Film Review: Traitors (Предатели)

Where did it all go wrong in Russia? This is the question that Maria Pevchikh (Chairwoman of the late Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation) asks in her magisterial three part series about the “reformers” and oligarchs who created the foundations of the modern Russian state, appointed Putin to guarantee themselves immunity, and who have since leveraged their ill-gotten gains into offshore lives of luxury while hiring expensive PR firms to whitewash their biographies and reframe them as paragons of democratic accountability.

Paraphrasing, here is how Pevchikh characterizes these “traitors”:

They present themselves as democrats, patriots, saviors, etc… but are actually the authors of a historical crime. They devalued democracy and betrayed the people. They had a chance to make Russia into a rich, normal, European country, but betrayed it for private profit, and ceded power to a random crook in return for guarantees of personal immunity. They are the people who laid the foundations of Putin’s bandit-Chekist regime, and Putin is their creation and of the chaos they plunged Russia into in the 1990s.

Few of the details in this film would be new for “Russia watchers”. (At any rate, there was little here that was cardinally new or surprising to me, at least beyond concrete evidence of Yeltsin’s early corruption and the post-1990s life trajectories of Yeltsin’s Family). Contemporary pro-Yeltsin stenography aside, the sordid details of what went down in the 1990s were sufficiently well covered in the Western press at the time, and the late Karen Dawisha’s Putin’s Kleptocracy remains the go to compendium on their malfeasances. However, most people do not read history/political science or remember much beyond political sound bites, making this topic an epistemic wasteland. Leftists and populists just dislike privatization and capitalism in general, and are therefore not much interested in chronicling concrete instances of financial crime and abuse of office. Hardcore Putinists, vatniks, and “multipolarists” don’t want to hear about why precisely their great based leader was anointed as Yeltsin’s successor in the first place. Rabidly pro-Western/anti-Communist ideologues screech that this is all “libel”, that you don’t understand what pressure those poor heroic souls were laboring under to reform Russia, or rationalize that averting Communist revanche was the overriding moral imperative, minor blemishes regardless (“every factory sold contributes to the defeat of Communism” as per Chubais, and otherwise, what’s a few billions in “lost” state property between friends?). Meanwhile, even beyond ideological brain worms, knowledge of these events is hazy amongst Russian millennials, and might as well be ancient history to Russian zoomers who spent their entire lives under Putin’s rule.

Pevchikh and the film’s credits state that the “idea” for it came from Navalny. Part of it was based on her conversations with Navalny before his death. But that they incontrovertibly were his own ideas is evidenced by one of his last blog posts in November 2023. In that post titled My Fear and Hatred, he expressed his hatred for Yeltsin, Chubais, and that “venal Family” which sold out Russia’s “historical chance” and put Putin in power in the 1990s to legalize their crimes. And his fear that these events would be forgotten and whitewashed, opening the way for a repeat of this scenario, because to overthrow Putin and give power back to the people who created him would be no victory but just a return to square one.

Consequently, this documentary is both an important educational project, and a courageous moral service on Pevchikh’s part. It is one thing to have in one’s mind an unorganized collection of half-remembered scandals, kompromat, and ideological tropes from the 1990s. It is quite another for some of the most important and representative material to be meticulously documented, sourced, and causally interlinked as is traditional for FBK reports, and then set against a melancholic soundtrack and Pevchikh’s sardonic commentary as this rogue’s gallery of scammers with their shyster faces humblebrag about their scams in their own words for three hours straight. This is political art.

Putinists genuinely hate the FBK and everyone associated with it; many could not maintain their glee at Navalny’s murder. Western opinion on Navalny is far from unambiguous as well, from NAFO’s open hatred to leftist hand-wringing over decades old spicy takes which they profusely quote to “prove” Navalny was a rabid nationalist or Neo-Nazi in 2024. Consequently, one would think seeking out new enemies by exposing crooks ostensibly on “their” side against Putin wouldn’t be top of the FBK'[s priorities. That they have done so nonetheless is as much a credit to their integrity and moral consistency as the wave of vitriol and accusations of working for Putin (!) that has been unleashed against them (in at least one case of a viciously misogynist character against Pevchikh personally).

Although I have long come to acknowledge that most of what the Yeltsin era liberal elite wrote about Putin was true, it is also the case that most of what Putin apologists (including myself as an occasional fellow traveler) wrote about them was also true. Pot and kettle kind of thing. Many in both factions deserve a long stint in jail, and certainly almost none deserve to have a future in politics. And Pevchikh can only be applauded for her attempt to tilt the needle of probability in the direction of that outcome.

Here are short summaries of each of the three parts of “Traitors”:

(1) The conspiracy to seize Russia

Returning to the primary question, where did it all begin? With Yeltsin, and from the earliest days. In 1989, he was making his political capital on criticizing Soviet nomenklatura privileges and Gorbachev’s dachas. At the same time, he made a show of living like a simple person in a propaganda reel filmed with Valentin Yumashev (who would co-write a biographical book with Yeltsin in 1989, ghost-write him another book in 1994*, and marry Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana “Tanya” Dyachenko to become Valya).

Yeltsin did not see fit to mention his own residence, a Party-given 165 sqm apartment in the elite central Moscow district of Tverskaya. But that was small peas to what was soon to follow. In 1992, he appropriated himself a luxurious apartment complex in the capital’s outskirts, and I do mean “appropriated”, in the sense that this was not to be an official state residence, as with Gorbachev’s dachas, but was transferred to Yeltsin’s personal ownership. Taking the entire top floor, he gave the rest away to his elder daughter Elena, as well as to his friends and cronies: his bodyguard Korzhakov, liberal reformer Gaidar, FSB head Barsukov, Defense Minister (and drunk butcher who makes Shoigu look adequate by comparison) Grachev, and his personal tennis trainer and comedian Zadornov. Their families still own many of the apartments. Baby steps relative to the looting that was to come, but in my view, what is the cardinal difference between that and its culmination in Putin spending billions on Gelendzhik Palace, whose construction continues unabated during wartime, beyond relative scale?

Some other themes that were evident from the early days. Obviously, the cynical thievery under the cover of democracy and privatization, from the rigged voucher privatization program to the “people’s car” AVVA program, promoted by Berezovsky and Gaidar, which rugged like the pyramid scheme it was. Adding insult to injury, these were not colorful mafiosi, but deeply boorish and uninteresting individuals. Peasants uplifted to boyars. During one party at a meeting of something called the Presidential Club in 1994, Yeltsin and Korzhakov got blind drunk and entertained themselves by cutting their hands with knives and mixing their blood. (!?). But most of the bloodletting was inflicted on others. One example I wasn’t familiar with is the details of how Abramovich acquired Sibneft for kopeks on the ruble. How did he do that? By that time, Berezovsky had ingratiated himself with the Yeltsin clan through Yumashev by making himself useful, such as taking over primary state news channel ORT and making sure it subsequently gave Yeltsin fawning coverage. Abramovich in turn did various favors for Berezovsky, from scheduling his itinerary (!?) to funding ORT with $30M a year. In return, Berezovsky persuaded Yeltsin to give Abramovich his signature, and Sibneft was sold despite local opposition against the deal in Omsk, where most of its assets and management were located. These protests turned out to be well funded as local tax revenue soon dried up. One of the two most prominent local activists against it, head of the Omsk oil refinery Litskevich, died in suspicious circumstances; the Omsk Duma deputy leading the inquiry, Oleg Chertov, was murdered by killers. But the local governor, who supported the deal, did very well for himself; Pevichikh shows footage of him and his family enjoying a Chelsea match in London. Abramovich had bought Chelsea FC on the $13B that he would subsequently get selling Sibneft to Gazprom Neft, effectively returning it to the state at a vast markup. This money would fund Putin’s first yacht.

(2) The loans for shares scam

The second part covers the loans for shares program to re-elect Yeltsin in the 1996 Presidential elections. The story is well-known. Yeltsin was flagging in the polls: economic collapse; vanished savings; failed war in Chechnya. Communists were resurgent and Zyuganov was reassuring investors there would be no expropriations (“Red Star of Davos”). He did threaten a lot of investigations though. And so the liberal reformers and bankers – Potanin, Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (leather jacket and standing on a tiger pelt, an aesthetic far removed from the staid intellectualism he exudes today) – came together in a merry band through the intermediation of Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and her husband Valentin Yumashev (“Valya & Tanya”) in a scheme to give the government “loans” to be used for election fundraising in return for shares at state companies. Pledged as collateral, these shares would be auctioned in the event of non-repayment.

The funniest thing about this is that even in aggregate the loans that the bankers gave to the government was less money than what Putin has spent to date on his Gelendzhik Palace. Nor was not even all their own money, since they were able to access funds on privileged terms from state-owned banks (that is, they were sooner intermediaries for government funds than actual  political donors). But in the $200B GDP Russia of the 1990s, that was big money and sufficient to bury Zyuganov under the onslaught of bought TV coverage and celebrity endorsements, black PR campaigns, and spoiler candidates even though the elections themselves back then were formally free and as yet unmarred by significant levels of fraud. For its part, the government would indeed fail to repay those loans, and the shares were sold at artificially low prices to these bankers in rigged auctions in what was arguably one of the biggest illicit transfers of wealth in world history. Beyond that, it also spawned the class known as the “Russian oligarchs”. They acquired the lion’s share of the Soviet industrial inheritance, enjoyed de facto legal and regulatory impunity, and exercised an inordinate degree of political influence over Yeltsin for the rest of the 1990s as the Semibankirschina (“Rule of the Seven Bankers”).

Pevchikh documents how the people who designed and ran the program, such as Alfred Kohk and Anatoly Chubais, were amply rewarded for their services. Members of the reform team received $90,000 honorariums for contributing articles in an academic anthology praising the privatization (at a time when professors were paid $100 per month, if they were paid). But this was small peas to what was to come. Abramovich paid off Alfred Kokh’s debt of $14M and Berezovsky then facilitated solutions to some other financial problems of his at a meeting in Courchevel. Imagine getting $14M from someone you helped to state property at knock down prices. (Koch now lives in Germany as a respectable oppositionist who criticizes Biden for not giving Ukraine enough aid). Chubais spent the 2010s running state-owned nanotech company Rusnano, which received billions in state financing, into bankruptcy. In 2022, he quietly decamped to Israel, leaving behind an unfinished estate with room for 40 cars on the outskirts of Moscow. He now writes academic articles describing new schemes on how to reform Russia after Putin.

“Loans for shares” birthed the post-Soviet Russian political economy as it exists to this day. In Pevchikh’s assessment, it was the single biggest financial crime of post-Soviet Russia, and as appetite grows with the eating, it ushered in everything else from Putin’s yachts and Igor Shuvalov’s corgis bought on Sibneft money (the latter was a lawyer for Abramovich) to Andrey Klishas‘ villas in Switzerland (involved in Nornickel privatization in 1995 to Potanin).

(3) Why Putin?: The Family’s Caretaker

The last part deals with the question of where Putin came from and why a former Chekist and bureaucratic non-entity rose to supreme power. The story begins with Anatoly Sobchak, the first post-Soviet Mayor of Saint-Petersburg – a politically colorful personality, liberal in rhetoric, but somewhat corrupt and hapless at actually running a metropolis. Many of the prominent personalities of the Putin era, including Miller, Sechin, Medvedev, Kudrin, Gref, Kokh, and Chubais amongst others, started off working for Sobchak. Putin himself controlled access to the Mayor, allegedly writing down the size of the bribe he required in meetings with investors and having Alexey Miller (now Gazprom CEO) sign off on it. He was also implicated in stealing humanitarian food imports (Petr Aven, now a Latvian citizen and resident, helped squash a corruption investigation against Putin over this). But whereas Yeltsin won his re-election bid in 1996, Sobchak lost. (The film shows an extract from an interview in which he blames hostile psychics for his debate loss in an amusing presentiment of the post-Soviet boomer brain rot and pseudoscience that has become one of the pillars of High Putinism).

Putin retreated to the Ozero dacha coop to sulk with his cronies, but he didn’t stay jobless for long, getting invited to work as a press officer for the Presidential Administration in Moscow soon afterwards. (His wife complained about having to leave their luxuruous central Saint-Petersburg apartment without having spent almost any time living there. Questions of how a Russian bureaucrat could have afforded it are superfluous). This was on the initiative of a guy working in the Presidential property fund called Pavel Borodin, who explained it as a favor to Putin for helping arrange medical care for his daughter, though evil tongues whisper it had more to do with a drunk driving manslaughter in Saint-Petersburg involving his son-in-law that Putin lobbied Sobchak to hush up. Putin didn’t like the position, and doesn’t seem to have done anything in it (actually there is one thing Putin did at this time, which Pevchikh didn’t mention; he used this time to write his doctoral dissertation, or rather pay someone else to do it – notoriously, it was later found to have been plagiarized). After a year, Valentin Yumashev promoted Putin to deputy head of the Presidential Administration in 1997, and his star began to rise sharply henceforth, becoming head of the FSB in 1998, candidate Prime Minister in 1999, and Yeltsin’s designated successor soon afterwards.

Why? Borodin waxes at length about how Putin was an “exceptional bureaucrat”, “brilliant” at “formulating ideas” and writing “beautiful reports” – a theme developed on in an amusing 2011 blog post by Tatyana Yumasheva (Dyachenk0). However, as Pevchikh points out, there were hundreds of bureaucrats who were more qualified and didn’t have a chequered Chekist past and corruption allegations hanging over them. However, there was a more plausible reason. In 1997, corruption investigations were launched against Sobchak, who as a life-long bureaucrat and politician had somehow acquired a large, luxurious apartment in the prestigious central Moyka district early in the 1990s (there is an amusing video in which Ksenia Sobchak, liberal placeholder in the fake 2018 elections and who considers Russian to be genetic refuse, complains that it was too small). Under the cover of a health crisis, Putin and Sobchak’s wife – there’s a funny interview in which she says she relied on “knowledge from all the detective novels” she had read – arranged his exfiltration on a private medical plane out of Russia that was paid for by Gennady Timchenko (now in Finland). Sobchak later re-appeared in Paris and returned to Russia once Putin was in power, though he died of a heart attack soon afterwards.

Then in 1999, when Yeltsin’s approval ratings were again at lowest-low in the wake of the 1998 default and new scandals, Putin came to the Family’s rescue. Up and coming Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov was curating prosecutions related to money laundering and influence buying against influential chinovniks, including Pavel Borodin and Putin, and was looking to escalate them to President Yeltsin himself (there was international coverage of this Mabetex scandal at the time). Then Putin went on TV and showed the nation a pornographic FSB prostitute sting starring Skuratov, and Yeltsin took that as cause to formally dismiss him, solving that problem for Yeltsin as he once did for Sobchak. The investigation subsequently went nowhere and was closed soon after Putin ascended to the Presidency in 2000.

In an interview with Igor Malashenko, the then head of Gusinsky-owned private news station NTV, he recalled a conversation with Valya & Tanya about Putin’s fitness for the Presidency. In response to his objections that Putin was a Chekist, Tanya & Valye said, “Putin didn’t betray Sobchak, and he won’t betray us.” Impressively direct – you have to give them that. To hash things out, a meeting with them, Malashenko, and Putin was arranged at Petr Aven’s dacha. Putin left a bad impression on Malashenko, talking little and striking him with his lack of charisma. The only time he independently ventured an opinion was when their daughter called them from London, saying that their elite private school hadn’t sent a car to the airport to pick her up as had been arranged. Malenshenko told her to take a black taxicab. Putin interjected that this was a bad idea, since one can’t be sure that it’s an official taxi. Responding to Malashenko’s objection that official London black taxis are safe, Putin insisted that “one can never be sure it’s an official taxi.” The exchange apparently weirded out Malashenko, and NTV would subsequently adopt a very hostile stance to Putin’s campaign. He wouldn’t forget it. Soon after Putin came to power, NTV was raided. Gusinsky was put under arrest, and subsequently forced to sell it to Gazprom Media as a condition of being allowed to go into exile to Israel. Its new director was… Alfred Kokh.

The final segment updates us on the final fate of the Family and their families 25 years hence. The grandson of Boris Yeltsin, Boris Jr., continues holidaying at St. Barts (“Billionaires Island“) to mark every New Year. He is often accompanied there by Valya & Tanya, as well as their daughter Masha Yumasheva (born in 2002) and other friends of the Family. They would party at Abramovich’s villa – they liked it so much they finally bought their own for 14.5M Euros in 2020 – and listen to private concerns Paul McCartney, Prince, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. (Again, what strikes me over and over again is the level of culture of these people. The peasant’s idea of what “making it” in life means. From the cachet of Prestigious London and Courchevel, Italian villas as status symbol for everyone from Medvedev to Soloviev, and Naryshkin’s wife shopping in Paris during wartime all the way through to Putin’s gaudy faux-imperial tastes in interior design and predilection for installing TVs into every nook and cranny).

The Family continue to get their money from the Russian state: They are advisors to Abramovich and Andrey Kostin (head of state owned VTB bank who whined that US sanctions against him were preventing him from enjoying New York and the ski resorts of Colorado, and were unfair in light of its investments into Ukraine), were paid $6M by oligarch Alisher Usmanov for “services”, are placed on various state and private company boards, etc. Despite this largesse, the Yumashevs have all long become Austrian citizens. Curiously, in light of his rhetoric against “traitors [who] earn their money here, but live over there”, they remain in Putin’s good graces; he visits the two lovebirds with flowers on Valya’s birthday, and Valya reportedly remains an unofficial advisor.

Berezovsky as we know insisted on fighting Putin to the end – “I birthed you, and I will destroy you” – and lost everything: Sibneft and ORT to Abramovich, with the latter subsequently going to the Kovalchuks; meanwhile, newspaper Kommersant went to Usmanov. He apparently suicided himself in London, and then his close associate Nikolay Glushkov was definitely murdered in London in 2018. Pevchikh wonders what the Yumashevs make of these deaths, though points out the irony that by some curious coincidence Berezovsky’s son Gleb is now in a long-term relationship with Masha Yumasheva. Both are said to have minimal connections to Russia, and are UK and Austrian citizens, respectively.

The oligarchs who realized the rules of the game had changed early fared much better. Smolensky, the most reclusive of the old Semibankirschina, vanished from the map in Austria; it’s unknown if he’s still even alive. Khodorkovsky is well known – London-based oppositionist, who sees the optimal future of Russian politics as a deal between post-Putin siloviks and enlightened reformers like himself bypassing the immature and reactionary Russian electorate. The FT reported Mikhail Friedman found it impossible to pay for manservants in London after sanctions blocked his accounts, so he returned to Russia. Petr Aven resides in Latvia, and is reportedly regretful about having banked on the West since it didn’t save him from sanctions. Curiously, Israel-based Gusinsky has long made up with Putin, and is now allowed to make money in Russia by selling it TV serials. The two OG oligarchs who remained consistently loyal to Putin – Potanin and Abramovich – were the most amply privileged. Potanin has been allowed to buy up devalued Western assets vacated after the war, as well as Russia’s premier fintech bank Tinkoff, which its exiled anti-war founder was forced to sell at 3% of its fair price. Abramovich has enjoyed a cosmopolitan lifestyle in a career in which he went from doing favors to Berezovsky to buying Putin his first yacht and now subsidizing the construction of Gelendzhik Palace. He transferred most of his assets to his children a few days before the start of the war. I wonder if it was because he was prescient or because Putin saw fit to tell him about the coming war before his own central banker Nabiullina** (just like he did with with Kadyrov).

Judging from reactions, this segment was perhaps the most controversial one. Don’t people have a right to privacy? And what did they children do to have their lives publicized? It is amusing how much this parallels Putinist reactions to the FBK’s exposes on his cronies and henchmen. But the heroes of this documentary don’t exactly tend to display such concerns on their behalf. Why should Putinism’s creators and beneficiaries be any more privileged in this respect than its current enablers?

Final Thoughts

(1) The maladaptiveness of nationalism. The liberal politicians and reformers of the 1990s deserve all the criticism they get, especially in light of their elitist dismissiveness towards democracy even as they actively discredited their own fitness to manage anything more complex than a fast food stall. However, in fairness, it does have to be said they were operating under political constraints in which Communists opposed reform and nationalist sentiments precluded the idea of selling the crown jewels of the Soviet economy to foreigners at prices at least somewhat concordant with fair value. It was long obvious that the latter in particular would have been by far the best outcome, maximizing implementation of international best practices and getting Russians an actual fair deal for what they had spent decades building as opposed to giving it away to insiders who promptly decamped to London and Monaco anyway. (I remember seeing a study from the 2000s which showed that Russian enterprises sold to foreigners performed by far the best, while even enterprises that remained state-owned performed marginally better than those privatized to Russian oligarchs, which is not that surprising in light of what we know about these oligarchs).

The 1990s transition was never going to be easy. In Poland and ECE more broadly, it loaded on a shorter and far less severe history of Communist distortion, access to moneyed and patriotic diasporas, and in the case of the Baltics in particular, a nationalist-loaded imperative to geopolitically distance from Russia ASAP in favor of integration into Western institutions. Surmounting the challenges of transition required far greater statespeople than what Russia could produce, and perhaps it couldn’t have gone any other way in light of the late Soviet electorate’s debilitating combination of cynicism and naivete.

(2) Despite the collapse, 1990s Russia did have some functional institutions. This is obviously not to defend or pedestalize the period, I have never done so, and it would be stupid to do so in light of the disaster that virtually all social and economic indicators became. But it’s not just limited to elections having been genuinely free, if not fair. The series reminds us that there was a genuine civil society and competitive politics that was capable of pushing back on corrupt privatizations and the Yeltsin Family’s excesses, sometimes even successfully. There was a corruption investigation against Sobchak that forced him into temporary exile to France. Then there were the 1999 investigations against the Family, Putin, and Yeltsin themselves, which in some other timeline could have seen them lose in 2000 and get jailed.

In the modern RF, all corruption investigations are weaponized politics against those who challenge or refuse to fit into the power vertical underneath Putin. Confiscated foreign assets casually given away to the Kadyrov clan are so mundane they merit nary a byline. Independent investigative journalism has been relegated to the Internet and abroad; even the patriotic Z Telegram bloggers who think otherwise have been reined in (“jail is programmed” principle). These trends were somewhat obscured in the 2010s when Russia still had the carapace of a “normal” country relative to its “Wild East” bandit realities in the 1990s, but the war has both accelerated institutional degradation and outlined it in stark relief. And this has certainly made me much more alert to not just the moral but the political necessity of upholding rule of law over political compromises rationalized by the need to maintain “stability” or “national prestige.”

(3) There’ll need to be a much wider reckoning with the 1990s. This series is a good start, but it’s just the barebones outlines of a much broader conversation that needs to happen, one that loads on documents and sources, not feelings and populism. There are still many things even within the narrow remit of what this documentary covered that need to be properly assessed. What part did Voloshin play? What role did Shoigu and the Emergencies Ministry play in grounding the regime? What was the real Khodorkovsky/Menatep story? The events of 1993 require a series of the scope of this one just by themselves.

But for the time being it is safe to say that jail remains programmed.

 

* I noticed from the documentary that the English language translation was by Catherine Fitzpatrick. I am slightly familiar with her because she became a Russophobic blogger in the 200s (and fervent pro-copyright activist who equates piracy to Communism). I wonder if she mentioned that it was ghost-written.

** I got the impression that Hutchins and Korobko in their biographical book Putin, although pro-Putin, indirectly made the case that Abramovich is Putin’s most trusted wallet.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.

 

Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.

 

Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.

Comments

  1. Anatoly, please be careful not to become a target of Putin’s regime by writing this article! I personally found it to be excellent, but in present-day Putin’s Russia, you can never be too careful in regards to this.

    Some crucial questions:

    1. Do you think that civil society activists like Pevchikh are actually capable of building a new leadership class for Russia whenever the Putinist regime will lose its grip on power?
    2. Do you think that in general the Soviet legacy corrupted Eastern Slavs to a much greater extent than it did with the other Slavs, who were also under Communism but not directly a part of the Soviet Union? Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Croats are all much less corrupt than the three East Slavic countries, with even the Balkan pseudo-Slavic countries sometimes being an improvement (certainly in comparison to both Russia and Ukraine, albeit possibly not in regards to Belarus).
    3. How much of a factor do you think that Russians’ lack of knowledge about capitalism was in the difficulties of the 1990s transition? It obviously wasn’t the main factor, but was it a factor to any extent? Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, et cetera had longer memories of capitalism since they began Communist rule later, and I wonder if this made it easier for them to transition back to capitalism.
    4. I’m surprised that the fact that 6 out of the 7 Semibankirschina members were Jewish did not massively increase anti-Semitism in Russia. Was this because the Russian government aggressively cracked down on anti-Semitism? Or was there another reason for this?

    As a side note, this is off-topic, but I found it interesting that the position of Russians and Serbs in the 1990s (post-Communism and Soviet/Yugoslav collapses) was similar to the position of Germans and Magyars in the 1920s (post-WWI and German Empire/Austria-Hungary collapses). As in, with millions of co-ethnics being left out of their respective nation-states after their country suffered a huge and humiliating geopolitical defeat, whether military (as in the German and Magyar WWI cases) or political (as in the Russian and Serb cases). And in all of these cases, there was subsequently attempts by the relevant nation-states to regather their lost co-ethnic kinsmen, or at least as many of them as reasonably possible. The Russo-Ukrainian War is, of course, what the Yugoslav Wars were for Serbia back in the 1990s and what WWII was for the Germans and Magyars 80+ years ago, but on a less brutal scale.

    I guess that the crucial question is also how and when the Putin regime will fall. One possibility is that it could survive much longer than expected and, if AI doesn’t kill us all beforehand, once artificial womb technology will be developed and commercialized on a mass scale, Russia could try doing what Ceaucescu’s Romania previously did, but on a much more high-tech scale (artificial wombs + IVF + IVG + embryo selection for super-babies), but still with an extraordinarily massive number of these resulting children being raised in state-run orphanages because there won’t be anywhere near enough adoptive parents for all of them. AI would make population irrelevant for national power purposes, but a surviving (post-Putin) Putinist regime in Russia could still value huge population growth in Russia for sentimental reasons (and you should as well, in order to create more world-class Moscow equivalents in Russia!), to overcome the extreme demographic devastation that Russia endured during the 20th century. (I’m unsure that the rise in breeder genes will be enough to offset any continuous future increases in anti-natalist sentiment. Anti-natalists are often EHC and thus are capable of converting more and more people to their cause with each and every generation, after all. Similar to how conservative genes become more and more widespread but the population nevertheless becomes more and more liberal through active continuous conversion efforts by liberal EHC.) In such a scenario, all of these orphanage-raised children–and there could be extraordinarily massive numbers of them–could eventually get fed up with Russia’s Putinist regime (say, a century from now or whatever) and overthrow it, which would truly secure Russia its destiny, both politically and population-wise.

  2. BTW, do you think that Philippe Lemoine’s argument that the West should have given much more macroeconomic aid to Russia back in 1992, while Yegor Gaider was still in charge of Russia’s economic policy, is valid? He argues that unlike with later Western aid to Russia that was stolen by others, Gaidar and his team would not have stolen this specific macroeconomic aid.

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