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Johnson's Russia List
14 March 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Sick Yeltsin celebrates wife's birthday.
2. The Independent (UK) Immortal - for the time being at least.
3. The Times (UK): Medical Briefing - Dr Thomas Stuttaford.
Russian leader faces chest infection risk.
4. IntellectualCapital.com: Dmitri Trenin, Primakov's Russia:
Steady as She Goes.
5. Alan Fahnestock: exile.
6. David Filipov: eXile press reviews.
7. Thomas Goltz: Viz eXile and relativity: a Tale from Turkey.
8. RIA Novosti: YABLOKO MOVEMENT STATES INTENT TO ENTER PARLIAMENTARY
AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WITH NEW TYPE OF PUBLIC CONTRACT.
9. Moscow Times: Helen Womack, FACES & VOICES: Friend's Rant Against
'West' Left Me Sober.
10. Reuters: Russian parliamentarian hopes for START-2 approval.
11. RIA Novosti: CHIEF OF DUMA INDUSTRIAL COMMITTEE FORECAST CRISIS
12. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: THE STATE OF RUSSIAN PUBLIC OPINION
and SPECULATIONS ON RUSSIA'S NEXT PRESIDENTIAL RUN.]
FOCUS-Sick Yeltsin celebrates wife's birthday
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, March 14 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin was treated for a
cold on Saturday at a state residence outside Moscow, but the Kremlin said he
was well enough to celebrate his wife's birthday.
A spokeswoman for the presidential press service gave no new details of
Yeltsin's condition at the Gorky-9 residence, where he retreated with a
respiratory infection and cancelled all his engagements on Friday.
But she described the 67-year-old president's illness as nothing more than a
cold and said he was due to spend Saturday with his family celebrating his
wife Naina's 66th birthday. He had no official meetings scheduled.
``The president is at Gorky-9. He will celebrate his wife's birthday with his
family,'' the spokeswoman said. ``He is continuing to be treated for a cold.''
The Kremlin said on Friday Yeltsin was taking antibiotics for a problem
described as laryngotracheitis, which gave him a hoarse voice. It has not said
how long Yeltsin was likely to be out of his Kremlin office.
Yeltsin has a history of illness. He spent about two weeks out of the Kremlin
in December with a respiratory infection. He has had at least two heart
attacks, underwent a bypass operation in November 1996 and suffered double
pneumonia in early 1997.
His state of health has raised questions about his ability to rule the
largest country but the opposition communists have not raised an outcry over
his latest illness.
Yeltsin has developed a schedule in which he intersperses his work in the
Kremlin with spells of rest.
Kremlin sources say officials in the presidential administration have taken
the news of Yeltsin's latest bout of illness calmly. Despite some initial
nerves, financial markets also took the news largely in their stride on
Medical experts have said the new illness will have no affect on Yeltsin's
``It really only means that he has some kind of upper respiratory problem
is causing some hoarseness and discomfort,'' said Calvin Keeler, an expert on
virology at the University of Delaware.
``It is generally something that is not serious and usually gets better in a
The Kremlin has not announced any more changes to the president's schedule.
His next major engagement is a summit in Moscow on Thursday bringing together
leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups 12 former
The timing of the new bout of illness was embarrassing for Yeltsin. He said
only last Tuesday that his latest medical checks had shown him in good health
and he joked he was ready to take journalists on at tennis or in an athletic
The presidential press service gave few details of the plans to celebrate
Naina Yeltsin's birthday.
It said she had opted for a small family celebration partly because of
Yeltsin's health but also because that was how she preferred to spend her
On her birthday last year, the Kremlin was reported to be awash with red
sent by admirers and well-wishers.
The Independent (UK)
14 March 1998
[for personal use only]
Immortal - for the time being at least
In the news - BORIS YELTSIN
"YELTSIN is like a cat, he has nine lives," a Russian equities trader
commented yesterday when the markets dipped on the news that once again
the 67-year-old Kremlin leader was ill. The stock exchange is sensitive
to such matters. National television was less excited, leading its news
bulletins with the latest on the expulsion of Russian diplomats from
Norway. The man in the street shrugged his shoulders, sure that the
President would soon be back.
Mr Yeltsin, who had his finest hour atop a tank resisting a hardline
coup attempt in 1991, thrives on situations where he has to fight. He is
not a man to let mere illness get him down.
And we can only hope that the relative glasnost of post-Communist Russia
is our guarantee that when we are told officially he has "acute
laryngotracheitis", he really does have a sore throat or something
similiar and not some life-threatening illness. Leonid Brezhnev, after
all, was still described as having a cold when he lay on his death bed.
Still, since he underwent a heart bypass operation in November 1996, the
Russian President's health has been a cause for worry throughout the
world. Under pressure from the press, Mr Yeltsin has had to learn to be
more honest about it.
He first disappeared into hospital without any explanation after Mikhail
Gorbachev, then leader of the Soviet Union, sacked him from the ruling
Communist Party Politburo in 1987. In retrospect, it seems this shock
may have marked the start of his heart problems. But Mr Gorbachev
unwittingly helped his career by making him a martyr and, when he came
out of hospital, he went on to become the most popular opposition
politician in Russia. He was elected Russian President in June 1991 and
took over from Mr Gorbachev as Kremlin leader when the Soviet Union
collapsed later that year.
The heavy-drinking Yeltsin tried to keep fit by playing tennis. But
heart problems continued to dog him, bursting out into the open just
after he had won a second term as Russian President in the summer of
1996. At first, as yesterday, aides said he had a sore throat; but his
continued absence from public view so soon after he had won a stunning
election victory against all the odds looked suspicious. Soon ,they were
forced to admit that the blood supply to his heart was deficient.
Mr Yelsin then came clean to the Russian people himself, saying the life
of an invalid was not for him and he had decided to undergo a heart
bypass, a relatively routine operation in the West, so that he could
return to politics with renewed vigour.
The operation, carried out by a team of Russian doctors with the Texas
heart specialist Michael De Bakey hovering in the background, was
described in surprising detail to the press. Dr De Bakey declared Mr
Yeltsin's operation a complete success, saying it would give him 10 more
years of life if he controlled his drinking and resisted his favourite
fatty foods, such as Russian sausage. But unfortunately, straight after
the operation, the Kremlin leader caught a cold and fell ill with
pneumonia in the freezing January of 1997. His return to politics was
delayed until last spring.
Since then he has been active both on the international stage and at
home. He takes more holidays than a younger leader might do - his
fishing and skiing trips are televised to assure us of his continuing
robustness. He is clearly ageing, and yet, though his enemies say it, he
is not like Brezhnev, just a corpse being propped up for show. He is
still mentally alert and, when the spadework has been done by his
underlings, he is still the man who takes the ultimate decisions.
BORIS AND THE BOTTLE
Does Boris Yeltsin drink? Is the Pope a Catholic? Before he underwent
heart surgery in November 1996, it would hardly have occurred to
vodka-loving Russians to doubt that their President drank. They would
not have respected him if he had abstained. Does Boris Yeltsin drink
now? There is no real evidence of any hard drinking nowadays.
DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL
Whether Mr Yeltsin retires with dignity or tries to extend what his
enemies call his "Tsar-like rule" into the next century may depend on
the advice he receives from his eldest daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. He
trusts her so much that last year he made her an official presidential
aide, responsible for his image. Tatyana, 38, a former rocket scientist,
apparently plays a stronger role behind the throne than Mr Yeltsin's
wife, Naina, who is said to like baking cakes and looking after the
The great constitutional question of the moment is not who would replace
Mr Yeltsin in the immediate aftermath of his death, but rather, could Mr
Yeltsin stand for a third term as President? Recently he commented that
the best guarantee of good relations between Moscow and Kiev was not to
change the presidents of Russia and Ukraine
The Times (UK)
March 14, 1998
Medical Briefing - Dr Thomas Stuttaford
Russian leader faces chest infection risk
THE flu epidemic which spread from Siberian Russia to Moscow is reported
to have claimed its most important victim: President Yeltsin.
If this is confirmed, and the President is not merely suffering from a
heavy cold, it has also infected one of its more vulnerable patients.
Having longstanding heart disease, and a recent history of pneumonia,
increases the risk of serious chest complications which would reduce the
supply of well-oxygenated blood to the heart and brain; the circulation
to both organs may be poor as the result of Mr Yeltsin's underlying
President Yeltsin's attack started with a sore throat, aches and pains,
and a severe headache.
The headache is usually a prominent symptom at this stage of the
disease, and it is normally bad enough to make even the hardiest patient
find work difficult.
Within a day or two most patients develop a dry, unproductive cough. The
temperature rises, the cough worsens, and starts to become productive of
Those patients who are most at risk from flu can suffer severe
complications from the disease, even in this initial viral stage.
The fear when treating a patient like Mr Yeltsin is that, even if the
first stage of the flu passes without trouble, the patient may then
develop secondary bacterial infections. The most dreaded and common
complication is a bacterial pneumonia, and it is for this reason that
the President's doctors have immediately prescribed broad spectrum
If pneumonia does develop, a possibly unsustainable strain could be
placed on his damaged heart. Even if the President develops no secondary
pneumonia, the effects of the flu on his lungs will be detectable, if
they are carefully tested, for some weeks to come.
Primakov's Russia: Steady as She Goes
by Dmitri Trenin
Dmitri Trenin is deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a
political research organization in Russia affiliated with the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
March 12, 1998
Post-communist Russian foreign policy almost naturally breaks down into
two distinct periods. Initially, it seemed to be grounded in
"internationalism" aimed at the country's fastest-possible integration
into the Western community. Russian diplomacy practically dovetailed
with that of the United States. This course bears the elegant signature
of Andrei Kozyrev, foreign minister during the early years of Russian
President Boris Yeltsin.
Later, the basis of foreign policy appeared to become rooted in more
down-to-earth national self-interest, aimed at regaining for Russia an
important position in the world. Occasionally, this has led to
disagreements and even friction with Washington. These new features
commonly are associated with the personality of Kozyrev's successor as
foreign minister, Yevgenii Primakov.
Competing views of Primakov
Primakov: Getting mixed reviews from abroad
More than two years since he became Russia's head diplomat, Primakov
continues to get rather mixed reviews abroad. Some stubbornly see him as
a seasoned communist apparatchik with rich Cold War spying experience,
recently supplemented by a stint as director of Russia's Foreign
Intelligence Service. A specialist in Middle Eastern affairs, he has
been called a knee-jerk opponent of the United States and a friend of
Others, however, take a more benign view and consider him to be above
all a pragmatic statesman, keen on protecting and advancing Russia's
national interests. Observers analyze his record in different ways,
leading to diametrically opposed conclusions.
The minister's detractors like to compare Primakov's goals against his
practical achievements. They safely can argue that the first two years
of his tenure have ended in utter failure. Didn't he vow, back in 1996,
to spur integration among the members of the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) and to prevent NATO's eastward enlargement? In 1998, the
latter is going full speed ahead, and the former appears chronically
Primakov's admirers, for their part, prefer to contrast Russia's
achievements to the country's capabilities. They are quick to note his
unique capability for extracting the maximum from Russia's partners and
getting a better deal than Russia could have otherwise desired. Thus,
Poland et al. may be on their way to NATO, but Russia already has forged
a special arrangement with the alliance and has worked its way into the
G-7 economic coalition of nations, as well as the Paris and London
Within Russia, Primakov has come to symbolize a more solid center of
gravity in the foreign-policy elite. While his predecessor's
increasingly shaky position wholly rested on Yeltsin's support, Primakov
enjoys a high degree of approbation from the bulk of the Russian
political class. Kozyrev occasionally had to make nationalistic noises
in order to buy some room for his internationalist policies. However,
Primakov can walk into the State Duma and successfully plead with the
deputies not to oppose the NATO-Russia Founding Act, helping the
parliament's anti-NATO faction apparently decide that there are things
more important to Russia than sniping at the alliance.
Gruff but effective
Primakov's domestic detractors do not come from the Duma ranks, where
his credentials put him above suspicion in the eyes of the "patriots."
The foreign minister has a better reason to fear Kremlin denizens. In
the past, he demonstrated considerable nerve by resisting pressures
coming from within the presidential entourage. On several occasions, he
reputedly rebuffed influential callers and asserted his authority by
saying: "Gentlemen, you must have dialed a wrong number. This is the
foreign minister speaking."
Both inside and outside Russia, whereas Kozyrev may have been liked
without being respected, Primakov is more often respected than liked.
Where Kozyrev would talk softly but fail to deliver, Primakov will speak
gruffly but reach agreements that stick.
In more general terms, Primakov's imprimatur has resulted in foreign
policy ceasing to be an object of domestic politics in Russia. The
Kremlin and the Duma are no longer locked in a permanent confrontation
on international issues, as was the case from 1992 to 1995. A domestic
consensus of sorts, which initially emerged over NATO's eastern
enlargement, later expanded to cover many other issues. From Bosnia to
Iraq to Kosovo, Russian elites have grown increasingly apprehensive of
empowering the U.S. sheriff with too broad a mandate. Primakov certainly
agrees, but he is riding the wave, not leading it.
Primakov's conceptual contribution to foreign policy-making has been the
idea of a multi-polar world that stresses Russia's national interests
without sliding toward confrontation with the world's only superpower.
His motto sounds like equidistance, and flexibility, rather than
splendid isolation. Thus, a remarkable feat has been performed: It has
become possible in Russia to be anti-American on a given issue without
automatically becoming anti-Western.
The solidity re-introduced into Russia's foreign policy by Primakov has
its underside, of course. The minister's worldview has remained
traditional and narrow, stressing geopolitical and geostrategic factors.
Moscow has not yet escaped its post-imperial throes. To an outside
observer, Russian diplomats still appear to be more active and
successful in Brussels or Beijing than in Tbilisi or Tashkent. Economic
aspects of foreign policy are mostly outside of the ministry's normal
purview. Globalization remains over the horizon.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the rest of the government
bureaucracy, however, are no longer the only foreign-policy players.
Toward the end of the decade, the number of actors in this field has
expanded to include powerful economic interests ("What is good for
Gazprom is good for Russia") and increasingly assertive regional
centers, some of which have their own foreign ministers at home,
quasi-embassies abroad and independent foreign investment regimes.
A course of 'reluctant adaptation'
Despite Primakov's apparent ascendancy, there is no shortage of
contenders who covet his job. In 1995-96, a group of mostly young and
energetic people precipitated the downfall of Kozyrev. Since 1997, the
rumor mill has been debating Primakov's future. He has survived so far
but, given his age and record, may not stay through the end of Yeltsin's
second term. Still, it is difficult to see who would be as good in this
role, and he is uniquely equipped to help push the START-2 treaty to
Primakov's would-be detractors are driven more by personal ambition than
any ideological or political controversy. It is doubtful that Russia's
foreign-policy course can be fundamentally altered. Depending on the
personality of the successor, Russia's foreign policy may achieve an
appearance of more "activity" but is likely to become less consistent
and may show affinity to particular "special-interest" groups.
Under Primakov, Russia's foreign policy has been going through reluctant
adaptation to a new international environment. Many observers would put
emphasis on the adjective, "reluctant"; it is the noun, "adaptation,"
however, that is far more important. Primakov, the 1970s liberal turned
1990s conservative and the last Gorbachevian to survive into the
late-Yeltsin period, is essentially a 20th-century figure. He is
anything but a fiery trailblazer, but there is something to be said for
those who bring up the rear.
From: Alan Fahnestock <Fahnest542@aol.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Mar
Missed most of the stuff on the Taibbi tribe, been out earning an honest
living, but I have to weigh in with the "pros" on whether or not your
publication of eXile stuff warrants continuation. Decision based on the
principle that even out of the mouths of babes and idiots truth will sometimes
fall, so these boys, being neither, presumably have at least an even chance,
too. My reaction to the paper hasn't changed a lot since I saw its first
number in Moscow --- the reasoning is too often scant or spurious, the
presentation fairly uniformly sophomoric --- but judicious extrapolation from
the facts that are still recognizable can be quite useful. And there is
little question but what they liven things up a bit, and can get stuff out
that would be circular-filed by any editor with an eye to his own longevity.
Others who began in similar mode have gone on to do serious work --- just
takes some maturing. Let them live.
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998
From: David Filipov <email@example.com>
Subject: eXile press reviews
Please put me on the list of people who support the eXile press review for
the following reasons:
- It offers brilliant deconstructionalist insights into the journalist's
trade that, again, are very useful for its practitioners. See, for example,
the description of the "lede-o-matic" in "Hacks Hawk Fear Bonds" (JRL 2020).
Or, for that matter, the concept of the "fear bond." Very instructional,
potentially award-winning stuff.
- Because of the above, I believe it makes me more self-critical about what
I write, especially with such hackneyed generalizations as "energetic young
reformers," "brilliant administrator," "respected in the West" and so on.
Although I'm writing about Yeltsin's latest illness today, and I gotta say
that's going to be a challenge in the cliche-avoidance category.
- It is often an entertaining read, and has a sick appeal, similar to that
of a gossip column. You read it to find out what's happening, although you
hope your friends don't know. And you read to make sure you aren't in it.
C'mon, you know you read it, so don't lie to me.
- Like the paper in general, the eXile press review is a welcome
publication. It is the bratty little brother at the dinner table who says
the embarassing thing that your parents don't want the guests to hear, but
everyone knows it's true. It is the street punk who doesn't care what you
think. It teaches you to be careful with what you say on the phone to
strangers. It deserves to exist.
But I think the eXile would be more effective if it avoided:
- personal attacks. For two reasons: 1) As Fred Hiatt said, let the writing
speak for itself (and by the way, how can you accuse him of taking money?).
I think you can criticize the way we do our jobs (heartily) without trying
to ruin our lives, although that kind of whining comment is bound to get me
a mention in the next press review. 2) personal attacks alienate the press
review's most captive audience. Who wants to read about what someone thinks
about journalists' writing more than other journalists? But as the press
review slowly wastes my best pals via character assasination, how can I
continue to patronize it? Having said that, I'm sure Kalashnikov and friends
would not shed a tear to know that we are getting bummed out, but it's too
bad, because we are the ones they can influence.
- inconsistency. For someone who writes about journalistic ethics to print
unsubstantiated and defamatory remarks on a weekly basis is, well, what it
is, dudes. If you're Mad Magazine, then you gotta play the part through, and
can't get all indignant. But if you are going to be the Derrida of
journalism, you can't let Alfred E. Newman keep sneaking in (Of course, both
Derrida and Alfred would reject that.)
- foul language. If I am a hack who spins out smooth cliches, I am more
likely to ignore a guy who says "fuck" and "blow job" all the time than take
a lesson from him (although having typed that, I felt a certain shiver of
excitement ripple through my fingertips, like doing pot for the first time).
- a pseudonym. It would be much easier to take all of the abve in stride if
the eXile were written by a living, breathing person with a reputation and a
name of his/her own. I see the latest issue was written by the real Matt
Taibbi, and I see that as a welcome development.
The Boston Globe
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (thomas goltz)
Subject: Re: 2106-eXile Appraisals
Viz eXile and relativity: a Tale from Turkey ex Thomas Goltz:
Dear David and pals,
I once took a poke at Master Matt and eXile a few months ago, essentially
defending formula hackery a la Reuters on the basis that it was a reality
that all (or most) journalists in the field have to live with, and that his
excessive criticisms would some day get him in trouble when in deepest need
of solidarity. His response was something like 'I am not concerned about
getting thrown off the bus because I am not even on it.' An irritating
atttiude, to say the least--but one that I increasingly like, albiet from a
distance. I would hate to have him peering over my shoulder all the time.
The reason is that eXile is still setting impossibly high standards of
the western hackpack by demanding what is, in effect, highly nuanced,
investigative coverage of local (Russian) issues by reporters assigned to
cover international issues and then slandering those who do not live up to
eXile's self-established mark of excellence--rather like demanding a donkey
to run like a thoroughbred. Don't get me wrong. I delight in seeing some
of the well-heeled hacks who have a history of playing fast and loose with
their facts or who have cozied up to this or that side of certain issues get
their come-uppance at the hands of eXile and Co, and I was particularly
pleased to have the curious dynamic of Zavkazi articles recently exposed and
how this insidious if almost normal behavior of actors in the lands of the
former USSR finds its reflection in the special-interest-owned media in the
West. (Does anyone really believe in that business about the 'free and
indepndent' press in the USA anymore?)
But if one were to remove eXile's criticisms of the activities and style
of the western hack-pack from the context of Moscow (and, by extension, the
hot-house of the Johnson list) and transfer it to, say, Istanbul (or Tokyo
and maybe even London or Paris) the eXile operation would probably not last
a week, and readers would be down on their knees begging for a return to
formula and special-interest driven simplicity instead of a deluge of
strange names and references to obscure scandals and insider intrigue that
might or should be familiar to all Turks, but that would never, ever find
its way into an 'international' report published in, say, the Washington Post.
Try this out for size:
"Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz of the pro-western, conservative Motherland
Party, whose minority, coalition government owes its position to the Turkish
military's 'coup-by-press conference' intervention last year that terminated
the coalition government of the fundamentalist Islamic Welfare Party of
Necmettin Erbakan and the country's pro-investment, first female Prime
Minister and Yilmaz-arch rival Tansu Ciller of the True Path Party, met with
deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit of the junior coalition partner and
ardently secularist Democratic Left Party on Tuesday to discuss recent
charges of police brutality against a public-sector union demonstration in
Ankara that had been infiltrated by the neo-Maoist Labor Party of maveric
publisher Dogu Perincik, similar to the trauma experienced by thousands of
women attempting to celebrate International Women's Day in Istanbul, which
was busted up police in robo-cop uniforms due to female agitators of the
outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK.
The recent riot-a-day behavior comes in the wake of new revealations
about the so-called Susurluk scandal that involved rogue elements of the
civilian Turkish intelligence agency MIT, loyalist Kurd politicians and
ultra-nationalist death squads operating against the Syria-based, separatist
PKK in the mainly Kurdish southeast as well as a 1995 coup attempt against
Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev, itself tied into the murder of Lufi Omer
Topal, the so-called 'King of the Casinos' whose fortune was alleged built
on narcotic smuggling and money laundering in Turkmenistan.
The third member of the secular triumpharate, former Speaker of
Parliament Husamattin Cindoruk of the Democratic Party, a splinter group of
anti-Ciller members of parliament from the True Path, was not in attendance
at Wednesday's meeeting, leading to speculation among western observers that
an new alliance made between the leftist Republican People's Party of
Ecevit-rival Deniz Baykal and the in-all-but-name rump Welfare Party, now
called the Purity Party, under the leadership of Istanbul mayor Tayyip
Erdogan, who established himself as the moderate-Islamist heir to Dr Erbakan
after Welfare was banned last month on charges of aggitating for Islamic law
in Turkey, and generally displeasing the United States, which maintain key
military installations in the country, including the huge Incerlik airforce
base key to any American military action in Iraq. Baykal and Ciller met on
Monday to issue a joint communique demanding that the people's voice be
heard in this mainly Muslim, NATO-member nation of 60 million, an oblique
play for support from disgruntled Welfare supporters, who say that the word
democracy cannot be used in a political context where the single largest
party is excluded from government. The only political group excluded from
the most recent round of horse-trading and cynical power machinations would
seem to be the Kurdish People's Rights Party whose leadership are all in
jail on charges of terrorism and the generic clause in the Turkish
constitution that pertains to 'dividing the nation,' and Perincik's Labor
Party, which seems satisified to allow itself to be the mouth-piece of the
hard-core Kemalist element in Turkish military intelligence, who have long
maintained a bitter rivalry with the civilian MIT organization and the
diverse governments that have controlled it.
Meanwhile, former True Path Party chairman, prime minister, Ciller
mentor and current President Suleyman Demirel, himself thrice putsched from
power as prime minister by the military, lambasted the European Union for
its exclusion of Turkey from a meeting in London attended by the
internationally recognized government of the southern, Greek-speaking sector
of the divided island of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when then Prime Minister
Ecevit, at the time chairman of the Republican Party and in coalition with
Erbakan, then chairman of the Welfare-forerunner National Salvation Party,
ordered an invasion of the eastern Mediterranean island to prevent its union
with Greece, then under the control of the now-dispised Junta of Colonels.
Demirel also suggested that there was no need to consider new polls to elect
a new government, which would be the 55th in Turkey in 70 years (most having
been formed in the past two decades) to resolve the country's sustained
social, political and economic crisis. Demirel, Ecevit, Cindoruk, Erbakan,
Baykal, Pirincik and Ciller, but not Yilmaz, blame this legacy on the late
Turgut Ozal, founder of the center-rightist Motherland Party, under whom
Yilmaz served as Minister of Tourism and then as Minister of State during
the 1980s, when Turkey was celebrated as a model for the emerging
democracies of eastern Europe and what was then the Soviet Union before his
wife Semra Ozal became involved in allegations of huge, financial
improprieties. Ozal's son Ahmed was also accused of getting his father to
hire on a number of American-educated 'princes' to run newly privatized
state industries and set up new banks, many of which failed, with their
directors fleeing to Europe and the United States with heisted capital.
Others are in jail on charges ranging from corruption to attempted murder.
Before his death in 1993, Ozal was also accused of having his son
illegally establish Turkey's first private television station to counter-act
the Prime Minister Demirel's control of state television, which the latter
used as a tool to dump inneundo and bile on Ozal, the sitting president, who
had earned the ire of virtually everyone in the Turkish political
establishment by having the audacity to admit that there were Kurds in the
country, and that, too, was or 'partial Kurdish descent.' Demirel, for his
part, has reverted to the tired forumla of only admitting religious
minorities such as Jews, Greeks and remnant Armenians as enjoying legal
minority status in accordance with a treaty signed in 1933.
Speaking to a gaggle of reporters from the 30 odd private television
channels that exist today in Turkey, most owned by newspapers and Holding
groups with interests so special that they put Hearst-style yellow-press
newspapers in the United States circa 1900 to shame, Demirel praised the
press as an anchor of stability and democracy in the country and suggested
that the real national focus should be on the fate of the Albanians of
Kosovo, with whom Turkey, in its guise as the heir to the Ottoman Empire,
maintains a largely insustainable 'near abroad' relationship with Balkan,
but not Middle Eastern, Muslims..."
You get the point. Forget about the necessary background to the
continuous game of political musical chairs and double-dealing. Just start
substituting the almost meaningless, cliched attributes assigned to various
players in Russia (Reformist, Democratic, Pro-western, Neo-communist, etc)
with those that appear as 'meaningful attributes' for players in the context
of Turkey (Muslim, Fundamentalist, Secularist, Leftist, etc) and you will
begin to appreciate just how cliche-driven and jejune is most of the copy
generated by the western hack-pack that dwells in Ankara or Istanbul. The
same must also be true for copy generated out of Tokyo (and London and
Paris). Why should Russia be any different?
I do not mean to defend this attitude and tendancy to dumb-down and fall
fool to cliches. I loath it, and would like to think that in my own small
way am not only resisting but changing it. (I recently threatened to recall
a contribution to a hack's guide to violations of the Geneva Conventions
because the editors had substituted the word 'enclave' for 'territory' in
the context of Mountainous Karabakh; my personal, five year battle over the
use of that word has resulted in about half the international hack-pack
changing their style.) But in our McNews world of sound bytes and general
intellectual laziness, a disease that seems especially pronounced among
modern, western hackery the world over, it is not surprising that Matt and
Exile have a large field of play to bash and trash. I only wish there
sufficient interest in a place like Istanbul (or Tokyo or Rio or Paris;
London does have its Eye Spy) to give birth to an eXile to smear the sins of
the resident hack-pack back in their faces. But there is not, and Matt and
Co (and readers of the Johnson list) should be grateful that there is a
sufficiently large and deep pool of media miasma in Moscow to allow the
eXile to keep afloat.
Keep up the nasty work, Matt, and keep swinging at the windmills.
(PS: I once witnessed a Zavkazi tv program (on Karabakh) get trumped by by a
larger order, as it were, much to the chagrin and anger of the first
party--no one believed me at the time when I related the matter to pals in
the press, who still clung to the narcissistic illusion that the reborn
post-Soviet hackpack were as pure as their WhoWhatWhereHowandWhen mentors
from the West).
YABLOKO MOVEMENT STATES INTENT TO ENTER PARLIAMENTARY AND
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WITH NEW TYPE OF PUBLIC CONTRACT
MOSCOW, 14 MARCH, RIA NOVOSTI'S ALEXANDRA UTKINA. The
Yabloko movement will enter the 1999 parliamentary elections
with a public contract of a new type, said Grigory Yavlinsky,
the movement's leader, at its 6th congress at the Otradnoye
resort near Moscow today.
He delivered the main report to say that the essence of the
contract would be to tackle the main problems by the whole
"No party, nobody can resolve problems for somebody else.
It is only realistic by a joint effort, on the basis of
self-respect," Yavlinsky claimed.
The Yabloko leader admitted that the majority of citizens
would not subscribe to such a document. "This is the main
historic difficulty in Russia, one of the roots of its
misfortunes," he pointed out.
Yavlinsky reiterated the movement's intention to run in the
1999 parliamentary elections and the 2000 presidential elections
say that the main objective would be changing the predominant
type of the public contract.
"We are ready to challenge all people to unite, all those
who took to the streets in 1991 in expectation of another life,"
Yavlinsky said that Yabloko's main task was to form a
"civil society, a civilised state on the basis of a competitive
and socially-oriented market economy." He described it as
In assessing Yabloko's activities in the Duma, Yavlinsky
called on its members to "initiate laws," rather than simply
react to the law-making process. He spoke in favour of
"radically lower taxes, a maximally simplified taxation service,
and the need to share the workshop of power."
In this connection Yavlinsky described his movement as a
"universally democratic party protecting the rights and freedoms
of individuals and the European values, a party which will enter
the elections with a well-oiled economic platform and political
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
March 14, 1998
FACES & VOICES: Friend's Rant Against 'West' Left Me Sober
By Helen Womack
I can't believe I'm having this conversation. Why am I wasting my breath
arguing with this man? Because it's Women's Day and I've got three
quarters of a bottle of Beaujolais inside me. And because I did once
regard Sergei as a friend.
One minute we are laughing at each other's jokes, the next we have
plunged into politics and are discussing the state of Russia. "It's all
the fault of the foreigners," I hear. "Excuse me?" "The West is to
"Well yes," I say, "the West has made some mistakes, raised expectations
that life after communism would be easy. Unfortunately, Russia has not
always seen the best side of the West. You've seen our unscrupulous
businessmen, our cheap products in the kiosks but, surely, Russians
themselves must bear some responsibility for their problems. After all,
Yeltsin, the members of the government, are Russian."
"They're traitors," says Sergei. "They have gotten us into debt with the
IMF. The only mistake we Russians have made is not resisting the
aggression of the West."
I am stunned. Sergei is one of my oldest Russian friends. Ten years ago,
we used to sit in his apartment, speaking French because my Russian was
still rudimentary, and he would talk of his dreams of knowing the wider
world. His father was a famous writer and he himself was, still is, an
intelligent man with a university education.
Now he says there is much about Stalin that he failed to appreciate. His
new creed is an extreme, hatred-filled form of Russian Orthodoxy, which
seems very far from Christianity as I understand it.
Most of all I am shocked by Sergei's definition of the West. It is, he
says, not a place but a world view based on respect for democracy (this
is to him a pejorative word), women's liberation (also negative) and a
positive attitude to Jews (a very bad thing indeed).
He tells me that once my native England and France and Germany were all
countries with a strong national identity but now they have been
colonized by "the West." Russia is falling too. The Great Satan is
America, the source of everything "Western" and evil.
"It is an incredibly corrupt and decadent place. It is not only the
enemy of the Arabs but of the whole world. But mark my words, soon it
will be destroyed. The Statue of Liberty will be shattered in a thousand
"I think you really want to see that, don't you?" I ask incredulously,
remembering how five years ago Sergei went in great excitement on a
business trip to Florida. (By the way, he also spent two weeks in my
family home in Yorkshire. He ought to know that we in the West are human
too). "Yes, I do," he says, "I dream of seeing America on its knees."
I have stopped debating with him now. There is no point. I am just
wondering what on Earth has hurt him to make him so rabid.
"Well I'm sorry," I say, "I came to Russia to learn, to help if I could.
I did not mean any harm."
"We do not need your help. It's nothing personal, Helen, but you
represent the enemy. You are on a Masonic mission."
I am stone cold sober now and I am asking myself: If this is the view of
an educated friend, what is the muzhik on the street thinking?
Russian parliamentarian hopes for START-2 approval
MOSCOW, March 14 (Reuters) - Vladimir Lukin, head of the foreign affairs
committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, was quoted on Saturday as
saying the chamber could soon approve the START-2 arms reduction accord with
the United States.
Interfax news agency quoted Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to Washington,
as saying the treaty ``can and must'' be approved during the current
The opposition-dominated State Duma, or lower house, is due to end its
U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Friday he was ready to go to Moscow for a
summit with President Boris Yeltsin if the Duma approved the treaty, which was
agreed in January 1993 but has not yet been put into effect.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry urged the Duma on Thursday to ratify
START-2. He stopped short of saying this was a necessary condition for the
next U.S.-Russian summit, a date for which has not been set.
START-2 slashes the two countries' deployed nuclear warheads by up to two-
thirds from about 6,000 each to no more than 3,500 each by the year 2007.
The U.S. Senate has ratified the treaty. The Duma has held back because of
fears over the cost and concern that the United States is developing weapons
that could violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Washington denies
Lukin, a member of the liberal Yabloko party, said the Russian government
should agree a compromise on START-2 with the leaders of parliamentary groups
but gave no details.
``More and more deputies, including ones from the leftist opposition, are
starting to understand that ratification of this document is in Russia's
interests,'' he said.
Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said on television on Friday that U.S. Defence
Secretary William Cohen had written to him saying Washington was keen to begin
negotiations by experts on a START-3 treaty which would outline deeper cuts
Yeltsin and Clinton agreed at their last full summit in Helsinki a year
open negotiations on START-3 as soon as START-2 comes into force.
CHIEF OF DUMA INDUSTRIAL COMMITTEE FORECAST CRISIS DEEPENING
MOSCOW, MARCH 13. /FROM RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT YULIA
PANYUSHKINA/-- This year, crisis in Russia's production sphere
is likely to deepen. This was said at a press-conference in the
Lower Chamber of the Russian parliament by chairman of the Duma
committe for industry and construction Vladimir Gusev. As an
evidence for his gloomy forecast Gusev cited data by the Russian
state committee on statistics, according to which the share of
industrial production in Russia's gross domestic product
continued falling last year and 'made up 27.5 per cent against
30 in 1996. In addition to this, asserted the Duma committee
chairman, a governmental support for the national production
decreased, particularly for scientifically sophisticated
industries such as aerospace engineering, oil and gas and some
However, reported Gusev, the Duma industrial committee
along with heads of some industrial enterprises managed 'to find
the way to improve the production conditions by re-distributing
corresponding allocations in the 1998 federal budget.' In
particular, money were found to sponsor the Russian Space
Agency, civil aviation, some social and construction programmes.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
March 13, 1998
THE STATE OF RUSSIAN PUBLIC OPINION. The latest nationwide poll by Yuri
Levada's All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) shows
that public opinion is still polarized between friends and foes of
change--just as it was at the time of the 1996 presidential election. Apathy
and disillusion is also a very strong sentiment. This adds an element of
unpredictability to the political system. (Moskovsky komsomolets, March 11)
Twenty-two percent of respondents identified themselves with the Communist
party, and 15 percent with the Democrats. Fully 42 percent of respondents
said that they did not feel any allegiance to a particular political party.
This constitutes a huge pool of undecideds who could be mobilized by a
charismatic leader of the reform camp (as in 1996), or possibly by one of
the opposition groups. If elections to the State Duma were held now, 21
percent said they would vote for the Communists, 11 percent for Grigory
Yavlinsky's Yabloko, 8 percent for Aleksandr Lebed's Popular-Republican
Party, and 7 percent for Viktor Chernomyrdin's Russia is Our Home. No other
party looks set to score more than the 5 percent threshold required to
qualify for seats on the party list. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal
Democratic Party scored a surprisingly low 3.1 percent--though supporters of
radical parties are known to hide their true voting intentions in opinion
polls. The dismal level of support for pro-reform parties helps explain why
Yeltsin officials are repeatedly floating the idea of abolishing party-lists
(which account for half the seats) in the next Duma election (1999).
SPECULATIONS ON RUSSIA'S NEXT PRESIDENTIAL RUN. The big question, of course,
is who stands a chance of winning the presidential election scheduled for
2000. The VTsIOM poll found that Gennady Zyuganov's solid core of support
would guarantee him a first or second place in the first round. But in
hypothetical second-round races against a variety of candidates his support
plateaus at 29 percent. Zyuganov would lose to almost any second round
challenger--such as Lebed, Yuri Luzhkov or Boris Nemtsov--but would beat
Yeltsin or Chernomyrdin. Another recent poll conducted by Mnenie came up
with slightly different results. It also found that Zyuganov would lead in
the first round with 19 percent, followed by either Lebed (11 percent) or
Yuri Luzhkov (10 percent). It suggested, however, that Zyuganov would beat
Lebed only narrowly in a second round race, by 29 percent to 26 percent.
(NTV, March 8)
What would transpire if the unimaginable happened--if the Communists won the
presidency? Some 23 percent of respondents thought that nothing would
change. However, 20 percent expect a Brezhnev-style regime. Fifteen percent
thought the country would fall into chaos. Seven percent envisioned a return
of Stalinism. Considerable nostalgia for the Brezhnev era lingers: 51
percent thought it would have been better if the country had stayed as it
was in 1985, but 39 percent disagreed. When asked who had made greatest
contribution to Russia since 1917, 21 percent named Lenin, 15 percent
Stalin, and 11 percent Andrei Sakharov.
In terms of political philosophy, 43 percent remain committed to a Western
style market democracy: a respectably high figure, considering the trials
and tribulations of the past seven years, and enough to give a reformist
candidate a good chance of victory in the next presidential election. Twenty
two percent wanted a Soviet-style socialist state. Seventeen percent favored
a "Russian path." Four percent wanted a pre-1917 style monarchy. Overall,
the judgment was ambivalent: 59 percent think their country is at a dead
end, but 58 percent said they are personally satisfied.