The Selling of the Soviet Empire

Alfred Kokh, Author, Marshall Goldman, Introduction by
Alfred Kokh, Author, Marshall Goldman, Introduction by S.P.I. Books $25 (244p) ISBN 978-1-56171-984-6
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
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With this book, Kokh can show his Russian prosecutors that his $100,000 book advance was not a bribe, but real. Kokh's claim to the title Principal Insider is a bit fanciful, as his tenure as Russia's privatization chief was brief--he was not yet there when the Harvard team of Jonathan Hays and Andrei Shleifer imposed shock therapy on Russia, but mostly served as a team player under the architect of Russia's economic reform program, deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais. The promised revelations are few for those who have kept up with the media and other books on the subject. The book does contain insider anecdotes, such as George Soros's personal loan offer to Russia, as well as doses of Kokh's keen sense of superiority in affairs political and economic, and animosity toward financier and media magnate Boris Berezhovsky. This hubris persists despite numerous contradictory assertions. Readers who analyze the few numbers and tables given will find them, ironically, good evidence for the opposing view that privatization was poorly run, with the state's most valuable assets disposed of for a pittance, notably in the shares-for-loans deals. Kokh maintains a surprising disdain for the individual investor, while his vigorous but simplistic views on free markets display all the fervor of a new convert whose apocalyptic faith has no need for details. Kokh's participation has undoubtedly prepared him well for his current life as a New Russian and head of a private investment company in Moscow. (Aug.) FYI: The Destruction of the Soviet Economic System: An Insider's History, edited by Michael Ellman and Vladimir Kontorovich, includes interviews with insiders and most key government agencies. (M.E. Sharpe, $75 ISBN 0-7656-0263-6; Sept.)
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