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The Origins of the Post-Soviet Oligarchs

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Post 18 Oct 2013, 15:36
Sociologically, where did the post-Soviet oligarchs come from? Were they firm managers, powerful party members, or black market capitalists/criminals?

My understanding is that the oligarchs are a mixture of former nomenklatura and black market criminals who made enough money in the black market that they were the only people in the Soviet Union who could afford to purchase state assets when they were privatized. Is this accurate?
Post 18 Oct 2013, 16:15
You hit the nail on the head. The oligarchs are mostly crooks of one sort or another who had the money and connections to buy up state assets when there was no real money in the country. The reason why capitalism in countries like Russia is so crooked is because in the transition to capitalism, there was no middle class of hard working, generally honest people with any significant capital; there were only black market crooks, and corrupted party, state and managerial nomenklatura.

Much has been said in sociological studies on the matter about how many of these crooks were products of the Soviet system, and how this somehow proves that the Soviet system was crooked and corrupted and set for a fall. To this I can only answer that any organization that aims to represent the views and interests of an entire country, in this case the CPSU, is going to have some careerist elements. Furthermore, many of the oligarchs and corrupted bureaucrats of today were in very junior positions within the CPSU and bureaucratic hierarchy, and many others were lifted in rank and stature only during perestroika, when conservatives were being rooted out at every level. My main point here is to defend the Soviet political and managerial element, most of which continued to work as best they could to defend their electors, employees, and co-citizens. I would argue that for every well-known example of a corrupted bureaucrat who sold their soul for 30 pieces of silver, there were ten normal, hardworking people who did as best they could to cope with the willful destruction of everything they had a hand in building.
Post 19 Oct 2013, 16:45
Hello soviet78,

Thanks for the informative reply. How did the black market crooks make their money? I have read that they stole from state-owned enterprises and then sold these goods on the black market. Also, my understanding is that they also took advantage of Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign to make money selling alcohol illegally, rather like Al Capone and other gangsters did during Prohibition in the United States. From what I understand, the money made by the American mafia during Prohibition was what transformed American organized crime from primarily gangs of thieves to a major economic enterprise. I wonder if the same thing happened in the USSR/Russia.
Post 16 Jul 2014, 22:29
Lacking any credible historical source (by historical i mean something out of science of history), i believe the origins of the current Russian elite class lies in an amalgamation between the black market ("Nalevo") and the corrupt bureucratic class.

It must be remembered that all corruption in a full state run economy must have connections to the government. Even if by turning a blind eye, some of the governing body must know.

So basically, theres an intrinsic relationship between the black market and the bureucratic class. If the bureucratic class is corrupt, it must be corrupted by something. If the black market and the bureucracy are not actually the same person (as when the black market is organized by a person that part of the government), then at least they are intermingled, corrupted and corruptor.

The fall of soviet union might be explained by that dynamic.

Under capitalism, the class most sincerely political is the middle class. Teachers, Engenieers, Medics etc., educated people are more easly inflamed by political rethoric.

By that i mean that while the proletariat can surely be convinced by a political program, the middle class is the class that can most readily understand the underlying concepts of a party program.

So, when the Octuber revolution happened in the Soviet Union, the middle class was already swayed (by large part) into the soviet camp.

Being a small class (larger than the elite, but much smaller than the proletariat and the peasant class in numbers), they fought and got killed, by either battle or the consequences of battles.

After the revolution, the most able revolutionary craddles where dead.

Under Stalin, that middle class was slowly replaced by the bureucratic class.

Basically this left the country with the ruling bolchevique group (including Stalin) and a mass of illiterate proletarians and peasants, easily swayed to any side by the new ruling elite.

(thats one reason why the Soviets where downgraded by Lenin).

The initial soviet advances in basic health care, food etc, made that illiterate class even more loyal to the soviet elite. (And you should not discount those gains because they were true and substantial).

But, this situation set a trap.

Even under the most brutal ditactorship, you cannot govern a country alone. Much harder one with the size of Soviet Union.

This enabled the bureucratic class to strive, and prosper ("Patrones").

Stalin set to keep that bureucratic class under check by means of purges, it worked for a time, but did not solve the root problem of the system.

In order to have a true socialist system you need to destroy something called comodity fetichism.

If the proletariat still cannot directly decide (via soviets) what to produce, when, etc, you end up with an hybrid system that we call State Capitalism.

Under Krushev the bureucratic class was set to destroy the socialist system.

If initialy they could not count with the help of the masses (still loyal to the system that gave them everything) they slowly rose the ranks of the party and the state apparatus, replacing old guard soviets.

Under Gorbachov that class grabbed power, started "perestroika" (Something that was needed, but was made the wrong way), and we all know the rest of the history.

Well, that bureucratic class, made up by engenieers, medics etc, who grew without seeing the negative side of capitalism (something their grandfathers and grandmothers saw), allways asked themselves why they could not be rich.

Their salary under socialism was higher than uneducated workers, but by a small margin, when compared to capitalist states.

That class aways dreamt of being engenieers, medics etc, under the capitalist regime, where they can become rich, and where their work is monetarely much more valued.

For this, theres is an obstacle : Even distorted by state capitalism, the soviet system was still true socialist in the sense that private property was prohibited (at least regarding means of production).

For a medic, engenieer, lawyer, to become rich, they must become owners of the means of production.

On the other hand, in order to save the system, you must confront the root problem of the soviet system : The leftover comodity fetichism. You must restart debate, you must allow free-thinking.

For example: Jack Walessa (polish) was allegedly socialist, and wanted to trully reform the system instead of coming back to capitalism.

When the free-speech and debate was allowed in the Soviet Union it was too late. The middle class was already averse to socialism.

Perestroika then become a mean for the bureucratic and middle class to attack the system.


Basically :

Some of the richs in Russia today are those middle class man that prospered in the fall of the system.

Some where "nalevo", black market mafia that had cash to spare and buy state property.

Some where part of the "patrone" class, with connections to know where and when buy.

Another thing that cannot be ignore is the immense stock of weapons and munition that where contrabanded from ex-soviet states.
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