As expected, March proved to be a fairly pivotal month in world affairs, with plenty of momentous turning points, historical events and announcements crowding the headlines. These included the election of Pope Francis, a move towards foreign intervention in the Syrian civil war by Western powers, the Cypriot banking crisis, a spate of weather ‘weirding,’ and the death of Russian oligarch and political exile, Boris Berezovsky at his home in Ascot, Berkshire.
Given the numerous Saturn-Pluto contacts that took place during March, which called for major structural changes and social, political and financial reforms over the next few years, this is hardly surprising. However, because these are part of a longer-ranging cycle, I thought I would put any macro-analysis on hold for now and just concentrate on a March mystery – the strange and sudden death of a former Russian oligarch.
Boris Berezovsky – Suicide or Murder?
Many people were shocked to learn of the mysterious and premature death of Boris Berezovsky, the wealthy former patron of Vladimir Putin, who was found on the floor of his bathroom after apparently hanging himself on March the 23rd. It is uncertain exactly when he died because he was last seen at 9pm on March the 22nd, and only found at around 3pm the following day. This means he could well have died on the 22nd, which was also the day of a rather unsettling Mars-Uranus conjunction in Aries.
Although not strictly a malefic aspect, this particular combination can be a bit of a mixed blessing – on one hand, it can facilitate new beginnings and spur-of-the-moment changes; but on the other, it also has the potential to lead to abrupt endings, sudden flashes of anger or violence and because of the Uranian association with technology, incidents such as cyber attacks or network crashes.
Interestingly, Mr Berezovsky, who was born on the 23rd of January 1946 in Moscow, has quite a strong Uranian and Martian signature in his own natal chart. A sun sign Aquarius, he has a natal Sun-Venus conjunction, also in Aquarius, making him idealistic, amiable and generous but also potentially unconventional, as well as being unpredictable and difficult to control. Those who knew him described him as both charming (Venus) and disruptive (Uranus) – an ‘agent of chaos’ – which is a highly Uranian description. Berezovsky’s early interest in mathematics and his time as a computer systems analyst also suggest strong Uranian influences in his chart. If I were to guess his birth time, I would say 12:30pm, which would mean he had Uranus rising in Gemini (see my best guess of Berezovsky’s natal chart). More on the subject of his rectified chart later…
His third career, as a political power broker that helped Boris Yeltsin come to power in the 1990’s as Russia’s first president, earning him the nickname of Rasputin, is probably connected with his natal Pluto in Leo. This planet, which is associated with charisma, power and exceptional wealth (hence the term plutocrat) can also lead to tyrannical, control-freak tendencies, as well as a propensity to attract powerful opposition from personal or ideological enemies. Indeed, critics described him as a ruthless schemer who ‘thrived on uncertainty and crisis,’ terms that evoke not just Uranus but also Pluto (see above). Many of his former business associates have also died in mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation about his involvement with Mafia groups at various stages in his career.
Although we do not know his birth time, through a process known as rectification, I am convinced that he had a Gemini Ascendant. This would make his ruling planet Mercury, which happens to be in serious and ambitious Capricorn in his chart. This fits quite well with his success as a media mogul and used car salesman – he made a killing selling reconditioned Mercedes Benz’s to the Russian elite after the fall of the communist regime in the 1990’s and for a time ran ORT (now Channel One), the state broadcaster, along with a number of other TV stations and newspapers – but also with his well-known proclivity for verbal posturing and outbursts.
However, if we leave out his time of birth for now and simply concentrate on what isn’t dependent on his birth time, namely the planets (with the exception of the Moon because it moves so quickly) we will also see that Boris has a T-square in his birth chart involving Saturn, Mars, Chiron and Mercury.
By itself, the Mars-Saturn conjunction in Cancer is a powerful combination that is probably the key to understanding his patriarchal style of leadership and his rather aggressive approach to getting his own way. He was well known for mentoring younger men, including the young Putin, and at one time was part of the inner circle of former Russian leader, Boris Yeltsin, a group that was referred to as “the family.” Amongst some investigative journalists, he was also known as the ‘Godfather of the Kremlin,’ the title of a book about him by murdered American investigative journalist, Paul Klebnikov.
For someone like him, then, decisions are made fairly emotionally and in keeping with the clannish type of thinking that happens in small tight-knit groups: you’re either a ‘part of the family,’ in which case he’d defend you to the death, or you’re an outsider and therefore potentially an enemy or a threat.
Both planets also oppose Mercury in Capricorn, in itself a difficult placement, which might explain his occasionally obsession with his own intelligence and love of strategic thinking – no doubt he saw these qualities as a shield that would defend him against attack; whilst also ; whilst also squaring Chiron in Libra, suggesting a certain vulnerability when it came to relationships. Here, it is perhaps rather telling that on more than one occasion, during press interviews, Berezovsky claimed that his biggest problem in life was his inability to read other people clearly. Combined with Saturn and Mars, such feelings of inadequacy and rejection, would lead him to be both verbally aggressive and defensive, especially if he felt his judgement or intellect were being called into question. Given these propensities, it is not surprising that Berezovsky was known for publicly attacking his business opponents in the press, including Vladimir Putin after they fell out in the late 1990’s, forcing him to flee the country. According to one think tank expert, after his exile from Russia, he became ‘virulently anti-Kremlin, anti-Putin,’ even, according to some reports, going so far as to fund media campaigns and the activity of revolutionary groups in an attempt to oust Putin from power.
In his obituary, the Guardian newspaper characterised him as follows:
He combined charm [Venus] with relentless desire and drive [Saturn-Mars conjunction] , his motto “never stop attacking” [Mercury opposition Saturn-Mars]. It was a world in which, he explained, “only the most decisive could succeed” [Mercury in Capricorn].
Put together, this T-square suggests that not only was he aggressive and prone to take offence easily, but also that he may have had trust and truth issues. Both assertions gain some credence when we consider the 2012 lawsuit he filed against his former business associate, fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, whom he accused of cheating and betraying him, despite the fact that he had treated Abramovich like a son.
In her closing opinion, the judge presiding over the case, Justice Elizabeth Gloster, referred to Berezovsky as an “unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes,” and in her opinion, Berezovsky had “deluded himself into believing his own version of events.” As a result, she found in his opponent’s favour, and ordered him to pay Abramovich’s legal costs, which added up to in excess of $100 million.
And so, to the astrology of Berezovsky’s death…
Before I get into the details, I should perhaps state that it is extremely difficult to predict death in astrology. Some of the ancients attempted to do so using various techniques designed to assess vitality and length of life, including the calculation of the hyleg and alcoccoden but in our modern age, where many of us can expect to enjoy good nutrition and health, and a long life, such a question seems largely irrelevant and in my opinion, I do not see this as a particularly constructive use of astrology. What follows is therefore an analysis of a past event from an astrological perspective, rather than an attempt to go back and say such an event could have been predicted. In my mind, this is to assign far too much power to any one astrologer, and presupposes that all symbols and signs are clear-cut and unambiguous, which is clearly not the case, as we shall see.
So, getting back to our story:
According to a BBC report,
A post-mortem examination found his death was consistent with hanging, but further tests are being carried out and are likely to take several weeks.
This, together with reports from some that he was demoralised after losing his court case, which left him with a bill of over £100m in legal costs, despondent about his financial situation and homesick for his motherland, led many to believe that he had committed suicide.
However, some in the Russian fraternity believe that Berezovsky, like his associate, Aleksander Litvinenko, was assassinated for political reasons, citing the fact that he had not left a note and did not appear to be depressed. For them, the presence of a scarf next to his body, which was found in the bathroom is a sign that he was strangled. If this turns out to be the case, it would certainly not be the first time that someone has attempted to take his life. It is well known that over the years, there have been at least four plots and one serious attempt to assassinate Berezovsky, including a car bomb explosion in June 1994 that injured the oligarch and decapitated his driver.
Commenting on the speculation surrounding his death, James Nixey, an expert on Russia at Chatham House, said:
“It’s certainly not the first case of Russians and people from the former Soviet Union, more broadly, who have been involved in difficult, embarrassing disputes with the Kremlin, to have died in relatively mysterious circumstances, perhaps before you might expect their natural life to end.” (Quoted in a Sky News article – see references below)
So what does the astrology suggest may be the case?
As I have mentioned above, Pluto seems to have been a key influence in his chart. Although we do not have a birth time for him, which would give us a more accurate picture of him astrologically, we can look at his planetary transits.
Interestingly, considering all the recent Saturn and Pluto activity, on the day that Berezovsky died, transiting Saturn was almost exactly square to his natal Pluto in Leo – both are at 10 degrees of their respective signs. On a general level, Pluto can signify death, as well as the presence of powerful enemies and therefore also potentially, foul play; whilst Saturn can denote limits and boundaries, including the ultimate limit death, and a decline in fortune, as well as depression and other negative emotions, which could encompass the type of morbid obsession that can lead to suicide. It has been reported that he told a journalist for Forbes Russia the day before his death that he no longer had anything to live for. She claims that he seemed to be in the grip of a deep depression, although friends contradict this claim, saying he was a ‘fighter’ and that ‘suicide was just not in his DNA’.
The combination of transiting Saturn in the Pluto-ruled sign of Scorpio, together with natal Pluto, does seem to suggest a rather dramatic, if not suspicious, end, but one that remains ambiguous – an unsolved mystery.
So what other aspects are there which might help to narrow down the possibilities and point to the most likely scenario?
In at least two previous assassination attempts revolving around Boris Berezovsky, Mars was fairly prominent (see the 1994 and 2007 assassination attempt charts). In both cases, transiting Mars was making tense or challenging aspects to one of Berezovsky’s natal planets. In 1994, Mars in Taurus was exactly square to Berezovsky’s natal Pluto, suggesting a deadly plot with political motivations. In the case of the 2007 attempt, Mars was opposing Berezovsky’s natal Jupiter. The plot, which involved a hired hitman from Chechnya who tried to buy a gun to shoot his target, was allegedly foiled by the British Security Services.
Clearly then, if we are looking for the signature of foul play, we should look to Mars for evidence of murder. And yet, if we look at the transits of the day Berezovsky died, despite the presence of the unpredictable Mars-Uranus conjunction that was in play on the 22nd, neither Mars nor Uranus make any aspects to Berezovky’s natal planets…This appears to rule out the involvement of an outside party in his death.
So, what could have happened, then?
Perhaps journalist Daragh McDowell of the Irish Independent can help us to refocus:
Few reports mentioned the cynicism, corruption and violence that marked Berezovsky’s tenure in the halls of Russian power in the 1990s. Instead of the likely truth – a broken man with an ugly past sadly ending his life – a narrative of political martyrdom has formed the undertones and even overtones of how the story was reported.
So putting aside the hype, as McDowell suggests, what should we look for in the astrology to guide us? In my mind, this is where a return to our earlier discussion about rectification might prove useful. Choosing to test out different chart combinations against known character traits, followed by a search for correlations between planetary transits and significant life events of a native can often yield a set of astrological signatures that helps to narrow down the possible birth time of an individual and determine a workable natal chart that has more reliable house cusps than that of the default noon chart used for unknown birth times.
As I mentioned earlier, from what we know of his character and behaviour, it seems most likely that in the case of Boris Berezovsky, he had Gemini rising (persuasive and cunning nature) with Uranus in the first house (a maverick with a scientific bent), the Sun and Venus in the 10th close to the Midheaven (charming, personally ambitious and successful in his career), Mercury in the 9th (academic and philosophical tendencies), Mars and Saturn in the 3rd (ruthless, verbally antagonistic and a combative, occasionally taciturn, outlook) and Pluto in the 4th (obsession with power and belonging, intense family relationships). (See a PDF of Berezovsky’s rectified natal chart)
The final clincher for me lies in the house rulerships and positions yielded by this chart at the time of Berezovsky’s death.
If we look at the rectified birth chart, we notice that natal Jupiter in Libra is not only conjunct Chiron but is also the ruler of his 7th and 8th houses – in traditional astrology, these are the houses associated with marriage, enemies and death. This suggests that relationships of all kinds, even with enemies, were incredibly important to Berezovsky, as was the notion of fairness in partnerships, including joint financial ventures. However, because of the 8th house connection, it seems as though Berezovsky would expect his business partners to adhere to his own personal moral code and set of principles, whatever these might be. It also suggests that there may have been a polarised, or ‘life or death’ aspect to shared resources and personal relationships, which may explain why Berezovsky seemed to get so upset by the behaviour of any former ‘friend’ or intimate that did not appear to be loyal or honourable in his eyes, and why he ended up losing so much money through legal disputes with former wives, lovers and business associates.
Jupiter is also the planet associated with philosophical ideals and beliefs – the planet that gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life. We can recall that in his last interview with reporter, Ilya Zhegulev, that he said that life had lost its meaning and that at 67, he was disillusioned and didn’t know what to do with himself:
I’ve lived through a lot more of my own revaluations and disappointments…. I lost the meaning….I don’t know what I should do. I am 67 years old. And I don’t know what I should do.
He also spoke about his longing to return to his home country, saying:
The main thing I underestimated was that Russia was too dear to me, that I couldn’t be an immigrant…. I shouldn’t have left Russia.
If we look at a bi-wheel of Berezovsky’s transits on the day of his death transposed onto the rectified natal chart, we immediately notice that transiting Jupiter, the planet of belief, is rising in Gemini, the sign of intellect, making it fairly prominent. Furthermore, it is making a square to Berezovsky’s natal Chiron, which by itself can signify hopelessness, spiritual crisis, disappointment and difficulty coping with everyday life. As if to emphasise the theme of death, transiting Pluto is located in his 8th house, the ancient house of death, which may well symbolise a death wish.
The Moon, the planet of emotions, is in its own sign of Cancer and is conjunct natal Saturn, which by itself can indicate depression and a sense of isolation or loneliness. The Moon-Saturn conjunction is also likely to have activated Berezovsky’s natal T-square encompassing Chiron in Libra (pain and hurt associated with relationships) and Mercury in Capricorn, further adding to the sombre, Saturnian theme. Combined with the Jupiter-Chiron contact I mentioned earlier, these two transits may have served to amplify his feelings of inadequacy, loss and disappointment. Added to this is Saturn’s square to natal Pluto, setting off in him a wish to die. Thinking back to the death of Whitney Houston, it is interesting that Saturn is in the Via Combusta – the ‘burning way’ between Libra and Scorpio associated with death and downfall. Saturn is also in the sign linked to intensity, self-loathing and death: Pluto-ruled Scorpio.
As if to mirror this aspect, and confirm the theme of death, we have transiting Pluto in Capricorn, located in the 8th house of death. Both transiting Saturn and transiting Pluto are in mutual reception, that is, in each other’s signs, which means that their energies are interchangeable. Both planets are also sextile, so their energies are combining anyway to form a powerful force for change, as discussed more generally in my March Astro-Insights column. If we were to transpose Pluto into the position of Saturn, as mutual reception allows us to do, we would have Pluto squaring Berezovsky’s natal Pluto. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more potent symbol of an encounter with death than this combination.
Perhaps then, it is Pluto, ruler of Hades and the shades, and the planet of finality, revenge and karmic reckoning that should have the final word in this astrological analysis. It certainly seems to loom large in this highly Plutonian take on Berezovsky’s fate, as printed in The Economist magazine:
As an exile in London, Berezovsky remained obsessed with Russia. His revenge against the Putin regime was supposed to culminate in a legal battle in London with Roman Abramovich, his former business partner, who emerged the winner both politically and financially during the Putin years. When a High Court judge ruled against Berezovsky last year, he was crushed psychologically and left with multi-million dollar legal bills. It was not the loss of money that drove him to despair, but the prospect of becoming an irrelevant pensioner with no influence and no game to play.
And although no one can completely rule out murder until a thorough investigation into his death has been completed, and the coroner gives his verdict, it seems likely that we may never know for sure what exactly happened to this notorious, larger than life character in his final hour.
 Perhaps this is why he changed his name in 2003 to Platon Elenin. (See: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/28/world/europe/uk-russia-tycoon-death/?hpt=ieu_c2 )Platon is the Russian equivalent of the Greek name Plato, a name we in the West associate with the famous Greek philosopher who wrote The Republic and founded the Platonic school. See: http://www.behindthename.com/name/plato
 The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9509951/Berezovsky-v-Abramovich-trial-How-Boris-Berezovsky-lost-a-fortune.html. In his final interview, he told the journalist that “I was always poor at figuring people out, in their human nature. I have always valued their intelligence, courage…” but went on to imply that he was often wrong when it came to working out where their loyalty and true motivations lay. See: Forbes Magazine, http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/03/27/russian-oligarch-boris-berezovskys-final-interview-i-want-to-go-home/
 In one report, he is quoted as saying: “He [Abramovich] really convinced me to think for a long time that he is like my son… My trust [in] him was so high he is genius like that, no doubt.” See: The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9509951/Berezovsky-v-Abramovich-trial-How-Boris-Berezovsky-lost-a-fortune.html
 See: Sky News, http://news.sky.com/story/979158/abramovich-wins-3bn-high-court-battle and Forbes Magazine, http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2013/03/24/did-boris-berezovsky-kill-himself-more-compelling-did-he-kill-forbes-editor-paul-klebnikov/