Masha Gessen

Director of Radio Liberty's Russian Service

Russia: Is Anyone Driving the Bus?

About the Speaker

The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.

As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.

 Masha Gessen has served as Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Radio Svoboda since September 2012. A former Nieman Fellow in Journalism and Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, both at Harvard University, Gessen was also a Milena Jesenska Fellow at the Institute For Human Sciences in Vienna. She has written for The New York TimesInternational Herald Tribune,The GuardianU.S. News & World Report (where she served as Moscow Bureau Chief), Vanity FairNewRepublicGranta and Slate. She has also written six books, including, most recently, "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin." Gessen is also the recipient of several prestigious prizes for her journalism. 

Prior to her appointment at RFE/RL, Gessen was editor in chief of Vokrug Sveta Publishing, which includes two monthly magazines, a book series, and a variety of electronic media products. She has also been involved in the successful relaunches of Russia's oldest political-analysis web site,, the city weekly Bolshoy Gorod, and the monthly Gala Russia magazine,