Money vs. Power: Russian Strife

On 5 January 2014, Mikhail Khodorkovsky arrived in Switzerland after he was released from a prison. He was convicted nine years in prison in 2005 for creating “an organized group of individuals with the intention of taking control of the shares in Russian companies during the privatization process through deceit and in the process of committing this crime managed the activities of this company” called Apatit. Vladimir Putin is regarded as one who has to do with this charge because he was enraged with Khodorkovsky’s scheme to treat with foreign companies without asking him. Then and there, the decisive battle was broke out between he who is the wealthiest and he who is the most authoritative in Russia because too much richness led Khodorkovsky to aim for more power.

At first, Putin was favourable toward Khodorkovsky. When Khodorkovsky’s company called Yukos merged with Sibneft in April 2003 since it became the second largest oil company in the world and it would lead Russian economy. “This will allow us to create new potential for Russian business,” Khodorkovsky declared triumphantly. Putin’s government seemed pleased. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov pronounced the new YukosSibneft “a flagship for the Russian economy” (Baker & Glasser, 2007, p. 279). However, Putin’s government was not completely happy about it because both Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky, the owner of Sibneft before Roman Abramovich, had confrontation with Putin. Khodorkovsky urgently criticized Putin for corruption of his government and Putin got irritated very much. Meanwhile, Khodorkovsky himself was a part of corruption in Russia. Large Russian enterprises almost always get around paying their taxes. The government usually overlook the fact that they evade paying taxes because of collective punishment. Collective punishment enables the government to exclude a certain company which is disobedient to it. Khodorkovsky once said that “it is possible to find loopholes in every law, and I will use them without an instant of hesitation” and “if the old Mikhail had met the new one,’ ‘he would have shot him’” (Baker & Glasser, 2007, p. 275). As he gets a large amount of money, the business has become a game.

The gamer showed an interest in politics. Baker and Glasser points out that Khodorkovsky though it was impossible for him to be inaugurated as the president because he was descended from Jewish family in Russia, where the nation is popularly known as anti-Semitic. Although it was definitely difficult for him to become the top of Russia, Khodorkovsky “told political allies that he hoped to score enough influence in the Duma to rewrite the constitution and transform Russia into a parliamentary government run by a newly empowered prime minister, leaving the president a figurehead.” Moreover, Pyotr Aven, a banker looks back upon his recollections that “he was openly going around Moscow saying they would like to buy one-third of the Duma to be able to block an institutional majority” and he adds that was so public that “they behaved as if nothing changed and Yeltsin was still the president” (as cited in Baker & Glasser, 2007, p. 281). This fact is doubtlessly one of the major factors in jailing Khodorkovsky. As a matter of fact, however, it is common for success businesspeople to advance into the political world; for instance, John D. Rockefeller, an American business magnate and philanthropist, heavily got involved in politics in the United States. In addition, many relatives of his had become politicians in the United States since his family has been having a major impact on American society. The similar example is Takahashi Ohtani, the chairman of a gem merchant, in Japan. He had a significant influence upon Japanese Prime Ministers and even yakuza although his original occupation is wholesaling gems. On the other hand, situation of Khodorkovsky was absolutely different from that of these fixers. Rockefeller and Ohtani were friendly with the top of the countries then, but Khodorkovsky was gunning for the president Putin. In short, he just got carried away too much.

Furthermore, most Russian population do not like oligarchs including Khodorkovsky because they symbolise the corruption of Russia. As the Russian government embrace collective punishment, cheating on taxes are often overlooked to some extent as long as he or she obey Putin. Therefore, many oligarchs do foul play under Putin making the nation regard them as the root of evil in Russia. Khodorkovsky tried to oppose Putin, however, by blaming him for its corruption. Nonetheless, most Khodorkovsky’s action would be appeared to Russian people to be strange since he himself was cheating on taxes. Additionally, Russia is famous for its anti-Semitism as mentioned before. Khodorkovsky’s father is a Jewish although it does not mean Khodorkovsky is a Jewish person. However, there are some redneck people in Russia; therefore it was difficult for him to become politician or become friendly popular among Russian nation anyway. These factors also may have discouraged him from surviving in business world and helped Putin to fling him into the prison for nearly ten years.

In conclusion, it was enough reason for Putin to imprison Khodorkovsky that Khodorkovsky committed tax avoidance like other oligarchs but he eventually became the victim of collective punishment because he tried to dominate Duma although he harshly opposed Putin, and the nation did not support him due to his corrupted behaviour and ethnicity. It was too late for Russian people to realize that the real corruption is the Russian government which operates successful businesspeople by making the best use of collective punishment and rules all over Russia in a despotic way.


Baker, P and Glasser S. (2007). Kremlin Rising—Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Nicholson, A. (29 October 2003). Khodorkovsky’s ‘Deceit’ Made Public. The Moscow Times. Retrieved 9 January 2014.

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