The Psychology Behind the Elder Yanukovych's Car Collection


Disclaimer: I never took a psychology course, but I have watched two episodes of Dr. Phil and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

No doubt many of your jaws dropped to the floor last weekend when you saw the elder Yanukovych’s Soviet-era car collection and the younger Yanukovych’s more contemporary car collection. What prompted the father and son to gather their cars? And what do these cars say about them?

Let’s start with the father. And as with all pop psychology, let’s look at his childhood. He grew up in extreme poverty. He was barefoot and was often picked on. His mom died when he was two. His dad, a locomotive driver, died when he was twelve.

Perhaps because he looked up to his father, Yanukovych got into the transportation field. He managed one large transport company after another, until he got into politics. Though he was Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2002 to 2004, it is suspected that he did not accumulate his vast wealth through graft and corruption until 2010, when he became president.


His palace, only revealed last weekend, is already the stuff of legend. Tens of millions of dollars were spent just on the light fixtures. He had a private zoo and an 18-hole golf course. He was afraid of being poisoned so he grew his own fruits and vegetables in his greenhouse, which replicated 20 different climate zones (that’s 16 more than the VW Phaeton). But his car collection was not really ostentatious. In fact, it could be described as austere.

Here is a quick walk through of the President’s collection.


His car collection can be divided into four categories: 1) everyday Communist cars, 2) executive Communist cars, 3) Western dream cars of yore, and 4) military toys.

The way the everyday and executive Communist cars are displayed shows foresight and an almost museum curator-like obsession with order and aesthetics. It is a nostalgic and patriotic salute to the glorious days of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, when wheat was abundant, the space program kicked ass, and loyalty to the Party earned you a car. These automobiles were not purchased impulsively or haphazardly. This collection was a serious, deliberate, and respectful endeavor. 


We then see the sore thumbs– the old Bentley (British) and Impala (American). No doubt as a young man, despite being a loyal Soviet, this car nut wanted what he could not have– a capitalist symbol of material success. Now, he can finally have the forbidden fruit. 

bentley impala

The two pre-war coupes have me scratching my head. Perhaps a ’32 Ford was the first car a young Yanukovych saw and remembered in a movie. Maybe it was one of those cars that got him excited and passionate about cars in the first place.


Finally, Yanukovych’s collection ends with a set of vintage military vehicles. These are essentially the green plastic soldiers that children play with.


Added together, the elder Yanukovych’s car collection is not that valuable. It certainly has a lot more sentimental value than monetary value. Despite his excesses, brutality, and incompetence as a leader, I can respect his collection. It’s honest. And it says a lot about the innocent child inside the kleptomaniac.

Next time, we will psychoanalyze his son’s collection. They are all black, heavily German, and almost all fairly practical (read: no hypercars). What does it say about the 41 year old son, who is said to be worth $500 million thanks to winning half of all the government contracts tendered?


Images sources: Hemmings, O Globo, and the BBC.


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