This Date's Issues: 2147•
Johnson's Russia List
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
15 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: YELTSIN PUSHES FOR START-2
2. Financial Times (UK): Lionel Barber, Life after Boris.
3. Moscow Times: Dmitry Babich, Iron Fist of Local Bosses.
4. Yeltsin Radio Address Advocates Kiriyenko For Premier.
5. Interfax: Kiriyenko Details Russia's Losses in World Oil Crisis.
6. Itar-Tass: Kiriyenko Calls for More State Involvement in Economy.
7. Interfax: Duma Figure Does Not Rule Out Dissolution.
8. Reuters: Ambitious General Wins Seat in Duma.
9. Moscow Times: Catharine Nepomnyashchy and Richard Borden,
ESSAY: Pulp Fiction Helps Make Sense of Scary World.
10. Reuters: Russia power gloom seen as unjustified.
11. Reuters: Russian Orthodox head not ready for Pope.
12. AP: Yeltsin Questions Art Looting Vote.]
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
April 14, 1998
YELTSIN PUSHES FOR START-2 RATIFICATION. With hopes once again of getting
the 1993 START-2 treaty ratified, President Boris Yeltsin yesterday
presented supporting documents to the State Duma. Items of interest in those
papers: first, a U.S./Russian protocol extending by five years the treaty's
destruction timetable, and, second, materials dealing with the 1972
Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Despite Yeltsin's continued appeals,
parliament deputies have been largely unmoved to date. Many have seen the
treaty as one of the few bargaining chips Moscow holds in its relationship
with Washington. They have therefore held it hostage to every potential and
real dispute--such as NATO expansion, Bosnia and Iraq.
Faced with the realities of a meager procurement budget and an aging missile
force, the military has supported the treaty all along. Defense Minister
Marshal Igor Sergeev and his successor as commander-in-chief of the
Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) have repeatedly reminded the deputies that
Russia's strategic nuclear shield was likely to fall either to or below the
treaty's levels even if the Duma failed to approve the pact. The treaty was
necessary, they warned, to constrain U.S. nuclear forces. It was also, they
said, the key to paving the way for a follow-on agreement, START-3, which
they expect to bring about a rough parity between the two country's
The supplementary agreements presented yesterday--particularly the protocol
extending the destruction period--were designed to meet earlier Russian
complaints about the treaty's one-sided nature. Many believed that Russia
had a comparative advantage in large, land-based strategic missiles with
multiple warheads. They have thus balked at the START-2 provision to
eventually do away with these weapons. Under the new schedule, the Russians
can pare this force down to 1,200 warheads by the end of 2004 (including
sixty-five giant SS-18 missiles, each with ten warheads) and not totally
eliminate this class of weapon until the end of 2007. Sergeev has noted that
this means the SRF will not have to prematurely retire any of these missiles.
The time might be ripe for the Duma to finally act, as there are no dramatic
disagreements between the two countries at this time. Yeltsin wants the
treaty approved to pave the way for a Moscow summit with President Clinton
later this year. Yeltsin has named Yevgeny Primakov and Sergeev to represent
him during the START-2 ratification debates. First Deputy Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov and Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin will serve the same
function with the ABM documents. Many influential Duma leaders are basically
in favor of the treaty. Some of those who have opposed it for tactical
reasons might be having second thoughts. Last week, Sergeev said that the
Communist faction in the Duma--critics of the treaty--now looked at the
problem "more sensibly." (Russian media, April 3-April 13)
Financial Times (UK)
APRIL 15, 1998
[for personal use only]
LIONEL BARBER: Life after Boris
The Tsar pulls uphill with the strength of 10 men, but millions pull
downhill - Ivan Pososhkov on Peter the Great.
Boris Yeltsin has been written off more times than Helmut Kohl. Russia's
veteran leader has survived double pneumonia, quintuple heart by-pass
surgery, two attempted coups, Communist party exile, snubs from the Bush
White House, and a dunk in the Moscow river.
So the odds are reasonable that he will survive his latest stand-off
with the Russian Parliament. Hot air threats of impeachment will
evaporate. The risk of early parliamentary elections and the attendant
political uncertainty are likely to recede. Russia will continue to
lurch forward with economic reform.
This benign interpretation of events could lead to dangerous
complacency. Mr Yeltsin's snap decision to sack his entire cabinet -
including Victor Chernomyrdin, his long-standing prime minister - should
be a wake-up call to the European Union. Russia, huge, heavily armed,
and endlessly unstable, demands attention.
Ostensibly, the struggle in Moscow centres on the suitability of Mr
Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, the youthful Sergei Kiriyenko.
What is really at stake is the power of the imperial presidency which Mr
Yeltsin created to safeguard Russia's tenuous transition to democracy.
Rightly or wrongly, Mr Yeltsin believes that his own brand of Tsarism is
the best instrument with which to goad an inert body politic into the
modern age. A brilliant manipulator, he has concentrated power around a
coterie of personal advisers rather than the formal office of the
Cabinet. Yet this very concentration of power means that the question of
the succession assumes increasing importance.
There is virtually nothing the West can do influence who will be the
next Tsar, assuming Mr Yeltsin does not try to seek another term in
2000. But the West can influence how he might respond to the pending
expansion of Nato and the European Union into central and eastern
Europe. The West can also help create conditions to ensure that reform
in post-Communist Russia is irreversible.
The first step is to cement a relationship with Russia which goes deeper
than personalities. Nato has worked hard to achieve this. The new
16-plus-one partnership offers Moscow a seat at the table in matters of
European security. It goes some way to assuaging Russian opposition to
membership for the Czech republic, Poland, and Hungary. More debatable
is whether Nato could finesse unremitting Russian hostility towards
further expansion eastwards, say, to the Baltic states.
A second step is to continue integrating Russia into international
institutions and the global economy. Russia's attendance at the Group of
Seven industrialised nations is a useful step. Russian membership of the
World Trade Organisation, is even more essential, provided that it can
satisfy the necessary conditions.
Less useful are French-inspired gimmicks such as the new triangular
summits between France, Germany and Russia. These stroke the Russian
leader's ego but they revive fears in Washington about the big European
powers conspiring to weaken American engagement in Europe.
Here is where the EU has a vital role to play. The Partnership and
Co-operation agreement with Russia, which finally entered force at the
end of last year, is a solid foundation on which to build.
Long delayed because of the war in Chechnya, the agreement deepens
political, economic, commercial and cultural ties. It improves access
for Russian exports and contains an admittedly ambitious provision for
negotiations for a future free trade zone.
Influential voices such as Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen of Finland
argue that the agreement does not go far enough. Relations between the
EU and Russia come down too often to disputes over carpet exports or
cheap vodka. These tiffs obscure the fact that the EU is by far Russia's
biggest trading partner.
Mr Lipponen is pressing for a new "Northern dimension" to the EU's
embryonic common foreign policy which reflects adequately the strategic
importance of Russia. He is already planning to put his ideas for how to
do this to the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, when Finland will be
in charge of the rotating EU presidency.
Some suspect that such an initiative is self-serving. Calls for extra
money to fund trade and development in a region stretching from the
Nordic nations to the Urals and up to the Arctic Circle - through new
railways, trans-border roads and pipelines - would naturally favour
Finland. But there are good reasons for considering a bolder approach.
Within 20 years the EU is likely to depend for up to 70 per cent of its
natural gas on deposits in the Barents and Kara seas. In the Kola
peninsula, just across from Finland, rotting nuclear powered ships and
submarines are an environmental catastrophe in the making.
But by far the most powerful argument in favour of beefing up policy
lies in the EU's decision to offer eventual membership to the three
Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The implications of this commitment are only starting to percolate
through the Brussels bureaucracy and go far beyond the extension
southward of Finland's (and therefore the EU's) 1,000km border with
Russia. An unpublished Finnish government study underlines the degree to
Russian foreign exports are increasingly dependent on the ports of the
Baltic states, and how the Baltic trio remain highly dependent on
Russian energy, especially natural gas.
In the first case, Russian efforts to encourage more traffic to use its
own ports are being hampered by a shortage of public funds; in the
second case, the Baltic states' desire to diversify energy supplies -
perhaps through a new Baltic Ring built by west European power companies
- can only be achieved at huge cost.
Dependence on Moscow is something which newly-liberated countries are
loath to admit. Indeed, they take every opportunity to proclaim their
independence. The Latvian government, in particular, has risked
provoking the Russian government with a less-than-sensitive treatment of
the large Russian minority.
The Baltic connection means that the EU will be drawn closer to Russia
and vice-versa. No one is talking about Russian membership of the Union.
Swallowing the equivalent of a continent is not the first item on the
Yet the EU needs to ponder the next steps in its relations with Russia
to fit alongside its other strategic commitments such as the single
currency and eastern enlargement. It is time to prepare for life after
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
April 15, 1998
Iron Fist of Local Bosses
By Dmitry Babich
Dmitry Babich is a correspondent for the TV 6 television weekly
analytical program "Obozrevatel." He contributed this comment to The
President Boris Yeltsin's sudden dismissal of the government startled
many in Moscow, but came as no surprise to the people in the provinces.
The reason is that Russian provinces are long used to this kind of
politics. Local governors and the presidents of autonomous republics
have been dismissing their respective governments in the same way for
For example, the president of the small autonomous republic of Kalmykia,
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, liquidated his government as an institution a month
and a half before Yeltsin did the same in Moscow. Even the television
speech that Yeltsin made after sacking the government echoed
Ilyumzhinov's almost word for word. Like Yeltsin, Ilyumzhinov declared
himself head of government and issued a decree that would cut the number
of state officials by half. Several months before, Ingushetia's
President Ruslan Aushev had also dismissed his government. In both
cases, the constitutions of both republics allowed the president to act
arbitrarily, without seeking the consent or advice of the parliaments.
In this respect, they parallel the Russian Constitution to a tee.
Originally, the Russian Constitution of 1993 was modeled after the
French Constitution of the Fifth Republic under General Charles De
Gaulle in order to lessen the negative effect of infighting among
political groups in parliament and make the government more stable. As
recent events have shown, however, the 1993 constitution has had the
opposite effect. It has made the government very unstable and dependent
on the whims of one person.
That is why the governors and presidents of autonomous republics who met
in Moscow for a session of the Federation Council, the upper house of
parliament, did not charge Yeltsin with any wrongdoing as had the lower
house, the State Duma. The governors and presidents, both Communist and
non-Communist alike, agreed that Yeltsin had every right to do what he
did without consulting them. To do otherwise would have brought on
accusations of hypocrisy.
In the provinces, people do not argue about who is in charge in Moscow.
What matters is who is in charge of their region, of which they need no
reminding. Every local boss puts his own special stamp on his region
given his virtually unlimited powers. For example, Kemerovo Governor
Aman Tuleyev, an outspoken Communist, arbitrarily fired the mayor of the
town of Prokopyevsk for "bad work." That the mayor was elected by the
town's inhabitants and not appointed by the regional administration did
not stop Tuleyev from firing him. Thus, Tuleyev set a very bad precedent
for the entire country.
Kursk Governor Alexander Rutskoi dispersed all local self-government
bodies even though, according to the federal legislation, he had no
right to do so. After he got rid of all his critics by firing them, he
started several projects that confirm his reputation as a troublemaker
and badboy of Russian politics. For example, he suggested resolving the
housing problem in Kursk by building mansard roofs over old buildings.
He also proposed importing French cows in order to replace Russian ones,
which reminded him of donkeys.
The other common passion of local bosses are international airports. The
reason that international airports are now being built in Ingushetia,
Kursk and a dozen other cities is clear. The governors want to conduct
their own trade with foreign countries and invite foreign visitors.
Rutskoi, for example, hopes to see German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the
pope and the Latin American and Israeli leaders he met while he was vice
president. So, despite widespread and longstanding wage arrears in
Kursk, huge sums of money have already been allotted for the
construction of an airport.
Aushev is also moving forward with plans for building an international
airport in Ingushetia. He is using the profits he received from the free
economic zone that was established in the republic in 1993 to help it
deal with the problem of refugees from the Ingush-Ossetian conflict.
Thousands of Ingush refugees now live in destitute camps while the
airport is getting bigger and bigger.
These are examples of political systems in which local bosses enjoy
unlimited rule. They are not checked either by local councils or, in
most cases, by a free press. Many newspapers in Moscow criticize the
federal government, but very few venture to criticize Moscow Mayor Yury
Luzhkov. The press reports numerous abuses of freedom of speech in
Bashkortostan and other regions, but it cannot say anything bad about
the local bosses.
As for local councils, the methods of controlling them have long been
tried and tested by local governors and presidents. For example, the
Moscow City Duma is already crammed with Luzhkov's cronies, who got the
support of almost all the city press during the last elections. The same
situation is repeated in many other regions, where elections more and
more often become a formality.
For example, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiyev had no contestants
during his election and ran unchallenged. Tatarstan declared itself a
sovereign state in 1992. Now, no one in Moscow can force him to play the
democratic game as was the case during perestroika when local leaders
were obliged to have an alternative candidate during the elections.
So if we look at the situation in the provinces we should be less
surprised by the goings-on in Moscow. The recent government's shakeup is
just a reflection of the political situation in the regions, which are
still far from genuine democracy.
Yeltsin Radio Address Advocates Kiriyenko For Premier
Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Ekho Moskvy
9 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Russian President Boris Yeltsin will deliver his traditional radio
address to the people of Russia on 10 April. The address will be broadcast
by Ekho Moskvy radio at 0900 [0500 GMT]. Here is the full text of the
Dear people of Russia;
Following the dismissal of the government, on 23 March, I asked the
State Duma to confirm Sergey Vladilenovich Kiriyenko as prime minister.
First, this nomination was met with caution, even hostility by many: "Is
it possible? He has been in the government only for a short time, he has
not climbed all the steps of the career ladder or even worked as deputy
prime minister or had time to grow old -- and he has been nominated for
such a high post." Other candidates looked more logical, those whose names
have been on everyone's lips for a long time, who are well known because of
press interviews, and are familiar faces on television. Nevertheless, I
insist on Kiriyenko. He is a professional manager, a team player who
avoids publicity and cheap populism. He is convinced that the center of
economic life lies not in Moscow but in the provinces and, what is very
important, he ties up solutions to economic problems with social issues.
Anyway, Kiriyenko is quick thinking and numerate but it is too early
to pay him compliments, although it is unlikely that he would ever receive
big compliments in this post.
I have met the heads of the chambers of the Federal Assembly and the
leaders of Duma factions at meetings of the four [president, prime minister
and chairmen of both houses of parliament] and the roundtable. All those
present have reaffirmed their wish to cooperate and shown again that our
disagreements and disputes do not necessarily have to turn into conflicts
and tough confrontation. Everything can be agreed upon, as long as there is
a wish for dialogue.
Well, the issue of a new chairman of the government is serious and
deputies are entitled, of course, to think things over and hold discussions
and consultations but the time factor is becoming urgent. We have been
living without government unacceptably long. If the Duma can wait with
delaying the approval of the candidate for a week or two, the economy will
not wait and tolerate it until everyone finally calms down and reaches an
agreement. Urgent questions are piling up with every day. New problems
add to old ones and existing problems are becoming more pressing.
This week, rallies and strikes have been held throughout the country
and it is not important how many unhappy people have taken to the streets.
We know that the economic situation is difficult, but we all spend too much
time on looking for agreements, negotiating, persuading, and arguing. As a
result, Kiriyenko's hands are tied. The appointment of all new ministers
is possible only after the Duma approves the new prime minister. Those
acting, naturally, do not look far ahead, they deal with routine matters
Dear people of Russia:
It is necessary for the country to have a tough budget and financial
regime, for people not to wait for their wages and pensions for months on
end, and for Russian provinces to feel really supported by the federal
authorities. The government simply cannot delay finding solutions to these
problems. The deputies must make up their minds quickly over Kiriyenko,
they must act quickly, and it is Kiriyenko they must make up their minds
over because I have no alternative candidate.
Thank you for your attention.
Kiriyenko Details Russia's Losses in World Oil Crisis
MOSCOW, April 10 (Interfax) -- Russia may lose 30 billion to 40
billion rubles in 1998 as a result of the world oil market crisis with
federal budget losses amounting to 10 billion, acting Prime Minister Sergey
Kiriyenko predicted in his Friday speech in the Duma.
He said the international financial crisis would also hit the Russian
economy and the country may lose about 18 billion to 20 billion rubles.
He described the current economic situation as critical and said there
were several ways out. "The devaluation of the ruble is categorically
impermissible," Kiriyenko said.
He called an increase in budget revenues and the optimization of
spending the most correct ways out.
In his opinion, privatization returns could be boosted significantly.
"I see nothing unacceptable in privatization," he said adding that each
facility should be privatized in its own way. Kiriyenko said the
privatization of strategic facilities is absolutely impossible. Besides,
it has to be decided where privatization returns are going to be
channelled. In his opinion, the money should be directed primarily to the
development and advancement of production.
Besides, Kiriyenko said impressive sums could be raised from the
management of government property, not just its sale. He called current
management extremely ineffective.
Budget revenues can be increased through tightening controls over the
Kiriyenko also felt that the repayment of debts to Russia may be
increased three- or fourfold during the year. This requires the
development of an effective system of managing debts, he said.
Kiriyenko Calls for More State Involvement in Economy
MOSCOW, April 10 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian acting prime minister Sergey
Kiriyenko has called for more state participation in the national economy.
"I do not agree that there is no room for state influence in a market
economy. In the transitional period which the country is going through,
the need for this influence only increases," Kiriyenko said in the State
Duma lower house on Friday.
According to him, it is essential to ensure the absolute dominance of
law and to define the part the state should play in the market economy.
"We should define the zones of direct state control, first and
foremost here belong the zones of natural monopolies," he stressed.
RAO Unifies Energy Systems (UES), gas producer RAO Gazprom, oil
company Transneft, and other natural monopolies should always remain under
state control, he said. He ruled out the sale of the controlling interest
of these enterprises.
Duma Figure Does Not Rule Out Dissolution
MOSCOW, April 14 (Interfax) - Leader of Our Home is Russia faction *Alexander
Shokhin* said the possibility of the dissolution of the Duma "is quite
"It is 50-50 today," he told the press Tuesday.
In his opinion, if the president nominates one and the same candidate to the
post of prime minister three times, the chances may grow to 90%.
In his opinion, Communists and the left-wing opposition as a whole cannot vote
for Sergei Kiriyenko and will prefer dissolution, because otherwise "they will
not keep face."
Shokhin said that if President Boris Yeltsin proposes Kiriyenko for the third
time, he will "force Communists to move to the dissolution."
He also felt that if at the second try Kiriyenko collects less votes than
during the first voting on April 10, he should resign from the post of acting
Shokhin did not rule out the beginning of impeachment procedures of the Duma,
even though he called them rather complicated.
"Many deputies do not want the Duma to be dissolved," Shokhin said.
In this context he predicted two possible courses of development. The first
option: "a head-on" approach with deputies preferring to vote for Kiriyenko to
prevent Yeltsin from dissolving the Duma. The second option, according to
Shokhin, is that on Friday many more deputies will vote against Kiriyenko and
thus signal to the president that for the sake of stability and compromise he
should propose a different candidate for the third voting.
Ambitious General Wins Seat in Duma
13 April 1998
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) Gen. Andrei Nikolayev, tipped as a future presidential
candidate, began his hoped-for march to political glory on Monday by
announcing he was quitting the army to take up a seat in parliament.
Preliminary results showed the 48-year-old former border guards chief
victory with 65 percent of the votes in an election in southern Moscow on
Sunday for a vacant seat in the Duma, or lower house.
But President Boris Yeltsin took some fizz out of Nikolayev's celebrations by
attacking his record and accusing him of trying to grab too much power as
border guards chief, a sensitive and influential post.
"I was not satisfied with the former director's actions in the service.
succeeded in was spoiling relationships with all power ministers and
power organs, with (the heads of) territories," Yeltsin said in televised
"He decided to set up in his department the services which the law says only
the Defense Ministry can have. He wanted submarines, he wanted to guard the
seas. No, this doesn't work," he said as he met the new border guards chief,
Yeltsin's remarks suggested the Kremlin is deeply nervous about Nikolayev's
career in politics, even though he worked with the president until he quit
without explanation as border guards chief last December.
Yeltsin's reprimand appeared intended to undermine Nikolayev but it could have
the opposite effect because falling out of favor with the Kremlin is a plus
with some voters.
Nikolayev, running as an independent, won the seat vacated by liberal Irina
Khakamada in the Orekhovo-Borisovo region of southern Moscow. She is now
overseeing government policy on small businesses.
The election was hit beforehand by mutual recriminations. Five candidates,
including former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, quit the race, accusing the
Moscow authorities of illegally backing Nikolayev.
Rodionov called the poll "a farce."
However, a Moscow city court ruled on Saturday there had been no major
violations of election laws.
Agencies quoted Nikoalyev as saying he would now quit the army to dedicate
himself entirely to politics.
"My military career has ended. A political career is starting," he told
Interfax news agency in an interview in which he said he planned to set up a
centrist bloc in the Duma.
"There are two wings in the parliament -- left and right -- while the
open. A stable parliament exists only with a stable center," he said.
Nikolayev said he wished to unite small democratic parties and probably trade
unions in the new movement.
"This grouping may be called 'Russian Social-Democratic Movement -- Laborer
Movement'," he said, adding that a similar structure could be formed in the
Federation Council, or upper house, and headed by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
Nikolayev has said he and Luzhkov have ideas in common.
He is counting on the image of a honest officer and man of action and
discipline, qualities admired by many Russians long used to being ruled by a
firm hand. He says he is free of any links with financial magnates disliked by
A novice as a public politician, he has enjoyed lavish attention in the media
and his name has been widely floated as a potential presidential candidate or
future prime minister. Nikolayev has declined to discuss his long-term
April 15, 1998
ESSAY: Pulp Fiction Helps Make Sense of Scary World
By Catharine Nepomnyashchy and Richard Borden
Catharine Nepomnyashchy is associate professor of Russian literature at
Barnard College, Columbia University. Richard Borden, who has taught at
Columbia and Harvard universities, resides in Paris. They contributed
this essay to The Moscow Times.
"You are what you read," the saying goes, and this truism holds for
nations as well as individuals. It was a cliche of the Soviet era that
the Russians were the "most reading" people in the world. This phrase
carried an implicit element of self-congratulation over not only the
quantity but also the quality of what Russians supposedly read. It
conjured up images of millions of Vanyas and Mashas contentedly, if a
big priggishly, passing their leisure hours ensconced in "War and Peace"
or "Eugene Onegin" or in sober tomes by Soviet "classics" such as
Mikhail Sholokhov's "The Quiet Don."
The extent to which this claim, no matter how nonsensical it might seem,
was implicated in Soviet conceptions of nation and empire should not be
underestimated. The Bolsheviks brought "light," in both the literal and
figurative senses, not only to their Russian masses but to the "little
peoples" they drew willy-nilly into their imperial orbit as well.
Literacy came in the form of the "greats" of the Russian
pre-Revolutionary tradition. Pushkin, Gogol and Tolstoy served as a
gauge of the Russians' claim to the status of first among equals in
their expanding homeland.
Now, however, the empire has disintegrated, and the canon of great books
is being challenged on all sides -- by television, videos,
Harlequin-type romances, glossy magazines, scandal sheets, pornography
and, perhaps most of all, by detective and thriller novels. If the
Soviet expropriation of the Russian classics betrayed imperial
ambitions, what can the current boom in crime fiction tell us about who
Russians are today and who they are becoming?
One defining feature of detective fiction of all times and nations has
been its evocation of a sense of place. The most memorable "places" of
detection, while drawing on their real-life models to a degree, capture
the imagination precisely because they are larger than life. One thinks
of Agatha Christie's archetypal English village, where evil lurks just
beneath the seemingly placid surface, or Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled
Los Angeles. In the last years of the Soviet empire translated Western
fiction offered Russians unable to travel abroad their first taste of
the exotic, imagined lands beyond their borders, teeming with Rambos,
gangsters, cowboys, Indians and private eyes.
Today a home-grown Russian detective fiction has begun to portray the
exotic new world in which they themselves live, a world unthinkable a
mere decade ago, and one still beyond the grasp of many of its
inhabitants, a world bloated to mythic proportions by the fears and
fascinations it calls forth, dominated by conspiracies, mafias, punks
and narcotics, religious cults, billionaire oligarchs, body guards and
beggars, new fashions and fortunes, hypnotists, astrologers and fancy
weaponry. In fact, contemporary Russian detective fiction offers one of
the most colorful and penetrating "imagined geographies" of this new
Russia, its aspirations, worries, fantasies and myths. Put another way,
Russian detective novels today offer us less a "realistic" picture of
Russian life than an emotional blueprint of the readership that is
devouring them as fast as they are written.
Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim theorized that fairy tales and their
components -- from witches and giants to gingerbread houses and talking
animals -- are not merely flights of fancy but archetypal projections of
children's anxieties. The shapes these anxieties -- and desires -- take
offer the child ways of confronting and coming to terms with threatening
realities. Following this line of reasoning, detective novels in Russia
today can be seen as fairy tales for adults, projections of the nation's
anxieties about its radically new reality and incarnations of its
fantasies for coping with that reality.
For a predominantly male audience there are such "fairy tales" as the
thrillers of Alexander Bushkov and Viktor Dotsenko, whose action-packed
blockbusters portray an anarchic post-Soviet Russia whose only hope for
salvation lies with lone wolf super-soldiers, Russian Rambos, the
embittered former combatants of wars lost by incompetent and corrupt
leaders. That these Rambos invariably harness their anger, skills and
iron wills to conquer the ubiquitous forces of evil, often represented
in the form of those foreigners and their capitalist cronies who
presumably are responsible for Russia's ruin, represents little more
than jejune and macho wish-fulfillment, a fizzy dose of catharsis,
vicarious vengeance upon those who seem to be making the best of the new
A far subtler variety of adult fairy tale -- and one that offers us a
more profound insight into the true demons haunting the Russian psyche
these days -- is to be found in the 18 bestselling novels of Alexandra
Marinina, probably the biggest sensation in Russian popular culture
Marinina's novels may be described as riddles over matters of identity
-- over the question of who is a villain and who a heroine in a puzzling
new world that blurs such traditional distinctions. Marinina's landscape
is populated with twins and false twins, copycats and changelings,
mirror reflections and distortions, masks and disguises. People not only
are confused about who others may be, they are no longer even sure of
who they themselves have become in a society stripped of those cozy, if
confining, prepackaged identities prescribed in Soviet times.
In the looking glass world of Marinina, categories of "good guy" and
"bad guy" when applied to, say, capitalists or cops, foreigners or
philanthropists, are in perpetual flux. Questions of guilt and the
origins of evil are ambiguous. The murderer is often not even the truly
evil person in this fictive world. Hit men -- today's consummate
professionals -- are often among the nicer people in these "fairy
tales," and the victims of crime are often creepy and bad. The friendly
guy next door may be a ruthless serial killer. The mafia may be a force
of stability in a world of anarchy, and certainly proves to be a far
more effective force than the police in battles against evil. The
phenomenal success of Marinina's books suggests then that the
deep-seated and unquestionable social angst in Russia today emanates
less from crime statistics than from disorientation, from a vertiginous
loss of individual and group identity.
And, like Bettelheim's fairy tales, not only do Marinina's mysteries
give vivid shape to contemporary Russians' fears of threats to a
coherent self and social order, they provide a sort of therapy with
which to combat those fears by allowing readers to confront them in the
safety of a "comfy" fictional formula. Marinina's heroine may not always
defeat evil, but she at least unmasks it. She may not solve all her
cases, but she at least unravels their riddles.
It is perhaps this very predictability inscribed in the generic rules of
the detective fiction game that accounts for the particular popularity
of detective novels in times of social unrest. It also, one may surmise,
explains the vast appeal of other highly formulaic popular entertainment
genres such as the scandal sheet. When so many aspects of life remain in
flux that people no longer can be sure of who they are and what they
believe in, of what is good and what is evil, a few hours of inventive
predictability offers at least some comfort, and comes cheaper than a
Russia power gloom seen as unjustified
By Kevin Liffey
MOSCOW, April 14 (Reuters) - A picture of doom and gloom painted on Tuesday by
the new chairman of Russian power giant Unified Energy System (UES) is more
about politics than finance, and does not mean a departure from reform,
In addition, a decision to postpone the appointment of a new chief executive
by a week boosts the prospects of reformist former deputy premier Anatoly
Chubais, likely to be popular with Western investors, they said.
UES, majority-owned by the state and in control of about 80 percent of
Russia's generating capacity, is in turmoil as it waits for a government not
yet appointed to replace its own reformist boss, who quit in a power struggle
New board chairman Viktor Kudryavy, acting first deputy fuel and energy
minister, told a news conference that radical young reformer Boris Brevnov had
left UES in an ``extremely difficult'' financial position which would have to
He said UES's arrears to the state budget, on a consolidated basis, had jumped
70 percent in 1997, while wage arrears were up 50 percent, arrears to the
pension fund had doubled and investment in construction was five percent of
its 1996 level.
``I don't really take these statements seriously nor did the market. I really
doubt capital investment could have fallen that much. Kudryavy didn't give any
absolute figures and I'm not really worried,'' said Dmitry Vinogradov of
Petru Vaduva, head of equities research at MFK Renaissance, said Kudryavy's
comments had been no more negative than what the market already knew,
especially about the huge backlog of payables and receivables.
``There's a political undertone to all this. If anything, the nature of
Kudryavy's worries suggests that the pace of reform hasn't been fast enough,''
Analysts noted that Kudryavy had not mentioned the progress Brevnov had made
in forcing local managers to insist on cash payment for power rather than
debts or barter deals.
But they also took his non-committal approach to the prospects of Chubais as a
possible chief executive as a hint of support.
``In this situation, not saying 'no' is like saying 'yes','' said Sergei
Lessik of Pioneer Securities. ``Kudryavy wouldn't have wanted to make life
difficult for the new government.''
Sergei Kiriyenko, the young reformist whom Boris Yeltsin has nominated as
prime minister, failed to get parliament's backing last week and has two more
chances, starting this Friday.
The communist-dominated parliament might be even more inclined to oppose
Kiriyenko if Chubais, a political enemy, were made UES chief executive.
Conversely, Vinogradov noted that Kudryavy's decision to put back the board
meeting which will appoint a chief executive until April 27 or 28, means
parliament will almost certainly have made its decision on Kiriyenko --
removing a large obstacle to the possible appointment of Chubais.
Although Kudryavy himself urged that the government and the country stop
seeing UES as a rich source of tax revenue, analysts noted that the government
has a strong interest in making UES profitable for the sake of state finances.
``The only way to do that is to insist on cash payment, open the market to
supply and demand, let the successful regional companies operate at full
capacity and so on,'' said Vaduva.
While the appointment of Chubais as chief executive would please investors,
analysts say there are other options which might be equally satisfactory to
them, such as Pyotr Rodionov, deputy head of natural gas monopoly Gazprom.
``UES is a highly complex company that requires great skill in making
political compromises between federal and regional interests. Brevnov was
probably shocked by that,'' said Vaduva.
``Chubais would be good for UES in the short term, but he has made enemies and
might have to cope with a lot of in-fighting. We would be as happy with
someone from inside the company who understands the complexities, as long as
they have a financial background and know the importance of the bottom line.''
INTERVIEW-Russian Orthodox head not ready for Pope
By Alexandra Kavamala
MOSCOW, April 14 (Reuters) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said on
Tuesday it was still too early for him to meet Pope John Paul for what would
be the first top-level talks between the two Christian churches in a
``At the present time the prevalent view in the Russian Orthodox Church is
that the ground for such a meeting has not been sufficiently prepared,''
Patriarch Alexiy II told Reuters in written answers to questions.
``Not in a technical sense of course, but because we still do not have the
necessary degree of understanding between our two churches of the problems and
ways of solving them,'' he wrote ahead of the Russian Orthodox Easter next
Pope John Paul has called for stronger relations between Christianity's
different churches as believers prepare to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary
of the birth of Jesus Christ.
But the two church leaders have been unable to agree to meet and talks last
June on a possible encounter collapsed.
Alexiy cited two main problems in relations between the Orthodox Church and
the Vatican: the treatment of Orthodox believers in western Ukraine, where
Ukrainian Catholics started claiming Orthodox property after the collapse of
communism in 1991, and Catholic proselytising inside Russia.
``The second problem is the persistent missionary activity of various Catholic
missionaries among people baptised as Orthodox with Orthodox roots,'' the
Patriarch wrote in a five-page, signed document peppered with quotes from the
``They have allocated substantial resources to such activities in Russia and
other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (grouping 12 ex-
Soviet republics), involving hundreds if not thousands of priests, monks and
The two churches split in 1054 and have had frosty relations ever since, often
on the issue of which church leader has supreme authority. But the Orthodox
Church in recent years has focused on the Ukraine and missionary issues.
``Until there is serious, clear progress in solving these two problems, the
majority of Orthodox cannot positively accept my meeting the Pope,'' Alexiy
A premature meeting, he said, ``could become for one side a basis to expand
their own ambitions and a temptation to continue their line of aggressive
triumphalism, and for the other side auch as existed under the tsars until
``Dependence of the spiritual authority on civil power deprives the church of
necessary freedom and corrupts the civil power,'' said Alexiy.
But he said he backed cooperation in solving social problems such as drug
addiction, which government officials say has expanded sharply in recent
``The roots of drug addiction, like any vice, are found in a person's crisis
of morality,'' he said. ``A spiritually reliable person who knows the real
essence of life and is involved in worthy endeavours is unlikely to become a
``That's why any external measure will not be effective until we can overcome
our contemporaries' diminishing moral sense.''
Despite his concern about the moral shortcomings of Russian society, Alexiy
praised the country's new class of business entrepreneurs, adding that they
had given generously to help support church reconstruction projects.
``The church regards the rising Russian merchants positively, and calls on
them to build their activities on the basis of centuries-old Christian
norms,'' he said.
Yeltsin Questions Art Looting Vote
April 14, 1998
By JUDITH INGRAM
MOSCOW (AP) - President Boris Yeltsin decided Tuesday to sign a bill that
would allow Russia to keep art seized by the Soviet army from Nazi Germany. At
the same time, he appealed to the nation's top court to overturn the law.
At stake are an estimated 1 million books, 175,000 coins and medals, and
55,000 paintings, sculptures and other art works now housed in Russian state
museums, according to the Itogi weekly magazine.
The objects were confiscated by the Soviet army at the end of World War II.
Germany and other countries where the art originated want the pieces returned.
The law was to be signed Tuesday or Wednesday, Sergei Shakhrai, the
president's representative to the Constitutional Court, was quoted by the
ITAR-Tass news agency as saying.
The Interfax news agency reported that Yeltsin had signed the bill Tuesday.
The president's press office would only say that the legislation was on
The Constitutional Court ruled last week that Yeltsin must pass the bill,
despite his contention that parliament had violated its voting procedures by
allowing some members to cast ballots for absent colleagues.
Yeltsin's veto of the legislation last year was overridden by both houses of
the Russian parliament, but he still refused to sign the bill into law.
On Tuesday, Yeltsin said signing ``would complicate our relations with certain
countries'' and complicate Moscow's efforts to recover thousands of its own
art works that were confiscated during the war.
As he prepared to sign, Yeltsin also filed an appeal with the court, asking it
to determine if voting on the legislation had been proper, Sergei Shakhrai,
the president's representative to the Constitutional Court, told the Ekho
Moskvy radio station.
``The results of the voting were simply falsified,'' the Interfax news agency
quoted Shakhrai as saying.
He also argued that the law contains ``dozens of violations of constitutional
norms,'' the agency said.
Lawmakers opposed to the bill echo the sentiments of many Russians, who view
the art as compensation for the monumental destruction and losses inflicted by
Nazi Germany during the war.
Russia's Culture Ministry says the Nazi army may have seized more than a half
million pieces of art during its occupation of the country.
The Soviet army, in turn, carted off enormous quantities of art from Germany
including works by painters Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco Goya.
Some masterpieces have been exhibited in recent years in museums such as the
Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but many of the artworks have been locked away in
basements of poorly maintained Russian museums.
The law introduces complicated procedures for the return of the so-called
``trophy'' art. Formal request must be made by a foreign government, and the
Russian parliament must decide to approve, it seems unlikely that many items
would be returned.