The stealing of a country’s resources by the head of that same country is a fairly recent development. And by recent I mean just since the end of World War II. Prior to that, countries and empires usually went to war with other countries just for the looting opportunities. THAT kind of looting goes back to the Sumerians and the Akkadians. The Byzantines and even the medieval English, French and German aristocracies forged their entire identities on prowess in saddling up in spring-time, reducing to rubble any communities they could find that had moveable property, loading up their loot and bringing it home with them. Then when the next spring-time came around, it was back in the saddle again. These military escapades were usually justified by some flimsy religious reasons but such is the dreary course of much of human history.
Then between the end of World War II and about 1965, dozens of former British, French, Portuguese, Belgian and Spanish colonies gained their independence. This gave birth to an entire generation of homegrown tin-pot tyrants in Africa and southeast Asia whose specialty became taking the billions of foreign aid being given by the U.S. and other western nations (to keep them from going communist) and spiriting most of it quietly to Swiss bank accounts and foreign real estate. The name of the game was, in a perverse way, discretion.
What Viktor Yanukovych did, though, has broken new ground. While most autocrats loot their countries quietly and diplomatically, taking care not to rub their citizens’ noses in their miscreantism, Yanukovych built the most in-your-face estate and contiguous pleasure-grounds (totaling nearly 400 acres on the Dnieper River) that make Saddam Hussein’s excesses seem like a warm-up. It’s no wonder the people of Ukraine ran his sorry butt into the arms of Vladimir Putin and confiscated this very public drain on the public treasury.
When I heard that Yanukovych’s Mezhigoriye was now open to the public, I had to get up there (15 miles north of Kiev) and see for myself. As you’re looking at these pictures, keep in mind that EVERYTHING you see in the photos is part of Yanukovych’s former estate, except for the Dnieper River. During the time he built his stately pleasure-dome (2007-2012), Yanukovych’s salary as President of the Ukraine was reported to be $24,000 per year.