Owning Russia: The Struggle over Factories, Farms and Power

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During and after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, a wide range of competitors fought to build new political and economic empires by wresting control over resources from the state and from each other. In the only book to examine the evolution of Russian property ownership in both industry and agriculture, Andrew Barnes uses interviews, archival research, and firsthand observation to document how a new generation of capitalists gained control over key pieces of the Russian economy by acquiring debt-ridden factories and farms once owned by the state. He argues that although the Russian government made policies that affected how actors battled one another, it could never rein in the most destructive aspects of the struggle for property. Barnes shows that dividing the spoils of the Soviet economy involved far more than the experiment with voucher privatization or the scandalous behavior of a few Moscow-based "oligarchs." In Russia, the control of property yielded benefits beyond mere profits, and these high stakes fueled an intense, enduring, and profound conflict over real assets. This fierce competition empowered the Russian executive branch at the expense of the legislature, dramatically strengthened managers in relation to workers, created a broad array of business conglomerates, and fundamentally shaped regional politics, not only blurring the line between government and business but often erasing it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A very welcome addition to the literature on the political economy of Russia. . . . The wider point that Barnes makes about looking to interpret processes of change rather than prematurely classifying the nature of Russia's political economy should be taken to heart by anyone interested in Russian political or economic development."—Neil Robinson, Russian Review, April 2007

"Owning Russia is one of the best books I have read on the political economy of the former Soviet Union. In it, Andrew Barnes analyzes the collapse of the USSR and its chaotic aftermath in Russia not as a case of failed transition to democracy and markets, nor as a battle pitting noble, Westernizing 'reformers' against recalcitrant 'conservatives,' but, above all, as a prolonged ongoing high-stakes' struggle to control valuable assets. Spanning the period from Gorbachev through Putin, and encompassing both the industrial and agricultural sectors, Owning Russia is vital reading for everyone interested in understanding the ongoing Russian transformation."—Stephen E. Hanson, University of Washington

"Andrew Barnes's book is a research achievement of the highest order. It offers the first comprehensive analysis of Russia's massive transfer of state-owned property into private hands and the striking conflicts over assets that ensued. Barnes provides a major corrective to received views. Owning Russia is also the first work to bring together developments in the agricultural and industrial sectors, documenting parallel yet distinct processes of privatization and business concentration in both. Written in a clear and lively style, the book will become an essential reference not only for students of postsocialist political economy but also for anyone who needs to understand the contours of Russia's emerging corporate giants."—David Woodruff, Harvard University, author of Money Unmade: Barter and the Fate of Russian Capitalism

"In Owning Russia Andrew Barnes breaks with and challenges the tendency to use prior expectations as a basis for assessments of the Russian economic tradition. This superbly written and authoritative book attends to the struggle over land, a topic that is usually addressed tangentially at best in most studies of privatization and economic reform."—Rudra Sil, University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801444340
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Note on Transliteration xvii
1 Comprehending Turmoil: Post-Soviet Russia as a Struggle for Property 1
2 The Tangled Web They Wove: Property in the USSR before 1985 20
3 Let the Games Begin, 1985-91 43
4 The Next Big Thing: Property in the Era of Mass Privatization and Land Reform, 1992-94 68
5 Many Currents, One Tumultuous River: Redistribution after Privatization, 1994-97 106
6 The Earth Moves: Finance, Politics, and a New Era of Redistribution, 1997-2002 164
7 A New World, but How New? The Yukos Affair and Beyond 2002-2005 209
8 Face Forward: Lessons for Understanding Change 227
References 233
Index 263
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