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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shchit Happens ...

The main character of Viktor Pelevin's new book "Numbers," after swapping his Chechen krysha for an FSB one, has billboard posters put up on Rublyovskoye Shosse depicting a shield and a sword (the emblem of the FSB) with the bilingual caption: "Shchit happens" (a pun on the fact that the Russian word for a shield sounds like the word "shit").

Real-life oligarchs are smarter than their fictional counterparts. They don't hang around until it's too late. And so that shit doesn't happen to them, they bail out to the West, having swapped RusAl and Sibneft for Chelsea.

That's why people are asking completely the wrong question when they inquire as to why Roman Abramovich is selling his stake in Rusal. What they should be asking is why Oleg Deripaska is buying Abramovich's stake in RusAl. The thing is, all the "shield" considerations that concern Abramovich also hold true for Deripaska. I think the real reason is that RusAl is the fulfilment of Deripaska's childhood dream.

Indeed, when Russian oligarchs were making their fortunes on the GKO market and billionaires were being appointed in the loans-for-shares auctions, RusAl didn't even exist.

What did exist was the great TransWorld Group empire and one part of it, Sayansk Aluminum Plant, or SaAZ, where Deripaska was working himself into the ground to get the plant up and running again.

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He wouldn't leave the shopfloor. They say that he even slept next to electrolytic furnaces, losing his hair and some teeth in the process. Vladimir Tatarenkov, the former owner, would call the young director with promises to bump him off; and once, as Deripaska was returning from Achinsk to Sayanogorsk, they were waiting for him in the mountains with a grenade launcher.

It is quite possible that Tatarenkov had his reasons for being unhappy with TWG. I've heard it said that they promised him $2 million for buying up shares in the plant, and that when the new owners received the shares, the young director of SaAZ went to the organized crime police, or RUBOP, and said: "I have decided I want to fight crime."

TWG was not rated among the oligarchs because it was considered a class alien. The capital's financial beau monde at the time was squeamishly discussing the Izmailovo mafia, aluminum wars and banker Oleg Kantor, who had been stabbed to death at his dacha.

Time passed and the TWG empire crumbled due to a managerial rebellion led by the very same Deripaska. In 1999, he also attempted to gain control of what remained of the empire -- Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant (KrAZ) and Bratsk Aluminum Plant (BrAZ).

The plants were caught in a pincer and cut off from their supplies of alumina, while UES retroactively tried to declare the electricity rates the aluminum plants had been paying invalid and sought to bankrupt them.

The fall of the besieged plants looked inevitable, when, at the very last moment, "white knight" Abramovich came to the rescue. So they had to make peace.

And now finally the war, begun all the way back in 1997, has reached its conclusion: Abramovich is selling his stake.

Deripaska, dispatched to distant Khakassia in 1995, is now in charge of the whole empire. Just like Decius, who was dispatched to Moesia to pacify the legions and returned as Roman emperor.

But what will be the fate of Deripaska's empire now, when Russian oligarchs are a dying breed like dinosaurs? Some have been booted out to the West; some are paying the chekists; others are fighting against the chekists; and yet others are sitting tight and keeping quiet.

Everyone now understands that the state is a highly risky financial instrument. Only Base Element, or so it seems, considers it nothing but a high-yield instrument.

Base Element buys up Gorky Auto Plant, or GAZ, and the government introduces higher tariffs on the import of foreign cars. Khakassia Governor Alexei Lebed is trying to take Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant away from UES, but, nonetheless, is ready to make peace if the power plant will sell energy to SaAZ at Soviet prices. While the battle between Yukos and the prosecutor's office was raging, prosecutors paid a visit to Ilim Pulp, one of BasEl's old foes.

Everyone is desperately trying to save their empire. Deripaska alone is still in conquer-and-expand mode.

Decius only ruled the Roman Empire for two years. Shchit happens.

Yulia Latynina is a presenter of "24" on RenTV.