The years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 were a period of both and excitement and chaos for the citizens of what were now 15 independent republics. With the exception of the Baltic States, the rest of the countries were ill-prepared for the social upheaval that they were to endure now that Moscow was no longer in a position to micro-manage every element of people’s lives.

What filled that vacuum of power was a veritable cornucopia of characters that ran the ga...

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