The term Russian Oligarch is a common phrase used in American media as well as British Media. In addition, it is a phrase used in Russia as well according to Sergei Guriev and Andrei Rachinsky in the Journal of Economic Perspectives:

In its current meaning in Russia, the term “oligarch” denotes a businessman (and the lists of oligarchs include only men) who controls sufficient resources to influence national politics.

By Russia's definition, an oligarch just denotes a (male) businessman who controls enough resources to influence national politics....which is de facto the same thing that America's wealthy do behind the scenes. Indeed most of the top 10 billionaires are from the United States, and they fill most of the to 50 slots as well. You have to go down to Vladimir Potanin (49 at the time of this question) to find a single billionaire from Russia. The larger collective magnitude of Billionaires in America and outside of Russia led me to ask...


Why are American Billionaires, and other billionaires outside Russia, not referred to as Oligarchs when they have a disproportionate control of their country's politics via their market share as well?

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    Perfectly good Q. but still a duplicate...
    – agc
    Apr 26, 2021 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


Because mass-media (who, actually, form information trends) don't use to underline influence of such people in Western countries. But factually, it is the same situation and the same definition: very influential and rich people, who do have influence in their state politics, but do not have explicit involvement in it.

The difference is that in some countries, like Russia, or China, or, well, Turkey (more-authoritorian countries) government and big business are way more separated, than in Western countries.

In the situation you mention - that is the case of back-adoption - western word was adopted in russian language, and then, when became common, used as "russian" word in western articles.


Because the term does not apply to wealth but to the power that is held in the government. In the case of Russia the wealth and power in the government generally go hand in hand but that is not always the case in other parts around the world. Sure they can use their wealth to influence the government but not to force them to act.


More generally, an oligarch is a "member of an oligarchy; a person who is part of a small group holding power in a state".[3] Aristotle gave the concept of oligarchy some negative connotations, but the term does not necessarily imply wealth.[4]

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    Do you really think that US billionaries don't have influence on country politics? Feb 9, 2021 at 15:14
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    Well, there's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_money#United_States Feb 9, 2021 at 15:14
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    @MartinSchröder How many of those families are the American billionaires that people regularly talk about? The point wasn't that there are not people in America that could be considered oligarch's but the people who come to mind when talking about wealth (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos as examples) don't actually hold any power in the government.
    – Joe W
    Feb 9, 2021 at 15:18
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    @JoeW, I think it's waaaaaaaaay naive. Just remember that fresh story about Big Tech involvement in election media company. Of course, such people don't have minister chairs - but they don't have to. They are unelected (and so, unchangeable) elite already. Feb 9, 2021 at 15:21
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    @JoeW The link you posted says exactly the opposite your answer does: "You can be a rich businessman in the US and not worry about your contacts in government. It's a little bit different in Russia; each business decision you make, you have to be checking with your contacts in the Kremlin. The government can strip you of your oligarch status." So, it's not billionaires controlling the government: it is the government controlling the billionaires.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:23

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