Russian Oligarchs Part 1: Putin's Endgame Against His Rivals

May 26, 2009 | 12:02 GMT


Editor's Note: Stratfor is re-examining the role of the oligarch class in Russia, which dominated the country's business and politics following the fall of the Soviet Union. The most prominent member of that class was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been in prison for nearly a decade following a standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president announced Dec. 19 that he will soon pardon Khodorkovsky, showing that the oligarch class is no longer a threat to Putin's power. First published in 2009, Part 1 of this series examines the oligarchs' rise to power, Part 2 discusses their confrontation with Putin, and Part 3 looks at Putin's successful efforts to co-opt or defeat the oligarchs.

The fall of the Soviet Union left chaos in its wake, and emerging from the turmoil were three principal factions — the siloviki, "The Family" and the oligarchs — all scrambling for the spoils. When Vladimir Putin became president in 1999, the St. Petersburg native consolidated the siloviki and Family inside the Kremlin and set his sights on the oligarchs, a new elite class of post-Soviet business rulers. Ten years on, in the midst of the global financial crisis, Putin's consolidation of Russian power is almost complete.

The Kremlin's consolidation of power in post-Soviet Russia is entering its final phase, with help from the global financial crisis....

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