Vladimir Lopukhin, Who Held Key Post When U.S.S.R. Fell, Dies at 68


Vladimir Mikhailovich Lopukhin was born on May 23, 1952, in Moscow. He graduated in 1974 with a degree in economics from Moscow State University and went to work for various Soviet research institutes, coming into contact with others who would later enter government.

For much of the 1980s, he headed a small research team at the Institute of Economic Forecasting, an influential brain trust which helped develop economic ideas for the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, and Russia’s first elected president, Boris N. Yeltsin.

He specialized in the Soviet oil industry and shuttled between Moscow and the Siberian oil region of Tyumen. In 1990, he realized “that the country was finished,” he recalled in an interview published in 2013. “We had to provide either bread or oil. Otherwise there would be chaos. I knew nothing about bread so I decided I would go back to the oil sector.”

Irene Commeau, a Frenchwoman who met and later married Mr. Lopukhin while serving as the Moscow representative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, recalled visiting him at the energy ministry. His office, she said in a phone interview, was full of oil barons from Siberia, “all two meters tall, smoking and shouting.”

Resented by veteran energy managers, sniped at by fellow reformers and targeted for attack by Parliament, Mr. Lopukhin lasted just six months in office before he was fired by President Yeltsin.

“I slept three hours a day,” Mr. Lopukhin recalled years later. “I lost a tooth for every month in my ministerial term of office.” The energy ministry — ultimately responsible for keeping factories running, apartments heated and the government in power — “was a bone-breaking machine,” he said.

His period in government was followed by nearly three decades out of the limelight when he worked as a banker, mostly with an affiliate of Lazard Frères of France, and as a consultant.

Source : Nytimes