Godfather of the Kremlin: The Life and Times of Boris Berezovsky

Paul Klebnikov, Author, Drenka Willen, Editor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-15-100621-2
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 1991--and how lobbyist Berezovsky and his cronies employed methods such as pyramid schemes to fuel their rise. The ""oligarchs""--Berezovsky, in particular--then 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.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-15-601330-7
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