Foreign Affairs: Capsule Review

Rich Russians: From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie

The term “Russian oligarch” suggests ostentatious wealth and gangster-like behavior. But Schimpfössl argues that is an outdated image, more suited to the 1990s than today. Russia’s current super-rich are less interested in flaunting their wealth than in the quest for social respectability and an image of refinement, even moral probity. Like the very wealthy elsewhere, they see their good fortune as the product of their talents and superior qualities, which they often attribute to their genetic heritage. Their sense of superiority, desire to separate themselves from “the tasteless rich,” and pursuit of legitimacy have led them to give to charity, support the arts, and help foster civil society. Schimpfössl’s book benefits from the long parade of interviews she has conducted with nearly 100 of these millionaires and billionaires, their families, and their associates, which put a human face on her analysis.

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Elisabeth Schimpfoessl

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.