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Russia's Oligarchs Wield Power Behind the Scenes

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Any time there is a major political development in Russia, conspiracy theories swirl about behind-the-scenes maneuverings of tycoons.

These intriguing financiers appeared only over the past five or six years in the aftermath of the Soviet Union. They have powerful stakes in industry, media, and finance. Some analysts believe they may even control half of Russia's economy. Politically, they also wield great clout, using their newspapers and television stations to mold public opinion.

Even the mighty are vulnerable to the latest financial collapse, however. Their media holdings are hurting from the increased cost of producing newspapers. Their banks are having trouble staying afloat.

But they are a pragmatic bunch, with a history of putting rivalries aside to unite in order to survive.

The following are a list of the "Big Seven" and their financial interests:

* The most visible of the oligarchs is Boris Berezovsky. He is reportedly the closest of the bunch to President Boris Yeltsin, and for a time served as secretary of the National Security Council.

The mathematician-turned-financier's flagship is the LogoVAZ car dealership. His interests also include Obyedinenny Bank, Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, and stakes in the oil firm Sibneft and the ORT television station. Mr. Berezovsky gets access to Mr. Yeltsin through his friendships with the president's daughter, Tatyana Dychenko, Yeltsin's chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, and Yeltsin's designate for prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

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