Sales executive Lev Lester’s new insider view of the Russian business world is now available on Amazon! Learn what Russian business leaders know but are afraid to talk about openly. Read case studies you never saw in any business, history or poli-sci class. Hear true stories of Russian business told in the unique, hard-boiled voice of Dr. Lev Lester, a key figure in rebuilding post-Soviet Russia’s auto industry. Find out what it takes to beat the crooks at their own game.


  • Looks at how Russia’s history as a “closed” country has impacted the life of its people.
  • Analyzes the political and legal system of Russia and how people live within it.
  • Brakes down the framework of institutional corruption as Russian businesspeople themselves understand it.
  • Provides a detailed and specific guidebook to how bribes are elicited, extorted, given and refused in practice, including how to recognize when your life or freedom is in danger.
  •  Tells how Lev Lester overcame the corruption of Russia’s business culture to provide equipment to automotive and metallurgical plants without bribing the clients.
Dr. Lev Lester

About the Author

Lev Lester was born in Moscow in 1948. Originally trained as a factory engineer, he became chess partners with an economics professor at Moscow State University who talked him into pursuing an advanced degree. Lev earned his Ph.D. in management in 1976 and his Doctor of Science Degree in Economics (Russia’s highest academic degree) from Moscow State University in 1987, becoming the youngest person in the USSR to achieve that title up to that time.

While pursuing his studies, Lev worked at the All-Union Institute of Systems Studies (VNIISI), alongside many of the men who would remake Russia in the 1980s and 90s. Among his colleagues were Nobel Prize winner Leonid Kantorovich and the future politicians and businessmen Boris Berezovsky (Russia’s first billionaire), Petr Aven (Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, later head of Alfa Bank) and Yegor Gaidar (Prime-Minister responsible for the most controversial post-Soviet economic reforms). In many ways, VNIISI was the birthing bed of Perestroika and a new Russian entrepreneurship. In the late 80s and early 90s, Lev participated in the first Soviet fact-finding missions to Australia and the US to study capitalism.

In 1991, Lev left the USSR for the US at age 43, without money, English-language skills or a job. As he jokes, “I was an Economics professor from far-away Russia, a country without an economy.” After a chance encounter with an American businessman, Lev became an independent consultant, working ceaselessly and using his connections in Russia to connect American factory suppliers to Russian clients. A series of successful deals made him Vice President for Russian Sales at the Detroit-based automotive factory supplier Haden. By the end of the decade, he made Haden the top-earning company in Russia for its industry.

In the 2000s, Lev served as General Director in Russia for the German factory supplier Dürr and as VP for the American metallurgical equipment supplier AFC Holcroft. Throughout this time, he continued to provide independent consulting services and offer business courses to Russian executives. He is presently the president of the consulting firm Bridge Plus International and provides Russian-language online courses in business negotiations.

Lev Lester has been married to his wife, Vera, for over 40 years. The Lesters lived in Detroit from 1991 to 2014, before moving to stay close to their son and grandson. They now live in Washington state. Lev is an avid chess player and enjoys reading about history and business. He is currently teaching his three-year-old grandson how to negotiate.

About the Translator

Steven McGrath is a Russian-to-English translator certified by the American Translators Association. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Moscow State University. He is the translator of the science book The Biosphere and Civilization: In the Throes of a Global Crisis by Victor Danilov Danil’yan and Igor Reyf (Springer, 2018) and of the dystopian novel The Capsule by Olga Loukianova.


  1. “A consultant on Russian business” (as part of the introduction. Click HERE to read)
  2. “Do you like how we live?”
  3. “Marry a foreigner”
  4. “What fraternization leads to”
  5. “They pay better in America”
  6. “Where do the geniuses live now?
  7. “There were five documents in the case”
  8. “What are you in here for?”
  9. “I have some bad news for you”
  10. “How briskly the system worked”
  11. “Did you know your assistant is a rat?”
  12. “May I please read my file?”
  13. “When was it better, now or before?”
  14. “It didn’t work out”
  15. “That’s how the money was made” (about Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich)
  16. “When one of your own steals, it isn’t theft”
  17. “What the governor thinks of his colleagues”
  18. “Let’s make money on information” (read HERE)
  19. “We can do business with you” (read HERE)
  20. “Why are the laws sometimes enforced and sometimes not?”
  21. “A plot of land in Moscow” (included in THIS post)
  22. “Nothing works without a bribe”
  23. “How is a judge to rule?”
  24. “How it works in practice”
  25. “A minister’s conviction for a crime that never was” (about Alexei Ulyukaev)
  26. “Privatizing a metallurgical plant”
  27. “Authorities take whatever they want” (about Vladimir Yevtushenkov)
  28. “Dividing the spoils” (about Magomed and Ziyavudin Magomedov)
  29. “A typical example of confiscation” (about Mikhail Khodorkovsky)
  30. “How great fortunes are made” (about Oleg Deripaska.)
  31. “How to get rich”
  32. “What would Russia’s leaders do if a train went off the track?”
  33. “Authorities and criminals on the same team” (about Boris Berezovsky and the Yeltsin “Family”)
  34. “I’m free and have no complaints” (about Vladimir Nekrasov)
  35. “They can put anyone away”
  36. “Survival options”
  37. “Your roof is leaking” (about Yevgeny Chichvarkin)
  38. “The drowning can save themselves”
  39. “An unusual roadway incident” (about Matvei Urin)
  40. “You’re going to be a general”
  41. “An incident from real business practice”
  42. “Connections solve everything”
  43. “How much does that tie cost?”
  44. “The number two”
  45. “The kindness of strangers”
  46. “How to steal an Olympic medal”
  47. “I took him at his word”
  48. “Who is the owner of this business? You!”
  49. “Do you need Ministry of Finance credit? Pay up!”
  50. “How does bribery differ from corruption in Russia?”
  51. “An open letter from Andrey Makarievich to President V. Putin”
  52. “A bid with a kickback”
  53. “They even offer bribes to presidents” (about Alexander Lukashenko)
  54. “A traffic violation”
  55. “The policeman made a mistake. He took a bribe from the wrong guy”
  56. “In Russia you have to pay for everything” (about Elena Baturina)
  57. “Do you need to pay bribes if they won’t be taken”
  58. “Can we expedite the process?”
  59. “You have to know when to stop”
  60. “Is your credit backed?”
  61. “The temporary permit has expired”
  62. “What’s better: to pay or to fight?”
  63. “You don’t need a knife to kill a fool. Let a shiny penny be your tool”
  64. “Three different ways of making money”
  65. “We should meet and have a chat”
  66. “How have the sizes of bribes changed in recent years?”
  67. “You can just wait”
  68. “An unfortunate decision”
  69. “Concessions without authorization”
  70. “The lowest price wins”
  71. “Conditions for bidding participants”
  72. “Bidding to supply spare parts for SALTDOGG snow-removal equipment”
  73. “I promised him my support”
  74. “Greed never leads to anything good”
  75. “Haggle, but not all the way”
  76. “We have your reservation, but no rooms”
  77. “We arranged it ahead of time”
  78. “Which robots are the best”
  79. “Pressure vessels”
  80. “The typical shortcomings of a contract”
  81. “The challenger’s price can go higher”
  82. “The favorite’s price can go lower”
  83. “The first transparent bidding”
  84. “Give the experts their due”
  85. “An unusual story”
  86. “A strong position in negotiations”
  87. “Big deals depend on ‘little people’”
  88. “Survival of the fittest”
  89.  “We need a complete line, but we’re short of cash”
  90. “A poor-quality auto-body paint job”
  91. “Final payments”
  92. “Sitting in warehouse crates for 15 years”
  93. “Unrealistic deadlines”
  94. “What a president wants”
  95. “To bribe or not to bribe”
  96. “We’ve become friends”
  97. “Can you work in Russia without bribes?” (as part of the conclusion)


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