Boris Berezovskii, Mikhail Khodorkovskii, and other oligarchs might have thought in 1999 that they sat securely atop the Russian economy: surely the little-known Vladimir Putin, hand-picked to be Yeltsin’s heir because he would not rock the boat, would not be so audacious as to challenge the new elite who helped keep Yeltsin in power. Yet by the end of 2004 Putin had beaten the oligarchs. Berezovskii and fellow oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii had fled the country. Mikhail Khodorkovskii was under attack for tax fraud. Through state-owned firms Putin’s Kremlin was recapturing choice sectors of the Russian economy: via Gazprom Putin gained control of NTV and silenced its critical stance, and through Rosneft the Kremlin increased its presence in the oil sector. Putin won a second term as president and his vehicle of parliamentary power, Edinaia Rossiia (United Russia, originally Edinstvo), dominated the Duma. A new ruling elite, leaders of the siloviki—the security apparatus, literally a “power elite”—now ran the country, gathering the Russian lands once again, almost as if by old tradition. After its authority and capacity unraveled under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the state was back in the center of polity, economy, and society. Governance techniques relied on owning important property in media and hydrocarbons, willingness to use kompromat1 to strong-arm elites into toeing the Kremlin line, and a formula of rule grounded in an elite moral economy, popular resentement vis-à-vis market reforms, and a discourse of national security and status.
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