Between Two Fires | Granta

  • Published: 07/01/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783783724
  • Granta Books
  • 368 pages

Between Two Fires

Joshua Yaffa

In this penetrating exploration of contemporary Russia, Joshua Yaffa meets a variety of Russians – from politicians and entrepreneurs to artists and historians – who have built their careers and constructed their identities in the shadow of the Putin system. Torn between their own ambitions and the omnipresent demands of the state, each has found that compromise is essential for survival and success. Some extract benefits and privileges through cunning and cynicism, others less adept at navigating the system are left broken and demoralized.

With sensitivity and depth, Yaffa profiles Russians from institutions such as the Bolshoi and Channel 1, from the major cities, and from regions such as Chechnya, post-annexation Crimea, and the Urals, including an Orthodox priest at war with the church hierarchy and a Chechen humanitarian who turns a blind eye to persecutions. The result is an intimate and probing portrait of a nation much discussed but little understood. And by showing how citizens shape their lives around the demands of a capricious and repressive state, Yaffa offers urgent lessons about the nature of modern authoritarianism.

Exquisitely crafted... [Yaffa's] skilled, self- reflective reportage is so fair that it surfaces a different lesson about Russian liberals' incomprehension of ideological complexity, efficacy, or compromise as a force of good, not just evil.... Joshua Yaffa humanely elucidates how the universal phenomenon of moral compromise differs in Russia because the state looms so large


A sparkling analysis... [a] rich and detailed examination of how Putinism works...This is a measured, clever, well-researched and superbly written work. It will be read long after [the books explaining how Trump has been a KGB agent for 30 years] are deservedly forgotten'


Few journalists have penetrated so deep and with so much nuance into the moral ambiguities of Russia. If you want insight into the deeper distortions the Kremlin causes in people's psyches this book is invaluable

Peter Pomerantsev

The Author

Joshua Yaffa is a correspondent for The New Yorker in Moscow, where he has lived for the last eight years. He has been a fellow at the New America foundation, a finalist for the Livingston Award, a visiting scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, and a grantee of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

More about the author →