Owen Matthews

Russia correspondent for the Spectator; author and historian specialising in Russia

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Russia correspondent for the Spectator
Former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek
Native Russian speaker
Author of multiple books on Russia, translated into 28 languages, including the critically acclaimed Overreach

Owen Matthews is the Spectator’s Russia correspondent and a former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek. He is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service, Radio Five Live, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, CNN, NBC, GB News, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, as well as Russia’s Rossiya 1 and NTV.

A native Russian speaker, Owen was covering the present conflict from Moscow before catching one of the last flights out.

Owen’s latest book, Overreach, draws on his unrivalled network of contacts to deliver unique insights into Putin’s administration, security services, armed forces and propaganda machine. He sheds light on the decision-making processes within the Kremlin, and the consequences that have shaken Europe to its core. It was shortlisted for the 2022 Parliamentary Book Awards in the Best Political Book by a Non-Parliamentarian category.

His first book, Stalin’s Children, a memoir of three generations of his family in Russia, was shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Book Award, the Orwell Prize for political writing, and France’s Prix Medicis Etranger. Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of Russian America (2013), a history of Imperial Russia’s doomed attempt to colonise America, was shortlisted for the 2014 Pushkin House Prize for books on Russia. An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent (2019), a biography of German Communist spy Richard Sorge – the first English language work written with extensive access to the Soviet archives – was chosen as a Book of the Year by the Economist magazine.

Owen has also published a number of novels based on real-life events. He co-wrote the 2015 Russian television series Londongrad and played an episodic role in it, as well as playing the US Ambassador to Moscow in the 2017 Russian television series The Optimists. His books have been translated into 28 languages.

Owen is an accomplished speaker who offers unparalleled insight into Western-Russian political and economic relations, including:

  • What are the prospects for international sanctions against Russia being lifted?
  • Now that Moscow is economically and practically dependent on Beijing, what will the new China-orientated Russian economy and politics look like?
  • How do we disentangle the reputation of Russia’s wealth-creating class from the political consequences of the Kremlin’s securocrats?
  • How can Western brands be reintegrated into the Russian economy – and how can retail be disengaged from politics?

Praise for Overreach:

‘Blending stories of soldiers from both sides, effortlessly moving from insiders’ accounts to historical background, Matthews’s book is as compellingly written as it is plausibly argued’ The Times

‘The best new book on Russia … Matthews has advantages over almost everyone else writing on this subject … a classic – as enduring as Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia’ Literary Review

‘Matthews writes with extraordinary vividness… a master craftsman’ Spectator

Overreach is a remarkable achievement, with Matthews’s expert eye like an all-seeing drone buzzing from one side of the conflict to the other’ The Telegraph

‘Everyone should read Overreach by the great Owen Matthews’ John Sweeney

‘A vivid snapshot of the [Russia-Ukraine] war … a fine blow-by-blow account … an excellent primer on the war’s historical roots’ Telegraph best books to understand the world in 2022

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