Hiatus aftershock, otherwise known as the August 2018 booklist

3 August 2018

Rich Russians: From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie by Elisabeth Schimpfossl

At long last, a book that avoids reducing all wealthy Russians to mafiosi, Kremlin cronies, or loosely-defined (but always sinister) oligarchs. But are the Russian elite really seeking acceptance by the West as this synopsis declares?

The lives of wealthy people have long held an allure to many, but the lives of wealthy Russians pose a particular fascination. Having achieved their riches over the course of a single generation, the top 0.1 percent of Russian society have become known for ostentatious lifestyles and tastes. Nevertheless, as Elisabeth Schimpfössl shows in this book, their stories reveal a bourgeois existence that is distinct in its circumstances and self-definition, and far more complex than the caricatures suggest.

Rich Russians takes a deep and unprecedented look at this group: their personal stories, trajectories, ideas about life and how they see their role and position both on top of Russian society as well as globally. These people grew up and lived through a historically unique period of economic turmoil and social change following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But when taken in a wider historical context, their lives follow a familiar path, from new money to respectable money; parvenus becoming part of Society. Based on interviews with millionaires, billionaires, their spouses and children, Rich Russians concludes that, as a class, they have acquired all sorts of cultural and social resources which help consolidate their personal power. They have developed distinguished and refined tastes, rediscovered their family history, and begun actively engaging in philanthropy. Most importantly, they have worked out a narrative to justify why they deserve their elitist position in society – because of who they are and their superior qualities – and why they should be treated as equals by the West. This is a group whose social, cultural and political influence is likely to outlast any regime change. As the first book to examine the transformation of Russia’s former “robber barons” into a new social class, Rich Russians provides insight into how this nation’s newly wealthy tick.

Notes: At long last, a book that avoids reducing all wealthy Russians to mafiosi, Kremlin cronies, or loosely-defined (but always sinister) oligarchs. But are the Russian elite really seeking acceptance by the West as this synopsis declares?

Hiatus aftershock, otherwise known as the August 2018 booklist

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Elisabeth Schimpfössl

About Elisabeth Schimpfössl

My research focuses on elites, philanthropy and social inequality as well as questions around post-Socialist media and self-censorship. I did my PhD at the University of Manchester and taught at Liverpool University, Brunel and UCL before taking up my current post as Lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. I live in London.