The strange case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once believed to be the wealthiest man in Russia, who rocketed to prosperity and prominence in the 1990s, served a decade in prison, and became an unlikely martyr for the anti-Putin movement.
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Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney delivers one of his strongest explorations of global politics in considering the strange case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once believed to be the wealthiest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky rocketed to prosperity and prominence in the 1990s, served a decade in prison, and became an unlikely leader of the anti-Putin movement. In tracking Mikhail Khodorkovsky's story, Alex Gibney creates a compelling portrait of post-Soviet Russia, a nation caught between radically divergent political models - and where fortunes can transform overnight. The collapse of the USSR ushered in an era of chaos and opportunity. With laws lagging behind socioeconomic change, Russia fomented a kind of gangster capitalism. Mikhail Khodorkovsky took advantage of the privatization of state assets, created Russia's first commercial bank, and built Yukos, Russia's biggest oil company. His success in business was accompanied by a level of political influence that would ...Written by
Toronto International Film Festival
Caught this at Hamptons festival last month. I wanted to let it settle in and do a bit of research before writing a review. I know who Khodorkovsky is and that he was one of the post-Soviet oligarchs who went afoul of Russian Dictator Putin, but not the timing and full detail.
Put is a dangerous scumbag and I am happy to say so, but this film has some serious problems as well. It really doesn't address the context, not eh absence of a working legal regime as well as the need for actual financial markets, and just gives an indictment of patriotism when the Khodorkovsky phenomena had nothing to do with capitalism, but rather was a simple looting of assets, compounded with a feedback loop of paid corruption of government, one sees in any system that doesn't have a legal and democratic framework. As far as the charges against him, his trial and imprisonment -- the viewer doesn't really get a sense for the film makers that both offenses can be true: the charging could have been politically motivated, due process could have been absent or flawed; but at the same time it is clear he was guilty of massive theft and crimes. Really if you want to understand this, read the findings of the European Court of Human Rights, which heard Khodorkovsky's appeal to that court, and which found that while there were process issues aplenty -- that the charges against him were well grounded. Now I am not saying the makers make an innocent hero out of Khodorkovsky, but rather that his crimes are kind of winked at in the film.
I am also troubled by the way the term capitalism is thrown around in the film. Russia has never been capitalist. It sure wasn't capitalist or liaise faire when Khodorkovsky's garnered his supply cornering in oil fields. It was a gangster socialist government when it was socialist as the United Soviet Socialist Republics, a closed socialist system in 1993 when Khodorkovsky was Deputy head of Energy Ministry in the early 1990's, and he was enabled by the loan for shares that had nothing to do with capitalism or markets. In fact you have to be a careful viewer to even notice that the subject is a former Soviet Socialist government deputy minister and a creature created by Soviet socialism (as is Putin).
The Khodorkovsky story is important, as is what tells us about Putin, but I suggest reading some basic short pieces in WSJ, Financial Times or even the Guardian on him instead of this very incomplete, and at times glib, film
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