Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism's Wildest Frontier

Were Calvin Trillin or Philip Roth to take on the gaudy, seamy, bumptious, and often violent side of Russia's awkward tryst with capitalism, the result could not be funnier or the writing more skilled. Brzezinski, the nephew of former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a young journalist reporting from Moscow for The Wall Street Journal in 1997-98. With the insouciance of a self-admitted na•f, he wandered down alleys, into offices, backrooms, and parties where excesses were on extreme display. The book is a camera, not a treatise. It records the attitudes and deeds of a motley cast: 29-year-old bankers; the wealthy future deputy prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Timoshenko; men in black leather and gold chains; the gray-suited erstwhile Soviet managers cum successful looters. It does not try to explain where they came from or how they figured in the broader process of change. It is a shake-your-head, laugh-out-loud book, but one with a good deal to say.

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