For many who arrived in Moscow in recent decades, the city had an almost narcotic effect. In the vacuum created by the Soviet collapse, unabashed opportunism and a limitless sense of the possible became the closest thing the wounded country had to a collective ideology. There were few consequences and everything was pretend—except, of course, for the massive sums of money. And as long as Russia, after Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, kept up its winking nod toward modernization and democracy, it was easy enough to play along without too much of a drag on your conscience.
For Bill Browder, the American-born investor turned human rights campaigner, the high started early. Not long after the end of communism in eastern Europe, he came across his first “ten bagger,” an investment that delivers a ten-times return. “For those who don’t know,” he writes in his memoir Red Notice, a