In This Review

The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture After Socialism
The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture After Socialism
By Douglas Rogers
Cornell University Press, 2015, 394 pp

Rogers, an anthropologist, is not as interested as most observers in how money, power, and politics mix in Russia and echo in its foreign policy. Rather, he focuses on how things work within oil corporations: how the new oil giants evolved out of Soviet carcasses; how they operate in symbiosis with the state; and, in particular, how they directly shape social and cultural institutions. He zeroes in on a single region, Perm, which drove the Soviet Union’s first oil boom, from 1929 until the 1970s; a single company, Lukoil, which inherited parts of the Soviet conglomerates, including a vast refining operation; and one key sphere of the subsidiary Lukoil-Perm’s social activity, the promotion of local cultural traditions. The intersection of oil, money, and power might be a sexier topic. But the ways in which politicians and corporate bosses redefine and blend roles on the ground—indeed, to the point that Lukoil-Perm assumed the lead in a grand campaign to make the city of Perm a “capital of culture,” competing with St. Petersburg—provide more insight into the real texture of everyday politics.