Arkady Ostrovsky

Author of the 2016 Orwell Prize winning book,
The Invention of Russia
Russia and Eastern Europe editor for The Economist

Astute insider insights on Russia and its role in the
world today

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Arkady Ostrovsky is a Russian born British journalist who has spent fifteen years reporting from Moscow first for the Financial Times and then as a bureau chief for The Economist. He is currently the Russia and Eastern Europe editor for The Economist based in London.

Arkady has a degree from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) and an M.Phil and Ph.D in English literature from the University of Cambridge. In 1996 he became the first native Russian speaker to join the Financial Times in London where he held several positions, including International Capital Markets correspondent specialising in emerging markets. In 2003 he was posted to Moscow where he covered Russian politics and business, including the Yukos affair and the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Arkady was among the first foreign journalists to warn of the resurgence of the state security under Putin. His articles were shortlisted for the Orwell prize for journalism.

In 2007 Arkady moved to The Economist as a Moscow bureau chief – a role he had performed until 2015. During his time at The Economist he covered Russian politics, economy and foreign relations. Arkady also wrote extensively about former Soviet republics, including Ukraine and Georgia. He reported Russia’s war in Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crime and the war in Ukraine in 2014.

Currently at The Economist, Arkady also writes about Russia-US relations, European security, Russia and China, Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics. He is the author of the 2016 Orwell Prize winning book The Invention of Russia: The Journey from Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War published in 2015 by Atlantic Book in the UK and in 2016 by Viking in the US.

His book shows how a country that liberated itself from seventy years of Soviet rule ended up as one of the biggest challenges for the West and a threat to its own future and why the people who rejected Communist ideology come to accept state propaganda. It takes the reader on an enthralling journey through Russia’s tumultuous post-Soviet transformation and illuminated the key turning point that often took the world by surprise. As a foreign correspondent in his own country, Arkady has experienced Russia’s modern history first-hand, and through original research and interviews he reveals the ideological conflicts, compromises and temptations that have left Russia on a knife-edge.

The book has received a wide critical acclaim both in Britain and in the US. It was chosen as the Book of the Year by the Financial Times and the London Review of Books. It has also been picked as one of the best 20 history books so far this year by Amazon. The New York Times raved “Anyone who has spent time in Russia over the past 30 years should be deeply grateful for Arkady Ostrovsky’s fast-paced and excellently written book . . . For better or for worse, Mr. Putin has forced the world to reckon with a surly and combative Russia again. Mr. Ostrovsky provides a much needed, dispassionate and eminently readable explanation of how it happened.” The Wall Street Journal called it a “bold new book” and a “blistering indictment” with “sparkling prose and deep analysis.” The Washington Post wrote: “While many previous authors have attempted detailed reconstructions of this history, Ostrovsky takes a different approach, focused more on why events turned out as they did. The reader feels as if on a grand tour, with Ostrovsky at the elbow.”

Arkady is regular contributor to radio and television programs around the world, including the BBC and NPR. He also contributed to the first Cambridge History of Russian Theatre as well as to collections of essays on theatre history published in the America, UK, France, Russia and Brazil. Arkady’s translation of Tom Stoppard’s trilogy, 'The Coast of Utopia' and 'Rock’n’Roll' have been published and staged in Russia.

Arkady can deliver speeches in English and in Russian.


The Invention of Russia

From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War

Arkady Ostrovsky

Financial Times Book of the Year

“Fast-paced and excellently written…A much needed, dispassionate and eminently readable explanation...” —The New York Times

“[A] bold new book…[filled with] sparkling prose and deep analysis.” – The Wall Street Journal

A highly original narrative history by The Economist’s Moscow bureau chief

The breakup of the Soviet Union was a time of optimism around the world, but Russia today is actively involved in subversive information warfare, manipulating the media to destabilize its enemies. How did a country that embraced freedom and market reform 25 years ago end up as an autocratic police state bent once again on confrontation with America? A winner of the Orwell Prize, The Invention of Russia reaches back to the darkest days of the cold war to tell the story of Russia's stealthy and largely unchronicled counter revolution.

A highly regarded Moscow correspondent for The Economist, Arkady Ostrovsky comes to this story both as a participant and a foreign correspondent. His knowledge of many of the key players allows him to explain the phenomenon of Valdimir Putin - his rise and astonishing longevity, his use of hybrid warfare and the alarming crescendo of his military interventions. One of Putin's first acts was to reverse Gorbachev's decision to end media censorship and Ostrovsky argues that the Russian media has done more to shape the fate of the country than its politicians. Putin pioneered a new form of demagogic populism — oblivious to facts and dangerously manipulative — that has now been embraced by Donald Trump.

Viking (7 Jun. 2016)


“Anyone who has spent time in Russia over the past 30 years should be deeply grateful for Arkady Ostrovsky’s fast-paced and excellently written book. Too often, the story of post-Soviet Russia is presented through a Western prism as a clash of good Westernizers and evil reactionaries, or as a lamentation about what the West could, and should, have done once it “won” the cold war. Mr. Ostrovsky doesn’t waste time on that. A first class journalist who has spent many years covering Russia for The Financial Times and The Economist, he is also a native of the Soviet Union, with an instinctive understanding of how politics, ideas and daily life really work there…. For better or for worse, Mr. Putin has forced the world to reckon with a surly and combative Russia again. Mr. Ostrovky provides a much needed, dispassionate and eminently readable explanation of how it happened.”
– Serge Schmemann, The New York Times

“Russia today is ruled by the worst and least talented group of villains the country has seen since before World War II. How did these men come to power? And how did the phenomenon of Putinism come to pervade the psyche of the nation? In his bold new book, Ostrovsky blames not just systemic pressures from above but also the cumulative effects of generations of genetic depletion — the survival of the least fit… His sparkling prose and deep analysis provide not only a sweeping tour d’horizon of Russia’s malaise, but also a description of the process by which anti-modern ideas combine with postmodern actions to buttress the country’s authoritarian kleptocratic system.”
The Wall Street Journal

“The reader feels as if on a grand tour, with Ostrovsky at the elbow. . . He is particularly good at hearing the nuances and seeing how identity, ideology and personal experience undermined hopes for democracy and reform.”
The Washington Post

“A clear-eyed and honest account…A valuable addition to the growing literature on contemporary Russia — at once informed, insightful and highly readable.”
The Dallas Morning News

“Essential, timely, and always gripping, Arkady Ostrovsky’s book explains today’s reinvention of Russia from the fall of the USSR to the rise of Putin with the narrative flair of a true chronicler of the mysteries of the Kremlin.”
— Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of Stalin

“A real insiders’ story of Russia’s post–Soviet ’counterrevolution’ — an important and timely book.”
— Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag

“Russia has always been a place where intellectuals, propagandists, viziers, and prophets have played a grand role. All the gangster-, KGB-, and oligarch-focused analyses of the country’s recent history have overlooked the men of ideas behind the tumultuous changes. Now comes Arkady Ostrovsky with a gripping intellectual history of the newspaper editors, ideologues, television gurus, and spin doctors who invented post–Soviet Russia.”
— Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible

“Arkady Ostrovsky traces the descent from the heady days of 1991 with deep local knowledge, a journalist’s fluent style and sharp eye for detail, and wit. He places much of the blame on those who owned and dominated the media in the fifteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union.”
— Dominic Lieven, author of The End of Tsarist Russia

“Arkady Ostrovsky’s dazzling book flags up the conflicts over ideas, morality, and national destiny in Moscow politics from Gorbachev to Putin — a triumph of narrative skill and historical empathy based on personal experience and rigorous research.”
— Robert Service, author of Comrades! A History of World Communism*

“For a decade Arkady Ostrovsky has been the most insightful foreign correspondent in Moscow, and in The Invention of Russia he uses his deep understanding of the country he loves to tell the gripping, tragic story of its recent history. A brilliantly original, illuminating, and essential book.”
— A. D. Miller, Booker short-listed author of Snowdrops

"A focused, bracing look at how the control of the media has helped plot the Russian political trajectory from dictatorship and back again. . . astute, accesible, and illumating"
Kirkus Reviews (Starred)


Arkady tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Russia and Former Soviet Union

Russian politics, economy and foreign affairs

Ukraine: the birth of the nation

Transformation of post-Soviet societies



Information warfare

Hybrid warfare

Business opportunities and challenges in the post-Soviet space

Russia and China

Russia and the US