This Date's Issues: 1451
Johnson's Russia ListReturn
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
28 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Yeltsin Gives Year-End Address.
2. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Farm privatization sows hope
in Russia. As collective agriculture drags on, a region tries
to make it legal to buy land.
3. Rossiiskiye Vesti: BRAIN DRAIN DRAMATIC IN RUSSIA
by Vladimir FORTOV, Minister of Science and Technology, and
Yuri OSIPOV, President of the Russian Academy of Science.
4. St. Petersburg Times: Yevgenia Borisova, Political Intrigue
Surrounds House of Romanov.
5. RIA Novosti: LIBERAL REFORMS TO GO ON NEXT YEAR: GAIDAR.
6. The Times (UK): Richard Beeston, Chubais at risk as Yeltsin
turns on reformers.
7. Los Angeles Times: Vanora Bennett, Darkly Witty Web Site Offers
Advice to Fledgling Mobsters.
8. Izvestia: Alexander Bovin, RUSSIA RETURNS TO REALM OF WORLD
9. RIA Novosti: FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN RUSSIA ARE MAINLY SPREAD
THROUGHOUT TEN REGIONS.]
Yeltsin Gives Year-End Address
December 26, 1997
By MITCHELL LANDSBERG
MOSCOW (AP) - In an unusually introspective year-end radio address, President
Boris Yeltsin wondered aloud Friday whether Russians might be leaving
something behind in their headlong dive into the free market: their souls.
The president chided Russians - especially ``new Russian'' business leaders -
for shedding the dogma of collectivism in favor of a new dogma of materialism.
``We have almost stopped evincing interest in what is happening in the public
conscience, in the souls and fates of people. We have pounced from one
extremity to another,'' he said.
Since recovering from heart bypass surgery earlier this year, Yeltsin has
delivering radio addresses on an almost weekly basis. Although they are
usually about the political issue of the day, he occasionally uses them for
patriarchal musings about the changes sweeping over Russian society.
His year-end talk struck at one of the central anxieties in Russia today.
people worry that as the country merges with the rest of the world
economically, it is losing both its moral compass and its uniquely Russian
Entire books have been written on the issue, and Yeltsin has appointed a
commission to search for a new Russian ``national idea'' that would fill the
vacuum left behind by the implosion of Soviet-style communism.
The Russian Orthodox Church has tried to fill that vacuum, but religion is
still an alien concept to many Russians weaned on Soviet atheism. Meanwhile,
intellectuals watch in horror as classic Russian literature is shoved off
bookstore shelves by romance novels and thrillers, and theaters that once
showed serious Soviet films now show Hollywood blockbusters.
Retired Gen. Alexander Lebed, a likely presidential candidate in 2000,
recently won admiring nods from a group of leading intellectuals when he
decried the growing influence of ``an alien culture filled with sex and
Yeltsin began his address Friday by conceding that many political and
problems remained unresolved, that his government can point to ``few
noticeable successes'' and that people ``are rightly complaining against the
slow progress of our reforms.''
All this, he promised, would be the ``subject of a separate discussion.''
``And now I would like to talk about something else,'' Yeltsin said. ``About
something that I had no chance to discuss amid the daily grind of our work.
About spiritual values and civil responsibility. About how we are living in
this new, very material world. About what kind of a generation is forming
before our eyes.''
Much of the speech was directed at Russia's new class of business
are frequently derided by the poorer majority and are widely considered to be
corrupt and self-indulgent.
Many blame Yeltsin's government for creating a climate that has tolerated
corruption and encouraged the massive accumulation of wealth.
``We overlooked many things when we entered the free market,'' Yeltsin
conceded. ``We have fixed its legal frameworks, but have forgotten about the
laws of morality, about such a simple thing as business ethics.''
He accused business executives of ``continuing to egotistically wallow in
personal success, thereby teasing the majority of their fellow countrymen.''
He challenged them to begin treating their employees more generously and
donating to charity.
Until they do, he said, ``the jokes about the `new Russians' will continue to
be told all over Russia for a very long time to come.''
The president also called on all Russians to show more respect for the law -
by, for instance, paying their taxes. And, taking a well-worn page from
America's political annals, he called for a return to ``family values.''
How all this will play with Yeltsin's listeners is hard to say. His speeches
are widely covered by the Russian media, guaranteeing a huge audience. But
although people may agree with his words, his personal standing remains quite
In the end, he seemed to concede the risk of appearing sanctimonious.
``These words may sound much too lofty for some people,'' he said. ``Maybe
they should not be uttered overfrequently. But they must be always
27 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Farm privatization sows hope in Russia
As collective agriculture drags on, a region tries to make it legal to
By David Filipov
LENINSKOYE, Russia - They've sent the workers home early this year from
the Leninskoye Farm, a sprawling collection of rusting machinery,
dilapidated buildings, and junk-laden fields that consume a 25,000-acre
swath of black soil along the Volga River.
There is no money to pay for the repairs and food-processing that should
be done this time of year. The only people at work are the farm's
managers, who are trying to make sense of ledgers that add up to another
winter of debt-ridden despair.
The buildings are no less battered, but the mood is much better at Ivan
Del's privately run farm. It is located a few miles from Leninskoye
along a bumpy back road that spans the battle lines in the great
ideological dispute, unsolved by five years of post-Communist reform,
over who should own Russia's land.
While the Leninskoye Farm stands still, Del's 40 employees are busy
around the clock turning this year's crops into pasta, sunflower seed
oil, and bread for resale in the nearby regional capital, Saratov, 400
miles east of Moscow. The effort is paying off: For the first time in
four years of operation, Del's 1,250-acre farm is looking at a small
''When you are the owner,'' Del explains, ''you have a different
attitude about how things get done.''
Russian entrepreneurs have been saying things like this for years about
the advantages of private ownership. But while much of Russia's industry
and business is now in private hands, most of Russia's vast farmlands
remain the property of some 26,000 Soviet-style collectives, most of
which, like the Leninskoye, are barely surviving. ''Private'' farmers
like Del rent most of their land from idle collectives. But because they
do not own the land, they are unable to use it as collateral for loans.
This has made it almost impossible for them to thrive.
The Russian Parliament, dominated by lawmakers who believe the
collectives should be revived, has tried to adopt rules that would ban
the purchase, sale, or mortgage of almost all arable land. But President
Boris N. Yeltsin, who insists that private land ownership is the key to
prosperity, refuses to sign them and has tried to legislate land reform
Yeltsin and Parliament leaders tentatively agreed in a Kremlin meeting
yesterday to find a compromise that would allow limited land sales with
strict state oversight. But the two sides also decided they would need
more time - at least three months - to resolve their many differences.
Saratov's regional authorities have decided to break the deadlock by
adopting a law that allows the purchase, sale, and mortgage of farmlands
- the first law to do so in Russia since the Bolsheviks outlawed private
ownership in their Land Code of 1922. Saratov's new legislation, which
went into effect last month, has pushed this sleepy territory to the
center of the heated debate over land ownership.
No issue better illustrates the contradictions of Russia's lurching
post-Communist transformation. At first glance, there should be no
nostalgia for Soviet agriculture, most notable for the millions who died
of famine or in prison camps during Stalin's forced collectivization in
the 1930s, and later for the chronic inefficiency that made the world's
largest nation one of its leading agricultural underachievers.
If all of Russia's land were privatized, Russian market reformers say,
the new owners would have greater incentive to increase the productivity
of the country's arable land - and the government could collect an
estimated $50 billion annually in taxes.
But opponents of private land ownership fear a repeat of the
privatization of Russian industry, which enriched a few well-connected
insiders but has yet to improve the lot of ordinary workers.
And Saratov's efforts to place land in private hands have been clouded
by bureaucratic interference that has confounded efforts to create a
middle class throughout Russia, and has left the public lukewarm to the
allure of private ownership.
In a recent poll by the respected Public Opinion Foundation, 52 percent
of the Russians surveyed opposed the privatization of farmland. That
figure was 60 percent in rural areas, where people who once depended on
the cradle-to-grave welfare of collective farms have endured growing
hardship as the old system withers.
''It would be best if we lived like we lived before, and did everything
without this buying and selling,'' said the Leninskoye Farm's deputy
director, Vasily Yukhachov, as he sat in an office decorated with a
wall-sized chart trumpeting the yearly increases in yield the farm
claimed in the 1970s and 1980s. ''Now, we have no money to buy with and
nothing we can sell.''
For private farmers like Del, the impasse over land ownership is
troubling. The basis for his claim to ownership is a 1993 Yeltsin decree
that allowed any collective farm employee to remove a small allotment of
land for private use, and to expand his holdings by renting allotments
belonging to other collective farm employees.
But without true ownership rights, including the right to mortgage their
land, private farmers have trouble borrowing money. Few can afford to
pay for fuel and equipment, and only a fraction of Russia's 280,000
private farmers have reached Del's modest level of success.
Del acknowledges he would not have been able to succeed without the help
of a German farm aid organization that helped him buy two tractors at a
One of the goals set by the framers of the new law was to reassure
farmers like Del, according to Saratov's governor, Dmitry F. Ayatskov.
Attracting investment to a region previously best known as a top secret
base for long-range nuclear bombers, intercontinental ballistic
missiles, and chemical weapons was another goal. Ayatskov says he
expects $2.5 billion in real estate investments in the region next year.
But along with promises of stability and prosperity, Saratov's new law
has also brought bitter protest from pro-Communist leaders, who say that
to permit the sale of land will allow rich businessmen to destroy
Russian agriculture by acquiring farmland and throwing the farmers out.
''The land is all the people have left in this country,'' Mikhail I.
Lapshin, leader of Russia's Agrarian Party, wrote in commentary that
compared private land ownership to Hitler's invasion of Russia. ''If we
don't defend it, our children will not forgive us!''
The dispute has tempered enthusiasm for the local law even among
advocates of private property there, including Del and some of his
private farmer neighbors.
''I don't want to put my money into a deal, have the law declared
unconstitutional, and lose everything,'' said one farmer, who asked that
his name not be used.
Nor is it certain that local officials recognize the new law, as
indicated this week by a hilarious account in the weekly magazine
Ogonyok of a Saratov resident who tried to acquire land but instead got
the runaround from local bureaucrats.
Even when the new law starts functioning, the only agency that will
provide credit is an operation run by the local government that everyone
here calls ''The Corporation.'' It lends money to hard-pressed farmers
to cover fuel and equipment costs, and in return sells their products
wholesale. Because all debts are settled in kind, The Corporation
ensures that a farm will never have any cash, and probably never make a
Furthering farmers' woes, the Saratov government has imposed
restrictions on selling grain outside the region, hindering their
ability to seek the highest bidder - and thereby nullifying the effect
of private ownership of land. Ayatskov says the system will be phased
out as the new law is implemented, but other officials are not so sure.
''Russian farmers never pay their debts unless you force them,'' said
Oleg Zakovryagin of Saratov's agricultural ministry, who helped write
the Saratov land law. ''True, it is a perversion of a market system. But
these are perverse times.''
Iron-fist land reformer is driven by ambition
By David Filipov
SARATOV, Russia - Governor Dmitry F. Ayatskov, the driving force behind
the Saratov region's ambitious new land law, is a rising star among
Russia's provincial leaders who mixes market rhetoric, self-promotion,
and the iron-fisted ways of a Soviet party boss.
This hybrid leadership style has become popular in Russia's 89 regions,
where provincial governors want to increase their autonomy from Moscow
while currying the Kremlin's favor - crucial for attracting funding.
Few have managed it better than Ayatskov, who runs this Volga region
like a private state. This summer, he won a medal from President Boris
N. Yeltsin for ''service to the fatherland.''
By allowing the sale of farmland, Ayatskov has exploited Saratov's
status as a showcase, as well as his own reputation as a leading
regional reformer - a role he clearly relishes.
''My task is to create a class of landowners,'' Ayatskov says. He speaks
of investment, mortgages, and real estate markets - still novel concepts
in the post-Soviet Russian countryside - and foresees farmers ''who
drive to work in Mercedes, like in Switzerland.''
It's not yet Switzerland on the destitute farms outside Saratov.
Ayatskov's efforts are most visible in the regional capital's
Western-style business district, nicknamed ''Broadway,'' and on the main
street leading into Saratov from a nearby air base, inexplicably painted
with two huge yellow stripes for Yeltsin's visit.
This formerly closed region is not yet the freewheeling center of
commerce it wants to be, in part because of Ayatskov's own policies
since taking office last year. He has set up trade barriers, imposed
price controls on basic foodstuffs, and promised to imprison factory and
farm directors who fail to pay worker salaries.
These ideas have little to do with free trade, but they appear to be
>From RIA Novosti
December 25, 1997
BRAIN DRAIN DRAMATIC IN RUSSIA
By Vladimir FORTOV, Minister of Science and Technology, and
Yuri OSIPOV, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Experts are unanimous in that 90% of economic growth
(above all the GDP and living standards) will depend on
scientific- technological progress in the next century. This
makes research personnel problems in Russia especially
dramatic. Around one million scientists left this country, and
the number of researchers halved in the past five years.
The influx of young talented high school graduates is
clearly not enough, and a considerable part of post-graduate
students emigrate from the country. The average age of our
researchers is 50-55, which is nearly the same as the average
life span. The main reductions of research personnel can be
explained by the reduction of scientists who do not have a
scientific degree, which is mostly young researchers who form
the basis for the continued development of highly skilled
Representatives of the most promising spheres of science
of the next century, who received education in the best
national universities, academic institutes and state research
centres, find employment in the research institutions and
companies of the USA, Germany, France, Canada, Korea and other
countries, and seek employment in commercial structures at
The personnel situation in the Russian Academy of Sciences
appears to be good, at first glance. In the past five years,
the staff of the academy dropped by 23%, while the number of
research staff dwindled by 13.3% (the number of doctors of
science went up by 13% and the number of candidates of science
dropped by 6%). But if we look at qualitative changes, we will
see that the scientific potential had deteriorated
dramatically. Why? For the same reason that mostly young and
middle-aged staffers are leaving the academy.
The main reason for this situation in Russian science is
that the prestige of research has been withering since the late
1980s. Young people do not see a possibility of making a good
career in science, which would guarantee their families a
befitting life, a measure of prosperity and social insurance.
Here are the figures. The average salary of doctors and
candidates of science in Russia is 840,000 roubles, or 20% less
than the average national salary.
But the size of salaries is not that important. We have no
money to purchase modern equipment and develop research
infrastructure. This is one of the main reasons encouraging
young scientists to go west and hindering the return of many
scientists who are working abroad.
What can we do in this situation? The requisite measures
should embrace all stages of the process of education of future
scientists, beginning in the general school. We should create
an effective mechanism of searching for and selecting talented
teenagers and young people, who are interested in and have the
mental ability to work in research.
The training of top-quality research personnel is
exquisite workmanship. The requisite conditions include the
high intellectual level of the group where the future
researchers get education, and their involvement in advance
research. These conditions are available only in the leading
research institutions and universities of the country.
It should be said that The Concept of Reforming the
Russian Science in 1997-2000 has a special chapter on personnel
and social policy in science. It proceeds from this chapter
that the best conditions for training top-quality specialists
for science, education and the country as a whole can be
created by the concerted efforts of the leading institutes of
the national academy of sciences and state research centres,
and the best higher schools.
President Boris Yeltsin pointed to the need to take
emergency legislative measures in order to encourage the
non-state industrial sector to finance applied research. First
Vice-Premier Boris Nemtsov pointed out at a session of Russia's
Security Council that there exists such a form of research as
international research centres. One of them has been
established in Novgorod and has proved its worth.
St. Petersburg Times
DECEMBER 29, 1997-JANUARY 4, 1998
Political Intrigue Surrounds House of Romanov
By Yevgenia Borisova
"Without a tsar in Russia there is discord ... When supreme power
weakens, civil war develops." - First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov, in an interview last month on NTV.
While many Russians have at one time or another expressed such
sentiments, until recently it was rare to see someone from the
government - particularly someone with Nemtsov's stature - do so on
Yet in the past few months, the monarchy has been very much on the minds
and the tongues of the Russian political elite. President Boris Yeltsin
has taken to referring playfully to himself as Boris I (he apparently
does not recognize or remember the reign of the other Boris I, Boris
Godunov); Nemtsov, in turn, has stated he sees Yeltsin's Russia as "a
Such talk, coupled with the on-going debate over where to bury the bones
of the murdered last tsar and his family, has fed media speculation that
Russia may indeed restore the monarchy in some form.
How, why or whether to do this remains an open question. But perhaps not
as open as it seems - this summer, Russia apparently came very close to
naming an heir apparent to the throne: 16-year-old Prince Georgy
Nemtsov was supposed to be one of the key figures at a ceremony planned
for June 21 at the Ipatyevsky Monastery in Kostroma, a city about 600
kilometers southeast from St. Petersburg, to swear in the teen-aged
prince. The ceremony was prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Nobleman's
This same monastery provided sanctuary for the first Romanov tsar,
Mikhail, also 16, when he was appointed the Tsar and Grand Prince of all
Russia by the zemsky sobor, or "assembly of the land." Kostroma is thus
the cradle of the Romanov tsarist dynasty. Prince Georgy's planned trip
there to swear his loyalty to Russia would have been a significant first
step toward his potential future coronation.
Yeltsin canceled that ceremony in May - but not before the Moscow-based
travel agency Kalevtia, working on behalf of the Russian Nobleman's
Assembly, had begun to prepare trip packages to Kostroma for potential
A spokeswoman for Kalevtia who wished to remain unnamed confirmed as
much in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times, as did an impressive
itinerary of the trip the paper obtained from Ivan Artsishevsky, the
general director of the Congress of Compatriots, an international
organization representing Russians living abroad.
Under this itinerary, Prince Georgy and his mother, Grand Duchess Maria
Vladimirovna Romanova, would have visited Russia from June 18 to June 25
for ceremonies in which he would have taken an oath to Russia, a
preliminary step in becoming heir apparent to the Russian throne.
The Romanovs were supposed to meet with such high-placed officials as
Nemtsov, Culture Minister Yevgeny Sidorov, the chief justice of the
Russian Constitutional Court, the governors of the Kostromskaya and
Astrakhanskaya oblasts, the archbishops of Kostroma and Astrakhan, the
commanders of the strategic missile troops of Russia, the commanders of
the Caspian Sea Navy, the head of a chemical protection college in
Kostroma and other officials.
Then Prince Georgy - the great-grandson of Kirill Vladimirovich Romanov,
who in 1924 proclaimed himself head of the Russian Imperial House - was
to head for Kostroma for the oath and ceremony.
As the Kostroma events were being planned, the Kremlin was also
preparing a presidential decree to give Prince Georgy and other
descendants of Kirill Vladimirovich "special status" - yet another stamp
of government approval for their claim to the throne - said
Artsishevsky. But he said Yeltsin rejected that proposed decree without
In a reference to First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, who has
red hair, Artsishevsky said that the unrealized decree had "red-haired
handwriting." Artsishevsky said he had no evidence that Chubais was
involved in designing the decree, but that did not stop him from
speculating on a possible motive.
"Why would Anatoly Chubais want [to restore the monarchy via Prince
Georgy?] Everything is simple," Artsishevsky said. "The year 2000 comes
[when new presidential elections are scheduled]. Why do we need a
president? We have a boy [tsar]. And what about a regent? The boy is
only 18, he does not know Russia. Why can't the regent have red hair?"
Whatever intrigue may have surrounded the aborted ceremony, there was
little interest in the event among tourists, said the spokeswoman for
the Kalevtia travel agency.
"A few calls from America and Leningrad" came to the agency requesting
bookings, she said, and no packages from anywhere else had been sold by
the time the ceremony had been canceled in May.
On learning of the planned ceremony, Artsishevsky said his congress
immediately convened a conference of scholars and genealogists in St.
Petersburg last spring. That conference prepared a statement harshly
criticizing the ceremony.
"Do the Russians need a monarchy at all? Talks about restoration of the
monarchy are extremely complicated because Russian autocracy was not
just stopped 80 years ago - it was physically exterminated," the
statement read. "The issues of succession are greatly confused and, of
course, cannot be resolved by way of 'He is heir to the throne who
arrives to Russia first."
Although German heritage among Russia's ruling elite was common, Prince
Georgy's affiliation with Germany's Hohenzollern dynasty in particular
troubled the widely respected historian Dmitry Likhachyov, who wrote a
letter denouncing the idea of Prince Georgy as a monarch.
"Georgy Hohenzollern has even less rights [than his mother] to the
Russian throne, as he belongs to the relatives of the German Emperor
William II, who brought numerous troubles to Russia," Likhachyov wrote.
The congress sent its statement to security council chief Ivan Rybkin,
who, according to Artsishevsky, spoke to Yeltsin. On the strength of
this meeting, Artsishevsky said, Yeltsin then stopped the ceremony.
But in interviews after the conference, Artsishevsky said the matter was
far from decided. He said Prince Georgy would be a shoe-in when the
question of who would be the next Romanov tsar was eventually decided,
because Kremlin politics and a desire to avoid future presidential
elections are driving the decision.
"Supposing the boy [had been] sworn in in Kostroma, like Mikhail Romanov
... Then imagine the 850th anniversary of Moscow comes. Who is behind
the President? The boy. He is sort of officialized, has been sworn in.
So he stays at one event behind the president, at another, commentators
say - here he is, such and such a boy. A year [passes], another year.
The president's term ends. And we are suddenly told - do we need a
president at all? And public opinion is ready - we have a boy!"
Even among those who favor the idea of reviving the monarchy, few
support doing so quickly.
Nikolai Romanovich Romanov, 73 - who heads the Union of the Members of
the Romanov House, an organization that unites the 42 holders of the
Romanov family name, said that the matter ought to be put to a popular
"It should be the people of Russia who will elect the new monarch,
because Nikolai II abdicated," he said at a press conference in St.
Petersburg this summer, adding such a vote should only be held when
"Russian citizens will start to openly speak out in favor of restoration
of the monarchy."
But he has also stated that Russia has more pressing problems to deal
with than restoring the monarchy.
The Russian Orthodox Church has also called for a future vote on
reviving the monarchy.
The Party of the Monarchist Center, meanwhile, argues that the Moscow
Patriarchy ought to convene a zemsky sobor to choose a new tsar.
Candidates would have to display involvement in Russian Orthodoxy and
knowledge of Russia's language and culture, said Viktor Antonov, an
executive with the group's St. Petersburg branch.
"If there are no male candidates suitable, female Romanovs will be
discussed," said Antonov. "And if no one matches the criteria, the
zemsky sobor will start to discuss [other] candidates worthy of
representing the Russian people."
LIBERAL REFORMS TO GO ON NEXT YEAR: GAIDAR
MOSCOW, DECEMBER 28 (from RIA Novosti's Alexandra Utkina) -
Deviations from the road of liberal reforms lead the country to
explosive crises. Practical proof of this point is the most
notable result of this year, Yegor Gaidar, leader of the
political party, Russia's Democratic Choice, said in an
exclusive Novosti interview.
The government was true to its reform line, and brought
Russia to several strides. In particular, it eventually
convinced the State Duma to approve next year's budget in its
second reading. "The budget draft with which the Cabinet came up
was very good--or oppositionaries would not have put up with it,
which they did despite all their indignation," he remarked.
The democratic leader also referred to adoption prospects
of the Land Code, which a round table on the national top
debated Friday. He thinks that further developments will be
largely determined by whether the conciliation commission
succeeds in the legalisation of landed property. "In its present
version, the Land Code blocks private land turnover in a
retrograde economic trend," said Mr. Gaidar.
He also pointed out a consolidation to which the Left
opposition had come this year to thwart liberal reforms--a trend
contrasted by the government's serene optimism. This situation
is not to be over-dramatised, however, warned Yegor Gaidar.
The Times (UK)
December 27 1997
Chubais at risk as Yeltsin turns on reformers
The President may be ready for a purge, writes Richard Beeston
PRESIDENT YELTSIN yesterday attacked the liberal reformers inside his
administration, comparing them to their Communist predecessors and
hinting that they may be purged from the ranks of his Government.
In a populist statement during his final radio address before the
traditional holiday begins at the new year, the Kremlin leader signalled
again that he may slow the process of economic reform because of the
hardships endured by his people. "Today it has become clear for most
people that there have been few [economic] achievements," he said,
adding that ministerial heads could roll. "We will correct mistakes and
draw the necessary conclusions."
The remarks came as Mr Yeltsin is courting the opposition-dominated
Duma, the lower house of parliament, and increasingly is working towards
consensus politics with Communists and nationalists at the expense of
his pro-Western supporters.
Last week, for instance, he surprised many of his countrymen by praising
the role of the KGB in Russian history and suggesting that past
criticisms had been unfair. Yesterday, he indicated in a meeting with
leading politicians, including Gennadi Seleznyov, the Communist Speaker
of the Duma, that he was prepared to dilute a Bill to privatise land,
once a cornerstone of his policy.
Athough potentially harmful for the economy, the tactic of switching
course has been employed repeatedly by Mr Yeltsin to keep him in power
and his adversaries and allies off balance.
The obvious target of his latest attack was Anatoli Chubais, the Deputy
Prime Minister responsible for much of the reform process, who has
become a hate figure for millions impoverished during the chaotic
transition to the free market.
Although he has been one of the most influential and powerful figures in
the country over the past two years, his authority was badly weakened
after allegations that he and four associates accepted unusually high
advances for an unwritten book. The co-authors were all dismissed and Mr
Chubais was demoted and reprimanded.
On Wednesday, a dejected Mr Chubais told a Moscow newspaper that he
would soon decide whether to resign from his job, although Mr Yeltsin
suggested that the decision may be made for him sooner than he expects.
"[Communist] Party slogans have been replaced by macroeconomic ones,"
the Kremlin leader said, in an apparent deviation from his own repeated
belief in the need to create a market economy. "They first proclaimed
'Privatisation at any cost' and later 'Let's squeeze the dollar into a
Another possible victim is Boris Nemtsov, a young Deputy Prime Minister,
whom Mr Yeltsin admonished in public on Wednesday for not resolving the
vexed question of wages unpaid to millions of workers. Sensing blood,
the Duma passed a motion yesterday calling for the charismatic young
minister to be sacked after he allegedly suggested during a recent visit
to Sweden that Westerners preferred investing in Russian regions run by
democrats rather than by Communists.
If Mr Yeltsin makes good his threats and warnings to the reformers in
his Government, the coming year could start with a political and
economic crisis as the country slows its gradual move towards the free
market and the Kremlin sheds its reformers. Certainly, the many Russians
who look to the predictions of astrologers for guidance about the course
of the coming year are convinced that the nation is destined for a
shake-up in politics and more uncertainty over the President's health.
Although he looked and sounded much fitter yesterday, Mr Yeltisn,
according to Pavel Glova, one of Russia's leading astrologers, is
destined for another serious ailment in March or April. The astrologer
also said that a number of ministers, including Viktor Chernomyrdin, the
Prime Minister, may be replaced and that Russia's future leader will be
young, tall and fair-haired.
Los Angeles Times
December 26, 1997
[for personal use only]
Darkly Witty Web Site Offers Advice to Fledgling Mobsters
Virtual mafiosi can surf sections on weapons, cars, women. Police are
not amused by what they are calling a 'kids' prank.'
By VANORA BENNETT, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--Wannabe mafiosi, take note. If you need to discover where to find
the sleek Western car, the gun, the mobile phone and the 6-foot-tall
microskirted girlfriend that will fit your image as you bust into
Russia's high-rolling underworld, help is at hand on the World Wide Web.
"MAFIA on the Net!"--a Web site set up by Andrei Kuzmin of St.
Petersburg--offers a mixture of practical advice, prison gossip and
erotica for fledgling mobsters.
"Everything about a businessman must be impeccable: his face, his
mobile [phone] . . . and the final shot into his forehead," reads one
pseudo-literary quotation in Russian on the photomontage that first
swims into view. It underscores the dark glamour of the image of the
businessman in Russia, where the successful are rich beyond the wildest
dreams of the average person but need bodyguards and bulletproof
cars--and still might die at the wrong end of a gun.
Virtual banditi can surf sections on weapons, cars, mobile phones,
financial investment, night life and women. They can also sample prison
jokes and letters allegedly written by real-life inmates from Russia's
many prisons. The site is chirpily headed "The Mafia Is Immortal!"
Who are the mystery creators of the Web site: mafiosi or
computer-literate middle-class students? Kuzmin's one enigmatic
response, quoted in the newspaper Kommersant Daily, was: "How can people
who sit at home with their Pentium computers possibly know about the
real life of the brothers?"
But everything about the site looks like a computer buff's harmless
joke. The tongue-in-cheek wit repeatedly refers to James Bond or
"Godfather" movies, or to the growing domestic legend of the modern
Russian mafioso as the epitome of success and scary chic. And every
click of the mouse only takes visitors to companies' official Web sites.
Clicking on the gun sales heading, for instance, just leads to the
site for the ex-government company Izhmash, Russia's best-known
armaments complex, where diagrams of Kalashnikovs flash up accompanied
by the rifle's specifications. Clicking on the investment heading takes
visitors to the official Web site for St. Petersburg's respectable
VitaBank. The mafia molls promised at the start turn out to be from the
usual Russian porn pages, whose real virtual homes have ho-hum headings
such as "Rasputin" or "Andrei's Sex Page."
The mobile phone company FORA Communications, also touted at the
site, was called for comment in November by Kommersant Daily. FORA's
representative answered with resigned amusement: "We're pleased that the
high quality of our service satisfies even the most demanding of
But the police take a dimmer view of the irrepressible virtual
In a country whose authorities have only recently, and reluctantly,
learned to tolerate a degree of self-expression, and who still live in
the grip of fear that capitalism is to blame for a post-Soviet crime
wave, the elaborate Mafia Web site joke is too close for comfort.
* * *
"Personally, I believe this Web site is nothing more than some
kids' prank," said Vladimir Vershkov, head of the Moscow Militia's press
center. "But, to be honest, it might be a prank with far-reaching
consequences. Its downside is that it popularizes the criminal
lifestyle. It creates a romantic image of the mobster, who is widely
considered the hero of our time."
For the moment, however, the police have not worked out how to pull
the plug. Even if it deserves "condemnation, and in principle should be
banned," Vershkov said, any scandal would amount to free publicity. In
any event, freedom of speech is guaranteed by Russia's new constitution.
"Unfortunately, there is no real way we can lay our hands on these
jokers. We can't take them to court or anything like that," the police
"Of course, if we could only show them being shot dead on the spot,
that would be very effective. It would undoubtedly discourage other
young people from following suit and becoming mafiosi."
>From RIA Novosti
December 26, 1997
RUSSIA RETURNS TO REALM OF WORLD POLITICS
By Alexander BOVIN
The expiring year has certainly been a year of growing
activity of the Russian diplomacy. Moscow has been building
diplomatic muscles in all directions. Far from everything has
turned out as planned, but many of these plans have worked out.
Let me start with the assets. The improvement of mutual
understanding with Ukraine. The confirmation of strategic
partnership with China. The advance to a new level in the
dialogue with Japan. The admission to APEC. The prevention of
another "desert storm". The close familiarization with Brazil,
one of the superpowers of the 21st century.
On the debit side one should mention the impotence and
lack of any coordination on the CIS fronts, the practical
ignorance for our former allies in Eastern Europe and the
abortive attempts to interfere with NATO's advance to the East.
Also, the obvious lack of progress in the sphere of disarmament
problems and the insufficiently clear determination of Russia's
long-term goals in the Middle and Near East.
One could add some other pluses and minuses, but in any
case the balance will be in favour of Russian diplomacy. We
have started acting and looking more seriously, and the
attitude to us has consequently become more serious. I sweep
aside all possible reservations to emphasize the main point
which is that Russia is gradually, even though with
difficulties, returning to world politics.
This conclusion becomes clear and more indisputable if one
examines it in the context of the legacy received by Russia's
foreign policy and if one traces the whole difficult path of
the assertion of that policy.
The break-up of the Soviet Union has drastically
re-tailored the geographic map of the world. A new world order
has not materialized. Russia has found itself embroiled in a
new world disorder. The give-away play has not worked out. We
were surrounded by a world where the egotistic interests and
political and economic rivalry were much stronger than the
proclaimed sympathy towards "Russian democracy".
It was not at once that this came to Moscow's
comprehension. At the initial stage Russia steered first of all
for the West and sought support and strategic partners there.
In 1993 the one-sided penchant for liberal slogans and
pro-Western guidelines began to be slowly but surely given up.
The change in the foreign ministry leadership
substantially decreased the lack of coordination and
departmental voluntarism in foreign policy and strengthened the
pragmatism, substance and sagacity of Russian foreign policy.
Its starting point, if I understand it right, is the
consolidation of the positions of Russia as a great Eurasian
power and as one of the poles and centres of gravity in the
approaching multipolar world. In a world where the notion of
"strength" or "power" will largely lose its traditional
politico-military meaning. In any case, it will no longer be
confined to that narrow meaning. Each pole exists in an
environment with several dimensions: scientific-and-technical,
informational, economic potentials, the territory and natural
resources, the number and quality of the population, stability
at the social and political levels and, probably most
importantly, the ability to change fast in a fast-changing
The multipolar world order, if it asserts itself in the
international arena, will be based on a dynamic balance between
all the poles. This presupposes a sharp reduction of the role
and influence of the customary blocs and alliances, because an
excessive approximation of some poles and power centres will
inevitably cause a defensive reaction from the others, with a
subsequent destabilization of the situation.
In probing for place and modus vivendi in the multipolar
world, Russia is insisting, though at times not resolutely
enough, on equality and respect for mutual interests and is
strongly opposed to any recurrences of the superpower
mentality. And since claims to the superpower status are made
today (leaving out some of the members of the present Russian
Duma) only by America, Russian-American relations pass through
occasional period of cooling. Unfortunately, our American
friends are sometimes just too arrogant. The D'Amato law, the
Helms-Burton law, the stamping of feet over the Iraq crisis and
unseemly pirouettes in the post-Soviet environment must all be
met with a tough and unequivocal reaction.
Needless to say, the basic interests of Russia call for
even and preferably good relations with the US.
Russia is faced with a monumental task of moving from the
periphery to the centre of world politics. This does not mean
that it should become its centre. This rather means a status
when Russia would enjoy respect and confidence as one of the
leading democratic states and as one of the centres of world
culture and science. Vigorous efforts to accomplish this goal
should be taken in Russia itself, whereas in the sphere of
foreign policy it should have a subordinate role. A role which
is designated by the banal formula: "to secure favourable
foreign-policy conditions for....". To secure such conditions,
our policy or, to be more precise, our politicians must have a
clearer idea of the country's national interests. This is
another banal formula, but the difficulty and seriousness of
the problem consists in that these interests are not stated in
some perennial tenets, but are formed by people, all of whom
are different. And since there is still no consensus in Russia
regarding a relatively large number of aspects of politics,
both domestic and foreign, the content of the "national
interests" notion remains amorphous and vague and subject to
changes and replacements of accents. This is reflected and will
continue to be reflected in Russia's foreign-policy line. The
assertion of that line has not been completed yet, but the most
difficult part of the way has been covered. This is confirmed
by the results of the year 1997.
FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN RUSSIA ARE MAINLY
SPREAD THROUGHOUT TEN REGIONS
MOSCOW, DECEMBER 26. /RIA Novosti/ -- Foreign investments
in Russia are primarily spread throughout then regions which now
account for three-quarters of the accumulated foreign capital
investments. According to the data of the Market Research Centre
of the Russian Government, among such regions are Moscow and
Moscow oblast, St.Petersburg and Leningrad oblast, Tyumen and
Arkhangelsk oblasts, the Republics of Tatarstan, Komi, Marii-El,
and Primorye Territory.
Moscow accounts for 40 percent of the total foreign
investments in Russia, with some 60-70 percent of funds
channelled via the Russian capital and then partly distributed
among other Russian regions. Tyumen oblast which ranks second
after Moscow, accounts for 7.8 percent of the total foreign
In the opinion of the experts, the regional distribution of
foreign investments reflects foreign investors' preferences,
i.e. investment of capital in large centres with a developed
financial market infrastructure with a relatively higher solvent
demand of the population as well as in the areas rich with
mineral resources. In addition, foreign capital is attracted by
the regions where the local authorities grant land or lease land
plots for long periods of time on a gratuitous basis as well as
provide investors with ample information.