In This Review

Putin and the Oligarchs: The Khodorkovsky-Yukos Affair
Putin and the Oligarchs: The Khodorkovsky-Yukos Affair
By Richard Sakwa
I. B. Tauris, 2014, 288 pp

Among living Russians, perhaps only Vladimir Putin has been written about more than Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the banking and oil oligarch who challenged Putin, lost, and spent the next ten years of his life in Russian prisons. Khodorkovsky’s story -- his corrupt path to wealth, which surpassed that of all other Russians; his 2003 arrest; the rigged trials that brought him down; his imprisonment; and his release last year -- has been examined many times from many angles. Sakwa, however, draws all the tale’s strands together in unmatched detail. He also explores Khodorkovsky’s philosophical development during the time he spent in prison, where the former tycoon reflected on and wrote about the concept of freedom and the relationship between state power and social justice; a full third of the book examines Khodorkovsky as a social critic and political theorist. Sakwa also uses the story of Khodorkovsky’s spectacular rise and fall as a lever, helping him pry open the inner workings of the Russian political system.