In this crackling memoir, the journalist and novelist Michael Idov recounts the tempestuous years he spent living alongside—and closely observing—the media and cultural elite of Putin’s Russia. After accepting a surprise offer to become the editor in chief of GQ Russia, Idov and his family arrive in a Moscow still seething from a dubious election and the mass anti-Putin rallies that erupted in response. Idov is fascinated by the political turmoil but nonetheless finds himself pulled in unlikely directions. He becomes a tabloid celebrity, acts in a Russian movie with Snoop Dogg, befriends the members of Pussy Riot, punches an anti-Semitic magazine editor on the steps of the Bolshoi Theatre, sells an autobiographical sitcom pilot that is later changed into an anti-American farce, and writes Russia’s top-grossing domestic movie of 2015. Meanwhile, he becomes disillusioned with the splintering opposition to Putin and is briefly attracted to a kind of jaded Putinism lite—until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine thoroughly changes his mind.
In Dressed Up for a Riot, Idov writes openly, sensitively, and stingingly about life in Moscow and his place in a media apparatus that sometimes undermined but more often bolstered a state system defined by cynicism, corruption, and the fanning of fake news. With humor and intelligence, he offers a close-up glimpse of what a declining world power can become.
“Idov is fascinating and extremely funny and it’s a great pleasure to accompany him on his adventures in modern day Russia. But perhaps the greatest strength of this book is that he takes the occasion to explain what’s actually happening there with a depth and originality that has eluded even the best political commentators.” —Joe Weisberg
Michael Idov is an award-winning journalist, a screenwriter, and the author of the novel Ground Up (FSG, 2009). From 2006 to 2012, he was a contributing editor at New York magazine and won three National Magazine Awards for his writing; he edited GQ Russia from 2012 to 2014. Born in 1976 in Riga, Latvia, Idov moved to the United States in 1992 and currently lives in Berlin.
Julia Ioffe is a staff writer at The Atlantic, covering politics and world affairs.