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Johnson's Russia List


July 20, 1997   

This Date's Issues:   1064  1065•  

Johnson's Russia List
20 July 1997

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Dmitry Mikheyev: Senate/interference.
2. AP: Bell Raised Atop New Moscow Church.
3. Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, US atom workers help 

4. David Chambers (Yale School of Drama) passes on Village
Voice article by Rachel Shteir, IN GOGOL'S CITY: Russians and 
Americans at Work Together.

5. New York Times obituary for Leo Gruliow. (DJ: Needless to
say, "The Current Digest of the Soviet Press" looms large in
the history of Soviet/Russian studies).

6. AP: Moscow Film Festival Opens.
7. MSNBC: Steve O'Neill, Wheeling and dealing in Moscow. A tale 
of police, motorcycles and long-range binoculars Moscow bikers 
showing off their new acquisitions. 


9. The Independent (UK): David Aaronovitch, Mir mortals.
10. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Samara's New Mayor Outlines Action Plans.
11. St. Petersburg Times editorial: But Hunting for Revenues Can 
Go Too Far.

12. Asia Times: Missiles to get new mission. (Ukraine).
13. Los Angeles Times: Vanora Bennett, Troubling News for Izvestia 


Date: Sat, 19 Jul 1997 17:18:02 -0400
From: Dmitry Mikheyev <>
Subject: Senate/interference

Dear David, I would like to inject a few thoughts into the
Duckworth/Thomas debate about American interference into Russian
affairs. It followed the Senate vote to cut off U.S. aid to Russia if
Yeltsin signs into law a measure to curb the rights of minority
If you approach a homeless, brandish $200 in front of him and
say: “You can have it if you 1. go and wash yourself, 2. register with
unemployment office. It’s your choice,” you are interfering, because you
are trying to impose your standards of behavior on another person. Some
would argue that this is commendable, friendly, altruistic interference.
Others would advocate giving money without preconditions infringing on
person’s value system. But again, even unconditional altruism can be
counterproductive: give him too much money and he can kill himself by
So, the real question is: can we interfere in other country’s or
person’s lives and if yes, how. I think that we have to honestly admit
that we are interfering, that we are interfering in one of the most
delicate and murky areas. 
The underlying assumption of our interference is our conviction
in the superiority and universality of our American system of values. In
the USA we have an absolutely unique experience of the relationship
between the state and the Church, but it would be risky to claim that
this experience has been the most successful. 
Two institutions -- the church and the state -- have conflicting
prescriptions for social behavior because they recognize different
supreme authorities: God or gods in heaven or on earth (like Japan
emperor), and the state equipped with the law and police. Very often
they prescribe and demand opposite dictums: you can have several wives,
no only one; you can’t abort, no its up to you; "thou shalt not kill,"
no "kill but only when, I tell you to..." The American way of resolving
this conflict is to grant freedom of proselytizing and to stop (not even
prevent) the act which endangers lives or well-being of others. 
So, we allow some priests to break bricks with their foreheads to
prove the power of god, as long as it is their heads. We allow them to
withdraw medical assistance from themselves, but not from their
children. The state even allows them to preach unity with their god
through committing suicide. The state stops them only when they IMPOSE
their solutions on others. In short, the American solution is to punish
them AFTER they commit an actual crime. 
There are reasons to question this approach NOW when the power to
harm others increased thousands times. Fortunately, so far the cults
which preach and practice bringing about their version of Armageddon
were not technically adept. The Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo
released deadly sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway but managed to
kill “only” a dozen. In Oregon in 1984, followers of cult leader Bhagwan
Shree Rajneesh sprinkled their homemade salmonella bacteria onto the
salad bars of restaurants but failed to trigger an epidemic. A Japanese
Buddhist sect, acquired the technology and know-how to develop and use
weapons of mass destruction but failed to manufacture a bomb. Muslim
fanatics failed to destroy the World Trade Center and poison thousands
by cyanide gas. But if they possessed the expertise of Timothy McVeign,
to say nothing about Russian scientists, the consequences might have
been tens or even hundreds of thousands of dead. Sounds too-fetched? Not
really. The Aum boasted more than 30,000 members in Russia -- more than
in Japan -- including scientists and technical experts. [John Sopko,
“The Changing Proliferation Threat,” Foreign Policy, 1/1/97.] 
Is this in American interests that Russia gives absolute
freedom to such sects as the Branch Davidians, the Aum Shinrikyo, the
cult of Bhagwan, the Great White Brotherhood and others who on practice
proved their willingness to use anthrax, ricin, botulinum toxins or
nuclear devices? Or “should we get off [Russia’s] back and let the
Russian people make their own decisions” as Henrietta Thomas suggested
(JRL, Jul18).
I think we have moral obligation to interfere. After all even urging
the homeless to quit self-destructive practice is an act of
interference. We can and should share our knowledge and expertise but do
it with full respect and discretion, particularly in such areas as
religion and culture.
I don’t think we should leave Russia alone, on the contrary,
we should engage them in all activities and discussions. There is
nothing morally wrong about influencing and even teaching Russians what
they don’t know. But are we absolutely sure that our American values and
solutions are superior? After all, Russians do know a thing or two about
culture and religion. Even when we teach them to behave we would be
prudent to do it very delicately and discreetly. Waving a $200 million
bill in their faces and demanding that they ameliorate their thousand
year old traditions is neither sensitive nor the most effective way of
bringing about tolerance and moderation.
My admittedly uneducated conclusion is this. Contrary to
rumors, Russian officials including those in the government, are not
stupid or ignorant. Neither the Duma harbors many fanatics or ossified
reactionaries. The Duma’s decision to give advantage to the established
religious faiths: Orthodoxy, Western Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
and entrust them the right to judge other religions might be a sensible
compromise between the unbridled freedom to propagate and commit terror
and the state dictate.
Dmitry Mikheyev, 301 587-8894;


Bell Raised Atop New Moscow Church
July 19, 1997
MOSCOW (AP) - A 27-ton bell pealed from the top of Christ the
Savior Cathedral on Saturday for the first time, signaling that the
completion of the massive cathedral was drawing near.
The raising of the Ceremonial Bell - the largest cast in Russia
this century - was another step in the completion of the church
that dominates the skyline near the Kremlin. The ringing could be
heard for miles, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The church is to be completed in time for Moscow's 850th
anniversary this fall.


Sunday Times (UK)
20 July 1997
[for personal use only]
US atom workers help Russia 
by Mark Franchetti 

IN A development that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago, 
the Russians are letting American security experts work at some of their 
most sensitive nuclear installations. 
In a programme that will cost America almost $2 billion, security 
experts are installing video cameras, locks, alarm systems, electronic 
fences and gates in sites once considered so secret that until recently 
they did not even appear on maps. 
"There are now almost more Americans than Russians at some of Russia's 
most sensitive nuclear plants," said William Potter, director of a 
Californian centre which is taking part in the scheme which is designed 
to reduce the spread of atomic weapons. 
"The frightening reality is that some Moscow banks, nightclubs and shops 
are more secure and have more armed guards than some of Russia's largest 
nuclear installations," he said. "I have seen weapons-grade nuclear 
material stored in a dilapidated building with a wooden door that had no 
locks." He once asked about the danger of Chechen terrorists getting 
their hands on plutonium: "I was told that since the Chechens look 
different, they could never break in without getting caught." 
The American scientists' access to Arzamas 16, a closed military town 
and the site of Russia's first atomic plant, illustrates the 
extraordinary changes that are taking place. The town, where Andrei 
Sakharov, the Nobel prize-winning nuclear scientist, once worked, is 
linked to the outside world by a single railway line and visitors need 
special permission to travel on it. Residents are allowed to invite only 
their closest relatives ­ yet dozens of American security contractors 
were recently sent there for several weeks to modernise the plant's 
security measures, installing new fences, gates and cameras. 
The same has happened at Obninsk, the site of a nuclear reactor 
development institute, and at 25 other civilian and military nuclear 
installations. "The Americans have supplied us with a marvellous system 
­ a video camera with network computer support that records every 
movement of the material at the storage facility," said a spokesman for 
the plant at Obninsk. "It is their most modern technology. We are 
immensely grateful." 
At the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, one of Russia's most famous 
nuclear research centres, the Americans recently installed security 
cameras which send images to the American nuclear research headquarters 
at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Should the Russians fail to detect a 
break-in, the Americans will be able to alert them. 
"There are no secrets for us any more," said John Zimmerman, a nuclear 
expert at the American embassy in Moscow. "We are all over the place." 
Russian nationalists are appalled. "This American invasion is a scandal 
and a shame on Russia," said Alexander Novikov, a member of Vladimir 
Zhirinovsky's extreme right-wing Liberal Democratic party. "We've sold 
out to the US. The Americans will soon be running Russia ­ and, to make 
matters worse, at our invitation." 
Russian nuclear experts acknowledge the desperate need for outside help. 
"The industry is seriously and dangerously underfunded ­ 70% of security 
devices at Russian nuclear facilities are outdated," said Vladimir 
Orlov, director of a Moscow centre which specialises in nuclear safety. 
"Some of the staff working at these plants are desperately depressed and 
haven't been paid in months ­ and the temptation to smuggle material out 
is great. The situation is very serious." 
Last week 100 Smolensk nuclear power plant workers walked 224 miles to 
Moscow to protest at not being paid for four months. "We have no money 
for food, let alone for repairs," said Sergei Lukyanov, a demonstrator. 
"Where is Yeltsin going to hide if an accident happens? He won't even 
have time to pack his bags." 


Date: Sat, 19 Jul 1997 14:23:57 -0400 (EDT)
From: David Chambers <>
Subject: Re: Village Voice Article

Dear David Johnson:
I have just scanned in the Voice article and send it on here. Don't
know if you add further information when you post, but unnanounced when the
VOICE article was originally written is the fact that this co-production and
a "Meyerhold Day" of symposia, etc. will take place at the Yale Repertory
Theatre on October 4, 1997. Should anyone want to contact me about this, my
business e-mail is <>. Thank you very much for
considering the posting of this.
Village Voice July 22, 1997

IN GOGOL'S CITY: Russians and Americans at Work Together
The interior of the Alexandrinsky Theater is swankly imperial, as befits the
oldest theater in Russia. Instead of seats, curved red velvet couches dapple
the mezzanine; a chandelier that Nicolas I stole from the Hermitage glitters
far above the czar's gilded box. But elsewhere in the same building, the
modern Russian theater was born. Up several dingy flights of stairs is a
small, bare room where Nicolai Gogol first rehearsed The Inspector General.
Performed in 1836 the play tells the story of a provincial town so
status-conscious it gives up everything to the protean "inspector"
Khlestakov. It is a St. Petersburg tale.
I am in Gogol's city with Cheryl Faver and John Reaves, the artistic di-
rectors of the Gertrude Stein Repertory- Theater, where I am dramaturg.
We are here to observe students from the Yale School of Drama and the St.
Petersburg Theatrical Academy reconstructing Vsevolod Meyerhold's 1926
adaptation of Gogol's masterpiece. Meyerhold taught at the academy be-
fore the revolution and in the hallways you can almost hear his ghost
crying, "We actors want to be able to think as well as act," as he wrote to
Nemirovich Danchenko, one of the founders of the Moscow Art Theater.
The man who wanted to both think and act long before Brecht dreamed up
the idea of epic theater was arguably the most talented member of the brilliant
Russian avant-garde. In the teens, hoping to stage revolutionary drama,
Meyerhold rejected realism to invent biomechanics, a theory of acting that
uses repetitive gesture and rhythm to express emotion. The actor as machine.
Like many artists who animated the revolution, Meyerhold was de-
stroyed by its excesses. He was arrested in 1939, and a year later, at 66, mur-
dered in prison. Much of his writing—and writing about him—remained samizdat 
until perestroika.
The scenes I saw reconstructed spring from bitter, compelling St.
Petersburg, the city as Gogol saw it, charged with a kind of morbid sexual-
ity and cruel status-mongering. But weirder. In one scene, fearing she has
treated Khlestakov with less respect than his rank accords, the short, stout
director of charities hustles to insinuate herself back into his good graces.
Cravenly arching her body around the phony inspector without actually
touching him, she promises that the fish he has just eaten is "labardarn"—an ar-
chaic Russian word for salt cod. "Deli-cious" he replies, drawing an imaginary
fish with his finger and licking his lips.
This American-funded project will not only re-create Meyerhold's fantastic
staging and his take on Gogol's chimerical jargon, it will also present two
reconstructions: one in English and one in Russian, both to be performed in
October in St. Petersburg and New Haven. Aided by a legion of translators,
the two directors—American and Russian—take turns, and even the actors are
double-cast, playing leads in their native tongues, bit parts in their
second language.
One aspect of the project, however, is not multiplied but subtracted:
rehearsal time. The project is supposed to come together after only three
weeks here and the same in New Haven at the end of the summer, says the
elegant production dramaturg Daria Krizhanskaya, pulling her ankle-length
fur coat tighter around her. She laughs at the audacity. Meyerhold had 18
months to rehearse.
And he was not just rehearsing Gogol. In addition to completely re-
working the play, adding new lines and characters and a musical score, and on
top of that blocking as intricate as the designs on Faberge eggs, Meyerhold
was criticizing the revolution itself. "It was political allusion" says Roma
Kondrachenko, a graduate student in theater history who helped cobble to-
gether the script. To Roma, the fact that he has found no diary confessing
this is irrelevant. It was too dangerous to write down. While Meyerhold
talked about how his Inspector General condemned czarist "rottenness," two
years after Lenin's death, this play created a Khlestakov-as-evil force, eerily
anticipating both the Great Terror and the director's own tragic fate. Among
the most prescient moments is a tableau Meyerhold added at the end:
having been destroyed by Khlestakov, the mayor is arrested by his own dep-
uties and carried offstage in a strait-jacket. It is shattering
Seventy years after Meyerhold's premiere, I'm not sure the Ameri-
can and Russian actors find it so. Waiting for rehearsal to start, they stand
apart, the way unfriendly cliques used to in high school cafeterias. But I don't
think it's unfriendliness at work: besides the language barrier, Americans
resist Russians and vice versa because each recognizes the other as a familiar
but distorted image, as if the two countries reflected each other through fun-
house mirrors.
The wiry Russian Khlestakov—Yuri Yakrovsky—at once fragile and
obdurate, as if he had been tossed around the St. Petersburg streets and
survived, says, in a Khlestakovian mixture of kindness and disdain, "Meyer-
hold for us is part of history." He is more interested in the difference be-
tween American and Russian. "I am always playing, always trying things.
"The Americans are like movie stars. They have a picture of what they
should do and they do it."
With his black glasses projecting a movie star's impenetrable cool, Yuri's
American counterpart Adrian LaTourelle says, "this could have been any
play," He laughs. What has unnerved him, though, is the Russian actors' ded-
ication to their art. A few days ago, he tells me, one of the Russians
fainted in rehearsal. He hadn't eaten for a few days. In the West, the
hunger is more for theatrical forms. While Meyerhold was suppressed in his
homeland until
the '60s, there has long been interest in him in Europe and America. Those
drawn to the flamboyant formalist have included Peter Brook, Richard Schech-
ner, and Lee Breuer.
Indeed, the driving force behind the reconstruction—the American di-
rector David Chambers—first discovered Meyerhold in the '70s, after be-
coming disenchanted with Brecht. Wearing a sweatshirt printed on one
side with Meyerhold's sad, aristocratic face and on the other Gogol's pinched
features, Chambers pits his hero against Stanislavsky. "Meyerhold provides an
antidote to Stanislavskian realism,' he says. "To Stanislavsky's silence during
the repression " Looking like a radical buddha with his wire-rimmed glasses
and rosy cheeks, Chambers dismisses the idea that Meyerhold is more rele-
vant to the Russian imagination than the American. "Meyerhold's Inspector
General is applicable to our own culture since Watergate and Vietnam," he de-
dares, going on to quote Gramsci.
"Meyerhold lived a full Soviet life," the Russian director Gennady Tros-
tianetsky says. "Stanislavsky was a private person, by the '20s withdrawn." The
previous day, as he smoked a cigarette during a break, he confessed that
initially he failed to see the point of re-creating, phrase by phrase, a
director's work, even a great director like Meyerhold. "I had trouble
getting interested," he says."I knew how to do this play during the Brezhnev
years, but I wouldn't know how to do it now." The kind of theater he knows
how to do now, he says, is the kind he is directing elsewhere in St.
Petersburg, a play about the Afghanistan war. A smile flits across his face.
Still, in Trostianetsky's hands, rehearsals seem dynamic, as full of tumult
as St. Petersburg history. Part of it is that the American actors, trained
in psychological realism, are having to learn a new theatrical language. A
pale American actress complains, in a silky voice, "You told us to be larger
than life, and now you're telling us not to overact." "Be like a statue," Tros-
tianetsky tells her with sudden ferocity. And to quash discontent, he picks up
the pace. Suddenly he is everywhere playing all the roles, moving the actors'
limbs around, and explaining everything in rapid-fire.
Training his energy on La Tourelle, who is pumping his leg up and down
like a piston to suggest sexual pleasure, Trostianetsky's eyes twinkle.
"Khlestakov is an actor, he announces. "He has been rehearsing all his life
and this is his examination."
It is advice Meyerhold would like. In rehearsal, he would sit with a
hunter's stillness in a folding chair against the wall. Not to watch the
actors, but to watch them watch each other.


New York Times
July 20, 1997
[For personal use only]
Leo Gruliow, 84, Translator, Self-Taught Soviet Scholar

Leo Gruliow, who turned a chance Depression-era job as a Moscow 
journalist into a Cold War career translating Soviet periodicals into 
English, died July 13 in a hospice near his home in Columbus, Ohio. He 
was 84. 
For someone whose education did not go beyond high school, Gruliow made 
quite an academic career for himself. 
A self-taught scholar, he lectured widely on Soviet affairs at American 
and foreign universities. His weekly compendium of translations, now 
known as The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, was long the only 
source international scholars had for developments behind the Iron 
And although he wrote only one book, "Moscow," published by Time-Life in 
1977, he translated a number of works by Soviet authors, among them "The 
Cancer Ward," by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (Dial, 1968), and "A Taste of 
Liberty" by Bulat Okudzhava (Ardis, 1986). 
Along the way, Gruliow, a short, animated man who wielded his pipe like 
a baton, traveled widely, befriended many journalists, scholars and 
government officials and witnessed much of Soviet history at first hand. 
A native of Bayonne, N.J., who began his journalism career while he was 
in high school, Gruliow was working on a New York City political weekly 
that folded during the Depression leaving him without a job until he 
heard of an opening on an English-language paper the Soviet government 
had started in Moscow to appeal to tourists. 
Although his parents had both been born in St. Petersburg, Gruliow did 
not know Russian. But over the next four years he learned the language 
so well that when he returned to New York in 1939 he was able to find 
work as a translator. 
After working for a radio news bureau in Washington he returned to the 
Soviet Union, this time as the field representative of Russian War 
Relief, the official U.S. effort to provide food, clothing and medical 
supplies to the war-ravaged ally. 
Although the wartime U.S. relief efforts were played down by the Soviet 
government during the Cold War, on his later trips to the Soviet Union, 
Gruliow, who had been decorated by the Kremlin in 1945, often ran into 
people who had personally benefited from the vital aid and who expressed 
their gratitude. Once, he later recalled, upon learning of Gruliow's 
role in the relief effort, his usually reserved official translator 
grabbed him and kissed him. 
After establishing The Current Digest of the Soviet Press and moving it 
to Columbus in 1969, Gruliow served for three years as chief of The 
Christian Science Monitor's bureau in Moscow, where he found a battered 
typewriter he had left in the city three decades earlier. 
He is survived by his wife, Agnes; a son, Frank, of Oakland, Calif.; a 
daughter, Rebecca, of Philadelphia, and two sisters, Vera Galanter of 
Hastings on Hudson, N.Y., and Lucille Rosen of Manhattan. 


Moscow Film Festival Opens
July 19, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) -- Italian screen stars Gina Lollobrigida and Alberto Sordi 
were among the celebrity guests Saturday as the Moscow International 
Film Festival opened at a refurbished movie house on Pushkin Square. 
The two strolled past crowds of star-gazers, past a military honor guard 
and up a stairway into the newly opened Pushkin movie and concert hall 
-- formerly the massive Rossiya movie theater. 
Jacqueline Bisset, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Nielsen and Albert Brooks 
are also expected to make appearances at the 20th festival, which has 
stirred controversy for its $6 million tab. The Moscow city government 
is footing most of the bill. 
Festival officials defend the funding, saying the festival could boost 
the struggling Russian film industry. 
``For the 10 days that the festival runs, the film world will be 
centered on Russia,'' Renat Davlyetyarov, associate director of the 
festival, told The Moscow Times earlier in the week. ``Foreign producers 
will see for themselves the dire straits we have fallen into.'' 
President Boris Yeltsin seems to agree. In a message read at the 
festival's opening, he said cinematography ``is an important part of 
Russian culture and the state will do its best for its development.'' 
Only one of the 48 films being shown during the festival is from Russia: 
Alexander Sokurov's ``Mother and Son.'' 
Among the others are ``Trainspotting,'' ``Marvin's Room,'' ``Cannes 
Man,'' ``The Learning Circle'' and ``Children of the Revolution.'' 
Twenty countries will be represented. 
The festival has been held in alternate years since the 1950s. 


Wheeling and dealing in Moscow 
A tale of police, motorcycles and long-range binoculars Moscow bikers 
showing off their new acquisitions. 
By Steve O'Neill,NBC NEWS 
Steve O’Neill is a cameraman in NBC’s Moscow bureau. 

        MOSCOW — As a former biker, I have to admit, unlike most people, 
I enjoy the sound of big bikes speeding along the highway outside my 
Moscow apartment. 
        Many times, I hear the high-pitched scream that used to be music 
to my ears — the sound of large, Japanese, multi-cylinder motorcycle 
engines as they propell their riders in excess of 100 mph.
        To me, the roar of engines conjures up memories of frangipani, 
thorn trees and full-throttle runs from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and 
Nairobi down to Mombasa, along with a prayer for all large flying 
beetles to take a nap — hit one at high speed and beetle became brick. 
        Back in the present, on a hot, humid evening here in Moscow, 
Russian bikers were thundering down the central separation lane of 
Kutuzovsky Prospect, one of the city’s main boulevards. The traffic 
normally moves fast, but this was a new phenomenon — huge motorbikes 
hurtling along the road just three miles from the Kremlin, the heart of 
what President Ronald Reagan once called “The Evil Empire.” Motorcycles 
roaring down Moscow's Kutuzovsky Prospect. Destination: Russia Exploring 
Moscow         All of this was happening despite the vast number of 
traffic cops in Moscow — a legacy of the old Soviet Union. Swaggering 
around their posts, or standing with legs akimbo, menacingly swinging 
their sticks of authority, they seem to be just everywhere. Their 
exaggerated and almost ridiculous postures are calculated to intimidate 
but their mission is to make money. To this purpose, they 
enthusiastically exploit even the most minor traffic infringement. 
        I looked out my apartment window and saw another super bike race 
past two parked police cars and four very busy traffic cops, whose 
awareness seemed not to include human thunderbolts. One of them was 
working a favorite spot, shaking down the drivers turning right from the 
main road by the Ukraine Hotel. The others seemed to be handling someone 
who’d been speeding. Moscow police questioning a motorist they stopped 
on Kutuzovsky Prospect. 
        I saw a young couple — the man, well dressed in a white shirt 
and neat trousers, and the woman in a long black evening dress. Both 
appeared to be in their mid-20s. Their car was a dark, four-door 
Mercedes. Three cops were dealing with the guy, while the woman stood in 
close attendance. I’d missed the beginning of the incident, but 
something smelled wrong. 
        The young man was extremely angry. He was alternately shouting 
at the cops and talking into his mobile phone, standing firmly in front 
of one of the police cars. He appeared to be trying to call for help 
whilst blocking their departure. 
        Another 100 mph plus bike thundered past. Not one cop bothered 
to look, radio or do anything about it. That convinced me the cops were 
the villains of the moment, and I started to write down the police car 
        Suddenly, one of the cops leaped behind the young man, put him 
in a neck lock and dragged him away from the police car, enabling three 
of the cops to drive off. After a brief struggle, the young driver was 
forced to the ground. The remaining cop then jumped into his police car 
and fled. The cops had hightailed it and peace had returned — an 
interesting paradox. 
        It left me thinking, how unjust if you’ve been out for a meal or 
maybe the theatre with your lady. Instead of getting a speeding ticket, 
you nearly have your head wrenched off, and you end up in the gutter, 
feeling mightily fed up with the whole evening, as well as probably 
losing the contents of your wallet.
        The young man stepped back into his Mercedes feeling his neck. 
Maybe, for him, it was just another ordinary day in Moscow. Meanwhile, 
more high-speed bikes sliced through the late-evening traffic. 
Instinctively, I tensed, waiting for the Mother of all Crashes. 
        Next morning I decided to take a drive and collect some food 
from the shops. The green traffic light changed. I had the option to 
brake hard, or continue my turn. I continued, which proved to be a big 
mistake. The cop insisted I’d committed a traffic offense. My options 
were to bribe him to forget it, or go the official route, which is a 
nightmare. Instead, fed up with this hellhole in general, and all cops 
in particular, I argued and shouted. I grabbed for the mobile phone to 
get help ... then I stopped and wondered, was someone watching me?

MOSCOW, JULY 18, RIA NOVOSTI - Each land plot in Moscow
will have its certain price, whereas up to now only 10 percent
of the land in Moscow were assessed to 100 percent. This follows
from the law "On Basic Principles for Paid Tenure of Land in
Moscow" adopted by the State Duma. According to the State Duma,
the new standard act will help the city government to increase
the municipal purse through payments from private individuals
and legal entities. For example, Muscovites-householders
registered in their houses can enjoy the right for a life
possession. The new document also envisages a set of benefits --
partial or complete release from the tax or rent payments, rent
payment by instalments, credit loan. These categories shall be
determined by the standard acts of the Russian Federation and


The Independent (UK)
19 July 1997
[for personal use only]
David Aaronovitch - Mir mortals

I have not had an easy week. But whenever I have felt it all becoming 
too much I have consoled myself with the thought that, at any rate, I am 
not on the Mir space station. I am not cowering with two other chaps in 
the escape pod at the end of a malfunctioning heap of patched-up metal 
and badly-soldered wires. And it was not I who accidentally pulled out a 
vital plug on Thursday, suddenly shutting down what Sci-fi films used to 
call "life support systems". 
It is, of course, amazing that anyone is up there at all. We do not 
watch Russian televisions, drive Russian cars or eat in Russian 
fast-food joints. Let alone (if we are even moderately nervous flyers) 
commit our safety into the hands of Aeroflot or Air Tashkent. Should the 
Russians build a Siberian answer to Disney World, complete with scary 
rides (the Anna Karenina train journey in Tolstoyland, or the Chekhov 
adventure, where you don't move for two hours, for instance) I for one 
will not be risking my children's lives there. Yet we happily dispatch 
men and women by rocket, to sit miles and miles above the Earth's 
atmosphere in an 11-year-old Russian rust-bucket, much of which is held 
together by pieces of chewing gum and coat hangers. Why do we do it? 
As we know, in the early 1960s Russia was "ahead". A paradise for 
scientists and engineers, the foothills of the Urals were dotted with 
happy colonies of white-coated brainboxes; colonies with names like 
Akademgorodok, Magnitogorsk and, of course, Tefalsk. From these 
wonderful concentrations of intellect emerged the Russian space effort 
(and the military effort too), the Sputnik, Laika the space-dog and Yuri 
Gagarin, the space-hunk. The Russians were both technically advanced and 
- a modern corollary - very sexy. 
Then, bit by bit, this image dissipated. The Yanks got to the Moon, and 
- at the same time - those actually encountering Soviet technology 
face-to-face became disenchanted. Queues for such luxuries as silk or 
potatoes might be a sign that this was one anti-consumerist society that 
had got its priorities broadly right, but it didn't tell us why the 
hotel loos didn't work, nor why the luggage racks on internal flights 
would occasionally drop off. This was not, we realised, insouciance. 
Russia was (in the Ratnerian sense) crap. 
So this explains Mir, doesn't it? Well no. It is certainly true that if 
Mir was American, they'd have junked it long since. Having no history, 
the Transatlantics are uneasy with anything of any antiquity, and 
unashamed about trading in. The probable reason why we haven't heard 
much about the Mars buggy this week, is that they've got bored with it 
already and are now asking Mr Clinton for a new one ("Tell the President 
this one keeps banging into rocks, for Chrissake!"). 
By contrast Mir has suffered 1,500 breakdowns in 11 years, 60 of which 
have not been repaired. And, because it is a long way from the nearest 
B&Q, it has had to be mended in a peculiar variety of ways using "local" 
materials, ie, what the visiting crews had in their pockets at the time, 
or could be fitted under the captain's seat in a shuttle. 
The basic structure of Mir must be pretty solid then; like the good ol' 
wartime T34, it does its job well. But its survival is therefore, I 
would argue, a triumph of improvisation - something that Britain used to 
be very good at (remember the small ships at Dunkirk and the Squeezy 
bottles on Blue Peter?), but which immense wealth almost always 
destroys. If you want to see how a society can get by on nothing more 
than its wits, then look at the way the Cubans have maintained their 
ancient Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets in the face of the US trade embargo. 
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that we need to preserve a few 
poor but clever societies on the planet. Should we send real people to 
Mars - or even further - they will have to make do with what they can 
find. "Help will be with you in three light years" won't do the trick. 


Samara's New Mayor Outlines Action Plans 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta
July 17, 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Samara Mayor Georgiy Limanskiy by Vyacheslav Belov in
Samara; date not given: "Middle Class Is Authorities' Mainstay" -- first
paragraph is introduction

Samara's new Mayor Georgiy Limanskiy officially took office yesterday.
It was decided to bring forward the inauguration ceremony scheduled for
Friday [18 July] so that the mayor could be introduced to President Boris
Yeltsin who is expected to arrive in Samara Oblast on vacation at the end
of the week. Georgiy Limanskiy answered questions put to him by your
Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent.
[Belov] You were called a member of the opposition before the second
round. Is this allegation correct?
[Limanskiy] I have always been opposed to such phenomena in our life
as the absence of human rights and a person's fear in the face of rampant
crime. A large segment of our population is not sure what tomorrow will
bring; they are unable to bring up their children in the right way and to
ensure that they spend their old age in a dignified manner. We must not
accept such phenomena.
[Belov] What is the first thing that you are going to do as the new
[Limanskiy] The first task is to bring the city's budget under strict
control. Ranging from tax revenue to the spending of every ruble. I have
become convinced that not everything is in order in this sphere. By
manipulating the city head's decrees and directives, certain officials are
channeling the flow of finance not at all where it is especially needed. 
It is not by chance that the oblast Prosecutor's Office is today conducting
cases concerning abuses by individual officials in the budget sphere. I
guarantee you that I will impose order as far as taxpayers' money is
Second, the middle class must be supported. This will form the
backbone of the new city authorities.
And third, I will do everything in my power to liberate people both
from criminal and state racketeering. It is time to relieve the ordinary
citizen of the fetters of bureaucracy.
[Belov] You were elected by the people. It is quite common for those
chosen by the people to immediately look askance at the Kremlin, the White
[Limanskiy] I understand what you mean. Fortunately I do not suffer
from this disease. I proceed from the fact that we all live in one legal
area. In the area of a Federation component. Therefore, I believe that the
nation will win if we raise the role and standing of the supreme power
There will be accord and progress only when the authorities and the
people heed and respect one another. I will not accept anything else.


St. Petersburg Times
JULY 14-20, 1997
E D I T O R I A L 
But, Hunting for Revenues Can Go Too Far 

Nevsky Prospect for $30,000 a day? What a bargain! Let's shut it down
every day. Personally, we here at The St. Petersburg Times will seriously be
considering this as a marketing stunt. 
Media-savvy people like us understand that $30,000 can go a long way -
everyone who shuts down Nevsky Prospect gets a blitz of TV and print
coverage. A minute of advertising on one Russian television can easily cost
$30,000; why not pay $30,000 for a minute or so of news coverage on all the
television stations, prominent articles in all the newspapers - and for the
same price get to make everybody else detour the downtown?
So do not be surprised if you see a couple dozen pale, unhealthy-looking
sedentary people marching up and down the city's main thoroughfare wearing
St. Petersburg Times T-shirts and handing out newspapers, while GAI officers
busily reroute traffic.
In the meantime, of course, other major cities only shut down their main
thoroughfares for civic events - holiday parades, political marches. But in
Russia, if the price is right anything apparently goes. Enjoy it while it
lasts - it has all the earmarks of yet another outrageous practice soon to
be excoriated in editorials, screeched about by the Communists and then
ultimately discontinued. 


Asia Times
July 18, 1997
[for personal use only]
Missiles to get new mission

According to reports from Kiev late last week, a delegation from
Ukraine's National Space Agency is to leave for Russia very soon to register
a joint enterprise aimed at modernizing SS-18 (Satan) intercontinental
ballistic missiles so they can be used to launch commercial satellites. 
The SS-18s were slated for destruction under the START-II Treaty.
According to Oleksandr Serdyuk, head of the international department at
Ukraine's National Space Agency, the first missile to be used for commercial
launches will appear next year, and 150 missiles are to be modernized in all. 
He noted that Ukraine will have a 50 percent share in the joint
enterprise, and as the SS-18 missile was a Ukrainian development, "Ukraine
will be resolving the technical issues: Development of the operational units
for launching payloads and the assembly of the booster stage". He said all
the necessary development work would be carried out directly on the test range. 
According to specialists, the value of the development work on the
missile complexes would be more than US$100 million. 
According to sources in Moscow, Russia has already set up a joint venture
with Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace to operate some of the retooled SS-18
missiles commercially. The Germans plan to invest around US$30 million to
set up ground infrastructure for the refurbished missiles. 


Los Angeles Times
July 18, 1997 
{for personal use only] 
Troubling News for Izvestia Paper 
Corporate control of the daily leaves some asking if free speech will be
compromised. Its editor is leaving. 
By VANORA BENNETT, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--It has been seven years since journalists in Russia won
liberty from Soviet censorship. But many liberals fear that free speech
might be facing new--and, perhaps, unanticipated--fetters today, when Igor
N. Golembiovsky is expected to walk away from his job as editor in chief of
Izvestia, the grand dame of Russian newspapers. 
     Golembiovsky, outmaneuvered, may have no other choice. Two big
investors from this nation's new corporate elite--Lukoil, Russia's biggest
petroleum company, and Uneximbank--have taken control of Izvestia from the
journalists who have struggled to keep their independence. 
     While, ostensibly, there is to be an election to decide who will be the
Russian institution's chief, Golembiovsky, 61, has not been invited to take
     His struggle has laid bare the conflict in post-Soviet politics between
the defenders of democracy and the builders of capitalism. Journalists say
they are now being squeezed, but not by Communists who abandoned media
control with a 1990 law liberalizing the press. Instead, the new problems
are coming from authoritarian capitalists with links to government. 
     Media freedom in Russia, critics contend, has been steadily whittled
away since the early 1990s. Now, much of Russia's media is owned by fewer
than a dozen people. The owners' influence can be seen in the editorial
     "To influence politics, you need the media," Sergei Markov, analyst at
the Carnegie Moscow Center, explained. 
     The willingness of media outlets to be compromised by their own
interests was shown last summer, when journalists threw themselves behind
President Boris N. Yeltsin's reelection bid. 
     The lines between the media and business and government interests have
been further blurred since as at least two key executives of Russian banks
or conglomerates with media holdings have taken public office. 
     Izvestia had abstained from outside associations--until recently.
Employees kept 51% of shares in the newspaper company, at least until last
fall. Rising costs and an ambitious modernization plan then sent
Golembiovsky out seeking investors. 
     He found Lukoil. It bought just under 20% of the shares in the paper
last year and pledged in turn to pay for its planned expansion. As a
condition of the deal, the oil giant also promised that it would not
interfere in Izvestia's editorial policy. But this spring, the interests of
journalists and investors clashed when the paper carried a story from the
French newspaper Le Monde, suggesting that Prime Minister Viktor S.
Chernomyrdin was worth $5 billion. 
     Chernomyrdin denied the story, which Le Monde later withdrew. The
premier has since said his assets are less than $50,000. 
     Meanwhile, Vagit Alekperov--who is Lukoil's boss and had been close to
Chernomyrdin when the premier worked in the energy sector--turned on
Golembiovsky, criticizing him and threatening to dump Lukoil's shares in the
paper. Izvestia staffers believe that Alekperov, fearing Chernomyrdin would
personally blame him for Izvestia's allegations, did everything he could to
get rid of Golembiovsky. 
     "Chernomyrdin cannot give a direct order to fire me, but he can do it
indirectly: He can get Lukoil to have me fired," Golembiovsky said. 
     But instead of dumping shares, Alekperov bought more. Lukoil's stake in
Izvestia--and alliances with other shareholders--grew to 51.3% by late April. 
     Searching for a new backer to help him fight Lukoil, Golembiovsky
invited Uneximbank to buy stock in the paper. But Uneximbank later changed
sides, making a deal with Lukoil to squeeze out Golembiovsky. 
     He admitted that he had bungled the takeover battle but said it had
become too expensive to keep 51% of stock in journalists' hands when the
price of an Izvestia share had rocketed from 2 to 5,700 rubles. 
     The conflicts of interest, he told a news conference, were inevitable:
Izvestia's corporate masters eventually would have found another pretext to
show their strength. "For this not to have happened, we would have had to
change a lot in the newspaper's policy," he said. 


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