The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia
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The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  25 reviews
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 Sovie...more
Paperback, 575 pages
Published December 23rd 2003 by PublicAffairs (first published 2002)
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Mike
Like Hoffman's book The Dead Hand which concerns the Cold War and the Soviet's efforts at biological and nuclear weapons, The Oligarchs both boasts and suffers from Hoffman's skills and lack thereof in certain areas. There is no question that Hoffman is an astute researcher: in both books, he has dug up information that perhaps no other author writing in English has ever taken into account and there is probably no better, more-detailed, a book on the rise of the core group of oligarchs in Yeltsi...more
Matt
Hoffman details the rise of six Russian oligarchs from the decline of the Soviet Union until the emergence of Putin. It is truly a shocking and incredible story. Gorbachev began to liberalize the Soviet economy by allowing the formation of cooperatives that could engage in capitalist business enterprises. A few of the successful cooperative managers didn't have any place to put their money and started banks. The banks benefitted from easy money policies and found ways to exploit the Soviet comma...more
Sandy
Absolutely scintillating look at the state of Russia in the 1990s as it emerged from 70 years of central planning and totalitarianism and tried to grope its way to the establishment of a truly free market and thriving democracy. Hoffman profiles some of the major figures who shaped this tumultuous, but exciting era in Russian history, and the ways in which they made (or stole) their fortunes to become some of the biggest players in Russian business and politics. I like that Hoffman devotes an en...more
Shawn
To understand the Putin machine is to understand how Russia went from the Soviet collapse to the present. This very well researched and lively account of the Yeltsin years shows how ambitious upstarts made their way to the top and how Moscow's influence was bought and traded. No reformer, entrepreneur and idealist made it out with their soul intact. My questions: Why did Goldman, Merril and Morgan continue to pump billions into Russia after the 1998 ruble/GKO devaluation? Were they that desperat...more
Bradplumer
In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, a band of Russian officials were debating how best to privatize all the industries that had been state-owned for 70 years. Economists said “Auction them off!" But who would buy the factories? Who even had the cash? Others suggested bequeathing the companies to their managers and workers. But the man in charge of privatization, Anatoly Chubais, worried that would just perpetuate the old Soviet system. And he needed to smash that system, quickly and perma...more
Joe
This is a fascinating book, but a chore to read. Hoffman packs it with details about the oligarchs, but the narrative is hard to follow, because it is bogged down with so many facts. The first few chapters are the best, as they tell the initial rags to riches stories of the various men. The rest of it is like a laundry list of transactions, one after another, with mind-boggling amounts of money changing hands in bewildering ways. OK. OK. I get it: so this super rich guy one-upped his super rich...more
Eric Logan
Should be required reading in every economics class in America. Fascinating account of the breakup of the soviet socialist system and the intelligentsia who engineered and managed both the collapse and subsequent capitalist reforms and rebuilding of the Russian economy. Especially relevant today with some historical perspective of the individual fates from Khodorkovsky's imprisonment to Berezovski's exile in England and the intrigue surrounding his attachment to the Litvinenko case.

America's rec...more
Cruiseportatlas.com JohnMorn
With the fall of Communism, an economic Wild West took hold during the 1990s. This books describes the chaos of that time and the personalities that shaped it. When I read about wealth, I ask myself why did these people rise so high? To me this book shows that luck plays a primary role. The men described are certainly smart, but they can hardly be called geniuses. The one trait they all seem to have is a ruthless and obsessive egotism.
Alasdair
I really enjoyed the style of this book - a mixture of personal stories and harder data brought the story alive. However, it became a bit repetitive and the ending was perhaps somewhat unsatisfying. At least in part this was because the ending had not yet happened at the time of printing. It did give a great insight into the trauma of, and the delicate and fragile state of the Soviet reforms and a pointer towards why Russia is how it is today. A truly fascinating story, well articulated.
Joe Wisniewski
This was a very easy read ... probably needs to be read more than once to get all the players right. I wish authors who do this kind of historical biographies with lots of players would insert a "score card" in order to tell who the players are/were and their roles and/or relationships. Would make it a heck of a lot easier to follow.

The bookd does reflect the massive upheavel going on in the Soviet Union and Russia and the CIS in the early 90s.
Jess
Fascinating and very readable.
John Branney
I thought the author did a great job researching and writing this book. From that perspective, good job, however, I also thought the book was incredibly boring. I was hoping that the book would possess more intrigue, but it did not. By the end of the book, I was so bored and so confused by the numerous Russian names it became drudgery.

Three stars, mostly for the writing skill of the author.
Michelle
Don't know how to make 1/2 stars. This book is great but not quite a four. It's an excellent and interesting account of Russia in the 1990s. Interesting commentary on how so few acquire so much and the consequences of that. A bit repetetive in parts and a bit overly dramatic in others.
Michael
Great book that gives some good insights into the new Russia. Most people think bringing down the Berlin wall was the start of the revolution but it started years before that. Also the cold war did not have as much impact as socialism did on the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Chris
So far, a fascinating portrait of Russian economics, politics, and culture during the transition from the Soviet era that is told in a factually exhaustive and informative manner while being very humanizing of the real characters portrayed therein. Not a light read.
Emma
Extraordinary story of an extraordinary era in an extraordinary country.
Boghall
Well researched journo-history of the huge power grabs in wild west 90s Russia by crude and greedy men, and their subsequent strong-arm sidelining by Putin's equally depressing clique.
Drake
A few years back I decided to toss all my books. This was one of a handful I saved, for good reason, it is great. One of my all time favorite reads. It has everything and its true.
Melissa
Fascinating book. Runs parallels with the Robber Barons of the U.S. And gives an insight to the fall of communism. I highly recommend this book!!
Stephendarori
Good Read. Well researched on 6 Glasnost Billionaires and how they quickly acquired such wealth
Ellroy
Comprehensive and well-written, but sometimes too detailed, and already dated.
Emily
Very, very interesting, though a bit long and slows a bit in the middle.
Kirill
Somewhat glorified description of the rise of the capital in Russia.
lafloor
super important book for anyone interested in contemporary Russia
Chris
Fantastic account of Russia in the 1990s.
Will
Will added it
Sep 11, 2014
Cagney
Cagney marked it as to-read
Sep 07, 2014
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Hoffman was born in Palo Alto, Calif., grew up in Delaware and attended the University of Delaware. He came to Washington in 1977 to work for the Capitol Hill News Service. As a member of the Washington bureau of the San Jose Mercury News, he covered Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. In May 1982, he joined The Post to help cover the Reagan White House. He also covered the first two year...more
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