Book Review: In From the Cold

In From the Cold: The Rise of Russian Capitalism Edited by Peter Westin
(London Publishing Partnership/Aton, 2012)

It has been difficult to write a book about business or financial matters in post-Soviet Russia because the pace of change has been so great that any book would be out of date before it went on sale. Even an historical account such as In From the Cold has to face this problem, as its separate chapters by various authors were finished in October 2011, almost half a year before Vladimir Putin’s re-election as Russian President, something which has had a significant effect on the business climate.

BBC: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Much of the BBC’s reporting of news in recent weeks has been concerned with the Corporation’s own internal strife: the BBC has become the news. This is never a healthy situation for an organisation the aim of which is supposed to be to report the news; witness the row over News Corporation and phone-hacking and the subsequent demise of the News of the World.

Russia Blows Hot and Cold on Foreign Business

This has been a curious twelve months for UK companies doing business with Russia. Like many a marriage, it started out well, but then has been going through a sticky patch. It’s to be hoped, though, that if the two sides keep talking to each other and explain their positions matters will improve again.

In September 2011, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited Moscow with a 25-strong business delegation. Deals were signed and political relations seemed at last to have come out of the deep freeze they had been in for the previous five years.

Doing business in Russia: not “why?” but “why not?”

For the majority of British businesses, Russia is a vast, untapped and even rather scary market. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and – consciously or unconsciously – too many British business people have the remnants of the Cold War mentality buried inside them which surfaces when the word “Russia” is mentioned. This idea is fostered – again, deliberately or not – by the British media; think when you last read or heard a good news story about Russia.

There’s a double problem here: more than 20 years after the collapse of the USSR, Russians themselves remain very bad at PR for their country. Too often the men in the Kremlin (almost exclusively men) manage to give the impression that they couldn’t care less what the West thinks about their country; and when they do try to put forward positive images of Russia it comes across as propaganda.

Russian Demos Revive Memories

Suddenly Russia has made the headlines again. The elections for the State Duma which took place on 4 December were little more than a low-down-the-order, "oh, and by the way, Russia's holding elections", story. But the demonstrations which have followed have put Russia in the spotlight again.

Being in Moscow in the days after the elections brought back memories of the early 1990's. The mass rallies and demonstrations of those days were at first sensational. The first big rally I reported on was in January 1990, calling for the removal from the Soviet Constitution of Article Six, which effectively allowed no political parties to exist other than the Communist Party. The demonstrators achieved their aim the following month, opening the floodgates to a plethora of political parties.