Boris Berezovsky death: No sympathy for 'the ideologue of oligarchic capitalism'

View From Russia

Moscow

Russian politicians and public figures shed few tears over the news of Boris Berezovsky’s sudden death this weekend, though there was an acknowledgement of the tremendous impact the controversial businessman had on the country during the tumultuous 1990s.

The term “oligarch” has come to be misused as an epithet for any Russian tycoon with a few billion in his pocket, but Mr Berezovsky was the real deal, amassing a fortune but also exercising huge control over politics in the country. “Berezovsky saw Russia like a chessboard, but one in which only he was allowed to move the pieces,” wrote the newspaper Novaya Gazeta in an editorial.

It was Mr Berezovsky who first convinced Boris Yeltsin that a little-known former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin would be the best person to safeguard the interests of the “family” around the ailing president. A popular Spitting Image-style television programme at the time portrayed Mr Berezovsky as an evil fairy, helping Mr Putin, depicted as a foulmouthed baby, put Russia under his spell. But the oligarch was surprised when his protégé morphed into an independent and tenacious political figure, and he soon fell out of favour, while the satirical puppet show was taken off air by Mr Putin.

After Mr Berezovsky’s dash to London, the fugitive oligarch was elevated to an almost cartoon-like villain status inside Russia. When prominent Kremlin critics, such as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, or the former spy Alexander Litvinenko, were murdered, Russian officials have hinted that Mr Berezovsky was involved, as a kind of anti-Kremlin puppetmaster, pulling strings in order to “discredit Russia’s image”. It was a role that Mr Berezovsky himself appeared to relish, sponsoring dissidents, and even stating in an interview once that he was working to organise a revolution in Russia.

How much this was actually true and how much he was merely exercising his well-honed sense of hyperbole and a desire to appear important is unclear. “Berezovsky had no real role in Russian politics over the last few years,” said Moscow’s former mayor, Yuri Luzhkov in an interview. “As a politician who was able to influence the situation inside Russia, he died many years ago.”

Among current pro-Putin politicians there was little sympathy for Mr Berezovsky. “I don’t feel sorry for him one bit,” wrote Eduard Bagirov, pro-Kremlin writer, on Twitter. 

Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician, said that Mr Berezovsky was “probably a negative figure” in Russian history. “He was the ideologue of oligarchic capitalism, who brought Putin to power with his money and media support.”

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice