Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Khodorkovsky At 50 -- Man, Myth, Symbol

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's fate has long been a bellwether for Russia's direction.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky's fate has long been a bellwether for Russia's direction.
He spent his 30s flying high as an oil executive and one of the magnificent seven, the group of Kremlin-connected oligarchs who controlled the commanding heights of Russia's economy during Boris Yeltsin's rule in the 1990s.

He spent his 40s in a prison colony, a convenient fall guy as President Vladimir Putin's entourage took control of Russia's energy sector.

But even as he was derided by the Kremlin-controlled media as an example of the crony capitalism that marked the decade following the Soviet collapse, Mikhail Khodorkovsky also became a liberal martyr -- a defiant and dignified symbol of the vindictive selective justice and legal double standards that mark Putin's Russia.

Khodorkovsky turned 50 this week and thousands of well wishers from Russia and around the world sent him letters of support.

But even as marked that milestone, there were indications that the authorities are preparing a fresh set of charges that would keep him incarcerated indefinitely.

For many, Khodorkovsky's October 2003 arrest was the point when it became crystal-clear where Putin's Russia was headed -- and his fate has since been seen as a bellwether.

In many ways, Khodorkovsky's story is Russia's story. So what is his story telling us now?

On the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," I discuss the Khodorkovsky phenomenon and its larger meaning with co-hosts New York University's Mark Galeotti, author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows," and Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service, a contributor to the online magazine


Podcast: Khodorkovsky At 50 -- Man, Myth, Symbol
Podcast: Khodorkovsky At 50 -- Man, Myth, Symboli
|| 0:00:00

Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 28, 2013 18:14
May I use this widely respected forum for sending my greetings to Mr. Khodorkovsky on the occasion of him turning 50 year old! How many of these 50 years did he spend in a labour camp? I think it was something like 10. So, dear Mr. Khodorkovsky, I wish you to spend some 20 years more in this camp - to learn the real meaning of the term "labour" :-)).
As a matter of fact, one of the founders of the Marxist theory Friedrich Engels claimed that "labout trasformed a monkey into a human being". Well, I would say that the example of Mr. Khodorkovsky demostrates clearly that Engels was kind of wrong on this one :-)))))))).
Happy birthday, Michail :-)))!!!

by: La Russophobe from: USA
June 30, 2013 14:06
The comments of Serge and Eugenio accurately reflect Russia. Most Russians either don't know who Khodorkovsky is or don't care that he's the victim of injustice or are glad he's suffering, maybe on racist grounds like Serge. They don't care that Khodorkovsky's treatment evinces a Russia in regression, headed backwards into the failed Soviet past. The same is true of Navalny. We heard not long ago that Russia was headed in another direction, had a fresh new liberal leader who would pardon Khodorkovsky. All that was just nonsense and lies, propaganda churned out by Putin to get us to drop our guard, which many fell for.

The Power Vertical Feed

LIVE Russia in real time. More

And just when you though it couldn't get any weirder, Valery Zorkin destroys your illusions.

That's Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court. Zorkin penned an article last week in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" (that's the official Russian government newspaper, by the way), calling for -- wait for it -- a return to serfdom. A big h/t to Elena Holodny at Business Insider for flagging this.

Here's the money quote:

"Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: 'We were yours, and you — ours.'"

Zorkin also took a shot at Pyotr Stolypin, the 19th century reformist prime minister (and a hero of Vladimir Putin's), and his judicial reforms.

"Stolypin's reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival."

I wonder what that portends. Zorking also compared the abolotion of serfdom to the post-Soviet reforms of the 1990s.


Meanwhile, oil prices are dropping fast, according to Business Insider:


Oil just totally crashed. One possible culprit is this Reuters story, showing that OPEC production is surging.

There are a host of other factors that might be driving down oil as well.

What are they? Read the whole piece here.

The Russian media is making a lot of hay about the alleged discovery of "mass graves" in Donetsk. 

But Tom Parfitt of "The Daily Telegraph" is checking out the details and raising some doubts:

As Russia switches to a war economy, social programs continue to take a hit.

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or