2017 National Book Award Winner, Nonfiction

Masha Gessen

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

The Future Is History by Masha GessenMasha Gessen(Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)

ISBN: 9781594634536

National Book Foundation: Why did you write this book?
Masha Gessen: At a certain point, after years - like, more than 20 - of thinking and writing about Russian life and politics - I felt that I understood something huge about it. So I set out to make the case for this understanding. It seems important to note that when I was researching and writing the book, the argument seemed a bit far-fetched - that was all back in the pre-2017 era, before The Origins of Totalitarianism hit the bestseller lists. So I set out to make the most compelling and methodical argument I could.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Gessen: The Strand


judges' citation

The Future Is History charts the coming-of-age of four Russians born in the early 1980s, just as the Soviet Union was opening up, and follows them from the optimistic peak of reform through the resurgence of authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin. Writing with the verve and empathy of a novel and the depth and perspective of an intellectual history, Masha Gessen diagnoses Russian society with “recurrent totalitarianism,” a chronic disease that was once in remission, but has lately resurged.



Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. 

About the Author

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and the author of several books, including The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Slate, Vanity Fair, and many other publications. A longtime resident of Moscow, Gessen now lives in New York.


- TWITTER: @mashagessen

(Photo credit: Tanya Sazansky)


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