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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Year's Longest Assassination

In one of his rare interviews these days, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais spoke to Izvestia on Dec. 24 about the interview that business magnate Boris Berezovsky gave the Financial Times on Nov. 1, 1996.

"As a matter of fact, he [Berezovsky] fully revealed himself only once," Chubais told Izvestia. "This was when he said that seven banks received half the country and now they will rule it all. After that interview, there was a burst of nonacceptance of Berezovsky both in Russia and throughout the world. This was very shameful. No civilized power has ever allowed itself to be turned into a servant of big business."

These words are golden. Chubais' fatal error was that he did not say them on Nov. 2, 1996, the day after Berezovsky's truly shameful interview. Chubais' silence meant that Berezovsky was largely right when he said: "We hired Chubais. We secured the victory of [President] Boris Yeltsin at the elections. Now it is time to reap the fruits of our victory." Just as animals mark their natural habitat with their feces, Berezovsky indicated his inviolable position in the corridors of power with his interviews.

The lamb-like silence of the authorities signaled that they accepted the rules that were imposed on them by the oligarchs. We can thus understand the sincerity and depth of indignation that Berezovsky and his colleagues felt last summer when Chubais suddenly refused to play by these implicit rules.

Having received the oil company Sibneft for a song and without any competition, Berezovsky could not repeat this performance with the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. "There will never again be any freebies," said the young reformers. And what is most revealing about this phrase are the words "never again," which is an admission that until that moment the distribution of property was practically free -- something that wholly suited the oligarchs.

After having entered into a tactical alliance with the bankers and providing them with privileged access to financial flows from the state budget, Chubais' team created a Frankenstein that slipped out from the control of its creators.

The modern-day Frankenstein turned out to be equipped with a powerful destructive weapon -- the mass media. Millions of cloned talking heads in the person of Sergei Dorenko, the anchor of the ORT weekly news show, Vremya, knitted their brows and breathed a sigh of noble indignation, saying, "Chubais planned to strike his most frightful blow at children." "Kill the Chubais Within You," read the highbrow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

And here the key word was spoken: "kill." "Within you" is a thinly veiled proviso. The goal is murder, and it is widely known who will kill whom. The victim has been clearly designated. Everyone is trying to make his way closer to the victim and deal him a blow. Or at least to see how others strike him. No one is personally taking responsibility for the victim who is destined for sacrifice and death -- not Dorenko, not NTV news anchor Yevgeny Kiselyov, not the muckraking journalist Alexander Minkin, and not Nezavisimaya Gazeta editor Vitaly Tretyakov. They brought the condemned man onto the field and threw stones at him. Everyone throws his own stone; the guilty person dies under the hail of stones; and no one plays the executioner's role. This is collective murder -- safe, sanctioned and even recommended by the liberal mass media.

The intellectual "elite" couldn't resist the temptation of taking part in the ritual murder. Moreover, this temptation was reinforced by the silver coins of a banker.

Fifty years ago, the predecessors of this elite -- the best journalists, writers and scholars of the Soviet Union -- signed petitions to "Shoot them like mad dogs!" Morals have not improved in Russia during the past half century. On the contrary. Stalin paid for dishonor far more than Berezovsky does. Stalin didn't pay some kind of measly tens of thousands of dollars per year. He allowed the elite to live or, at least, gave it the hope of survival.

Not only was the staff of intellectual lackeys unable to resist the temptation to cast stones at Chubais, but leading figures from the presidential court as well. It was amusing to watch how such various figures as the jeering, grimacing deputy chief of the presidential administration Alexander Livshits, the dimwitted Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov and the aristocratically elegant presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky started to parrot prepared texts that either exposed Chubais as a U.S. spy or proposed giving the government of the country over to the supreme economic council of oligarchs.

Berezovsky took his managerial know-how to its ultimate and logical conclusion by privatizing both the president's family and his close inner circle.It is telling that the accusations and curses leveled against Chubais are almost not being heard lately from his traditional political adversaries from the ranks of the opposition. Something is preventing them from joining the orgy being held by Chubais' former friends.

When before your eyes a herd of swine crucifies a man, you can't help but feel some sympathy for him, even if he isn't a prophet and isn't holy.

Andrei Piontkovsky is head of the Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow.