When the Tsar's secret police wrote and distributed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion around the turn of the 20th-century, they essentially invented modern anti-Semitism. The infamous forged pamphlet alleged to be the minutes of a Jewish cabal plotting to control the Christian world by monopolizing international finance and media. The Protocols served its purpose, provoking fresh waves of anti-Jewish pogroms across Russia, which temporarily took the heat off the besieged Tsar.
Ninety years later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a funny thing happened: Russia's media and finance was overwhelmingly controlled by Jews. Paranoia and fiction became reality. Of the seven oligarchs who controlled more than 50% of Russia's economy during the 1990s, six were Jews: Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusin-sky, Alexander Smolensky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mi-khail Friedman, and Vitaly Malkin. Berezovsky also controlled the state television station and several newspapers, while Gusinsky's media empire controlled NTV, Russia's only national independent TV station, as well as major radio and print outlets.
While these largely Jewish figures appeared to dominate the nation, Russia suffered through a decade of unprecedented industrial decline, mass poverty, and a soaring death rate unheard of in an industrialized country not at war. It was a nightmare come true for a country where anti-Semitism is as common as birch trees.
Is this proof that the Protocols weren't a forgery, and that Jews really do gather in Basel every year for a power-weekend of world-domination-plotting and lo-carb fondue? As exciting as that sounds, the reason Jews rose to such power is much simpler. Thanks to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Jews were restricted in their ability to assimilate and rise up in society, so those who wanted to get ahead were forced into the margins. That meant that while ethnic Slavs dominated all the best career slots in the highly bureaucratized Soviet society, Jews dominated the black market economy. After the collapse of communism, the black market became legalized as free-market capitalism. And so a disproportionate number of Jews went from being black marketers to robber barons to oligarchs. In other words, Russian anti-Semitism created its own anti-Semitic reality, which was then used to validate Russian anti-Semitism.
But with the rise to power of President Putin in 2000, times changed for Russia's enterprising Jews. Putin is an old KGB hand, and the KGB is notorious as a pale, Slavs-only club. Since he rose to power, most of the OJs (Original Jewigarchs) have been forced into exile or jailed, replaced by goyim with old ties to Putin. Alexander Prokhanov, infamous editor of Russian nationalist newspaper Zavtra, initially supported Putin partly for this reason.
Unlike in the 90s, Russian television is no longer full of Jewish oligarchs battling over the remains of the country. Russia is once again Russian-dominated. Or is it? In this issue, the eXile takes a fresh look at Russia's Power-Jews. Can Russians say "adios" to the Jewigarchs who dominated the country for a time? If Jews were a bad heavy metal group, would a Russian DJ recall the Jews as a one-hit band relegated to the "where-are-they-now?" file?
Read on, as we explore the question, "Jews, where are they now?" First, we'll tell you what's happened to the OJs. Then we'll let you know about the New J's. And then maybe we'll be able to answer this burning question.
Genesis: From failed theater student to gypsy cabber to the founder of Most Bank and Russia's first independent TV station, NTV. In 1996, he turned NTV into Yeltsin's personal tool, helping him get re-elected president in exchange for massively expanded media power. Set up and bankrolled the Russian Jewish Congress, Russia's first unified Jewish organization. Lost a bid for control of Svyazinvest. In 1999, Gusinsky made a bad bet, throwing his weight behind the Luzhkov-Primakov team against Putin. As a result, he was the first oligarch to spend time in jail, and the first to be exiled.
Exodus: When he isn't relaxing in Israel, he's relaxing in Spain. Although he's one of the quietest of the exiled Jewish oligarchs, Gusinsky is still in the banking and media business. After fleeing Russia, he founded RTVI, a satellite and web-based Russian TV channel, as well as Newsru.com, a liberal Russian-language Internet news portal. He also owns part of the Israeli newspaper Maariv. In 2005, he was charged with laundering money through Israel's largest bank; the charges were eventually dropped. Spent time in a Spanish jail in 2001. This year, he received Spanish citizenship after proving that he is a descendant of Sephardic Jews kicked out of Spain in 1492. With EU citizenship, he no longer has to worry about being extradited to Russia. Rumors that Putin had forgiven Gusinsky turned out to be a sham. Gazprom Media now owns Gusinsky's former media holdings.
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Genesis: In 1987, back when everyone was standing around in line waiting for the next shipment of black bread, Khodorkovsky, a district Komsomol leader, had already set up an import-export business. He worked 14 hours a day and by the time the USSR fell apart, he was running a business with a multi-million dollar turnover, acting as the capitalist brains on behalf of KGB interests. According to the tabloid Sovershenno Sekretno, Khodorkovsky never even bothered with adequate protection. In 1995, he took control of 78% of Yukos in a rigged auction, pilfering state funds earmarked for unpaid teachers and workers to pay his bill. Overnight, he became an oil baron. In the 2000s, he tried to sell off Yukos to foreign oil in order to protect his assets. In his increasing battles with the Kremlin, Khodorkovsky got more and more involved in politics, to the point where he seemed poised to engineer a "parliamentary coup d'etat" against Putuin. He lost. He was charged with fraud and tax evasion.
Exodus: Singing the blues in Chita in Siberia. Recently slapped with new charges, including embezzlement and money laundering. According to Newsru.com, a Chita-based human rights group just petitioned the city to name one of Chita's streets after Khodorkovsky. But most of the city's residents are against it. Passes time writing little-noticed public letters about the need for liberal values in Russia. After he was jailed, he wrote that President Putin is "more liberal and democratic than 70% of the population of Russia."
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Genesis: Yukos shareholder from the very beginning. Climbed the corporate ladder to become the Number Two guy in Yukos (along with goy Platon Lebedev). In 2001, after Gusinsky ran off, Nevzelin took over as president of the Russian Jewish Congress, in a move widely criticized by human rights types. Crazy enough to get in on Khodorkovsky's political fantasies but smart enough to bolt to Israel once the heat was on.
Exodus: Living in Israel. Business activities unknown, but he's active politically. Fingered by the Kremlin as a possible perp in the murder of Litvinenko, which still demands that Israel extradite him. According to Israeli newspaper Maariv, British security services informed Nevzlin that a group of Russians had been collecting information on him. He's hired a special private counter-intelligence unit to battle the Russian spies. Supposedly his team already sniffed them out and handed over the information to Israeli intelligence. According to his personal assistant Eric Wolf, Nevzlin has begun to coordinate his anti-Putin activities with Berezovsky as well as meeting with Other Russia leaders Kasyanov and Kasparov. He has also been hanging out with American politicians, Tom Lantos, a Jewish Democrat serving in Congress. Nevzelin's trying to get America to give Khodorkovsky political prisoner status.
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Genesis: Went from being a mathematics wiz to Russia's largest Lada car salesman, media mogul, as well as "acquiring" Sibneft in rigged privatization auctions. In 1994, he survived an assassination attempt when a mine blew up his car and decapitated his driver. Converted to Russian Orthodoxy and sported a cross to hide his Jewishness; later he armed the Cossacks in an attempt to befriend them. Putin once vacationed at his Spanish villa before he became president. Berezovsky used his control over state television ORT to help propel Putin to the presidency in 1999-2000 against Luzhkov. Once said he could "make any monkey a president," referring to his manufacturing of President Putin. Rumor has it Berezovsky engineered the second Chechen War to raise Putin's popularity. In 2002, Berezovsky fell out with his "creation," Vladimir Putin, who exerted increasing control over his Dr. Frankenstein. Berezovsky fled to the UK after being accused of tax evasion and fraud.
Exodus: Paranoid in the UK; B's protection detail rivals that of Dick Cheney's Iraq trips. Berezovsky might be scared, but he's still the most politically active Jewish oligarch out there -- past or present -- and he's still playing his part to help stoke fears of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy by increasing the tension between Britain and Russia. Having sold most of his assets to his understudy Roman Abramovich, Berezovsky now deals mostly in real estate outside of Russia. Claimed to have bankrolled the Orange Revolution and had been playing anti-Russian spy games with dead KGB agent Litvinenko. Recently invested in Neil Bush's guaranteed-to-fail business venture called COW, or Curriculum on Wheels, a cheap slide projection mechanism that is meant to replace classroom textbooks. The Other Russia opposition movement denies this, but rumor has it he's one of their sponsors. In 2006, Stringer.ru posted an intercepted transcript between Berezovsky and Israeli diamond mogul, Lev Leviev. The two cryptically spoke about using Russia's Chabad rabbi Lazar to somehow influence the 2008 presidential elections. Other rumors among Russian journalists suggest that Berezovsky is a professional double-agent, playing the role of Jewish villain for the Kremlin on the one hand, and also genuinely fighting them at the same time.
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Genesis: The shadiest of the OJ oligarchs. Sold black market dacha goods during the Brezhnev era, ran an illegal bakery as far back as the 1980s and was even sentenced to prison for two years for anti-Soviet capitalist activities involving black marketing construction supplies, supposedly serving only one day. Smolensky continued his enterprising ways into the 90s and opened Russia's first bank, Stolichny, on February 1991, ten months before the final collapse of the USSR. Smolensky's banking group, SBS Agro, grew to become Russia's second largest, and it was one of the first to default and collapse during the 1998 crash. Following that, he ditched Russia for Austria.
Exodus: Retired in Vienna. Resurrected his Austrian banking business, but sold it to Potanin in 2003. Used some of the cash to get his spoiled 27-year-old son Nikolai on the business track. But Smolensky Jr. didn't have his daddy's savvy. He bought out UK's cheesy car manufacturer TVR in 2004, only to sell it three years later after driving the company to the brink of collapse.
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Genesis: He's been in the game since the beginning and managed to stay on top by not ever crossing Putin or playing the public media game. He owns a controlling stake in the Alfa-Group clan, which includes TNK-BP, Alfa-Bank, Vimplecom, Megafon, and a slew of miscellaneous holdings. Managed to do what Khodorkovsky always wanted: to merge his business with a huge Western company to protect his assets from the Kremlin. In 2003, just as shit hit the fan for Yukos, Friedman merged his oil giant TNK with BP for about $7 billion. He's now worth $12.6 billion.
Exodus: He's been going strong for more than a decade, but it looks like a Friedman take-out is still possible. Friedman is being investigated for the illegal purchase of mega-dacha Sosnovka-3, not too unlike the investigation against former prime minister and Putin foe Mikhail "Misha Two Percent" Kasyanov. If convicted, Friedman could face jail time. More recently, his name appeared on a bunch of signs alongside Kasparov and Kasyanov at Other Russia's St. Petersburg march. As far as signs go, this ain't a good one.
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Genesis: Head of Bank Rossisskii Kredit, Russia's third-largest bank until the 1998 collapse and official member of inner circle bankers. Malkin was a member of the Gusinsky-created Russian Jewish Congress. According to Versiya magazine, he has Canadian citizenship and strong ties Israeli financial organizations. The magazine also charges that his bank was used by Chechen criminal groups to launder and transfer money off shore through the Rossisskii Kredit's accounts in Citi Bank, Bank of New York and other major American banks.
Exodus: After the collapse of his bank in '98, Malkin reportedly hid in Israel and then quietly snuck back into Moscow. He wasn't heard from until 2002, when he was implicated in a long-forgotten debt scandal involving Angola and the Soviet Union. Aside from pursuing various investment project, he's now serving as the Representative of the Republic of Buryatia in the Federation Council. His term expires next year. Forbes says Malkin spent $1.4 million buying apartments for handicapped police officers. He's really trying to ingratiate himself with charity and public service.
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Exception: He's not really an oligarch; Chubais is more like a oligarch enabler.
Genesis: Perhaps the most hated man in Russia (after Berezov-sky). It was Chubais who created the privatization program and "loans for shares" schemes, dubbed the "Theft of the Century," which gave rise to the Jewigarchy class. It was the eXile that broke the story that Chubais is part-Jewish back in 1997, according to a local rabbi. Chubais has been accused of taking millions in kickbacks for preferential treatment during privatization, but has only been busted for Smolensky-owned SBS-Agro bank's $3 million interest-free loan to Chubais, Chubais was also caught taking a "book advance" bribe from an oligarch who won a controversial auction for the state's communications network in 1997, after which Chubais was investigated for corruption and fired from his job as deputy prime minister. In an amazing turnaround, Chubais was appointed Chairman of the United Energy Systems (UES), Russia's electricity monopoly, in 2000. Survived an apparent poisoning/assassination attempt in 2005.
Exodus: None. He's still in Russia, still at the helm of UES and still Russia's most hated "hidden Jew." Oh yeah, he's still trying to come up with a "privatization" scheme for UES.
New Jews On The Block
So there you have it. Of the eight OJs, six are out (not to mention the now-quiet Vitaly Malkin). But while six out of eight Jews permanently crossed from the list may seem like a lot, don't let your Christian children out during Passover just yet. If you look at the list of the top ten richest Russians, no less than four are definitely of the Hebrew persuasion and the fifth is a question mark.
Indeed, plenty of Jews are doing just fine under Putin, so long as they play by the new rules. Take for example Mikhail Fradkov, Putin's half-Jewish prime minister. He'll tell you.
So who are these new Jewish 'garchs of the Putin era? How did they make their money? The following Jews are among the ten richest Russians, listed in no particular order.
Forbes ranking: 7
One of the last old-skool Jewish oligarchs still around. His wealth has only been growing. He's now worth $12.6 billion.
Forbes ranking: Not! He might head up UES, but this chinovnik couldn't count up to $1 billion. td>
Forbes ranking: 1
Rumored to have got his start by commandeering freight trains in the early 90s, he went on to control large aluminum and oil holdings to become Russia's wealthiest Jewigarch (worth: $18.7 billion). As Berezovsky's underling, Abramovich apparently learned from his guru's mistakes and has managed to stay completely out of anything that resembles opposition politics. Abramovich hesitantly agreed to be Chukotka's governor at Putin's personal command in 2001. He has wanted to quit a few times, but has stayed on the job. He sold his Sibneft to Gazprom for around $15 billion in 2005 to avoid a Khodorkovsky-like fate (after first selling it to Yukos in 2003). Sibneft was accused of dodging taxes worth 21 billion rubles before selling out to Gazprom. "I can't say that I'm not afraid, but I'm trying to avoid his fate," was his comment on the take down of Khodorkovsky.
Bit by bit, he's sold off most of his Russian assets, including his vast and profitable aluminum holdings. He now invests his money in projects as far away from Russia as possible. Such as the English soccer team Chelsea. Famous also for his massive yachts, which Putin apparently enjoys.
Forbes ranking: 6
Wait -- Deripaska is a Jew? According to a few sketchy sources, such as fringe anti-Semitic websites and an article on inosmi.ru linked to a non-existent article in Ha'aretz, Deripaska is a Chosen One, and that's all the evidence we need. He made his money in early aluminum privatization schemes. Unlike his fellow Jewigarchs, Deripaska looks to a future in Russia, and he likes what he sees. While Abramovich and the rest of the clan have been dumping their Russian holdings, Deripaska had been on a Russian-industry shopping spree. According to Forbes, Deripaska's holding company, Basic Element now owns RusAl, automaker GAZ, aircraft manufacturer Aviacor and insurance company Ingosstraskh, among others. In 2006, Rusal, Sual and Switzerland's Glencore International signed an agreement to merge their assets into United Company Rusal. The new company will be the world's largest aluminum producer. According to Forbes, he's 100% Putin loyalist, even more so than Abramovich. He married into the Yeltsin family. But according to Compromat.ru, in 2003, he paid $300,000 to law firm Alston & Bird just to get a U.S. visa. And if compromat.ru says it's true, we believe it.
Forbes ranking: 2
Forbes calls him a "proletarian success story." He worked his way up from the crappiest job imaginable (a mechanic in a coal mine) to become minister of metallurgy in 1991. In the 90s, he managed a bunch of factories that he privatized with a group of other tough coal miner types; together they formed Trans World Group. In 2000, he wrestled a majority stake in Novolipetsk, one of Russia's largest steel mills. In 2005, he bought 48.8% of St. Petersburg's port in an attempt to integrate all aspects of his raw mineral business. According to Vedomosti, Lisin is one of the shrewdest and most level-headed businessmen in Russia. Like Deripaska, he shows no fear of being taken down on account of being Jewish, though unlike Deripaska, he definitely is Hebreic. Lisin stays away from media holdings and media attention, so other than the fact that he's investing heavily in Russia and is now worth $14.3, not much is known about his personal life.
Forbes ranking: 10
Made a killing in the aluminum industry during privatization in the 90s, but made his big bucks after teaming up with Friedman in the oil and communications sectors. According to Sobesednik magazine, Vekselberg does not consider himself Jewish because his mom is ethnic Slav and Jewish law says it's the mother that matters. Forbes says he's trying to sell off his Russia-based assets and move out. He's just signed an agreement to merge his aluminum company Sual with goyish oligarch Oleg Deripaska's RusAl. Among other things, Vekselberg is looking to get into mining in South Africa, partly as a way to diversify out of Russia. Vekselberg has made it his personal mission to buy up as mucaf 50 Faberge eggs in existence, one egg less than the Russian government. He's worth $10.4 billion and heads the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Committee. Khodorkovsky held this position before he was jailed.