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.”

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment