had raised the stakes of the intra-ohgarchy clan feuds. True, assassinationrnof lower-level “businessmen” or nosy journalists hasrnbecome common enough —the spate of contract killings ofrnMoscow “businessmen” in the last few years testifies to the ruthlessnessrnof the Russian “sharks of capital” —but none wantsrnopen warfare. More worrisome was the murder last fall of St.rnPetersburg privatization chief Mikhail Manevich, a close friendrnof Chubays, shot by a rooftop sniper as he drove down one of St.rnPetersburg’s main avenues. Did Berezovsky, overcome byrnhubris, certain of Yeltsin’s continued backing, have Manevichrnkilled as a last warning to Chubays and Potanin? After all, Berezovskyrnhimself was the target of a failed contract hit a few yearsrnago, before the rules of the game had been established. Nevertheless,rneven media outlets controlled by Berezovsky, whichrninclude the gigantic state TV network, ORT, appeared to concedernthat a lasting peace appears unlikely: Potanin andrnChubays were not jumping on Berezovsky’s bandwagon. Thernpost-Davos line was that the Berezovsky-linked clans haverntapped Chernomyrdin as Yeltsin’s heir —for now, at leastrn(Chernomyrdin’s dismissal in March was interpreted by somernas a sign that Berezovsky had freed his ally from the burden ofrnthe prime minister’s post so that he could concentrate on thernupcoming elections, while others concluded that Berezovskyrnhimself might be losing influence). Potanin and Chubays mayrnbe looking for a Yeltsin heir of their own. Such is Russianrnreal it)’.rnThat the Russian press is now openly writing about what everyonernin Moscow already knew indicates the truth in thernrumors: Yeltsin is senile; he is tired; he never really recoveredrnfrom the exhausting 1996 presidential campaign and the openrnheart surgery that followed it. What’s more, Yeltsin’s healthrnproblems are aggravated by his decades of heavy drinking.rnMoscow elites are now beginning the hunt for his successor, orrnat least planning ahead for the swiftly approaching po.st-Yeltsinrnera, something they would not have dared to do—Kremlin contactsrnremain quite important in post-communist Russia —if thernold man were still in charge. Moreover, Berezovsky’s role, hisrnspecial links with the “family” (which includes blood relationsrnand a few apparatchiks close to the Yeltsins), is no longer offrnlimits in the Russian media. And shades of Russia’s past arernhaunting the collective mind of Russia. Has this all happenedrnbefore? This fantastic little man with the rapid-fire speech, impressivernintellect (a mathematician and “systems analyst,” he isrna member of the Russian Academy of Sciences), charismaticrnpersona, and effortless energy—is he Yeltsin’s Rasputin?rnIn Nicholas and Alexandra, a dissection of the family dynamicsrnthat lay at the heart of Kremlin politics under Nicholasrn11, Robert K. Massie recounts a bizarre meeting between reformistrnPrime Minister Pytor Stolypin and a certain wild-eyedrnSiberian faith healer: “He ran his eyes over me,” rememberedrnStolypin, “mumbled mysterious and inarticulate words fromrnthe Scriptures [and] made strange movements with his hands.rn. . . I did realize tliat the man possessed great hypnotic power,rnwhich was beginning to produce a fairly strong moral impressionrnon me. . . . I pulled myself together.” Wliat Stolypin didrnnot know at the time was what would come of the strange encounterrnwith Grigori Rasputin, debauched starets, or holy man,rnwho had won the confidence of the Imperial family—or at leastrnof the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, who judged Rasputinrncapable of healing her hemophiliac son, Alexis, heir apparentrnto the Romanov throne. Rasputin informed the Empress thatrnStolypin had seemed inattentive—he had resisted Rasputin’srnhypnotic stare—and that the prime minister, a man whose reformsrnwere just beginning to revitalize a moribund Russia inrnthe fateful period before the Creat War, did not appear to bernchosen by Cod to lead the Russian government’s ambitious reformrnprogram. Thus did Rasputin “take the empire,” accordingrnto British physician J.B.S. Haldane, by “stopping the bleeding”rnof Alexis. Rasputin was deemed by some to be the authorrnof the empire’s decline. This certainly sealed the hairy, caftandrapedrnfigure’s fate: he was eventually murdered by a group ofrnconcerned Russian nobles. The damage, however, had beenrndone.rnTales of Rasputin bringing about the dissolution of the empirernare greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the malevolent influencernof this hypnotic opportunist stifled Russian reforms andrncontributed to the debacle that would come. In fact, somerncourtiers considered him a German spy during the war years —rnRasputin had taken to giving advice to the Imperial family onrnmilitar)’ as well as political matters—and the setbacks sufferedrnby Russian arms only convinced those opposed to his influencernthat Rasputin was destroying Russia. His opponents (likernChubays and Potanin in their intrigues against Berezovsky)rneven won small, temporary victories against Rasputin: the holyrnman was twice ordered out of St. Petersburg, but he soon returned.rnRasputin, it was plain, was giving something to the Romanovsrnthat no one else could. In the true tradition of the Russianrnstarets, all the Siberian fakir brought with him to thernparlors of St. Petersburg was his commanding persona and thernappearance of an ability to satisfy the desire of a loving and faithfulrnwife and mother to secure the future of her long-sufferingrnson and his simple-minded father. Rasputin, despite the intriguesrnof those who feared his influence, retained the family’srnconfidence.rn”History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the secondrntime as farce.” This aphorism is much on Russian mindsrnthese days, as anyone who has seen the popular Russian TVrnprogram Kukly (Puppets) can certify. The puppets’ dead-on impersonationsrnof well-known public figures satirize Russian realityrn(within certain limits, since the program has attracted thernunfavorable attention of the Kremlin on certain occasions),rnreadily mocking the Kremlin’s palace intrigues, as Byzantine asrnany under past rulers, imperial or communist. Yeltsin is increasinglyrnportrayed as a doddering, indecisive figure, badgeredrnby his wife and daughter to follow this or that policy and increasinglyrnunder the influence of Berezovsky, who uses his accessrnto the faltering, easily manipulated president to movernagainst his enemies. Judging from the ups and downs of Berezovskyrnand his enemies in recent months, as well as Yeltsin’s erraticrnbehavior and the sordid tales once leaking, now pouring,rnfrom the Kremlin, the picture Kukly presents is close to the truernstate of affairs atop what Russians call the “political Olympus”rnon the Moscow river.rnThe newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets has been frankrnabout the parallels between the Romanov’s dependence onrnRasputin and the Yeltsins’ rumored dependence on Berezovsky.rnAn article from February, written as a mock soap operarnscript, portrays Yeltsin as henpecked by his wife and his strongwilledrndaughter. Lurking in the shadows is the dark, weasel-likernfigure of Berezovsky, portrayed as a malevolent charlatan with arnparticularly strong hold on Naina and Tatyana. The paper isrnnot shy about casting Berezovsky as the stereotypical connivingrnJewish financier of legend and many a conspiracy theory: he isrnlUNE 1998/27rnrnrn