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Johnson's Russia List


March 8, 1998  
This Date's Issues:    2097   2098

Johnson's Russia List
8 March 1998

[Note from David Johnson:

3. AP: Greg Myre, Russians Taught Ways of Capitalism.
4. Moscow Times:Yelena Kochkina with Louise Grogan, Stop, Smell 
the Flowers. (Russian women).

5. Moscow Times: WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: March 8 Time to Reflect on 
Women's Prospects.

6. the eXile: Press Review by Abram Kalashnikov. Hack Infidelity.
7. Reuters: Russian PM's TV spot may signal presidential bid.
8. Reuters: Russian crime groups growing threat to West-expert.]


MESHKOV/-- Russia 'must be a world power,' and this is not the
end in itself, but a natural desire in the multi-polar world.
This was stated by Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov at
a meeting with young diplomats Friday.
Russia's foreign policy is democratic, noted the minister.
>From his words, acting withing the frameworks and by
instructions of Russia's leadership, the Russian foreign
ministry 'is not held in leash' therewith. "We are independent
in our actions, and we have what to be proud of," said Primakov.
The minister emphasised that during 1997 and earlier 1998 the
most important achievements made by Russian diplomacy were a
conclusion of Russia-Nato Founding Act and a peaceful settlement
of the Iraqi crisis.


6 March 1998 Prism - Vol.IV, No.5, Part 2 (of 4)

By David Satter
David Satter is a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and visiting
scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced
International Studies. He is the author of Age of Delirium: The Decline and
Fall of the Soviet Union (Knopf). This article is being reprinted with the
permission of the Jewish Forward.

As the Senate prepares to vote on the issue of NATO expansion, the key to
whether such expansion is warranted lies in the history of Russia's behavior
over the last six years on the territory of the former Soviet Union. 
There is nearly unanimous support in the West for NATO membership should
the countries of Eastern Europe be threatened by Russia but it is frequently
argued that no such threat exists. The record of Russia's actions in the
former Soviet Union, however, strongly suggests that a threat to Eastern
European stability does exist which could become a great deal more serious
if Russia gains strength. 
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Army has deteriorated
dramatically as a disciplined, fighting force. Nonetheless, Russia has been
involved in three sanguinary wars, each of which it helped to initiate. The
total deaths from these conflicts is believed to exceed 200,000 -- the
number of persons killed in Bosnia. 
Russia's reliance on force in the former Soviet space was evident both in
the countries of the "near abroad" and within the borders of the Russian
In the case of the wars in the former Soviet republics, Russia armed
proxies to advance its strategic interests. The first and most blatant
example of this tendency was the war in Abkhazia, an autonomous republic of
The breakup of the Soviet Union deprived Russia of deep water harbors on
the Black Sea coast. Such ports, however, existed in Georgia. In the summer
of 1992, Abkhazia, the northwest corner of Georgia, was visited by Russian
defense and intelligence officials. A short time later, the Abkhazians
declared their independence. When Georgian troops tried to crush the revolt,
they were defeated by an "Abkhazian" army which appeared out of nowhere and
whose ranks were filled with mercenaries recruited by Russian intelligence.
This army soon controlled almost all of Western Georgia. Facing military
defeat, the Georgian government agreed to lease its Black Sea ports to
Russia. In the meantime, the Abkhazians engaged in "ethnic cleansing,"
leaving the Abkhazians as the largest group in the republic.
Today, the Russian Coast Guard patrols Georgian waters. There are Russian
"peacekeepers" stationed between Georgia and Abkhazia who have taken few
steps either to repatriate Georgian refugees or to help end the conflict.
There are also 15,000 Russian troops stationed at military bases in Georgia
and Russian border guards patrol Georgia's southern border with Turkey.
The Georgians resent the Russian presence but the Russians are blind to
their wishes. "They don't respect our interests because they don't feel we
are a sovereign state," as Alec Rondeli, an analyst in the Georgian Foreign
Ministry, put it in an interview recently.
Another example of Russia's readiness to interfere in the domestic affairs
of independent states was provided by the civil war in Tajikistan.
In the fall of 1992, Rakhmon Nabiev, the pro-Russian former Communist
leader and president of the republic, was forced out by social unrest and
power was taken by a coalition of Islamic and democratic parties. Tajikistan
was visited by Russian officials and, a short time later, a new "democratic
opposition" to the coalition government appeared and began to be supplied
with huge amounts of weapons from Russian army depots in the republic.
Russia's 201st division, which had been trapped in Tajikistan because of a
lack of funds to evacuate it, entered the war, fighting on the side of the
The Russian-backed former Communists regained power but there was no end to
the fighting. The Islamic side fought on from bases in Afghanistan. The
result was five years of bitter civil war which ended only on June 27, when
the two sides finally reached an agreement on power sharing, in effect,
returning to the Islamic side the power it lost in 1992.
The agreement, however, is not expected to last. Igor Rotar reported in the
July 11, 1997 issue of Prism that the situation was similar to that in
Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Both the government
and the Islamic forces were split and each of the competing groups was
determined to seize power at any price.
In the cases of both Georgia and Tajikistan, Russia made no effort to reach
agreement with the legitimate governments but preferred to advance its
strategic interests by force. Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of
Russia's reliance on force, however, took place on the territory of the
Russian Federation in the war in Chechnya.
Chechnya declared its independence in 1991 and, for three years, Russia
made no move to end its de facto independence. In the summer of 1994,
however, it became apparent that Azerbaijan was going to sign an agreement
with Western oil companies to exploit its huge oil reserves on the Caspian
Sea shelf. Oil could be moved either through a future pipeline traversing
Georgia and Turkey or through the existing Russian pipeline which went
through Chechnya. For the latter to be usable, however, Russia had to
control Chechnya.
In the fall of 1994, following visits to Chechnya by Russian defense and
intelligence officials, centers of armed opposition appeared in Chechnya
which quickly were provided with heavy equipment and armor from nearby army
bases. On November 26, the opposition stormed Grozny, the Chechen capital.
When the attack was repulsed, the Russian authorities decided to crush the
separatist regime, using Russian troops instead. In the war that followed,
80,000 persons were killed, the economy of Russia was damaged, and that of
Chechnya virtually destroyed.
Had Russia been a less impoverished country, it almost certainly would have
pounded Chechnya into submission. As it was, faced with determined Chechen
resistance, the Russian leadership agreed to withdraw Russian troops and
Chechnya, which celebrated the sixth anniversary of its declaration of
independence with a military parade through its capital, appears well on its
way to securing for itself many of the attributes of an independent state.
The situation in the former Soviet space is now relatively quiet. In the
case of Russia's wars in the "near abroad" and the war in Chechnya, however,
the map of the region was determined not by considerations of justice but by
the rule of force. This is an important fact to bear in mind in evaluating
the wisdom of expanding NATO. 
Russia is militarily weak at the moment but its weakness is not necessarily
permanent. Russia still has the largest army in Europe and, despite a
drastic fall in industrial production, its military factories are turning
out a new series of nuclear submarines, a new, mobile strategic missile
system, and a MiG fighter which, according to experts, is equal to the
French Mirage-2000 fighter and slightly outperforms the American F-16.
In the circumstances, Russia remains a formidable power and the history of
Russia's behavior in the former Soviet space during the last six years gives
no reason to believe that Russia is committed to permanent non-interference
in Eastern Europe, a region it has always viewed as its rightful sphere of
This is why NATO expansion is important. It would deprive Russia of the
temptation to indulge one day in the kind of behavior in Eastern Europe that
has led to senseless bloodbaths in Georgia, Tajikistan and Chechnya.
And, although the point is not made often enough, NATO membership for
Eastern Europe would be in the best interests of Russia itself. 
By forcing Russia to confront the futility of imperialist behavior, NATO
expansion will encourage the forces inside Russia which stand for moderation
and realism. At the same time, it will a foster respect for the rights of
small nations which can only encourage respect for rights generally. The net
result will be not only to protect the potential victims of aggression but
to make a contribution to Russia's future as a democracy as well.


Russians Taught Ways of Capitalism
7 March 1998

MOSCOW (AP) - Dawn's first light is an hour away, but Mikhail Radul and 100
colleagues are already in full sweat after their daily run across a snow-
covered field.
Stripping down to his green underpants, Radul stands ankle-deep in fresh snow
and pours a bucket of cold water over his head, sending wisps of steam rising
from his pink skin.
``It's the best part of the day,'' he claims.
Radul and his buddies are not hapless army conscripts or members of a
fanatical exercise cult. This is a business school, Russian style.
New Business Technologies is a no-nonsense training ground created by
Dovgan, 33, a multimillionaire and evangelical capitalist whose relentless
self-promotion has made him one of Russia's best-known entrepreneurs.
A bear of a man who seems to run on pure adrenaline, Dovgan made a fast
fortune with a very simple idea: selling his face and name to manufacturers as
a guarantee of their products' quality.
Many consumers feel products he endorses are good and reliable, so many are
willing to pay extra to buy items with the Dovgan seal of approval. He's a
fixture on more than 200 products on supermarket shelves across Russia, where
you can buy Dovgan toothpaste and pasta, shampoo and sausages, tea and vodka -
none of it actually made by his company.
His firm, Dovgan Product Quality Corp., says it had $400 million in revenue
last year. Yet Dovgan felt his weekly television show, his promotional videos
and his autobiography were not enough to spread his message on how to succeed
in business.
He decided he needed a school.
``When I started my business career in 1990, you couldn't find a single book
on advertising or marketing in the Soviet Union,'' said Dovgan, a man so
energetic he can't remain in his chair for more than a few minutes. ``This
country has never had proper managers, and I decided the only way to develop
them was to build my own school and teach these skills.''
New Business Technologies, which opened in November, preaches hard work and
discipline around the clock. The 101 students, all men ages 17 to 22, live in
tightly supervised dorms, adhere to a strict schedule and are in coat and tie
by the time they hit the cafeteria for breakfast.
There are no women because school officials contend the physical aspects like
jogging are too difficult for them.
In the five-year program, the students never will be required to open a dry,
Soviet tome on socialist economics. In their first semester, the essential
reading includes the autobiography of Lee Iacocca, the brash American car
executive, and ``The Alchemy of Finance'' by billionaire investor George
After classes, students focus on practical projects, such as canvassing food
stores to conduct market research on Russian buying habits.
Dovgan had no trouble finding eager recruits for his school, which he
out of his own pocket and which charges no tuition.
With jobs scarce everywhere, particularly outside cities, young Russians have
been hit hard by the country's transformation to free markets just like
everyone else.
But the flip side of the upheaval is that young people also have been the
nimble in adapting to the market economy. Many of Russia's most innovative
companies are led by executives in their 30s, or even their 20s. Youth and
energy tend to count for more than experience.
Back in the Soviet era, bright university students gravitated toward subjects
including literature, science and engineering. When they graduated, the reward
was a secure, if uninspiring, government or teaching post.
Today, they want to study economics, master computers and learn English. They
plan to start their own businesses, or perhaps join a multinational company
doing business in Russia.
A recent survey reflected the spirit of the times.
When 1,000 high school seniors were asked what they wanted to be, the top
three responses were accountant, economist and banker. Teacher, doctor and
civil servant fared poorly, and only one person aspired to be a cosmonaut, the
glamour job in Soviet days.
In establishing his school, Dovgan and his associates interviewed
thousands of
candidates around the country, picking those who appeared to have exceptional
drive even if they didn't have the best grades.
``I looked for people who wake up in the morning and can't wait to go to
work,'' he said. ``I want people who would rather die than take a day off and
sit around idly.''
Dovgan's school rents space from the much larger Moscow Economic Statistical
Institute, a traditional school dating to Soviet times. In that part of the
school, young men and women in blue jeans and sneakers hang out in the
lounges, smoking, drinking coffee and flirting.
Dovgan's crewcut students attend separate classes and are effectively
segregated from the others. They always look as if they're late for an
important meeting.
``It was difficult to adjust at first,'' said Alexander Aichgorn, 17. But
he clenched his fist and said, ``We shall overcome.''


For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at

Moscow Times
March 7, 1998 
Stop, Smell the Flowers 
By Yelena Kochkina with Louise Grogan 
Yelena Kochkina is the director of the Gender Expertise Project of the 
Moscow Center for Gender Studies. Louise Grogan is a labor economist 
with the Tinbergen Institute, Amsterdam. They contributed this comment 
to The Moscow Times. 

Does International Women's Day exist in Russia? Or was it tossed out 
with communism?" the American feminist Jo Freeman asked me last week. 
The question is one that asks both how the Russian state sees women and 
about the existence of a Russian feminist movement. 
Russian women have a long and controversial history of celebrating 
Women's Day that was not taught in Soviet textbooks. According to the 
Global Faxnet of the International Women's Tribune Center, the first 
Russian celebration of Women's Day took place on the last day of 
February, 1913, as part of the peace movement against the coming world 
war. In early 1917, after 2 million Russian soldiers had died in the 
war, Russian women led a strike against the tsarist government. Their 
theme was "Bread and Peace." Four days after the strike, Tsar Nicholas 
II abdicated. 
On March 8, 1917, Russian women gained the right to vote. The women's 
strike played a part in the outcome of the February Revolution, and 
voting rights were gained before the victory of Bolshevism. But the 
authorities kept this hidden from the public for many years and put 
forward the myth that gender issues, such as equality between the sexes, 
were settled only in the wake of the October Revolution. 
This lack of historical memory is only one example of how both Soviet 
and Russian official ideology marginalized the political role of women. 
March 8 is now a cultural reminder to Russian women that their value to 
society comes from femininity. In Russia, Women's Day is a feminine, but 
not feminist, holiday. I believe it is very important to make people 
aware of the political beginnings of Women's Day. 
It is not that I am rejecting flowers. I remember falling in love at age 
6 with the first boy who brought me flowers on this date. Only once did 
flowers not arrive -- when I was visiting England to write "A Feminist 
Challenge to Political Science." For me it was as though spring had not 
sprung. I was astonished that, to English men and women, March 8 was 
just another day. Certainly, nobody in England seemed to be celebrating 
Last March, a survey carried out by several social researchers and 
activists from the Inter-Regional Association of Independent Women's 
Initiatives attempted to gauge the level of awareness about the 
historical significance of March 8. None of the 40 people interviewed on 
the Arbat could cite how International Women's Day began. Respondents 
described March 8 as a day of joy, spring, love and gifts. The male 
respondents all said they gave gifts, and the female respondents all 
said they expected gifts on this day. As one woman put it, "Women need 
at least one day of warmth and tenderness per year." 
An elderly respondent in the survey lamented that March 8 is now a 
national holiday. Before Women's Day was made an official holiday in the 
1970s, it was celebrated informally at work with colleagues, and the 
workday was shortened. Men honored women, and after lunch women went to 
a restaurant to celebrate together. The respondent was nostalgic about 
these collective women's celebrations. Whereas the celebration 
previously had been focused on working women, the state decision to make 
the day a national holiday shifted the emphasis toward women's role in 
the family. 
Labor economists estimate that in 1989 women were paid 30 percent less 
than men with the same level of skill and work experience. Although 
women were completely integrated into the Soviet work force, this did 
not lessen their share of traditional domestic responsibilities. The 
position of working women with children has deteriorated in the 
transition period. Women workers are now more likely than their male 
colleagues to be sent on forced, unpaid leave. The closing down or 
privatization of kindergartens has made it increasingly difficult to 
combine work and motherhood. 
Reproductive rights in the Soviet Union consisted basically of a choice 
between having babies or abortions. While I see abortion as a 
reproductive right, the health consequences of an average of five 
abortions per Russian woman should not be neglected. Reproductive rights 
have not increased in the post-Soviet period: The abortion rate is the 
same as before, and there are still no Russian producers of the pill or 
Russian women's organizations are organizing conferences and publishing 
educational newsletters. They will join in International Women's Day 
campaigns to support the women of Afghanistan living under the Taliban 
regime, and to petition reallocating 5 percent of world's military 
expenditures to education and health care. 
Although such activities signal the development of a new Russian women's 
identity, they have been cast in a negative light by the Russian media. 
Widely supported protests such as the ones organized by the Soldiers' 
Mothers Committee have been publicized, in part, because they 
corresponded to traditional images of the bond between mother and child. 
Feminist political messages are rarely carried by the news media. 
But March 8 has been highly political from the start, in the sense that 
the Soviet state used it to show women that they are valued for their 
femininity. Feminists should now reconstruct the original gender 
politics of this date. I believe that March 8 can be used to promote 
cultural changes for the advancement of women. A first step would be to 
get the political message out to women that their rights can be defended 
against backlash. One spring day will not improve the status of Russian 
women, but it may sow the seeds of a new female consciousness. 


Moscow Times
March 7, 1998 
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: March 8 Time to Reflect on Women's Prospects 

Galina Starovoitova 
State Duma Deputy 
Obshchaya Gazeta, March 5-11 
Losing on 2 Fronts 

If you are a woman and, having overcome the demureness that has been 
inculcated in you since childhood, you run for political office, win and 
become a member of the Russian parliament, what first awaits you is 
learning how not to react to the behavior of certain of your male 
colleagues. Otherwise, you can forget right away about making good on 
the promises to your constituency in your lifetime. 
The entire world remembers the shameful scene of [the extremist Liberal 
Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky] roughing up and pulling 
the hair of a woman deputy from Yaroslavl (who is, by the way, a mother 
of three children). 
But there are more "vegetarian" situations, in which famous, and 
sometimes entirely respectable people, have participated. They are, as a 
rule, simple-hearted in their ignorance. 
The last Russian speakers of parliament, although in various forms, have 
not missed the opportunity to practice on "women's" themes. When the 
leader of the Women of Russia faction Yelena Lakhova used what, frankly, 
are not exactly parliamentary metaphors and announced that Zhirinovsky 
"powders the brains of the whole country and the State Duma as well," 
the highly diplomatic Ivan Rybkin immediately reacted by saying: "I ask 
you, let's leave cosmetics questions aside." Gennady Seleznyov 
apparently has an even deeper sense of the superiority of his sex and 
the responsibilities that are tied to it. If the democrat Starovoitova 
says something, and the Communist Astrakhankina starts to object, he, 
not paying the least attention to the meaning of the polemic, announces 
right away that the floor should be given to some man, "so as not to 
allow skirmishes between women." 
Based on my own experience of participating in elections, I can affirm 
that there is no massive "anti-women" mood among voters. Even during the 
past few years, despite the propagandistic idea of women being the 
inferior part of humanity that has been openly put forward from the 
parliamentary tribunal by the newly arisen pro-fascist faction, the 
population continues to trust women politicians. 
The expectations that are tied to women have been particularly 
strengthened after the war in Chechnya and general dehumanization of 
Russian politicians. We hope that a number of Russian women approaching 
200 will recognize more clearly their interests. And it is in their 
interests to have influence on power and on the decision-making process 
and to participate in power -- and not be too shy to strive for it. To 
have power means to control the future. Our future, and the future of 
the children to whom we, women, have given life. 

Olga Zdravomyslova 
Art of Gift-Giving 

After receiving the first results of our research into Russian families 
in 1992, we immediately drew attention to an interesting detail: Women 
who responded to our surveys divided themselves into two unequal groups: 
for some (89 percent) the center of life and main interest was the 
family; the rest (11 percent) tended to give their preference to a 
profession. (The research was carried out in five cities in the European 
part of Russia. Eight hundred respondents were polled.) At the same 
time, all the women belonged to the "basic" type of person of the Soviet 
period -- to the working wife and mother type. 
The combination of roles, however, did not work out. Finding themselves 
burdened by a "double occupation," women lost out on both fronts. They 
lost on the family front, where their influence, according to both men 
and women respondents, remained almost absolute but gave little joy and 
satisfaction. They also lost on the professional front, where, even if 
they had a higher education and big ambitions, their prospects in the 
eyes of society were deliberately fewer than for men with the same 
education and professional experience. 
There is no reason to be surprised, then, that in 1992, when a 
re-evaluation of values was going at full speed, a third of our 
respondents clearly expressed the wish to quit working altogether and 
become housewives, and 6 percent of women said they wanted to make a 
career even if this meant they had to give up the interests of the 
family. From society's point of view, the first option was preferable, 
which seemed to be a rebirth of the traditions that were lost during 
Soviet times. But it rather soon became clear that a family with a 
husband-provider capable of meeting constantly rising standards of life 
was in the minority and would most likely stay in the minority. At the 
same time, returning to the "basic" Soviet option was hardly possible: 
This option had been exhausted psychologically, culturally and 
The "typical" notion of people in our investigation was that the world, 
like a 19th-century gentry estate, was divided into two halves. In one 
of them, men are occupied with serious matters: the fight for power; for 
victory in a competitive fight; providing for the family; and earning 
money. In the other quiet half live women, who raise children, placate 
their husbands, support them, tend toward compromise and wisely forgive 
their husbands for their weaknesses. (This is just about the way, in the 
Russian world view, a "real woman" looks.) According to these notions, 
it is as if life, social strata, the system of social values and a 
"woman's place" have remained essentially unchanged. 

Argumenty i Fakty, No. 10, March 

"What will happen on this most womanly of days? March 8. Everything as 
usual: I'll get up at 6, feed the cattle, fetch water. Gifts? Maybe 
Stepan will offer me something," said Vera Ilyinichna, who was selling 
onions on Ryazanskoye Shosse, not far from the village of Lukhovits. 
Among the 20 women we questioned in the countryside, only four, albeit 
rarely, received flowers, the tradition sign of attention for women city 
dwellers. But almost everyone receives gifts. Most often, it is "Soviet" 
perfume or a head scarf and more rarely something for the household. 
Rural men live to give their loved ones sanitary napkins. But the women 
don't rush to use them for their usual purpose. With an average monthly 
salary of 500 rubles ($83), they are not used to such luxuries. 
But, strangely enough, the rural women dwellers complained in their 
conversations not about their heavy physical work or the lack of living 
conveniences or even their boring lives. They all, in one voice, 
lamented that urban dwellers no longer needed their labor and prefer 
buying imported products. 
Today 21 million women and 19 million men live in the Russian 
countryside. This is 27 percent of the population of the entire country. 
On the eve of March 8 we decided to make up a preholiday users' manual: 
What concretely can one buy as a gift and for how much? The prices are 
in newly denominated rubles and rounded off to take account of the 
various regions of Russia. 
If you have 5 to 50 rubles in your pocket, bravely go to the wholesale 
market. For 5 rubles, buy two pairs of simple nylon stockings of any 
color, simple underpants (from India), or two pieces of domestic gift 
soap. ... 
If you have at your disposal a bank account starting at $10,000, it is 
better to make your purchases in major cities. There you can price mink 
coats from designer collections ($12,000). ... The choice of precious 
jewels is unlimited, especially if it is Cartier and other world jewelry 
leaders. When you buy, keep one subtlety in mind: If the diamond is 
below 1 karat, such a purchase is not considered a valuable investment 
of money. 


the eXile
February 26, 1998
Press Review
By Abram Kalashnikov
Hack Infidelity 

Newspaper readers are like newlywed wives. For a long time, they don't
know to look for lipstick stains or the scent of perfume when the husband
comes home. They don't know to wonder whether headlines, like the words, "I
have to work late," mean what they say. When they pick up a newspaper, they
just don't know what the telltale signs of literary infidelity are.
We journalists, on the other hand, are like wives fifteen years down the
road. We don't even see the actual husband when he comes home. When we pick
up a newspaper, all we register is the shade of the lipstick and the
magnitude of the lie. And from experience, we know that there's no sense in
hoping that it isn't there, because it always is-if you look hard enough.
What follows is a guide to where to look for lipstick smudges, fugitive
strands of blond hair, and even darkened crotch stains on the anatomy of
your average Russia-based news article. Now, when a hack walks off the page
and into your home, you should know exactly how to catch him in a lie- so
long as you pay attention to:
1) Quotes attributed to "ordinary" Russians who have names like Ivanov and
A few years ago an unusually obnoxious reporter for an aspiring
"paper-of-record" expat newspaper quoted an Ivanov, a Petrov, and a Sidorov,
all in the same article. All three quotes were clearly fabricated, but the
article went through anyway.
How do fabricated quotes get into print? It's really simple. Let's say
you're Maura Reynolds of the Associated Press, on assignment in Irkutsk to
do a cutting-edge "Times Have Changed Since Communism Piece." You've already
written this same article 934 times in different geographical surroundings,
so you know exactly what material you need to write it. The potato-farming
engineer angle has been done too many times, so you choose the
regular-guy-fishing-to-feed-his-family angle, which has the added benefit of
having been done by distinguished figures like David Filipov of the Boston
Globe and Michael Specter of the New York Times this past season. So you go
out in the morning after your expense-account breakfast, spot some guy who's
actually fishing nearby, stand 100 yards away, and let the following
narrative take shape in your head:
"The winter dawn comes swiftly in Siberia. By the time a vague yellow
glow appears behind the clouds, Leonid Ivanov is already knee-deep in the river.
"He stands near shore in a black sheepskin coat and green waders, casting
slowly for arctic trout. He is the only point of color against the vast
whiteness of the shore, the sky and the steam that rises in sheets from the
swift-running water.
"Gently, he dips his 30-foot fishing rod toward where the current runs
faster, his lure seeking the prey that provides his margin of survival.
'I come here every day,' he says. 'There's no work, so I come here.'"
Folks, people just don't talk like that. Imagine how ridiculous an
article by a Russian reporter about American kids would read if it included
a passage like this:
"3 p.m. comes swiftly after a day of non-learning in America's ravaged
school system. By the time the microwave oven finishes heating his yellowing
bread-and-processed cheese sandwich, Johnny Smith is already on his knees in
front of his 30-inch television.
"'I come here every day,' he says. 'I have no life, so I come here.'"
One should always suspect an "Ivanov" quote-most reporters aren't that
creative in making up quote names-but when "Ivanov" starts saying things
that sound like they were clipped from the story proposal the reporter
probably sent to his editor in New York or London weeks before-like the
quote the reporter needs to have to make his lead work- you know the quote
is a phony. Michael Specter of the New York Times is the all-time master at
phony quotes. A sample from his recent ice-fishing story:
"Asked if he thought it was a rather extreme way of getting to know
himself, Shubov [did Specter think up the name while looking at someone's
fur coat?] laughed.
"'This is how Russians relax,' he said. 'Who said it's supposed to be
Could any of you Westerners imagine talking the same way to a Russian
reporter? No, of course not. But Specter's editors don't care-they let
through a lot of other things, including:
2) The word "seems" in rhetorical declarations:
Let's just say that you're rookie New York Times reporter Maria Lakhman.
You've been carrying the equipment bag for honcho superiors Alessandra
Stanley and Michael Specter for ages now, and now that they're about to
leave, you see your chance to get some playing time. All you have to do is
look down the bench. "Coach," you whisper. "Did you know the entire Russian
government has been surfing the net ever since Bill Gates visited?"
Coach didn't know that. He's impressed. "Lakhman," he shouts. "Get in
there at forward. Tell Specter to take a seat!"
The stats for Lokhman's first quarter of playing time:
"MOSCOW- Vladimir Lenin's statements on the electrification of society put a
light bulb in every village shack. More than 75 years later, Bill Gates's
vision for the future during a trip to Moscow has spurred the Russian
government to plug in their computers and start realizing the potential of
the Internet.
"Ever since [Gates] made a highly publicized trip to Moscow in
October...Russian government structures seem to be busy installing servers
and building Web sites.
"Every day, it seems, use of the Internet is gaining momentum in
government structures: Boris Yeltsin is considering a proposal to do an
online interview; the State Duma, the country's parliament, approved a
resolution calling for it to have its own Internet servers; the Central Bank
decided to reach out to the Russian people with a "hot line" on its Internet
site and employees of the Moscow mayor's technology office are preparing to
moonlight as Internet experts."
Lakhman starts off well by modern journalism standards, using a
time-tested "Times Have Changed Since Communism" lead followed by the
the-ignorant-masses" rhetorical double axel, which I think is part of the
required program in this event these days.
But she loses us with a pair of "seems" in paragraphs two and three.
After all, you needs hard proof to back up the preposterous assertion that
Russian government officials clamored to get online because they were so
impressed by Bill Gates's visit. As it turns out, the Luzhkov employees
cited at the end of paragraph three have had a site up since 1996, long
before the Gates visit. In fact, some 367 words of this 1,161-word piece are
devoted to the Luzhkov site, meaning that fully 1/3 of the text actually
disproves the lead assertion.
Furthermore, Lakhman doesn't put a founding date on Yeltsin's
administration website, or on the news that he is considering doing an
online interview. In fact, the only state internet phenomenon we know for
certain had anything to do with Gates, even chronologically, is a Duma
resolution to make greater use of the internet. But even here, Lakhman only
says "Gates's visit spurred" the resolution without elaborating. 
That leaves one unsubstantiated three-word phrase out of 1,161 words to
support the lead. Lakhman also admits, incidentally, that the Duma site,
like hundreds of other government sites, was up long before Gates arrived.
Other telltale signs:
3) "Blowjob" coverage of important figures who give the reporter
exclusive interviews.
In the West, important politicians sometimes have to subject themselves
to hostile interviews in order to gain access to sectors of the electorate
whose support they need. Foreign politicians are exempt from that treatment.
If an important non-communist, non-nationalist politician gives an interview
to a major Western outlet, he can almost be assured of positive coverage. To
find the lie, just ask yourself what's missing.
Take Boris Nemtsov, for instance. The guy is good-looking and presumably
pretty busy, in addition to being a Deputy Prime Minister. So when he agrees
to an interview with Business Week's Patricia Kranz, he logically expects to
get a friendly spread-what journalists call a "blowjob"-rather than have to
answer for his share in Russia's financial crisis. Here is part of what
Kranz wrote:
"Boris Y. Nemtsov shares more than a first name with Russian President
Boris N. Yeltsin. Like Yeltsin, the 38-year-old former governor of Nizhny
Novgorod came to Moscow from a regional power base. Since appointing Nemtsov
first deputy prime minister in March, 1997, Yeltsin has treated him as heir
apparent and almost as a son.
"But the golden boy is having a rough ride. Bureaucrats and Big Business
have crimped Nemtsov's push to restructure Russia's energy giants. In
January, Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, who backs slower reforms,
grabbed control of Russia's Fuel & Energy Ministry from Nemtsov."
Kranz never mentioned that Nemtsov installed his personal banker, Boris
Brevnov, as head of UES-RAO, and that Brevnov was subsequently reported to
have rented passenger liners at hundreds of thousands of dollars cost to
shareholders in order to have his American wife and mother-in-law picked up
in Tennessee and brought back to Moscow. Kranz also neglected to mention
that it was Nemtsov who personally intervened to have American Boris
Jordan's visa renewed, and that Jordan's Renaissance bank is one of the main
culprits in a recent scam to deprive minority shareholders of their rights
to a new issue of Sidanko stock. 
Logically, it doesn't make much sense to champion Nemtsov as the fighter
against "Crony Capitalism," for "People's Capitalism." Unless, of course, he
wants you to-and you're Patricia Kranz and desperate enough for an interview
to do it.
Coming soon: more places to look for lipstick stains.


Russian PM's TV spot may signal presidential bid
By Oleg Shchedrov 

MOSCOW, March 7 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on
Saturday launched a new series of weekly television appearances seen by many
analysts as preparation for his possible campaign to become president in 2000.
But Chernomyrdin, who answered voters' questions for 15 minutes on state-run
Russian television, said the polls were too far away to think about them now. 
``I am not thinking about them,'' said Chernomyrdin, 59, known as a loyal
of President Boris Yeltsin. ``Two years before the election we should do our
work rather than think about the election.'' 
Earlier this year Yeltsin, who has a record of serious health problems,
indicated he was not going to run for a third term in 2000, prompting his
allies and foes to begin preparations for what is likely to be a tight race
without an obvious leader. 
But in contrast with the communist and nationalist leaders who openly declare
their presidential ambitions, most likely candidates from the Kremlin camp are
forced to keep low profiles until the final word from Yeltsin. 
Chernomyrdin and other allies of Yeltsin who could become strong
candidates --
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and popular Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov -- have so far resolutely denied in public any plans to run. 
Nevertheless, Chernomyrdin's aides have clearly started building up the
image of their formerly reclusive boss, a career industrial manager who once
led the huge gas company Gazprom. 
Chernomyrdin's participation in the prerecorded television shows was clearly
designed to establish closer links between the prime minister and over 100
million voters in the huge country, divided into nine time zones. yedtsin
makes regular ra`io a$dresse on Fridays. 
Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said questions and complaints which
Chernomyrdin had no time to answer during the show would be registered and
properly dealt withby the cabinet. 
During the show Chernomyrdin mainly focused on issues like the burial of the
remains of Russia's last tsX.JJuly or delays in paying out social benefits. 
He also addrdssed a complaint by an old woman from the town of Lyubertsy
outside Moscow that there has been no hot water in her home for several months. 
``I will certaindy ask the governor of the Moscow region,'' replied
Chernomyrdin, who the anchorman spopped from hmmeda 5/8ely picking up
telephone reciever. 
``A will tell him to go and sort out this problem and report to me. If he
not I will take him with me to the next show to face the people.'' 
Chernomyrdin also revealed himself to be a devoted sports fan, expressing his
regret for missing a soccer match on Tuesday in which Spartak Moscow beat Ajax
Amsterdam 3-1 in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg.


Russian crime groups growing threat to West-expert
By Michael Roddy 

BUDAPEST, March 6 (Reuters) - Russian mafia groups have a growing stranglehold
on Europe's illegal narcotics trade and benefit from lax authority in Eastern
Europe, a U.N. expert said on Friday. 
Marc Pasotti, expert representative of the U.N.'s Centre for International
Crime Prevention in Vienna, told a conference in Hungary that more and more
heroin from Asia is passing through Russia instead of the Balkans on its way
to the rest of Europe. 
``Sources indicate that the Central Asian CIS (Commonwealth of Independent
States) republics and Russia are being increasingly used as a shortcut for
heroin supplies to Western Europe in place of the Balkan route,'' Pasotti told
a conference on fraud and money laundering. 
``Thus it seems that even the more traditional Balkan route is
surpassed,'' he
``Every month, record seizures of drugs en route to the Russian
Federation and
further to Western Europe are carried out, but the results of the actions by
law enforcement bodies are far from (affecting) 10 percent of the whole
Pasotti told the audience of some 150 experts and police officials from 28
countries that increasingly powerful crime groups in Russia took advantage of
the largely cash economy of Eastern Europe and the absence of anti-money
laundering laws in many of these countries. 
He said that even by Russian estimates, mafia groups were growing in power,
controlling some 40,000 Russian business and industrial enterprises, 40
percent of private businesses, 50 percent of Russian banks and 60 percent of
state-owned companies. 
``Some experts say that two-thirds of the (Russian) economy is under the sway
of crime syndicates,'' he told the conference, organised by the London-based
International Conference Group. 
Olga Prokofievka, head of the Russian central bank's banking and audit
licensing department, acknowledged Russia had no law against money laundering
but blamed Western criminal groups for much of the problem. 
``Central and Eastern Europe...have experienced difficulties and costs from
the fact that their borders were opened, including their financial borders as
well,'' she said. 
``That is why the criminal capital from the West has an opportunity to
use the
instruments in Central and Eastern Europe.'' 
Prokofievka and another Russian central bank official, Dmitry Skobelkin, said
that in the absence of legislation the bank had used regulatory means to try
to crack down on laundering of illegal funds. 
But Prokofievka said it was difficult to control such activities in countries
which, under communism, developed highly sophisticated means for keeping
things secret. 
``Fighting against money laundering where you have some traditions, the
traditions of struggle, maybe you have decades, or hundreds of years in this
respect, then it is much more difficult,'' she said. 


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