A brilliant investigative marrative: How six average Soviet men rose to the pinnacle of Russia's battered economy. David Hoffman, former Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post, sheds light onto the hidden lives of Russia's most feared power brokers: the oligarchs. Focusing on six of these ruthless men Hoffman reveals how a few players managed to take over Russia's cash-strapped economy and then divvy it up in loans-for-shares deals. Before perestroika, these men were normal Soviet citizens, stuck in a dead-end system, claustrophobic apartments, and long bread lines. But as Communism loosened, they found gaps in the economy and reaped huge fortunes by getting their hands on fast money. They were entrepreneurs. As the government weakened and their businesses flourished, they grew greedier. Now the stakes were higher. The state was auctioning off its own assets to the highest bidder.
The tycoons go on wild borrowing sprees, taking billions of dollars from gullible western lenders. Meanwhile, Russia is building up a debt bomb. When the ruble finally collapses and Russia defaults, the tycoons try to save themselves by hiding their assets and running for cover. They turn against one another as each one faces a stark choice - annihilate or be annihilated. The story of the old Russia was spies, dissidents, and missiles. This is the new Russia, where civil society and the rule of law have little or no meaning.
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The books tells the detailed story of what exactly happened to Russia's economy and state before and after the end of Soviet era. The book goes from the first realizations the system was failing, the reforms that unleashed a torrent of money-making initiatives, legal or not, and the intricated web of the 90s when state, oligarchs and media were all involved in complex and shady financial schemes while competing for power. It is a very wide and intricate string of events to relate in a single book. Nevertheless, the author manages to treat it with depth and clarity, either in a narration from a 'person' perspective or the explanation of nationwide changes and financial operations. Very interesting read to finally make sense of the history of Russia at that period.
A great narrative ruined by appalling narration