Andrew Osborn

 

 

Chief Russia Correspondent

 

Deputy Bureau Chief Russia/CIS

 

Reuters

 

 

The Oligarchs' Unwanted Wives

The Sunday Herald, 10th June 2006 17:12

by Andrew Osborn in Moscow

A novel that describes how Russian oligarchs ruthlessly trade their wives in like unwanted cars

penned by a bona fide oligarch’s wife is being snapped up by readers fascinated by the lives of Russia’s

super rich.   

The book, entitled ‘A Marriage Contract Or Who is XY,” offers a glimpse into the gilded world of a group of

fabulously wealthy Russians who have come to be known as the ‘Rublevka Set.’

‘Rublevka’ is the name of the exclusive avenue in Moscow’s western suburbs where much of Russia’s

political and business elite have their luxury mansions and live out their privileged existences

behind heavily guarded compound walls.   

The book’s author, Tatyana Ogorodnikova, is herself a paid-up member of the Rublevka set and is married to a

wealthy businessman though her marriage, unlike those in her semi-fictional book, is said not to be on the

rocks.

Despite that fact, she says she has concluded a marriage contract with her husband “just in case” and

advises all her readers to do the same so as to avoid the miserable fate of her novel’s heroines. 

Ogorodnikova says her book is a ‘manual’ for girls hoping to snag an oligarch and live happily ever

after.

She paints a grim picture of what life for many of the women ‘lucky’ enough to marry oligarchs can be. 

Her heroines, who are clearly based on her own friends and acquaintances, find themselves relentlessly

cheated on by their oligarch husbands and are traded in for younger women and cast aside with miserly

divorce settlements and the responsibility of bringing up the children.

“One Rublevka woman really loved her oligarch husband,” she writes. “They lived together for fifteen

years and then he threw her and their three children out on the streets. Today they work at Izmailovsky

market peddling Vietnamese junk.”

Trading your wife in for a new younger model is certainly a popular oligarch pastime – Roman

Abramovich, Boris Berezovsky, Aleksei Mordashov, and Vladimir Gusinsky are all on their second wives. 

According to Ogorodnikova, putting up with infidelity is also part of the oligarch experience with many men

maintaining multiple mistresses and ordering glamorous prostitutes like takeaway pizza.   

“One woman who lived on Tverskaya (Moscow’s flashy central shopping street near the Kremlin) really loved

her husband, a banker,” Ogorodnikova writes.

“But he didn’t give her money and forced her to go to church while he lived in luxury and romped with

prostitutes in his office.”   

Ogorodnikova is not the first oligarch’s wife to lift the lid on what it is like to live in a gilded Moscow

cage.

Oksana Robsky, a Rublevka resident whose second husband was gunned down in a contract killing, has

penned several ‘kiss and tell’ books that became best sellers.   

Russian TV is packed with documentaries offering viewers a glimpse into the lives of the rich and

famous and for a while there was even  a reality show called ‘Rublevka Live’ that gave viewers tips on how

to live like an oligarch’s wife.

One such tip was how to dye your poodle the same colour as your designer handbag or suit.

Tips on clothes shopping, plastic surgery, and where to be seen were also included.       

Ogorodnikova’s publishers, Tsenterpoligraf, say they intend to publish similar titles  to meet what they

claim is an insatiable demand for stories about unhappy rich people.

“People are curious,” Zoya Tarasova, told The Sunday Herald.

“In Russia we have many poor people and they are interested in reading fairytales that don’t have happy

endings.”

Tarasova adds that Russian society appears to be going through a moral vacuum and that books such as

Ogorodnikova’s reflect that zeitgeist. The most famous scorned oligarch’s wife is Elena

Mordashova, ex-wife of steel tycoon Aleksei Mordashov who Forbes magazine estimates is worth 4.5bn pounds.

In 2001 she published a letter in a Russian newspaper alleging that she had been treated appallingly before

being dropped for a younger woman. “It was I who got up at four or five in the morning to

cook his breakfast, see him out of the door and kiss him goodbye. I forgave him his first mistress, and his

second,” she wrote. “I felt like a squashed discarded orange (when he left

her).”