The seizure of the Kristall distillery by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2000 marked the beginning of his larger moves to consolidate Russia’s industries, amass enormous wealth, and entrench political authoritarianism and cronyism in post-Soviet Russia.
In downtown Moscow, the Kristall distillery is the jewel of Russia’s liquor industry and birthplace of the world-famous Stolichnaya brand. Founded in 1901, the distillery was a significant revenue source for the Russian empire by fueling Tsar Nicholas II’s vodka monopoly. In 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized control of the means of vodka production, starting with Kristall, a move that helped him amass enormous wealth and cement his grip on the Russian economy and people. The takeover of Kristall was part of Putin’s larger plan to consolidate Russia’s top revenue-generating industries. The takeover was met with resistance, and the standoff between the Kremlin and the city-backed Kristall management lasted weeks. The takeover marked the beginning of Putin’s larger moves to entrench political authoritarianism and cronyism in post-Soviet Russia.