|Literal meaning||seven bankers|
Semibankirschina (семибанкирщина), or seven bankers (see semiboyarschina for the origin of the term) was a group of seven 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 reelect President Boris Yeltsin in 1996 and later — to successfully manipulate him and his political environment from behind the curtain.
The seven bankers
The word Semibankirschina was coined by the Russian journalist Andrey Fadin of the Obschaya Gazeta newspaper who published an article Semibankirschina as a New Russian Variation of Semiboyarschina on November 14, 1996. He wrote: «...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...». In just a year Fadin himself was killed in a car accident.
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.
The identities of seven bankers are usually linked to the interview given by Boris Berezovsky to Financial Times where he names seven people who together controlled about 50% of all Russian economics and influenced the most important internal political decisions of Russia. Those include:
- Boris Berezovsky – Sibneft
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky – Bank Menatep, Yukos
- Mikhail Fridman – Alfa Group
- Pyotr Aven – Alfa Group
- Vladimir Gusinsky – Media-Most holding
- Vladimir Potanin – UNEXIM Bank
- Alexander Smolensky – Bank Stolichny
Since 7 out of 9 bankers had Jewish roots, it became common among some nationalists to use it as the key argument in support of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory. In 1998 a popular post-Soviet writer Edward Topol (a Jew himself) published an open letter in the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper titled «Love Your Russia, Boris Abramovich!» where he stated that the power in Russia was overtaken by «a puppeteer with a long Jewish surname». He insisted that oligarchs should take responsibility for what was happening to Russia and Russians and do everything to fix the situation, so that «the people you save will protect you and us from pogroms... Otherwise some Klimov will write a novel entitled "Jewish Power" about a Russian genocide». He also described his meeting with Berezovsky who supposedly confirmed his thoughts regarding the leading role of Jews. According to Topol, after the letter was published, «Boris Abramovich sure answered me: for 4 months all emigration press in New York, newspapers, television, radio had been "kicking" me».
It is generally considered that the union was triggered on March, 1996 when a political consultant Sergey Kurginyan invited a group of 13 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. 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, 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, 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». The main analyst of the NTV TV channel Vsevolod Vilchek also admitted that they actively applied technologies of mass manipulation. Both Dmitry Medvedev and Mikhail Gorbachev (way back in 1996) confirmed that Yeltsin's victory was hoaxed.
Following the election, the seven bankers turned into the main power behind Russian politics and economy. Between 1996 and 2000 they unofficially manipulated Yeltsin and his decisions. 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. Although they never really tried to hide their influence, posing before cameras alongside Yeltsin and Chubais and giving self-exposing interviews, no reaction from the West followed. On the contrary, according to the British journalist Tom Bower, the chaos in the Russian economy was broadly welcomed in Washington, since it provided them with an opportunity to take control over the estimated 200 billion barrels of oil and gas by the Caspian Sea. «Corruption was tolerated for the sake of democracy's future».
All this resulted in further impoverishment of the population, criminalization of businesses and the infamous 1998 Russian financial crisis. This was also the time when the word oligarch grew in popularity, substituting the 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 a Prime-minister and a President. Yet the following years saw a quick fall of most of the bankers and the rise of the new generation of «manageable» Russian oligarchy.
Later these people, except maybe for Fridman, Aven and Potanin, lost their influence. 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.
- Semibankirschina as a New Russian Variation of Semiboyarschina fragment in the Kommersant newspaper, June 23, 2003 (in Russian)
- Sergei Mitrofanov. Journalist Andrei Fadin died. Kommersant newspaper, November 22, 1997 (in Russian)
- Russia under Avalanche at the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's official website (in Russian)
- British Paper Names Banking Clique at The Moscow Times, November 5, 1996 (archived)
- Dmitry Butrin. The Results of 10 Years of Capitalism. Kommersant newspaper, March 5, 2002 (in Russian)
- Seven Bankers. Power Punch at the TV Tsentr official YouTube channel, October 6, 2015 (in Russian)
- Luke Harding. The richer they come ... at The Guardian, July 2, 2007
- A Letter of Russian Scientists to the Jews of Russia at the Russian News Agency website, first published in the Our Fatherland newspaper № 78, 1997 (in Russian)
- Edward Topol Predicted the Fall of Berezovsky Back in 1998 // Argumenty i Fakty, March 6, 2013 (in Russian)
- Vladimir Shlapentokh, Anna Arutunyan (2013). Freedom, Repression, and Private Property in Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 9781107042148
- Dmitri Butrin. The Undersigned in the Kommersant newspaper, April 24, 2006 (in Russian)
- 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)
- Dimitri K. Simes. Russia and America: Destined for Conflict? at The National Interest, June 26, 2016
- Viktor Martynuk. Medvedev Confessed: In 1996 Zyuganov Won the Presidential Election at KM.ru, February 22, 2012 (in Russian)
- Georgi Gotev. Gorbachev: ‘I am ashamed by Putin and Medvedev’ at EurActiv, February 4, 2016
- Tom Bower (2010). Oil: Money, Politics and Power in the 21st Century. ISBN 978-0-446-56354-3
- Owen Matthews. How Boris Berezovsky Made Vladimir Putin, and Putin Unmade Berezovsky at The Daily Beast, March 24, 2013
- Luke Harding. Boris Berezovsky: a tale of revenge, betrayal and feuds with Putin at The Guardian, March 23, 2013
- Boris Berezovsky found dead at his Berkshire home at The Guardian, March 23, 2013