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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

the story of two men who wanted to buy Russia

A few days ago, the washington post a small journalist bombinette came out. The boss of the Wagner militia, Yevgeny Prigozhinreportedly maintained close contact with Ukrainian intelligence as the military and communications battle still rages in Bakhmout. In other words, a betrayal of Putin. At the same time, in the hushed world of Parisian publishing, another story was emerging. That of two men who had wanted to buy Russia. A barely fictionalized incredible adventure. Two crazies that prove that anything is possible in the Russian Federation. No bullshit.

Especially since Josh Haven met one of the protagonists. From this interview, he drew a novel Wild Wild Siberia which features the American John Mills and the Czech Petr Kovac. Two businessmen fairly typical of this somewhat opaque world of finance and more or less shady business, but which brings in millions, even billions, to this type of lascars. We are in the 1990s, Boris Yeltsin is in power, he drinks a lot and bursts into media laughter with his friend, Bill Clinton. The Russian president is the one who is going to privatize his country’s industry. No more dusty communism of yesteryear, long live capitalism. The word makes the Yankee giant salivate. The bet is doubled. Grab dough on a continental scale and satisfy its conscience by doing so in the name of democracy. Everyone wants their share. The Far West with Slavic sauce and vodka and Georgian tattoos has begun its transformation.

The jackpot is called Gaznett. A barely masked allusion to the current Gazprom, the gas company which serves as a lever of pressure and blackmail to the master of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin. Offer capital to the little people in the form of bonds, at public sales organized throughout the country. National company micro-shares. The greenback, as usual, the solution to all problems, the appeal of wealth supposed to convert an entire people to democracy. The idea comes from economists at the prestigious Harvard University in the United States. They call that, “shock therapy”, which should facilitate the transition to a market economy. It’s not that the Russians refuse to get rich, no of course, but as always a good idea easily falls into the wrong hands.

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And here they are on the track, John and Petr, two cowboys in the Siberian blizzard. For the average reader and citizen that we are, the novel takes us to two inaccessible, even unimaginable planets. Between John’s old friend who has become a producer in Hollywood and who doesn’t know what to do with his cash to the point of entering this Russian dance of Gaznett, and this mafia boss who before discussing business, wants to drink, eat and fuck, we have little time to breathe. It is a train launched at high speed where death is not far away. Because we don’t mess around with post-Soviet organized crime like that. New world for good old methods. John and Petr have all the Mafia branches in the country hot on their heels. Starting with the strongest, the Russian state. Beginner’s luck? Maybe. They come out alive and each pocket six hundred and forty-four million, seven hundred thousand dollars each. For a month’s work. And five billion, one hundred fifty-seven million, six hundred thousand dollars worth of Gaznett stock. What to go home relieved and even richer. Time is Money.

Twenty-five years will pass before the two partners of a moment do not see each other again. Twelve days later, Petr dies in a skiing accident. Really ?

Wild Wild Siberiaby Josh Haven, translated by Carole Delporte, Éditions Buchet Chastel, 256 pages, 22 euros.

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