The lives of wealthy people have long held an allure to many, but the lives of wealthy Russians pose a particular fascination. Having achieved their riches over the course of a single generation, the top 0.1 percent of Russian society have become known for ostentatious lifestyles and tastes. Nevertheless, as Elisabeth Schimpfössl shows in this book, their stories reveal a bourgeois existence that is distinct in its circumstances and self-definition, and far more complex than the caricatures suggest.
Rich Russians takes a deep and unprecedented look at this group: their personal stories, trajectories, ideas about life and how they see their role and position both on top of Russian society as well as globally. These people grew up and lived through a historically unique period of economic turmoil and social change following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But when taken in a wider historical context, their lives follow a familiar path, from new money to respectable money; parvenus becoming part of Society. Based on interviews with millionaires, billionaires, their spouses and children, Rich Russians concludes that, as a class, they have acquired all sorts of cultural and social resources which help consolidate their personal power. They have developed distinguished and refined tastes, rediscovered their family history, and begun actively engaging in philanthropy. Most importantly, they have worked out a narrative to justify why they deserve their elitist position in society – because of who they are and their superior qualities – and why they should be treated as equals by the West. This is a group whose social, cultural and political influence is likely to outlast any regime change. As the first book to examine the transformation of Russia's former "robber barons" into a new social class, Rich Russians provides insight into how this nation's newly wealthy tick.