Read: April 2022
Inspiration: Wanted to learn more about the social environment and power dynamics in Russia in light of the Ukrainian invasion
Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.
“Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs”, published in 2015 by author Ben Mezrich, chronicles the rise of a group of young, ambitious entrepreneurs in Russia during the chaotic years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The book follows the lives of several key figures, including Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, as they navigate the cutthroat world of Russian business and politics. The book also details the rise of the Russian mafia and its influence on the country’s economy and government. Despite the many challenges they faced, these oligarchs were able to amass incredible wealth and power, eventually coming to dominate the Russian landscape. However, their success was not without controversy, and the book also explores the various legal and ethical controversies that surrounded their business dealings. Overall, Once Upon a Time in Russia is a unique look at the tumultuous history of modern Russia and the individuals who helped shape it.
Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.
Russia was “wild east” in the 90s—corporations have wet works teams to assassinate, Berezovksy make money in cars in 90s, Berezovsky nearly killed and realize “roof”/krysha too weak so look to own media company—want gvt backing not just fighters, berezovsky want yeltsin to give him 49% privatized media company and gvt hold 51% to help yeltsin keep power and protect, abramovich from nothing, manfactured toys then get into oil trading then want to integrate supply chain of oil production/refining and trade so go to berezovsky to help as berez work with yeltsin on ORT media co—abram and berez to split mega oil co cash which help berez keep media co afloat, oil to prop up media to prop up president to prop up berezovsky etc., lead anchor vlad listyev killed (selected for ORT, most famous man in russia 1995), oil mega firm would be sibneft (abram and berez), anatoly chubais organize privitization scheme—gvt terrible finances so ask for loans with shares of gvt enterprises as collateral and gvt default as planned then bizmen get shares for cheap (also hard to undo), yeltsin 3% approval at Davos 1996–Berez nervous, ask Soros for help, Berez turn to media control with oligarch enemies to save yeltsin, berez find out his own man ordered by FSB to assassinate him 1998 so use as leverage to replace FSB heads and Putin new head as appointed by Yeltsin (berez and yeltsin see putin as loyal cog after putin show loyalty to boss/old st petersburg mayor, unclear if putin as fsb head react well to berez and fsb whistleblower, Putin arrest Litvinenko as whistleblower/disloyal, yeltsin term to end june 2000–berez and yeltsin daughter Tatiana fear all russia party so get yeltsin to resign dec 31 1999 and give putin power 3 months before elections start (putin was PM at the time), Putin turn on oligarchs once in power—arrest Gusinsky (media magnate who pushed against putin) and Gusinsky exiled, Berez exiled to france but attack Putin often, Litvinenko poisoned by Putin in France and died, abram continue to build wealth, 10 months post death Berez sue abram for 5 billion for blackmail when sold companies years prior—became public trial on abram and berez lives in 2011, berez lose the trial and embarrassed then eventually kill self in 2013