Sasha Krugosvetov's new book "Flight of Locusts", published by AST publishing house, consists of two parallel novels that complement each other. The first describes the path of Boris Berezovsky and his team, the second-about the fate of Russian adventurers (Trotsky, Parvus, Azef) as forerunners of all subsequent revolutionary changes. What is the link between the times? What did the adventurer characters have in common? What was life really like in the nineties and early 2000s? We talked about this and much more with the author of the book.
– In your new book "Flight of Locusts", you do not investigate the" Berezovsky case", but explore its era – from the late eighties to the beginning of the two thousandth years, at the same time describing the life of the main character, Sergei Turchin. Can I call him your alter ego, or was there another real prototype? And if not, how much did his work, and most importantly, Berezovsky's assessment, coincide with yours? After all, you also worked with the St. Petersburg branch of LOGOVAZ?
— You are right, I was interested not just in the phenomenon of Berezovsky – I tried to recreate the picture of the nineties era. The main character Sergey Turchin is a fictional character who has a concrete prototype, my good friend, with whom we worked together before moving to LogoVAZ. In the future, our paths diverged, although we remained friends, and my hero, while maintaining the entourage of the prototype's personal life, exactly repeats the author's trajectory inside the LogoVAZ system. Everything that happens to Turchin in the book (apart from his personal life), I myself knew and saw. We will meet with many well-known and little-known representatives of business, both Russian and international, science, art, government, crime, law enforcement-these are all my personal impressions and assessments. I do not write about those I knew firsthand, with whom I had no personal contacts. The same can be said about my memories of popular meeting places, hangouts, shooters, about the most high-profile crimes of that time. Nevertheless, in order to recreate the overall picture of Moscow and St. Petersburg, I often had to draw information from the media of that time. The historical line of the book is also based on reference information and publications of professionals who studied the fate of the leaders of the October Revolution. The personal index of the book contains more than one and a half thousand people, at least half of them are people with whom I had personal contacts. Is Sergey Turchin my alter ego? To a certain extent, yes; I will only add that the main character – in comparison with the author-turned out, perhaps, much more white and fluffy.
- LogoVAZ was the first official Mercedes dealer in the Soviet Union. This was followed by the dealership of General Motors, Volvo, Chrysler, Honda, Daewoo... And what car did you drive in those days? And what do you like to travel on?
— In the St. Petersburg representative office of LOGOVAZ there were representative cars, which were driven by the director and two deputies. They were foreign cars: Mercedes, Volvo and Jeep Cherokee. I've had a lot of business trips to Finland, and I've used a nice northern Volvo car. In their free time, on weekends, many employees of the company had Lada cars at their disposal. Throughout the 90s, I rode a modest five, seven and three-door Niva. After leaving LOGOVAZ, the intensity of my business trips, meetings, and delegation receptions noticeably decreased. As the head of a new business, I gave up my personal driver and got behind the wheel of a company car myself. Then my first car was a Jeep Cherokee – then there were different ones. On the Land Cruiser Prado (in those years Toyota was distinguished by high reliability) my family and I traveled all over the Northwest.
- Tell us how criminal the business world was then in Russia and St. Petersburg.
— Having come from academic circles, the hero of the book expected to do business with "clean hands". LogoVAZ was initially formed mainly from former researchers who created an excellent environment for solving complex business problems in the face of a constant leapfrog of laws. Turchin found this attractive, and he was happy to fit into the orbit of the projects of the then Russian-Italian joint venture. Crime in business started much more actively than educated boys from the Academy, and it already dictated the rules of the game throughout the country. In St. Petersburg, there were at least two authorities: the city fathers from Smolny and unofficial, but no less influential city fathers from organized crime groups of various sorts and crowned thugs. In the book, I devoted several chapters to the structure of the criminal world, mainly with reference to St. Petersburg. The leaders of the Logovaz group quickly learned the unwritten rules of business, which were considered the norm at that time, and the situation in the Berezovsky system changed dramatically for the worse. Did Turchin manage not to cross his own red lines, to preserve himself as a person, to maintain universal norms of doing business within the framework of adopted laws? To some extent, yes. But such a Turchin did not get along well with the majors of the rapidly growing LOGOVAZ, which is capturing new areas of business in Russia. In ' 98, Turchin headed for leaving the Berezovsky system and gradually transferring cases, and in 2000 he left LogoVAZ. I picked up the most interesting newspaper clippings about the outrages of criminal gangs, collected them in several collages and included them in the book. The issue of publishing clippings was agreed with the copyright holders.
– In the novel, you write that nothing that you studied in numerous Soviet scientific schools is now remembered, and everything turned out to be "unnecessary chatter, in Arendt's definition". Is this really the case? Soviet past, Soviet science…
— Let's clarify what I wrote about science. In the Soviet Union, there were teams working in closed applied institutes and design bureaus. They gave the country rockets and space, nuclear power plants and small-sized nuclear power sources, the world's best aerodynamics of military aviation, good civil aviation at that time, competitive – for the time being – microelectronics, Soviet vaccines and antibiotics, and much more. From the 60s to the late 80s, I worked in the field of creating digital control systems, synthesizing finite automata and logic circuits. Young scientists of that time were inspired by the opportunity to create new types of on-board control systems based on digital technology. Applied scientists also tried their hand at new theories. At that time, almost all universities and universities had departments of automata theory, institutes of cybernetics worked in the capitals of the republics, scientific journals were published, all-Union and republican seminars were held, a huge number of articles were published, and dissertations on new disciplines were defended. We remembered for a long time afterwards: "We had a great era."
I have published a review on the development of microelectronics in the USSR and its state for 2019 (Lev Lapkin. Between Myths and Reefs, Literaturnaya Rossiya, No. 2019/26). And if there were concrete, sometimes quite good results in the design and manufacture of Soviet electronics (I think even now the prospects for bringing our microelectronics to a competitive level are still not lost), then with regard to the so-called scientific studies of the behavior of discrete automata, it turned out that all this science did not contribute to the development of Russian electronics at all. I visited many institutes at that time, including the IPU, where hundreds of Berezovsky students "shone", and I can say with confidence: "We had a great era of Laputyan sciences." Moreover, it was an official and very honorable sinecure. The reasons: the fantastic infantile nature of young scientists, the incompetence and irresponsibility of government officials from science and the system of generous surcharges for degrees and scientific experience. All the heads of departments not only academic, but also applied research institutes and design bureaus sought to acquire a VAKOV crust, so an incalculable number of Laputyan articles and dissertations were produced.
– In your opinion, did the film "The Oligarch" by Pavel Lungin convey the atmosphere that prevailed in Berezovsky's entourage at the beginning of his career at LOGOVAZ? You have this "warm company of Soviet intellectuals who decided to start making money", in the film it seems to be the same situation. What was it really like?
— That was the case at first. But soon life made its own tough adjustments. I am sorry that the talented director fell for the enthusiastic declaration of Dubov's book "Big Ration", which was used for the script: The film, in my opinion, turned out to be flat, enthusiastic and far from life. First-class actors did not save either: Vladimir Mashkov, who presented Baba as a hero-lover-in real life a fussy, confused-talking, greedy for money and sweets, and the charming Levan Uchaineshvili, who beautifully presented Patarkatsishvili, a cruel hypocrite and unprincipled grabber. But in the management of LOGOVAZ there were other, very talented and decent managers and employees who could not be considered "locusts"in any way. Unfortunately, they were not the heroes of the film.
- Who is the locust in the title of the book? The new Russians who destroyed the state, or did their predecessors-the adventurers, who are also mentioned in your novel-Trotsky, Azef, Parvus?
— I will say directly: the new Russians, young reformers, reputable entrepreneurs, thieves in law, other representatives of the administration who worked in conjunction with shadow mayors, and other rubbish brought to the surface by the maelstrom of history. The predecessors you mentioned from the October 17 era – are they any better than the "little ones" from the 90s?
And also the biblical image: "Locusts are ordered to destroy those who do not have the seal of God (John the Theologian)."
Interviewed by Oleg BUGAEVSKY