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Johnson's Russia List


October 16, 1997 
This Date's Issues: 1287 1288 1289

Johnson's Russia List
16 October 1997

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Bill Fick, "Why Lenin would love the 'net."
2. Russian Journal: New forum on human rights in Russia.
3. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, MOSCOW MAMMOTH-MEN VOTE 

4. Alan Fahnestock: Bain vs. Taibbi.
5. Tim Louzonis: New Decrees on Hard Currency.
6. Reuters: Communists May Seek Chubais' Scalp.
CRISIS. President Promises Corrections to Government Course.

8. Reuters: Russian economy in difficult situation--IMF.


11. Reuters: Lebed launches tirade against "Tsar Yeltsin."
12. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: RUSSIA MOVING TO TACKLE 


14. New York Times: Alessandra Stanley, Yeltsin Wins Delay in 
No-Confidence Vote. (DJ: The Washington Post only carried
a tiny wire-service story, at the bottom of p.27).

15. Delovoi Mir: Yuri Razgulyayev, CIS PREMIERS DISCUSS PRESSING 


Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 21:24:31 +0300
From: Bill Fick <>
Subject: webwatch column

Please feel free to distribute my Moscow Times column from this week; I
hope people will find it amusing.

Moscow Times, 14/10/97
"Why Lenin would love the 'net"
By Bill Fick

What do George Soros, Bill Gates, and Vladimir Lenin have in common? 
As we all know, Lenin has been waxing away in a Moscow masoleum for some
time now despite his wishes for a proper burial in St. Petersburg. Soros
and Gates made well-publicized visits to Russia's capital city, if not the
tomb, last week. But I'm getting at something deeper than mere
geographic proximity.
Give up?
The answer, of course, is the Internet, ultimate maker of strange
In a surreal twist of fate, Gates and Soros happened to be in Moscow during
the same week when a Canadian telecom company announced a technological
breakthrough which could ultimately make Lenin a great, if unwitting,
visionary of universal Internet access in Russia.
Confused? Let me start from the beginning.
George Soros' pedigree as a digital democracy enthusiast and patron of the
Russian Internet requires little explanation. "Money is freedom," I heard
him say in a sound byte on Russian TV news. By donating $100 million to
promote Internet access in Russian universities and buying a stake in
Sviazinvest, holder of Rostelecom, which in turn owns many of the data
channels that comprise the net in this region, Soros has consistently used
his wallet to demostrate the importance of telecommunications to his
business and philanthropic vision.
Bill Gates scarcely utters a sentence these days which does not mention the
Internet, and Microsoft products are ubiquitous among net users and
managers. Here in Moscow, Gates spoke at length about the potential of the
Internet to make Russian companies more competitive and leverage the
country's immense technical talent while stemming brain drain. 
Apparently driven out on a limb by sheer enthusiasm, Gates also speculated,
"I think Lenin would have hated the Internet". 
I'm not sure I agree, because in fact Lenin was obsessed by technology and
networks--of a kind. I read a lot of excruciatingly dull Lenin prose for a
college philosophy class, and one of the few memorable and interesting
texts was his discussion of electricity.
Soviet power and the electrification of the entire country--creation of the
power grid, or network--would create the material-technical base for
communism, Lenin explained in his uniquely earnest, pedantic style.
Electricity was a crucial precondition for socialist development because it
literally powered all other industrial and scientific achievements in
chemistry, metallurgy, and so on. Every house in every village should have
its own "lampochka Il'ycha" (Lenin lightbulb) burning in the window.
Early Soviet governments apparently took Lenin's prescription quite
seriously, and Western analysts long found it curious that the tiniest
shacks in the remotest locales, where toilet seats (and, for that matter,
toilets) might not be found for thousands of kilometers, would still often
enjoy electric lighting.
Whatever you think of his politics, Lenin was no intellectual slouch and if
he were alive today he would probably conclude that networks underly the
economy at the end of the 20th Century just as electricity did 80 years
earlier. If you think that is far-fetched, consider what Gennady Zyuganov,
leader of today's Communists, told Pete duPont of IntellectualCapital.Com
in September:
"We [in the Communist Party] do believe that the Internet has turned the
world into one huge village. It gives users unlimited opportunities; just
spend a few hours every night and you can travel wherever. You can see
whatever. You can read any magazines, you can come closer to the culture,
the ideology. The Communist Party leadership has done some decisionmaking
in that respect, and we intend to become very active users of the
Internet." (from an interview at
Whatever Communists actually think of the Internet, Lenin's electrical
legacy may ultimately pave the way for widespread access across Russia in
the wake of a breakthrough annouced by Canada's Northern Telecom
( last week. In partnership with United Utilities of
Great Britian, Nortel has developed an affordable new technology that
allows data to be transferred over electrical power lines into the home at
speeds of more than one megabit per second. The technology, which enables
electrical companies to convert their power infrastructures into
information access networks, will be initially marketed in the UK. (Note
to George: you might want to add some shares of Russia's United Energy
Systems to your portfolio).
So, when the Internet reaches the last shack with the last lightbulb at the
edge of the world in Yakutia, history will know that Lenin is the one to
Meanwhile, be on the lookout for the cyberspace equivalent of lampochka
Il'ycha at And remember, that's not ".COMmercial",
but ".COMmunist". 

Bill Fick welcomes any tips on interesting web sites or questions
concerning the Internet for this column. Fick is co-founder of Samovar
Internet Consulting, LLC. Web: e-mail: tel: 737-6202 tel/fax: 233-2261


Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 12:56:01 +0300
From: "Russian Journal /" <>
Subject: New forum on human rights in Russia

Dear David Johnson!
We'd like to inform you and your readers about new forum on human
rights, found by Russian Journal and Human Rights Net.
Thank you very much.

New forum on human rights in Russia
In 1997, October, Russian Journal and inter-regional group "Human Rights
Net" have found the "Our rights" forum consecrated to human rights
problems in contemporary Russia. From now on everyone can give his
opinion or some information on human rights observance in Russia as well
as in the world.
"Our rights" forum:
The foundation of this thematic forum is very important for Russian
Journal because the human rights violation is the most topical question
for us. Our collaboration with "Human Rights Net" appears to be a very
important point for us: a lot of public characters from all the Russia
co-operate with "Human Rights Net". The activity of this group is one of
the few examples of the real humanitarian work on WWW. Forum is
supported by Stanislav Velikoredchanin (Rostov-na-Donu) and Sergey
"Junior" Smirnov (Moscow).
We suggest everybody to take part in the forum!

Russian Journal
Human Rights Online

Best regards,
Dmitry Ivanov
Russian Journal


Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 15:50:05 +0400 (WSU DST)
From: (John Helmer)

>From the Moscow Tribune, October 17, 1997
By John Helmer

Russian archeologists recently discovered that the most ancient inhabitants
of the Moscow region were nomads, who managed to live off the woolly 
mammoth, if they could catch and kill him. But an extraordinary document that
has been unearthed reveals these were nomads who, in a combination of 
primeval ignorance, greed and foul weather, hunted themselves, and their 
prey, to extinction.
That was 22,000 years ago, and very little apart from hut roofing,
jewellery, and tools, all made out of mammoth parts, had been uncovered --
until Wednesday of this week. That was when the archeologists excavated 
what they believe to be a 22,000-year old document, apparently scratched
by a pen made of mammoth tusk, on to parchment of dried mammoth hide.
A combination of glacial ice and chemical decomposition had fossilized
the document into stone.
From preliminary computer decoding, the text of several hundred quaint 
hieroglyphs on the stone appears to describe a debate the Moscow mammoth-men 
held in their hut. They were arguing over who should lead their hunt. 
Until now, the earliest known recordings of primitive community debates
have come from Egypt, where the dry desert climate preserved thousands
of mud-tablets. Stored or dumped on the hillsides or in caves of
the Valley of the Kings, they record everything from individual court cases
to storehouse inventories and village budgets. Compared to the Egyptian
tablets, the Moscow mammoth-men's documents are 18,000 years older.
That seems to have been time enough for the Egyptians to have evolved two 
ideas the Moscow mammoth-men couldn't quite grasp. One was the idea
of scarcity -- what happens if the community devours all the food
it can find, so that there is nothing left to survive on. The other was 
the idea of law -- the rule a community accepts for rationing its 
essentials, so that they don't start killing each other.
The extraordinary stone of the Moscow mammoth-men enables us to see that 
at the very start of human civilization in Russia, men thought 
the lumbering mammoths would keep stepping into the clumsy pits
they dug, and the supply of food, housing, fuel and valuables would be
infinite. In short, they believed they didn't need to budget. 
Even the cleverer mammoth-men who had travelled over the horizon, and 
had seen there wasn't a line of mammoths waiting to fall into their
traps, couldn't agree on how to cut up what they had, because everyone 
suspected he would be cheated by his fellows.
During the argument recorded on the Moscow stone, several of the 
mammoth-men were pleaded with to stop threatening
the leader with their tusk-clubs and stones. A large piece of the fossil
has broken off at the point where the text reports the mammoth-men agreeing
to delay killing each other until another moon had risen in the sky.
Some of the mammoth-men argued for mercy from their fellows by claiming 
they had greater experience in trapping the great beast, who put up little 
resistance, but was difficult to kill, especially because he could out-run 
the Muscovites. One mammoth-man claimed he didn't deserve to be clubbed to 
death because of his white hair; another because of his red hair; another 
because of his baldness; and another because his hair was black and curly. 
This section of text incidentally helps answer a question that has troubled 
biologists for a long time: were the earliest Stone Age inhabitants 
colour-blind? Apparently not.
The outcome of the debate of the Moscow mammoth-men is given on the bottom 
of the parchment as a large black spot. The experts believe this could mean
the death sentence for the group's leader or his challenger. It may also 
have meant an order for banishment, because the 
archeological evidence collected so far suggests at least part of the group 
decided to leave Moscow, and head elsewhere. 
Carbon-dating of bone fragments, and infra-red satellite tracking of
foot-prints suggest the beasts stopped coming to feed Moscow, not long after
the mammoth-men held their debate. Several red and curly black hairs that
were stuck to the black spot, and fossilized along with the rest of the 
document, don't indicate whether they were the victors or victims in Moscow's 
last mammoth hunt.


Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 
From: (Alan Fahnestock)
Subject: Bain vs. Taibbi.

Doing too much of this, might lose my amateur standing if I'm not careful.
Clearly indicates that you are getting too interesting.

Re: Bain vs Taibbi. Interesting points on both sides, but I'm a little
befuddled by Taibbi's apparent conviction that the World Bank should hand out
money with no conditions precedent. I recently took out a home mortgage and
had to jump through any number of hoops, many of them annoying at best, even
though the bank practically insisted that I take the money. Why should the
World Bank be any different? At last notice, I don't think it qualified as a
charitable organization, which means it has every right to stipulate the
manner in which its largesse is used and within what context.

If the message is that the World Bank is a tool of Western capitalist
propaganda, self-righteousness and power-projection, so what else is new?
Ask Daniel arap Moi, our buds in Myanmar, assorted others. As it happens, I
don't see a lot of other sources for such infusions of money into Russian
government coffers, nor do I see anyone forcing Russia to accept the dough.
Nor, for that matter and given at least limited fungibility (a lovely word
that I've never learned to use properly) of resources within the Russian
economy, are the Russian population's democratically elected representatives
out of the loop: if the World Bank hadn't forked over for the miners and
whatall, maybe there wouldn't be enough money for the perks afforded the
"Dumaki". Somehow, though, I suspect they wouldn't have been the ones to
take it in the shorts, regardless.

Face it, the West, and the World Bank, have a vested interest in seeing that
the former Soviet Union gets normal in a capitalistic kind of way, with "our
SOBs" at the helm. This is probably not the worst resolution of a rather
sticky problem. There aren't a lot of levers available. You do what you
have to do, however inefficiently and haphazardly. It's called "life".

A note on the "f---" word, if I may: yes, it is used with considerable
regularity in certain contexts but, as a rule, it lacks a certain something
as a tool for rational argument. Its very character implies an element of
irrational hyperbole unnecessary and inappropriate in a reasoned debate.
Moreover, given that it offends a rather large part of the population, it
seems to defeat its own purpose when employed as a means of mass persuasion.
Thompson, Wolfe and O'Rourke are able employ it effectively because their
aim is not debate, but catharsis and (possibly) attendant revelation
(personally, I would never even consider arguing with Hunter Thompson). They
also target and/or speak for fairly specific, and thus limited, audiences;
further, I hadn't noticed that any has established an overwhelming reputation
for either veracity or investigative excellence --- that isn't the business
they are in. I rather enjoy Mr. Taibbi's prose (despite certain semantic and
syntactic difficulties, among them the distinction between "may" and
"might"), but I'm not certain that he has made this choice.


Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:25:28 -0400
From: MCT Investors <>
Subject: New Decrees on Hard Currency

Dear Mr. Johnson,

About a week ago your list carried a story on new decrees on hard currency
in Russia. Our firm does business in Russia and this morning I ran smack
into one of this new decrees-- when I tried to pay a Russian firm in
dollars, I was told that it has become much more difficult for Russian
firms to receive payment in dollars since the issuance of a new decree this
October. Do you or any of the list members know anything about these new
decrees? Any information in English or in Russian would be helpful. Of
course, we are most interested in obtaining the actual text of these new

Tim Louzonis
fax (703) 683-6329


Communists May Seek Chubais' Scalp 
16 October 1997

MOSCOW -- Communists in Russia's lower house of parliament may seek the
removal of Finance Minister Anatoly Chubais in exchange for reconsidering a
motion of no confidence in the government, a top Communist said on Thursday. 
Communist deputy Victor Ilyukhin outlined plans to try to do a deal one
day after his party discussed a no-confidence motion and then postponed it
until next Wednesday after an appeal by President Boris Yeltsin. 
In a further sign of compromise another top communist, Gennady
Seleznyov, the speaker of the State Duma (lower house), announced that he
would have conciliation talks with Yeltsin and Prime Minister Victor
Chernomyrdin on Monday. 
Yeltsin proposed the talks in a telephone conversation with the Duma on
Wednesday at the height of the Communist-sponsored no-confidence debate on
the government's economic policy. 
"If the president changes some figures who in our view are wholly
unacceptable for Russia, then Wednesday's vote (in the Duma) could take on
a slightly different character," Interfax news agency quoted Ilyukhin as
"They are the names that everyone is talking about. If you want my
opinion, then yes, Chubais must undoubtedly be there," Ilyukhin said. He
said the party was ready to start working out its demands on Thursday. 
Other demands the Communists are considering include the
re-establishment of state monopolies on the trade of "strategic goods,
strategic raw materials -- oil, gas," Interfax quoted Ilyukhin as saying.
He gave no details. 
He also proposed asking the government not to raise energy prices over
the next year or two and to soften the impact of planned reforms of
municipal services. Media access for the Communists was a further demand,
he said. 
"If the president responds to these and other proposals, which will be
prepared by our bloc, takes up one or two of them at least by Wednesday,
then the Communist faction and their allies are ready to review their
decision about no confidence in the government," Ilyukhin added. 
The Kremlin press office said it could not confirm Yeltsin would meet
the leaders of the two houses of parliament and Chernomyrdin on Monday. But
Seleznyov said the question of setting up wide-ranging "roundtable" talks
might be on the agenda. 
"It is not ruled out that we will discuss the date for the round table
meeting," Seleznyov said. 
He said the first "roundtable" meeting could take place on Tuesday
between the same four men and heads of political groups in parliament. It
was not clear if other politicians or trade union leaders might be invited. 


>From RIA Novosti
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
October 16, 1997
President Promises Corrections to Government Course

Yesterday's session of the Duma which discussed a vote of
no confidence to the government, eventually turned into a
farce. The lower house got bogged down in a quagmire of drafts,
suggestions, debates, additions and amendments. 
The reason was mundane: the Duma craved to carve the skin
of a premier not yet toppled. All pretence at respectability
was cast aside. The Right and the Left started what was
essentially marketplace bargaining. First deputy premier
Anatoly Chubais, whom everybody seemed to be willing to kick,
looked like a red-haired angel. 
Yet the situation had not seemed so hysterical until
midday yesterday. 
MPs had penned three drafts of a resolution on no
confidence in the government which made quite a few things much
So what was the indepth rationale behind the potential
cabinet crisis? The budget, obviously - at least until Tuesday
night. Yet on Wednesday the Duma's angry factions presented
proof that all was not that simple. 
The draft no-confidence resolution moved by Messrs.
Zyuganov, Ryzhkov and Kharitonov mentioned the budget only
twice. Moreover, the budget they meant was this year's, not
next year's, and the accent was on its execution. The Left
opposition's resolution focused on an economic and social
crisis: slumping production, soaring unemployment, horrifying
crime rate, rampant wage arrears, degenerating army and
research and even dug trafficking and AIDS. 
Another draft, authored by Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko
faction, accused the cabinet of all possible economic and
social sins - from the Right positions, naturally. 
While the Communist troika aimed to defend the rights of
workers, farmers and the unemployed, Yabloko stood up to the
interests of the middle class and business people: "The right
of private property is neither enacted nor protected, the tax
collection is under 50%, and barter deals and IOUs serve nearly
75% of the trade turnover."
The Left seemed concerned over the plight of the poorest
strata; Yabloko held that private owners could not make enough
money. One thing both oppositions agreed on was that the
economy's criminal nature was a serious threat for Russia's
The ideas voiced by the Communists and the Agrarians, and
those of Yabloko, had been voiced dozens of times - a week, a
month and a year ago. The reason for the political attack on
the cabinet is, therefore, not a fast exacerbating economic
situation. Simply, the fall debates of the next year's budget
provide what is probably the only opportunity to raise the
issue of the cabinet's resignation. 
This paper has information to indicate that Gennady
Zyuganov had been resisting the government's imminent
resignation until the very last moment but rant headlong into
Viktor Ilyukhin's tough opposition. The latter addressed a
closed conference of the Communist faction to demand a vote of
no confidence, or he would take on the powers of the Communist
leader since he claimed he was backed by "80% of shopfloor
party cells."
Ilyukhin's ultimatum pushed Zyuganov on the brink of a
precipice. The Communist Party's Numero Uno could only be saved
by an alternative draft suggested by Yabloko. But all
Zyuganov's hopes for saving face were thwarted by a third draft
of the Duma resolution.
Grigory Yavlinsky suggested a super-short text effectively
consisting of one sentence only: "To express no confidence in
the RF government." The Yabloko leader was echoed by Sergei
Baburin who proposed an identical three-line draft. 
Premier Chernomyrdin ascended the rostrum to try and fend
off sallies by both Yavlinsky (by refusing to take back the Tax
Code), and Zyuganov (by accusing the Left and the Right of a
virtual conspiracy). 
The premier was patient: he called on the Duma members to
be cooperative. he said the President had decided to resume the
work of the Council of Four (Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin, and two
parliament speakers, Gennady Seleznev and Yegor Stroyev)
sometime next week. 
Moreover, Yeltsin talked to Seleznev on the phone to tell
the lower house not to push the President and to give up the
intention to pass a no-confidence vote. 
The ball was thus in the President's field. The Communists
conferred with their allies, the Agrarians and the
Narodovlastie faction, to recommend postponing the vote until
next Wednesday's morning session. The government is safe at
least for a week.


Russian economy in difficult situation--IMF
By Christina Ling

MOSCOW, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund
(IMF) sounded a note of warning on the Russian economy on
Wednesday as its chief representative here called the situation
in the country ``extremely difficult.''
Martin Gilman told Reuters that Russia's progress on its
economic programme had been good when the IMF last monitored the
economy in July in connection with its three-year $10 billion
lending programme to Russia.
``But obviously the situation at present is extremely
difficult because of the poor revenue performance putting
enormous pressure on the budget,'' Gilman said.
``In those circumstances it's going to complicate, even to a
large degree, the ability of the government to put together a
coherent realistic programme, their own programme, for 1998.''
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais told
parliamentarians last week that tax collection was only 52
percent of the target for the first three quarters of the year.
Even as it approved the release of a $700 million tranche of
its loan last month, the IMF board said that Russia would have
to do more to solve the problem of revenue performance and
meeting planned budget spending.
The IMF has delayed several payments to Russia in the past
due to concern over low tax revenues.
An IMF team is due to arrive for the latest quarterly
monitoring visit next week, in the midst of a tense showdown
between the government and the opposition-dominated Duma lower
house of parliament.
The Duma last week threw out the draft 1998 budget,
objecting to its severely curtailed spending despite the
government's pleas for support of what it says is a realistic
assessment of revenues and outlays.
Russia is conducting a series of high-profile sell-offs of
state holdings to make up for low tax revenues
Although the budget draft has been sent to a committee made
up of government and parliamentary representatives for further
work, analysts say the rejection makes it less likely that the
budget will be passed before the end of the year.
Already harshly critical of the government's big spending
cuts this year resulting from low tax revenues, the Duma is
scheduled to debate a motion of no-confidence in the government
on Wednesday.
If the motion passes, deputies must vote again within three
months before they can force the government to resign.
But Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin raised the stakes on
Tuesday, threatening to resign if the vote passed, and saying he
would not wait around for months for the crisis to be resolved.


ALEXANDRA UTKINA/ -- The State Duma's decision to postpone the
vote of no confidence in the government to next week does not
mean that a compromise with executive power has been decided
beforehand, said Alexei Podberezkin in an exclusive RIA Novosti
interview. Podberezkin is one of the leaders of the People's
Patriotic Union of Russia and Chairman of the "Dukhovnoye
Naslediye" movement. He said at the same time that following
yesterday's meeting the opinions of representatives of the left
opposition in the Chamber had split approximately 50/50. "Half
of the people insist on the need to continue the procedure of
the no-confidence vote, while the other half are ready to go to
meet the government," said Podberezkin. He noted at the same
time that he himself is for a compromise. "I would like to
believe that a compromise will be found, for our idea of the
round-table of four representatives -- the president, prime
minister and the speakers of the two chambers -- was supported
by executive power," noted Podberezkin.
In his opinion it is necessary now to settle the country's
problems "together with the government." "No food will appear
on the teachers' or miners' tables if we make the government
resign," said Podberezkin. In this connection he expressed the
opinion that the final stand of the CPRF faction, the
Narodovlastiye group and the agrarian deputies on the no
confidence issue will be discussed "up to the deadline," and in
this context next Saturdays's closed plenary meeting of the CPRF
will be of utmost importance" 


MOSCOW, OCTOBER 16 (From RIA Novosti Correspondent
Alexandra Utkina) - It is possible that an attempt to remove
Gennady Zyuganov from the post of the head of the Communist
Party and of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) will
be made at a closed plenum of the KPRF on Saturday, the RIA
Novosti correspondent has been told by an informed source in the
NPSR leadership who wished to remain unnamed.
In his opinion, this attempt will be made by a certain part
of the "radicals" who are discontent with "Zyuganov's tolerance"
in the question of no-confidence in the government. The source
has also said that the place of the venue of the KPRF plenum
will be kept secret even from the members of the party till the
day of its beginning, though "two or three places" are being


Lebed launches tirade against "Tsar Yeltsin"
By Fiona Fleck 

FRANKFURT, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Retired Russian general Alexander Lebed
launched a tirade against President Boris Yeltsin on Wednesday, accusing his
political rival and former boss of ruling Russia like a tsar. 
Lebed, who briefly became Yeltsin's security chief last year and brokered a
ceasefire with the breakaway region of Chechnya, made his remarks at a
glittering presentation of his memoirs at the Frankfurt book fair. 
Lebed, 47, who makes no secret of his desire to become Russia's next
president, compared Yeltsin to Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl. 
But he said that despite their much publicised friendship, Kohl and Yeltsin
were poles apart politically. 
``Kohl and Yeltsin are friends and both want to maintain their current
position,'' Lebed, sporting a smart grey suit and tie, told journalists. 
``But while Kohl speaks openly at his party congress, Yeltsin thinks he's a
tsar and can rule a country alone with decrees and orders executed by his
boyars,'' he sneered. The boyars were aristocrats in pre-revolutionary
Following in the footsteps of ex-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and
Yeltsin, who both published autobiographies in the West, Lebed said he hoped
``Russia's Way'' would help Western readers understand him and his country
He is also publishing another book, ``The Ideology of Common Sense,''
due out
in Russia by the end of the year, which he said would ``establish principles
and solutions to creating a stronger, more democratic Russia.'' 
Lebed told guests how fighting as a soldier in the Afghan war had made
him a
convinced champion of peace. 
He described how he brokered a ceasefire in the former Soviet republic of
Moldova between Romanian-speaking ethnic Moldovans and ethnic Russians who
wanted their region to join the Russian federation after the collapse of the
Soviet Union at the end of 1991. 
Lebed became kingmaker in last year's Russian presidential election
after he
won 15 percent in the first round of voting. 
He agreed to become Yeltsin's security chief in exchange for his backing
brokered the Chechnya ceasefire, criticised by some Russian officials as
caving in to the rebels. Yeltsin sacked him shortly afterwards. 


Jamestown Foundation Monitor
16 October 1997

passed a law on the minimum subsistence level, stipulating indexation of the
poverty line every three months and differential payments to the poor based
on the price level in each region of Russia. Welfare payments would be aimed
at families living below the regional poverty line. The move is a step in
the direction of targeting social welfare on the truly needy. In the summer
the Duma rejected the government's proposal to abolish many dozens of
special welfare privileges for veterans, state employees, and others. 

The average subsistence minimum over the period January- August 1997 stood
at 413,000 rubles ($71). It was 464,000 rubles for adults of working age,
291,000 rubles for pensioners and 417,000 for children. As of August, 30.8
million people, or 20.9 per cent of the population, had incomes below the
subsistence minimum. That was down from 22.6 percent a year earlier. (RIA
Novosti, October 10)

The slight fall in those living below the poverty line has caused government
spokesmen to argue that poverty is diminishing. However, Sergei Kalashnikov,
a former sociologist who now heads the Duma's Labor Committee, argues that
the money income of those living below the poverty line continues to shrink.
He suggested that, unlike two years ago, hunger is now a real threat for the
underclass -- not starvation as occurred in Ukraine in the 1930s, but
persistently poor diet. Most observers, and World Bank funded studies,
concur that malnutrition has not previously been a widespread problem among
Russia's poor. There is insufficient evidence to judge whether the situation
has changed this year. 

Kalashnikov also noted that, while 31 million live below the poverty line,
there are a mere 6 million rich people -- defined as those with annual
incomes in excess of 55 million rubles ($10,000). The 110 million in the
middle lead a precarious existence: Kalashnikov suggests that if the
government's planned increases in rent and utility charges are implemented,
20 million Russians could fall below the poverty line. (Trud, October 8)


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 140, Part I, 16 October 1997

"Izvestiya" on 15 October, economist Andrei Illarionov accused
unnamed leading businessmen of continuing the "bank war" sparked
by controversial privatization auctions in the summer and of
coordinating their actions with the government's communist
opponents. Illarionov charged that Russia's "fat cats" are angry
because the government ended its long-standing practice of in effect
subsidizing commercial banks through loan guarantees and allowing
the banks to handle budget funds. He accused the businessmen of
fighting back by "generously paying the media under their control,"
threatening to release compromising information about government
figures, and even resorting to "Stalinist" warnings that Russia's
national security is threatened. (The last point is an apparent
reference to Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's
recent charge that U.S. citizen Boris Jordan, who heads a bank linked
to Oneksimbank, has gained access to state secrets.) Oneksimbank is
a major shareholder in "Izvestiya."

MAYOR. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 October questioned the motives
behind an investigative series published in "Izvestiya" last month on
alleged crimes committed by Gennadii Konyakhin, the mayor of
Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast. Yeltsin praised the "Izvestiya"
reports and sent a special investigative team to Kemerovo.
Konyakhin has since been arrested. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued
that the "Izvestiya" series was inspired either by one organized
crime group to discredit another or by the Kremlin to launch the
president's battle against corruption in the regions. The 16 October
"Izvestiya" published an angry front-page article denying that the
series on Leninsk-Kuznetskii was "paid for" or motivated by anything
other than the search for the truth. "Izvestiya" lamented that Russian
journalists have stopped believing in one another. It also warned
that such cynicism could eventually cost journalists not only the
public's trust but media freedom as well.


New York Times
October 16, 1997
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin Wins Delay in No-Confidence Vote

MOSCOW -- Averting a political crisis, Russian President Boris Yeltsin on
Wednesday night staved off a parliamentary vote of no confidence in his
Cabinet that could have severely undercut his economic reform effort. 
As faction leaders debated whether to put a no-confidence bill to a
vote, Yeltsin telephoned the Parliament floor twice from the Kremlin,
warning the deputies to desist. 
"I don't want confrontations and early elections," Yeltsin told the
Parliament's speaker, Gennadi Seleznyov, who read the president's remarks
to the floor. "Don't put me in a difficult position." 
By dropping another hint that he would dissolve Parliament and call
early elections if a no-confidence measure went through, Yeltsin was
reminding his opponents that a no-confidence vote could prove just as
problematic for the Communist Party that sponsored it as for the
administration. Polls suggest that the Communists would be the biggest
losers if new elections are held now. 
The Communists, who hold the majority in the lower house of Parliament,
failed to form a coalition with other factions big enough to gather
sufficient votes for a no-confidence motion Wednesday night, and instead
the Duma passed a resolution to delay a no-confidence vote until next week. 
While technically the Yeltsin administration is not yet in the clear,
its members seemed confident that they had weathered the most serious
challenge to Yeltsin's presidency since his heart surgery in November 1996.
Few expect the Communists will be able to knit together the necessary
coalition to resurrect and pass 
the bill. 
The Yeltsin administration can now press ahead with negotiations on
spending cuts in the 1998 budget and a new tax code, bitterly divisive
issues that had goaded the opposition into holding a no-confidence vote in
the first place. 
If passed, the no-confidence measure would have undoubtedly dealt a
severe blow to the government's plans to trim the budget and broaden
economic reform; and the political uncertainty, potentially destabilizing
in Russia's young democracy, could have severely damaged Russia's fragile
Even before Yeltsin's personal appeal, the effort to derail the
government of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was losing steam. On
Tuesday, Chernomyrdin warned that if Parliament passed a no-confidence
motion, he would not wait for the second no-confidence vote required by
Russian law but would resign immediately. 
Since a first no-confidence vote is essentially a symbolic gesture,
Chernomyrdin called the Communists' bluff by threatening to quit right away. 
Chernomyrdin, a former director of the Soviet gas industry who favors a
slower pace of reform than most of his allies in the Cabinet, is the only
top Cabinet official the Communist opposition can abide. 
If he left, Yeltsin's men threatened to replace him with First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais or Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, two
reformers who are passionately loathed by the Communist opposition. 
The Communist leader, Gennadi Zyuganov, under pressure from supporters
to defy the administration with actions as well as words, appeared
determined to go to the brink. 
He was undercut Wednesday when one of the other key sponsors of a
no-confidence vote, the radical reformer Grigory Yavlinsky, proposed his
own draft of the no-confidence bill and balked at signing the
anti-reformist language put forward in the Communists' bill. Without the
support of Yavlinsky's Yabloko party, the Communists could not gather
enough votes to pass a no-confidence motion. 
Wednesday night, Yeltsin handed the Communists a face-saving way out of
the impasse by proposing a new round-table negotiation process that would
include more members of the opposition in deliberations over such issues as
the budget and the tax code. And some Communists gratefully grasped that
offer as a pretext for delaying the no-confidence vote. 
"This is a serious question and it just can't be done that quickly,"
Valery Varatnikov, a Communist member of Parliament, said as he explained
why it was better to delay a no-confidence vote. "There are new conditions,
namely the president's proposal." 
But negotiations over the 1998 budget and a new tax code are not
necessarily going to be smooth. Parliament has already put forward 500
amendments to the government's draft tax code. 
The government's plan for the 1998 budget calls for more of the deep
cuts in military spending and subsidies to industry and agriculture that
Parliament refused to approve in 1997. 
The government, faced with a huge gap in revenue, was then forced to cut
the 1997 budget by decree. It will be hard-pressed to persuade Parliament
to vote for more austerity in 1998.


>From RIA Novosti
Delovoi Mir
October 15, 1997
The Council of CIS Heads of Government wound up 
in Bishkek the other day
By Yuri RAZGULYAYEV, Delovoi Mir own correspondent

I had repeatedly discussed the issue of "stagnant"
treaties and agreements with delegation members, experts and
For his part, CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya
admitted that only about 10 percent of the 700 approved
documents are now operational.
On the other hand, the Bishkek meeting alone has
highlighted some serious changes in CIS activities.
First of all, sufficiently stable associations involving
countries with similar interests, e.g. the Russian-Belarussian
union, the quadripartite union, which is based on the customs
union, and the Central Asian union, have now emerged.
In fact, their positions during many discussions could be
predicted well in advance.
Second, the agenda has become more topical and useful. For
example, the Bishkek discussions have devoted much time to
economic issues.
Here's what Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has
to say on this score:
"CIS countries no longer debate the importance of
integration. At present we are discussing the extent of that
process, as well as the realization of the appropriate
"To be more specific, we are discussing the implementation
of the economic-integration development concept because
economics alone determine the integration territory's
architecture at this stage."
One finds it really hard just to list all 30-plus
documents that have been signed by CIS premiers in Bishkek.
As far as economic aspects are concerned, the sides
discussed the elaboration of an agreed-upon foreign-currency
policy, in the first place.
For example, the document states that CIS nations have
agreed to issue a common monetary unit by the year 2010.
Naturally enough, this is a rather formidable task.
Various protocols on merging national foreign-currency
policy legislation have been signed for precisely this purpose.
All Council members agreed that the convention on
trans-national corporations, which determines legal and
economic foundations of co-production arrangements between CIS
enterprises, has tremendous practical importance.
Here's what Chernomyrdin said here -- on the whole, if we
manage to implement all these documents, which constitute the
gist of the economic-integration concept, in that case CIS
member-states will account for nearly 6 percent of the global
GDP by the year 2005; and that share is likely to exceed the
11-percent mark by the year 2020.
Right now, CIS countries make up for just about 4 percent
of the world's GDP.
Sectoral issues were also discussed.
The industrial and agrarian sectors of many countries have
already started operating, albeit by fits and starts. Everyone
admits that freight haulers now charge absolutely exorbitant
prices. But the thing is that all main railroad owners didn't
want to lose their multi-billion dollar incomes.
However, reason and that six-year experience have
prevailed, with CIS prime ministers signing a document that
stipulates a set of regulations for coordinating mutually
acceptable rates.
Life itself has prompted the search for coordinated
approaches as regards the protection of the common CIS external
perimeter, which is seen as a rather painful issue.
One gets the impression that the Talib offensive in
Afghanistan has scared Central Asian nations, which directly
border on that country. And not just them.
As a result, CIS heads of government have signed
agreements on setting aside appropriations for the upkeep and
development of a joint air-defense system, as well as other
monies for the creation of an inter-state data-exchange
network encompassing CIS border-control forces and
appropriations making it possible to implement joint
personnel-training programs in the CIS border-control field.
The USSR had crumbled to dust in 1991, with its mammoth
military-industrial, fuel-and-energy and agro-industrial
sectors falling apart, as well. For their part, trans-national
financial-industrial groups would be expected to join all
broken pieces together once again.
Meanwhile a Kazakh delegate admits that Russian
businessmen are reluctant to invade his republic's markets.
Meanwhile more enterprising foreigners have already bought
nearly all enterprises, which could have merged into
mutually-advantageous, highly effective and competitive
entities on a par with Russian enterprises.
The situation with Kirghizia is somewhat different. The
Russian side bears quite a few grudges against that country. In
fact, Moscow believes that many promising projects have been
torpedoed "thanks" to the Kirghiz side, which had regarded
politics to be more important than economics only too often.
This problem should be viewed in the context of
dialectics. No matter what one might think, but many Russians
still think that all other former Soviet republics will never
drift away from Russia.
Young reformers, who have got rid of the Soviet-era Big
Brother syndrome, perceive this more acutely than the rest.
They visit the so-called far abroad time and again, getting a
warm reception, which sometimes doesn't tally with their deeds,
and obtaining handsome loans there.
Meanwhile Turkey, China and even Japan continue to
confidently fill in Russia's Central Asian niche, all the more
as Russia has so far failed to join the big-time regional race.
The existence of other intra-CIS unions was discussed
rather actively, especially backstage. This concerns the
Central Asian union involving Kazakhstan, Kirghizia and
Uzbekistan, in the first place.
On the one hand, that union has won a reputation for its
effective ties that are based on real and genuine economic
interests. Some delegates even admitted that such relations
could serve as a certain model for the entire CIS. The union
continues to tackle complicated water-use issues, as well as
other issues pertaining to the joint power grid and
transportation, albeit with difficulty.
On the other hand, the Central Asian union tends to
display increasingly pro-Moslem attitudes with every passing
year. This is highlighted by mutual economic rapprochement,
This is hardly surprising. Kirghiz television keeps
showing footage about visiting Iranian, Turkish, Japanese,
Indian and Malaysian officials virtually every day. Foreign
guests come and go, lavish gifts, build something and receive
students. Meanwhile Kirghizia, 25 percent of whose population
are Russians, regards the visit of any particular Russian
delegation as an extremely rare occurrence.
In other words, the Bishkek meeting is seen as something
rather complex and contradictory; the public at large shares
the same opinion. Nevertheless, CIS heads of state are trying
to discuss those specific issues, which serve to merge the
interests of their respective nations (rather than the other
way round).
And even the most incorrigible skeptics are forced to
admit that CIS development is now being increasingly marked by
a certain strategy.


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