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28 July 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Pro-Kremlin Candidate Wins in Siberia.
2. AP: Religious Head May Meet With Pope.
3. AP: Facts on Russian Orthodox Church.
4. Interfax: Russian Finance Ministry Predicts Budget
Shortfall In 1997.
5. RIA Novosti: FOURTEEN REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS FAIL
TO HAND IN THEIR INCOME DECLARATIONS.
6. CNN: Jill Dougherty, Russia launches safe-sex campaign
amid soaring HIV rate.
7. The Earth Times: John Corry, How expansion of NATO is
being covered by America.
8. RIA Novosti: NEMTSOV DENIES ANY POSSIBILITY OF RAILWAY
9. Chicago Tribune: Georgie Anne Geyer, WE CAN FINALLY SEE
10. Reuter: Russia and Turkey clash over control of Bosphorus.
11. St. Petersburg Times: Boris Kagarlitsky, Dynamite as a
Dissident's Public Relations Tool.
12. St. Petersburg Times: Jonas Bernstein, Lost Inside a
13. The Independent (UK): Alan Philps, Oil exploration brings
British back to Baku.]
Pro-Kremlin Candidate Wins in Siberia
July 27, 1997
IRKUTSK, Russia (AP) - A pro-Kremlin candidate for regional
governor defeated a Communist challenger Sunday in Siberian
elections that were seen as another test of reformers' grip on
Russia's far-flung provinces.
Initial results indicated that Boris Govorin, the Moscow-backed
mayor of Irkutsk, won 40 percent to 50 percent of the vote. That
compared to 25 percent to 30 percent won by Sergei Levchenko, head
of the regional Communist Party branch, the ITAR-Tass news agency
Yuri Nozhikov resigned as governor of the Irkutsk region in
eastern Siberia for health reasons three months ago.
Opposition parties and especially the Communists, who are a
majority in Russia's parliament, have been trying to seize control
of Russian regions in recent provincial elections.
The Irkutsk vote was considered especially important for the
Communists after they lost a key election in the central Nizhny
Novgorod region to a reformist this month and because of Irkutsk's
Another player in Irkutsk was Alexander Lebed, Russia's former
national security chief and President Boris Yeltsin's rival.
Lebed, who formed his own political party in March and aspires
to become the country's next leader, is seeking to replace the
Communists as the main opposition to Yeltsin's government.
The candidate of Lebed's Russian Popular Republican Party won a
close race against Yeltsin's choice in a mayoral race in the city
of Samara, about 150 miles north of Kazakstan.
But in Irkutsk, his candidate - local businessman Ivan Shchadov
- trailed far behind the others.
About 43 percent of the 1.8 million electorate cast ballots by
the time polls closed Sunday night, ITAR-Tass reported.
The winner also gets a seat in the upper house of the federal
parliament. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a run-off
will be held.
Religious Head May Meet With Pope
July 27, 1997
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) - The leader of the Russian Orthodox
Church said Sunday he still might meet sometime with Pope John Paul
II - although he said it was too early to say when.
Alexy II displeased the Vatican earlier this summer when he
called off what would have been the first-ever meeting between the
heads of the two churches.
Alexy, speaking on the last day of his visit to Lithuania, said
Sunday he was still willing to meet John Paul eventually. But he
told Russia news agencies such a meeting would have to be
The Russian patriarch has said he canceled the historic
encounter because John Paul refused to commit to a joint statement
on proselytism in Russia, or efforts by non-Russian Orthodox
churches to convert Russians - an increasingly touchy issue in both
Russian President Boris Yeltsin recently rejected a Russian
Orthodox-backed bill that would have restricted ``nontraditional''
churches in Russia, including Roman Catholicism. John Paul and the
United States had opposed the bill.
On Saturday, Alexy made a conciliatory gesture toward the Roman
Catholic Church, taking part in a joint Orthodox-Catholic blessing
at a Lithuanian site.
Alexy and Roman Catholic Archbishop Audris Joseph Bachkis kissed
each other to open the ceremony at the Gate of the Sunrise Chapel,
each reading a short address and offering a benediction to more
than 4,000 worshipers, including Lithuanian President Algirdas
On Sunday, Alexy praised Lithuania's ethnic Russians for
remaining ``faithful to their mother church despite the years of
confusion, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the founding of
new sovereign countries.''
``All of us must preserve peace and accord, the unity of the
Orthodox Church, especially now when attempts are being made to
split us,'' he said.
Facts on Russian Orthodox Church
July 26, 1997
Some facts about the Russian Orthodox Church and the proposed
law on religion:
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH:
Russia's dominant religion, claiming about 80 million
adherents, or more than 50 percent of the population.
Established in 988 with the conversion of Prince Vladimir.
Played important role in consolidation of Russia, becoming the
official state religion, with czar as head of church.
Repressed after 1917 Russian Revolution, with thousands of
churches burned and priests imprisoned or killed.
Joined in what it calls a ``patriotic union'' with dictator
Josef Stalin to help the war effort during World War II.
Repressed again in early 1960s, with thousands of churches
Renaissance under Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s,
culminating in lavish celebrations for its millennium in 1988.
Became active political force with the election of Boris
Yeltsin as Russian president in 1990, gathering strength after the
1991 Soviet collapse.
PROPOSED RELIGION LAW:
Enshrines the Russian Orthodox Church as Russia's dominant
religion, recognizing its historic role as a pillar of Russian
Vows protection for ``traditional'' religions: Judaism, Islam
Other ``foreign'' religions, including Roman Catholicism and
Protestantism, would have to register with local governments.
Registration would be granted only if group demonstrates a
continuous local presence for 15 years, and it would be forbidden
from seeking converts or holding public worship until registration.
The registration would then be valid only in that locality.
A religion would be recognized as a ``national'' religion only
if it could demonstrate a continuous 50-year presence in at least
half of Russia's local districts.
Yeltsin rejected the religion law, claiming it violates
Russia's constitution, which guarantees freedom of worship.
Patriarch Alexy denounced the action, and warned of social
unrest unless the bill is signed in its original form.
Parliament has the opportunity to revise the bill and send it
back to Yeltsin for reconsideration.
Russian Finance Ministry Predicts Budget Shortfall In 1997
MOSCOW, July 26 (Interfax) - Federal budget revenues will fall short of
the target set in the Law on the State Budget for 1997, Russian Finance
Ministry experts said after analyzing the economic results for the first
half of the year.
The state budget revenues will amount to about 12.5% of GDP, 3.5% less
than the intended figure.
GDP will total 2,550-2,650 trillion rubles in Russia, 80- 180 trillion
rubles below the projected amount. GDP will grow at 98-100% of the rate
attained last year.
The deteriorating financial situation in most enterprises in the real
sector makes tax collection difficult, Finance Ministry experts said.
Loss-making enterprises constitute 48% of the total, 8% more than in the
same period last year.
Therefore, income tax revenues of the state budget declined in the first
half of 1997, they said. However, indirect tax collection increased.
Tax collection improved following payment of arrears by natural gas
monopoly Gazprom, they said. However that was "a one time measure" which
is unlikely to change the overall situation, they said.
The persisting budgetary crisis is caused by abundant obligations of the
state, a growing shadow economy, falling short of the projected increase
in all types of revenue and weak financial dicipline, they said.
The federal budget deficit totaled 4.2% in the first half of the year,
giving rise to a chain of non-payments, they said. Since interest
payments on the federal debt are mandatory and large, budget recipients
often get far less than they otherwise would.
Moreover, the disbalanced budget deepens the investment crisis. The
level of investment in 1997 stood at 93-96% of the level from the year
before, instead of the projected rate of 100-102%, they said.
FOURTEEN REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS FAIL TO HAND IN THEIR
MOSCOW, JULY 26, RIA-NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT MARIANNA
SHATIKHINA - Fourteen regional governors and administrators have
so far failed to hand in their respective income declarations.
Their list includes Altai territorial administrator Alexander
Surikov, Volgograd regional administrators Nikolai Maksyuta,
Kursk regional Governor Alexander Rutskoi, Yuri Goryachev of
Ulyanovsk region and Yevgeni Mikhailov in charge of Pskov
region, RIA-NOVOSTI learned from reliable sources in the
Acting in line with Boris Yeltsin's decree, all
administrators were to have submitted their 1997 income
declarations by July 21.
Talking to reporters here this past Thursday, Yeltsin's
deputy chief of staff Yevgeni Savostyanov reminded those present
that the nation's elected regional administrators have so far
been advised to hand in their respective income declarations.
Starting with January 1, this will become standard practice
among all civil officers, he went on to say. According to
Savostyanov, the lists of those specific civil officers, who
have not submitted their income-and-property declarations on
time, have already been drawn up. In his words, some
high-ranking officials have not done this for valid reasons,
promising to comply in the near future. Savostyanov also noted
that Russian legislation doesn't envisage liability for a
person's failure to submit his or her income declarations. One
can only talk about administrative punishment alone in this
context; such punishment shall be meted out by the President
July 25, 1997
Russia launches safe-sex campaign amid soaring HIV rate
>From Correspondent Jill Dougherty
MOSCOW (CNN) -- The rate of HIV transmission is soaring in Russia, with
three-quarters of new cases appearing among drug addicts. Health workers
in Russia are sounding the alarm and working to promote prevention and
safe sex in hopes that HIV transmission rates will drop.
"People think AIDS has nothing to do with them -- it's something
American, something foreign," said Oleg, a teen-ager at a dance club.
To convince teens like him that AIDS is far from alien to Russian soil,
the Russian Health Ministry, in a joint project with the international
organization Doctors Without Borders, is launching a safe sex campaign.
Television ads and huge banners on the sides of buses promote condom
Teens CNN talked with were mostly supportive of the campaign. "Even at a
party, if I have sex with a stranger, I use a condom automatically. But
this campaign is exactly what most people here need," said Sasha, a
young Russian man talking with other friends on a street corner.
"Anyone in this country can get AIDS, even if they don't belong to a
high-risk group," agreed Lera, a girl in the same group.
But an older woman said she disapproved of the way the campaign was
being conducted. "I think this whole campaign is evil. It's disgusting,
putting adds on buses. It's outrageous!" she said.
Until recently, Russia has escaped the high rates of HIV and AIDS seen
in other countries. That is changing. "A sharp increase began in the
middle of last year. The number of people infected in 1996 was equal to
the total number of people infected in the previous 10 years," said the
Russian Health Ministry's Alexander Goliusov.
Officially there are 5,000 registered cases of HIV in Russia. The real
number, officials say, is probably 10 times higher. But since 1995, the
government has allocated no money toward fighting AIDS.
Even the number of government-subsidized condoms have dropped. There
were once eight condom factories in Russia, partly supported by the
government. As government funding has disappeared, so have the
factories: Today, only two remain, and those are having trouble
competing with cheap imported condoms.
"We used to produce up to 450,000 condoms a month. Now that's all we
produce in a year and a half," said factory worker Antonino Marayeva.
The organizers of the safe sex campaign say they hope their predictions
about the spread of AIDS don't come true. But if the disease continues
to spread the way it has been, 1 million Russians will be infected by
the end of the century.
The Earth Times
26 July 1998
How expansion of NATO is being covered by America
By JOHN CORRY
John Corry is Senior Correspondent at The American Observer.
WASHINGTON--Most of the press, or at least those parts of it that have
expressed an opinion, favor the expansion of NATO. Apparently it is an
idea whose time has come. As the Washington Post said in an editorial --
"NATO's Open Door" -- the invitations to Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic were an "important step...toward promoting stability and
democracy" in Europe. Indeed, those three countries today, and Estonia,
Lithuania and Latvia tomorrow -- Russia may object, but eventually it
will come around. Principled statesmanship will win out.
The Post is usually counted on to express a liberal point of view,
although on the question of NATO expansion that now seems irrelevant.
Conservative publications -- the Washington Times, Weekly Standard and
National Review among them -- are matching the Post's enthusiasm, and
even going beyond it. Only paleolithic right-wingers and misguided
peaceniks, they say, think expansion is a terrible idea.
Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard is in the forefront here. In a remarkable
two-page editorial, it said that expansion was not only the logical
follow up to the successful struggle against Soviet communism; it was
the "foundation for what can only be called an 'American peace' in
Europe -- Europe without the United States simply doesn't work."
Besides, it said, opponents of expansion are "a motley crew" --
isolationists like Pat Buchanan, and left-over doves who dislike
military commitments and "U.S. leadership, not to say preeminence, in
In other words, benighted Europe cannot do without us. The American
peace must prevail. Bill Buckley's National Review is less apocalyptic
about this, although its feelings are still very clear. Opposition to
expansion, it insists, "stems from an unholy coalition between liberal
and moderate internationalists...and the more elemental forces of
grass-roots isolationism." Credit the National Review, though, with at
least identifying part of the unholy coalition: the fifty former
Senators, diplomats and officials who said that expansion would be "a
policy error of historic proportions."
The Gang of Fifty, as the National Review called them, think expansion
would wreck NATO, provoke the Russians, and financially bankrupt
everyone concerned. Let us assume now that the Gang is wrong; it still
does not mean that the media enthusiasts for expansion are right. Most
of them duck the hard questions. What, exactly, is NATO, for example,
and what is it supposed to do?
NATO was conceived as a military alliance, although the fact is that
Europe is now disarming, and its governments want to pinch pennies on
weapons. German tanks sit idle because the Bundeswehr has run out of
spare parts. Meanwhile, President Jacque Chircac has announced that
France will spend not a single franc on expansion. Chancellor Helmut
Kohl says Germany does not want to contribute, either. At the same time,
the Congressinal Budget Office says the U.S. bill for expansion could
reach $4.8 billion.
The defense industry does not mind this, of course, and U.S. companies
are promoting expansion. They would like to sell Slovenia, say, some
planes. (Its air force now has three, all propeller driven.) On the
other hand, no one, and certainly not the media enthusiasts, mention
missiles, although missiles will surely be a greater threat to world
peace than convenentional weapons. China, for instance, is upgrading its
medium range missiles with new mobile systems. They will be able to hit
targets in Russia, India, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of East Asia.
But expanded or otherwise, NATO has no answers for that. It also does
not seem to have answers for a deterioratation in Russian security
system that increases the possibility of an accidental launch. At least
in public pronouncements, these matters are not addressed, and NATO
expansion is argued mostly in terms of feel-good politics. We will have
an "American peace," and, as Madeleine Albright said recently in Prague,
Americans will happily "protect the freedom" even of Brno. Brno? Can
anyone imagine, in the real world of politics, a president telling the
American people it must send its sons and daughters to die for Brno?
But give the last word here to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He
inadvertently stood next to an open microphone at the NATO meeting in
Madrid, while he explained American policy to Belgian Prime Minister
Jean-Luc Dehaene. "I know the rules," Chretien said. "It's not for
reasons of state. It's all done for short-term political reasons."
"Take the quarrel over whether to admit the Baltic states," he said in
remarks that were later broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting System.
"That has nothing to do with world security. It's because in Chicago,
Mayor Daley controls lots of votes for the (Democratic) nomination."
Even if Chretien was showing off, you must not dismiss him. He was more
realistic than the media enthusiasts.
NEMTSOV DENIES ANY POSSIBILITY OF RAILWAY PRIVATISATION
MOSCOW, JULY 25 /FROM RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT ALEXANDER
IVASHCHENKO/ -- First Vice-Premier Boris Nemtsov met the Railway
Ministry leadership today and observed the ministry's facilities
and Moscow railways. The the government is firm about
non-privatisation of railways, he told newsmen today. At the
same time, continued Nemtsov, it is urgent to alienate those
structures which having nothing to do with railways. A special
government session this autumn will be dedicated to the
In the opinion of the first vice-premier, commuter train
carriage should be subsidised, the more so as the Moscow
suburban railway traffic accounts for one third of the entire
country. But as far as cargo shipments are concerned, they
should pay off. Nemtsov also reported having discussed with the
Railways Ministry leadership certain aspects of energy saving
and a 20% reduction of tariffs for electricity on railway
July 25, 1997
[for personal use
WE CAN FINALLY SEE STALIN'S ATROCITIES
By Georgie Anne Geyer
One month during World War II, Joseph Stalin became worried that some of
his military officers might challenge his total power, so he ordered the
execution of 30,000 Russian officers, or half of the army and navy staff.
As the war drew on, Stalin put through "Order 270," which decreed that all
Russian soldiers and officers taken prisoner by the Germans were "traitors"
and should be sent to the penal camps. Then, as the battles grew even more
savage, he put through "Order 227," which effectively said, "No one can
retreat." And battalions of the country's worst criminals were emplaced
behind the Russian troops to immediately shoot anyone who tried to flee the
If you have not been watching "Russia's War, Blood Upon the Snow," an
extraordinary 10-part documentary on public television (the remaining three
episodes are airing Mondays at 9 p.m. on WTTW-Ch. 11), watch it and remember
it. For the first time, the war in Russia is told through the dramatic
release of Soviet archival films never before seen, as well as through the
revelations of secret documents and original eyewitness accounts.
Here, for the first time, are actual pictures of the Soviet slaughter of
thousands of Polish officers, probably in 1941, in the Katyn forest in
Western Russia; of the penal camps where Stalin sent millions to work and
die; of the terrible battle against the overstretched German army for
Stalingrad; and, in short, of Stalin's second war--his war against his own
people--in which at least 20 million died.
This series is a veritable clarification of history.
"Undoubtedly, there will be a violent reaction to these films on the part
of American academe," says Slavic specialist Col. David Glantz, formerly of
the Army War College. "There is still a heavy Marxist residue in our
universities--the social historians to whom facts are less important than
human feelings--and this group tends to differentiate Stalin from the system.
But essentially, Stalin was a product of the system that Lenin created.
`Democratic centralism' can create nothing but a Stalin! We lose track of the
fact that the man was a conscious tyrant, ruthless but pragmatic, with a
great deal of rationality in what he did."
Surely no one of "goodwill" can do anything but rejoice in the fact that
there are no longer any concentration camps in Russia, and that the physical
wars are over. And yet, even today, one still feels reverberations of the
Consider, for instance, two recent examples of the problem. First, Moscow
already is complaining bitterly about the restrained attempt by NATO troops
in Bosnia to arrest Serbian war criminals who are today's heinous versions of
Stalin. Second, at the inaugural session of the special council created by
NATO especially to give Russia an institutional role in the alliance, Moscow
made such hostile demands that the meeting had to be postponed for two days.
These events and many others now unfolding show, unfortunately, that
today's Moscow still lacks the goodwill that must characterize mature
relations between serious states.
Russia and Turkey clash over control of Bosphorus
By Michael Rank
LONDON, July 25 (Reuter) - Russia and Turkey are locked
in a bitter dispute over control of the Bosphorus Strait in the latest twist
to a centuries-old quarrel that has become increasingly acrimonious because
of an expected surge in oil exports from Central Asia.
Russia complains that Turkey is illegally interfering with shipping in the
strait, probably the narrowest major sea route in the world and one of the
"Turkey certainly has a legitimate problem," said a member of the Russian
delegation at recent talks on the Bosphorus in London.
He acknowledged that the number of vessels passing through the Bosphorus has
soared since it was declared an international waterway in 1936, and that new
rules needed to be agreed to guarantee safety.
"But Turkey tackles this problem illegally...They have adopted a fanatical
nationalist approach that assumes that if countries like Turkey go it alone
they can unilaterally impose their own rules," said the Russian official, who
asked not to be identified.
The struggle for control of the Bosphorus is not just about oil or shipping
It has raged for hundreds of years and has religious and cultural overtones
in that Turkey is Moslem and Russia is Orthodox Christian. But it is also
geopolitical as Russia has always wanted access to a southern warm water port
when the Baltic is blocked by winter ice.
Shipping in the Bosphorus is governed by the 1936 Montreux Convention, which
states that "in time of peace, merchant vessels shall enjoy complete freedom
of transit and navigation in the Strait, by day and by night, under any flag
with any cargo, without any formalities..."
But Turkish officials say this does not mean they have no power to control
traffic in the Bosphorus, Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara.
They say that although they are open to international shipping under the
Montreux Convention, they are nevertheless under Turkish sovereignty and that
Turkey is therefore entitled to issue and enforce regulations aimed at
The officials say the huge numbers of vessels using the Bosphorus pose a
serious danger to the 12 million residents of Istanbul, the city which
straddles the strait. They note that there have been several disastrous fires
and explosions aboard ships in the strait in recent years.
"Freedom of passage does not mean uncontrolled passage,"
said Mithat Rende, Turkish representative at the London-based International
Maritime Organization (IMO) which hosted the recent talks on the Bosphorus.
Rende said Russia's stress on free navigation "would only serve the
acceleration of traffic, not the enhancement of safety" in the Bosphorus.
Russia wants traffic to be temporarily suspended only in case of an emergency
or force majeure, and for vessels over 340 metres long to be advised to
navigate the straits in daylight, while Turkey wants this to apply to ships
that are over 200 metres long.
The Bosphorus is only 700 metres wide at its narrowest point, and there have
been frequent accidents. The most serious in recent years occurred in 1994
when the tanker Nassia was in collision with another vessel. Thirty seamen
were killed and 20,000 tonnes of oil were spilled.
According to Turkish figures, almost 50,000 vessels last year passed through
the strait, which has four blind curves and is subject to violent current and
About 12 tankers pass through each day, each one a potential fire risk. In
addition, large numbers of ferries and smaller craft crisscross the strait,
posing a further threat to safety.
The number of tankers will soar when vast oil resources in Kazakhstan and
Azerbaijan come on stream if the Bosphorus is the main export route.
Russia wants much of this oil to reach the West by tanker from the Black Sea
port of Novorossiisk, passing through the Bosphorus on its way to Western
But Turkey wants a pipeline to be built from Baku in Azerbaijan to the
Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, thus bypassing the congested Bosphorus.
Turkey says this would be much safer and would reduce pollution, but Russian
and Western officials note that Turkey would also benefit from dues paid for
the transit of oil across its territory.
Turkey says Ceyhan can handle more than 120 million tonnes of oil per year,
four times the capacity of Novorossiisk. It also says the Mediterranean port
is open 365 days a year, unlike Novorossiisk which is often closed by storms.
Analysts say there would have to be diversity of export routes once the
expected Central Asian oil boom starts, in order to guarantee a stable flow.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Caucasus, through which much
of the oil is likely to flow, is highly volatile and there have been a number
of wars in the region in recent years. In addition, Kurds are fighting for
self-rule in southeast Turkey.
Turkey says the number of accidents in the Bosphorus has plummeted since it
introduced new rules recommending that large vessels over 90,000 gross tonnes
take a pilot on board and that the strait be closed to other transit traffic
when such ships pass through.
However, some Western lawyers are critical of Turkey for acting unilaterally
and for rejecting an IMO report on safety last week. Rende said the report
"doesn't deal proportionately with safety" and puts too much stress on
speeding up traffic.
"Turkey's concern is understandable...A recipe for disaster is very clearly
there," said Joe Atkinson, a partner in the marine casualty department of
London law firm Sinclair, Roche & Temperley.
"But Turkey wants to impose its own solution and the international shipping
community is very fearful,"
"Turkey was a little unreasonable in rejecting out of hand the IMO
proposals," added Atkinson, who has long experience of problems in the
"Turkey is absolutely right in that this is a big issue and the current
convention is not adequate for today's shipping,"
said Edmund Herzig, senior research fellow on the Caucasus and Caspian region
at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.
"My feeling is that...there is quite a lot of brinkmanship going on.
"Neither side is necessarily as extreme or inflexible as it seems."
Herzig noted that if and when Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan start pumping large
amounts of oil to the West, this would lead to an economic boom in the region
that would result in greatly increased imports as well as exports --
potentially further increasing pressure on the Bosphorus.
Herzig said the conflict was unlikely to be resolved until a decision was
reached on the route of the main pipeline to carry Central Asian oil.
"Both Russia and Turkey want to keep the issue alive before a decision is
taken," he added.
St. Petersburg Times
JULY 28-AUGUST 3, 1997
Dynamite as a Dissident's Public Relations Tool
By Boris Kargalitsky
Boris Kargalitsky is a researcher at the Academy of Sciences' Institute
for Comparative Politics in Moscow.
IN THE MOVIE by Georgian film-maker Otar Iosiliani, "Favorites of the
Moon," several rather likable old men decide to buy an infernal machine
and blow up an ugly monument that had been ruining the view of their
favorite square. At the end of the film the old men are escorted off by
At first sight, it seems that something similar has occurred in Moscow
and its surroundings. In April, the pompous statue of Nicholas II on the
outskirts of Moscow was the first to be targeted. Earlier this month,
explosives were discovered by Zurab Tsereteli's uncompleted monument of
Peter the Great. The explosion was averted, much to the disappointment
of many of Tsereteli's opponents. More recently, a bomb slightly damaged
a monument to Tsar Alexander III at Moscow's Vagankovskoye Cemetery
Unlike the heroes of the film, those who claimed responsibility for the
attacks are young people. And although an investigation is now being
conducted, it is unlikely that they will end up being caught. Not only
are they not in hiding but, on the contrary, they are promoting
In the newspaper Bumbarash, anyone preparing to create a small
paramilitary organization will find much useful information. There are
detailed descriptions about how a small group of radicals, headed by
Pavel Bylevsky, split from the more moderate Russian Komsomol
organization, to create the so-called Revolutionary Military Council of
the Soviet Republic of Russia, which is protesting against the proposal
to remove Lenin's body from the Kremlin mausoleum and claimed
responsibility for the previous attacks.
It should be said that the targets of the attacks were well chosen.
Despite the tons of paper and hours of television footage spent trying
to rectify the damage done to the last tsar's image, Nicholas II, who
shot on a peaceful demonstration in 1905, lost two major wars and
brought his own capital to the point of famine, does not enjoy much
popularity in the country. And few people considered the statue by
Vyacheslav Klykov to be a masterpiece. An even more alluring object for
the saboteurs is Tsereteli's Peter, who is constantly under attack by
the liberal press.
For the moment, no one has suffered from the explosions, and a
significant part of society has even expressed more sympathy for the
terrorists than for the builders of the monuments. In contemporary
Russia, however, where the news media - whether state-owned or
independent - is distinguished by its extreme intolerance for any kind
of heterodox thinking, dynamite has become a public relations tool for
It is not that television does not give opposition movements the chance
to speak. Televisions stations are simply careful whom they show and for
which occasions. It's no accident that the television debates over the
Lenin Mausoleum on the "Odin na Odin" talk show featured the popular
rock singer Andrei Makarevich and the odious Stalinist Nina Andreyeva.
The most dim-witted and hard-headed representatives of the opposition
camp are always carefully chosen, and are given their say only when they
are ready to express something absurd, old-fashioned or frightening. On
one hand are people of the future, who are tied to the present
authorities, banks and private companies. On the other, are people of
the past, who dream of returning to totalitarianism.
Serious criticism of the political system does not penetrate television
or the domain of public opinion. Parliamentary debates are put forward
in the form of ridiculous squabbling and brawls. Political discussion is
reduced to the search for kompromat, or incriminating material, and to
scaring voters. Mass discontent, however, leading to outbursts of
violence in the regions, always makes its way onto television screens.
The entire country saw how the demonstration of workers in Vladivostok
managed to disperse the detachments of OMON troops and how angry people
put an effigy of President Boris Yeltsin on railroad tracks. Action goes
Violence is always news. It is expressive and entertaining. This is not
the case for words. Complex thoughts are assimilated slowly. Striking
events can be grasped immediately.
Chechen leader Shamil Basayev was the first in post-Soviet society to
turn "armed criticism" into an instrument for political propaganda.
Before the war in Chechnya, it seemed to everyone that television is
all-powerful. It was precisely for this reason that the crowds who were
unhappy with the Yeltsin regime in October 1993 found nothing better to
do than attempt to seize Ostankino.
The war in Chechnya showed that opponents of the authorities can become
television celebrities. Today, the entire country has learned about the
Revolutionary Military Council. As for the Komsomol organization, which
makes up some 15,000 people and continues to distance itself from
"Stalinist pensioners" and put forward a more modern and democratic
opposition, very few people are aware of their activities. For they have
not blown anything up. But the 15 or so activists gathered around the
Bumbarash paper have become known to all.
Some consider Bylevsky's group to be provocateurs, others extremists and
still others, it seems, think they are heros. But in any case, these are
people who have mastered the new rules of the game of television
Television requires action, drama, tension. The more frightening it is,
the more interesting. The more blood, the more expressive. Television
usually gets what it's after. In a country where it is impossible to
apply the "weapon of criticism" in honest ideological debates,
"criticism with weapons" becomes all the more popular.
It is a pity that it is not so amusing for those who might by chance be
near the place of action.
St. Petersburg Times
JULY 28-AUGUST 3, 1997
Lost Inside a $500M Maze
By Jonas Bernstein
WHEN THE scandal involving the alleged embezzlement of more than $500
million in federal funds by several commercial banks first broke last
week, one well-informed Western analyst told me he was sick to death of
all the conspiracy theories surrounding it.
He said Central Bank chief Sergei Dubinin, who blew the whistle on the
Unikombank and MFK banks and urged an investigation into the alleged
embezzlement, was just doing his job as Russia's top banker, not doing
the bidding of this or that political-financial clan.
Over the last week, however, the story has turned so murky that it is
now unclear whether the alleged embezzlement ever took place. Following
the Russian media's coverage of it has been like a voyage through the
The scandal erupted on July 2, when Dubinin told reporters he knew of
two instances in which banks - he used the plural - had misused more
than $200 million in government funds.
Shortly afterwards, various Russian media, citing anonymous leaks,
outlined one of the cases: a $237 million deal earlier this year to
supply MiG fighters to India, which involved MFK and Unikombank, as well
as MAPO, the aircraft maker. Dubinin reportedly informed the government
that no deal with India was ever signed, and that none of the earmarked
funds made it to MAPO.
He also reported that the questionable deal had been approved by
then-first deputy prime minister Vladimir Potanin, who subsequently
returned to his old post as head of Uneximbank, and then-First Deputy
Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who later left the government to head
MFK, Unexim's subsidiary.
Last Friday, an official in the prosecutor general's office told
Interfax that Potanin, Vavilov and the head of MAPO, among others, would
be questioned as part of a criminal investigation.
Coverage of the scandal on two of the country's national television
stations - both of them pro-government - has diverged sharply. Last
weekend, RTR Russian Television, whose major private shareholder is
LogoVAZ, the financial empire founded by Boris Berezovsky, gave
Dubinin's charges top billing. NTV Independent Television, founded by
Most-Bank chief Vladimir Gusinsky, played them down. "Itogi," its weekly
analytical program, suggested no state funds had disappeared, and added,
without evidence, that the perfidious commies may have been behind the
Berezovsky, it should be noted, is reportedly vying with Uneximbank for
various oil companies slated for privatization, while Gusinsky is
rumored to have formed a consortium with Uneximbank to bid in the
upcoming privatization of telecommunications giant Svyazinvest.
On Monday, Dubinin publicly blamed Unikombank and Vavilov for the
missing budget money, but cleared MFK. He also detailed the second case,
allegedly involving Unikombank's misuse of $270 million earmarked for
the Moscow region's government.
On Tuesday, Vavilov flatly denied Dubinin's charges and, for good
measure, said he had sent the prosecutor general information on
questionable financial operations carried out by National Reserve Bank
and Vneshekonombank - structures close to the Central Bank and Dubinin.
Later that day, Sergei Aleksashenko, Dubinin's deputy, denied his boss
had accused Vavilov of corruption.
On Tuesday evening, NTV's news broadcast said, without any evidence,
that Dubinin's accusations had been prompted by the upcoming sale of
Svyazinvest - meaning, presumably, that he was trying to wreck
Uneximbank's chances to win the auction - and suggested Dubinin could be
ousted as Central Bank head.
On Wednesday, Unikombank, which had previously rejected Dubinin's
charges, joined with the Central Bank to announce that "individual"
Unikombank officials had committed "gross violations" and had blocked a
Central Bank inspection. That same day, Unikombank's first deputy
chairman was fired.
So, in just a week, we have gone from charges that two powerful banks,
several top government officials and one aircraft manufacturer were
involved in the misuse of a huge wad of budget money, to a charge that
officials in one of the banks committed unspecified "violations" and
blocked a Central Bank inspection.
What, then, really happened to the more than $500 million in taxpayers'
money? Will the public ever find out? Past investigations by the
prosecutor general give little cause for hope.
Which leaves the following question:
Is this what President Boris Yeltsin and his team of "energetic young
reformers" meant when they promised a new era of "transparency" and open
government, or does that start later?
The Independent (UK)
28 July 1997
[for personal use only]
Oil exploration brings British back to Baku
By Alan Philps in Baku
IF Lenin had a grave - he is still on public display on Red Square in
Moscow - he would surely be spinning in it to learn that the British are
back in Baku.
The last time there was any sizeable British presence in this city,
capital of newly independent Azerbaijan, was in 1918, when a force
occupied it to prevent the Germans and Turks from seizing the road to
India near the end of the First World War.
As every Soviet child learned, the British committed one of the most
dastardly crimes of the century - the murder of 26 Bolshevik commissars,
two of whom were Lenin's friends. According to the story, British
officers demanded the executions and oversaw the firing squad.
The Soviet government declared: "Britain stands publicly convicted of
the base, cowardly and treacherous murder of defenceless prisoners." The
fate of the 26 became one of the myths of the Soviet Union, depicted in
films and paintings. No visitor to Baku could avoid paying tribute to
the martyrs' pantheon, a memorial in the city centre commemorating the
If this tale rings no bells with British readers, it is because it is
not true - at least not in the British connection. The 26 were shot by a
railway track, but it was done on the orders of the anti-Bolshevik
forces into whose hands they fell. Britain was supporting the
anti-Bolsheviks at the time, but there is no evidence that any British
officers took part.
All over Russia there are streets named after the 26 Baku commissars,
but the city has quietly abandoned the cult. The pantheon was defaced
and is now partly dismantled, and the eternal flame has been put out.
With an oil boom developing in the fields of the Caspian Sea, Baku is
filling up with British again - executives from BP, roughnecks and
roustabouts trained in the North Sea, and builders and electricians to
provide accommodation for them. There are two British pubs - the Winston
and the Lord Nelson - to make folk more used to Aberdeen feel at home.
Having been the bogeyman for 70 years, Britain is in fashion now that
the Russians have gone. "It has certainly given us an edge," concedes a
One taxi driver went on a detour through the city to show off its finest
motor, a Range Rover, imported at a cost of £73,000 as a gift for his
For foreigners offered a job in Azerbaijan, the first thing to do is
usually to look up the place in the atlas. But there is five or six
times as much oil in the Caspian basin as under the North Sea, and that
should place the former Soviet republic on the map.
However, the BP-led Western oil consortium, the Azerbaijan International
Operating Company (AIOC), is in a tricky position. Although the
Azerbaijanis have the basic skills - even if their equipment was poor
and productivity abysmal in Soviet times - locals employed by the state
find that they are being paid a fraction of what the international crews
An executive of the AIOC said: "It costs $300,000 (£181,000) a year to
bring in an expat oil worker. Meanwhile, workers on the Azerbaijani rigs
are sometimes not being paid at all.
"This is bound to lead to resentment, and we already see signs of the
police harassing foreigners. We need to handle this social problem
Aside from the task of getting the crude out of the Caspian to Western
markets, the AIOC must reach a target of 90 per cent Azerbaijani
staffing and show that modern capitalists are not the same as the Soviet
caricature, bleeding the country.
It is not too far-fetched to see that Britain could again lapse from
saviour of the nation to bogeyman.