sources of the financial elite’s wealth in all states of the former
Soviet Union can be found in the same period: the final phase of perestroika
and the 1990s. Today’s “magnates’ estates” were founded on huge
transfers of various kinds of goods. State property went into private
pockets. People well placed within the communist system had privileged
access to these opportunities. However, connections with the regime were
not sufficient. To establish a fortune you also needed ruthlessness,
propensity for risk-taking and, as always, talent. It helped even more
if you could, for example speak multiple languages and move freely on
the international scene. Children of the communist elites and Komsomol
members were usually the winners. Many oligarchs and rich politicians
were previously active in the Soviet Union’s communist youth
organisation, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Yulia Tymoshenko.
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