Putin’s Roots in KGB and the Road to War in Ukraine

Eine Wiener Vorlesung im Rahmen des Vienna Humanities Festivals

Was the invasion of Ukraine inevitable and what does it have to do with the clandestine power structures of Putin’s regime? In her bestselling book, Putin’s People, former Moscow correspondent and investigative journalist Catherine Belton examines how former KGB men seized power in Russia and built a new order based on the close interplay of politics, intelligence agencies, and organized crime. In her lecture, Belton not only highlighted Putin's notorious roots in the secret service but also analyzed how his mindset and modus operandi has become ever more deeply entrenched the longer his rule has continued. In conversation with the Austrian historian and journalist, Tessa Szyszkowitz, she outlined the consequent risks for the West, as well as for Putin's own hold on power.

Catherine Belton is the author of Putin’s People, an NYT Critics’ Book of the Year, and reports on Russia for the Washington Post. She worked from 2007-2013 as the Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, and in 2016 as the newspaper's legal correspondent, She has previously reported on Russia for Moscow Times and Business Week and served as an investigative correspondent for Reuters. She lives in London.

Tessa Szyszkowitz is an author and journalist. She has covered foreign politics since the Iron Curtain fell in 1989. She covered Balkans and Southeastern Europe from Vienna (1989-1994), then she became Middle East correspondent (1994-1998) in Jerusalem, EU correspondent (1998-2002) in Brussels and Russia correspondent (2002-2010) in Moscow. She has lived and worked in London as correspondent for Profil, for the German Magazin Cicero  and the Newspaper Falter.

A recording of the livestream of the event is available here:


A "Wiener Vorlesung" as part of the Vienna Humanities Festival 2022.

The Vienna Humanities Festival is a project by the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) and Time to Talk. In cooperation with: Der Standard, Erste Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, Stadt Wien, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, European Forum Alpbach, Technische Universität Wien und Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien.