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Kakha Bendukidze. Photo: novayagazeta.ru

Suggested readings

In "What Does Russia Think," a collection of essays by influential Russian intellectuals published by the European Council on Foreign Relations in September 2009, Olga Kryshtanovskaya provides her account of Russia's resurgent authoritarianism:

"After the Yukos case, the business community was forced either to accept the new reality in Russia or to leave the country. It was now in effect forbidden for business people, or for that matter any other significant social group, to directly intervene in politics. The Kremlin even believed, for example, that those who, like Khodorkovsky, who worked for charity, did so simply to improve their image and could therefore constitute a potential danger at the next election. The function of the grand bourgeoisie was to remain silent and only to sponsor projects initiated by the Kremlin." (pp. 27-28)

On the changing power balance between the Russian state and the oligarchs during Putin's presidency, see the 2003 essay by Marshall Goldman "Render Unto Caesar: Putin and the Oligarchs":

"In 1991, a small group of Russians emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union to claim ownership of some of the world's most valuable oil, natural gas, and metal deposits. This resulted in one of the greatest transfers of wealth ever seen. By 1997, five of these individuals, who in the 1980s had only negligible net worth, were listed by Forbes as among the world's richest billionaires."

Articles by Lilia Shevtsova on how Russia has changed can be found on the website of the Moscow Carnegie Center. Also useful is her book Russia – Lost in Transition from 2007. She describes Russia's liberal technocrats as "the liberal adornment of an illiberal, undemocratic regime":

"The liberal technocrats in Russia deserve consideration. These are free marketeers who consent to work in a less-than-democratic, or even blatantly undemocratic, system under the direct patronage of the leader. They are to be found in many countries, from Saudi Arabi to China, and from Singapore to Argentina. In most cases, they serve a useful purpose, obstructing both the expansion of the bureaucracy and populist policies … their role is constructive, however, only if there are other political forces with a developed liberal democratic sensibility to mitigate the technocrats social insensitivity and excessive managerial zeal … Technocrats without redeeming democratic support operate equally well in the interests of authoritarianism or oligarchy." (p. 113)

She also notes, in a comment relevant for Georgia, that in Russia, "liberalism will have no prospects if those who claim to be its adherents once more try to argue that democracy is a hindrance … neglecting democracy, as the 1990s showed, causes liberalism to degenerate."

Bendukidze gave a number of interviews in Russia in his new capacity as first Economy and then Reform Minister in Georgia. Soon after his ministerial appointment in June 2004, he spoke with Russian business daily Vedomosti ("Georgia Has Nothing to Lose" – «Грузии нечего терять») (also available in English) outlining his initiatives and views on Georgia. In this interview he argues that for Georgia, a very poor country, the only way forward is radical economic liberalization. He also set out his goal of tripling Georgia's GDP within 10 years.

April 2010

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