Wealth inequality in the United States has gotten pretty extreme in recent decades. About 32,000 people (in the top 0.01 percent of households) control 11 percent of the country's wealth. But that's nothing compared to Russia. According to the 2014 Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, 111 Russian billionaires control a staggering 19 percent of the country's wealth.
According to Credit Suisse, wealth inequality in Russia is "significantly higher than any other major economic power." In last year's report, they concluded it has "the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, apart from small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires." Indeed, 84.8 percent of the country's wealth is controlled by the top 10 percent of people. By contrast, in the US the top 10 percent only controls 74.6 percent of wealth, in China only 64 percent, and in Japan only 48.5 percent:
There are a few countries in the mid-to-high 70s (Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey, Philippines) but Russia's really in a league of its own, not least because of the nature of its billionaires.
When Putin first took office in 2000, he vowed to take on the country's much-loathed oligarchs; the ultra-wealthy elite that had grown to enormous power during the chaotic post-Soviet liberalization of the 1990s. He did, but in the process replaced many of them with his own friends and associates, who are less powerful for their personal reliance on Putin but no less wealthy. As a a result, many if not most of their fortunes can be attributed to rent-seeking and cronyism rather than, say, providing useful products and services.