Cover image for Godfather of the Kremlin : Boris Berezovsky and the looting of Russia
Godfather of the Kremlin : Boris Berezovsky and the looting of Russia
Klebnikov, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, 2000.
Physical Description:
xiv, 400 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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HC340.12 .K555 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HC340.12 .K555 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Boris Berezovsky's business career has been meteoric. In just six years he managed to seize control of Russia's largest auto manufacturer, largest TV network, national airline, and one of the world's biggest oil companies. When Moscow's gangster families battled one another in the Great Mob War of 1993-1994, Berezovsky was in the thick of it. He was badly burned by a car bomb; his driver was decapitated. A year later, Berezovsky emerged as the prime suspect in the assassination of the director of the TV network he acquired. Although plagued by scandal, he enjoyed President Yeltsin's support, serving as the personal "financial advisor" to Yeltsin and his family. In 1996, Berezovsky organized the financing of Yeltsin's re-election campaign-a campaign marred by fraud, embezzlement, and attempted murder. Berezovsky became the president's most influential political advisor, playing a key role in forming governments and dismissing prime ministers. Having labored to privatize the economy, Berezovsky privatized the state. Based on hundreds of taped interviews with top businessmen and government officials, as well as on secret police reports, contractual documents, and surveillance tapes, Godfather of the Kremlin is both a gripping story and a unique historical document.

Author Notes

Paul Klebnikov holds a Ph.D. in Russian history from the London School of Economics. He is a senior editor at Forbes and has reported on Russia since 1989. A fluent Russian speaker, he has won four press awards for his writing on Russian business

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Using evidence gathered from the early 1990s to the election of Vladimir Putin in 2000, Klebnikov exposes how Russia became one of the most corrupt regimes in the world.

Publisher's Weekly Review

After devoting two pages to conspiracy theories about who master-minded the 1999 Moscow bombings that led to Russia's current war against Chechnya, the author admits that it is "all speculation." Such bouts of conjecture mar an otherwise worthwhile examination of how a few tycoons have managed to gain extraordinary power in contemporary Russia. While the title of the book focuses on one of these moguls, the author casts a wider net. Klebnikov, a senior editor at Forbes, does a decent job of describing how Russian political leaders were unable to fashion effective law and economic policy after the Communists lost power in 1991Aand how lobbyist Berezovsky and his cronies employed methods such as pyramid schemes to fuel their rise. The "oligarchs"ABerezovsky, in particularAthen used this economic power to obtain shares in some of Russia's largest companies. As he notes, "It was clear who the losers were: the average Russian." It's difficult to argue with Klebnikov's conclusion that Moscow must limit the power of these businessmen in order to create true democracy. But his hard work occasionally hurts him: he has enough interviews to make interesting hypotheses, but not enough hard evidence to make conclusions about who is responsible for the political violence that has plagued Russia during the last decade. Readers looking for such answers would be better served by thumbing through another new work, Chrystia Freeland's Sale of the Century (reviewed below). Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Berezovsky, who currently owns Russia's largest auto manufacturer and TV network and one of the world's largest oil companies, is a shady figure with mob connections who narrowly avoided death in a car bombing and was later implicated in the assassination of the director of a TV network. He financed Yeltsin's reelection campaign and helped put current president Vladimir Putin in office. Freeland blames him for much of the corruption and unrestrained greed of 1994-95, when state assets were sold off, and Klebnikov concurs: "Berezovksy's most destructive legacy was that, as a private individual, he hijacked the state." Both authors use personal interviews and substantiated sources to supply much more sensational information than is found in recent works by historians, such as Martin Malia's The Soviet Tragedy (LJ 4/1/94) or The Russian Transformation (LJ 9/15/99), edited by Betty Glad and Eric Shiraev. What results is thoroughly readable and thought-provoking. Sadly, both authors conclude that Putin will have trouble acting independently of the oligarchs. In selling off state assets, which made billionaires of Berezovsky and other oligarchs, Russia made a Faustian bargain that consumes it to this day.ÄHarry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Cast of Charactersp. 7
1. The Great Mob Warp. 11
2. The Collapse of the Old Regimep. 46
3. Trader's Paradisep. 77
4. Selling the Country for Vouchersp. 110
5. The Listyev Murderp. 144
6. Privatizing the Profits of Aeroflotp. 170
7. The Race for Oilp. 188
8. The Black Treasury of the Yeltsin Campaignp. 212
9. Oligarchyp. 248
10. Vladimir Putin Takes Powerp. 284
Epiloguep. 318
Appendix I Boris Berezovsky Appeals to the Presidentp. 327
Appendix II The Yeltsin Campaign Covers Upp. 337
Appendix III Berezovsky's Empirep. 345
List of Sourcesp. 346
Notesp. 361
Indexp. 391