The Rise and Fall of Privatization in the Russian Oil Industry

In This Review

The Rise and Fall of Privatization in the Russian Oil Industry
By Li-Chen Sim
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
288 pp. $80.00
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There cannot be a better measure of the lavish and murky wheeling and dealing that characterized Russia's coarse path from public to private property than what happened in the oil sector. Anyone who thinks that 74 years of communism stifled the Russian capacity for ingenious, predatory, and unscrupulous capitalist scheming will be summarily corrected by this book. Sim sets out to explain why Russia's massive oil industry was broken up and privatized when the public gas, coal, and electric conglomerates were not -- and then why more recently the process was reversed. Because so much is obscure, explanations abound, and Sim weighs each with care. In general, however, she sees the original outcome as the sum of three groups' aims (the "young reformers," the Soviet-era oil-industry managers, and the politicos around President Boris Yeltsin), not simply the conniving of oligarchs on the make. She then traces the story in detail by probing three revealing cases studies: Yukos, Slavneft, and Rosneft.