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This is by far the best book on this period of Russian history that I have encountered.
The author struggling to present a complex economic/social history to the general reader faces two potential pitfalls. One is to simplify everything to the point of being patronizing. The other is to air on the side of the more technical information that will be alienating to non-academic readers and take away from the human narrative.
This book avoids both of these risks and strikes a perfect balance between stories of men who advanced in this tumultuous period and the systematic/structural shifts that allowed for their rise.
We all know that command economy has failed in the Soviet Union but this book explains why it did without becoming technical or dull. We all know that oligarchs rose from the ashes of the empire, this book explains how they did. We are all familiar with the pervasive corruption in Russia, this book shows how corruption was used to wield power by the mayor of Moscow and the Kremlin itself.
The old historical debate pits those who believe that men make history versus the scholars who emphasize structural forces that toss around the lives of people who are not important in on of themselves. The truth most intelligent people grasp instinctively is that history is made in a messy struggle, the Yin and Yang, between the fates of individuals and larger historical forces. Each trying to define the other.
You want find a better story of this struggle than David Hoffman's book.
~Ivan's Shady Existence Blog
A word about the narrator. As a native Russian speaker hearing him pronounce Russian names and words is like hearing someone scratch the chalk board. Obviously the pronunciation of Russian words in an American book will not be precise. I wouldn't be asking for that. But the emphasis is sometimes shifted so much that the original Russian name or word becomes unrecognizable.
Imagine listening to a Russian book where the name George Bush would be pronounced as "Dzorge Push"
When it comes to the flow of the book the narration is perfect but its a shame that no one familiar with the Russian language was consulted on the narration to make it a little better.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
The story of what went on in Russia at the end of the 1980's and early 1990's is fascinating. Nature abhor's a vacuum to be sure. Exactly how assets were transferred is mind boggling.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Oligarchs to be better than the print version?
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
The author offers a comprehensive story of an amazing period of Russian history.
Unfortunately the whole thing is ruined by the narrator's total lack of ability to pronounce the names of people and places correctly, or even consistently.
I winced my way through 22 hours of what was otherwise an epic narrative.
Shocking, truly shocking.