The Belly Button Window Details

About Belly Button Window

The Semi-Regular Newsletter

Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
The Reality of Irrelevance
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Gailyn Goes to Town
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
Too Cold to Care!
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
The Hungry Duck
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
The Banking Implosion
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, November 10, 1998

You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast

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 practical tasks.

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: Rybkin-Chernomyrdin-Yeltsin-Lebed-Nemtsov-Chubays-Luzhkov-Primakov -Zyuganov.

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 said.

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 survive.

"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


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 come next.

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 family."

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 Communist Party.

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 post.

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.

Enter your email for Belly Button Window updates: