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There is no better test of the maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely than Russia’s Finance Ministry. Take the silver tax of May 1999, for example, and its predecessor in absolute folly, the silver edict of France’s King Louis XIV of May 1709. At that time, Louis’ treasury was empty and his armies and administration [...]

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When it comes to evasion, Alexei Kudrin, deputy prime minister in charge of the diamond sector, could take a lesson from the French bard, Jean Racine. According to the tale told by Madame de Sieving, Louis XIV once appointed Racine as his royal historian, only to rebuke him for failing to do enough to learn [...]

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There are 72 regional electricity-producing utility companies – energos, for short – in the state-controlled holding known as Unified Energy Systems (UES), run by Anatoly Chubais. None in Russia can be confident in predicting the outcome of the so-called reform of the power sector, except that Chubais and the government say they are committed to [...]

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In nautical circles it has always been said that rats leave a sinking ship. On pirate vessels, however, the custom was to make the better type of crewman walk the plank. At the Ministry of Finance under Alexei Kudrin, there is no sign whatsoever of a sinking feeling. The ministry’s man now runs the Central [...]

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The World Bank in Russia is a long-running soap opera full of starlets demanding astronomical fees for playing scenes charged with intimate advice and suspenseful mistakes that keep the plot alive, episode after episode. When we last tuned in, a year ago in May, the Bank had just engaged Anders Aslund, the paid Romeo of [...]