"Everything Marx told us about communism was false. But it turns out that everything he told us about capitalism was true". So says one Russian friend of Chrystia Freeland, author of the remarkable Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution
, which tells the story of "Russia's flawed capitalist revolution" from Boris Yeltsin's election as president of Russia in 1991 to his resignation on the last day of 1999.
Freeland spent three years as the Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times between 1995 and 1998, leaving her uniquely placed to write one of the first accounts of Russia's exhilarating, but also painful and desperate transition from communism to capitalism in the final years of the 20th century. She charts the initial hope inspired by the young reformers led by Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, who introduced the free market "shock therapy" in 1992 which kick-started the Russian capitalist economy, to the corruption and cynicism of the oligarchs like Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky, who got rich quick by seizing the valuable remnants of the old Soviet economy and (in some cases literally) making a killing. Freeland tells a fascinating story as she travels the country from the Siberian gas fields to the inner sanctums of the Moscow oligarchs. In the process she comes to realise that "Russia had freed itself from communism but not from the communist legacy; it had constructed its own capitalist system, only to discover it had built the wrong kind." This is an absorbing and highly readable book detailing history in the making, as one the world's most powerful nations teeters on the brink of renewal or disaster; if Marx could read Sale of the Century, he would undoubtedly applaud. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
We now have a superb piece of reportage on the central years of the oligarchic era - which may prove, at least in its pure form, to be coterminous with the Yeltsin period ... This book ... is a tremendous illumination of early Russian business methods... Freeland's account of the central deal of the era... reads, at times, like Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full (John Lloyd, NEW STATESMAN
If Marx could read SALE OF THE CENTURY, he would undoubtedly applaud. (Professor Jerry Brotton
This could so easily have been a deeply inpenetrable book. The shenanigans involving the assorted sell-offs, buy-outs and changing alliances in Russia in the past ten years have been so complex as to leave even dedicated readers feeling confused. Chrystia Freeland's achievement in SALE OF THE CENTURY is thus all the more remarkable in weaving a gripping narrative out of all the anarchy and chaos. (INDEPENDENT