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8 January 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Jonathan Mueller: re JRL 2004, Filipov on ice-fishing.
2. Laura Belin (RFE/RL): Pro-NATO advertising campaign.
3. Ethan Burger: Resolving commercial disputes through mediation.
4. Reuters: Yeltsin's granddaughter says he works too hard.
5. The Hindu: Vladimir Radyuhin, RUSSIANS DRINKING THEMSELVES TO
6. Washington Times: James Morrison, New Russian envoy?
7. Los Angeles Times: Ian Bremmer and Nina Khrushcheva, The Russians
Are Coming! ... to a Theater Near You.
8. AP: Industrial Production Up in Russia.
9. Yasushi Toda: Definition of Red Belt.
10. AFP: Economic growth, tax reform key goals for Russia in 1998:
11. The Electronic Telegraph: Alan Philps, Russia recaptures Christmas
12. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Valday Vacation Story Recalls Time of
Yeltsin Heart Surgery.
13. The Independent (UK): Gayane Afrikian, Caspian oil soothes troubled
waters for West.
14. Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy: Russia Called Most Dangerous Country
15. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, The Ruble Rises From The
16. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: AIDE HINTS YELTSIN STILL CONSIDERING THIRD TERM,
NEWSPAPER SAYS MANY DEBTS STILL OUTSTANDING, an OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER
17. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: BRZEZINSKI CALLS ATTENTION TO REGIONAL
COUNTERWEIGHTS TO RUSSIA.]
From: "Mueller, Jonathan D" <MuellerJD@bakuwpoa.us-state.gov>
Subject: re JRL 2004, Filipov on ice-fishing
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998 18:28:00 -0500
I'm sending this to you since I have no e-mail address for Filipov.
It is not only Russians who go ice fishing. Former Polish
president Lech Walesa is also an avid enthusiast.
Once Walesa went out on the ice, chopped his hole, sat down and
began to fish.
After a few minutes a voice came out of the fog: 'There are no
fish in here!' Walesa ignored it and continued fishing.
A few minutes later the voice came again: 'I tell you, there
are no fish in herre!'
This time Walesa looked up, and said, 'And who are you, to tell
the President of the Republic where there are or are not fish?'
'I am the manager of the skating rink!'
Date: 7 Jan 1998 15:30:30 +0100
From: "BelinL" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: pro-NATO advertising campaign
I thought JRL readers would be interested in a new pro-NATO advertising
campaign that has been launched in the Czech Republic.
A group of Czech journalists, sociologists, and advertising executives
put together the campaign, because they believe that the Czech public is not
enthusiastic enough about NATO expansion. (In November, an opinion poll
suggested that only 43 percent of Czechs were in favor of joining NATO, with
30 percent undecided, although a December poll suggested that a slim
majority of Czechs favor joining NATO.)
The campaign consists of television and radio commercials, along with
billboards. I haven't seen the tv ads yet, but according to newspaper
reports, they seek to remind Czechs of the problems of the Communist period.
Apparently, they include real footage from the Soviet invasion of 1968. An
actor who looks and sounds like Leonid Brezhnev then says, "We thank you
Czechs for having freely decided not to join NATO." In other words, the ads
suggest that Russian domination is one alternative to belonging to the
western military alliance. Other television commercials will feature popular
Czech celebrities speaking out in support of NATO membership.
The billboards, which I have seen, feature a photograph of the Brezhnev
lookalike over the words "Spasibo" (written in Russian, i.e. in Cyrillic
characters) and "NATO" (written in the Latin alphabet, which is used in Czech).
According to Kieran Williams, political scientist at the University of
London, the advertising campaign may have been launched in anticipation of a
possible referendum on NATO membership. The Czech Republic may hold early
parliamentary elections this year, and the Social Democrats, who are
currently in opposition, could end up in charge of foreign policy. Their
party platform calls for a referendum to precede accession to NATO. Opinion
polls suggest that there is no guarantee that a majority would support NATO
membership if such a referendum were held today.
The advertising campaign is being financed by gifts from unspecified
sponsors and personal contributions from the campaign's organizers.
Television networks are said to be granting free air time for the
commercials. The organizers appear to have purchased the billboard space (at
least I haven't seen reports saying the billboard space was donated).
Contacted by the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes, officials at the
Russian embassy in Prague declined to comment on the ad campaign, other than
to say that efforts to interest Czechs in joining NATO are a purely internal
I'll keep you posted on developments related to this campaign.
Date: Fri, 02 Jan 1998 21:25:00 -0500
From: "Ethan S. Burger" <email@example.com>
I would appreciate it if you could post the following inquiry on the List:
"I am interested in making contact with Russian and/or Ukrainian
(and individuals) that have experience or an interest in the development of
to resolve commercial disputes through mediation. Please send me the relevant
contact information." Thanks, Ethan Burger (e-mail address
Yeltsin's granddaughter says he works too hard
MOSCOW, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Boris Yeltsin's 18-year-old granddaughter says the
Russian president loves to spend time with his family but he works too hard
and politics is tiring him.
In an interview published in the French weekly Paris Match, Katya -- whose
mother Yelena is the president's elder daughter -- depicted Yeltsin as a
doting but discreet grandfather.
``His favourite way of relaxing is to sit among us, at the centre of the
family circle, and to listen,'' said Katya, who is a student at Moscow
He likes to read but watches little television, she said, adding that work
took up most of his time.
``With his dear ones, grandfather is very diplomatic. He understands a
situation intuitively and knows when he should say something and when he
should keep quiet. I often feel a need to go and talk to him,'' Katya said.
She said he bought her a small car for her 18th birthday.
Asked what her greatest wish was, Katya said she wanted her 66-year-old
grandfather to give up the presidency. ``He is no longer very young and I see
how all that (the burdens of office) exhausts him,''
She attributed the president's recent viral infection and heavy cold -- which
laid him low for two weeks -- to overwork.
``The truth is that he works too much and it wears him out.''
The president's wife Naina has also complained in the past that he drives
himself too hard.
Since undergoing life-saving heart surgery in November 1996 Yeltsin has
resumed a heavy work schedule that has included several foreign trips.
Katya said the most difficult episode for her family in recent years had been
its break with Yeltsin's former bodyguard and onetime close friend Alexander
Fired in a purge of Kremlin hawks in June 1996 on the eve of Yeltsin's re-
election to a fresh term of office, Korzhakov has since written a book that
paints the president in an unfavourable light.
The burly ex-KGB officer, who now sits in the State Duma, Russia's lower
of parliament, alleged in his book that Yeltsin was a heavy drinker and that
he had tried to commit suicide more than once.
``We considered this man as a member of the family. So his public outpourings
are worse than a betrayal,'' said Katya.
``The day the book came out, grandfather came home with a sombre face and did
not say a word to anybody,'' she added.
Katya said Yeltsin had sought the advice of the women in his family more
since Korzhakov's book was published.
Yeltsin has two daughters and five grandchildren. The youngest grandchild,
Katya's baby brother Ivan, was born last October. The president's younger
daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, is a Kremlin aide who advises Yeltsin on his
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 12:08:42 +0300
From: VLADIMIR RADYUHIN <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: russians drinking
For The Hindu
RUSSIANS DRINKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH
From Vladimir Radyuhin
Moscow, January 7.
After emptying a couple of half-litre bottles of vodka on the New Year
night, villager Alexei in Mordovia dropped off into such a heavy slumber
that his family decided he had passed away and called an ambulance which
took him to a nearby morgue. After a while the man came around, groped for
some clothes and staggered home to continue celebrations.
Alexei was one of the millions of Russians who feted the New Year in a
traditional Russian way-with a lot of booze. The Interfax news agency
estimated that the nation of 146 million had consumed a mind-boggling 70
million litres of alcoholic beverages on the night of January 1. The figure
includes 24 million litres of vodka, about 23 million litres of champagne
and about as much other wine.
A hot subject with Russian periodicals on the eve of the New Year was how
to avoid a hangover and what to do when you get one. The usual advice was
not to mix drinks and preferably stay on the vodka throughout the party. But
if one did mix drinks, newspapers counselled, the right way was to start
with light wine and go on to stronger drinks, not the other way round. For
the morning-after most papers mentioned such remedies as having a glass of
juice of pickled cucumbers or a shot or two of the same medicine, i.e. vodka.
But such advice is useless when people drink till they drop dead,
literally. Far from all stories of alcoholic abuse end as happily as the
story of Alexei from Mordovia. Every year some 80,000 Russians die of
drinking either poisonous moonshine or just too much vodka. Some experts,
however, believe that drink-related causes account for as many as 500,000
deaths a year.
"The New Year is of course a good occasion to raise a glass of champagne,
but the problem with us Russians is that we drink practically on any
occasion," says Prof. Alexei Magalif, a narcologist. "From birth to death
any major event in a person's life is marked with drinking parties."
The expert said that it was the tradition of family celebrations with
alcohol that helped make Russia the heaviest drinking nation in the world.
Estimates of per capita consumption range from 14 to 16 litres of pure
alcohol a year, which works out at half a bottle of vodka per every grownup
Russians have a special word to describe their way of celebrating with
drinks-"obmyt," literally, "wash it over" [with alcohol]. When a child is
born, relatives and friends get together to "obmyt" the event; they do the
same when a person dies. Drinking rituals are a must in many families when
their children finish school, are drafted to the army and discharged from
military service, get married, etc. Birthdays are also regarded a legitimate
occasion to throw a drinking party.
Children are prime victims of this family tradition.
"From an early age children get used to the idea that drinking is the
right way to celebrate," says Prof. Magalif. "It is in the family that
children often get their first taste of alcohol and grow addicted to it even
before they grow up."
Dr. Vladimir Yegorov, director of the State Narcology Centre, estimates
that Russia has at least 10 million alcoholics, a tenth of the adult population.
"In some regions of Russia, as much as 95 per cent of the local
extremely heavily," says Dr. Yegorov. "There are villages where you'll have
a hard time finding a single sober man or woman. It's a national tragedy."
The only time authorities tried to control drinking was under the
reformist Soviet President, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, who cut vodka production
and sales hours. But the campaign only succeeded in driving production
The present Russian government has neither the resources nor political
will to tackle the problem. Some experts say the regime of Mr. Boris Yeltsin
has been encouraging Russians to drink more.
"Yeltsin is using alcohol to control the Russian people," says Dr.
Vladimir Yelizarov, who specialises on relationship between society and
alcohol. "He liberalised the production and sale of alcohol, making it more
accessible to drinkers than ever before. Alcohol is a potent tranquiliser
for our people and cheaper than food. It also helps reduce the stress caused
by political instability and fear of the future."
7 January 1998
[for personal use only
By James Morrison
New Russian envoy?
Diplomats in Washington and reporters in Moscow are expecting a new
Russian ambassador to the United States to be appointed soon.
Several names have been bandied about in the Russian media as
possible candidates to replace Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, and Igor
Ivanov, first deputy foreign minister, have been at the top of some
lists. However, one Russian source said Mr. Lavrov has turned down an
offer to take over the Washington embassy. He would rather be appointed
ambassador to the European Union.
"Washington doesn't hold the glamour it once held," the source
Mr. Vorontsov was out of town yesterday and could not be reached
for comment. It was not clear whether he is retiring from diplomatic
service or moving to another position in the Foreign Ministry.
His wife, Faina, is recovering from a serious illness, which may be
a factor in any decision to retire.
Mr. Vorontsov, 67, has had a long diplomatic career, first with the
Soviet Union and then with Russia. He was the Soviet ambassador at the
United Nations when Communism collapsed. Unruffled, he lowered the
Soviet flag and raised the new Russian banner.
He was still serving as U.N. ambassador when he was appointed
Moscow's envoy to Washington. He presented his credentials to President
Clinton on Aug. 11, 1994, and then rushed back to New York to chair a
meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
In Washington, Mr. Vorontsov has been most vocal in expressing
Russia's opposition to the expansion of NATO.
At a Washington conference on NATO last year, he called expansion
"the last mistake of the 20th Century."
Los Angeles Times
January 2, 1998
[for personal use only]
PERSPECTIVE ON ENTERTAINMENT
The Russians Are Coming! ... to a Theater Near You
Desperate for villains, Hollywood has reduced the enemy to a sorry bunch
of mafioso malcontents.
By IAN BREMMER, NINA KHRUSHCHEVA
Ian Bremmer Is President of the Assn. for the Study of Nationalities in
New York. Nina Khrushcheva, Granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, Is a
Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Most Americans thought that the failed August 1991 coup in the Soviet
Union was cool. They watched the play-by-play on CNN and it was Miller
Time--the U.S. had finally won. It was better than the hockey team's
triumph at Lake Placid in 1980. Because this time there was permanence.
Or at least it seemed that way.
But not in Hollywood. U.S. films keep making America save the world
from conflict-crazed Russians over and over and over again.
Granted, it's less disturbing when things blow up on the big screen
than when they do at the negotiation table. In fact, things blow up only
on the screen nowadays, while negotiations for the most part are
constructive, agreeable and friendly. Even tough issues like NATO
enlargement haven't been able to upset the essentially good-natured
relationship between Russia and the West.
So if the Russians are our friends, why is Hollywood still thumping
them? America's film industry just came up with "The Peacemaker," the
third film this year wherein valiant Yanks face off against Russian
evildoers. Nothing much has changed from the heated confrontations of
the Cold War era, with anti-Soviet classics like "Doctor Strangelove,"
"Walk East on Beacon" and "I Was a Communist for the FBI." The enemy
then was the communists. Now it's the Mafia--the communist Mafia.
In "The Saint," the first 1997 anti-Russian production, a communist
Mafioso named Tretiak wants to become president and divert Mother Russia
from the liberal course she has taken. His son, also a Mafioso and a
drug addict to boot, chases the Americans all over Moscow to prevent
them from protecting Russian democracy.
In "Air Force One," another nationalist psycho hijacks an American
president, played by Harrison Ford, in order to exchange him for a
Russian would-be despot who days before had overthrown a democratic
This fall's blockbuster, "The Peacemaker," serves up Mafioso Gen.
Alexei Kotorov, looking to make beeg bahks by smuggling nuclear warheads
to Iran. The fate of the world (read: midtown Manhattan) hangs in the
One one hand, it's good, forcing huge stretches of geography upon
unsuspecting Americans--places with unwieldy names like Azerbaijan,
Mahachkala, Srebrenica. "Air Force One" opened with Americans taking out
a Russian leader in Kazakhstan. OK, the Kazakhs were perturbed that we
demonized their country with a megalomaniacal fascist baddie. But the
fact that it was Kazakhstan that Hollywood was demonizing is a start.
On the other hand, geopolitical nuance aside, the message is still
the same: America wants to keep the world safe from Russkies. And let's
face it, who else cares? Not the cautious Europeans, sitting around
waiting for America to rid the Balkans of ethnic cleansers. Not the
United Nations, with neither stomach nor mandate to handle the messy
problems of the coming century. And certainly not our friends the
Russians, who got themselves into all this trouble in the first place.
Why the obsession? America is nostalgic for the Cold War. Before,
it was easy. There was the Soviet Union. There was the Eastern Bloc. If
you wanted to be picky, there was Yugoslavia. There were big chunks of
countries to make into an enemy. Now, despite the expansion of
geography, the real enemy has been reduced to mere individuals.
The communist Mafiosi are critical because, to the Hollywood
equation, Russians need ideology to fight effectively. They used to have
communism. That worked until roughly 1988. Then they discovered money.
So now Russian fighters get wiped unless they're fighting for money.
Hence the communist Mafiosi.
This is ironic because these Mafiosi are hardly anti-American. Deep
down, in fact, they want to be American. Capitalism created these guys.
So at heart they make lousy villains. Recognition of this undermined
"The Peacemaker"--Kotorov is only a go-between and gets smushed in the
middle of the film; then we're left effectively villainless for the
better part of an hour.
Hollywood should understand the problem better than anyone.
Filmmaking needs good enemies to kick around. Fact is, new Russians
couldn't threaten total domination of a paper bag. They may be bad but
they're not grotesque. Grotesque is grandiose. Grotesque requires the
desire to wipe out entire peoples systematically. It also requires a
response from the entire U.S. armed forces. Radich, Tretiak and Kotorov
don't cut it.
Does it suit the United States to hunt down single individuals? Not
really. The world may be in danger, but it isn't anybody's fault. Call
it the peace dividend. Call it the end of the Cold War. Hollywood can
turn back the clock, but in the end America has nobody left to blame but
Industrial Production Up in Russia
January 7, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) - Industrial production increased in Russia last year for the
first time since before the breakup of the Soviet Union, a news agency
It was the latest sign that the battered Russian economy may finally have
begun to rebound from years of decline.
Based on an analysis of raw government data, the Interfax news agency said
industrial output advanced 1.9 percent in 1997.
The State Statistics Committee has not yet released its final 1997 figures,
but the Interfax analysis is in line with expectations. Official data showed a
1.7 percent increase over the first 11 months of the year.
Wednesday was a holiday in Russia, where Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on
Jan. 7. No officials were available to comment on the report.
Production had been declining since the late 1980s and went into a freefall
after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, both gross domestic product and industrial production contracted 5
But the government has been saying for months that the economy had begun to
revive, pointing to increased production and foreign investment, coupled with
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced by the
economy, also is expected to show modest growth in 1997.
Production of some consumer goods, such as textiles, and heavy manufactured
goods are showing a rebound. These include automobiles, trucks, buses, and
In a sign of confidence that runaway inflation is a thing of the past, the
government redenominated the currency, the ruble, on Jan. 1, striking three
zeros off its value. The inflation rate was about 11 percent last year.
On the down side, the government's drive to improve tax collection has
sputtered, bringing with it a host of other problems.
Interfax also reported Wednesday that the Russian government's privatization
program sold off more state property in 1997 than in the five previous years
The state sold property valued at 23.6 trillion 1997 rubles ($4 billion), the
news agency said, citing the Federal Property Fund.
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 12:10:49 +0300
From: Yasushi Toda <email@example.com>
Subject: Definition of Red Belt
I don't know either the definition of red belt. I doubt that a consensus
definition of red belt, red-brown belt, or whatever ever existed. Instead,
Mr. Louzonis may try to create his own definition, based on regional
The data on local government I've come to know are broken down by regions
(oblast', krai, etc.) of Russian Federation. In one table, the elite of
local government is rated in its stability (low, middle, and high),
influence (also in three ways) and relation with the center (tense,
neutral, loyal). The table also shows whether the governor was chosen by
the appointment from Moscow, by the votes of local legislature, or by
popular vote. The governor's party affiliation (Party in power, CPRF, LDPR)
is also listed. Another table shows the election results: the share of
votes each major party in the State Duma election in 1995, and the share of
votes to each major candidate in the presidential election (primary and
runoff) in 1996.
I am referring to the appendix tables 10 and 11 of a book entitled
"Entrepreneurial Climate of the Regions of Russia: Geography of Russia for
Investors and Entrepreneurs," published by Nachala-Press, Moscow in 1997.
The organizations responsible for this publication are Russian union of
industrialists and entrepreneurs, Moscow state university Faculty of
geography Laboratory of regional analysis and political geography, Moscow
national bank, and Expert institute. The telephone numbers for contact are:
MSU Laboratory (7-095) 939-5786 (This is also a fax number.), Expert
institute 206-0129, and Nachala-Press promotion department 299-2123. The
language is Russian. The price in July 1997 was US$90.
Economic growth, tax reform key goals for Russia in 1998: Nemtsov
MOSCOW, Jan 7 (AFP) - Russia must secure economic growth and streamline
its punitive and complex tax system in 1998 to keep market reforms on
track, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told Interfax news
Nemtsov said the main target for 1998 was economic growth, "above all,
industrial growth, which could reach up to four percent annually."
Industrial output in January-November 1997 was 1.7 percent higher than
over the same period of 1996, according to the State Statistics
Nemtsov, who has special responsibility for restructuring the "natural"
monopolies controlling gas, electricity and the railways, said
"normalisation" of the economy could only be continued if there were
"substantial structural changes."
Naming the government's economic priorities, he said the tax burden must
be sharply reduced, but taxes must be paid without fail and on time.
A conciliation committee has hammered out the key points of a new tax
code aimed at drastically reforming Russia's antiquated tax system, but
it has not yet been adopted by parliament and looks set to be introduced
Throughout 1997 the Russian government struggled with poor tax
collection, which led to damaging delays in pension and salary payments.
Nemtsov said the government must ensure "basic order in the state, such
as enforcement of customs barriers, to prevent smuggling, or fighting
illegal vodka and spirit production."
The government must also strive to reduce the currently high 30-percent
yields on treasury bills (GKOs) to attract more investment in the real
economy, and commercial banks should reduce their interest rates to 15
to 18 percent, Nemtsov said.
Referring to the privatisation programme, Nemtsov said it "is not an end
in itself, and not the main way to achieve economic growth."
"Competition is more important than privatisation... A monopoly is much
more scary for society's moral and economic health than the sale of some
block of shares."
Last month, Nemtsov's colleague Anatoly Chubais said annual inflation
would be about 11 percent by the end of 1997, with gross national
product growth reaching 0.3 percent and a 1.3 percent increase in
However, Chubais said the delay in fiscal reforms had been "a major
mistake, or a setback."
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has
forecast three percent economic growth for Russia in 1998.
The Electronic Telegraph
8 January 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia recaptures Christmas spirit
By Alan Philps in Moscow
MILLIONS celebrated Russian Christmas yesterday, confirming the growing
role of the once-persecuted Russian Orthodox Church in the country's
political and social life.
Churches were packed for Midnight Mass on Christmas Day, celebrated 13
days later than in the West. Services were broadcast live on television,
with commentaries to explain the liturgy, which is in an ancient and
barely comprehensible language.
The days when wizened babushkas were the only people who dared to attend
Christmas services are gone. One church in central Moscow was packed
with young families. Young priests, their traditionally long locks tied
in pony tails, officiated in a relaxed atmosphere among Christmas trees.
Powerful four-wheel-drive cars - favoured status symbols of the Russian
new rich - were parked outside, testifying to the fact that religion is
again fashionable, at least at Christmas and Easter. In communist times
the authorities tried to stop people celebrating Christmas, creating an
atheistic New Year cult instead, complete with a vodka-drinking Father
Christmas substitute called Grandfather Frost.
But now the Church is becoming the Kremlin's ideological partner, giving
spiritual support to a regime denounced for applying "robber
capitalism." In his Christmas message President Yeltsin praised the
Church's "sacred mission to affirm spiritual and moral values on Russian
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, replied in kind,
giving thanks that "political passions" had abated last year. Although
Church leaders like to see Russia as a deeply Christian country, opinion
polls suggest that only four per cent of the population are genuine
Valday Vacation Story Recalls Time of Yeltsin Heart Surgery
6 January 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Inara Filatova: "Yeltsin and Raccoons. What Are
Valday Sleigh Bells Telling Us?"
As the president's Press Secretary Sergey Yastrzhembskiy promised back
in December, Boris Yeltsin has gone on leave again. This is the first time
he has done this in winter. Hitherto Boris Nikolayevich has preferred to
take leave in summer, and not split it into parts either.
In any case, on Sunday [4 January], the head of state left by plane
for Valday. The Kremlin press service did not have much to report: only
that the vacation "will last about two weeks" (which means that the
president will have two more weeks of annual leave left) and that "a series
of working meetings is planned" -- leaving the news agencies and the media
to describe the beauties of Valday. We learned, for instance, that local
forests "abound in lynxes, wild boars, wolves, elks, bears, squirrels, and
even raccoons," while "it is is sleigh bells that have made Valday famous
all over the country."
Incidentally, the "gem of nature" is also known for other memorable
events. In August of 1996 Boris Nikolayevich unexpectedly popped up to
"have a look whether he could spend his next vacation there." To conduct
reconnaissance in person, so to speak! For the first time in the entire
history of heads of state of all times and peoples! It remains to be said
that at the time no one was any longer in doubt that the president was
seriously ill. No one, that is, except the Kremlin officials reporting the
president's high- speed plane flights (just look how well he keeps in
shape!) in search of a location to spend his own location.
The present vacation in Valday was preceded by events that probably
reminded Moscow skeptics of the times of before and after the heart bypass
surgery. The flu at Zavidovo, the indefinitely postponed government
report, the still undecided date of the visit to India, the postponement --
or abandonment -- of the visit toChechnya, the brief forays into the
Kremlin with subsequent retreats back to the countryside.... In late
1996-early 1997, the head of state's plans also crumbled as the result of
the interminable to-ing abd fro-ing between one residence and another. Also
the press secretary's assurances that everything is going to be fine and
that there is nothing out of the ordinary going on (the leave was planned
in advance, political motives were behind the postponement of the Chechnya
visit, the government, instead of taking a [simple] test, will be faced
with an exam) are nothing new....
S. By Moskovskiy Komsomolets's calculations, between 3 July 1996
(the day Yeltsin was elected president of Russia for the second time) and
31 December 1997, the president spent about six (!) months on vacationing
or sick leave. The president spent his last planned vacation from 4 July
to 5 August last year at Shuyskaya Chupa and the "Volzhskiy utes"
The Independent (UK)
8 January 1998
[for personal use only]
Caspian oil soothes troubled waters for West
By Gayane Afrikian
Iran's gradual reopening to the world comes at a time when Tehran is
increasingly on the minds of Western policymakers.
Iran is assuming an increasingly central role in the Caspian region, and
given its huge energy resources, that has big implications for America,
Europe and Russia. New oil and gas links between the Caspian nations and
Iran are beginning to take shape, despite United States opposition.
Neighbouring Turkmenistan recently opened a modest but important
pipeline for transporting gas from the Turkmen Korpedzhe field to the
Iranian town of Kord Kuy. This signals a big shift in regional politics.
For the first time Moscow's former Central Asian colonies are bypassing
Russia when exporting energy products, while America turns a blind eye.
Washington has decided that an agreement to transport gas via Iran to
Turkey does not violate a 1996 sanctions act, and it has become clear
that the Caspian nations with their unlimited resources are not going to
abandon the Iranian option.
Given the ethnic conflicts and complicated regional politics which
dominate the Caspian region, Iran has naturally emerged as the most
reliable country for pumping out the area's vast oil and gas resources.
One consequence of Iran's active role in the region will be the Central
Asian republics' ability to pursue policies independent of Russia. At
present Transneft and Gazprom, Russia's oil pipeline monopoly and gas
monopoly respectively, have almost total control of the transportation
of resources from the region.
It is impossible for the Central Asian republics to make serious profits
as long as they are effectively dominated by Russia. Since last March,
Turkmenistan has refused to transport gas to Russia, Ukraine and some
other former Soviet republics because of a dispute over gas prices,
accumulated debt and transit fees.
The three proposed routes for transportation of Caspian oil backed by
the West all avoid Iran. But they are by no means trouble free. All
three pass through complicated Caucasian geography and territory which
is dogged by ethnic disputes.
Of biggest concern to oil executives is, however, the danger of
sabotage. For although the region is relatively quiet at the moment, the
countries' fragile democracies mean they cannot make any firm promises.
The US had hoped that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nato
ally Turkey would play a major role in the Turkic countries of Central
Asia. At the same time, Turkey dreamt of stretching a Turkic belt from
the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China. However, both plans failed.
In contrast, Iran has played a steady game of pragmatic diplomacy: it
has dropped its emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism and opted for more
traditional Iranian foreign and trade policy; throughout the conflict
between Shia Muslim Azeris and Christian Armenians Iran has maintained a
strong relationship with Armenia and is smoothing its relationship with
Azerbaijan by signing a trade and economic cooperation agreement; and it
has adopted a neutral position between Islamist guerrillas and
ex-communist rulers in Persian- speaking Tajikistan.
It has also signed agreements of mutual cooperation in economic, trade
and other areas with most of the republics of Central Asia and the
Russia Called Most Dangerous Country for Journalists
Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy
4 January 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Russia is currently the most dangerous country for journalists. Here
is Anton Dolin to tell you about the facts collected by Russian and
international organizations to corroborate this assessment:
[Begin recording] [Dolin] Since 1952, the International Federation of
Journalists has been issuing annual reviews of the work of the mass media
throughout the world. In the latest review, Russia has been declared the
most dangerous country for journalists for a second successive year. The
federation's figures show that eight of the 47 press staff killed in 1997
while carrying out their professional duties were Russian. Not wishing to
argue with these conclusions, Aleksey Simonov, chairman of the Russian
Foundation for the Protection of Glasnost, still believes the federation's
data is incomplete:
[Simonov] As for the figures, they can probably be different. So far,
we have not been able to prove conclusively that there were exactly eight
cases in 1997 when journalists were killed for motives to do with their
profession. We are continuing to question several prosecution services.
Their answers have been very vague. Some of the cases have indeed been
closed, but all this still requires a serious in-depth investigation.
[Dolin] According to the Foundation for the Protection of Glasnost, 14
Russian journalists were killed last year. This number does not include
the tragic case of the Rostov journalist Sergey Chekalin, who publicly
committed suicide to protest wage arrears.
As for cases of journalists being beaten up, at least 40 were recorded
in Russia last year, according to the Foundation for the Protection of
Glasnost. [end recording]
Christian Science Monitor
January 8, 1998
[for personal use only]
The Ruble Rises From The Rubble
By Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
MOSCOW -- For once, history didn't repeat itself for Ludmilla Kumerenka.
The middle-aged housewife, like many Russians, expected chaos,
catastrophe, and price rises when this year began with the issuing of
new ruble bank notes with three inflationary zeros lopped off.
But when she bought her Christmas chicken for Russia's Jan. 7
observation of the holiday, the fowl placed into her worn leather bag
cost the equivalent of $2.50, the same as before. The shopkeeper
accepted her old rubles without question.
To the relief of Mrs. Kumerenka and Russian central bankers, the issuing
of the new rubles - now worth 6 to the dollar instead of 6,000 - was
remarkable for its lack of drama. The first week of the exercise seemed
to achieve its main aim - to boost the morale of Russia's struggling
Unlike past currency revaluations, which wiped out people's life savings
in days, careful planning marked this latest stage in six years of
post-Soviet economic reforms.
Russia may not have turned the corner yet into a smoothly functioning
free market economy, but at least it seems to have taken another step in
the right direction.
"The most important task was to overcome the psychological barrier of
our people," Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told reporters earlier
"Ordinary people were punished by past reforms. This won't happen now,"
Mr. Chernomyrdin said.
So far he has been proved right, although economists note these are
early days and the operation was relatively simple in Russia's morass of
economic problems. These include the sluggish restructuring of
privatized companies, a fragile banking system, and crime syndicates
that, according to the government, control two-thirds of the economy.
To minimize confusion, media advertisements for months warned Russia's
150 million people of the change to come. The old notes will be accepted
alongside the new ones for another 12 months. The new rubles look only
slightly different from the old.
Newspapers have published two hot line numbers that consumers can call
to report greedy shopkeepers who have raised prices. Central Bank chief
Sergei Dubinin has declared they will be "punished like animals."
This is a far cry from the past, when redenomination spelled debacle. In
1991, Russians were given a mere three days to change their old notes
into new. People who missed the boat suddenly found their money
converted into useless scraps of paper. Panic accompanied another change
two years later, when hyperinflation made the newly issued money
This time, the hitches have been minor. Supermarket checkers tell of a
handful of customers who refused to accept change in the new notes. In
some provinces outside the capital, new rubles still had not arrived by
last Monday, the first working day of the year.
The reform was accompanied by positive nods from the International
Monetary Fund, despite the fact that it is withholding millions of
dollars in credits due to sluggish tax collection. The IMF lauded the
government's readiness to protect the ruble during the recent Asian
financial crisis. It also praised Russia's introduction of international
This year, economists expect Russia to post positive growth after seven
years of decline. And inflation has dropped to 11 percent from 131
percent two years ago.
That is where the good news stops, however.
Many Muscovites, particularly the elderly, who have known shortages and
long food lines for much of their lives, have expressed suspicion that
the new rubles would increase prices.
Their fears cannot be discounted, says economist Alexander Frenkel of
the Russian Academy of Sciences. He forecast in an editorial in the
independent Argumenti i Facti newspaper that the redenomination could
help double inflation. Other economists are concerned about the
widespread nonpayment of salaries.
Pensioners such as Nina Alexandrova, living on a $58 monthly handout,
don't have to read a recent World Bank report about the eroded standard
of living. She could afford only a bag of pita bread to celebrate
Life expectancy for men has plummeted - partly because of more
alcoholism, attributed to stress - to 58 years from 69 in 1990, and
infant mortality is rising.
Russia was one of the emerging markets that wary foreign investors ran
away from after the Asian market scare. The stock market here quickly
lost more than 40 percent of its value. Foreign confidence was hit
further late last year when the government's star economic reformer,
Anatoly Chubais, became embroiled in a financial scandal.
Mr. Chubais lost his post as finance minister. Many pundits predict he
will soon lose the deputy prime minister portfolio as well, which could
hurt confidence further.
It will take much to restore the confidence of Maria Morozova, an
elderly woman who is avoiding the new ruble. She relies instead on
barter and a hoarded pile of dollars.
"As far as I'm concerned, there is no security in the economy," she
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 190, Part I, 7 January 1998
AIDE HINTS YELTSIN STILL CONSIDERING THIRD TERM.
Appearing on Ekho Moskvy on 5 January, presidential legal
adviser Mikhail Krasnov said Yeltsin will decide whether to
run for re-election in 2000 only after the Constitutional
Court rules on whether he is legally entitled to seek a third
term. Last fall, the State Duma asked the court to rule on the
issue after several presidential aides hinted that Yeltsin may
run again. Krasnov's comments may be aimed at quelling
speculation about the president's health. Krasnov has
previously criticized the Duma's court appeal, saying it
reflects "unhealthy suspicion" on the part of the Duma and
even "contempt" toward Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31
October 1997). Anna Malysheva, the head of the
Constitutional Court's press service, told RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau on 6 January that the court has not set a date for
considering the Duma's appeal. LB
NEWSPAPER SAYS MANY DEBTS STILL OUTSTANDING.
"Novye izvestiya" charged on 6 January that triumphant
reports about the payment of wage arrears to state
employees are misleading because federal and regional
authorities still owe other massive debts to citizens. By way
of example, the newspaper cited non-payment of child
allowances and wage arrears owed to workers at private
enterprises that have not been paid for state orders. "Novye
izvestiya" is reportedly partly financed by former Security
Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. LB
OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CRITICIZES REDENOMINATION.
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 6 January argued that the
redenomination of the ruble, which took effect on 1 January,
will inevitably increase inflation and thereby hurt most
Russian citizens. The newspaper said that the money supply
will increase as old and new ruble bank notes are circulated
simultaneously. Government officials have denied that the
redenomination will be accompanied by an increase in the
money supply (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998).
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" questioned the need to remove three
zeroes from the ruble, noting that countries such as Italy
and Japan have never carried out a redenomination. It also
charged that issuing new ruble notes will facilitate
swindling, money laundering, and counterfeiting. It went on
to quote an article in the "Financial Times" that argued that
issuing new bank notes will not in itself make the ruble a
stable currency, since Russia's most pressing economic
problems remain. LB
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
7 January 1998
BRZEZINSKI CALLS ATTENTION TO REGIONAL COUNTERWEIGHTS TO RUSSIA. Interviewed
in yesterday's issue of Komsomolskaya pravda, Zbigniew Brzezinski described
Russia as a "third-world type regional power, though with a substantial
nuclear potential," still considering itself a superpower, but in fact "too
weak and too backward" to qualify for such status or for a partnership with
the U.S. Noting the "Russian political elite's illusions that Russia can
dominate the neighboring [CIS] countries," Brzezinski stressed that those
countries are "reacting with growing suspiciousness to Moscow's proposals
Brzezinski recommended that U.S. policy in the post-Soviet space should
focus on supporting the newly independent countries, with top priority given
to Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan. Ukraine, as distinct from Russia, is
inherently a part of Europe and indeed "an important factor in the formation
of the new Europe"; Azerbaijan "provides a corridor for Western access to
the Caspian basin"; and Uzbekistan "emerges as a major obstacle to a
restoration of Russian control over Central Asia," Brzezinski was quoted as
saying. (Russian agencies, January 6)