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Podcast: Russia's Political Entrepreneurs Hedge Their Bets

Prominent opposition activist and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny speaking to journalists in Moscow on June 11, 2012.
Prominent opposition activist and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny speaking to journalists in Moscow on June 11, 2012.
What do State Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov, anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny, former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, and billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov have in common?

They've all, to varying degrees, recently had their feet in both the establishment and the opposition camps.

Until recently, Gudkov, a KGB veteran, was a Kremlin-loyal Duma deputy. He's now one of the regime's most outspoken critics.

Navalny is known for his fiery speeches at opposition rallies and his exposes of official corruption. But this week, he accepted a seat on the board of directors of the state-controlled airline Aeroflot.

Kudrin, a personal friend of Vladimir Putin, long served as finance minister. But since resigning last autumn, he's been scathing in his assessment of Kremlin policy.

And Prokhorov, who made and kept his billions by being loyal to Putin's Kremlin, is now flirting with the opposition and has formed his own political party.

When Russia enters times of political change, and its future direction is in doubt, much of the elite, and even some of the opposition, is forced to become political entrepreneurs -- hedging their bets in an effort to stay ahead of the curve of whatever new order eventually emerges.

But being a political entrepreneur also carries risks and costs.

In this week's edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discussed the implications of this "politcal entrepreneurship" with special guest host Mark Galeotti, a longtime Russia-watcher and professor of global affairs at New York University.

Also on the podcast, Mark and I discussed the state of the "reset" between Moscow and Washington amid rising Russian-American tensions.

Power Vertical Podcast: Russia's Entrepreneurs Hedge Their Bets
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About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on 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


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