Mikhail Khodorkovsky was a brutal practitioner of Russian power politics, becoming its wealthiest oligarch. Now imprisoned by the Kremlin, the Jewish tycoon has remade himself as a noble dissident.
(Tablet) -- by Julia Ioffe --
Instead of defending his innocence at the final day of his trial on nebulous charges last November, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man and now imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp near a radioactive mine, read to the court a political manifesto that lambasted the stagnation and corruption into which contemporary Russia has sunk. “The obvious conclusion a thinking person can make is chilling in its stark simplicity,” he intoned in the tiny courtroom packed with reporters and the pensioners who’d come to show their support. “The siloviki bureaucracy can do anything,” he said, referring to the powerful faction in the Russian government whose roots are in the security forces. “A person who collides with ‘the system’ has no rights whatsoever.” He added: “I am ashamed for my country.” It was a moving speech that laid out, powerfully and clearly, everything that is wrong with Russia today; it made even my sober male Russian friends tear up.
When the judge handed down the guilty verdict just before the New Year, hundreds protested outside the courtroom. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the ruling, as did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The White House issued a statement condemning “abuse of the legal system for improper ends.”
Five months later, the case still hasn’t receded from Russian headlines. The press secretary of the court that heard Khodorkovsky’s case revealed to an opposition newspaper that the judge in the case didn’t write the verdict and that he was pressured from the outside. (She has since been made to take a lie detector test—she passed—and been forced out of her job.) Fifty-five “official” celebrities have signed a controversial open letter praising the verdict in the case, and 45 others signed one opposing it. When U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden gave a major policy address at Moscow State University in March, he cited Khodorkovsky’s case as a blight on Russia’s already troubled record. “Get your system right,” he said. Foreign investors regularly cite the Khodorkovsky case as a metaphor of the risks of doing business in Russia: If you run afoul of the Kremlin, you can have it all taken away in a heartbeat, even if you are the richest, most powerful man in Russia.
When Khodorkovsky was arrested, many, especially in the Jewish press, saw it as an attack against a Jewish businessman, and thus as a reinforcement of pernicious old stereotypes in a country famous for its institutionalized anti-Semitism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there were attempts to rile up the Russian public by harping on the image of the rapacious Jewish businessman, of which there were several. Surprisingly, the attempts fell flat, perhaps because Russians were at the time too preoccupied with mere survival. The Jewish oligarchs had all come of age in the Soviet Union where, unlike their Orthodox Christian countrymen, few Jews hung on to their religion. Khodorkovsky, whose father is Jewish, was no exception. His political ambitions, and his risky battle with Putin, made it even less likely that he would openly identify himself as a Jew, even as his cause was adopted by the American Jewish and Israeli press.
Khordokovsky’s former deputy at Yukos Oil, Leonid Nevzlin, who fled to Israel (which has no extradition agreement with Russia) ahead of a similar battery of charges, including murder, told the reporter Gal Beckerman that he and his former boss and friend had made opposite and deliberate choices in the face of state persecution. “I always felt that I am first of all Jewish and then a Russian citizen,” Nevzlin said. “For Khodorkovsky, it was the opposite. And the Yukos case made us face this specific question. What choice would we each make? Where would we like to live? And each of us made his own choice. I totally respect Khodorkovsky’s choice, though it doesn’t match mine.”
Khodorkovsky’s choice was Russia, a choice that landed him in some of the country’s most notorious prisons. It has also meant taking on a vaguely Christian-tinged role, a just man laid low by Caesar’s hand. In the nearly eight years since a team of commandos stormed his private plane at what appeared to be the behest of then-President Vladimir Putin, Khodorkovsky—every minority shareholder’s worst nightmare—has reinvented himself as Russia’s preeminent martyr. After his initial conviction, in 2005, for tax evasion, Khodorkovsky began to write liberal political screeds from his crowded prison cell. He wrote op-eds for Western publications, like the New York Times, and maintained a correspondence with Lyudmila Ulitskaya, one of Russia’s most famous contemporary novelists. He has PR teams in Moscow, London, Paris, Washington, and New York. During Khodorkovsky’s second, and even more politicized, trial, his cadre of lawyers is always available; every journalist in Moscow has their mobile numbers. Recently, his main PR team in London hired Washington-based Randy Scheunemann, Sen. John McCain’s foreign policy adviser during his last presidential campaign. (Scheunemann also did a stint with Sarah Palin.)...MORE...LINK
Sorry, or sorry he got caught? Khodorkovsky in a hang-dog victim pose (but no tears for those he's pillaged and plundered)
Chris Moore comments:
Khodorkovsky should consider himself damn lucky that Orthodox Christian Russia doesn’t play by the Jewish, Old Testament rule book. If so, this creep would either be six feet under or blind, given the destruction and devastation his rapacious greed has caused.
Still, maybe these politically correct multiculturalists are on to something by allowing Western religious minorities to legally play by the laws of their own religions. For example, Britain is allowing sharia law in parts England.
But if we go that route, it means doling out punishment by the same rule of law, which means cutting off the hands of Muslim thieves, and poking out the eyes of Judeofascist predators like K.
Well, it might work. That seems to be the only kind of deterrent that these Judeofascist predators understand. God knows they’re incapable of playing by the Christian rules of Western civilization.
Post a Comment