The Power of Boris Berezovskiy
Rossiyskaya Gazeta 10 November 1998
Boris Berezovskiy is Not Interested in Institutionalizing Russian Power.
A Politoco-Psychological Sketch by Psycholinguistic Methods
Article by psycholinguist Irina Volkoa, associate professor at the Russian
Federation Government Higher School of Economics:
The experience accumulated by the young science of psycholinguistics
shows that even in the most sophisticated system for protecting a politician
there will always be a crack in the form of automatic speech elements, through
which, whether the subject likes it or not, there is a constant leak of
“information” regarding his true motives, intentions, and action. The real
work is the scientific interpretation of the personality and activities of
Berezovskiy strictly on the basis of his pronouncements.
The central objectives and preferences of the subject under investigation
can be set out in the form of a memorandum including the following points:
irreversibility of privatization and completion of redistribution of property;
tactics of wrecking tenders for the sale of state enterprises (“Svyazinvest,”
“Rosneft”) and dispersal of consortiums prepared to participate in them;
active influence on the formation of the body of legislation and the executive
hierarchy geared to restricting the role of state regulation, making it difficult
to devise a firm legal base for business, and counteracting the full
institutionalization of power.
So one can predict that Berezovskiy will resist any attempts to regulate
the functions and mechanisms of power, a system of checks and balances, and
also efforts to institutionalize the leading financial and industrial groups’
secret political influence; interest in creating the minimum necessary system
of social protection for the population capable of lessening the danger of
social instability, which is the only uncontrollable factor in our hero’s
sphere of activity; maintenance of his own public image at a qualitative
level that would not prevent him from obtaining periodic “state orders” and
temporarily occupying senior posts.
What basic ideas and principles do Berezovskiy’s activities serve?
Our methods enable us to provide an answer to this question. Words that relate
to key categories — market economy, reforms, integration, civil society,
federal structure, political transformation, liberal political system —
are used by Berezovskiy as so called common nouns with minimum meaning. In
other words, they are merely conventional tags that do not correspond to
The most common stock phrase in his vocabulary is applied to an opponent
in an affirmative statement — “is a hypocrite,” employs “double standards”
— and applied to himself in a negative statement — “I do not like hypocrisy”
— and it masks one and the same flaw — a lack of conviction and active
knowledge about the subject of his pronouncements. The methods used by
Berezovskiy of making crucial decisions in the sphere of business and politics:
Boris Abramovich tends to rely more on his own intuition, his flair, than
on knowledge and logic. Berezovskiy’s positions in politics, as in business,
are characterized by the fact that they lack the principles of strategic
planning, a clear, positive setting of goals, and stable ideological and
political allegiances. Using just the names that appear in Berezovskiy’s
utterances, you can rank them as follows:
The main resources of Berezovskiy’s political influence are concentrated
in the information sphere. Their functional nucleus is specialized information
techniques in which things are directed by the fourth branch of power in
political and economic processes against the background of the stalling of
the other three branches. These techniques, which in many cases might more
correctly be described as psychological techniques, began to be observed
by the U.S. Propaganda Analysis Institute back in the late thirties. They
include: methods of “emotional control,” using an ostensibly independent
expert to promote a view; “imaginary choice,” which involves two-sided coverage
of an issue, with arguments for and against, but in such a way that the consumer
“himself” reaches the required conclusion; measured amounts of compromising
material; and much else. The target of this mass media action is the mass
consumer, who has the least immunity to brain-washing.
Berezovskiy’s business is based on integration in the power system. His forte
is converting illiquid political capital into highly investable financial
flows. For instance, it follows from Berezovskiy’s own “confessions,” obtained
by technological utterance processing procedures, that the job of Security
Council deputy chairman favorably influenced the promotion of his oil projects
and the job of CIS executive secretary helped him successfully face the onslaught
of the financial crisis.
What is characteristic of Berezovskiy is a high degree of personal interest
combined with a lack of confidence in his own attitudes and a search for
arguments to reinforce them. Ostensibly it takes the shape of an inconsistent
“I,” which is liable to be censored and which alternates with “we,” which
is dragged in to indicate the protection afforded by a “powerful group.”
This “we,” although implying a very definite group of “oligarchs,” nonetheless
does not signify specific individuals and can mean any arbitrary combinations
of this type.
The true, emancipated “I” signifies the result of work done and the ability
to launch mechanisms to control the designated processes. Verbs accompanying
the “I,” even if they are circumscribed by the sphere of personal feelings
and thoughts, tend to modify reality, while the utterances themselves have
the sense of strict resolutions. For example, the utterance “I like to engage
in public politics” can be read as “I will engage in public politics by hook
or by crook”; “I think that he (Yeltsin) should go” can be translated as
a promise to put words into effect as soon as it becomes necessary. Such
verdicts can be taken to be a bluff, but by no means do we see them as statements
that do not have real levers of influence behind them. The most immediate
example is the story of the two abortive rounds of the tender for the sale
of “Rosneft” — in spring and summer 1998, anticipated by Berezovskiy’s
categorical imperative at the Davos forum in February.
Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1999
The Yeltsin Clan’s Onetime Rasputin in Hot Water Now
By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW–In a tantalizing episode of palace intrigue, the man long considered
the most powerful of Russia’s tycoons because of his cozy friendship with
President Boris N. Yeltsin’s family appears to have fallen foul of the Yeltsins
amid allegations that one of his companies bugged and spied on them.
The manipulative and energetic Boris A. Berezovsky, so much one of Russia’s
so-called oligarchs that he practically invented the term, once commanded
a $3-billion empire with interests in the media, oil, automobiles and the
airline Aeroflot. But now the glitter is wearing off the star of a man once
tagged a modern-day Rasputin because of his influence over the first family.
At his peak, Berezovsky was credited with the power to make and break prime
ministers, and he boasted that he led a group of seven oligarchs in bankrolling
Yeltsin’s 1996 election victory. But he lost out last year when Yeltsin,
in a compromise with Communist lawmakers, was forced to appoint as prime
minister Yevgeny M. Primakov, who doesn’t let the tycoons call the shots.
Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that a raid the day before on an oil company
linked to the tycoon had uncovered evidence that phone conversations of
presidential family members were tapped. Deputy Prosecutor General Mikhail
B. Katyshev hinted that some “important people” will face trial.
After details of the alleged bugging came to light Wednesday, the Yeltsin
family turned on Berezovsky. In a swift move, the president’s son-in-law,
Valery Okulov–the head of Aeroflot–fired top officials of the company who
were loyal to Berezovsky. “Now that the family has publicly denied him
protection, Berezovsky may be in for a lot of nasty surprises, the nastiest
of which could be ending up behind bars,” political analyst Andrei A. Piontkovsky
Authorities said Tuesday’s raid was prompted by a recent report in the Moscow
daily Moskovsky Komsomolets that said that police last year found tapes of
conversations in the office of Atoll, a security firm that the newspaper
said is owned by Berezovsky. The tapes were labeled “The Family” and “Tanya”–an
apparent reference to Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s younger daughter and his
closest political advisor.
Amid the murky, eddying waters of Kremlin intrigue, analysts have been left
guessing whether the recent events signal a clear break between the first
family and Berezovsky, whose influence reportedly comes from his financial
ties to the Yeltsin clan. Some suggest that Berezovsky’s public humiliation
is a sign that Primakov is asserting his power over Berezovsky after a recent
war of words between the two.
Either way, the once-untouchable Berezovsky appears more vulnerable than
ever before. The Russian economic collapse has taken a heavy toll on his
empire. But it may be too early to write off Berezovsky, who in the past
has escaped assassination attempts and weathered political setbacks. Alexei
A. Mukhin, the author of a book on the Yeltsins, said the family obviously
wanted to punish Berezovsky publicly. But he predicted that Berezovsky will
“The family cannot just get rid of the tycoon like that,” he said. “There
is too much money involved in their common deals.”
On Tuesday, Yeltsin left the sanitarium where he has been recuperating from
a bleeding ulcer and made an appearance at the Kremlin to accept the resignation
of Prosecutor General Yuri I. Skuratov. The move touched off speculation
that Yeltsin had dumped the prosecutor because he had been soft in pursuing
charges against Berezovsky. The prosecutor’s office said Skuratov, 47, was
resigning because of heart problems.
With Skuratov’s removal, the prosecutors immediately staged a raid with elite
Alpha anti-terrorist troops on Sibneft, an oil company associated with
Berezovsky. During the raid, authorities said, they found evidence that
conversations involving the Yeltsins had been tapped. Berezovsky, whose affairs
are wrapped in secrecy, insists that he has disassociated himself from Sibneft
and remains only an “advisor.”
Some analysts said they see the recent attack on Berezovsky as part of an
attempt by Primakov to consolidate his power. “In this conflict, Primakov
demonstrated that he is a far stronger fighter than Berezovsky,” said Andrei
V. Kolesnikov, political editor of the newspaper Izvestia. “He [Berezovsky]
was just trampled on and left behind to lick his wounds and to weave new
schemes to try to regain his rapidly diminishing influence over the Kremlin.”
Sergei L. Loiko of The Times’ Moscow Bureau contributed to this report.
Chicago Tribune 6 March 1999
FALL OF RUSSIAN TYCOON PORTENDS POWER STRUGGLE
By Colin McMahon Tribune Foreign Correspondent
MOSCOW –Boris Berezovsky’s titles have never matched his influence in Russia.
The mysterious and controversial business tycoon is widely believed to control
various oil, auto and media companies, never mind that he is not their president,
director or CEO. His governmental posts, too, have meant little to most Russians.
What matters with Berezovsky are not his nameplates but the symbolism behind
them, the understanding that he and the other so-called financial “oligarchs”
in Russia have strong friends in the highest of places.
Now that Berezovsky is on the verge of being ousted as secretary of the
Commonwealth of Independent States, few care what that holds for the organization
itself. What matters is what Berezovsky’s fall means to the oligarchs, what
it means amid the struggle for power in Russia. What matters is what might
With President Boris Yeltsin’s move to oust him, Berezovsky has lost the
trump card he has long wielded like a weapon. He can no longer, it would
seem, claim the unflagging support of Yeltsin and his family. “This is the
end of the political career of Boris Abramovich (Berezovsky),” said political
analyst Igor Bunin.
Some analysts are predicting this is only a preliminary move by the Kremlin.
Eager to reassert his authority and counter the rising influence of Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Yeltsin may be preparing to demand changes in
the Primakov government.
The analysis goes this way: Yeltsin is ditching Berezovsky as a concession
to Primakov and to Communists in the parliament who accuse the tycoon of
corruption, and worse. In exchange, Yeltsin will demand that Primakov shake
up his Cabinet. The top target: Yuri Maslyukov, the Communist deputy premier
in charge of economic policy. Maslyukov has been accused of incompetence
in general and specifically of bungling Russia’s negotiations for new loans
from the International Monetary Fund.
Beyond that, some political opponents and Russian media, including a newspaper
controlled by Berezovsky, charge that senior Cabinet officials were selling
governmental posts. Maslyukov denies the allegations. By sacking Berezovsky,
Yeltsin can argue that he, at least, has moved against those in his circle
accused of corruption. Now it is Primakov’s turn.
“Yeltsin wants to demonstrate that he is an honest broker, that he is fighting
corruption not only in the camp of political opponents but in his own camp
too,” said Andrei Piontkovsky, a political analyst and sharp critic of
Berezovsky’s. “It was difficult for Yeltsin not to move against Berezovsky,”
Piontkovsky said. “He is a symbol of corruption almost inside the president’s
Berezovsky’s power sprang from many sources. He is close to Yeltsin’s daughter
and to the president’s longtime chief of staff, who was dismissed in December.
Berezovsky reportedly arranged a profitable book deal for Yeltsin’s memoirs.
And he was among those powerful tycoons whose massive wealth and control
of the news media carried Yeltsin to re-election in 1996.
In exchange, critics said, Berezovsky and the other oligarchs got sweetheart
deals buying up government property. They gobbled up businesses from oil
and mineral companies to airlines. Their banks grew tremendously, turning
giant profits from buying Russian government debt. Some of the oligarchs,
including Berezovsky, passed in and out of government. Few made any effort
to hide their wealth or influence.
Russia’s financial meltdown last August changed all that. The tycoons found
themselves owing billions to Western creditors and holding nearly worthless
paper from their own government. None of the oligarchs is expected to wind
up in the poor house, but their empires have fairly disintegrated. Now they
find themselves on the defensive.
Interior Ministry officials say they are investigating Alexander Smolensky,
whose SBS-Agro Bank made a fortune off government contracts. Police acting
on orders of the Primakov government also have raided companies linked to
Berezovsky. Primakov also is trying to wrest from Berezovsky control of the
ORT national television network.
Now comes the Kremlin announcement that Yeltsin wants Berezovsky gone as
chief of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose-knit and mostly
impotent federation of the former Soviet republics (minus the Baltic states)
that gained their independence in 1991.
Berezovsky, in comments unlikely to please Yeltsin, responded by saying Moscow
cannot tell its partners what to do. “Very often temptations and delusions
arise to dictate from a single center,” Berezovsky said Friday. “In Russia
there are thoughts about restoring the empire. But that time has passed and
is impossible to bring back.”
Moscow Times March 11, 1999
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Personal Thrill At Oligarch’s Comeuppance
By Andrei Piontkovsky
The prime minister has won a total victory over his political adversary,”
cried the headlines of Friday’s and Saturday’s newspapers. I too was heartened
by the prime minister’s “victory” over Boris Berezovsky, only it’s a pity
he and other Russian politicians didn’t fight that battle earlier. If they
had, maybe Russia would be a slightly different country today.
I commenced my own personal war with Berezovsky about three years ago, when
this used-car-salesman-turned-billionaire first became noticeably active
on the political stage. It was he who initiated the written appeal of the
13 bankers to cancel the presidential elections and to strike a deal on the
division of power among the Yeltsin camarilla and the leadership of the Russian
The deal didn’t come off for reasons beyond Berezovsky’s control, and after
the elections he said: “We – seven people – hired Anatoly Chubais and invested
billions of dollars into Boris Yeltsin’s election. We control 50 percent
of the Russian economy. We should occupy the key posts in the government
and benefit from the fruits of our victory.”
In another article entitled “Modern Day Rasputin” I was naive enough to suppose
that as soon as Yeltsin had recovered from his heart operation and learned
of this barefaced oligarchical manifesto he would immediately turf Berezovsky
and his accomplices out of their government posts. However, it proved to
be rather more difficult for the president to escape from the suffocating
embrace of his family’s financial manager.
Later, at a conference I participated in, a prominent Russian politician
said to me: “I liked your speech, but allow me to give you a piece of advice.
Today you mentioned the name of Boris Berezovsky several times, and I didn’t
mention it once. Do you know why not? Because for a long time now I have
known this man all to well. Be careful.”
Everybody was indeed careful. Russia’s “political elite” would mill round
at receptions thrown by Berezovsky’s car dealership LogoVAZ to pay their
respects on the oligarch’s birthday. Shedding tears of gratitude, the finest
people in the country – artists, musicians, actors – would annually accept
“Triumph” award envelopes from his hand, containing $10,000 fromthe dubious
billions. And nor do I remember a heavyweight political figure, a member
of the Security Council and foreign minister by the name of Yevgeny Primakov,
ever publicly speaking out against the financial schemer’s huge and ignominious
role in the country’s political life.
To paraphrase U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, everybody understood
that Boris Berezovsky was a son of a bitch, but they also knew he was the
Yeltsin family’s son of a bitch. And only after the position of the president
and his kin became considerably weaker did everyone – including Primakov
– suddenly see the light about this man.
But what about Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik? His reputation is no
less odious. Is he untouchable for the simple reason that he in turn is in
Primakov’s pocket? What about connections between City Hall and its pet financial
investment corporation AFK Sistema? Or is Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the head
of Sistema, also simply Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s favorite sob? And how
about the FIMACO affair?
It seems that inside our “political elite” everybody who is anybody turns
out to be someone’s son of a bitch.
April 6, 1999 AFP via Johnson’s Russia List
Bad year for Russian business baron Boris Berezovsky
MOSCOW, – It’s been a bad year for Boris Berezovsky, the enigmatic Russian
business baron who once bankrolled Boris Yeltsin. Rarely out of the headlines,
Berezovsky was making news for the wrong reasons Tuesday, as Russian prosecutors
crowned a stormy struggle for influence in the corridors of power by issuing
a warrant for his arrest.
It was the latest move in an apparent coordinated offensive against Berezovsky,
who numbers Communists, government ministers and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov
among his considerable enemies. Prosecutors have targetted Berezovsky’s business
interests for months, probing a litany of sensational but as yet unsubstantiated
charges of money laundering, abuse of office and even eavesdropping on private
Kremlin telephone conversations.
Signs that Berezovsky was losing the latest battle in a stormy and controversial
career as Russia’s number one “oligarch” emerged last month when Yeltsin
announced his dismissal from an executive post overseeing the Commonwealth
of Independent States. The CIS may be largely moribund, but the post gave
Berezovsky immunity from prosecution. No sooner had he been formally stripped
of the title last Friday than the prosecutors swooped.
“I think it is probably not safe for Berezovsky to return to Russia,” said
analyst Yevgeny Volk. Berezovsky was prevented from returning to Russia from
Paris last Friday.
“Yeltsin has given Berezovsky up.”
Berezovsky himself has attributed his remarkable rise from used-car salesman
to the president’s banker to the controversial Russian privatisation programme
under which he and a few well-placed entrepreneurs got very rich very quick.
“I am the product of privatisation,” Berezovsky, 53, recently remarked.
In fact, the quiet graduate of the Moscow Lumber Technical Institute with
mathematics training came to define and mold Russia’s transformation from
post-Soviet rubble to Wild-East capitalism. He launched his first venture
called Logovaz in 1989, when private ownership and profit had just become
legal. “Only in Russia can a used car salesman claim to have influence over
the president,” remarked political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, one of
Berezovsky’s most bitter critics.
But it was a car dealership that made rivals envious enough to want to kill
him. He briefly made headlines in 1994 for surviving a bomb blast that
decapitated his chauffeur. Soon after that he acquired mysterious influence
over the Kremlin and a large chunk of the nation’s premier television station,
ORT. He later became dogged by rumors that he ordered the assassination of
that station’s general director, Vladislav Listyev.
By the spring of 1996, with Yeltsin facing re-election and the Communists
looking an unbeatable force, Berezovsky pooled together a group of 13 bankers
that held secret negotiations with all the candidates. Eventually the group
settled on Yeltsin — and made sure that he won.
Yeltsin rewarded Berezovsky for his efforts in October 1996 by bringing him
into the Kremlin as deputy head of the powerful Security Council, where he
was handed the tricky task of making peace with breakaway Chechnya. Instead,
he attracted criticism for using the job to lobby for his booming oil interests.
The US magazine Forbes soon branded Berezovsky the “Kremlin godfather” —
a label that prompted him to file a libel suit, which he lost.
He was stripped of his Security Council post in November 1997 after spending
months feuding with his banking colleagues and the government following defeat
in a juicy privatization auction of the state telephone company. But he soon
fought back, making sure that arch reformer Anatoly Chubais also lost his
Berezovsky then took on the reformist government of Sergei Kiriyenko, which
had declared war on the oligarchs, and succeeded in helping oust the cabinet
in August 1998 as the financial crisis bit.
But he failed to secure a more accommodating successor. The no-nonsense Primakov
has if anything proven an even more stubborn adversary. Berezovsky’s calls
for the Communist Party to be banned for supposedly supporting anti-Semitism
have meanwhile fallen on deaf ears.