me, is Putinism in its purest and most toxic form. In essence, the book is partly a witness account, but also an attempt to find the core of Putin’s mission.
Putin has always said he wants to “unite” Russia and has led the country into an economic upswing. At the same time, he’s created a divided society in which a microscopic elite controls the power – and history. I believe Putin is going to bite the dust with this war, but Putinism will live on. That’s why the story of the re-emergence of fascism in Europe is important. As the accomplice to the perpetrator in the Kremlin, the West also bears responsibility.
What distinguishes your book from other books in the same genre/theme?
It’s shorter! In the past, I’ve written unauthorized biographies about Anders Behring Breivik and the powerful Norwegian oil company Equinor, as well as works of fiction. I drew on that background when I had to summarize Vladimir Putin’s life and mission. His career is built on oil and his networks in the KGB, but he is also a skilled storyteller.
One of Putin’s advisers describes the Kremlin as Commedia dell’arte, a type of theater in which the same characters appear over and over in new plays. For over twenty years, the man from the shadows has played the lead role. Putin has remained popular even as Russia has become increasingly brutal. This is because the Kremlin has cultivated a specific mentality: the collective Putin. Where do his unwritten agreements with the Russian people come from?
Putin is a child of war who became a warlord in his adulthood. He is a survivor from the streets, a shapeshifter who trims his sails to the wind. He is the boss of the heist that is modern Russia, where the inequality between the rich and the poor is greater than in any other industrialized nation. He is also the visionary in the Kremlin of dreams, more interested in tsars who died hundreds of years ago than in the tens of thousands of soldiers he is sending to Ukraine to perish.
There are many books about Putin, but the primary sources are few – especially for his early days. I’ve chosen to emphasize his own words. Sometimes they obfuscate, but other times he appears to be unusually frank:
“For all of us – including myself, now and then – it seems that creating order with an iron fist will be the prelude to a better, more comfortable, and safer life,” Vladimir Putin said in 1991. “In reality, that security will quickly disappear – because the iron fist will start to strangle us.”
See full presentation of the book here
See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for the spring 2023 here