Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—a True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder

Ben Mezrich. Atria, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7189-2
Mezrich aims to repeat the success of 2009’s The Accidental Billionaires—the basis for the movie The Social Network—with this breathless account of two billionaire oligarchs in post-Communist Russia. In the feeding frenzy after the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, venal businessmen grew rich as the bankrupt government sold state-owned companies at fire-sale prices. Boris Berezovsky, an early beneficiary of the sell-off, recognized talent in Roman Abramovich, a younger entrepreneur, and became his krysha (protector). Both flourished until Vladimir Putin became premier in 1999. Berezovsky underestimated Putin’s desire to eliminate the influence—thought not the wealth—of the oligarchs. They quarreled; Putin attacked Berezovsky, drove him into exile, and may have had him (and at least one associate, Alexander Litvinenko) murdered. Abramovich, who proved more amenable to working with Putin, continues to prosper. This is lowbrow journalism at its best: recreated dialogue, the author’s insight into everyone’s thoughts, characters and actions tweaked to protect sources and maintain a fiercely cinematic pace. Nevertheless, the bizarre events described in the book happened more or less as described, and between the action sequences, Mezrich, almost as if by accident, reveals the sad story of how Russian resources and infrastructure were looted by the fortunate few. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/02/2015
Release date: 06/02/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4423-8717-1
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4767-7191-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4423-8718-8
Hardcover - 377 pages - 978-1-4104-8051-4
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4767-7190-8
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