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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

INSIDE RUSSIA: Siberian Boss Is Post-Soviet 'Success' Story




On Monday in distant Siberia, the annual shareholders meeting of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory allowed board chairman Anatoly Bykov to keep his post.


Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed, who has called Bykov the leader of the Krasnoyarsk mafia and promised to have him put in jail, immediately left for Moscow to complain to the prime minister.


The conflict between General Lebed and the person who had been his greatest supporter during the gubernatorial elections has turned out to be one of the most entertaining intrigues in Russia. These intrigues show to what extent political power has decayed and force onlookers to sympathize with those who indisputably find themselves entirely on the other side of the law.


Having trod a modest career path from a physical education school teacher to a member of the board of directors of the Krasnoyarsk automobile factory, Bykov became extremely popular.


I was once taken to see 9-year-old girls composing badly rhymed poems about Anatoly Petrovich Bykov - something along the lines of "Anatoly Petrovich arrived - and the sun rose from the Krasnoyarsk ground." It's not that the girl who wrote this was prompted, it's just that she lives in a children's home founded by Bykov.


Bykov's popularity rests on a couple of factors: There is his fantastic generosity. Then there is his creation of a parallel system of power. Nearly any citizen in the region can bring his complaints to Bykov's office and in all likelihood be satisfied. It is said that one woman complained that her husband beat her. People of a certain type went to see the husband and said: "You beat your wife? Well, you won't do it again." The husband paid heed.


After seizing the Krasnoyarsk car factory from the previous director, a fan of armor-plated Mercedes, offshore bank accounts and unpaid salaries, the former boxer Bykov turned the factory into a gem. Even after Aug. 17, the factory wasn't late with wages by even a day. What it cost the factory to reconstruct its assembly lines, lower production costs and to increase output with all the current difficulties is another story. Nevertheless, the factory achieved all this.


Sergei Kiriyenko was amazed when he visited Krasnoyarsk.


"When I was the director of Norsi Oil I prayed for an assistant like Alexei Barantsev [general manager at the car factory]. He must have been heaven-sent," said the former prime minister.


But what of Lebed's accusations and the commission led by Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov that has supposedly been charged with bringing organized crime in Krasnoyarsk to heel?


It is, of course, impossible that this commission will ever indict Bykov. Because if it were seriously to concern itself with elucidating the circumstances of Bykov's rise to power, it would have to reveal all too much about the forces behind him as he rose to his current heights, the forces that allowed him to successfully hold off Oleg Soskovets and Alexander Korzhakov as they tried to wrest KrAZ away from him.


Putting together such a case would reveal secrets that would bring about the utmost moral collapse of the state.