Red Notice
Red Notice

Red Notice

It bears mentioning that in Russia there is no respect for the individual and his or her rights. People can be sacrificed for the needs of the state, used as shields, trading chips, or even simple fodder. If necessary, anyone can be gotten rid of. A famous expression of Stalin’s drives right to the point: ‘If there is no man, there is no problem.’ (Location 135)

Tags: russia

Stanford didn’t allow you to show your grades to potential employers. All hiring decisions were made on the basis of interviews and past experience. The upshot of this was that the normal academic competition was replaced with something that none of us expected: an air of cooperation, camaraderie and friendship. I quickly realized that success at Stanford wasn’t in doing well there, but rather just being there. Everything else was gravy. It was for me, and for every one of my classmates, the best two years of our lives. (Location 335)

Tags: education

‘Listen, things are pretty simple around here. You generate five times your salary in the next twelve months and things will be fine. Otherwise, you’re sacked. Clear?’ (Location 802)

This was typical billionaire psychology. If I hadn’t had a competing offer, Safra wouldn’t have done anything. But since another deal was on the table, Safra couldn’t resist. (Location 1248)

Instead of 150 million Russians sharing the spoils of mass privatization, Russia wound up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 per cent of the economy and everyone else living in poverty. (Location 1291)

Seventy years of communism had destroyed the work ethic of an entire nation. Millions of Russians had been sent to the gulags for showing the slightest hint of personal initiative. The Soviets severely penalized independent thinkers, so the natural self-preservation reaction was to do as little as possible and hope that nobody would notice you. (Location 1427)

Tags: russia

There’s a famous Russian proverb about this type of behaviour. One day, a poor villager happens upon a magic talking fish that is ready to grant him a single wish. Overjoyed, the villager weighs his options: ‘Maybe a castle? Or even better – a thousand bars of gold? Why not a ship to sail the world?’ As the villager is about to make his decision, the fish interrupts him to say that there is one important caveat: whatever the villager gets, his neighbour will receive two of the same. Without skipping a beat, the villager says, ‘In that case, please poke one of my eyes out.’ The moral is simple: when it comes to money, Russians will gladly – gleefully even – sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbour. (Location 1700)

This whole exercise was teaching me that Russian business culture is closer to that of a prison yard than anything else. In prison, all you have is your reputation. Your position is hard-earned and it is not relinquished easily. When someone is crossing the yard coming for you, you cannot stand idly by. You have to kill him before he kills you. If you don’t, and if you manage to survive the attack, you’ll be deemed weak and before you know it you will have lost your respect and become someone’s bitch. This is the calculus that every oligarch and every Russian politician goes through every day. (Location 1832)

What I’d completely missed was that the world is one big sea of liquidity. If the tide goes out in one place, then it goes out everywhere. When big investors started to lose money in Asia, they began unloading risky securities from their portfolios everywhere else in the world and anything Russian was at the top of that list. (Location 1928)

It didn’t help that everyone I knew in Moscow had left. I’d had a Thursday-night poker game with expats and English-speaking Russians, and at its height in mid-1997 thirteen people regularly attended. But by January 2000 I was the only one left. It was like being the last passenger at an airport baggage carousel. Everyone else had got their luggage and gone home, but I was standing there all by myself, watching the creaking metal track go round and round, waiting for my bag – knowing it was lost and would never show up. (Location 2083)

Tags: metaphor

Note: .metaphor

With the brakes off, the oligarchs embarked on an orgy of stealing. The tools they used were many and, with no law enforcement to stop them, their imaginations ran wild. They engaged in asset stripping, dilutions, transfer pricing and embezzlement, to name but a few of their tricks. (Location 2101)

Without knowing it, I’d stumbled upon one of the most important cultural phenomena of post-Soviet Russia – the exploding wealth gap. In Soviet times, the richest person in Russia was about six times richer than the poorest. Members of the Politburo might have had a bigger apartment, a car and a nice dacha, but not much more than that. However, by the year 2000 the richest person had become 250,000 times richer than the poorest person. This wealth disparity was created in such a short period of time that it poisoned the psychology of the nation. People were so angry that they were ready to spill their guts to anyone who wanted to talk about it. (Location 2272)

Tags: russia

I wasn’t there, so I’m only speculating, but I imagine Putin’s response was something like this: ‘Fifty per cent.’ Not 50 per cent to the government or 50 per cent to the presidential administration, but 50 per cent to Vladimir Putin. I don’t know this for sure. It could have been 30 per cent or 70 per cent or some other arrangement. What I do know for sure was that after Khodorkovsky’s conviction, my interests and Putin’s were no longer aligned. He had made the oligarchs his ‘bitches’, consolidated his power and, by many estimates, become the richest man in the world. (Location 2459)

The expression on her face never changed and she had the same remarkable calm that she had always had in the past. She said quietly, ‘Let’s see what they do next and then we’ll deal with it. These people may be nasty, but they’re only human, just like everybody else. They’ll make mistakes.’ (Location 2994)

ON 1 OCTOBER 1939, Winston Churchill made a famous speech in which he discussed the prospect of Russia joining the Second World War: ‘I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.’ (Location 3281)

Tags: russia

Note: Riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

In any major crisis, what you do in the first few hours defines it for ever. (Location 4039)

Tags: crisis

Note: .crisis

As anyone who has read Chekhov, Gogol or Dostoyevsky will tell you, and as Sergei himself once reminded us, Russian stories don’t have happy endings. Russians are familiar with hardship, suffering and despair – not with success and certainly not with justice. Not surprisingly, this has engendered in many Russians a deep-seated fatalism that stipulates that the world is bad, it will always be bad and any attempt to change things is doomed. (Location 4263)

Tags: russia

A famous expression goes, ‘The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.’ Our human rights campaign made strange bedfellows with Montana beef farmers, Russian human rights activists and Boeing airplane salesmen, but by working together it appeared as if we had the strength to overpower any remaining resistance to getting the law passed. (Location 4794)

Putin rarely projects his intentions and is one of the most enigmatic leaders in the world. Unpredictability is his modus operandi. While he does this to keep his options open, he also never backs down from a fight or shows any weakness. (Location 5102)

Tags: russia, putin