All the Riches in Russia
On the morning in August 1997 that we flew from St. Petersburg, the old imperial capital of Russia, to Nizhniy Novgorod, an industrial city on the Volga River, the 36-year-old privatization chief of St. Petersburg was shot dead while riding in the back of his government-issue Volvo sedan, by a sniper who opened fire with an AK-47 from the attic of a building on the Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street. The hit man had excellent aim and possibly an X-ray scope, because the bullet penetrated the car top, while the vice governor’s wife, sitting beside him, was hardly hurt.
Though many bankers and businessmen had been gunned down gangland style in the years since Communism’s collapse, this brutal contract-style killing of the popular young vice governor Mikhail Manevich was the first assassination of a high-level politician in post-Communist Russia. This incident savagely and dramatically underscored the mounting bitterness—and brutally high stakes—of the scandal-ridden privatization process in Russia.
Like cocaine barons guarding their turf with assault weapons, the St. Petersburg Mafia had apparently concluded that young Mr. Manevich had to go, and go violently—to serve as an example to any uppity bureaucrats who might consider emulating his example—because his plans threatened them with getting a thinner slice of the rich privatization pie.
At first glance, the power struggle of which this hit was merely a local skirmish appeared to be a clear-cut ...