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When Vladimir Putin, an unimportant, low-level KGB operative, was rushed to power by a group of Oligarchs in 1999, he was a man without a history. Within a few brief years, Putin had dismantled Russia's media, wrested control and wealth from the country's burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave. Drawing on information and sources no other writer has tapped, Masha Gessen's fearless account charts Putin's rise from the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, to the 'faceless' man who manoeuvred his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power.