We have been here before. From Baghdad to Bucharest, from Saddam Hussain to Nicolae Ceaucescu. Tyrants or strongmen, forced from office, whose homes become emblematic of the corruption and extravagance of the ancien regime.
The latest home to be held up to this strange scrutiny belongs to, the – seemingly – now former president of Ukraine.
Since he fled Kiev, scores of ordinary citizens, as well as photographers and journalists, have been wandering at will around the enormous house he kept an hour’s drive from the capital. There is marble and gold, chandeliers and ball-rooms. There is a golf course, a zoo, even a fake Spanish galleon. The list goes on; a litany of profligacy.
What is it about the men who exploit their countries in a fashion so predictable there is even a word – kleptocracy – to define their style of misgovernance?
Because there does seem to be an identifiable stereotype here. The world is full of wealthy property owners who want their show home to be a statement of their success, their taste – or sometimes – want of it.
But there does appear to be something very particular in the way that dictators do decor. In the gaucheness so abundantly obvious in the home-cum-palace of Yanukovitch, you can almost sense the megalomaniac’s insecurity. It is money spent in a rush, splashed-out at the instruction of a man for whom money is no object, who knows that one day the mob will come crashing through the front gates.
These are homes designed to strike awe into apparatchiks, to intimidate visitors and reassure cronies. They signal to fellow travellers that they are backing the right horse. “Look at this place,” it almost screams, “stay with me and such lavishness can be yours too”.
Such a home is not designed to be comfortable. If there is an architectural purpose – it is to be credible. In the same way that the builders of bank branches would flirt with classical design, doric pillars and the like, to inculcate a belief in customers that there could never be a run on such an august institution.
A home like the one so recently vacated by Victor Yanukovitch, and his hangers-on, is not homely. They are the product of millions extorted or siphoned from the masses. And sometimes, when the putsch comes, it is to the people that they are returned.
Reproduced with permission from the Behome blog, a MercatorNet partner site.