Rich Russians’ Morality of Success

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This article explores the dominant morality wealthy Russians adhered to in their vision of how society should be organized and the role they see for themselves. The interviews with, and observations of, 80 Russian multi-millionaires and billionaires, their spouses, and their children, which the article is based on, were conducted from the late 2000s to the late 2010s, a time when Russia’s rich were most settled in their positions. The interview analysis highlights the role of Soviet history and shows how it is integrated into, and harmonizes with, contemporary upper-class Russians’ notions of meritocracy. The author argues that drawing on international sociological research considerably advances our understanding of how Russian elites ideologically construe and morally legitimize the concentration of money and power in their own hands, and how they model themselves as ‘good’ in their actions and ‘deserving’ of their fortunes. Conversely, the article suggests that these new findings on Russian elites (in particular their references to their superior genes and their unwavering preference for private capital as a means to develop society, if necessary, to the detriment of democracy) offer great insights into, and have the potential to complement, established scholarship on Western elites (who emphasize hard work but tend to gloss over biology).
Original languageEnglish
JournalEast European Politics and Societies
Early online date10 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 Sage Publications, 2023. This accepted manuscript version is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License [].


  • russia
  • elites
  • wealth
  • inequality
  • legitimacy
  • deservedness
  • meritocracy
  • Neoliberalism
  • philanthropy
  • social Darwinism


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