Sale of the Century: Russia's Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism
In the 1990s, all eyes turned to the momentous changes in Russia, as the world's largest country was transformed into the world's newest democracy. But the heroic images of Boris Yeltsin atop a tank in front of Moscow's White House soon turned to grim new realities: a currency in freefall and a war in Chechnya; on the street, flashy new money and a vicious Russian mafia contrasted with doctors and teachers not receiving salaries for months at a time. If this was what capitalism brought, many Russians wondered if they weren't better off under the communists.
This new society did not just appear ready-made: it was created by a handful of powerful men who came to be known as the oligarchs and the young reformers. The oligarchs were fast-talking businessmen who laid claim to Russia's vast natural resources. The young reformers were an elite group of egghead economists who got to put their wild theories into action, with results that were sometimes inspiring, sometimes devastating. With unparalleled access and acute insight, Chrystia Freeland takes us behind the scenes and shows us how these two groups misused a historic opportunity to build a new Russia. Their achievements were considerable, but their mistakes will deform Russian society for generations to come.
Along with a gripping account of the incredible events in Russia's corridors of power, Freeland gives us a vivid sense of the buzz and hustle of the new Russia, and inside stories of the businesses that have beaten the odds and become successful and profitable. She also exposes the conflicts and compromises that developed when red directors of old Soviet firms and factories yielded to -- or fought -- the radically new ways of doing business. She delves into the loophole economy, where anyone who knows how to manipulate the new rules can make a fast buck. Sale of the Century is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall economic thriller -- an astonishing and essential account of who really controls Russia's new frontier.
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