Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, one of the most controversial figures in modern Russian history is dead. During his life, the media called him the “Grey Eminence”, the “Kremlin’s Godfather”, and a “political adventurer”. However, will he go down in history? Since the mid-90s, the figure of Berezovsky was wrapped in mystery. An average Russian scientist who turned into an enterprising car dealer in the late 80s, he managed to use all the imperfections of the Perestroika reforms to his advantage. It took Berezovsky only seven years to take a key governmental position. He became Deputy Secretary of the RF Security Council (SBRF). In the 90s, the political chaos in Russia often helped easy riders rise to the top and take important positions, but later they’d fall back into obscurity. Berezovsky wasn’t an exception to this rule. Political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov observed, “For a while, he was amongst the five most influential people in the country. Just as in any transition period, the trend pushes out those who created it. Berezovsky found himself offside; his role was less and less significant. He only had scandals; he lacked productive results”.
The peak of his influence was in 1996-98. Whilst Russian soldiers died in Chechnya, and terrorist attacks killed and injured peaceful citizens in Moscow, Berezovsky managed to accumulate large financial resources and to gain control over portions of the media. According to a number of experts, “The Family”, close associates of first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, helped Berezovsky to become so powerful. With Yeltsin’s departure, Lady Luck turned her back on Berezovsky and his political career went into a tailspin. Already, in November 2000, the RF Genprokuratora announced plans to bring charges against him. Berezovsky fled Russia to the UK, and since then, he never set foot on Russian soil. His political activities in exile looked more like political low comedy, but it often took peoples’ lives.
In particular, Berezovsky tried to turn the death of the former KGB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London into a farce about implacable KGB agents. Political analyst Pavel Danilin noted, “It wasn’t ruled out that Boris Berezovsky might become a victim of this escapade. Considering that a court in London recently classified the details of Aleksandr Litvinenko’s collaboration with British intelligence, you can’t rule out that they were very interested in Berezovsky keeping silent about it”.
It’s also possible that despair and depression caused Berezovsky’s death. He lost a multi-million court battle to Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich. The court blocked his accounts following the claims of his former wife. Berezovsky was deprived him of all his tools of influence and his further stay in the UK became uncertain. According to Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov, several months ago, Berezovsky wrote a letter to President Putin, in which he apologised for the mistakes he’d made and asked for permission to return to Russia.
Anyway, now, Berezovsky’s dead. RF Gosduma Deputy and journalist Aleksandr Khinsteyn observed, “The end of his life was rather typical of this kind of adventurer. What happened is a logical finale, considering the last years of his life. He was a destroyer, who thought only about himself, driven by selfish principles, to which our people and our country were nothing but objects of his speculations, profit-making, and political games. He ended his life far away from his motherland, without friends, without love, without lifework. In my opinion, it wasn’t only fated, it’s also a warning”. According to Deputy Khinsteyn, you can describe Berezovsky’s goal with the words spoken by Gestapo Müller in Yulian Semyonov’s novel 17 Moments of Spring, “It’s damned great when they think that you’re the Devil”. Perhaps, the Devil couldn’t wait any longer, so, he called his competitor in for a chat.
24 March 2013
Voice of Russia World Service