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Boris Berezovsky: death of an oligarch

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Boris Berezovsky

Who, me? (Pic by AFP/Carl de Souza)

I arrived in Russia in 1997, when Boris Berezovsky’s influence was at its height. The year before, he had managed to get Boris Yeltsin reelected, and we need not think too hard about how or why that was achieved. In those days Berezovsky was often in Chechnya, and I couldn’t keep up with how much stuff he owned. Then Putin became president, and shortly afterwards the “Godfather of the Kremlin” was out.

Sometime later I read a vehemently anti-Putin editorial in a major British newspaper, before such things were commonplace. Who wrote this? I wondered. And then I saw the byline:

Boris Berezovsky. I was stunned. Hadn’t the editor done a quick web search before paying this “Russian businessman” to write his screed? Evidently not, although I now understand that serial failure to grasp that not every opponent of Putin is a brave Solzhenitsyn is characteristic of the UK and US media.  Last year, for instance, I watched a documentary on Khodorkovsky, and the filmmaker was baffled when Russians expressed contempt for the fallen billionaire. As for Berezovsky, for years I wrote him off as an embittered crook until I read an interesting piece by Edward Limonov, written in his trademark broken English. The author turned opposition leader was recalling a very expensive bottle of cognac the exiled billionaire had sent him upon his release from prison on weapons smuggling charges in 2003: I like Berezovsky more and more.  Exiled, he looks noble. Berezovsky is a type of anxious, never-satisfied life-eater, of warrior, the person who lives by the energy of conflict. Abroad, in Great Britain, he is forced to exist without conflict, in order to preserve himself from a Russian prison. He wants badly to go out of that golden cage of London, again go to exciting life of conflicts in Russia. He is not interested in money. Money is only fuel to his conflicts. A life-eater, fueled by the energy of conflict! That also describes Limonov, who used to ramble on about legalizing polygamy and teaching kids to use flame-throwers (before he became a semi-respectable Putin opponent in the eyes of David Frost et al.) In Berezovsky, he recognized some of his own characteristics. And now I saw the oligarch differently. He was… To consume more textual awesomeness, click here

Daniel Kalder is an author and journalist originally from Scotland, who currently resides in Texas after a ten year stint in the former USSR. Visit him online at
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