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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 multibillion-dollar empire of oil and aluminum. 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 - his roof, his protector.
Written with the heart-stopping pacing 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 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mark on 08-23-15
...and the rise of Vladimir Putin.
There are the oligarchs, but the most interesting part of the book is how they were reigned in and Vladimir Putin gained power. This book is entertaining, and at the same time gives you bonus points in the intellectual department.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Michael J Canning on 07-26-16
Oligarchs, Operatives, Explosives & Intrigue!
Excellent book. I had some reservations as I have read a fair bit in this area (for an American) and felt I would already be familiar with the narrative. I need not have been concerned. The book is a great addition to the limited literature dealing with this period in Russia and much more than just a rehashing of previously reported facts.
Mezrich takes the reader back into Russia at is was during Yeltsin and early Putin years by telling the story through the experiences of the oligarchs that dominated the country's politics during this time -- their origins, personalities, rivalries, agendas, and public vs. private selves. The story he tells is a rich and three dimensional one, and generally the author nails it, grabbing the reader from the opening chapter (which begins in the clouds of smoke following a failed assignation attempt in Moscow) and never really letting up. The scope is historical rather then contemporary, but the ark of this narrative told by Mezrich is unfolding even in 2016, so the information is the book remains relevant today. The book is full of interesting information, but by its conclusion the reader is left with a lot to think about and at least as many questions than answers. Exactly as it should be in my view.
The time flew by and I would have welcomed additional chapters.
Well worth the credit!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful