The Piratization of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry
by Marshall I. Goldman
Release Date: 10 April, 2003
I first became acquainted with this work through an NPR interview. The author, Marshall Goldman, was suddenly asked by the reviewer what he thought about top Mafia thug Mikhail Khodorkovsky giving a million dollars to the Library of Congress (as a means of legitimizing himself). Naturally, as I work at the Library of Congress, I perked up, paid attention, and then bought the book. Wow.
Khodorkovsky (currently in jail) started out as a good little communist, belonging to the Komsomol, and going to college. Johnny on the spot, he parlayed a small bank charter for
Menatep to become Russia's richest man. Unfortunately, Menatep was involved in the Bank of New York money laundering scheme, bilking the US out of billions. In 1994, the Federal Reserve ordered the CIA to investigate Russian banks, a study which concluded most Russian banks are Mafia controlled. Although the study is still classified, Menatep was the only bank publicly noted for being Mafia controlled (page148). Knodorkovsky started Yukos Oil, which was a swindle. Using this money, Khodorkovsky, with Henry Kissinger as a member of his board, gave one million dollars to the Library of Congress to start the Open Russia Foundation (page 149).
Another Library of Congress rent-a-thug was Vladimir Gusinsky. Gusinsky predated Khodorkovsky--probably because he's currently on the lam--and had helped fund the Librarian of Congress' Russia documentary film. Gusinsky had actually attended the University of Virginia to study financial management. He named his business empire MOST (a play on the word bridge)after the sign on ATM machines. Goldman also provides us with the "how" of how these two Mafia "oligarchs" could seem presentable given their backgrounds. Somebody got them the services of APCO, which is an offshoot of Arnold and Porter, a top DC law firm full of congressmen and other movers and shakers (page 129). The rest is history, as they say.
I also just have to mention one of the Russian jokes that Goldman repeats. Due to broad government theft this one circulated: A man parked under Yeltsin's office and walked away. A guard rushed up and said "You can't park under Yeltsin's office." "It's okay, the man replied, "I locked the car."
Goldman gives us the backgrounds and histories of all the top "oligarchs" and an explanation any layman can understand regarding just how Russia became so corrupted. This book, then, is not just for Library of Congress employees looking to see who the latest donors to our institution are.
Our Librarian of Congress, James Billington, is a former Sovietologist and "Russian scholar," so I suppose he knows what he is doing. Here is what Goldman thinks, though, "The more involved Russian businessmen become with the West, the more likely it is that they will come to adopt Western business practices, presumably good ones. But there is no guarantee. Given how deeply ingrained some of the less desirable practices are among Russian administrators (past and present) it is only to be expected that some of the more nefarious behaviour we have encountered inside Russia will also surface outside (page 118)."
I was first drawn to this book after hearing the author interviewed. He was talking about his book when he was interrupted and the interviewer asked Marshall Goldman about Russian Mafia PR campaign on US government officials.(...)In the book there is a brief mention of this fact on page 149, "To show how public-spirited YUKOS [the Mafia-run oil giant] had become, it donated $1 million to the U.S. Library of Congress and set up an Open Russia Foundation with, among others, Henry Kissinger as a member of the board of trustees." It was James Billington, the current Librarian of Congress and former "Sovietologist" professor who brought them all together. Wow.
This book is not just about the Mafia figure, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who ownes YUKOS. What sets Goldman's book apart from others I have read, such as "Comrade Criminal," is the description of what went wrong in Russia when the Soviet Union fell. Dr. Goldman paints a rather bleak picture. Goldman explains the how and why of the vouchers scam and how out of Russia, a certain overnight class of incredibly rich "oligarchs" came on the scene. Goldman shows how these billionaires never developed an economy, at one point contrasting how in Poland the problems that occured in Russia never arose.
If you want to lose sleep you need to read this book as the inroads of Russian Mafia-controlled in America should cause real alarm. As cited on page 118, "The Russian were supposed to adopt out ways, not bring their ways to the United States." Congress is well aware of all this, as on page 128 Goldman relates how the CIA reported that half of Russia's banks were Mafia controlled. The only bank to be so named publicly is MENATEP (page 148). The man the Librarian of Congress brought to the Library of Congress was not just the founder of MENATEP, but also involved in the Bank of New York money laundering.
The two chapters on the oligarchs (pages 98-156)make for heavy reading, especially since two of the oligarchs are (now were) directly involved with the Library of Congress, Vladimir Gussinsky (who fled Russia) and Khodorkovsky (arrested in his jet and currently in jail in Russia). Goldman really gives you the average Russian viewpoint of these oligarchs and the Putin reactions. That the oligarchs are intertwined with the KGB and the fact that the Russian government is predominated by KGB types is described by Goldman. His repeating of jokes really gives the feel, like the one about the subway rider who asks the man standing on his foot if he is from Petersburg (Mafia central) or the KGB. When the man says neither, he is then asked "then why are you standing on my foot?" The other great joke describes the outright theft of the country through the story of the man who parks his car under the window of Yeltsin's office. You can't park under Yeltsin's office the guard says, which the man responds "It's okay, I locked my car."
It is all this together than makes this book a classic.(...)