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Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia Hardcover – November 6, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674066472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674066472
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Gustafson's Magnum Opus is well-informed and meticulously researched. He has 100 pages of wonderful endnotes. It's a sizable book -- it took me a month to complete it. It ends with a question mark -- and I like that. It is not a usual journalistic "hack-job", in which the US / UK authors often excel when writing on Russia (see for example "New Cold War" by Edward Lucas and dozens of other pulp). Gustafson is a serious academic who probably used to work for the US intelligence as an analyst writing report on the Soviet energy sector.

The book shows Gustafson's substantial knowledge of the petroleum industry as well Russia itself. His knowledge of the details is so amazing that it prompted me to mention the intelligence community link above. He has a number of anecdotes and personal observations to offer. His perspective is American, not Russian; but I think he did his best to be in the Russian shoes -- which is not easy (believe me, I lived in Russia for 30 years).

To me the book was a breath of fresh air because of its "realist" position. Many Anglo-American authors show Russia's "Petrocracy" as a threat to America's interests. Neoconservative think tanks and other organizations keep harping that Russia is sliding into "despotism" and continue blackening Russia's image by churning up a distorted coverage of critical events and policies. Soon after Khodorkovsky was arrested on charges of multiple fraud and tax evasion back in 2003, numerous publications and articles with titles such as "Russia on Trial" and "The Kremlin's Mafia" appeared to promote the image of Khodorkovsky as a courageous opposition leader acting to challenge "despotic" Kremlin.

I am skeptical about that image. So appears to be Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
Most people might not expect a book on the recent history of post-Soviet Russian oil business to be a real page-turner, especially not one over 600 pages long, but this book is just that. Well-written with a true expert voice by Dr. Thane Gustafson (a professor of governmental studies but has long had an emphasis in his research on Russian oil exploration, production, and policy), this book looks at how the Russian oil industry recovered from the fall of the Soviet Union, opened itself to private investment and outside collaboration, and experienced a multitude of ups and downs all along the way. Dr. Gustafson's acumen in this area—and his access to key figures for interviews—are one aspect that make the book worthwhile but he's also a talented storyteller and is able to keep the narrative moving along by introducing the colorful characters of oligarchs and oil barons, former government ministers and engineers in the storm of a changing Russia. All these folks are/were real people and in many ways, their story of post-Soviet industry will leave you wondering aloud how in the world one of the greatest oil-producing powers the earth has ever seen became such a circus for over a decade. I highly recommend it to all interested in post-Soviet economies, the oil business in general, or Russian business/politics.
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Format: Hardcover
I think this is a nice book in order to see the Big Picture of what happened to the Russian state and the oil industry after the 1991. I really liked the author's global approach and would like to express my gratitude to the author for fulfilling this difficult task. However, what I think is the drawback (that actually exists in many books that US professors or journalists write about other countries around the World) is the approach as if the author knows exactly what is the correct way for Russia to implement it's policies. This mentor-style approach is unavoidable in most of the books written by US professors about the other countries, so after taking it into account and making corresponding adjustments this book is a nice read to understand some basic features of what happened to Russia after the 1991.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Many of the events Mr. Gustafson is talking about happened when I lived in Russia. However, just like a regular ordinary Russian I experienced these at a 5 foot view.. The book helps the reader rise high above and look at the situation at a 30 thousand foot view. It does so by drawing on relations between laws of economics, politics and culture. Despite providing a great 30 thousand foot view, the book contains plenty of detail and anecdotal information to give the reader a feel for what Russia and ordinary Russians went through in the last twenty years.
There is no Detroit without the Big 3. There is no New York without Wall Street.. What the book makes quite clear is that there is no Russia without oil. (Even more clear than I ever imagined.) Understanding the dynamics of the world oil markets and economic policies of the Soviet and then Russian Govt goes a long way towards explaining the path Russia has taken in the last quarter century and the challenges it is facing today.
Russian policy makers should heed to the advice and lessons presented in the book as they navigate the country through the transition embarked on almost 30 years ago.
Finally, I was quite impressed with some of the Russian sayings and proverbs the author quotes in the book. I did encounter several that I had not heard before, despite being a native Russian speaker.
A wonderful book.
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