20 years under Putin: a timeline

On October 25th, the Institute of Modern Russia hosted a reception honoring the publication of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's new book, Putin's Prisoner, co-authored by well-known Russian journalist Natalia Gevorkyan. The book launch, which took place at New York’s 3-Legged Dog Gallery, marked the ninth anniversary of the arrest of the then-head of Yukos Oil Company and now Russia’s most prominent political prisoner.


Photo by Anatoly Kashlevskiy.


The book, which took more than two years to write, was completed in early 2012. In a sense, Putin’s Prisoner is Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s memoir in which he describes how he built Russia’s most successful company and how it was destroyed; how the changes in Russia influenced his life; how Vladimir Putin’s rise to power altered the direction of Russia’s development.

Chapters written by Khodorkovsky are interspersed with those written by Natalia Gevorkyan, who, writing as a journalist, presents an analysis of the YUKOS case based on her own investigations and information acquired from independent sources. The result is an objective and comprehensive outline of how Mikhail Khodorkovsky became a successful businessman, fell from favor with the Kremlin and became a political prisoner.

The reception attracted more than two hundred guests, including the writer Tatiana Tolstaya, human rights activists Alexander Goldfarb and Andrew Grigorenko, lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, and journalist and historian Vladimir V. Kara-Murza. The guests were offered a free copy of Putin's Prisoner and an opportunity to have it autographed by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and president of the Institute of Modern Russia.


Pavel Khodorkovsky quoted from his father's book: "No one repealed the the laws which we had prepared for the State Duma even after the destruction of Yukos. I am genuinely proud of my work in this area. We really were ahead of our time. And even in prison I am not losing time". Photo by Anatoly Kashlevskiy.


In his remarks to the guests, Pavel Khodorkovsky stated, “I’d like to thank everyone who came today for the launch of my father’s book. I wish this book could catalyze democratic changes in Russia, because that is the only thing that can accelerate my father’s release. This very day nine years ago he was thrown in jail for supporting the opposition. Your presence here tonight is a testament to the fact that his sacrifice has not been in vain—that there are many people who are not indifferent to the future of our country.”

"Nine years ago my father was thrown in jail for supporting the opposition. Your presence here tonight is a testament to the fact that his sacrifice has not been in vain".

Vladimir Kara-Murza, who also spoke at the event, observed that "In many ways, the Khodorkovsky case symbolizes the entire system created by Vladimir Putin. It symbolizes the silencing of dissent, politically motivated 'justice,' the breakdown of the rule of law, corruption and 'crony capitalism.'” He noted that just as Mikhail Khodorkovsky's arrest was a political turning point for Russia, so will be his release. In Kara-Murza’s view, the release will come as a sign that the situation in Russia is changing, and “the mass pro-democracy protest movement that emerged in our country just under a year ago is bringing that change closer.”