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Ikea Exec Publishes Book on Russia Corruption Experience

This looks like a pretty interesting read.  From Foreign Policy (hat tip reader AM):

A new memoir by Swedish businessman Lennart Dahlgren explores just that quandary. Dahlgren spent nearly a decade battling bureaucrats to bring furniture giant IKEA to Russia. His book, Despite Absurdity: How I Conquered Russia While It Conquered Me, reveals his behind-the-scenes struggles with officials who were ready to throw countless obstacles in IKEA’s path unless they gave in to the system. Published in Swedish last November and now translated into Russian, the book has provoked heated discussion in Russia by providing a shocking and unusually public glimpse at the pervasive rot of Putin’s system.

Dahlgren arrived in Russia in 1998 as IKEA’s emissary to Russia’s newmiddle class, sick of its clunky Soviet-era furniture and ready toupgrade to Scandinavian modern. His team quickly acquired property inKhimki, a suburb north of Moscow. Helped along by a friendly mayor,Russia’s first IKEA store opened in March 2000, drawing a huge crowd ofnearly 40,000 shoppers on its first day. The bedlam seemed to herald abright future: The company had ambitious plans to build a shopping mallnext to the flagship Khimki location and open as many as 20 more storesthroughout Russia. But its plans were nearly derailed when Khimki’saccommodating mayor was replaced by Vladimir Strelchenko, an ex-militaryofficer with little patience for Western investors.

The epic Dahlgren-Strelchenko battle dragged on for years. One of theearly skirmishes involved an overpass that IKEA wanted to build toconnect the future shopping mall to a nearby highway. IKEA jumpedthrough all the necessary hoops to obtain building permits, but onceconstruction was partially completed, officials changed their minds andhalted the process. The overpass, they said, veered too close to a WorldWar II monument marking the historic front lines between German Naziforces and the Red Army in 1941, and would thus be offensive topatriotic Russians. The overpass to nowhere stood there for about ayear, until officials reversed their stance again and ordered IKEA tofinish it as soon as possible. Now, they said, it was needed to easetraffic jams.