Korzhakov, Alexander Vasilievich

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(b. 1950), aide to President Boris Yeltsin.

Alexander Vasilievich Korzhakov was the most trusted aide of President Boris Yeltsin until Yeltsin dismissed him in 1996. From 1970 until 1989 he worked in Administration 9 of the KGB, which provided personal security for senior Soviet officials. From 1985 to 1987 he was a bodyguard to Yeltsin, and remained loyal to him after Yeltsin was politically disgraced in 1987. For this the KGB dismissed him in 1989. During Yeltsin's political resurrection Korzhakov resumed work as his bodyguard. From 1991 he headed the Presidential Security Service (PSS) with the rank of major general, and increasingly became a close political adviser to Yeltsin. In August 1991 he played an important role in Yeltsin's successful defeat of the three-day hardline coup.

In October 1993, Korzhakov apparently played a key role in persuading the defense minister to have the military storm the parliament. Also, he personally arrested the leaders of the armed opposition.

Later he turned the PSS into what Yeltsin called his personal "mini-KGB." He built up departments for personal surveillance, political dirty tricks, and political and economic analysis. He encouraged Yeltsin to become politically more authoritarian and less liberal on economic reform, and even advocated specific policies on oil. As he freely admitted in his revealing memoir about Yeltsin, he played a major role in recruiting Boris Berezovsky and other rich businessmen to support Yeltsin financially and through their media. Thus he helped turn them into oligarchs with political clout. In 1995 he even arranged for Berezovsky to control, financially and otherwise, the newly created television company, Public Russian Television. It was important, he argued, to have a major channel that was firmly pro-administration and would counter the widespread criticism of the Kremlin in the existing media.

In 1996 Yeltsin appointed Korzhakov to one of the two teams that organized his reelection bid, the team headed by Oleg Soskovets. But Korzhakov feared that Yeltsin would lose, and therefore urged him to find a pretext to postpone the election and close down the parliament, or Duma. In March, Yeltsin took his advice, but opposition in the cabinet thwarted his plans at the last minute. In May he named Korzhakov his first adviser. In June, however, when Korzhakov and his allies clashed with the second election team in a fierce struggle for influence over Yeltsin, the latter suddenly opted for the second team, headed by Anatoly Chubais, and dismissed Korzhakov.

In February 1997 Korzhakov was elected to the Duma as an independent from Tula. In 1999 he was reelected on a Fatherland ticket and served on the Defense Committee. During the late 1990s he gave lengthy interviews detailing numerous allegedly corrupt activities of Yeltsin, his family, Chubais, and others, but did not discuss his own business affairs. He was never sued for libel or slander, apparently because the people he exposed believed he had evidence for what he said. Of special significance were his repeated accounts of how Berezovsky gave Yeltsin three million dollars in 1994, claiming this was a payment of royalties on Yeltsin's memoirs, when in fact the book had earned negligible royalties.

In 2001 Korzhakov was instrumental in launching the monthly investigative newspaper Stringer.

See also: august 1991 putsch; october 1993 events; soskovets, oleg nikolayevich; state security, organs of; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri. (2001). The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism against Democracy. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.

Peter Reddaway