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8 January 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Jay Ulfelder: Re Bremmer/Khruscheva on flicks.
2. Interfax: Yeltsin To Deliver State Of The Nation Speech In
3. Intellectualcapital.com: Richard Pipes, The State of the
4. Izvestia: NEW YEAR STARTS WITH CHANGES.
5. Rossiiskiye Vesti: EX-STATE SECRETARY PONDERS PROGRESS
OF REFORMS. (Gennady BURBULIS).
6. RIA Novosti: VICTOR CHERNOMYRDIN ON 1997 RESULTS.
7. VOA: Michele Kelemen, MOSCOW/REAL ESTATE.
8. New York Times: Alessandra Stanley, Jails in Russia: The Crime
9. Moskovsky Komsomolets: RUSSIA'S HARD PRESSED MEDICAL
10. WP: DW, Russia Falls Short on Promise to Pay Back Wages.
11. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: FORMER SECURITY OFFICER DEFENDS
COMMENTS ON CHUBAIS, BANK WAR, and HARVEST UP IN 1997, BUT PROBLEMS
12. Interfax: Anpilov on Possible Restoration of Soviet Communist
13. Los Angeles Times editorial: The Hidden Horror of
From: Jay Ulfelder <Ulfelderjr@AOL.COM>
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 1998
Subject: Re: Bremmer/Khruscheva on flicks
The Russian/American dialogue over NATO expansion as "essentially
Are we talking about the same Russia and America I'm familiar with?
Perhaps more upsetting and egregious an error in this article, however,
characterization of "Dr. Strangelove" as an "anti-Soviet classic." Pardon me,
but that hilarious movie can only be understood as an anti-Cold War, anti-
nuclear, and anti-military-industrial complex satire. We never even see the
Soviets; we only see what the film portrays as the bungling idiots behind the
scenes of the U.S. military. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Maybe the folks writing these pieces spend less time on the catchy prose
little more time checking their facts (or watching their movies).
Yeltsin To Deliver State Of The Nation Speech In February
MOSCOW, Jan 8 (Interfax) - President *Boris Yeltsin* is expected to make
his annual state of the nation speech in the Federal Assembly in the second
half of February, government sources told Interfax.
The team of leading experts have been drafting it for several months and
almost completed it.
The message is believed to pay special attention to economic development
prospects. Observers do not rule out the possibility that along with
summing up certain results of transition to a free market economy Yeltsin
may announce innovations in the economic policy.
An expanded Cabinet session is to be held February 26 to discuss the
The State of the Russian Union
by Richard Pipes
January 8, 1998
Richard Pipes is a professor of history and has previously served as
director of Russian studies at Harvard University. He is also a
contributing editor of IntellectualCapital.com.
By and large, the Western media concentrates on bad news from Russia:
poverty, political instability and ethnic conflicts. Such negativism is
built into mass journalism, and it also affects the coverage of Western
But in the case of Russia, there is the additional factor that not a few
journalists and commentators in some measure sympathized with the old
communist regime -- if not for its actual performance then for its
professed ideals. The collapse of that government has upset them, and they
compensate for their disappointment by stressing that ever since Russia has
adopted democracy and capitalism, things in the country have been going
from bad to worse.
Recovery is underway
But have they? In assessing the state of Russia today, one must bear in
mind that the country endured unique cataclysms. Tens of millions of its
people perished in war, civil disturbances, government-sponsored massacres,
deportations, famines and epidemics. Among the victims were some of the
most enterprising, intelligent and courageous citizens, doomed because they
threatened the regime's monopoly on power.
Agriculture was devastated by forced collectivization and the peasantry
decimated. Industry developed in a lopsided manner because of
over-centralized management and the priority accorded to military hardware.
And last but not least, basic civic virtues -- such as the work ethic,
mutual trust and honesty -- were subverted by a culture that required
cunning and disregard for others as the price of survival.
This legacy, common to all ex-communist countries, weighs particularly
heavily on Russia because it suffered the longest. Hence, it is to be
expected that it will take Russia time -- possibly a generation, if not two
-- to overcome the burden of its past.
There are many indications that the process of recovery is underway.
To begin with, there is the economy. With Western help and oversight,
Russia has managed to stabilize its currency, the ruble, which, since
January 1, has had a value of six to the U.S. dollar. That puts the ruble
on par with the French franc. Inflation in Russia, meanwhile, is down to
about 1% a month, or half of what it was the previous year.
Fiscal stability is a prerequisite of economic growth, and it may
encourage wealthy Russians who have salted away billions of dollars in
foreign banks to repatriate their money and invest it at home. Foreign
investment in Russia still is lagging, due mainly to arbitrary taxation and
the absence of a viable legal system to protect private property, but
remedies are being considered. (Incidentally, the Russian stock market led
the international markets in 1997.)
Economic improvement also has reduced somewhat the crime rate, which,
according to the Russian Ministry of the Interior, is down 20% compared
with the year before.
Signs of political maturity
Very encouraging is the growing political maturity of Russia. The
country's parliament, the State Duma, in the past a forum for irresponsible
attacks on the executive, has settled down to business and shows itself
capable of compromises. Gone are the days when a buffoon like Vladimir
Zhirinovski could win a massive vote and when the communists seemed capable
of regaining power.
According to a public opinion survey released recently in Moscow, the
most popular politician in the country is Boris Nemtsov, a young,
attractive deputy prime minister who is favored by 23% of the voters. He is
followed by Iurii Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, with 14% and President
Boris Yeltsin with 11%.
Nemtsov and Yeltsin, of course, are reformers committed to keeping
Russia on the path of democracy and the free-market economy. Luzhkov's
politics are more difficult to define, for he combines populism with fierce
anti-Westernism, but he is no communist. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of
the communists, did not make it among the top three.
I do not mean to gloss over the many problems that remain in Russia. It
is depressing to learn that half of the population there lives below the
poverty level, that more Russians die each year than are born and that the
average life expectancy of a Russian male today is a mere 56 years of age.
But the country is moving forward -- moving to rejoin humankind after seven
decades of self-imposed isolation and utopian experimentation.
>From RIA Novosti
January 6, 1998
NEW YEAR STARTS WITH CHANGES
By Yuri NEVEZHIN, Stepan PAVLOVSKY
Maintaining the tradition, since January 1, 1998 the
Russian authorities are introducing a number of decrees,
resolutions and laws changing certain things in the country's
economy. Izvestia wants to remind its readers some of these
A new breakthrough is planned on the alcohol front.
Throughout Russia the production of alcoholic beverages
without state registration is prohibited. From now on all
alcohol products which are not in the lists of the Ministry of
Food and Agriculture become outlawed.
The introduction from February 1 of new import duties on
the traditional items of the shuttle business has come as a
surprise. Starting from February, the representatives of the
most massive business, the shuttle runners, will not be able
to pay a duty lower than the minimum imposed in the ecu at
bringing in bed linen and underclothes, leather articles,
gloves, scarves, blankets, curtains and so on. According to
the head of the tariffs department of the State Customs
Service, Andrei Kudryashov, the new decree affects precisely
those goods whose cheapness and availability has given so much
joy to home consumers and nice profits to the shuttlers. Their
import is accompanied, as noted by Andrei Kudryashov, by
appalling violations of the customs rules: expensive goods
cross the border under the disguise of cheap merchandise.
>From RIA Novosti
January 6, 1998
EX-STATE SECRETARY PONDERS PROGRESS OF REFORMS
Reforms have always been painful and slow in
Russia. The reform drive in the post-Soviet Russia
is no exception. The country and the majority of its
people still feel the bitter aftertaste of the
Society tends to blame the people now in power
for the flops of the reform drive, albeit many
problems are rooted in the first years of the new
Former state secretary and first deputy premier
when Boris Yeltsin headed the government in November
1991 and now an independent MP, Gennady BURBULIS had
a colossal influence on the nation's life.
The interview below is the first in a series of
talks with the first Russian reformers who will try
and provide honest answers to the difficult
questions: Why is our reform so painful? Have the
initial steps been faulty? and Do they feel
What we were doing in 1990-91 can be called the tiring
work of making forced decisions. We did not have the time for
a wholesome modernisation programme; the main objective was to
survive amid a shortage of resources.
In our work we proceeded from the understanding of what
could not be avoided. That was the modus operandi in 1991,
when the economic reform government was in the making. The
whole of the previous year the Russian government had been
marking time: the totalitarian economy was still strong and
the multi-levelled Soviet system of making decisions was still
But our policy cannot be described as that of patching
holes: it had a strategic dimension. We were aware that the
democratic transformations should change the principles of the
state order and build up the potentialities of the President's
power. We were aware that the new system was calling for novel
economic management techniques. Lastly, we were aware that the
destruction of the Communist ideology had generated the need
of new values.
Question: Were there practical achievements?
Answer: Whatever bad mistakes were made in that period,
we managed to avoid a catastrophic, destructive civil war on
the ruins of the Soviet dictatorship. We managed to avoid
famine and endless distribution of the ever diminishing
resources. We managed to keep the plurality of ideologies and
values within limits and to preclude surges of nationalism and
fascism and avoid a new ideological monopoly in the new system
of democratic values.
The Constitutional and legal foundation of state
management was successful, but the cost was high.
I think we managed to preserve the potentialities of the
new generation for whom competition and the freedom of choice
are natural. This generation will soon become a prop of the
Question: Were there failures?
Answer: We failed to preclude the dangerous and harmful
passion for reform dogmas: some objectives were not dovetailed
to the capacity of people to tackle them sensibly and with
interest; the importance of economic transformations
overshadowed their social implications; privatisation was
As a result, society split into a handful of the
super-rich and the huge majority who are still painfully
looking for a niche in the new economic system.
We failed to destroy the old state machinery and build a
new one. Hence the image of the Russian authorities: a hybrid
of heartless bureaucracy and nomenklatura corporate management
We failed to avoid the harmful confrontation between the
business, professional and intellectual elite and the
humanitarians. I regret to note that today's decision makers
are bitter opponents. As a result, society is lacking life
values which are crucial for its stability and internal
We failed to complete the construction of a political
system. As a result, there are political parties which are
essentially entities without deep social roots.
We failed to ensure high professionalism of the
authorities both in Moscow and in the provinces and to attain
a viable delineation of powers. The worst flop in this respect
is the obsolete system of the judiciary and law enforcement.
We failed to chart a clear and meaningful strategy of
foreign policy for the post-Soviet neighbours and the rest of
the world. In effect, Russia has for seven years been
vacillating and not always appreciating its long-term national
Question: An international conference of political
scientists was held in the fall of 1991 to discuss directions
in which Russia could develop. Authoritarian ways were said to
be ideal for the reform period. Why did you choose another
way? Do you think the economic reform drive could be easier in
an authoritarian state?
Answer: An authoritarian regime combines modern
objectives, e.g. market and democracy, and archaic ways of
attaining them. It means rigid discipline, strict control,
subordination from top to bottom, etc. In 1991, Russia did not
have the instruments for this kind of state management. We
have inherited a runaway economy whose management system was
in ruins. When the Communist ideology collapsed, the whole
totalitarian power system collapsed.
Question: Do you think the decision to effect
privatisation and to liberate prices was too hasty?
Answer: The desirable option of a staged movement, of
lacking which we are often accused, was no longer possible. Of
course, the price liberation should have been accompanied by a
tough control in pricing. There are quite a few methods to
preserve a degree of state regulation and harmonise the
interests of consumers and those of economic operators.
But back to the matter of authoritarianism. An
authoritarian regime was gradually in the making in Russia.
The lack of a stable political system or parties whose
programmatic aims and plans of action the people can
understand means there is a latent authoritarian regime. One
dangerous trend is to make key decisions centrally. On the one
hand, this centralism has been built into the Constitution,
and on the other hand, is tacitly approved by the politically
and socially handicapped society and political activists.
Question: Is there a regularity? One opinion is that the
former nomenklatura hold legit power and own property to
instil old ways in society...
Answer: I think there is some truth to it. Whatever our
opinion of the party nomenklatura may be, there is no avoiding
the fact that it had been recruiting bright people. Yes, many
of them soon changed colours in the new conditions and
realised their potential faster, better and more aggressively
than many others because they had access to various 'sources'.
But there are different people side by side with the career
nomenklatura, people who have learned the rules of the game.
The talk of the day is promote order in the authorities,
to strengthen Russian statehood. Importantly, these objectives
can only be attained by a new generation of managerial
personnel. There is a bad need of no-nonsense people in both
the authorities and politics.
Question: Do you think the financial and industrial
tycoons can force political leaders into the background?
Answer: No, I think they will have to support
professionals in politics because it is abundantly clear:
politics is a special vacation. Not every banker, however
successful he may be, can work efficiently in the government.
And not every smooth speaker can make strategic decisions and
see them implemented - even though his rating, popularity may
Question: Your forecast for 1998?
Answer: There will be a lot of no-nonsense people coming
Transcript by Olga BURKALEVA.
VICTOR CHERNOMYRDIN ON 1997 RESULTS
MOSCOW, JANUARY 8 (From RIA Novosti correspondent Regina
Lukashina) - A foundation for economic growth, as well as the
required pre-requisites, now exist. And this is seen as the most
important result of 1997.
This was stated here today by Russian Prime Minister Victor
Chernomyrdin, who opened the first session of the Russian
Government in 1998.
Chernomyrdin reminded that GDP levels have increased by 1.2
percent in December 1997 (on December 1996 levels), what with
industrial production soaring by 3.2 percent. The retail trade
turnover has increased by an impressive 3.9 percent. Annual
inflation has totalled 11 percent, plunging by 50 percent on
1996 levels. Real popular incomes have swelled by 2.5 percent.
And, what's particularly important, unemployment levels have
gone down by 5.7 percent, Chernomyrdin stressed.
It's very important that we have eliminated all wage
arrears, rendering substantial assistance to Russian regions in
this respect, Chernomyrdin went on to say. He also added that
more than 15 trillion roubles have been remitted to Russia's
regions during the last few days of December 1997. If we add up
regional transfers, then we shall see that the sum total has
reached about 17 trillion of "old" roubles, the Russian Premier
stressed. However, quite a few monies still have to reach
concrete recipients via the budgetary system's capillary
channels, he added.
Summing up the results of 1997, Chernomyrdin stressed that
the Russian rouble has remained stable in spite of the global
financial crisis. The re-denomination process is proceeding
calmly, without any "horror stories". This proves the
correctness of our strategy, Chernomyrdin noted, reminding that
the military reform is also in full swing.
Victor Chernomyrdin also noted that Russia's prestige
inside international financial institutions has been
strengthened considerably throughout 1997.
The Russian Federation's Government is now preparing a new
version of its economic-restructuring and economic-growth
program, which reflects top-priority tasks now facing the
Cabinet of Ministers, Russian Premier Victor Chernomyrdin told a
Cabinet session here today. The new version will be finalized by
mid-February, with the Government examining that document in the
course of its February 26 session that will be presided over by
President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation.
Summing up the results of 1997, Victor Chernomyrdin noted
the need for eliminating various weak spots in the Government's
performance, e.g. revenue shortfalls and inadequate budget
execution. We must also eliminate that state-investment fiasco,
Chernomyrdin went on to say, adding that a less impressive
foreign-trade surplus is seen as yet another drawback.
Victor Chernomyrdin told Government members that they
should be guided by more impressive economic-growth rates (well
in excess of projected rates) during their work. We've got to
outstrip global economic dynamics; otherwise it would be pretty
hard to expect any breakthrough here, Chernomyrdin stressed.
The world financial crisis has also affected the Russian
financial system. In this connection, we must revert to
pre-crisis GKO and refunding rates.
We must switch over to the treasury system (as regards the
federal budget's execution) already by July 1, Chernomyrdin told
those present. Annual inflation rates should total 5-8 percent.
According to the Russian Prime Minister, the Cabinet must work
hard to oust non-monetary payments and settlements, acting
promptly to scale down the volume of non-payments within the
Russian economy's framework.
Talking about economic restructuring, Victor Chernomyrdin
noted that the 1998 period will prove decisive for
energy-intensive sectors. In his words, the land reform must
reach its logical end throughout 1998. The entire insurance
system must also be overhauled this year. We've also got to beef
up the banking system, Chernomyrdin added.
In his opinion, pension and education reforms must also be
completed. Such reforms must be crowned with legislative acts;
this must be accomplished with the help of more convincing
arguments that the Government will voice before the State Duma's
The Premier also stated that the labor market has to become
more mobile and flexible throughout 1998. With this in mind, a
new labor legislation will be approved before the year is out.
Voice of America
INTRO: IMAGINE ROWS OF TOWNHOUSES, MANICURED LAWNS, TWO-CAR
GARAGES AND CHILDREN PLAYING OUTSIDE ON THE QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD
STREETS. YOU COULD IMAGINE BEING IN ANY AMERICAN SUBURB. BUT
THIS TIME, PICTURE IT IN THE HEART OF MOSCOW, RUSSIA'S CAPITAL.
AS V-O-A'S MICHELE KELEMEN REPORTS, THE AMERICAN-STYLE SUBURB IN
MOSCOW APPEARS TO BE A NEW DEVELOPMENT TREND.
TEXT: FOREIGN BUSINESS PEOPLE, DIPLOMATS AND A FEW WEALTHY
RUSSIANS ARE SIGNING UP ON WAITING LISTS TO RENT A TOWNHOUSE IN
ROSINKA, ONE OF SEVERAL MINI-SUBURBS IN MOSCOW. THE SMALL, GATED
COMMUNITY IS BECOMING A POPULAR ALTERNATIVE TO THE DRAB APARTMENT
BUILDINGS THAT COVER MUCH OF THIS VAST CITY.
WORK IS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY ON THE LATEST SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT --
A 140-MILLION DOLLAR PROJECT TO BUILD WHAT'S CALLED "POKROVKSY
HILLS." THE MARKETING DIRECTOR FOR THE DEVELOPMENT, JASON
WILLIAMS, CALLS THE PROJECT UNIQUE.
/// WILLIAMS ACT ///
THERE WERE SOME EARLY JOINT VENTURES IN THE EARLY
1990'S. THAT WAS A TIME PERIOD WHEN PEOPLE COULD GET
THE LAND FOR FREE TO DEVELOP IT AND THE CITY WOULD TAKE
A 50 PERCENT STAKE IN IT. BUT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT IS
UNIQUE ABOUT THIS PROJECT IS THAT THERE IS NO JOINT
VENTURE OF ANY SORT WITH A GOVERNMENT BODY.
/// END ACT ////
HIS COMPANY, TEXAS-BASED "HINES INTERNATIONAL," SECURED A 49-YEAR
LEASE WITH AN OPTION TO RENEW FOR ANOTHER 49 YEARS. THE PROJECT
IS FINANCED BY U-S PENSION FUNDS AND PRIVATE INVESTORS.
OFFICIALS SAY IT IS THE LARGEST LAND DEAL IN MOSCOW, TO DATE.
/// OPT /// BUT LIKE MANY BUSINESS DEALS IN RUSSIA, IT DID NOT
COME EASY. MR. WILLIAMS SAYS EVEN HAVING CLOSE RELATIONS WITH
THE POWERFUL MOSCOW CITY MAYOR, HINES INTERNATIONAL STILL FOUND
ITSELF MIRED IN BUREAUCRACY.
/// SECOND WILLIAMS ACT ///
THERE ARE ALWAYS PROBLEMS WITH UNCERTAINTY ABOUT LAND
REGISTRATION. THESE THINGS (LAND DEALS) ARE JUST
DEVELOPING AND JUST STARTING TO MATURE. IT MAKES LAND
ACQUISITION, DEVELOPMENT AND THE APPROVAL PROCESS A VERY
DIFFICULT TIME CONSUMING AND EXPENSIVE ONE IN TERMS OF
GETTING THE DOCUMENTATION TOGETHER AND GOING TO THE
RIGHT PLACE. THERE ARE SO MANY OVERLAPPING
JURISDICTIONS OR GROUPS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
SAME THINGS. THEY ARE STRUGGLING FOR POWER AS THIS
BUREAUCRATIC INFRASTRUCTURE IS STARTING TO BREAK UP.
/// END ACT ///
POLITICAL INSTABILITY HAS BEEN ANOTHER CAUSE OF CONCERN FOR
HOUSING DEVELOPERS IN RUSSIA. BUT MR. WILLIAMS SAYS HE BELIEVES
THE BIG INVESTMENT WILL PAY OFF. /// END OPT ///
IN AN EFFORT TO FIND BUYERS, HINES INTERNATIONAL DONATED ABOUT
SIX-AND-A-HALF MILLION DOLLARS IN LAND AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO
BUILD A NEW ANGLO-AMERICAN SCHOOL NEXT TO THE HOUSING
DEVELOPMENT. MR. WILLIAMS SAYS DEVELOPERS, UNDER PRESSURE FROM
CITY AUTHORITIES, ARE ALSO WORKING TO IMPROVE REGIONAL
FACILITIES, INCLUDING A NEARBY PARK.
/// THIRD WILLIAMS ACT ///
WE SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY IN TERMS OF BRINGING
UTILITIES NOT JUST OUT TO THE SITE BUT UPGRADING FOR
THE HOSPITALS THAT ARE NEAR THE PARK -- UPGRADING THEIR
UTILITIES AND ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS AND THE LIKE. WE
HAVE ALSO BEEN INVESTING INTO THE PARK -- HELPING
/// END ACT ////
THE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS WILL NOT CHANGE LIFE FOR THE VAST
MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS, WHO CAN NOT AFFORD TO BUY THE 500 TO
800-THOUSAND DOLLAR TOWNHOUSES IN POKROVSKY HILLS, OR RENT IN
ROSINKA FOR 78-TO-118-THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR. BUT, AS JASON
WILLIAMS POINTS OUT, HIS PROJECT IS A SIGN OF GROWING WESTERN
INVESTOR CONFIDENCE IN RUSSIA. IF THE TOWNHOUSES SELL AS QUICKLY
AS HE HOPES, THAT WILL BE SEEN BY MANY AS PROOF THAT FOREIGN
COMPANIES ARE INTERESTED IN STAYING IN THE RUSSIAN CAPITAL FOR
THE LONG TERM.
New York Times
January 8, 1998
[for personal use only]
Jails in Russia: The Crime of Punishment
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
MOSCOW -- Prisoners almost always swear they are not guilty. In Russian
pretrial detention centers, many inmates insist that they no longer care
about proving their innocence.
"At first, all I wanted was a fair trial," Pyotr Kuznetsov, 51, said in
a dank and stinking cell of Matrosskaya Tishina, one of Moscow's largest
and most infamous detention centers.
He said he had been arrested, and brutally beaten, for stealing less
than $5 and had already spent 10 months behind bars awaiting trial. His
lice-ridden 18th century cell, built for 30, currently warehouses more than
100 men. The inmates share beds, sleeping in three shifts.
"All I want now is to get out of here, even to a labor camp," Kuznetsov
said. "I've been in prison before, and it is not as bad as this."
The Russian penitentiary system competes with that in the United States
as one of the largest in the world -- each has a population of more than a
million inmates. And the Russian system is arguably one of the worst.
Prisons are underfinanced, overcrowded and alarmingly unsanitary.
Human rights abuses abound. Tuberculosis is spreading wildly. The
government has no reliable data, but estimates suggest that tuberculosis
rates in prisons are anywhere from 20 to 60 times as high as in the rest of
the population, which has a TB death rate 24 times that of the United
States. As many as 50 percent of Russian prisoners are believed to be
But perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the Russian penal system is
pretrial detention. Close to 300,000 people awaiting trial are now in jail.
There, a death sentence stalks people who have not yet been convicted of a
Unprotected from the TB epidemic and other infectious diseases, many
detainees end up spending two, three and even four years awaiting their day
in court in cells as packed as a rush-hour subway car.
"During my six years in Soviet prisons, I lived through many horrors,"
said Valery Abramkin, a former Soviet dissident who is now a prison reform
advocate. "I saw people suspended on iron hooks under their ribs. I saw
German shepherds eat living human flesh."
Those tortures, he said, were at least of short duration. Today, people
endure inhuman conditions for years. "It is certain that conditions in
normal jails were not this bad even under Stalin."
There is no money in the Russian budget to build new prisons or even
repair old ones, so efforts to creep closer to Western standards rarely go
beyond the paper they are printed on.
A law was passed last year increasing the amount of space to which a
prisoner is entitled from 27 square feet to 43 square feet. In the United
States, by comparison, prisoners are supposed to be allotted 80 square
feet. But the reality of places like Matrosskaya Tishina is that prisoners
fight over less than a square foot.
The Russian legal system is so tortuous that people can find themselves
detained for months or years even on minor charges. Prosecutors are legally
required to complete a criminal investigation within two years, but there
is no time limit for judges, who can keep a suspect waiting for trial
indefinitely. The average stay in detention is 10 months.
In the United States, where every state has a speedy-trial law -- New
York requires felony cases other than murder to be prosecuted within six
months, misdemeanors within 90 days -- the average detention is 74 days.
Most defendants get to trial within 45 days. And 65 percent of Americans
accused of felonies are released on bail.
In Soviet times, bail was dismissed as a capitalist folly. Today, bail
is legal, but it remains a novelty, granted to less than 2 percent of the
country's accused -- usually to mobsters who have ready cash and
connections to a compliant judge.
Russian courts operate on the European inquisitorial model rather than
the American adversarial system, putting an additional strain on overloaded
judges and narrowing the defendants' chances.
"Under our system, it is much harder to acquit than find a person
guilty," Sergei Pashin, a judge in a Moscow appeals court, explained. "Less
than 1 percent of all cases end in an acquittal, and that is because before
a judge can acquit, he must do a huge amount of work that is not done by
the police: requesting information, soliciting expert testimony, etc."
The fact that time served before trial is subtracted from convicted
prisoners' sentences can hardly be viewed as justice, Judge Pashin said.
"The predetention centers are a far worse punishment than any prison," he
said. Prisons and labor camps in Russia are grim, but they are not nearly
The judge added that often in the cases that come before him,
confessions are beaten out of suspects -- and even out of people rounded up
In a report on torture in Russia issued last year, Amnesty International
said that "torture and ill-treatment occur at all stages of detention and
imprisonment," but noted that it was most often reported in pretrial
"Its main purpose appears to be to intimidate detainees and obtain
confessions," the report said. Confessions, more than evidence, are a major
part of criminal investigations in Russia.
Inside Matrosskaya Tishina, where 5,000 prisoners are held in a prison
built for 2,000, lies a Dickensian world of filth, squalor and disease.
Inside fetid, windowless cells, prisoners are covered in lice.
Rats dart out of walls. Prisoners stretch out tin bowls through a tiny
opening in the door to receive bread and a gloopy gruel of kasha, or
buckwheat, that is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The exercise
yards are cement rooms in the attic, where prisoners can see the sky by
squinting through a webbed roof of barbed wire.
And directly outside the prison walls teems another closed circle of
misery. Parents and wives, who line up for hours and even days just to
deliver a packet of food or medicine to their locked-up relatives.
Alla Shangina, a mother whose son Dima, 21, spent more than three years
in Matrosskaya Tishina, was keeping the list of people lining up to deliver
Mrs. Shangina said her son was finally convicted three months earlier.
"He is still here because Dima has TB," she said, adding that he was being
treated in the prison hospital. He will probably be transferred to one of
Russia's 80 special prison camp used exclusively to house prisoners who are
known TB carriers.
"He and three other boys stole a car," she said bitterly. "It was quite
a joy ride: They got three years in here."
The only information for visitors comes by word of mouth, or from stacks
of prisoners' rights pamphlets sold for $1.50 by old women on the sidewalk.
These pamphlets, published by a prisoners' rights group, are obsolete --
printed before a 1996 revision of the criminal code -- and were supposed to
be handed out free.
Matrosskaya Tishina has its own tuberculosis hospital, where 700
infected detainees are being treated in a 220-bed ward. Vasily I.
Podpruzhnikov, Moscow's chief of corrections, said 70 detainees died in the
first nine months of 1996 -- more than half of them from TB.
"We put them in the hospital, and when they get better they go back to
the cells, and within three months they get sick again," he said. "What can
you expect with this humidity and overcrowding?"
He said his budget was cut by a third last year, and he expects more
cuts this year. Guards make less than $100 a month, and prisons are
seriously understaffed. Escapes are not uncommon. "Only the lazy don't
escape from here," he said with a weary smile.
Yuri Skuratov, Russia's chief prosecutor, toured the country's main
detention centers last spring and described himself as appalled by what he
had seen. He warned that unless "urgent measures" were taken, there could
be a "social explosion."
There was a rash of prison riots in 1992, which were harshly put down.
Since then, conditions have steadily worsened, but there have been few
"Inmates understand perfectly well that the prison authorities are not
responsible for their conditions," Yuri Aleksandrov, a prisoners' rights
activist for the nonprofit agency Novy Dom, said. "The whole criminal
justice system is to blame. It's a mentality that dates back to Stalin."
Russia, which won admission to the Council of Europe last year on the
condition that it reform its criminal justice system, agreed to abolish the
death penalty. This year, the government also pledged to transfer
jurisdiction over prisons from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry.
The intent is to increase the independence of the judiciary and give the
prison authorities some autonomy from law enforcement agencies, but few in
Russia expect the change to alter prison conditions.
"It may make a difference, but not for the zek," said Podpruzhnikov,
using the Russian slang for prisoner. "For the zek, nothing is going to
change anytime soon."
>From RIA Novosti
December 26, 1997
RUSSIA'S HARD PRESSED MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT
The nation's public-health establishment now employs 3.1
million people, including about 600,000 doctors and 1.5
million medium-grade medical workers.
The Russian Public Health Ministry's board met for its
session the other day, noting that there are 45.8 doctors and
112.7 medium-grade medical workers per every 10,000 of the
Russian population at this stage.
However, their break-down is rather uneven. Moscow, for
one, boasts more than 80 doctors per every 10,000 of its
population; meanwhile Kurgan Region has only 27.8 doctors. And
there are less than 10 doctors per every 10,000 of the
population in some far-away polar districts.
Russia's medical personnel keeps dwindling at a rate of
0.7 percent per year.
Moreover, 8.7 per cent of all rural hospitals and 17
percent of all rural outpatient clinics don't have any doctors
at all (sic!).
The Russian Public Health Ministry explains this dire
situation by the fact that the state-run job-placement program
for college graduates has been abolished since 1990.
At the same time, young doctors receiving training in
some new basic fields (such as medical psychology and clinical
chemistry) can't find jobs in some cases.
Eighty three top executives in charge of regional
public-health departments have changed hands in 89 constituent
members of the Russian Federation over the last five-year
period. Four such medical bosses have been replaced in Rostov
Region during that time, what with three bigwigs changing
hands in Voronezh, Novosibirsk and Murmansk regions each.
8 January 1998
[destroy after reading]
Russia Falls Short on Promise to Pay Back Wages
By Daniel Williams
MOSCOW, Jan. 7—With much fanfare last month, the government of President
Boris Yeltsin announced that millions of dollars in back wages were to be
paid to state employees by Jan. 1, fulfilling a promise made by Yeltsin
The fanfare subsided, New Year's Day passed, and much of the money
failed to reach many eager hands, according to newspapers and the
government's Tass news service. Teachers, doctors and nurses in Vladivostok
have flooded telephone lines demanding pay that is four months overdue. The
regional government in Sverdlovsk is dipping into state coffers to pay
indignant federal workers. On Tuesday, employees of an engine factory in
Yaroslavl went on strike to demand wages owed since October. Energy workers
in Krasnoyarsk threatened to do the same.
In the Ural Mountain area of Talitsa, wages have been paid only up
through last May and June. In some places, groceries were handed out as a
partial substitute for salaries. And state debts to private enterprises for
goods and services totaled almost $2 billion, government officials say.
"A new year has started. Time to make more debts," the newspaper Novye
Izvestia remarked sarcastically.
Failure in this area is not new -- and that's the problem. The Yeltsin
government repeatedly has built up wage arrears and then tried to clear
them with last-minute disbursements. In each instance, it has pledged to
pay wages on time only to let the backlog build up again.
This time, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov blamed "technical" problems
and slow provincial officials. "Just how long it will take for the money to
reach the people is up to each . . . local financial body," he said this week.
In the long run, these delays strengthen the government's reputation for
incompetence. Public opinion surveys give no Yeltsin government official a
high approval rating; Yeltsin's own ranking is consistently in single digits.
For the short term, the failure to pay everyone fully may mean trouble
for two members of Yeltsin's economic team: first deputy prime ministers
Boris Nemtsov and Anatoly Chubais, both prominent promoters of market
reform. Nemtsov urged Yeltsin to pledge to make back payments by Jan. 1,
while Chubais, although he argued against setting a firm date, nominally
was responsible for delivering the goods.
Chubais is already politically weak due to a scandal involving a
$450,000 advance paid to him and some associates for a book on
privatization, which has not been published. After the payment was
revealed, Yeltsin fired three Chubais proteges and stripped Chubais of his
Finance Ministry portfolio. He was replaced by Zadornov.
Just after Christmas, Yeltsin issued a veiled attack on his team of
young reformers. On the economy, Yeltsin said, "It is obvious to the
majority of people that there are few notable successes."
A few days later, Chubais defended himself, saying that the economy had
grown slightly in 1997 and would grow further this year. He dismissed
recurrent rumors of his ouster as "something absolutely natural, just like
rain or snow."
Chronic arrears stem from two problems. Many state-owned enterprises and
farms continue to rely on heavy government subsidies. These are businesses
that apparently no one has thought worth buying during the long
privatization campaign. The Kremlin is reluctant simply to shut them down,
but it is also chronically late in paying those who work there.
Russians survive these problems in part because many workers no longer
rely on their state wages for a living. They take other jobs, keeping the
old positions in name only or working reduced shifts. That, in turn,
reduces production further. Igor Birman, an economist, estimates that
Russian workers underestimate their true incomes by half or more -- meaning
the country is better off than statistics indicate but worse off as far as
getting people to declare incomes for tax purposes.
Both corporate and individual tax evasion in Russia is rampant. Cash
receipts to the government totaled only about half of what was due in 1997.
Zadornov said that the wage arrears paid at year's end came from the sudden
payment of overdue taxes by several major corporate tax evaders.
By the end of this week, the International Monetary Fund is scheduled to
decide whether Russia has made enough progress and pledges on tax
collection to qualify for a $700 million installment on a three-year, $10
billion loan. The installment was delayed last fall because lax tax
collection was aggravating Russia's budget deficit in violation of IMF
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 191, Part I, 8 January 1998
FORMER SECURITY OFFICER DEFENDS 'KOMPROMAT'...
Valerii Streletskii, the former head of the department on
high-level corruption in the Presidential Security Service
(SBP), has defended the practice of publishing compromising
information on high officials in the Russian press. Speaking
to the latest issue of the weekly "Argumenty i fakty,"
Streletskii said efforts by law enforcement agencies to curb
high-level corruption are routinely obstructed, leaving the
press as the "only means" of publicizing corruption cases. He
acknowledged that he taped a notorious June 1996
conversation between Anatolii Chubais and Viktor Ilyushin,
a transcript of which was published in November 1996. In
that conversation, Chubais and Ilyushin, who were at the
time advisers on Yeltsin's re-election campaign, discussed
ways to impede the investigation of two associates caught by
SBP officers carrying $538,000 in cash out of a government
building. That incident cost SBP head Aleksandr Korzhakov
his job in June 1996. The criminal investigation involving
those funds was closed in April 1997. LB
...COMMENTS ON CHUBAIS, BANK WAR. Streletskii, who
is considered close to Korzhakov and an opponent of First
Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, told "Argumenty i fakty"
that Chubais's current attempts to "restrain" powerful
Russian bankers are "useful for the country" and consistent
with the state's interests. However, he said that "like every
Bolshevik," Chubais created "with his own hands the system
that will destroy him." Streletskii said the rival financial
groups behind the current war of compromising information
in the Russian media "robbed the country but then fought
over property and started a fight for a place at the state
trough." Streletskii also said he is not afraid of being sued
for accusations made in his new book, which reportedly
accuses many high officials of corruption and even treason.
HARVEST UP IN 1997, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN.
Russia's grain harvest was 88.5 million metric tons in 1997,
up nearly 20 million metric tons from the previous year, dpa
reported on 5 January, citing Agriculture Ministry official
Anatolii Kolenko. The government is not importing grain and
is even seeking to export up to 10 million tons of grain.
However, Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun has said that
70 percent of Russian agricultural enterprises lost money in
1997 (compared with 80 percent the previous year). In
December, Deputy Agriculture Minister Vyacheslav
Chernoivanov estimated that some 12 million metric tons of
grain were lost in Russia in 1997 because farmers lacked
equipment to bring in the harvest, ITAR-TASS reported on
11 December. Chernoivanov warned that shortages of
tractors and harvesters will worsen in the coming years, as
equipment is overused and farmers do not have sufficient
funds for maintenance. LB
Anpilov on Possible Restoration of Soviet Communist Party
Moscow, Jan 4, (Interfax) -- A second stage of the congress of Soviet
communists will be held next November in an attempt to resume the
activities of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in all the former
USSR republics, Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the radical Russian Communist
Workers Party, has told Interfax.
At the start of the year which will see the 100th anniversary of the
Russian communist party he is confident that the future is with the party
because the conflict between labor and capital will continue.
While unemployment is as high as 20% in Sweden, the United States
lives off the other peoples, Anpilov said. "It is not accidental that
countries which do not want to be manure for the United States form an
anti-American front," he said.
There is no need for a communist party to have a large membership,
"We don't need a new revolution because the results of the previous
one have not been totally destroyed," he said. These are the railroad
network and the unified energy system, Anpilov explained. "What is needed
is only to remove an incompetent government whose course does not fit
Russia's needs," he said.
Also, "one cannot dispose of people who preserve the fruits of
socialism like Rem Vyakhirev, who did not allow to destroy the Gazprom
system," Anpilov said.
He did not think that the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the
Russian communist party will amount to more than a rally outside the Lenin
Museum in downtown Moscow."
On the other hand, "the next spring will see preparations for a
political strike while the summer will be politically hot," Anpilov said.
He plans to stage a replay of the 1997 "workers' march on Moscow."
Anpilov believes that 100,000 will take part and the march will be longer.
Los Angeles Times
January 6, 1998
The Hidden Horror of Lithuania
A shadow covers Lithuania. It was there a half-century ago and remains
today, darkening the prospect that the Baltic nation will soon win
acceptance in the European family. Since the horrid events of World War
II and postwar Soviet rule, Lithuania's society and government have
largely dissembled the existence of rabid anti-Semitism and killing
grounds on their soil. And many of those responsible still stand in the
In recent years, says a Times report, six elderly Lithuanian men,
their Holocaust crimes finally uncovered by U.S. Justice Department
investigators, have left long exile in America and returned to their
homeland. These are men accused of working with Nazi death squads in the
war, killing their own countrymen, taking part in a pogrom that killed
an estimated 220,000 Jews. None have been tried, two have died. The
former head of the Justice Department unit that tracked them down says
Lithuanian authorities are awaiting the "biological solution," that the
deaths of the rest will close this chapter of Lithuanian history.
That's unacceptable. If Lithuania, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia
and Estonia, expects some day to be accepted into the European Union and
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the crimes of World War II must
be addressed. Men like Aleksandras Lileikis, now 90, wartime head of the
Vilnius security police, should answer for their crimes. Their victims
died in violence. These old men should not be allowed to slip away in