Diarmaid Fleming: Russia's dazzling tsars in your eyes
The recent death of Boris Berezovsky focused attention on Russian oligarchs – their huge wealth and their mixed fortunes. Diarmaid Fleming examines the mother of all Russian rich lists
JUST a few hundred yards from the bust of Karl Marx opposite the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow is the city's main Bentley dealer. A set of wheels might set you back a quarter of a million euro, with another million thrown on top if you fancy the diamond-encrusted version on display at a recent motorshow in the city.
Russia is one of the few growth markets for the luxury brand in today's tough economic times. While the EU shivers in austerity, Russian oligarchs are – like sales of their favourite car – a growing number at home. The tally of US dollar billionaires in the country was a record 131 in 2012, according to Moscow-based CEO Magazine's rich-list – and worth an estimated €350bn, over twice the size of the Irish economy in 2011.
While few are likely to stop and pay homage to Marx in their new Bentleys after leaving the showroom, all owe their fortunes to the collapse of the communism in which they were raised.