A gripping and shocking insight into the lives of Russia’s most famous oligarchs from New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House.
Once Upon a Time in Russia is the untold true story of the larger-than-life billionaire oligarchs who surfed the waves of privatization to reap riches after the fall of the Soviet regime: “Godfather of the Kremlin” Boris Berezovsky, a former mathematician whose first entrepreneurial venture was running an automobile reselling business, and Roman Abramovich, his dashing young protégé who built a multi-billion-dollar empire of oil and aluminium. Locked in a complex, uniquely Russian partnership, Berezovsky and Abramovich battled their way through the “Wild East” of Russia with Berezovsky acting as the younger man’s krysha- literally, his roof, his protector.
Written with the heart-stopping pace of a thriller -but even more compelling because it is true - this story of amassing obscene wealth and power depicts a rarefied world seldom seen up close. Under Berezovsky’s krysha, Abramovich built one of Russia’s largest oil companies from the ground up and in exchange made cash deliveries - including 491 million dollars in just one year. But their relationship frayed when Berezovsky attacked President Vladimir Putin in the media - and had to flee to the UK. Abramovich continued to prosper.
Dead bodies trailed Berezovsky’s footsteps, and threats followed him to London, where an associate of his died painfully and famously of Polonium poisoning. Then Berezovsky himself was later found dead, declared a suicide.
Exclusively sourced, capturing a momentous period in recent world history, Once Upon a Time in Russia is at once personal and political, offering an unprecedented look into the wealth, corruption, and power behind what Graydon Carter called ‘the story of our age’.
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.
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Really enjoyed this. I have read all of Ben's books and this is probably the best.