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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bykov Arrest And History Of Feudalism

Once again, Anatoly Bykov is in the news. This time, the colorful Krasnoyarsk businessman and thorn in the side of Governor Alexander Lebed has been detained in Lefortovo Prison, on charges that he may have had something to do with the demise of his one-time vassal, Pavel Struganov, known as Pasha Tsvetomuzyka, who was shot dead in Moscow last month.

Bykov, a former chairman of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory, the nation’s second-largest aluminum smelter, had just been freed from prison in Krasnoyarsk pending trial on other charges, including money laundering and complicity in murder.

The figure of Bykov takes us back to those halcyon days of the feudal system, when it was impossible to distinguish a powerful political figure from a bandit. (In this context, I like Robert Guiscard, the 11th-century conqueror of southern Italy. This simple Norman bandit started his career with theft and ended it by waging war with Byzantium.)

Bykov’s career began with his successful fight against TransWorld Group. He then started uniting Krasnoyarsk markets and enterprises. They became fiefdoms of trusty vassals who included Pasha Tsvetomuzyka. These holdings included KrAZ, the Achinsk Alumina Combine, the Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric station, the coal company Krasugol, Kras Air airline and factories that manufactured heavy machinery, then part of the Tanako group.

The story of Bykov’s seizure of Tanako — which then became the nucleus of his feudal holdings — is particularly interesting. The Krasnoyarsk territory’s administration founded Tanako and transferred government shares of various enterprises to it. The group was managed by a state representative. But when then-Governor Valery Zubov went on vacation, Bykov called an emergency shareholders meeting. Sturdy types were sent to the directors of Tanako enterprises and urged to "vote correctly."

Vote correctly they did, and the state representatives of Tanako were sent packing.

Bykov’s career in political and social circles was also founded on purely patriarchal methods of conflict resolution. As his relationship with Lebed began to sour, Bykov essentially tried to set up an alternative system of managing the territory. He gave generously to orphanages and instituted a system for public receptions, where anyone could come to seek assistance.

So imagine this: A woman comes in for help, saying her husband beats her. The next day, her husband is visited by a couple of sturdy types: "Please don’t beat your wife anymore." General Lebed had no such resources, and, in the eyes of the people, he started to lose points.

But there was one hitch in this feudal princedom — the presence of other princes such as, say, Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich, Muscovite oligarchs. While Bykov was trying to sort things out with Lebed, the Muscovites seized Bykov’s main fortress: the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory. As soon as Bykov found himself in jail, his friends took off. Fortunately for Bykov, the jail was located in Krasnoyarsk. The people remembered his generosity, and, lo and behold, he was eventually released.

But perhaps the other princes, Oleg and Roman, guessed what Bykov might do to reestablish his empire. Just look what’s happening to Bykov’s vassals.

Yulia Latynina is the creator and host of "The Ruble Zone" on NTV television.