home events
History Book Club:
Once Upon a Time in Russia

From Cookies to Corruption

The HHS Book Group will meet Sunday, December 3, at 4 p.m. to enjoy Pryaniki - traditional Russian cookies - and discuss the rise of the Russian oligarchs. The group will discuss Once Upon a Time in Russia by Ben Mezrich.

"Russian history is long and complicated," said Barbara Tosiano, director of the Hampton Falls Free Library, who leads the History Book Group discussions, and bakes a desert representative of the topic. "The recipe for Pryaniki dates to the 9th century, when Russian cookies were made with honey and rye flour. Trade began with the Middle East and India in the 12th and 13th centuries and spices were added, making the cookie what it is today."

The book is set in the 1990s through the turn of the 21st century. At that time, the Russian government was in debt and privatizing its businesses to raise money. It did this by selling an entire company - such as the one state-owned airline or television station, to one individual. The process was not smooth but ridden with violence and murder. There were no rules, regulation, oversight or laws.

By 1996, according to the author, seven men controlled 50% of Russia's gross domestic product. They held the wealth of half of the country in their hands, and weren't finished shopping.

"The economy went in a circle," noted Tosiano, "with an industry propping up President Yeltsin, who in turn propped up the oligarch of the industry. It was an outrageous use and abuse of wealth and power.

"Past discussions have been lively, and I expect the December 3 discussion to be the same," Tosiano said.

The meeting will be held at The Tuck Museum, 40 Park Avenue in Hampton, and all are welcome to attend.