KRUGLIKOVO, Russia — Mikhail Utrobin waded through ankle-deep mud, corralling his cows with help from a farmhand. The animals, lethargic under the late summer sun, refused to budge. Utrobin slapped and heaved at their massive bodies until they did.
“The first months were the worst,” he said on a recent afternoon, surveying the land on which he had built his business and was now building a new home. “My employees were drinking, my cows were dying, and my neighbors were stealing. But everything works smoothly now.”
Four years ago, Utrobin was a traveling executive for a Russian sportswear chain, living out of a suitcase. Today, he’s a celebrated entrepreneur profiled on state TV and paraded before top government officials, the proud owner of a budding dairy business established on land he acquired free from the Russian state…
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