The Russian ultra-rich amassed their wealth during the economic and social turmoil following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of the market economy.
Many had ventured into commerce in the 1980s, unaware they were positioning themselves to benefit unimaginably from one of the fastest redistribution of assets in history.
Russia’s early post-Soviet elite were from modest social backgrounds who had genuinely benefited from the Soviet education system.
Mr Abramovich, for example, grew up in poverty.
Over the course of the 1990s, a group of bankers and tycoons appeared at the top of the new rich stratum by seamlessly turning their political clout into wealth.
“The early Russian oligarchs seemed to have appeared from nowhere and got their hands on the driving wheel of government,” Dr Schimpfossl says.
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Audio: Rich Russians: From oligarchs to bourgeoisie (Late Night Live)
During the oil price boom that helped fuel President Vladimir Putin’s resurgence in the 2000s, Moscow regularly topped rankings of cities with the most billionaires.
“A whole new layer joined them getting rich on the back of the high oil price which lasted until 2008,” Dr Schimpfossl says.
“It was almost as important as the first round of privatisation in the ’90s.”
Mr Putin eventually brought economic liberalisation under his personal control and significantly reined in the oligarchs.
“If they didn’t fall out with Vladimir Putin shortly after he came to power, they now prop up his kleptocracy with injections of cash whenever he asks them to,” Dr Schimpfossl says.