Zarina Zabrisky
11 min readJan 13, 2018

Political Jazz

A screen shot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.”

What can Taj Majal, one hundred pregnant Russian women, FBI 10 most wanted fugitives, Italian mob, aging pop-stars and your life have in common? From Central Asia to Miami, through thirty years of kitch — gold trophies, bejeweled camels and glitter — buckle up! Read on! And then decide — is that what you really want?

Left: Pop-art. “Wiat, what?” Right: A Russian agit-propaganda poster, 1930s. “DON’T CHAT! Be alert, during such times even walls have ears. From chatter and gossip it is a short way to treason.”


Last night NBC News ran a story about Russian women who come to the US to give birth and stay at Trump buildings in Miami.

According to NBC News, Trump-branded buildings in the Sunny Isles Beach area north of Miami are particularly popular with the Russian birth tourists and even have a nickname “Little Russia.”

Russian babies, however, should be the least of your concerns.

KGB+CIA=LOVE. A screen shot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.”


Left: Donald Trump receives a gift of exclusive cufflinks with a gyroscopic device (sic) from a Russian jewelry company, Florida, 2016. What is gyroscopic device? I have no idea. Right: “Come, comrade, join our collective farm!” Poster, Agit-prop, 1920s.

A Reuters review made in March 2017, found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.

Left: Pavel Uglanov, a Trump property owner, with Alexander Zaldostanov, leader of the “Night Wolves” nationalist biker gang. The Wolves, and Zaldostanov personally, were made subject to U.S. financial and travel restrictions. From FB photos. Right: Putin with Zaldostanov. WSJ.
Right: Uglanov, with the Russian Ambassador in the US Kislyak. From FB photos. Right: Trump and Kislyak. From Russian Embassy Twitter photos.

Elena A. Baronoff, now deceased VP of Customer Relations at Trump Grande who previously served as a Cultural Attaché in Public Diplomacy for the Russian Government, took the Trumps on a Moscow visit, where they posed in front of the building belonging to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Russia. It is a complete coincidence, of course, as everything else. Moscow, the city with a population of 12 million, is a small place, after all. And in this world, people just run into each other non-stop.

Left: Ivanka Trump with Elena Baranoff, Miami developer Michael Dezer and Erik and Don Jr. Trump in Moscow in front of the SpetsAvtoTsentr, a service center belonging to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs on Russia (see below.) Photo from Ania.com
From GlavUpDk website.

According to Reuters journalists, “the buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that worked on military and intelligence facilities, including the FSB (former KGB), the founder of a St. Petersburg investment bank, and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.”

Left: Elena Urova with Donald Trump. Photo from Elena Urova’s personal archives. Ms. Urova told Forum Daily: “Sunny Isles have changed dramatically, and to the best. In the past, there were many small motels located around her house, frequented by the underprivileged demographic groups, and that caused lots of inconveniences. ‘Loud Afro-Americans and young people in groups up to ten people per room occupied the motels and they made so much noise that often I had to call police. Now the population in Sunny is completely different — well-to-do, intelligentsia.’” Elena’s circle is mostly Russian stars residing in Miami. Right: “We are peaceful people, but our armored train is on the back tracks.”

Also, according to USA Today, 65 condos in Trump World at 845 U.N. Plaza in Manhattan are sold to Russian investors. Many of them had personal meetings with Trump in Trump’s office, Trump Tower or at business events.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering. Small place, alas.

Left: The Trumps with Bayrock/Sapir associates. Among them USA Today lists just some: a member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia; an investor in the SoHo project accused in a $55 million money-laundering scheme; three owners of Trump condos accused of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia, and more. Right: “Be careful with the fork!” Safety poster. 1920s.


In 1984, David Bogatin, a Russian Organized Group member with a long track record with U.S. law enforcement, who was convicted in a gasoline tax-fraud case, bought five Trump Tower apartments for $6 million. Trump personally attended the closing, meeting Bogatin and his lawyer. During that time, Bogatin also worked with members of the U.S. mafia, according to testimony that former Colombo crime-family soldier Michael Franzese gave before Congress in 1996.

Left and right: Trump with the reputed mob figure, Robert LiButti, in the front row of a 1988 “WrestleMania” match in Atlantic City, N.J. LiButti wasn’t there by accident, according to his daughter, Edith Creamer, who also attended the event. “We were his guests,” she told Yahoo News in a text message.

Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion — the company that hired Christopher Steele, the author of “Russian dossier” — and whose testimony was released by Dianne Feinstein on January 9, 2018, mentions the Bogatin case in The Wall Street Journal in 2004.

Bogatin pled guilty in 1987 and agreed to pay $5 million in back taxes. After that, he fled to Vienna. The state seized Bogatin’s Trump Tower apartments. State prosecutors concluded that Bogatin purchased them “to launder money, to shelter and hide assets: and used them on weekend “for parties.”


Left: FBI arrests Ivankov in 1995. RIght: Ivankov. Photos from open sources, Internet archives.

In 1995, the FBI found Vyacheslav Ivankov (nicknamed “Little Japanese,”) labeled by the FBI and Interpol at the time of his arrest as the most powerful man in the Russian mob in the US, in Trump Tower, and later the Taj Mahal, Trump’s casino.

Ivankov’s phone book contained a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence and a Trump Organization fax machine — but whose phone book doesn’t, right? He was arrested and charged with supervising the extortion of several million dollars from an investment advisory firm run by two Russian businessmen. The FBI had to bring the case down earlier as there was a possibility of potential murders. In 1996, Ivankov was sentenced to nine years and seven months in prison.

Left and right: Kubrik’s film visuals of Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange. Center: Ivankov with Sergey Mikhailov (“Mikhas”).

In his book, Red Mafia, Robert Friedman writes:

Stasiuk picked up Ivankov’s trail at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City… The Taj Mahal had become the Russian mob’s favorite East Coast destination. As with other high rollers, scores of Russian hoodlums received “comps” for up to $100,000 a visit for free food, rooms, champagne, cartons of cigarettes, entertainment, and transportation in stretch limos and helicopters. “As long as these guys attract a lot of money or spend a lot of money, the casinos don’t care,” a federal agent asserted. Russian mobsters like Ivankov proved a windfall for the casinos, since they often lost hundreds of thousands of dollars a night in the “High-Roller Pit,” sometimes betting more than $5,000 on a single hand of blackjack. “They’re degenerate gamblers,” says Stasiuk. Although the FBI still couldn’t find Ivankov, Stasiuk managed to tail him from the Taj Mahal to shipping mogul Leonard Lev’s sprawling home on a dead-end street in Far Rockaway, Queens, and on another occasion, from the Taj to the Paradise Club, a notorious Russian mob haunt in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.


Left: The Russian President Putin, who started his career as a KGB agent, working for the Soviet Union’s state security apparatus from 1975 until 1991. Right: a newspaper article clip “A KGB COLONEL ROBBED ST.PETERSBURG,” reporting Putin’s theft of $122 million. The investigation died off.


According to the 1995 article in Izvestia, a major Russian publication, Ivankov’s early release from a Russian prison and his consequent unhindered travel abroad in 1992 (still difficult time for travel to the Western countries) might be explained by a theory confirmed by former employees of KGB:

They believe that the KGB recruited Ivankov during his prison term.

Close ties between “lawful thieves” and the KGB have a long history. The KGB used blackmail, torture, favors during the imprisonment and early release to recruit criminals. Once on board, such informers provided reports and helped the KGB control criminal structures.

According to Izvestia, it is possible that Ivankov’s early release and departure to the US was the work of a certain group within the former KGB. After Ivankov’s arrest and during the search, the FBI found a pack of fake passports from around the world, similar to the “special kit” that was previously seized from the KGB agents.


Another Trump building resident and property owner, Felix Komarov, a USSR-born art dealer, owned an apartment at the Trump Plaza in New York — and a Rolls-Royce dealership in Moscow.

Left: Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov (see below) and Felx Komarov. Right: Komarov and Ivankov.

The Moscow Royce-Rolls dealership served as a front for laundering criminal proceeds. In his book “Red Mafia,” Friedman wrote that Ivankov and two other Russian OC figures each held 25% of the dealership, as stated in the affidavit of an FBI agent in a squad combatting Russian OC, German law enforcement officials and unnamed informers.


A scene in which a Russian KGB agent takes over a Trump casino is a pivotal point of a 1992 joint Russian-American production comedy about the Russian mafia in the US. It was filmed in the Trump Taj Mahal. Donald Trump was acknowledged in subtitles.

Left: “The crew thanks Mr. Donald Trump, employees of casino Taj Majal and the state of New Jersey for the assistance with the production.“ ”A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.” Right: My Cup Runneth Over. Marjorie Strider,

“One of the scenes takes place in a theater, where a festively dressed audience enjoys a classical ballet.”

Left: Black Swan. From Internet archives. Right: A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.”

“When the announcement is made ordering all KGB agents to report to the headquarters, half of the audience, both men and women, get up and leave, followed by members of the orchestra and the lead ballet dancer who drops his partner and marches to the exit,” writes Birgit Beumers in A Companion to Russian Cinema. The scene is a good reflection on the KGB-ruled Soviet Union life.

Left: A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.” Right: Poster, “Orchestra Rehearsal” by Fellini. The film is a metaphor of politics and an observation on the role of a leader and mob mentality.

The film is an artistic failure. It is the last work of a much celebrated and loved director Leonid Gaidai. The comedy lacks in pretty much every department, yet it is eerily prophetic. From the Wheel of Fortune striking 45 (Joker!) to red baseball hats and the Russian tyrants taking over the US, the James Bond parody mimics the surreal political jazz of 2017.

Left: A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.” Right: Joker.


According to USA Today, money laundering was an issue for Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined $10 million in 2015 for failing to report suspicious transactions. It was the largest penalty the agency ever levied against a casino since reporting requirements began in 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.”

“The Trump Organization admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective (anti-money laundering) program; failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required by (the Bank Secrecy Act),” FinCen said in a statement.


Alla Pugachova. Russian pop-star.

On November 20, 1994, the queen of Russian pop Alla Pugacheva and her newly wedded husband and co-star Philipp Kirkorov performed at Taj Mahal on Trump’s invitation. Here is an amateur Youtube video and review:

Youtube public video.

“After the show Donald Trump came to our dressing room. We got a big, fantastic gold trophy from him and his organization for being the first Russian artists to play the Taj Mahal. When Alla and I divorced, I kept the trophy!” Kirkorov told BBC News.

Left, center: Trump and Kirkorov at Taj Mahal in 1994. From CBS News.

Records show that Pugacheva came back to Taj Mahal in September 1998. Kirkorov claims that Trump has arranged another, personal show for him. He also owns a house in Miami, by the way. According to Kirkorov, he has been a guest in the Republican candidate’s home.

Pugacheva in Trump Taj Majal.

The pop-stars happened to be close friends of the of the Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. In 2002, they discussed plans for building a theater in a business center financed by “an American tycoon.”

Left: Article in eg-ru, 2002. Right: Pugachova and Luzkov. Internet arcives.
Left: Club “Dolls.” Moscow, 1994. From Internet archives. Right: Trump’s Rep with Russian Gambling Bosses. Daily Beast.


Enter another colorful resident of Trump Tower, Alizhman Tokhtakhounov (knickname: “Little Taiwanese”).

Left: The Forbes List of the world’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives. Right: With Ivankov and a boxer Povetkin.
Tokhtakhounov on FBI and Interpol databases. Internet archives. Open sources.

Tokhtakhounov, a music lover, often gives interviews about his close friendship with Pugachova and Kirkorov.

Left: Tokhtakhounov and Pugacheva. Source: Interview with Tokhtakhounov. Right: Tokhtakhounov and Kirkorov. Screenshot from Russian source available on Internet.
Left: Kirkorov and Pugacheva (front) with Tokhtakhounov (in the back) in Paris, late 1990s. Source: Tokhtakhounov’s interview at Gordon.

Tokhtakhounov and Kirkorov were present at Trump’s Miss Universe in Moscow in 2013.

Kirkorov was one of the judges, reports BBC News.

Trump and Kirkorov (in the background) at Miss Universe in Moscow, 2013. Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Zuma, from Mother Jones

The world is a small place, remember? You never know! Next thing you know, you might bump into Putin! Anything is possible these days, folks! They are making America great again, remember! MAGA!

Left: Putin grants Kirkorov the honorary title “People’s Artist of Russia”. Right: Putin awards Kirkorov an Order of Honour . Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Left: A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.” Right: Kirkorov.

On Deribassovskaya street, the weather’s perfect —

On Brighton Beach, it’s raining, once again. Comedy.

Left: Kubrik’s Clockwork Orange. Right: A screenshot from 1992 film “Good Weather on Deribassovskaya; it rains again on Brighton Beach.”

Or, is it?

Read more fantastical stories here:

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Zarina Zabrisky

Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at www.zarinazabrisky.com.