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Gilt and Recrimination

Viktor Yanukovych is not the only deposed civil servant in Ukraine who knew how to live large.

by Barbara Frye 24 February 2014

Yes, Ukraine’s impeached president had a petting zoo, and a garage stuffed full of vintage cars, and artwork that museum curators say may have been stolen or “borrowed” from national galleries.


So Viktor Yanukovych’s country residence takes its place alongside the palaces of Imelda Marcos, Muammar Qaddafi, Nicolae Ceausescu, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Saddam Hussein, plucky types who didn’t let the penury and hardship of their people get them down.


Photo by Evgeny Chubuk.


But let’s not overlook the Louis XV-by-way-of-the-Winter-Palace home of Viktor Pshonka, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor until this weekend. It has gilded faucets (and statues, and furniture, and TV cabinets), Faberge eggs, groaning chandeliers, a kind of North African-style bathroom, an indoor pool and hot tub, and, I presume, valuable artworks.


According to an account last year, Pshonka earned 488,000 hryvnya in 2012, along with other income worth about 121,000 hryrvna. His wife declared an additional 730,000 hryvnya in income. All of which adds up to 1.339 million hryvnya (about $148,000).


Blogger Evgeny Chubuk has posted photos from his tour of Pshonka’s house. Have a gawk, and be sure to read this piece in The Telegraph about Yanukoyvch’s house, written by Peter York, author of Dictators’ Homes: Lifestyles of the World’s Most Colorful Despots. The main perk of dictatorship, he writes, “is being able to rob your country blind.”


Virtually every line of York’s essay is quotable, but I’ll stick with this:


“People are already saying that it's all quite astonishingly vulgar. It is vulgar, to educated Western European bien-pensant taste 2014, but not remotely surprising to me at least, because I've seen hundreds of pictures of this style. It's the style of many global plutocrats and of hyper-criminals too. The Scarface look.”

Barbara Frye is TOL's managing editor.
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