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Literal meaningrule of seven bankers

Semibankirschina (Russian: семибанкирщина), or seven bankers, was a group of seven powerful Russian business oligarchs who played an important role in the political and economical life of Russia between 1996 and 2000. In spite of internal conflicts, the group worked together in order to re-elect President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, and thereafter to successfully manipulate him and his political environment from behind the scenes.

The seven businessmen were identified by oligarch Boris Berezovsky in an October 1996 interview, and the term "semibankirschina" was then coined by a journalist in November 1996 as a takeoff on the Seven Boyars (semiboyarschina), who deposed Tsar Vasily Shuisky in 1610 during Time of Troubles.

The seven bankers[edit]

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, in a 29 October 1996 interview in the Financial Times, named seven Russian bankers and businessmen that he claimed controlled most of the economy and media in Russia[1][2][3][4] and had helped bankroll Boris Yeltsin’s re-election campaign in 1996.[5][6][3][4][7]

The word "Semibankirschina" was subsequently coined by the Russian journalist Andrey Fadin of the Obschaya Gazeta newspaper, in a 14 November 1996 article titled "Semibankirschina as a New Russian Variation of Semiboyarschina".[8] He wrote that "they control the access to budget money and basically all investment opportunities inside the country. They own the gigantic information resource of the major TV channels. They form the President's opinion. Those who didn't want to walk along them were either strangled or left the circle." Slightly over a year later, Fadin was killed in a car accident.[9] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also used this word in his critical 1998 essay Russia under Avalanche to describe the current political regime and to warn people of what he considered an organized crime syndicate that controlled the President and 70% of all Russian money.[10]

The identities of seven bankers are:

  1. Boris Berezovsky – United Bank, Sibneft, ORT
  2. Mikhail KhodorkovskyBank Menatep, Yukos
  3. Mikhail FridmanAlfa Group
  4. Vladimir Vinogradov - Inkombank
  5. Vladimir Gusinsky – Most Group, NTV
  6. Vladimir Potanin – UNEXIM Bank
  7. Alexander Smolensky – Bank Stolichny

Other sources, including collective photo and video materials, suggested that Vitaly Malkin (Rossiysky Kredit) was part of this group too.[2][11][1] [12][13] From then on, various sources featured different combinations of those eight names to describe the phenomenon of Semibankirschina.

That's how Petr Aven, who was close to Berezovsky, describes appearance of the word "Semibankirschina" in his book The age of Berezovsky: "He (Berezovsky) didn’t use this word, but he gave an interview to the Financial Times in which he said that seven businessmen were de facto ruling the country. He named a fairly random list — whomever he could recall at the time. I was listed together with Fridman; there was one representative of each group there".[14]


It is generally considered that the group was created in March 1996 when the political consultant Sergey Kurginyan invited a group of thirteen Russian oligarchs to sign the so-called Letter of Thirteen (alternatively named Come Out of the Dead End!) in an attempt to cancel the Presidential election of 1996.[15][16] The manifest was published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta and suggested that two major candidates — Boris Yeltsin and the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov — should strike a "political compromise" in order to prevent "the economical collapse." It contained eight tips that described the position of business elites. The letter was called "a provocation" by the Communists and thus ignored.

After the plan failed, half of those oligarchs formed what became known as Semibankirschina — a group of seven business moguls ironically named after the 17th century seven boyars who owned the majority of Russian media resources and who decided to promote Boris Yeltsin every way possible. Since Yeltsin was highly unpopular by that time, with only 3—8% support, a complex technology of crowd manipulation was developed by the Gleb Pavlovsky's and Marat Gelman's think tank Foundation for Effective Politics,[17] with the involvement of American specialists (the latter fact was used as a basis for the comedy film Spinning Boris released in 2003).

Known as an extremely "dirty" election campaign both inside and outside of Russia,[18] it was discussed in detail in Gleb Pavlovsky's report President in 1996: Scenarios and Technologies of the Victory published shortly after. As Nezavisimaya Gazeta summarized it, "the formula of victory: attracting the expert resources + dominating in the information field + blocking the competitor's moves + dominating in mass media + dominating in elites."[17] The main analyst of the NTV TV channel Vsevolod Vilchek also admitted that they actively applied technologies of mass manipulation.[19] Both Dmitry Medvedev and Mikhail Gorbachev have since claimed that Yeltsin's victory was hoaxed.[20][21]

Following the election, the seven bankers became the main power behind Russian politics and economy.[1] Between 1996 and 2000 they gained control over the most valuable state enterprises in the natural resource and metal sectors and unofficially manipulated Yeltsin and his decisions.[22][16] According to Boris Berezovsky, they acted through Anatoly Chubais — an architect of privatization in Russia and Yeltsin's right-hand man who granted access to him at any time.[2]

All this resulted in further impoverishment of the population, criminalization of businesses and the 1998 Russian financial crisis.[13][unreliable source?] This was also the time when the word oligarch grew in popularity, substituting the New Russian nouveau riche term (both with extremely negative subtext). The 1999 saw the sudden rise to power of the unknown FSB officer Vladimir Putin. Boris Berezovsky and his associates claimed that it was him who single-handedly promoted Putin and insisted on his candidature as Prime Minister and President.[23][24]

Yet the following years saw a quick demise of most of the seven bankers and the rise of the new generation of "manageable" Russian oligarchy. Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky and Gusinsky turned into personae non gratae in Russia. Khodorkovsky lost his business as well as freedom in 2003, while Berezovsky and Gusinsky left Russia in 2000. Smolensky still owns significant companies, but lost his political influence. Vinogradov died in 2008. On 23 March 2013, Berezovsky was found dead at his home, Titness Park, at Sunninghill, near Ascot in Berkshire.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bojicic-Dzelilovic, Vesna (2016). Persistent State Weakness in the Global Age. Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 9781317082064.
  2. ^ a b c "British Paper Names Banking Clique". The Moscow Times. 5 November 1996. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b Kotz, David; Weir, Fred (2007). Russia's Path from Gorbachev to Putin: The Demise of the Soviet System and the New Russia. Routledge. p. 218. ISBN 9781135992057.
  4. ^ a b Goldman, Marshall I. (2003). The Piratization of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry. Routledge. p. 132. ISBN 9781134376858.
  5. ^ Chazan, Guy; Thornhill, John (5 March 2015). "Mikhail Fridman: The Alpha oligarch". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  6. ^ Schmouker, Olivier (9 December 2009). "Qui est Mikhail Fridman?". Les Affaires (in French). Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  7. ^ Lloyd, John (8 October 2000). "The Autumn Of the Oligarchs". New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  8. ^ Semibankirschina as a New Russian Variation of Semiboyarschina fragment in the Kommersant newspaper, June 23, 2003 (in Russian)
  9. ^ Sergei Mitrofanov. Journalist Andrei Fadin died. Kommersant newspaper, November 22, 1997 (in Russian)
  10. ^ Russia under Avalanche, page 57 at the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's official website (in Russian)
  11. ^ Daniel Treisman (2012). The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev. New York: Free Press ISBN 978-1-4165-6071-5
  12. ^ Dmitry Butrin. The Results of 10 Years of Capitalism. Kommersant newspaper, March 5, 2002 (in Russian)
  13. ^ a b Seven Bankers. Power Punch at the TV Tsentr official YouTube channel, October 6, 2015 (in Russian)
  14. ^ https://petr-aven-books.com/
  15. ^ Vladimir Shlapentokh, Anna Arutunyan (2013). Freedom, Repression, and Private Property in Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 9781107042148
  16. ^ a b Dmitri Butrin. The Undersigned in the Kommersant newspaper, April 24, 2006 (in Russian)
  17. ^ a b Sergei Kartofanov. An Approach to the President's Victory by Nezavisimaya Gazeta № 60, August 29, 1996 at the Foundation for Effective Politics website (in Russian)
  18. ^ Dimitri K. Simes. Russia and America: Destined for Conflict? at The National Interest, June 26, 2016
  19. ^ Viktor Martynuk. Medvedev Confessed: In 1996 Zyuganov Won the Presidential Election at KM.ru, February 22, 2012 (in Russian)
  20. ^ Simon Shuster. Rewriting Russian History: Did Boris Yeltsin Steal the 1996 Presidential Election? at Time, February 24, 2012
  21. ^ Georgi Gotev. Gorbachev: ‘I am ashamed by Putin and Medvedev’ at EurActiv, February 4, 2016
  22. ^ Tom Bower (2010). Oil: Money, Politics and Power in the 21st Century. — New York: Grand Central Publishing, p. 94-97 ISBN 978-0-446-56354-3
  23. ^ Owen Matthews. How Boris Berezovsky Made Vladimir Putin, and Putin Unmade Berezovsky at The Daily Beast, March 24, 2013
  24. ^ Luke Harding. Boris Berezovsky: a tale of revenge, betrayal and feuds with Putin at The Guardian, March 23, 2013
  25. ^ Boris Berezovsky found dead at his Berkshire home at The Guardian, March 23, 2013

External links[edit]


  • Chrystia Freeland (2000): Sale of the Century: Russia's Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism. Crown Business. ISBN 0-8129-3215-3.