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Johnson's Russia List
9 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Russia: Arms Treaty Talks Premature.
2. Baltimore Sun: Kathy Lally, Russia, short on ideas,
looks to intelligentsia. Revival: Russia's moribund intelligentsia
has been summoned to help write the nation's credo.
3. Reuters: Timothy Heritage, Russia Struggles Again Over Land
4. RIA Novosti: COUNCIL OF EUROPE FOR CONFERENCE ON RUSSIAN
5. Financial Times (UK): Ex-minister tells Moscow to get tough on
tax dodgers. (Boris Fyodorov).
6. Obshchaya Gazeta: Dmitriy Furman, "Turnover of Favorites in the
Kremlin: Features of Boris Yeltsin's Personnel Work." (Yeltsin and
Stalin in Same 'Monarchical' Mold).
7. Toronto Star: Olivia Ward, Ruble reissue starts clamour for
dollars. Russians seek security as three zeros lopped off new
8. AAASS home page: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~aaass/
9. Segodnya: Homeless Children in Moscow.
10. Pravda-5: Ukrainian Industry: Technology of Lies.
11. Sankt-Peterburgskye Vedomosti: Noah's Ark.
12. Reuters: Russian vote shows discontent with local governors.
13. Interfax: Russia's Lebed Seeks Presidential Election
Russia: Arms Treaty Talks Premature
8 December 1997
MOSCOW (AP) - President Boris Yeltsin has no immediate plans to meet with
President Clinton to discuss a new strategic arms reduction treaty, the
Russian presidential spokesman said Monday.
Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin had suggested during his trip to Sweden
week that there was a need to begin discussing the START-3 treaty at the
``Expert contacts are one thing and a meeting of the two presidents is
another,'' Yastrzhembsky said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. ``I do
not think that such a meeting could be prepared now.''
The spokesman was responding to a report that Clinton would like to meet with
Yeltsin to begin START-3 discussions.
Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin and Clinton have agreed to meet in Moscow at some
point next year, but no date has been set.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has yet to ratify the
START-2 treaty, which has been approved by Congress.
That agreement calls for the United States and Russia each to reduce their
nuclear warhead stocks to 3,500, down from an estimated 8,000.
8 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Russia, short on ideas, looks to intelligentsia
Revival: Russia's moribund intelligentsia has been summoned to help write
the nation's credo.
By Kathy Lally
SUN FOREIGN STAFF
MOSCOW -- For over a year now, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin has been
prodding his countrymen to come up with an idea -- a very big idea, big
enough to replace the Communist idea and carry Russia forward to a bright
First he appointed a commission -- the National Idea Commission. In
August, after a year of work, the assorted historians, philosophers and
linguists came up with nine chapters of graphs, charts and theories on
"Russia in Search of an Idea." It had everything -- except one really big idea.
This week, Yeltsin's former chief of staff is making another, more daring
attempt. Sergei Filatov has convened a congress of the intelligentsia for
Wednesday and Thursday. Not only does he want to revive the intelligentsia
-- declared dead a few years ago -- he wants members to come up with an idea
so powerful it will inspire a dispirited nation.
"Seven years ago, it was evident we had to deviate from the old system,"
Filatov says, sitting in his spacious office in a government building not
far from the Kremlin. "Everyone understood that. But as to what kind of
future we would have -- very few understood anything but vague references to
democracy, human rights and freedom."
Nearly everyone who thinks about it here agrees that the intelligentsia
has fallen painfully silent and that Russia is lurching into the future
without a moral compass. But a new idea? Lots of people have had more than
enough of ideas.
Perhaps nowhere else in the world is there anything quite like Russia's
intelligentsia. Nor is there the same kind of yearning for a unifying idea.
The intelligentsia -- a term coined in the 1830s -- has always been more
than a simple synonym for Russia's intellectual class. The intelligentsia
were intellectuals with a mission, motivated by conscience and shame rather
than fear and profit. They were the bearers of knowledge, duty-bound to use
it to enlighten the common people, while illuminating the proper path for
the authorities. They stood apart.
This gave members of the intelligentsia a peculiar status. They were
defined by their relationship to the authorities -- especially by their
opposition to the authorities.
Ten years ago they were the voices of glasnost, the conscience of
perestroika. The intelligentsia produced the dissidents and demonstrators
who dreamed of freedom and democracy and stood up against the Soviet regime
until it fell apart around them. The intelligentsia was created by
oppression, today's social critics say, and destroyed by its demise.
"For the 160 years the intelligentsia existed, the state repressed it,"
says Masha Gessen, a 30-year-old Muscovite who was born here, emigrated to
the United States with her family as a teen-ager and returned in 1994.
"Today, in something akin to democracy, maybe there's no place for the
Gessen has just published a book called "Dead Again: The Russian
Intelligentsia after Communism."
"+The role of the intelligentsia was hoarding the word," she says. "That
inflated the value of the word. Then the value of the word plummeted. When
it wasn't repressed, its value plummeted."
Yegor Yakovlev was the editor of the weekly Moscow News in the heady
years after Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power, when Muscovites would line
up early Wednesday morning to buy the latest breathtaking news, and watch in
amazement as the discarded taboos piled up. Every week, Yakovlev was
pressing harder against the limits and changing his readers' lives.
Today, Yakovlev runs his own paper, Obschaya Gazeta. He can print
whatever he pleases. And hardly anyone cares.
"The role of the intelligentsia is very close to zero today,"; Yakovlev
says with a small smile of resignation. "The intelligentsia only has
influence when the ruling elite cares about public opinion. Public opinion
practically doesn't exist for the present regime."
Many members of the intelligentsia blame themselves for this, motivated,
as they often are, by shame. They also blame Yeltsin. When he used tanks to
shell the legislators holed up at the Russian White House in October 1993,
most of the intelligentsia supported him, fearing the hard-line Communist
opposition would prevail if they didn't.
Later, they regretted their failure to insist on a legal and political
solution to the confrontation. They had given Yeltsin permission to do
whatever he pleased, they said later.
When the war in Chechnya began in December 1994, journalists, human
rights activists and other members of the intelligentsia assumed they could
report the bombings that killed thousands of civilians, and make their
"We thought that our presence and our information would make the federal
authorities want to retreat," Sergei Kovalyov, a human rights activist, told
Gessen. "Well, we had hope that it would. A bit of hope, less the longer it
went on. And then, of course, the feeling of helplessness came."
Yeltsin pressed the war for two years, despite its enormous unpopularity
and its huge cost in lives and to the economy. The reports of civilian
deaths continued. And no one listened.
In July 1996, Yeltsin barely won re-election. The strong Communist
showing unsettled him. He grew alarmed at the silence of the intelligentsia,
and the void.
"In Russian history of the 20th century there were various periods --
monarchism, totalitarianism, perestroika and, finally, a democratic path of
development," Yeltsin said a few days after the election. "Each stage had
"We have none."
He decided to find one, which is how the "national idea"
commission came to be.
The official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, tried to help out
by sponsoring a competition. Entrants were asked to define the idea in five
to seven typed pages (Russia is not a 25-words-or-less kind of place.) So
far, no winners have been announced.
Russia has always considered itself a nation with a special destiny and a
special religion -- bigger, more spiritual than other countries. Masha
Gessen quotes the late poet Joseph Brodsky: "A land of hyperbole lies
beneath them as the sky of metaphors sails above us."
The czarist rallying cry was "orthodoxy, autocracy and nationhood." The
Soviets sprinkled the nation with slogans -- "Glory to the Communist Party"
or "Workers of the World Unite" were emblazoned on the sides of buildings
and on rooftops.
And now Filatov has summoned nearly 1,000 members of the intelligentsia
to a congress. "It will help to define the national idea," he says, "to set
up a constant dialogue between authority and society. The truth is born in
Gessen loathes the idea, though she understands the longing. "Everyone
has a sort of hollow place inside of them where the Big Idea used to live,"
she says. "For some people, it was a hated Big Idea, but it was still there.
"This concern that there should be a single idea enlightening our future
is a Soviet idea. Someone should be screaming about it. No one is."
Yakovlev doesn't plan to attend. "I phoned Filatov and said I have to
confess with shame that I have no ideas at all," he says. There is no point,
he says, when Russia doesn't have a single figure of moral authority. "The
last was Andrei Sakharov," he says, referring to the world-famous dissident
of the Soviet era.
"Now his place is vacant. When there is no such public figure, there is
no one to convene a congress with."
Filatov says he has no choice but to try to resuscitate the
intelligentsia, for he cannot bear the suggestion that it is truly dead.
"If the intelligentsia disappears," he says, "so would Russia. It would
be a different country."
Russia Struggles Again Over Land Question
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Dmitry Valegorsky looks out across the snowy
fields where he plans next year to sow wheat for the first time in the hope
of finally making a profit in his eighth year as a private farmer.
But as he proudly shows a visitor his 40 hectares (98 acres) of land, two
combine harvesters, two tractors and 300 pigs, he outlines another dream
that inspires him to even more passion.
``I long for the time when a person who has land can sell it freely,''
said the 41-year-old farmer during a tour of his farm at Rozhdestvennoye in
the Moscow region.
Six years after the end of communist rule, Russia still has no code
governing the sale and purchase of land. The reformist leaders are
struggling to solve a problem which proved a headache for their tsarist and
Market reforms have spread to most areas of Russian life but all sides
agree the lack of a land code has been a major factor in the slow pace of
reform in agriculture.
The tsars battled long and hard to solve the question but failed. The
emancipation of the serfs in 1861 produced little more than communal
ownership and resentment over the land issue was a contributory factor in
the tsars' downfall in 1917.
The communist leaders who came to power the same year then ran into
trouble, outlawing private ownership and introducing their disastrous policy
of collectivisation of agriculture.
Now the communists want to prevent the free sale of arable land for fear
that it will be bought up by rich businessmen who will build on it, dealing
another blow to agriculture.
But President Boris Yeltsin insists on the free sale of land and refuses
to sign a draft land code approved by parliament.
``Round table'' talks starting on Thursday offer a chance to settle the
dispute but agreement between government, Kremlin, opposition, trade union
and parliamentary leaders may prove hard to reach. Farmers, meanwhile, are
``I hope there will be some kind of compromise at the round table,''
Valegorsky said. ``I'm against land going for bribes or too cheaply, but we
really need a land code that works.''
YELTSIN AND COMMUNISTS STAND FIRM OVER LAND
Land has passed hands since the late 1980s under reforms led by then
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and through a string of decrees issued by
Yeltsin since communist rule ended in 1991.
But the lack of a land code causes uncertainty which discourages many
people from buying land and adapting to modern methods of farming.
Yeltsin accepts that some controls are needed to safeguard arable land
but wants a liberal law passed which clearly sets the rules for owning and
The communists are especially wary because of privatisation launched in
1992 by then acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar and privatisation minister
Anatoly Chubais, under which they say state property passed to a priveleged
few at bargain prices.
``Gaidar and Chubais have been replaced, new people have come in but the
policy remains the same. Everything is being sold. Now it is the turn of the
land,'' Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said last month.
Despite his concerns, Zyuganov says the ``round table'' talks offer a
rare opportunity for a breakthrough because the political rivals will
discuss the issue at the same table.
LIFE TOUGH FOR MOST PRIVATE FARMERS
Private farmers have had mixed success.
Konstantin Mezentsev, deputy president of the Moscow-based AKKOR group
which represents private farmers' interests, says a few farmers struck it
rich after taking advantage of special cheap loans offered in 1991.
``Some of them have huge houses now, with saunas and satellite television
-- you just can't imagine,'' he said.
But most have fared less well. The attractive credits dried up fast,
equipment is expensive, spare parts are often hard to come by, taxes are
high and many farmers can barely survive.
Valegorsky took the plunge in 1991. Then a lecturer in agricultural
science, he beat about 250 rivals in a competition for the right to buy from
the state the land he now owns. The trick is that he cannot legally sell it
under the current rules.
His farm is a two-storey house with few furnishings, a yard where he
keeps chickens, tidily-kept pig sties and a barn where the combines sit idle
through winter. He has three permanent staff and hires up to seven more in
His main tractor is kept running to keep it warm in icy temperatures as
he sits in his farmhouse and explains his problems over potatoes, carrots
and beetroot grown on his land.
``You need eight to 10 years to start making a profit. The pigs are sold
to local shops for quick gains but all the money so far has gone straight
back into running the farm. I'm hoping for my first profit next year,'' he
Life for him, and most other private farmers, is a struggle.
Workers have been encouraged to buy plots at former Soviet-era collective
farms but many are unwilling to take the risk or put in the hard work
required to make a go of it.
Only a small fraction of the 27,000 Kolkhozy (collective farms) have
successfully completed the transformation.
``The aim was to turn over collective farms to the people. It was fine on
paper but mechanisms were not clearly set out to show people what to do,''
said Mikhail Konshin of the Agromir Fund in the southern region of Oryol.
Agromir, which enjoys Western backing, is trying to help people make the
transition to landowners.
``Many people fear at first they will be left without land, wages or
property,'' Konshin said. ``At first they called us CIA (Central
Intelligence Agency) agents and God knows what!''
Such hesitancy among the peasants is being broken down gradually and the
opposition of local bureaucrats is slowly fading. Compromise between the
politicians may also take time.
One southern region, Saratov, got fed up waiting for a national law and
passed its own local legislation allowing the free sale and purchase of land
in its first reading in October.
But for most farmers, the passage of a national law setting out clear
rules for the sale and purchase of land holds the key for their security in
``Ownership is the basis of democracy and a normal economy,'' Mezentsev
said. ``Without it, we can do almost nothing.''
COUNCIL OF EUROPE FOR CONFERENCE ON RUSSIAN FEDERALISM
PARIS, DECEMBER 8 (from RIA Novosti's Vitali Dymarsky) -
The Council of Europe appointed its second international
conference on Russian federalism for December 16-17, with the
venue in Moscow.
Close on 200 political activists and community leaders are
expected, RIA Novosti was informed in the Strasbourg CE
Addressing the audience will be Speaker Yegor Stroyev of
the Federation Council, Russia's upper parliamentary house;
Vice-Premier Ramazan Abdulatipov; Sergei Stepashin, Minister of
Justice; Marat Baglai, Constitutional Court president; Igor
Ivanov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Hans-Peter
Fuerrer, in charge of the Council of Europe political
department; prominent legal expert Michel Lesage of France, and
government experts of CE countries and Canada.
The agenda will revolve round competence delineation and
respective agreements between Russia's federal centre and
constituent territories; federalism in taxation and relations
between the federal, regional and local budgets; interregional
integration and executive patterns at the federal and regional
levels; and the mission of the judiciary in the formation of
federal relations and patterns.
The conferees will evaluate the achievements of Russian
federalism since the first conference in 1994, and blueprint the
fundamentals of Russia-CE cooperation to promote its further
Russia gained full membership of the Council of Europe in
Financial Times (UK)
9 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Russia: Ex-minister tells Moscow to get tough on tax dodgers
By John Thornhill in Moscow
The Russian government should launch bankruptcy proceedings against the
100 biggest corporate tax debtors and prosecute a handful of tax-dodging
"stars" to raise additional revenue, Boris Fyodorov, the former finance
minister, said yesterday.
Mr Fyodorov, who has been repeatedly tipped to take over as Russia's
chief tax collector as part of a forthcoming "fiscal action plan", said
the government had to start scaring people to pay taxes if it wanted to
overcome its budgetary crisis.
The government should therefore declare the heavily-indebted Zil car
plant bankrupt and put Alla Pugacheva, the country's most famous pop
singer, in prison if it is proved she has not paid her taxes, Mr
Fyodorov said. Such measures would show that the government was serious
about preventing tax evasion and could raise the government's tax take
by 10-20 per cent.
"We have never for a single moment in the past seven years had a
politician in this job - rather than a bureaucrat - who could demand
things and act tough," Mr Fyodorov said. "Who is afraid of [Alexander]
Pochinok? [the current head of the state tax service]," Mr Fyodorov
The appointment of Mr Fyodorov would certainly be warmly welcomed by
international financial institutions, which have been pressing Russia to
improve revenue collection and overhaul its primitive and punitive tax
"You have to use both the stick and the carrot," Mr Fyodorov said in an
interview with the Financial Times. "You should hit people hard but you
should always give them some incentives to act properly."
Mr Fyodorov left little doubt about his desire to return to government.
He said he was "bored to death" with parliament and could only work as a
non-executive chairman of a bank while he remained an MP.
"It is a question of what you want to do with your life. Do you just
want to hit your head against a brick wall or do something concrete
which is very helpful to your country?" he said.
Mr Fyodorov said he had recently met Victor Chernomyrdin, prime
minister, to discuss the current financial crisis and to apologise for
some intemperate remarks he had made in the past. But he stressed he had
not received any job offer from Mr Chernomyrdin - although this had been
implicit in the conversation.
"I excused myself for some of the personal attacks I made on him. I did
not stop criticising the government but I accepted that some of my
remarks were insulting," he said.
Mr Fyodorov added that Russia's tax inspectorate and tax police,
currently divided between the finance and interior ministries, would
eventually have to be unified, and extra resources were needed to
improve the quality of tax administration.
Yeltsin and Stalin in Same 'Monarchical' Mold
Obshchaya Gazeta, No. 46
November 20-26, 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Dmitriy Furman: "Turnover of Favorites in the Kremlin:
Features of Boris Yeltsin's Personnel Work"
The clutch of palace intrigues that led to the dismissal of the
"harmonious team of young reformers" will be disentangled and is already
being disentangled in numerous articles and radio and television programs.
But I believe that the most interesting aspect of this event is not, for
all that, how it is connected with the struggle of palace cliques and court
banks and the fate of Chernomyrdin, Berezovskiy, ONEKSIM, and so forth but
the fact that it spotlights with the utmost clarity the regularities of our
political life. Namely, rule by means of periodically elevated and then
For, in actual fact, we have already seen all this, and Chubays is far
from the first timeserver who only recently appeared omnipotent and then
was suddenly cast down. The most obvious parallel to the fate of Chubays is
that of another "Russian reformer"—Gaydar. Despite all the difference
in the personalities of Gaydar and Chubays and the modes of their advent
and dismissal, their political fortunes represent a common "picture." Both
are "parvenus" and timeserver-favorites, with whom the President fell in
love and elevated rapidly, almost as the empresses of the 18th century
elevated their lovers (the gossip about the relations of Chubays and
Tatyana Dyachenko is probably just gossip, but its appearance is no
accident--in elevations like the elevation of Gaydar and Chubays there
is something of the impetuous love affair of the fickle woman that,
naturally, ends in betrayal and a new love affair). Both are convinced
marketeers enthusiastically performing the "necessary dirty" work. Both are
beloved of the "democratic intelligentsia" and the West, but alien to and
disliked by the nomenklatura elite, as a parvenu is disliked by people who
have achieved their position not by "accident" but by the "sweat of their
brow." Both are hated by the colossal number of people who are casualties
of the capitalist reforms and the Communists, in whose minds these figures
have assumed demonic outline. Finally, both are surprisingly canned, after
which a sigh of relief from their enemies is heard and hopes of a
"improvement" and a "change of course" arise.
But we may recall not only Gaydar. We may recall also the now
just-about-forgotten "reform strategist" Burbulis and the "casualties" from
the opposite camp: For there were at Yeltsin's court, after all, figures
"demonized" not by the Communists but, on the contrary, by the democrats,
but who are gone also. Korzhakov and Barsukov, for example, and the
deceased Yegorov, to whom the democrats attributed authorship of the
Chechen war. They are all different versions and forms of the same model:
rapid elevation, apparent power, the focusing on themselves of hatred and
envy, and a sudden fall from grace. What is the reason for this
In our contemporary political system this is, evidently, the sole
possible political career model. Had Yeltsin been a president who was head
of the party that had won the elections, he would have been fettered by
this party and its program and ideology and could have chosen merely from a
small group of persons who had already (and regardless of him) made party
careers. Had he been a president with limited powers, under conditions
where power belongs to a government appointed by parliament, his
possibilities of raising up favorites would also have been extremely
limited. Finally, had he been a general secretary of the CPSU, he could
have chosen merely from the ranks of the top nomenklatura and would have
been limited by the Politburo. Neither Khrushchev nor Brezhnev were free to
appoint as premier a whiz-kid who attracted them by his intelligence or to
make their favorite bodyguard the most influential person in the state.
But Yeltsin himself rejected the actual prospect in 1991-1992 of
becoming head of a party, preferring the role, more convenient for him and
more in keeping with national traditions, of "president of all Russians"
standing outside of parties and above parties. He himself created a
constitution making him all-powerful, and the parliament, powerless. And he
himself also demolished the CPSU, ridding himself of the shackles of party
traditions and rituals. In this way he made for himself rule via favorites
not only possible but the only thing possible.
I by no means wish to lapse into exaggeration and say that democracy
here has not scored any successes. On the contrary, its successes are
obvious and great, and in many aspects Yeltsin's power is very limited. But
in appointments to the highest offices of state his possibilities are
greater than the possibilities of the presidents of really democratic
countries and greater than the possibilities of the Communist general
secretaries. In this sense the extent of his authority approaches the power
of just one of the series of Soviet leaders—Stalin in his late
Of course, a comparison of the late Yeltsin and the late Stalin is of
very limited significance. The dimensions of their personalities and power
are entirely different. It is a comparison, as it were, between a real
dictator and a "family tyrant." But despite all the difference in
dimensions, the mentality and methods of "local tyranny" may be equated
with the mentality and methods of total dictatorship in the same way that a
clash of billiard balls is subject to the same rules of mechanics as a
clash of celestial bodies. In actual fact, the role and fate of Gaydar and
Chubays may be compared with the role and fate of Yagoda or Yezhov, for
example. They also were raised up from the nomenklatura depths, appeared
all-powerful, performed "dirty, but necessary work," focused on themselves
general hatred, which, thanks to this, was directed not against the supreme
ruler but at the servant, and then suddenly disappeared, after which the
illusion that Stalin himself had nothing to do with it, that there was much
that he did not know even, and that now, when this demon had been laid low,
life would straighten itself out, appeared.
It seems to me even that, as with Stalin, the apparent
unpredictability and irrationality of Yeltsin's personnel decisions (he had
just said that he would not be removing Berezovskiy, and he immediately did
so, he had just praised Kokh, and hereupon dismissed him) are deliberate
and specially "focused." So that everyone might be afraid and know his
place. Even Chubays's reaction ("we will accept any decision of the
President") is somewhat similar to the reaction of the arrested party
member who is still devoted to Stalin and who blames for his fate not him
but the scoundrels who deceived him.
There is one further similarity between the late Stalin and the late
Yeltsin. Both have immense power, which, nonetheless, is fundamentally
conditional and limited (for Stalin by Marxism-Leninism and the need to
build Communism, for Yeltsin, by democracy and elections and the need also
to build something and prove something). These limitations, sometimes very
palpable (Yeltsin, for example, in 1996 even had to dance before the people
with an ailing heart in the name of democracy), are naturally a burden.
They are both, therefore, attracted by monarchy--a model of power
whereby you are not required to "build" anything or "prove" anything.
Stalin introduced shoulder boards and titles of the "supreme" type and had
great affection for Peter I and Ivan the Terrible. Yeltsin introduced the
two-headed eagle and resurrected the Duma and also likes Peter. Both are
very pleased when the noble face of the patriarch may be seen in their
retinue. And this is not an accidental similarity, for in terms of the
dimensions of their power, but not in terms of its absoluteness and
legitimacy, naturally, tsars want to be simply tsars, who have no need to
constantly assert their power (it is God-given) and who may die serenely in
the knowledge that power will pass to their children and legitimate heirs.
If this is so, if from 1991 through 1997 we have negotiated a path
from something remotely reminiscent of the 1917 revolution (as a tempest in
a teapot is reminiscent of a tempest at sea) to something remotely
reminiscent of the Stalin system (as the tyranny of a desk officer is
reminiscent of real tyranny), a certain prediction ensues from this. The
orderly continuity of power in such systems is impossible (Yeltsin could
not endure even the existence of a vice president). The death of the "lord"
will inevitably signify a frenzied struggle on the part of his retainers
who have at this moment survived him (usually with an unexpected outcome),
an appeal to the people, and the attribution to the deceased of all
imaginable and unimaginable sins. In a while, therefore, Russia will
obviously have to endure a slight shock—something akin to a small (at
the second twist of the spiral everything is small) "exposure of a
personality cult." And, perhaps, this will be the last such shock, and we
will finally emerge from the system of "fathers of the people" and will
switch to a system whereby the top political careers are determined by
parties and parliament, and ultimately, by the electorate, the people.
8 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Ruble reissue starts clamour for dollars
Russians seek security as three zeros lopped off new banknotes
By Olivia Ward
Toronto Star European Bureau
MOSCOW - Curses ring out in the frosty downtown street,
as a line of Russians in mink coats, worn anoraks and cheap
but stylish woollens find a wicket already barred with a sign
It is a money exchange, and it is shut at 3 p.m. because the
tellers are out of U.S. dollars. If the wicket was open, the price
of the dollars would be rising.
This scene, reminiscent of the panicky early 1990s, when
galloping inflation made the ruble virtually worthless, is enough to
cause anxiety anywhere in Russia.
In a single day last week the vulnerable currency lost 9 per
cent of its value. That only fuelled the stampede to sell it, as it
crossed the psychological barrier of 6,000 to the dollar.<P>
It is a scene found in many cities with the approach of Jan.
1, the deadline for the ``redenomination'' of the ruble, when
the Central Bank will put millions of new notes on the market.
The value marked on each will be 1,000 times less than on
Old ruble bills will be slowly
withdrawn, but remain in circulation until the end of 2002. But
as of New Year's, an old, 1,000-ruble note will be worth the
same as a new one-ruble note.
Planned at a time when the economy appeared to be nosing
out of its slump, the move to re-value the currency now
comes in the middle of an accelerating financial crisis.
``Redenomination should not worry anyone,'' soothes the
Central Bank's Alexander Vikhrov. ``It's something that has
been planned for a long time and shouldn't affect the situation
in any way.''
Central bankers insist the rush to buy dollars is unjustified,
and nothing will change next month except the inconvenience of
carrying around millions of old rubles.
The new notes will even look like the old ones, comforting
those who fear sharp changes
For big currency dealers, the ruble flight has more to do with
general nervousness about the foundations of the Russian
economy, and the effects of volatile world markets, than the
printing of new ruble bills.
But for the public, says Julia Shvets of the Russian-European
Centre for Economics, ``redenomination adds to the general
confusion and uncertainty of the moment.''
And she says, ``it's unfortunate because there's nothing
bad about it in theory, and it should actually ensure that the
Central Bank will keep a grip on inflation so it doesn't have to
President Boris Yeltsin's government backed the plan
enthusiastically, some analysts say, because it would gain him
political points for restoring prices to pre-1991 levels at a stroke.
And it would bring back the humble kopek, often mourned
by communist critics as a symbol of the days of affordable living.
But as Russia runs to international lenders for cash to weather
its latest financial storm, the plan appears to have backfired.
Last week the State Duma tabled a resolution to put off the
redenomination by at least six months, citing public fears
about its effect on inflation.
Bankers insist the rush to buy dollars is unjustified
In a Moscow market, an elderly woman shakes her head
when the new rubles are mentioned.
``Prices of everything will go up, up, up,'' she shrugs, jerking
her thumb into the air. ``Just like always. Any excuse will do.
It's better to get dollars while you can.''
But some high-rolling shoppers say it's about time the old
ruble bills were ditched.
So farcical have they become that a kilo of cabbage costs
10,000, and a pair of jeans 300,000. Cheques are unknown
in Russia, and for those without credit cards, buying a car or a
washing machine takes a suitcase of cash.
But many, especially the elderly, remember the desperate
days after the communist economy collapsed, when their savings
suddenly shrank to a tiny fraction of their value, and sausage
became a luxury they could no longer afford.
Prices in the hundreds of rubles shot up to thousands, and
millions of Russians looked to the relative security of dollars
stashed under their beds.
Other shocks followed. During the changeover from the old
Soviet currency banks froze what was left of many people's
savings while the old bills were abruptly removed.
Breathtaking plummets in the ruble's value seemed to have no
limit, and wild currency speculation led to the eventual pegging
of the ruble against the dollar in an exchange rate ``corridor''
that ensured only small changes.
The new stability restored public faith in the unloved currency.
But the corridor will widen next year to 15 per cent. And
in spite of officials' reassurances, new fears are emerging
about inflation, and even the total collapse of the ruble.
``Nothing will happen to the ruble,'' First Deputy Premier
Anatoly Chubais insisted last week. ``The current painful circumstances
will not hit the population.''
The biggest threat to the currency is not the number of zeros
on banknotes, but the number of Russian bankers rushing to
jettison what they fear is a sinking ruble.
If selling spreads, the currency could be in big trouble even
before the redenomination.
In a worst-case scenario, the Central Bank would try to prop
up the ruble by using its precious hard currency reserves,
and a crash could result.
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 1997
From: Martin Ryle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: NET: AAASS HOMEPAGE ON WWW
Date: Sat, 6 Dec 1997 19:08:52 -0600 (CST)
From: "James P. Niessen" <email@example.com>
The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS)
recently launched its home page at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~aaass/.
Information on the site is grouped under the following rubrics:
About the AAASS
History and Organization
National and International Meetings
29th National Convention, 20-23 November 1997, Seattle
50th Anniversary Convention, 24-27 September 1998
50th Anniversary Call for Papers
Slavic Resources on the Web
How to contact us
Some of these categories are a bit sparse as yet, but will no doubt grow.
There is now a link to the AAASS on the HABSBURG website.
>From Russia Today press summaries
8 December 1997
Homeless Children in Moscow
The Moscow City Duma estimates that 30,000 to 50,000 homeless children
are living in the city.
About 30 of them are brought to the police each day, which means they
take care of about 1 percent of the whole underage homeless population in
Moscow. The rest can usually be seen in the streets, begging in underground
passages and at stations, cleaning cars and carrying carts.
There are about two million neglected children in Russia, about 600,000
of whom are orphans. Some 95 percent of the orphans have living parents who
either rejected their children or were deprived of their parental rights by
The daily printed some statistics on homeless children in Moscow. Most of
them came from Russian provinces and CIS countries. Of the total non-Russian
children, detained and allocated to a special Moscow police center, the vast
majority came from Ukraine, mostly from Trans-Carpathian regions -- which is
surprising, the daily said, because it is so far away. Hardly any of the
children came from Belarus, with which Russia has an open border, from
Kazakhstan or the Baltic countries. The children are kept in the center for
about a month on average, after which they are sent to their home provinces.
Child begging has become a profitable business in Moscow, the daily said.
A well-trained girl, age seven or eight, can collect about 100,000 rubles a
day. Some entrepreneurs of the business use the work of a dozen or more
It is very difficult to investigate crimes committed with children
because kids do not write down addresses or ask for last names. Over the
last year, the daily said, only 10 criminal lawsuits were filed for drawing
children in begging.
>From Russia Today press summaries
8 December 1997
Ukrainian Industry: Technology of Lies
The daily wrote about the reasons for and consequences of Russia and
Ukraine's decision to cancel the value added tax on bilateral trade.
The agreement was reached last month, at an unofficial meeting between
the Russian and Ukrainian presidents outside Moscow. Prior to the meeting,
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais had brought a "tip" from Moscow
to Ukraine -- a quote for duty-free sales of 600,000 tons of Ukrainian sugar
The daily asked what could have made an unprincipled and perfidious
politician like President Boris Yeltsin make these great concessions to
Russia's "brothers?" It suggested that this was done in the interests of
Moscow banks, in view of the upcoming international privatization tenders in
Ukraine. Tenders will be announced for the largest industrial enterprises,
ports and energy systems.
The daily wrote that recently Boris Berezovsky, business magnate and
owner of ORT television, has become a frequent visitor to Ukraine. It
suggested that Berezovsky will be given a free hand in privatization
auctions in Ukraine, in exchange for the organization of the presidential
campaign for incumbent Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
When Chubais was in Ukraine, the daily said, he did not try to hide the
hunger of Uneximbank for non-ferrous metals giants in Ukraine, either.
Ukrainian media also report that head of NTV, Igor Malashenko, has become
Kuchma's official image-maker.
Pravda-5 concluded by accusing Kuchma of leading the war against the
republic's own industry and its workers.
RUSSIA TODAY Notes:
Russia and Ukraine have been working to improve ties. This year brought the
signing of a long-delayed friendship treaty and an agreement on the sticky
issues of ownership of the Black Sea Fleet and use of the port of
Sevastopol. During last month's informal talks between Kuchma and Yeltsin,
the two sides took steps to end the trade war.
>From Russia Today press summaries
8 December 1997
It seems that scientists have finally solved the mystery regarding
whether Noah's Ark existed or not, the daily said.
With the help of a spy satellite, scientists this week located the exact
resting place of the Ark, and even measured its length and width, the daily
But what does it mean that Noah's Ark has been found, the daily asked,
and what does this have to do with Russia's current political and social
First, the daily said, the fate of Noah's Ark is a question that has
concerned mankind for years. It is also a question of cause and effect, as
in what came first, the chicken or the egg.
The same is true of the Russian 1998 budget, the daily continued. It is
sometimes hard to determine which came first, the government's lack of money
or the people's inability to pay taxes to finance the government.
The government now is trying to negotiate with international institutions
to spend vast sums on restructuring various sectors of the economy. But it
has forgotten that the people need bread now, the daily said.
Russia's defenses are also being dismantled primarily because there is no
money to support them. So President Boris Yeltsin could afford during his
visit to Sweden last week to appear as a peacemaker, willing to lay down his
Soon the government will have to account for its promises to end the
nonpayment crisis by the year's end. And when this happens, one can be sure
that those that Yeltsin did not want to "give up" will be stuck with the
blame, wrote the daily, referring to First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly
Russian vote shows discontent with local governors
MOSCOW, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Russians, preoccupied with basic issues like the
price of bread, used weekend regional elections to register protest votes
against local governors, political analysts said on Monday.
Sunday's polls across seven regions were dominated by questions like
pensions, not by ideology, party, or the dramatic feuds driving Moscow
``Voters are presenting their local government with a whole range of demands
that have nothing to do with whether their rulers are pink, white or
whatever,'' said Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Endowment for International
Voters elected local assemblies in the Siberian district of Krasnoyarsk, in
Murmansk in the Arctic Circle, in Khabarovsk and the Primorsky region of
Russia's Far East, in the Volga district of Samara, and in Tula and Penza,
both in western Russia.
President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman said on Monday the Kremlin was satisfied
with the elections.
``We can state that they were carried out successfully and in an organised
fashion,'' he said, adding that Yeltsin's Communist foes had registered few
Analysts said voters seemed to have opted mainly for candidates opposed
local governor and administration.
This was the case in Vladivostok, the main city in the Primorsky region,
Mayor Viktor Cherepkov and Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko have been locked in a
fierce power struggle.
Supporters of Cherepkov, who said last month he would step down due to his
long rows with Nazdratenko, won up to 95 percent of votes cast in the election
for the Primorsky region's assembly, Itar-Tass news agency said.
The Kremlin has often expressed concern with Nazdratenko's policies and the
region has been racked for years by energy shortages.
Petrov said the swing against regional governors such as Nazdratenko was
feature of Sunday's polls and that the results would help invigorate Russia's
``The local legislative assemblies are starting to take on a certain
independent political life as a counter-balance to the governor and
administration of their region,'' he said.
The focus now shifts to Moscow, a liberal stronghold, where elections to the
local parliament are held on December 14. The liberal reformist factions have
strengthened their position in the capital by agreeing not to stand against
each other in individual contests.
Russia's Lebed Seeks Presidential Election Alliances
Moscow, Dec 5 (Interfax) -- Former Secretary of the Russian Security
Council Aleksandr Lebed is ready to enter an alliance with leader of the
reformist Yabloko movement Grigoriy Yavlinskiy and Moscow Mayor Yury
Luzhkov to run in the presidential elections in 2000.
Luzhkov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will "certainly
contest the top state post from the 'party of power,'" Our Home is Russia,
Lebed told Interfax Friday.
"It is too early yet to speak about the chances of different
candidates to win in 2000," he said. "We must survive until the elections,
from the political point of view in particular," he said.