Following an unprecedented economic boom fed by foreign investment, the Russian Revolution triggered the worst sovereign default in history. Bankers and Bolsheviks tells the dramatic story of this boom and bust, chronicling the forgotten experiences of leading financiers of the age.
Shedding critical new light on the decision making of the powerful personalities who acted as the gatekeepers of international finance, Hassan Malik narrates how they channeled foreign capital into Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While economists have long relied on quantitative analysis to grapple with questions relating to the drivers of cross-border capital flows, Malik adopts a historical approach, drawing on banking and government archives in four countries. The book provides rare insights into the thinking of influential figures in world finance as they sought to navigate one of the most challenging and lucrative markets of the first modern age of globalization.
Bankers and Bolsheviks reveals how a complex web of factors—from government interventions to competitive dynamics and cultural influences—drove a large inflow of capital during this tumultuous period in world history. This gripping book demonstrates how the realms of finance and politics—of bankers and Bolsheviks—grew increasingly intertwined, and how investing in Russia became a political act with unforeseen repercussions.
Hassan Malik is an investment strategist and financial historian. He earned a PhD at Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse. He lives and works in London.
“A highly readable tale of one of history’s biggest booms and busts, with valuable perspective for contemporary investors.”—Emmanuel Roman, CEO, PIMCO
“The financial history of the Russian Revolution has been largely neglected for a century, despite the importance of banks and bondholders as targets, and indeed victims, of the Bolshevik Revolution. Hassan Malik’s deeply researched and vividly written study shows the vital importance of foreign capital to the prerevolutionary Tsarist economy, the reluctance of Western bankers to face the seriousness of the threat posed to them by Lenin & Co., and the rationale behind the Bolsheviks’ massive debt default. This is an original and illuminating contribution to a literature that has devoted far more attention to the revolutionaries than to the capitalist system they overthrew.”—Niall Ferguson, Milbank Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford
“Russian history in the transition period of the early twentieth century is still in need of unbiased research, and I am convinced that the most interesting and unexpected discoveries lie at the intersection of various disciplines, such as history, political science, and finance. Hassan Malik’s Bankers and Bolsheviks is an expansive, detailed work based on an extensive and painstaking research of a huge volume of materials. Yet, the work is also a fascinating read, offering a path to understanding what forces triggered the unstoppable chain of those tragic yet colossal events.”—Ruben Vardanyan, social entrepreneur, impact investor, and venture philanthropist
“At a time when political risk has surged to the front of investors’ minds, financial history offers valuable perspective. Hassan Malik’s elegantly told story of the largest default in history is a must-read for macro investors navigating today’s challenging global markets.”—Steve Drobny, founder and CEO, Clocktower Group