Elected amid widespread protests and allegations of vote rigging for a controversial third term, the Russian President is determined to destroy the oligarchs before they destroy him. Introducing a new law to renationalise the vast asset wealth they acquired in Yeltsin’s questionable privatisation programme, the President seizes this chance to demolish their power base. His greatest opponent – Anton Blok, owner of the mighty Tyndersk Kombinat – faces far more than just financial ruin as his empire threatens to fall apart, and the President knows that his old enemy will stop at nothing to avoid catastrophe. With battlelines drawn, he turns to Alex Leksin, a business trouble-shooter, to thwart Blok’s plans. Against the challenge of hostile Arctic conditions, Leksin must tread a dangerous path through a labyrinth of corruption until the exciting and unexpected denouement takes place in Russia’s northernmost seaport
“If I were to doze off and re-awake in a hundred years and someone asked me what is happening in Russia, my answer would be unhesitating : people are drinking and stealing..”
As a “Russia veteran”, George Eccles knows that Saltykov-Shchedrin’s formula from the mid nineteenth century always holds true. But his new novel, “The Oligarch”, stands out, not just because it depicts theft and corruption on a Herculean scale, but because the author has a professional understanding of just what was stolen under the political loans-for-shares deal in the mid nineties (the country), and how (financial sleight of hand). Were the seven banker-oligarchs (“semibankirschina”) who constructed that deal merely opportunists, lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time? Eccles thinks not. They would have needed to have had backing from rogue elements of the ex-KGB. His theory resonates with the real-life comments of Andrei Illarionov, a former economics adviser to President Putin, who views the conflict between today’s liberals and the Kremlin’s powerbrokers as the messy unwinding of the marriage which originally brought about the collapse of the USSR.
But if Eccles’s novel has its genesis in the real politics of the Yeltsin era, its action is set in the near future. The oligarchs won power in a time of great instability. What might happen in a renewed period of instability? Would such a situation provide an opportunity for a trust-busting President to destroy them? Or would their economic might prevail over any governmental effort to bring them to heel?
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