What is a Russian oligarch and who made the ‘Putin List’ published by the US?

by  Olivia Waring, METRO

Vladimir Putin may be the leader of Russia but who really holds the power? (Picture: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

The aggressive behavior of Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin on the world stage in the last few years has raised questions about who is really in control of the country.

You may have heard or read the phrase ‘Russian oligarch’ in relation to this. But what does it mean?

Are oligarchs confined to Russia or are they found elsewhere? Who are Russia’s oligarchs?

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union whose exit ushered in the oligarchy (Picture: Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

An oligarchy is a power structure in which power lies with a small number of people.

An oligarch is a member of such an oligarchy. They are incredibly wealthy, through family ties or through industry, and have religious or military control. Sometimes they inherit their position of power.

They tend to have influence on government and are reported to exert this influence through bribery or, conversely, through the threat of removing financial backing. Some hold government positions.

The country of Russia has been influenced by an oligarchy for many years, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the replacement of President Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1991.

An intense struggle between oligarchs from Russia’s privately owned multinational corporations – which include the captains of its petroleum, natural gas, and metal industries – and the country’s ‘elected’ politicians has been ongoing for almost three decades.

Russian presidents Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev as puppets in the banned Russian TV show Kukly (Picture: Alamy)

Oligarchies can exercise huge control over a country, but in Russia’s case the idea that the President does not have total control is totally taboo so you will find almost no comment on or mention of them in their media or by Russian people.

A Russian TV show called Kukly depicted the presidents as literal puppets to the oligarchs, and the show was pulled from the air in 2002 under pressure from Putin.

List of known Russian oligarchs

In January, the US Treasury Department published a list of known Russian oligarchs, which they classed as ‘individuals with an estimated net worth of $1 billion or more.’

Dubbed the ‘Putin list’ it also featured 114 senior political figures within Russia, but here are the 96 oligarchs named.

1. Aleksandr Abramov

2. Roman Abramovich

3. Aras Agalarov

4. Farkhad Akhmedov

5. Vagit Alekperov

6. Igor Altushkin

7. Aleksey Ananyev

8. Dmitry Ananyev

9. Vasiliy Anisimov

10. Roman Avdeyev

11. Petr Aven

12. Yelena Baturina

13. Aleksey Bogachev

14. Vladimir Bogdanov

15. Leonid Boguslavskiy

16. Audrey Bokarev

17. Oleg Boyko

18. Nikolay Buynov

19. Oleg Deripaska

20. Aleksandr Dzhaparidze

21. Leonid Fedun

22. Gleb Fetisov

23. Mikhail Fridman

24. Aleksandr Frolov

25. Filaret Galchev

26. Sergey Galitskiy

27. Valentin Gapontsev

28. Sergey Gordeyev

29. Andrey Guryev

30. Yuriy Gushchin

31. Mikhail Gutseriyev

32. Sait-Salam Gutseriyev

33. Zarakb Iliyev

34. Dmitriy Kamenshchik

35. Vyacheslav Kantor

36. Sanwel Karapetyan

37. Yevgeniy Kasperskiy

38. Sergey Katsiyev

39. Suleyman Kerimov

40. Igor Kesayev

41. Danil Khachatmov

42. German Khan

43. Viktor Kharitonin

44. Aleksandr Klyachin

45. Petr Kondrashev

46. Andrey Kosogov

47. Yuriy Kovalchuk

48. Andrey Kozitsyn

49. Aleksey Kuzmichev

50. Lev Kvetnoy

51. Vladimir Lisin

52. Anatoliy Lomakin

53. Ziyavudin Magornedov

54. Igor Makarov

55. Iskander Makhmudov

56. Aleksandr Mamut

57. Andrey Melnichenko

58. Leonid Mikhelson

59. Yuriy Milner

60. Boris Mints

61. Andrey Molchanov

62. Aleksey Mordashov

63. Vadim Moshkovich

64. Aleksandr Nesis

65. God Nisanov

66. Aleksandr Ponomarenko

67. Sergcy Popov

68. Vladimir Potanin

69. Mikhail Prokhorov

70. Dmitriy Pumpyanskiy

71. Megdet Rakhimkulov

72. Andrey Rappoport

73. Viktor Rashnikov

74. Arkadiy Rotenberg

75. Boris Rotenberg

76. Dmitriy Rybolovlev

77. Ayrat Shaymiyev

78. Radik Shaymiyev

79. Kirill Shamalov

80. Yuriy Sheller

81. Albert Shigabutdinov

82. Mikhail Shishkhanov

83. Leonid Simanovskiy

84. Audrey Skoch

85. Aleksandr Skorobogatko

86. Rustem Sulteyev

87. Aleksandr Svetakov

88. Gennadiy Timchenko

89. Oleg Tinkov

90. Roman Trotsenko

91. Alisher Usmanov

92. Viktor Vekselberg

93. Arkadiy Volozh

94. Vadim Yakunin

95. Vladimir Yevtushenkov

96. Gavril Yushvayev

Given the vested interests of oligarchs and the undemocratic nature of their grasp on power, they are perceived as tyrants.

The term oligarch (coming from the Greek words for ‘few’ and ‘rule’) was first used by Aristotle to describe how rich people run things, and a similar term used today is plutocracy.

The United States is considered by many to be run by an oligarchy, or plutocracy.

In 2011 the top 400 Americans had more wealth than half of America combined, and many of these are part of the country’s ‘Donor Class’ which means they give very generous donations – a cap on which was lifted in 2015 – to politicians.

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