When the Russian Forbes first
published its ranking of Russian billionaires, some of them expressed dissatisfaction – back in those days they did not want their wealth to be illuminated. This was understandable: the ranking was released in 2004, and at the top of the list was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who by that time had already been arrested in the Yukos case. Shortly before the raid on Yukos, Putin had announced the “equal distance of the oligarchs from power,” and no one wanted to be as “equally distanced” as the man at the top of the ranking.
Very soon everything changed: realizing that there would be no mass “dekulakization,” the business elites accepted the new rules of the game and began to jealously compete over their place in the ranking. A meme of that time became the expression
of scandalous developer Sergei Polonsky: in March 2008, at a party in Nice, he said, “those who don’t have a billion can go to hell.” Billions of dollars
, of course. Just six months later everything changed – the global financial crisis struck.How the list of Russia’s super-rich has changed
ranking was read with interest – especially with the beginning of the crisis – even by people who were far from big business. For example, one could observe how Mikhail Prokhorov, who had been forced to sell
assets to his former friend and business partner Vladimir Potanin, soared in the 2009 ranking, having found himself “in the money” when the crisis hit. It looked like a well-deserved reward for a deceived partner.
It was interesting to watch how the winners of the loans-for-shares auctions of the 1990s were at first joined and later began to be crowded out by the new rich, including developers and retailers. However, in the late 2010s the ranking stopped changing – it became stable and boring. As journalists joked: “the corpses are fresh, the faces the same.”Forbes
shook things up in 2018 with a new list of influential people in Russia
, which reflected not absolute, official wealth, but rather the degree of influence people wielded. It was then that the list changed significantly: the top of the list became populated by President Putin’s entourage and United Russia party officials.
This analysis was confirmed by a study conducted by
sociologists Svetlana Mareeva and Yekaterina Slobodenyuk of the Higher School of Economics (HSE), “The Super Rich in Russia: Group Composition and Dynamics.” It is based on the Forbes
rankings for 2004-21. “The stability of the group is ensured by
the essentially unchanged characteristics of its members the absence of qualitative changes in its composition and profile in the 2000-2020s, in contrast to the 1990s, when the amount of shake-up within the group was much higher and changes in its profile were noticeable,” Mareeva and Slobodenyuk conclude.From dynamism to ossification
“Most of the large fortunes were made in the 90s, and the leading companies did not change because the structure of the Russian economy has remained constant – it is mainly commodities: energy, metals, etc.,” explains Andrei Nechaev, an economist and former economy minister. However, he notes, in the 2000s relatively new oligarchs appeared – those who were once part of Putin’s St Petersburg entourage, including Gennady Timchenko
, the Rotenberg brothers Arkady and Boris
, and the brothers Mikhail and Yuri Kovalchuk