Russian Vogue Editor's Trail of Death and Scandal

Aliona Doletskaya has been hailed as potential successor to Anna Wintour atop U.S. Vogue. But there's a side of the Russian editor's life you didn't read about in the Times.

Wintour lately appears to be pushing back hard against rumors she will leave Vogue. It was against that backdrop that we received a tip guiding us into Doletskaya's past.

Russian Vogue Editor's Trail of Death and Scandal

The speculation about Doletskaya supplanting Wintour has been thick. After fashion blogger Bryanboy praised the Russian Vogue editor's "very bold, strong and in your face" magazine, the Times called her the "lanky Slavic counterpart to Miranda Priestly of 'The Devil Wears Prada'" and got her to admit she was "adaptable" enough to replace Wintour, should the need arise. Doletskaya was supposedly introduced at an event for Russian GQ as "the next editor for American Vogue." And the recent buzz about Wintour's possible departure has reignited chatter about Doletskaya stepping into her role.

Doletskaya cuts a glamorous figure in the fashion world. The daughter of two surgeons, she claims a PhD from Moscow State University. The linguist learned English during the Cold War by studying BBC World Service tape recordings, and her accent is of an aristocratic British variety one would expect from a Beeb news reader (listen here). In a September profile, the Times gushed about Soletskaya's "lithe physique, foxlike features" and, quite accurately, "sexy whiskey tenor."

In a half-hour Russia Today interview, boiled down to a few minutes here, Dolestkaya shows off the view to neighboring rooftops from her Moscow apartment.

Russian Vogue Editor's Trail of Death and Scandal

But that apartment may be stolen! An ex-boyfriend, journalist John Helmer (pictured, left), sued in federal court to recover it, claiming Doletskaya (then spelling her first name Elena, apparently) swindled him out of the property, a dacha and tens of thousands of dollars in credit card bills. From the appeals court judgement summarizing Helmer's accusation:

In 1993, Helmer and Doletskaya commenced a romantic relationship and lived together in a rented apartment in Moscow.. Doletskaya agreed to arrange for the purchase of the Moscow apartment in Helmer's name, as Helmer did not speak or read Russian. Doletskaya also agreed to repay Helmer for financially supporting her until her career was established. Such financial support included her use of Helmer's credit cards...



The couple moved into the Moscow apartment in 1994. In 1996, their romantic relationship ended, and Helmer loaned Doletskaya $11,000 to purchase and renovate a dacha, or country house, in the outskirts of Moscow. Helmer continued to live in the Moscow apartment and to permit Doletskaya to use his credit cards until 2000, when Doletskaya established her financial independence as editor-in-chief of Vogue Russia. In 2000, after Doletskaya had moved into the dacha, Helmer discovered that the Moscow apartment was registered in Doletskaya's name. When Doletskaya refused to transfer the apartment to him, Helmer sued her in a Moscow court to recover title to the apartment; his complaint was dismissed on the merits. Doletskaya also refused to repay Helmer $68,000 for his financial support, including $57,000 in credit card charges and $11,000 for the dacha.

The appeals court declined to allow Helmer to sue in U.S. courts to recover the financial support, dacha or the apartment. The Russian court, as mentioned in the judgement above, found against him.

The suit made the Russian press , which dug up more unflattering incidents in Doletskaya's past. Like that time she killed a lady! Reported Russia Journal:

A driver, with the exact same name as Vogue's editor, Yelena Stanislavovna Doletskaya, with the same known address as of the Vogue Editor, was convicted and given a three-year prison sentence for causing the death of a woman in a driving incident under the Russian criminal code. The sentence was suspended and the leniency was attributed to her having no previous convictions, and on the basis that her alma mater, Moscow State University, assumed responsibility for her reform and correction.

This conviction should have been indicated on Doletskaya's visa when she later traveled to the U.S., but was not, accordin to Moskovskaya Pravda.

Russian Vogue Editor's Trail of Death and Scandal

If bitter, allegedly swindled ex-boyfriend Helmer is to be believed, a traffic accident isn't Doletskaya's only involvement in a death. In a letter to a daily English-language digest of Russian news, he accused her of being "involved" in the death of an ex-husband, the former Russian ambassador to Botswana. By way of criticizing what he considered an overly flattering Times of London piece, Helmer wrote,

The Russian press have reported [regarding Doletskaya] a criminal conviction and prison sentence; internal investigation for a variety of abuses; involvement in the death of Russia's Ambassador to Botswana, Doletskaya's third husband; and financial aggrandizement and manipulations. Doletskaya is currently in five separate Moscow court cases.



Far from being open about that or her background, she refuses point-blank to speak to any Moscow-based medium and threatens to sue any publication that prints the evidence about her. Through her friends she has issued physical threats. Aliona Doletskaya has in the past been known as Elena Doletskaya and Yelena Doletskaya.

We haven't been able to find any corroboration for those allegations, including the one concerning the ambassador ex-husband's death, or even been able to find out the name of the ambassador, when he died, or how. (If anyone who speaks Russian can find a relevant article online, we'd love to hear from you.) Helmer's allegations should, obviously, be treated with skepticism.



Russian Vogue Editor's Trail of Death and Scandal

UPDATE: The ex-husband's name was Boris Asoyan, according to an article attributed to Moskovskaya Pravda and translated by Google. Pravda said Doletskaya's employment with the De Beers diamond cartel put her husband in an ethically dubious situation. His subsequent apparent suicide is murky:

Helped her husband - Boris Asoyan, a leading expert on South Africa, the Soviet ambassador in Botswana, by Alain go to work in the world-famous corporation «De Beers», controlling the lion's share of world diamond market. There is ambiguous situation: the negotiations with «De Beers» Asoyan represented the interests of our country, while his wife was «on the other side of the fence».





The situation is solved dramatically - in December 1992, Mr. Asoyan committed suicide in unclear circumstances so far. Asoyan left several letters in which he openly accused Doletskuyu [aka Doletskaya] in his death. His colleagues and friends are convinced that it is the family turmoil largely been to the cause. Rightly or wrongly - Asoyan bequeathed all his property and the apartment is not his wife and daughter from first marriage.



Doletskaya in his letter, written a few weeks later, admitted: «I feel bad. I fought a bad thing. I physically feel that I am in the mud, which I want to wash off ».



Shortly after the funeral of her husband Doletskaya appealed to the «De Beers» to issue her a credit for the purchase of housing in Moscow. «Little Women's trick» this time was that it was already arranged a small apartment on New Arbatov. The resulting Doletskoy loan was never used for their intended purpose and in 1994 she was dismissed from «De Beers», called without recommendations.

(Thanks are due to the tipster who sent this link in.)

The unsavory allegations and court cases trailing Doletskaya , now in her 10th year at Russian Vogue, will haunt her until she speaks out on them in the English-language press. They will certainly become an issue if the editor ever attempts a high-profile transfer to U.S. Vogue. If Doletskaya has a reasonable explanation, and tells it well, her spicy background could well be an asset. Russian intrigues tend to sell well, as far as personal narratives go.

For an example of how not to handle the situation, Doletskaya should look to the words of Jonathan Newhouse. When asked about mafia money flowing into Russian Vogue, the magazine's head of global expansion told the UK Telegraph,

Look. We are from Condé Nast, not Interpol. Whether a woman is a princess or a prostitute, she still has to dress herself.

(Top photo via Russia Today; John Helmer picture via johnhelmer.net; bottom picture via Russian Botswana Embassy)