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Johnson's Russia List
14 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Yeltsin to try again to break political impasse.
2. AP: Yeltsin Resubmits START II Treaty.
3. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Moscow mayor whips up a
storm as wrong weather hits town.
4. Reuters: Kiriyenko Cuts Little Ice with Ordinary Russians.
5. The Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, TALE OF THE BLACK SPOT.
6. Moscow Times: Yulia Latynina, INSIDE RUSSIA: Lebed Loses
Allies in Race For Governor.
7. Moscow Times: Yevgenia Borisova, 'Greed' Teaches Kids Capitalism.
8. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Alan Philps, Yeltsin tries to buy
votes in campaign for premier.
9. The Globe & Mail (Canada): Geoffrey York, Tartarstan.
10. Washington Post: Strobe Talbott, Countering a Communist Comeback.
11. Interfax: Duma Opposition Asks For Probe To Look Into Acting PM's
12. AFP: Russia signs 1998 IMF financial plan.]
Yeltsin to try again to break political impasse
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, April 14 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin, unfazed by parliament's
fierce opposition to his candidate for prime minister, was due to meet a
senior communist on Tuesday in a fresh bid to defuse Russia's three-week old
But Yeltsin and his leftist foes remained poles apart on whether Sergei
Kiriyenko, a 35-year-old ex-banker with little political experience, was fit
to head the new government.
Gennady Seleznyov, communist speaker of the State Duma lower house, said he
would urge Yeltsin at their meeting, set for midday (0800 GMT), to propose a
different candidate for prime minister.
His comrades in the Duma struck a tough note on Monday.
"The praesidium of the People's Patriotic Union (grouping leftist forces)
a decision... to vote against the candidacy of Sergei Kiriyenko as a person
unsuitable for the post of Russian prime minister," Communist Party leader
Gennady Zyuganov told reporters on Monday.
The leftists mostly voted against Kiriyenko last Friday in the Duma's first
vote on his candidacy, saying the bespectacled technocrat was too young and
inexperienced for the job.
A second vote must be held by Friday -- the day Yeltsin is scheduled to leave
for Japan for a weekend of talks with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on
improving frosty ties.
The Japan trip has already been put off once because of Russia's political
crisis and Moscow wants to avoid the diplomatic embarrassment of another
But if the Duma again rejects Kiriyenko the uncertainty would drag on for at
least another week.
The Duma can reject Yeltsin's candidate for prime minister three times, then
the president must dissolve the chamber and call an early parliamentary
election. Both sides are keen to avoid this politically risky and financially
Zyuganov said his party and its allies, the Agrarians and People's Power,
would ask Russia's Constitutional Court to rule on Yeltsin's decision to
propose Kiriyenko a second time.
The Communists say Yeltsin acted unconstitutionally by putting forward the
same candidate twice.
But on Monday Yeltsin, while hinting that he might consider allowing members
of opposition factions to join the new cabinet, made clear no other candidate
was on offer for prime minister.
"There will be no other candidate. I proposed Kiriyenko and I will stand by
him to the end," Yeltsin said in televised comments as Kiriyenko sat in
silence beside him, taking notes.
Last Friday Yeltsin re-nominated Kiriyenko less than one hour after the Duma
rejected him, by 186 votes to 143. He faces a tough battle gathering the 226
votes he needs for approval.
The leaders of some Duma factions have said they might back Kiriyenko if he
unveils his planned government line-up now or offers cabinet posts to members
of their party.
But most of the key posts are already settled, including the finance, defence
and foreign ministries, and Yeltsin has firmly ruled out the coalition
government demanded by the Communists.
Yeltsin has warned that the political stalemate is beginning to take a
the country's fragile economy.
On Monday, in a sharp reminder of the problems still facing Russia, the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) lashed out at the inconsistencies and
complexity of its tax system.
"Progress in tax reform in Russia has been inadequate. The tax system remains
complex, with up to 200 types of taxes, numerous and sometimes arbitrary
exemptions, narrow tax bases and...high statutory taxes on labour income," the
IMF said in its semi-annual World Economic Outlook.
Yeltsin sacked the government of veteran prime minister Viktor
March 23 over its failure to tackle wage arrears among Russia's public workers
including doctors and teachers caused mainly by poor tax collection.
Kiriyenko has said improving government revenues and paying off debts to
workers will be a top priority of his cabinet. He says a new tax code, seen as
vital to market reforms, should be passed into law by September.
Yeltsin Resubmits START II Treaty
April 13, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) - After submitting an amended version of the START II arms
control treaty to Russia's parliament Monday, President Boris Yeltsin finally
appeared likely to see the 5-year-old pact ratified.
The amendments had been requested by Russian negotiators and have been
approved by the United States.
The treaty, signed by Yeltsin and President Clinton in 1993, would halve the
strategic nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia.
The U.S. Senate ratified it in 1996, but the State Duma, the lower house of
Russia's parliament, so far has refused to approve it.
This time may be different. Under accords signed in New York last
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny
Primakov, Russia would have five additional years to destroy its long-range
missiles. The deadline would be extended from Jan. 1, 2003, until the end of
With those changes, which Russia had requested to spread out the cost of the
dismantling, parliamentary leaders now say they expect the treaty to pass.
In resubmitting the agreement, Yeltsin said it ``corresponds to the interests
of Russia.'' He named Primakov and Acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev as
his representatives to shepherd the treaty through parliament.
Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov and Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Committee
for International Affairs, said they were optimistic that ratification would
take place before summer.
The Independent (UK)
April 14, 1998
[for personal use only]
Moscow mayor whips up a storm as wrong weather hits town
By Phil Reeves in Moscow
THE MAYOR of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has long been accused by his critics
of striving to run a city state, isolated from the rest of Russia. Now
he may go one step further: fed up with unexpectedly filthy weather, he
wants his own forecasting service.
An angry Mr Luzhkov has threatened to sever all ties with Russia's
national weather service after it failed to give any warning of the past
two days of terrible weather, which have buried the capital under at
least eight inches of snow.
Such matters are taken seriously by the mayor, not least because the
city has to fork out large sums of money on emergency teams of sweepers,
salters and icicle removers. He made no secret of his annoyance when the
national forecasters, who predicted temperatures of 9C to 11C, turned
out to be spectacularly wrong. It was "a deception", said the mayor's
spokesman. Such "disinformation" has happened all too often this winter,
and "bad forecasting has cost Moscow a great deal of money". The
capital, he said, was contemplating starting its own weather service.
Nor was Mr Luzhkov, who is famously outspoken, alone in his outrage. The
national weather service yesterday found itself fielding call after call
from indignant Muscovites. A hapless weather-service official was
wheeled on to a prime-time television programme wryly entitled "Hero of
The weather has special resonance for Muscovites, not least because it
has done much to secure the capital's survival. The Russian winter
helped to destroy Napoleon's invading army and kept Hitler at bay.
Last September, Mr Luzhkov tried to take personal control of it,
dispatching aircraft into the skies to seed the clouds with iodine
pellets to prevent them raining on Moscow's lavish 850th anniversary
celebrations. Success was limited: on the final day of the jamboree, the
But not all Mr Luzhkov's subjects will share his irritation. Tonight,
Spartak Moscow is to play the second leg of a Uefa cup match against
Inter Milan. Russians often complain that they cannot achieve much in
spring because the change of season affects their biorhythms. Today's
conditions should suit the fans just fine.
Kiriyenko Cuts Little Ice with Ordinary Russians
April 10, 1998
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) These days, no prospective Russian prime minister,
even one as apparently untainted as Sergei Kiriyenko, gets much advance
credit on the streets of Moscow.
Even though the citizens of the capital have seen far more benefit from
economic reforms than anyone else, most of those asked at random have
their own reasons for doubting that a 35-year-old technocrat can solve
"He's much too young, he's got no business doing a job like that," one
elderly man yells in passing.
"He's a clever young man, he's fresh and personable," said Sofia, 58.
"Of course it's a disadvantage that he doesn't have very much
experience. But perhaps at his age he can learn."
Few know much about Kiriyenko, a one-time provincial banker who had been
energy minister for only four months by the time President Boris Yeltsin
sacked the government of loyal, stolid Victor Chernomyrdin and nominated
him as premier.
As expected, the lower house of parliament did not approve him in a
first ballot on Friday. But most analysts predict boyish-looking
Kiriyenko will eventually get the nod.
"Perhaps it's no bad thing that he has little experience," said legal
consultant Alexei Nagorny, 29. "Better that than too much of the wrong
kind of experience of running a planned economy and bureaucracy."
Some say that unlike Chernomyrdin, who has announced he will run for
president in 2000 and could hardly afford to offend his backers with
reforms they did not like, Kiriyenko has nothing to lose by being bold.
"We need someone who will really tackle the economy and not worry too
much about politics," Nagorny added. "Yeltsin knows that Kiriyenko is
someone who doesn't have any reputation to defend."
If anyone is impressed by Kiriyenko's youth, it is the young.
"Things aren't too bad in Moscow, but the way people live in the rest of
the country is awful, not getting their pensions or their wages," said
18-year-old Svetlana Merkushina.
"It's time we had someone young in charge, someone who takes the future
of young people seriously, the people who will one day be running the
But even she is worried that Kiriyenko may not be young enough to be
untainted by communism, since he was once secretary of his local branch
of the Komsomol communist youth league -- a sure sign of someone keen to
rise in the communist system.
"We'll have to see if he really is part of a new generation," Merkushina
Some passers-by old enough to remember communism have similar doubts.
"That kind of person has never made a good leader yet. To me, Yeltsin,
once a regional party secretary, will always be a party secretary. And
Kiriyenko, once a Komsomol secretary, will always be a Komsomol
secretary," said Anatoly Vorobyov, 53 years old and unemployed.
"Ten years ago I was euphoric like everyone else about what lay ahead.
But now -- look around you at the rampant crime. A third of the
population live in poverty. People work harder than ever but where does
the money go? We need a firm hand in charge to create order again, and
then the economy might have some chance of improving."
But in today's new, ultra-capitalist Russia, there are few who believe
any more that the state has that much power.
"There's nothing that any politician can do," said 34-year-old Alexei
Danylichev. "What needs to change is the economy, and no politician can
"We don't believe in any politicians," said Olga Smirnova, a young
mother in her 30s. "Nowadays we have no one to rely on but ourselves."
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
The Moscow Tribune
April 10, 1998
TALE OF THE BLACK SPOT
This is a story for children, so all the adults should stop reading,
and leave the room at once.
Beware, children, of the blindman's cane tap-tapping along the pavement
on dark, inhospitable nights. It's Blind Pew, and if he calls your name,
you'll know he's brought you a message from the pirates. Beware if it's the
Robert Louis Stevenson was a young boy when his father first
told him about the Black Spot. He re-told the tale in the most famous pirate
story of all, "Treasure Island." That happened far, far away from
Russia. As all Russian children know, there are no pirates in Russia.
Well, that's not exactly so. A thousand years ago, when Kiev and Novgorod
were much more powerful than Moscow, and rivers were the highways
connecting Russia to the Baltic and Black Seas, pirate ships attacked
whatever they could. They looted furs, silver, wax, silk, weapons,
jewellery, pots of honey. They dragged pretty white-skinned girls from
riverbank villages, and sold them into slavery. It was terrible then.
Not today, though, children. Now Russia has a strong ruler inside the
in Moscow. He doesn't allow pirates, though sometimes, when he goes sailing
on the river, he throws men overboard. Just for fun.
The Black Spot is no slap in the face from a court. Pirates have contempt
for law and order, as we ordinary land-lubbers think of it. Pirates have their
own rules, and the Black Spot is the judgement of the crew. For whatever
reason -- and it must be a terrible one, children, because pirates are black-
hearted men -- if a member of the crew receives the Black Spot, he
knows he's going to die. He may try to escape, but wherever he goes, the
crew will hunt him down, and kill him.
Sometimes, one of the crew was suspected by the others of revealing too much
about the place where their treasure was buried. Sometimes, it was a matter of
scheming to replace the pirate captain, and take all the treasure. Sometimes,
the captain, in a mad, drunken rage, suspecting the crew of plotting against
him, struck one so hard in the back with a dagger, he fatally pierced his
heart. Pirates may be wicked, but they believe there are right and wrong
ways of killing people. A surprise attack from behind is cowardly. A pirate
who does that, even a famous old captain with dozens of sword-fights
to his credit, loses the confidence of his crew.
Power and treasure are the things pirates are always fighting over, and
captains prove their mettle by the way they cool ambitions, deter greed,
settle disputes. Pirate captains have to be very strong, always alert, to
avoid getting the Black Spot themselves.
What happened was a solemn ceremony. Each pirate, having spoken and heard
the opinions of his mates, voted. If the decision was death, the judgement
was sealed by tearing a page out of the bible. In those days, pirates were
uneducated men. Illiterate, they were unable to read the holy book. But all
the same, they worried about what it said. They liked to think they were
God-fearing. If they were going to kill someone, they thought it best to
make it look, if not quite legal, at least religious-looking. The stub of a
pencil, or an old piece of coal, was used to fill a black circle on the page.
It was then folded neatly, and Blind Pew was told to deliver it.
Old pirates, trying to hide in their retirement, would have nightmares
at night, imagining they could hear Pew coming to deliver their
Black Spot. These days doctors would be called in, manic-depression
syndrome diagnosed, and drugs prescribed. But in the story-book, there
was no cure for the Black Spot. If you knew where the treasure
was buried; if your shipmates suspected you of thinking of stealing
it from them; if you were no longer as tough or as terrifying as you
used to be, there was no telling when you might get the Black
There'll be more to tell tomorrow, children, but now it's bedtime. And
before you go to sleep, don't forget to thank God there are no
pirates in Russia.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
April 14, 1998
INSIDE RUSSIA: Lebed Loses Allies in Race For Governor
By Yulia Latynina
Yulia Latynina is a staff writer for Expert magazine.
The gubernatorial election in the Krasnoyarsk region is widely seen as
the first round of the next presidential elections. If retired General
Alexander Lebed loses the election for governor, he will join the ranks
of outsiders in the next presidential race. If he wins, he will receive,
in addition to one of the richest regions of Russia, the opportunity to
finance his own campaign. This is a rather important factor for a
politician whose inconstant alliances have become proverbial and who
could be left without sponsors in the elections in 2000.
Moscow has no doubts about Lebed's victory. But from the perspective of
the region, Lebed is sure to lose. Moreover, those who brought him to
Krasnoyarsk hardly wanted him to win.
The Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory, or KrAZ, was one of the initiators of
inviting Lebed to the region. The KrAZ management has old accounts to
settle with the current governor, Valery Zubov. The governor did not
give KrAZ the Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric complex, and KrAZ, in revenge,
removed Zubov from the ranks of the financial-industrial group TaNAKo,
which unites all the most important enterprises of the south of the
In fact, there are three figures in the gubernatorial race: Zubov, Lebed
and Anatoly Bykov, the chairman of KrAZ's board of directors, who
triumphed at the December elections for the regional legislative
Bykov's reputation as Krasnoyarsk's Robin Hood has long made the former
boxer the idol of the region. But Moscow's reaction to Bykov's election
to the legislative assembly was even sharper than to the victory of
Andrei Klimentyev in Nizhny Novgorod or the convicted criminal Gennady
Konyakhin in Leninsk-Kuznetsk.
Instead of running for governor, the desperately ambitious Bykov
undertook to pass a law that practically forced the governor to divide
his power with the legislative assembly (in which Bykov has a
controlling share). The law foresees the creation of a regional
government and the confirmation of the head of the government by the
The law would seem to be a means of muzzling any governor, regardless of
who wins -- Lebed or Zubov. But, clearly, putting a muzzle on Lebed does
not have much of a chance of succeeding. In any case, the former boxer
and former paratrooper would be unlikely to get along.
In short, the factory invited Lebed to the region, but does not want him
to win. KrAZ is too familiar with the history of neighboring Khakasia,
where Alexei Lebed, the general's brother, came to power with the
support of the Sayansky Aluminum Factory, but then a year later got rid
of those who helped his rise to power.
A compromise has almost already been reached. Not long ago, deputy head
of the Kremlin staff Viktoria Mitina held a meeting in which Zubov
promised to adopt the law on a regional government, and in exchange
Bykov refused to give outright support to Lebed.
Lebed saw Krasnoyarsk as a runway for the presidential pre-election
campaign. But he was used to frighten the governor. The main secret of
the Krasnoyarsk election is that this is above all a local conflict.
This is something that Moscow, because of its presumptuous belief that
all winning combinations begin and end in the capital, simply missed.
April 14, 1998
'Greed' Teaches Kids Capitalism
By Yevgenia Borisova
ST. PETERSBURG -- If greed is good, as the famous line from the film
"Wall Street" suggests, then Russia's children are about to get a big
dose of good.
Starting this month, St. Petersburg toy stores will begin selling
Zhadnost, or Greed -- a board game designed to glorify avarice and
inculcate it quickly in children.
Exactly how the game works remains unclear, other than the fact that it
will have something to do with mock stock exchanges.
But the company that makes the game, Stikhiya, has put on an impressive
marketing effort in recent weeks, inviting hundreds of children to
participate in auctions, which, like Zhadnost, are supposedly modeled
after a stock exchange in action. The children buy packets of tickets
described as "mock securities" for a ruble each, and then are egged on
to outbid each other for stuffed animals and other toys.
At a recent afternoon auction at St. Petersburg's Manezh exhibition
hall, organizers dressed in costumes lured young passers-by inside with
free candy. At 3 p.m. sharp, a bearded man raised a stuffed animal over
his head -- he called it "a baby lion" -- and announced that bidding was
"It costs four coupons -- who will offer more? Who is the greediest
child here?" he shouted.
Eventually Seryozha, 15, offered 23 coupons for the lion. He was also
rewarded with a book by Jack London -- in recognition, the emcee
proclaimed, of "remarkable greed."
Then 8-year-old Pasha got a stuffed cat for 22 coupons (in a shop it
would cost 21.7 rubles, or $3.54), up from an opening bid of 6 coupons;
and Nadya got a small monkey, initially offered for 5 coupons, for 11
In 15 minutes, the auction was over. The exhibition hall was crowded
with hundreds of children, all holding worthless coupons. The children
who had won were excited. Those who had lost for lack of money to buy
more coupons looked disappointed.
"Next time I will bring more money," said Kolya, 8. But, he added, he
would first check in the stores how much the toys cost.
Elderly women who had watched the proceedings were angry. "This is
awful," one said. "I don't want my grandchildren to become greedy!"
But Pasha was excited about his toy cat. "I like the game and my toy,"
he said, adding that he had bought the coupons with money he had earned
from his mother for excellent marks at school -- at a rate of 50 kopecks
for every perfect grade.
Pasha's mother approved of her son's victory, and of the game.
"The prices are not that high. Of course we might have bought that toy
cheaper -- but here it is excitement, a gamble," she said. "The name of
the game is of course not good, but it depends on one's point of view. I
think it helps the children develop."
Stikhiya believes the game will be a commercial success when it appears
this month. Nikita Nikitin, Stikhiya's deputy director, said the rules
of the game will be published in local media.
"The goal of the game is to educate children about market relations," he
said. "It introduces the main principles of work at stock exchanges.
Most of our people are ignorant about how the free market works -- and
that is why such [pyramid] companies as MMM appeared and were
Galina Sokolova, head of the licensing department of City Hall's
educational committee, said children's games do not need to be licensed,
though they "may need to get approval from a special expert committee."
Parents watching Zhadnost unfold at the Manezh agreed that market
economics were a useful subject of study. But many wondered why greed
had to be glorified in the process.
"We believe that humanism, not greediness, should be developed in
children by games, " said a representative of the department of
elementary school educational psychology at Gertsen University, who
asked that her name not be used. "But no one is listening to us."
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
14 April 1998
Yeltsin tries to buy votes in campaign for premier
By Alan Philps in Moscow
PRESIDENT Yeltsin has offered to shower his unruly parliament with perks
to persuade deputies to change their minds and cast their votes for his
young candidate for prime minister.
In one of his celebrated off-the-cuff comments, Mr Yeltsin lifted the
veil on one of the secrets of Russian politics: parliament depends on
the Kremlin for everything that makes a political career lucrative.
He said he had told the Kremlin's administrative department, which
provides cars, housing and holiday cottages for the bureaucracy and the
legislature, to "solve the deputies' problems", but only "if they show a
The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is expected to vote for a
second time on the candidacy of Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, on Friday. He was
rejected as prime minister last week, gaining only 143 of the necessary
The President did not indicate what perks the deputies had asked for,
saying only: "They know themselves." Nothing would be done, he said,
until after Friday. The Kremlin confirmed that Mr Yeltsin would be going
to Japan for a summit meeting on Friday, and it would be unusual,
although not impossible, for the President to leave the country in the
hands of an acting prime minister.
But the communists confirmed that they and their allies had orders to
vote against Mr Kiriyenko on Friday and were demanding a new candidate.
The Communist Party has 138 seats in the 450-member assembly, but
controls 47 per cent of the total number of votes through allied
Mr Yeltsin's bribes will merely confirm the view of many Russians that
every deputy is on the make. Konstantin Eggert, the foreign editor of
Izvestia said: "These offers do not say much for the development of
Russian democracy. It is said that 99 per cent of deputies have their
But, as with everything else in the Russian administration, the Duma
budget is under-funded and always running out of money. Many of the
promised perks may not materialise unless the Kremlin dips into its
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998
From: Geoffrey York <firstname.lastname@example.org>
By Geoffrey York
The Globe & Mail (Canada)
April 13, 1998
KAZAN, Russia -- Tatarstan, a small republic on the Volga River, is
refusing to issue Russian passports on its territory. Instead it is
busily preparing a Tatarstan citizenship law, a new Tatar alphabet, and
salary bonuses for Tatar-speaking bureaucrats.
Tatarstan's ethnic nationalism has infuriated many Russians, provoking
dire predictions that Russia will collapse into a warring band of
But the Tatarstan experiment has defied all predictions. Eight years
after its declaration of sovereignty, this oil-rich Islamic republic has
forged a pragmatic accommodation with Moscow. Now it is touting itself
as a successful model for other independence-minded regions around the
world, from Kosovo to Quebec.
~It could be a formula for regulating conflicts in other parts of the
world," said Mintimir Shaimiyev, the president of Tatarstan. ~We are
approaching a new century and the world should learn a civilized way to
resolve its disputes. It's better than war."
Only a few years ago, Tatar nationalists were marching in the streets
of Kazan, their historic capital on the Volga River. They were demanding
full independence, and many Russians feared that the Tatars would ignite
an explosion of ethnic tribalism across this vast country of dozens of
Today, the drive for secession has subsided. Of all the ethnic regions
of Russia, only the militant Chechen republic has fought for
independence. Tatarstan has helped pioneer a new decentralized and
flexible federalism, where Russia's most powerful and wealthy regions
enjoy a huge amount of autonomy. Canadian constitutional gurus would
recognize it as ~asymmetrical federalism."
Tatarstan has achieved its goals with a mixture of symbolism, cronyism,
deception, formal agreements, informal deal-making, and a high degree of
creative fudging and muddling.
The republic has all the symbols of independence: its own flag,
language, religion, laws, president, constitution, foreign trade
offices, and even its own treaty with Moscow.
But much of this is a misleading camouflage. The president, Mr.
Shaimiyev, is a shrewd deal-maker and former Communist Party boss who
enjoys close links to the Moscow establishment. He has exploited the
Tatar independence movement to strike a tough bargain with Moscow,
keeping the region within Russia while ensuring his own control of its
most profitable resources and property.
Legally, the situation is a muddle. Tatarstan has its own constitution
and its own laws, which often contradict the Russian laws and the
Russian constitution. Local courts can choose whichever law seems the
most convenient. Nobody knows whether the Tatarstan or Russian
constitution should take precedence.
~Politically, maybe it's the best solution," said Oleg Zaznayev, a
political scientist at Kazan State University.
~It's all based on personal relations between Shaimiyev and Moscow. In
practice, the local elite is almost completely independent. But
Shaimiyev understands that Tatarstan is a subject of the Russian
Federation. He doesn't say it, but he realizes it."
The Tatars, a Turkic people whose ancestors include the Golden Horde of
Genghis Khan, were conquered by Ivan the Terrible in a bloody slaughter
in the sixteenth century. Less than half of Tatarstan's four million
inhabitants today are Tatar, while most of the rest are ethnically
Russian. But the region was an early trailblazer in the fight for
autonomy during the dying days of the Soviet Union.
It was in Kazan, in 1990, that President Boris Yeltsin uttered his
famous challenge to the regions to ~take as much sovereignty as you can
swallow." A few months later, Tatarstan declared independence.
The region introduced its own constitution in 1992 and signed a
historic power-sharing treaty with the Kremlin two years later. The
treaty was hugely influential. Since then, dozens of other regions have
signed their own treaties with Moscow, but none have achieved as much
autonomy as Tatarstan.
The treaty between Moscow and Kazan is a masterpiece of creative
fudging. It allows Moscow to keep jurisdiction over defence and foreign
policy, but almost everything else is put under Tatarstan's control.
It carefully avoids the question of whether Tatarstan is a subject of
the Russian Federation. It says Tatarstan is ~united" with Russia, but
never defines what this means. It says Tatarstan ~participates in
international relations" but never explains this either.
The Russian parliament has refused to recognize the Tatarstan treaty.
It insists that the Russian constitution must take precedence over any
regional constitutions. But Tatarstan is ignoring the pressure from
Moscow and plunging ahead with further symbolic steps toward
It plans to dump the Cyrillic alphabet and revive the old Latin script
for the Tatar language. It is debating a citizenship law that could
allow Tatars to renounce their Russian citizenship while keeping their
Tatarstan citizenship. And it is planning a 15 per cent salary bonus to
civil servants who speak Tatar -- a move that has angered many ethnic
Russians in the region.
When Russia introduced its new passports last year, Tatarstan refused
to distribute them because they failed to include a Tatar-language
section. Tatar names, rendered in Cyrillic, are often riddled with
errors. ~With these new Russian passports, our names could be lost,"
complains Raphael Khakimov, a top adviser to Mr. Shaimiyev.
Perhaps the most vivid symbol of Tatarstan's autonomy is its strong
support for the Chechen rebels who fought a bloody 21-month war against
the Russian army. Tatarstan has provided free medical care for dozens of
injured Chechen fighters and civilians, free education for Chechen
students, shipments of medical equipment and textbooks to Chechnya, and
truckloads of humanitarian aid.
~Our relations with Tatarstan are better than with any other region,"
said Selim Susayev, a Chechen lawyer who helps represent the Chechnya
government in Kazan. ~We like Tatarstan because it is fearless."
In the early 1990s, Tatarstan's movement toward independence seemed
almost unstoppable. Some observers predicted that Tatarstan could become
fully independent within a decade. In recent years, however, Tatarstan
has given priority to economic autonomy -- a much more lucrative field.
Tatarstan now keeps the bulk of its local tax revenue, sending only
about 25 per cent to Moscow. Bypassing the central government, it has
developed its own program of privatization, its own land-reform
policies, and its own tax policies to attract foreign investment. It has
become one of the favourite regions of Russia for foreign investors.
Worried that investors could be frightened away by talk of secession or
conflict with Moscow, the Tatarstan government is anxious to create a
peaceful image for the republic. ~Nobody here is interested in
separatism," said Timur Akulov, the director of external relations for
the Tatarstan government.
~For more than 400 years, Tatars and Russians have lived together in
this land and intermarried. None of them can say, `This land belonged to
my father or grandfather.' It's strange that the media talk of
separatism here. We don't have any separatist movement."
Opinion polls suggest that Mr. Akulov is exaggerating. A significant
minority -- perhaps as much as 20 per cent -- of Tatarstan's population
is still in favour of separating from Russia. But there is no question
that the secessionist movement has lost steam.
~People have become quieter and less nationalistic," said Mr. Zaznayev,
the political scientist. ~They're more concerned about their own lives,
and getting their salaries on time."
April 13, 1998
[for personal use only]
Countering a Communist Comeback
By Strobe Talbott
Post-communist countries face a dilemma. As economies in transition from
central planning to the open market, they must cut back drastically on
massive deficits and state subsidies to inefficient industries. As
fledgling democracies, their citizens are, often for the first times in
their lives, free to vote for their political leaders.
That means elections reflect not just the citizenry's aspirations for a
better future but its discontents with the near-term pain that
inevitably accompanies reform. The result is often, in effect, a
comeback for current or former communists. In recent years, versions of
this scenario have played out in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Hungary.
The latest example is Ukraine, a country whose stability and security
matter profoundly to Europe and the United States. In an election two
weeks ago, the Communist Party led the balloting in a majority of
localities and won the largest bloc of seats in the parliament. Its
stated policy goals include the reversal of some key elements of
Ukraine's privatization program, as well as the partial
re-nationalization of industry and the banking system.
The United States has supported political and economic reform in Ukraine
since the country gained independence in 1991 and views the election
results with concern. However, the ability of the Communist Party to
turn back the clock is severely limited. Ukraine's need for access to
international investment capital and development assistance is likely to
prove stronger than the siren song of a bankrupt ideology.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have made clear that
they will withhold further support until Ukraine makes progress on some
long-postponed reforms. Most important are the restructuring of the
energy and agricultural sectors, the imposition of greater discipline in
government spending and measures to control widespread corruption.
On her visit to Kiev last month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
urged Ukraine's leaders to take those hard but necessary steps.
Otherwise, Ukraine will be unable to provide hope of prosperity for its
citizens and to integrate with the outside world. These twin
disabilities could put Ukrainian security itself in jeopardy. That's
because Ukraine is not just a new state -- it is in certain respects a
fragile one. The biggest source of its fragility is an economy that
repels rather than attracts foreign investment and that has so far
failed to produce the kind of benefits that people in other
post-communist societies have begun to take for granted.
In the wake of the elections, the critical question is whether the
parliament will work with President Leonid Kuchma in the larger interest
of the country to get economic reform moving again.
Ukrainian democracy faces its next test in 18 months, in the October
1999 presidential election. Officials from both the legislative and
executive branches may be tempted to defer difficult decisions so that
they can say and do things that they believe will earn favor with the
voters. Finger-pointing, demagoguery, empty promises and inaction on
economic reform will make things that much worse in October 1999.
While there is cause for concern about what lies ahead for Ukraine,
there are reasons for optimism as well. In the seven years since it
gained its independence, Ukraine has made some brave, forward-looking
decisions, from joining the nonproliferation treaty as a
nonnuclear-weapons state in 1994, to ceasing all cooperation with Iran's
nuclear program earlier this year and reaching out across divides of
history and geography to its neighbors, particularly Russia.
Even the latest elections contained encouraging signs that Ukrainians
are dealing with their ethnic and cultural differences through peaceful,
democratic means. The results indicate that members of the Russian- and
Polish-speaking minorities tended to cast their ballots for candidates
on the basis of their stand on issues, not on the basis of their
ethnicity. That helps rebut the prophets of doom who, not long ago,
predicted that it would be on the rocks of ethnic separatism that the
Ukrainian ship of state would founder.
These examples of international good citizenship are incentives for the
major industrial democracies to continue their support for Ukrainian
reform. For the United States, that means maintaining an array of
programs that have made Ukraine the fourth-largest recipient of American
assistance in the world -- and the number one recipient in the former
Soviet Union. It is in its own interest for the United States to help
Ukraine achieve its potential to be a secure, democratic, prosperous,
self-confident state, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic Community.
But Ukraine's leaders must do more to help us help them.
The writer is deputy secretary of state.
Duma Opposition Asks For Probe To Look Into Acting PM's Actions
MOSCOW, April 13 (Interfax) - The leftist opposition in the Russian
State Duma will insist on establishing a parliamentary commission to
verify the information on acting Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko's
contacts with Hubbard College, a sect of "scientologists."
The Popular Rule faction will propose Tuesday that the Duma Council put
this issue on the chamber's agenda for Wednesday, Popular Rule member
Yelena Panina said.
A press conference, entitled "Candidate for Prime Minister's Post
Conceals Truth about Himself," will be held in the Duma Tuesday.
The proposed commission will be charged with verifying the reports
published by Spiegel magazine and the Die Welt newspaper that Kiriyenko
has attended seminars set up by Hubbard College and gave 200 million
rubles to them in 1995, Panina said. Kiriyenko was serving as the
chairman of the board of the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Garantiya
bank at the time.
In a letter of March 31, Hubbard's Humanitarian Center asked Kiriyenko
to resume the Narkonon program banned by the Russia Health Ministry in
1996, Panina said. This is "not a chance coincidence," she said.
Kiriyenko denied the alleged contacts last week.
Russia signs 1998 IMF financial plan
MOSCOW, April 13 (AFP) - Russia took a big stride on Monday towards
persuading the IMF to resume disbursement of billions of dollars in
loans, announcing the signature of a 1998 financial plan putting
budgetary rigour at the heart of an economic mission statement.
Russia's caretaker government and central bank moved to reassure the
International Monetary Fund and calm investors and markets hit by
political turmoil in Moscow, by signing on Saturday the 1998 programme
worked out with the IMF, the central bank said.
The programme outlines economic growth, budgetary discipline and
improvement of tax collection as key targets to be achieved by the
Russian government that takes shape after President Boris Yeltsin and
his political foes in parliament finally agree on a new prime minister
"The government and central bank intend to support the macroeconomic
stability achieved and make firm progress in tax and budgetary policies,
including increasing the collection of taxes and cutting down the level
of the budget deficit," the central bank statement said.
The IMF is currently disbursing a three-year, 10-billion-dollar loan to
Russia in monthly instalments, but has delayed release of any of this
year's instalments because Russia had not signed the financial
Yeltsin's decision to dismiss his government and appoint 35-year-old
technocrat Sergei Kiriyenko to breathe new life into reforms on March 23
further delayed the signature of the economic blueprint, while at the
same time sowing deep uncertainty in financial markets.
Equities have lost some 10 percent since the Russian president started
spring-cleaning the corridors of government, while bond yields have
topped 30 percent once again having dipped towards 25 percent before the
Acting premier Sergei Kiriyenko said Friday that the financial plan
would have to be signed soon, government or no government, to reassure
markets and signal Russia's commitment to the IMF programme.
"It's clear that any government under Yeltsin's presidency is going to
have to follow these guidelines," said Al Breach of the Russian-European
Centre for Economic Policy, welcoming the signature of document.
"This is making a very clear statement that the economic policy will be
compatible with this document," Breach said. "If not, it's the end of
"They are keeping to the plan even without the government," he added.
The financial plan is now due to go before an IMF board for final
approval, whereafter loan disbursements can resume. Some 2.8 billion
dollars are still available under the IMF programme, due to continue
The institution announced in February it would extend the loan facility
through to 2000.
The emphasis on tax collection and budgetary rigour appear designed to
please the IMF, which has consistently singled out Russia's poor tax
collection record for criticism, and on several occasions suspended
monthly disbursements due to low collection rates.
It has likewise insisted on firm budgetary discipline. Russia's 1998
budget, which took five months to pass through parliament before being
signed into law late last month, provides for a 132.4 billion ruble
(22.06 billion dollar) budget deficit, 4.7 percent of gross domestic
The 1998 blueprint also commits Russia to greater openness for its huge
energy monopolies, particularly electricity concern UES and gas giant
Gazprom, as well as in future privatisations.
Russia's privatisation process earned a black mark last year when the
partial sell-off of the Svyazinvest telecoms giant gave rise to furious
allegations that the eventual winner, Oneximbank, had been unfairly
The plan similarly pledges to develop financial markets further and
consolidate the banking sector, which has struggled to develop, with too
many banks existing with shaky finances and inadequate charter capital.
An IMF mission is due in Moscow at the end of April or early in May to
check the implementation of the current programme, and in particular the
macroeconomic results in the first quarter.