On May 10, 1997, the Greek police found in a shallow grave under an olive tree, two miles from the Athenian suburb of Saronida, the dismembered body of Svetlana Kotova, one of Russia’s top models and a former “Miss Russia.” It was learned that she had been the guest of Alexander Solonik (Sasha Makedonsky), Russia’s number one professional killer who had himself been found strangled three months earlier in the Athenian suburb of Baribobi.
Svetlana’s story evoked intense interest in Russia because of her youth and beauty and because there was something about the romance between a 21-year-old beauty queen and a professional killer that was symbolic of the condition of modern Russia.
Svetlana met Solonik in a Moscow nightclub on New Year’s night, 1997, and traveled to Greece on January 25 at his invitation. She was met at the bottom of the staircase from the airplane with armloads of flowers. Waiting for her was a Mercedes with an elegant chauffeur. The rent on the villa where she stayed was about $90,000 a year. There was a swimming pool, gym, basketball court, golf course, and gardens with sculptures. From the 26th on, she called her mother every evening and said that this was not life but a miracle.
In the villa and in Solonik’s car were a large quantity of firearms and other weapons, but it is not known whether Svetlana was aware of them. For five nights, she lived as if in a dream, but on the 30th, gangsters from the Kurgan criminal organization, a supplier of hired killers to the Russian underworld, arrived at the villa. While they were talking to Solonik, someone threw a thin cord around his neck and strangled him from behind. The visitors then came for Svetlana, who was on the second floor.
When word of Svetlana’s murder was released, the Russian newspapers were full of her pictures: Svetlana with flowing black hair in a long black gown with thin shoulder straps, Svetlana in a bathing suit looking out shyly from behind spread fingers, Svetlana with her head cupped in her hands, Svetlana in an evening dress with her hair off her forehead in a bun. From her appearance, it seemed that no one could have been less prepared for the devilish game that she had fallen into.
Yet the fate of Svetlana Kotova had something in common with the fate of her nation, which was freely delivered into the hands of criminals during the period of reform. The rewards were quick and easy. There was a willful desire not to know.
It remains to be seen whether, in the long run, Russia will share Svetlana’s fate.
Source : hoover.org
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