Long Reads Pick of the Week: None Dare Call It a Conspiracy

Since I spend so much time reading long-form non-fiction online, I’m going to link to my favourite one every week for anyone who’s interested in similar reading.

In 2009, Conde Nast allowed this story to appear in print but refused to publish it online or distribute it in Russia for fear of retribution. The story details the intrigue behind the Moscow apartment bombings in 1999 that allowed Vladimir Putin’s rapid ascension to power.

The murky world of Russian politics, and the absolute authority which those who wield power openly enjoy, comes second only to the insanity that is North Korea. You can read the article here.


In a presidential poll taken in August 1999, Putin had garnered less than 2 percent support. By March 2000, however, riding a wave of popularity for his total-war policy in Chechnya, he swept into office with 53 percent of the vote. The reign of Vladimir Putin had begun, and Russia would never be the same.

It is a riddle that lies at the very heart of the modern Russian state, one that remains unsolved to this day. In the awful events of September 1999, did Russia find its avenging angel in Vladimir Putin, the proverbial man of action who crushed his nation’s attackers and led his people out of a time of crisis? Or was that crisis actually manufactured to benefit Putin, a scheme by Russia’s secret police to bring one of their own to power? What makes this question important is that absent the bombings of September 1999 and all that transpired as a result, it is hard to conceive of any scenario whereby Putin would hold the position he enjoys today: a player on the global stage, a ruler of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

Immediately after the bombings, a broad spectrum of Russian society publicly cast doubt on the government’s version of events. Those voices have now gone silent one by one. In recent years, a number of journalists who investigated the incidents have been murdered – or have died under suspicious circumstances – as have two members of Parliament who sat on a commission of inquiry. In the meantime, it seems that most everyone whose account of the attacks ran counter to the government’s version now either refuses to speak, has recanted his earlier statements, or is dead.

None Dare Call It A Conspiracy by Scott Anderson, Longform