The arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the head of the Yukos oil company, on 25 October 2003, was a key turning point in modern Russian history. At that time Khodorkovsky was one of the world's richest and most powerful men, while Yukos had been transformed into a vast and lucrative oil company that was set to go global. On all counts, this looked like a success story, but it was precisely at this moment that the Russian authorities struck. After two controversial trials, attracting widespread international condemnation, Khodorkovsky was sentenced to fourteen years in jail. In this book, Richard Sakwa examines the rise and fall of Yukos, and the development of the Russian oil industry more generally. Sakwa analyses Russia's emergence as an energy superpower, and considers the question of the 'natural resource curse' and the use of energy rents to bolster Russia as a great power and to maintain the autonomy of the regime. Crucially this book also examines the relationship between Putin's state and big business during Russia's traumatic shift from the Soviet planned economy to the market system.It is a detailed analysis of one of the most dramatic confrontations between economic and political power in our era, full of human drama and moral dilemmas.
It is also a study of political economy, with the market and state coming into confrontation. Above all, the 'Yukos affair' continues to shape contemporary Russian politics, with a weakened judiciary and insecure property rights. It traces the struggles of the Putin era as two visions of society came into conflict. The attack on Khodorkovsky had - and continues to have - far-reaching political and economic consequences but it also raises fundamental questions about the quality of freedom in Putin's Russia as well as in the world at large.