Krai-zy in love: Russian Billionaires and their Teenage Brides
Russian billionaires: Alexander Lebedev, Oleg Burlakov, Anatoliy Danilitskiy, Valentin Ivanov… They’re in your area, buying up flats and driving up home prices. They’re in your workplace, undercutting the market and, occasionally, the competition’s kneecaps. They’re even in your elections, buying up candidates and backing fringe trolls. Their sons are realer than you on Instagram. Their dogs have two-bedrooms in Shoreditch. And their wives… oh their wives…
It’s a sight so common that it has become nothing short of the rule. Russian billionaires well into the age of retirement marry women young enough to be their granddaughters and beautiful enough to put Victoria’s Secret models to shame. It has almost become a requirement for the Moscow multi-millionaire clique. After all, if you’ve got the money to not drive around in a 90s Lada, why would you drive around with a 70s Nadya?
Naturally, these liaisons have little to do with love. There is an entire, multi-million pound industry burning the midnight oil to coach Russian women on how to snag their dream husband, be it a rich expat on the prowl in Moscow or a local, ludicrously rich billionaire. Right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a veritable frenzy among western men looking to find love (or thereabouts) on the cheap in the wild east. This is how the myth of the Russian mail order bride first arose in the Anglo-Saxon world back in the 1990s. Agencies popped up almost overnight promising a happy end to desperate women trying to escape poverty and a happy end of a different sort to clients from abroad
But the Russian “home market” has also been growing year after year, and some luckier women have found love closer to home in the arms of post-Soviet oligarchs. It doesn’t matter that the particular billionaire is as young as their dedushkas, or that they’re likely to be the second, third or fourth wife. It matters even less that their new husband might have a checkered past, with dubious business dealings and the odd “disappeared” competitor. Best case, you don’t get to worry about that and focus instead on rivers of champagne, mountains of caviar and endless sessions of nude sunbathing on a yacht in the Maldives. Worst case, you have some juicy kompromat to blackmail your ex-lover when divorce comes round. Worst-best scenario, you even get to keep the yacht after the divorce.
Let’s look at a few examples of celebrity Russian power couples, their torrid love affairs and their lavish lifestyles.
Alexander Lebedev and Elena
Alexander Lebedev is not a very old man. The ex-KGB, ex-Russian MP and multi-billionaire is of a youthful disposition, does a lot of reading, particularly of his own newspapers — The Evening Standard and The Independent, and has even written a book. He is also very active on Instagram. But if Lebedev is youthful, his wife is even more so. The 59 year-old is 37 years older than his (second) wife Elena. But, alas, there is an even shadier background to this love affair. People close to the couple claim that they first met when Elena was a VERY young miscreant that had been arrested for drug dealing in a Siberian backwater. After her father pleaded with Lebedev to help the then 15 year-old Elena, the billionaire intervened to get the charges reduced and then dropped. A great start to a love affair written in the stars.
Anatol Danilitskiy and Slava
Lebedev’s former business partner and ex-neighbour, Anatoliy Danilitskiy has a different love story altogether. When not in a legal battle with Lebedev, he spends his time with his glamorous partner, Slava, who is 28 years his younger. Slava, a beautiful ex-singer is not as young as other oligarch’s wives so you can’t say Anatoliy is a “cradle-robber”, but she is not the marrying sort either. An HIV activist and actress, Slava is a public figure on her own and often even outshines her partner.
Oleg Burlakov and Sofiya Shevtsova
A lesser known “glamourous couple” has been formed between bullet-dodging millionaire Oleg Burlakov, 69, and socialite Sofiya Shevtsova. The latest gossip in Moscow’s high society is that oligarch Burlakov is mending the wounds of the attempted assassination that almost claimed his life late last year in the arms of a stunning twenty-something year old model and socialite called Sofiya Shevtsova.
They’ve been seen dining and shopping together around Moscow in recent times. Burlakov, who is rumoured to be on the verge of a divorce, seems to be under Shevtsova’s spell, and has been displaying increasingly bizarre behaviour. Rumour also has it that the socialite is trying to make sure Oleg keeps his 200-milllion dollar Black Pearl yacht, and most of his multibillion dollar fortune.
Valentin Ivanov and Liza Adamenko
And then there’s Valentin Ivanov. Ivanov, a former child-actor, and son of a famous Russian writer, started basking in the limelight at age 8 when he had a small cameo in a movie scripted by his father. Since, he has had a series of high-profile affairs with various Russian socialites — but by far the most well-known is his marriage to Liza Adamenko. Dating since Liza was underage, Ivanov and Adamenko had a dream wedding soon after Liza turned 18. The event took place at a chateau in the south of France and gathered the crème de la crème of the Russian social scene.
However, the honeymoon soon came to a grinding halt. Rumours of spousal abuse, scandal and cheating became recurring news stories in Russian media, which referred to Ivanov as “botox-grandpa” and never failed to mention that he’s dating a teenager 37 years his younger. While Ivanov and Adamenko tried to brush off the controversy and show off on Instagram their love affair, things soon went south. Liza’s profile was hacked and her infidelities were laid bare to the world, which promoted her angry husband to move on, or should we say, move back to a former girlfriend.
It’s funny to take a look every now and then at the glamorous lives of Russian oligarchs like Alexander Lebedev, Anatoliy Danilitskiy, Oleg Burlakov or Valentin Ivanov and their young flames but once you’ve had your eye-full of Instagram glamour, it often dawns on you that all these people are living their lives in style at the expense of others. Be it the billionaire former partner who got cheated, the Russian state or even the poor Londoner who cannot afford a flat because Yuri drove up the prices, all that glamour sooner or later leaves a bad taste in your mouth.