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Wild West conditions in 90's Russia

Citizen K
Regissør: Alex Gibney
(USA, Storbritannia)

OLIGARKEN: Is former Yukos chief and one of Russia's powerful oligarchs, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a villain or a dissident?

Russia's sudden transition from communism to free market capitalism was brutal, and Russia in the 90s is called "The Wild West": Without legal legislation or other mechanisms in place that could keep up with development, a handful of smart entrepreneurs managed to dig astronomical money and wealth. The majority of the citizens, on the other hand, who were accustomed to the state arranging everything, struggled to adapt to the new age. Russia's experimental attempt at democracy soon began to crack.

Controlled the nation's economy

Alex Gibney's documentary Citizen K takes the time after the fall of the Soviet Union, seen through history to Mikhail Khodorkovsky (b. 1963) – the man in control of a number of oil fields in Sibir, one of the seven oligarchs that controlled half the nation's economy and became Russia's richest man.

A decisive factor for Khodorkovsky's progress was not only plenty of money and a ruthless entrepreneurial vision, but something his competitors did not have: political ambitions.

The new, private wealth became an interesting target for the mafia, something it had never seen in communism

He was increasingly perceived as a threat by the Kremlin, and was imprisoned for fraud and tax evasion in one of the country's most remote penal colonies. The documentary shows not only how the 90s created men like Khodorkovsky, but also Vladimir Putin's progress and the power struggle between the two – which illuminates much of the autocratic political landscape in today's Russia.

gangster Capitalism

Whether Khodorkovsky was guilty or not is a difficult question, something the film tries to explain the reason for. Under "gangster capitalism", the laws were so fluid that they gave rise to a popular saying: "The strict laws are offset by the inability to follow them."

The oligarchs secured the state's former assets in a way that can best be described as "creative bookkeeping". . .

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