Yakunin is one of Russia’s wealthiest people. A former KGB officer, entrepreneur, government official, head of Russian Railways, and, at times, member of President Vladimir Putin’s circle, he is now on the U.S. government’s sanctions list. Yet readers expecting a self-justifying screed will be surprised. Yakunin comes across as flinty, intelligent, self-critical, and rather idealistic as he describes the time he spent in New York as an intelligence agent in the 1980s, the start of his business career, his first meeting with Putin, and the challenges he faced in completing massive port projects in Russia during President Boris Yeltsin’s administration. His account of the turbulent times after the collapse of the Soviet Union illuminates the profound complexity of managing new state-controlled firms such as Russian Railways, which has a million employees and 150 “daughter companies.” Yakunin has produced a multidimensional memoir and a portrait of contemporary Russia that features many more shades of gray than the simplistic versions common in Western media.
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