Berezovsky, Boris Abramovich

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BEREZOVSKY, BORIS ABRAMOVICH (1946–), Russian tycoon and political figure. Born in Moscow, Berezovsky graduated from the Moscow Timber Institute (Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering) and subsequently from Moscow State University (Department of Mechanics and Mathematics), pursuing postgraduate studies in the theory of decision making and receiving a doctorate at the age of 37. He published over 100 scientific papers and a number of monographs, some of them in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, and France. From 1991 he was a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the International Scientific Society for the Theory of Decision Making.

Berezovsky worked as an engineer at a research institute connected to the Ministry of Instrument Making, Automation and Control Systems (1968–69). In 1969 he was an engineer at the Hydrometeorological Research Center and in 1969–87 worked at the Institute of Control Science of the Academy of Sciences.

Political and economic changes in Russia made it possible for Berezovsky to go into private business. He was active in the automobile industry and in 1989 organized LogoVaz, which became a holding company in 1994. Subsequently he gained control of ort (Obshchestvennoe Rossiyskoe Televidenie, Russian State Television) and the Siberian Oil Company (Sibneft), ultimately being called the richest man in Russia by Forbes. He also became influential in the political life of the new Russia. He became close to President Yeltsin and rose to the position of deputy secretary in Yeltsin's National Security Council in 1996 and executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv) in 1998, contributing to the settlement of the Chechnya crisis and the cessation of hostilities. Called the "grey eminence" by his enemies and represented as a typical "oligarch," a tycoon who made his fortune by illegal means and interferes in Russian politics with the aim of furthering his narrow interests, he became a convenient target for antisemitic attacks in Russia's nationalist press. In March 1999 he was relieved of his post, accused of overstepping the bounds of his authority and not following instructions. In December 1999 Berezovsky was elected to the State Duma for the Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous Region. He opposed the new course of centralization inaugurated by President Putin, though he actively contributed to Putin's election victory. In July 2000 Berezovsky resigned from the State Duma in protest over Putin's policies and became active in the opposition as co-chairman of the Liberal Russia Party. Under criminal investigation, Berezovsky left the country in 2002, losing control of ort and being granted political asylum in the U.K. in 2003.

Berezovsky always represented himself as a Jew "by nationality" although he converted to Russian Orthodoxy. To be elected to the State Duma he renounced his Israeli citizenship, which he acquired in accordance with Russian legislation allowing dual citizenship. He supported the arts through the Triumph Foundation and in 2000 set up the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, which supported liberal causes.

[Naftali Prat (2nd ed.)]