Who better than a reality TV producer to describe the future of Russia? Peter Pomerantsev worked behind the lens of reality television and was involved in creating some of the limited media that Russian citizens are allowed to consume. Namely, positive stories about the state and its leaders. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is a dazzling and insightful look into a country’s fall into madness.
“If there is no God, everything is permitted.”
– Smerdyakov, The Brothers Karamazov
The author weaves a compelling story out of his interactions with criminal apparatchiks who write television scripts, the Kafkaesque legal system, models who are tossed aside and kill themselves, and a government which profits off conspiracy theories and a rejection of facts.
Pomerantsev opens with the seemingly ubiquitous Russian “gold-diggers”, ordinary girls from the provinces who hunt down eligible “rich” men in nightclubs clubs of the capital. They are devious and determined. There are even, he tells us, a network of schools and advisers training the girls in the best way to attract what they call a “Forbes” man.
“Before your eyes rises the hero of Gogol’s story who, in a fit of aberration, imagined that he was the King of Spain. Such is the fate of all megalomaniacs.”
– Joseph Stalin, 1905
From such comical beginnings, Pomerantsev moves into much darker territory. For instance, he tells the story of Ruslana Korshunova, a highly successful Russian supermodel, who committed suicide aged only 20 when she threw herself from the balcony of her 9th floor Manhattan apartment. Pomeratsev speculates that her death resulted from her involvement with a Russian cult – “The Rose of the World” – which dehumanized its members through emotional disorientation and humiliation.
It would be easy to sneer at Russia reading Pomerantsev book. But, such horror stories of abject national malaise are not confined to Putin’s Russia, the last chapter of the book shows that the contagion is spreading. The stories of Boris Berezovsky, Bill Browder and Sergei Magnitsky show how Russian corruption is spilling beyond national boundaries.
Pomerantsev tells the reader that we like to kid ourselves into thinking that the reason Russia’s oligarchs like to congregate in London, or Paris or New York is that they fundamentally aspire to be like us. This, however, is false. According to Pomerantsev: It is not we who are influencing them, it is they who are influencing us. And that is a scary realization.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is a terrifying, depressing and captivating book, which deserves to be a read. Originally published in 2014 the book is, unfortunately, becoming more and more relevant to U.S. readers.
NOTHING IS TRUE AND EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE
The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
By Peter Pomerantsev
$11.99 Kindle. $25.99 Hardcover. From Amazon.