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Johnson's Russia List
18 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian Duma's choice Kiriyenko or dissolution.
2. Moscow Times: Dmitry Zaks, Strong Vote Saves Face For Party,
3. Moscow Times editorial: Yeltsin Risks Taking Crisis To the
4. Moskovskiye Novosti: Aleksandr Bekker, "Narrow Corridor for New
Cabinet." (Future Government's Line 'Already Defined').
5. Victoria Bonnell: POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP AT BERKELEY 1998-1999.
6. The Economist: Russia's Political Generals. The greatcoat vote on
7. THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION's PRISM: Aleksandr Buzgalin and Andrei
Kolganov, YABLOKO: IS THE "APPLE" TOO GREEN?
8. Reuters: Russia ``perplexed'' at U.S. Iran arms suspicions.
9. Uncaptive Minds publication: "The Rise of Nationalism in Central
and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union."]
Russian Duma's choice Kiriyenko or dissolution
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, April 18 (Reuters) - Russia's lawmakers have a week to decide -- say
``Yes'' to Sergei Kiriyenko, the man Boris Yeltsin wants as prime minister, or
wait for the voters speak in a national election.
The Communist and nationalist-dominated State Duma lower house of parliament
refused again on Friday to confirm Kiriyenko, with many saying the 35-year-old
former energy minister did not have enough experience to run the country.
``I'm relaxed about it,'' Kiriyenko said after 271 deputies voted against him
and only 115 for.
President Yeltsin immediately nominated him for the third time, which means
Duma deputies can either change their minds and approve Kiriyenko by next
Friday or face automatic dissolution under the rules of the constitution.
The prospect of losing their jobs and turning the country over to Yeltsin's
control until the next elections is likely to inspire many last-minute changes
of heart, observers say.
``By voting against Kiriyenko the Duma would be sentencing itself to
dissolution,'' speaker Gennady Seleznyov, a Communist, told NTV on Friday
evening. ``Presidential rule by decree would begin and we have no guarantee
when the next election would be.''
``We cannot leave Russia with only a certain president, his decrees and a
youthful cabinet,'' said Seleznyov, who predicted the Duma would reverse
itself and approve Kiriyenko next week.
Kiriyenko for his part was standing his ground, saying he would not haggle
with deputies to win their approval.
``They are just trying to bring me to heel again,'' he told reporters. ``They
may not vote for me. That's fine by me. But I can't make radical changes.''
Yeltsin took a break from the stand-off and set off for a weekend in
talks with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.
The president's departure left Kiriyenko in a legal grey zone. Under the
constitution, the prime minister is next in line of succession to take control
of the country and its nuclear arsenal.
But the chairman of the Constitutional Court said this week that Kiriyenko
cannot fill in unless he is confirmed as prime minister.
Kremlin officials said if the Duma rejects Kiriyenko next week, a new
parliamentary election would be held in the early fall, giving Yeltsin a free
hand to rule Russia until then.
Yeltsin ruled Russia by decree for part of 1992, during which time he started
the big privatisation that is deeply unpopular with many deputies.
But since many Russians complain about the lack of positive results from
reform, Yeltsin would also like to avoid the uncertainty of a new vote more
than a year ahead of schedule.
With both the president and parliament against early elections, deputies and
outside observers said the Duma has withheld its approval until the last stage
of the game to win as many policy concessions from the president as possible.
``It's a question of brinkmanship now, of who has the steelier nerves,'' said
Julia Dawson of ING Barings investment bank in London.
The uncertainty of the situation upset markets on Friday, and Russian shares,
the rouble and dollar-denominated debt lost some ground.
Palladium and platinum rose strongly on fears of export delays from Russia, a
major producer of both metals.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
April 18, 1998
Strong Vote Saves Face For Party, Zyuganov
By Dmitry Zaks
Although they will still probably cave in next time, Communist Party
boss Gennady Zyuganov and his leftist allies' salvaged some self-respect
by their impressive defeat of the president's candidate for prime
The 115-271 vote against Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister undid the
embarrassment of an April 10 vote, when the candidate polled much better
The size of Kiriyenko's loss confirmed the Communist domination of the
State Duma, or lower house of parliament, and the leadership of
Zyuganov, who is trying to hold together a party torn between
extreme-left radicals and centrists.
Despite grumbling from the centrists in his party, the potato-faced
Communist leader chose to adopt a hard-line stance, and in Friday's vote
he managed to carry almost all of his party faithful with him.
By dragging the confirmation drama to its final chapter, Zyuganov also
won some chips with which to barter with the Kremlin over future
appointments to the new Cabinet.
"Zyuganov showed that he still commands respect among his party
comrades," said Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center.
But the dire consequences of voting against Kiriyenko in the final vote
next Friday still mean that the Communists, who with their allies
dominate the Duma, will likely change their tune.
A third rejection would trigger a dissolution of parliament and a taxing
months-long election campaign -- a prospect for which the party's rank
and file is not prepared. The deputies would risk losing their seats and
the perks that go with them.
Moreover, under Russia's 1993 constitution, another rejection would not
even stop Kiriyenko becoming a full-fledged, rather than just an acting,
prime minister. The head of the Constitutional Court hinted this week
that Yeltsin would be able to appoint Kiriyenko without consulting
anyone once the Duma was dissolved.
Petrov said Friday's triumphant vote would make it easier for the
Communists and Zyuganov to knuckle under and avoid the dissolution
"[The vote] allows the Communists to keep their gains, without losing
too much face when some of them have to support Kiriyenko next week,"
Alexander Shokhin, leader of Our Home Is Russia, the second biggest Duma
faction gave the same analysis. "Next time the Communists will be voting
against a dissolution of the Duma, not in favor of Kiriyenko."
"The low vote for Kiriyenko today builds the foundation for such an
approach," Shokhin said.
Zyuganov's big day was marked by a series of tactical victories on the
floor of the house. Kiriyenko's loss in the second of three rounds of
voting became almost inevitable after Zyuganov persuaded deputies to
vote by roll-call and not in a secret ballot.
If the vote had been held in secret, analysts believe many leftists in
the Duma would have heeded the more cautious words of Communist State
Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov and voted in favor of the Kremlin-backed
Seleznyov had warned that dissolution of the Duma was a far more
dangerous alternative for Russia than seeing Kiriyenko head the
Zyuganov won his second victory when the vote itself took place. Only
two of the 124 Communists on the floor dared to break ranks with
Zyuganov in the open vote, and Kiriyenko failed to pass.
With the Communists scheduled in a few months to choose a candidate for
president in the next election, Zyuganov showed he cannot -- yet, at
least -- be shown up by his younger and more dynamic understudy,
While few believe that Duma deputies will give up their perks just
because the young technocrat Kiriyenko grates on their nerves, the
Communist Party remains deeply divided over next week's vote.
"It doesn't matter what the Duma said today. Their decision has simply
been delayed. Only what happens next week will tell if the Communists
are principled or not," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the INDEM
political research institute.
April 18, 1998
EDITORIAL: Yeltsin Risks Taking Crisis To the Brink
A great deal of care will be required to prevent the political crisis
that President Boris Yeltsin began so blithely three weeks ago from
spinning out of control.
The replacement of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin with the
35-year-old Sergei Kiriyenko appeared to be an expression of Yeltsin's
erratic willfulness rather than a fundamental change of direction.
But the stakes are now deadly serious. The State Duma will have one last
opportunity to approve Kiriyenko as prime minister next Friday.
Otherwise, Russia will be faced with fresh parliamentary elections and
months of political uncertainty.
It is easy to understand the brinkmanship on both sides that resulted in
the Duma's rejection of Kiriyenko in the previous two votes.
While Yeltsin's choice of Kiriyenko may have been a spur-of-the-moment
decision, it has now become a matter of the president's personal
authority to ensure that he is accepted. Yeltsin is not one to back
The Communist-dominated opposition, on the other hand, has used the
first two votes to show Yeltsin that it should not be taken for granted
and to convince its supporters that it has not sold out completely.
The most likely scenario remains that the opposition, having proved its
mettle, will find a face-saving way to back down in the final vote. The
deputies realize the risks in a dissolution. And under Russia's
constitution, Yeltsin can appoint an acting government almost
indefinitely without their approval.
The Duma also has few ideological reasons to oppose Kiriyenko's
candidacy. By all appearances, the bland young man will lead a
government almost indistinguishable from Chernomyrdin's.
But Yeltsin too should realize the importance of avoiding a dissolution.
He may pretend to be carrying on business as usual, but the country has
been in suspended animation for the last month, and elections would
waste even more time and energy.
Moreover, Yeltsin has little to gain from a new poll in which the
communists are likely to do at least as well as they did last time,
while the biddable Liberal-Democratic party will probably be replaced by
more intractable radical forces, like parties affiliated with Lev
Rokhlin and Alexander Lebed.
The Kremlin must be prepared to make some concessions this week to make
doubly sure that events do not follow this scenario. Yeltsin must
realize that the Duma's voting procedures are fickle and in a close vote
it is almost impossible to predict a result.
When Yeltsin's returns from Japan, he may have to promise some
opposition parties some Cabinet posts or he may have to step up his
largely symbolic consultations. He should not risk going right to the
Future Government's Line 'Already Defined'
Moskovskiye Novosti, No. 14
12-19 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Commentary by Aleksandr Bekker: "Narrow Corridor for New Cabinet"
Whoever comes to head the 'White House' in the near future will be
obliged to operate in a narrow corridor of financial opportunities.
Since the minute when he emerged into the limelight of Russian
politics Sergey Kiriyenko has grown three weeks older. This has not proved
to be enough: The Duma blackballed the candidate for premier even though
his opponents could not find a blemish more serious than his youth.
Clearly, Kiriyenko's "infancy" is no more than a pretext. Political
expediency gripped the deputies, who would not heed the president's appeal
that "we have been living without a government for much too long" and that
new ailments are piling up on top of the old ones.
The budget is shrinking like the peau de chagrin [mule skin that was
subject of disputation in Flaubert novel] owing to the falling exchange
prices of oil, gas, and metal, with big dents made in the treasury by the
crisis on Asian stock exchange markets. Will, for example, premier
Zyuganov get far if the parliament has not passed the laws already
incorporated in the 10-billion-ruble revenue items? Generally speaking,
according to expert calculations, the treasury can forget at least for
today about one ruble out of every eight, and this amounts to 43 billion in
inevitable losses. In the worst- case scenario, the budget will lose twice
as much. One can be skeptical or ironic about the "12 priorities" and the
current plans of the former cabinet, but they are consonant with the state
of the economy without stretching the point. Chernomyrdin stated a few
days ago that a new government "will not be able to depart from our course"
and "will hardly be able to do anything absolutely new." This is not hurt
pride of a sacked man that is speaking; it is a sober and balanced
assessment of the situation. The economic course remains unchanged because
there is no changing it without what, of course, would be cruel shocks to
the country, rather than because of Yeltsin's stubbornness or Kiriyenko's
The line of a future cabinet is already defined, like a line of force
in a magnet. If budget revenues shrink dramatically, the most
pro-Communist government will be cutting state expenditure. In practical
terms, it will abolish one set of subsidized organizations and merge the
other set of organizations -- something which Deputy Finance Minister
Kudrin stated frankly but in a politically untimely fashion.
Unfortunately, thousands of people will have to learn new trades or join
the job center lines. This is the crude reality of the day. If governors
pile up debts to teachers and doctors, the center will willy-nilly have to
be tough and make regional authorities toe the line and use transfers and
federal investments strictly as designated. If the hole in the Pension
Fund begins to grow threateningly once again, any premier would have to
revive the VChK [Temporary Extraordinary Commission for Strengthening Tax
and Budget Discipline] to exact insurance payments from enterprises that
have run up debts with senior citizens.
The State Tax Service had four heads in the course of five years. Each
was bending over backward to increase the collection of taxes. There
happened, however, no breakthrough on the fiscal front: The collection of
taxes fell from 14 to 10 or 11 percent of GDP. The economy is unlikely to
do another "push-up." Thus, Kiriyenko is doomed to financial asceticism,
if you will, to a policy of War Communism in the distribution of money.
Given a rigidly predetermined economic policy, political affiliation
and the ideological stripes of cabinet members almost do not matter. Any
Communist is bound to forever ruin his reputation of defender of the people
if he joins the present government. The future premier cannot be expected
to work miracles of plenty under the prevailing situation; he is not unlike
a chess player compelled to use only so many moves to save the game.
Strictly speaking, when still in the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, Kiriyenko
began to cut state expenditures and overcome fierce opposition from
departments by setting limits on the consumption of heat and energy by
subsidiary organizations. I remember yet another elegant decision made by
the Nizhniy Novgorod man in his ministry when, in a bid to have oil
companies pay up their 8-trillion-ruble debts to the budget, he granted
them additional export quotas, which he had wrenched from the crime-ridden
federal investment programs which were being embezzled.
Clearly, the Ministry of Fuel and Energy is not the entire economy.
However, taking a closer look at the manner of work of Kiriyenko as
minister, it is possible to guess how Kiriyenko as premier will try to
tackle the country's economic problems. He always splits tasks into parts,
discovers hidden ways of solving each component part, and "sews" the tasks
back together again using a string of reciprocal obligations and
responsibilities among people having to do with them. This was precisely
how Kiriyenko approached the energy drama in Maritime Kray last summer. He
merged into one company the Luchegorsk open-cast coal mine and the local
GRES [state regional electric power station], reducing the cost of
electricity in one fell swoop. He dismissed the hordes of those who resold
power and introduced transit accounts to transfer the consumers' money
directly to the accounts of the miners and electric power workers. Please
note that, although there are still payment arrears in the kray, there has
not been a single complaint against the federal authorities throughout the
winter, for the first time. They clear the air among themselves in
Maritime Kray. Workers and union leaders now take trips to the Ministry of
Fuel and Energy for guidance on business plans to close individual mines or
improve the structure of transit accounts.
Kiriyenko might as well take out a patent on the model of
restructuring the coal sector of Kuzbass. "In three years," Chubays said
yet before his dismissal, "I knew the problems of coal miners inside out.
But no one could come up with so original and productive a plan as the one
devised by Kiriyenko." Should I now explain why the rather peculiar
Governors Tuleyev and Nazdratenko, who cannot stomach Moscow's officialdom
and liberals especially, speak about Kiriyenko almost with tenderness.
"Only, don't drag him into politics," Nazdratenko once said. "He is
honest, people believe him, and he is capable of a lot if kept in the right
Kiriyenko is precise and gradual in his approach to personnel matters.
He did not break up any structures, nor did he make sudden revolutions in
the Ministry of Fuel and Energy. He replaced one of his deputies, and that
was only six months after becoming minister. Later on, he recruited from
the outside several fine professionals, in particular Yelena Telegina, with
some experience of Western-style management. On leaving, he made his first
deputy Viktor Ott minister, and once again he did it cautiously so as not
to set up any shock waves.
We should expect something similar in style, if not a copy, when the
government is formed. Kiriyenko is most certainly not going to make abrupt
personnel changes, so as not to lose all control of the economy. Those
fond of sensational appointments are most likely in for a disappointment:
Most of the cabinet ministers will stay in their positions. Communications
chief Bulgak, GKI [State Committee for the Management of State Property]
man Gazizullin, and "rescuer" Shoygu will stay for certain. It is very
risky right now to reshuffle the fiscal package comprising Pochinok and
Kruglov of the Customs; police chief Almazov; and Pavlov of the hard
currency and export control. The two or three candidates for ministerial
posts [from each faction] that Yeltsin was talking about should, perhaps,
be seen as a polite consent to hear all the factions. In actual fact
Kiriyenko has very few candidates to offer; the choice of efficient
specialists grasping the situation as quickly as Kiriyenko does is
extremely limited -- for the key positions, at any rate. Symptomatic in
this sense is Kiriyenko's task given to Urinson to head the commission for
guaranteeing budget revenues. This is a serious sign. It is not of
fundamental importance if Kuramin is replaced in the State Committee for
the Development of the North by Russian Regions deputy Gomon. But if
former USSR Gosplan [State Planning Committee] Chairman Maslyukov is made
head of the Ministry of the Economy, this will indicate a readiness for a
qualitatively different industrial policy. But since this has never
entered Kiriyenko's mind, the Communist Maslyukov is not destined to set up
home on Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment.
Since Kiriyenko is obliged to operate in terms of the former program,
he will try to prevent disharmony in economic policy and to bar persons
incapable of translating this policy into concrete actions from entering
the government. He may theoretically make a concession to Zhirinovskiy,
say, and make his party colleague Kalashnikov minister of labor. He is a
very competent specialist. In that case he would automatically have to
speak about firing Vice Premier Sysuyev, Deputy Minister of Labor
Dmitriyev, and White House social department chief Gontmakher, all of whom
are incompatible with Kalashnikov in human terms and alien to him in terms
of their views on pension reform, labor relations reform, and the state's
social role as a whole. Kiriyenko is certainly unlikely to completely give
up the idea of bringing in new figures. In the wake of Chubays's departure
there is no one in charge of the sphere of relations with international
financial institutions. In order to make up for the loss and speed up
Russia's entry into the WTO, they may very likely ask Shokhin to take
charge. Many do not like him, but in all fairness you cannot find a better
negotiator with the West. Suffice it to recall that it was Shokhin who
went on the offensive against Western financiers with the idea of
restructuring Soviet debts to the Paris and London Clubs. It was he who in
1994 opposed the export of inflation to Russia from the neighboring
republics that were pressing for a single ruble area and the presence in
them of central banks independent of Moscow.
True, Shokhin's hopes extend only as far as the rank of first vice
premier, but this position is reserved for Nemtsov alone. Should there be a
serious conversation about Shokhin in Yeltsin's office, it is not ruled out
that Nemtsov will shed his exclusive status and all who are worthy of it
will be given the same rank of vice premier. It is possible that as early
as the beginning of next week information on those likely to make it into
the government will begin to leak into the press. And at the end of the
week, the Duma will confirm a new premier at the second attempt. It will
become clear then whether Yeltsin was right in insisting that he and we
have no other than Kiriyenko.
The country has long lived beyond its means. Chernomyrdin's cabinet
was maneuvering, cutting back expenditures, but it spent so long getting
itself in the mood for serious action that it exhausted the time limit.
Now Yeltsin has called on Kiriyenko to be the "sweeper" who has to do the
dirty and thankless job. In principle, it could have been done by Chubays,
but the degree of public rejection of Chubays would have paralyzed the
entire government and slowed down the surgical operation. Kiriyenko in
this sense is for the time being without a blemish, and he has public
expectations working for him. Kiriyenko has several months in which he can
hurt some sections of the people without large-scale protests.
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998
From: "Victoria E. Bonnell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mellon post-doc
POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP AT BERKELEY 1998-1999
A post-doctoral fellowship will be awarded for 1998-1999 in connection with
the U.C. Berkeley Sawyer Seminar on Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship, and
Democracy in Communist and Post-Communist Societies, directed by Victoria
Bonnell and Thomas Gold.
The Sawyer Seminar, funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,
will focus on the study of business people and practices in market-oriented
communist and post-communist societies of the 1980s and 1990s, both as a
historically novel phenomenon and as a factor bearing on the direction of
social change and the prospects for democracy. The Sawyer Seminar will,
accordingly, be devoted to three themes: the social and cultural profiles
of entrepreneurs, the patterns of entrepreneurialism, and the implications
of these developments for democratization in communist and post-communist
countries of Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Fomer Soviet Union.
Applicants must have completed their dissertation by August 1, 1998, or
must have received their Ph.D. no more than three years before the time of
arrival in Berkeley. The recipient must be in residence in Berkeley for the
1998-1999 academic year and will be responsible for administration of the
bi-weekly Sawyer Seminar meetings.
The fellowship pays $27,000 for the academic year. Applications must be
received by May 31, 1998. Awards will be announced by June 15. Each
applicant should submit a 3-5 page description of the project they will be
working on during the fellowship year, together with a full curriculum
vitae and three letters of recommendation. For further information, please
contact Victoria Bonnell: email@example.com or Tom Gold:
Application materials should be sent to the following:
Victoria Bonnell, Chair
Center for Slavic and East European Studies
361 Stephens Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720
Department of Sociology
481 Barrows Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720
April 18. 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia's Political Generals
The greatcoat vote on the march
M O S C O W
Another general has taken the rank of aspiring politician
I’m a civilian, says Nikolaev “IN PRINCIPLE, I am against generals
entering politics,” said General Andrei Nikolaev last year. In practice,
however, exceptions can always be made. On April 12th the general won a
Moscow by-election for a seat in the Duma, Russia’s lower house of
parliament. A glorious future in politics is widely predicted.
In principle and in practice, Russian voters have nothing against
generals. They have cheerfully elected at least half a dozen, most of
them splenetic, to the current Duma. They welcome anybody who promises
to knock a bit of order into the country. This has included General
Alexander Lebed, who has been prophesying the imminent collapse of the
whole political system since he erupted into public life in 1995;
General Lev Rokhlin, who came dangerously close to preaching mutiny last
year; and General Alexander Korzhakov, bodyguard to President Boris
Yeltsin until the two fell out in 1996. Future supply seems assured. The
army is supposed to be shedding 425 generals in the next two or three
years, and a deputy’s job pays well.
But General Nikolaev, at 48, is no superannuated blusterer. He was
appointed a first deputy chief of the general staff at only 43. His
father was a general before him. His troops, the Federal Border Guards,
were reckoned the least corrupt and best prepared of all the Russian
forces. He resigned as their head in December when Mr Yeltsin proposed
merging them with the Federal Security Service, the former KGB. But
resignation was, by all appearances, strictly a career move.
General Nikolaev might as easily have hung on to become chief of the
general staff. Instead, he has prepared for politics in a spirit of
intelligent calculation, and the results must have encouraged him. No
sooner had he won a Duma seat than Our Home is Russia, the centrist
political party that is closest to Mr Yeltsin, was dangling before him
the chairmanship of the Duma defence committee, a job within its gift,
as an inducement to join its faction.
The offer may have come too late. The general may already be spoken for.
His candidacy for the Duma was endorsed by Yuri Luzhkov, the powerful
mayor of Moscow. General Nikolaev, who calls himself a “centrist”, has
returned the favour by backing some of Mr Luzhkov’s more controversial
causes. He has supported the system of residency permits operated by the
Moscow city government in defiance of the Russian constitution. He has
echoed Mr Luzhkov’s calls for Ukraine to hand the Crimean port of
Sebastopol back to Russia. He has called for the formation of a “Moscow
block” within the Duma. So if, as is widely expected, Mr Luzhkov runs
for the presidency of Russia when the chance next presents itself, it
seems a fair bet that General Nikolaev will be cheerleading for him in
the Duma and whipping in the army vote.
Some say he may run for president himself. That is by no means
inconceivable—experience does not count for much in Russian politics—but
he will have to get a move on if he wants to mount much of a national
campaign. The next presidential election is two years away at most, and
could come sooner if the ailing Mr Yeltsin dies in office. With the
right backers, General Nikolaev might hope to take 10% or, as General
Lebed did in 1996, 15% of the first-round vote. Invested wisely, that
would be enough political capital to buy a permanent seat at the top
table of Russian politics.
General Nikolaev can doubtless learn something from the mistakes of
General Lebed, who refused to see that successful politicians need to
master special skills. He ignored to his cost the techniques of Kremlin
infighting, passed up a regional governorship offered to him on a plate,
neglected his grassroots supporters, and toured the world behaving like
a president-in-waiting until most Russians had almost forgotten him.
Now General Lebed is trying, belatedly, to build a new base. On April
26th he runs for governor of Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia. But he has no
special ties there, he has serious competition from the incumbent, and
he has uneasy relations with his main local backer. The outcome is
anybody’s guess. If General Lebed wins, he will have his springboard for
the next presidential election. If he loses, he will find it much harder
to attract the money and the media needed for a presidential campaign.
Another general might then capture the limelight. No prize for guessing
17 April 1998 Prism - Vol.IV, No.8, Part 4 (of 4)
THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION
A BI-WEEKLY ON THE POST-SOVIET STATES
Vol.IV No.8 Part 4
YABLOKO: IS THE "APPLE" TOO GREEN?
By Aleksandr Buzgalin and Andrei Kolganov
The bloc with the beautiful name of Yabloko [which means "apple" in
Russian] (the source of the name is the first letters of the last names of
the coalition's founding fathers -- Yavlinsky, Boldyrev and Lukin) is
somewhat of a "lone wolf" in Russian politics. Understandably, it has not
allied itself with "Russia is Our Home" -- which is made up of the former
prime minister's proteges and the gas barons standing behind him, regional
officials, etc. It is also understandable why it has not allied itself with
the Communists -- they are failures from the middle and lower ranks of the
party nomenklatura, who rely on the insulted and humiliated older
generation, which is nostalgic for the past. It isn't even hard to
understand why Yabloko hasn't joined forces with Gaidar and the "radical
democrats" -- they are capitalists in the spirit of the International
But then who is Grigory Yavlinsky?
A softer version of Gaidar? If that is so, then it is hard to
explain Yabloko's consistently oppositionist stance (sometimes even harsher
than the KPRF's) in parliament.
Someone radically opposed to Yeltsin's bourgeois, pro-Western
regime? This proposition simply will not square with the obvious
"Westernism" both of Yavlinsky himself and of the majority of his supporters.
So who are you, Mr. Yavlinsky, and what kind of bloc stands behind you?
1. Yabloko's social base
The key to understanding the Yavlinsky phenomenon, in our view, is
the answer to the following question: why is it that the bloc and its leader
always get from seven to ten percent of the vote in every election?
To answer both questions, one needs to know Yabloko's social base.
To analyze Yavlinsky's strengths and weaknesses, it is important to
understand that there are no old (like the KPRF has) or new (like "Russia is
Our Home" has) institutional structures behind him. But Yavlinsky and his
colleagues in the "orchard coalition" do have a solid and stable electorate:
intellectuals (for the most part, but not exclusively, educated in the
humanities), for whom democratic values, civil rights, the market "with a
human face" and other such abstract ideas are the most important thing. As a
rule, it is intellectuals who (unlike most of Gaidar's supporters) are on
the middle ranks of the hierarchy of contemporary Russian society who
Such an intellectual dislikes the current government because it:
* puts him on a level lower than the dim-witted and insolent, semi-criminal
* has run roughshod over his dreams of the perestroika age;
* has turned the government of the country back over to the nomenklatura,
which is even more corrupt and bureaucratized than it was during Soviet times.
But this kind of intellectual also hates the Communists, because he
knows full well that they:
* will never guarantee him the status of belonging to a relatively
privileged social stratum;
* will bring back a bureaucracy which is more under control, but also
* could -- you never know! -- bring back Stalinism;
Our mid-level intellectual finds himself between these two fires
(not to mention Zhirinovsky, Lebed, and others like them). He thirsts for
bourgeois democracy, the market, and most of all -- the chance to work like
a research assistant in Soviet times (i.e., two or three days a week,
drinking tea and chattering with the secretaries) while living like a
professor in Germany.
But there is one important reservation: far from all of Russia's
"rank-and-file" intellectuals (even in the humanities) support Yavlinsky.
First, a fair amount of them (one-third at a minimum) do not want to
sell their talent, and are unable to adapt to the present inhumane
opportunism in the market for intellectual labor. There are also those who
have already given up the struggle for survival (some of the older
generation; intellectuals in depressed regions). Most of these people will
not support the respectable Yavlinsky who, in spite of his ostensibly
oppositionist stance, is clearly close to the government. Either they will
reluctantly vote for Zyuganov or they will look for their own leader, voting
for various small parties and movements with a more or less socialist tint.
Second, for those intellectuals who are fighting their way to the
top, Yavlinsky is too much of an oppositionist, too independent. And the
government doesn't like him very much, and today in Russia, in order to get
to the top, you have to make friends with those (above all, the president's
team and the government -- after all, the Duma is not all that important)
who are at the top!
2. The only real democrat in Russia?
In the eyes of Russian intellectuals, Yavlinsky has no ties to the
negative side of the process of Russian reform; since he did not join the
government structures, he has not been implicated in its failures. This
perception is far from the truth. In spite of his disagreements with Yegor
Gaidar's team over his government's market reforms, Yavlinsky's own "500
Days" program advocated exactly the same strategy. Even at that time, it was
clear to competent experts that the consequences of that plan would have
been just as catastrophic as those later carried out by Mr. Gaidar.
Perhaps even Grigory Yavlinsky guessed this. It cannot be ruled out
that it was this realization forced him to refuse to join the Russian
government at the end of 1991.
Yavlinsky was not completely uninvolved in the reforms. His research
group "Epicenter" assisted then Nizhny Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov in
conducting his "small-scale privatization." For a time, Yavlinsky was
depicted in the media as the author of a special "Nizhny Novgorod" model of
reform. Later, the publicity died down -- the results of the economic
development of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast turned out to be no better, and
sometimes even worse, than the economies of neighboring oblasts (including
those where reform, according to public opinion, had been consciously been
thwarted, such as Ulyanovsk Oblast).
Earlier, we noted that Yavlinsky's successes were due, not to
powerful clan groups standing behind him, but to the support of the average
voter. This is only partially true. Although compared to the typical
situation here, in which parties or blocs are openly and tightly linked with
some financial-industrial group, Yavlinsky's bloc is relatively more
"pluralist," it is far from free of the influence of business. Moreover,
that team's best analysts understand that without a powerful corporate
structure behind it, Yabloko will have no chance of escaping from its
Another basis for Yavlinsky's image as a consistent bourgeois democrat is
that his bloc has voted "right," i.e., from a consistently democratic (in
the traditional, bourgeois-democratic sense of the word) position, on most
questions of democratic principle. This was especially clear during the
fight to stop the war in Chechnya.
In part, Yabloko's image is also helped by the fact that in the
economic sphere, Yavlinsky and his colleagues advocate a "social" market.
They are especially good at professional and harsh criticism of the policies
of Chernomyrdin and the "young reformers" (but in the latter case, it isn't
that simple: although he distanced himself from Chubais, Yavlinsky was not
averse to maintaining close contacts with Nemtsov).
It is this image which guarantees the bloc stable support. As naive
as the intelligentsia's dreams of Russia's becoming a bourgeois-democratic
paradise are, real interests stand behind them. Highly-qualified
professionals in the field of intellectual labor really do need democracy,
really do have an interest in free enterprise, and really want to combine
free enterprise with a high degree of social protection. They are the
necessary set of favorable conditions for their professional activity. And
intellectuals want social protection, not just for themselves, but for the
"common people" as well, so that they will not view the flourishing of the
intelligentsia with malicious envy.
But the level of support for Yabloko shows that not all those who
have the interests described above believe that Yavlinsky is capable of
defending them, not just in words, but in fact. It seems that Yabloko is
doomed to play the rule of political safety-valve for part of the
intelligentsia; it remains a political mouthpiece for expressing its hopes,
and is only to a very small degree a real instrument to fight for its real
3. In conclusion: some remarks on personalities and the future
A politician's personality is especially important in an age of
changes and troubles. In Russia, this age is far from over. So the thesis
that Yavlinsky's personal charm ( he is a intellectually-charming,
well-spoken, attractive man -- a rarity among the top echelon of Russia's
politicians) plays an important role in the success of this bloc is not so
far from the truth.
It is very important that there are quite a few strong politicians,
professionals in their work, on Grigory Yavlinsky's "team." And the presence
of a social-democratic wing in that bloc, which attracts moderate left-wing
voters, is also important.
But still, the prospects for this bloc as a whole, and for Mr.
Yavlinsky personally, of escaping the 10-percent ghetto are not very good.
We will name only the main reasons.
The first and main reason: a moderately capitalist politician, with
elements of social-democracy and open Westernism, cannot solve the deep and
peculiar problems of Russian society. Such a politician cannot break the
power of the clan-corporate structures, and these structures have no need
for a leader like Yavlinsky.
The second reason: Yavlinsky will never have a truly massive
electorate. The "average" Russian citizen -- the worker and peasant, the
pensioner and "shuttle" trader, will not vote for him. He has the image of
being too intellectual, of not being one of the common people. He is alien
to the mentality of most Russians. And their semi-instinctive rejection of
Yavlinsky is logical and correct: in fact, this politician will not advance
The third reason: Yabloko has built its whole strategy based on a
rational search for the best model for moving Russia toward a social-market,
parliamentary system -- "civilized capitalism." But the country's real
social forces will not and cannot implement this rational scenario. The path
to "civilized capitalism" in our country lies either through a fight among
the corporate clans (if some of these clans decide to impose the standards
of civilization "with an iron fist"), or through the threat of revolution.
It clearly does not lie along the road of liberalism and democracy, which
Yavlinsky would prefer to travel. This path -- and therefore, Yavlinsky's
path to power -- will be closed to Russia for the next few decades.
But the path of making a deal with the present ruling elites is not
closed to Yavlinsky. Although there is not yet any deep government crisis in
Russia, the elite clans now in power in the country face growing problems.
These problems are linked with Boris Yeltsin's very slim chances of holding
onto the presidency for a third term (Yeltsin's latest political maneuvers
-- firing the Chernomyrdin government -- show that they realize this
threat). Under these conditions, the government needs to shore up its
position in the upcoming elections -- both parliamentary and presidential.
There is also a need to shore up the executive branch (one of the members of
Yabloko's Duma faction has become a member of the government!). In these
conditions, the present administration will be forced to strive for a
broad-based union of all its potential allies. And Yabloko is not the least
Translated by Mark Eckert
Aleksandr Buzgalin is a Doctor of Economics and a professor at Moscow State
University. In the perestroika period, he was a leading member of the reform
wing of the CPSU. He is now one of the leaders of the Democratic Socialist
Movement in Russia.
Andrei Kolganov is a Doctor of Economics and a Senior Research Fellow at
Moscow State University.
Russia ``perplexed'' at U.S. Iran arms suspicions
MOSCOW, April 17 (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it was ``perplexed'' that
the United States still harboured suspicions that some Russian agencies might
be supplying technology for Iran's missile programme.
``Russia has frequently, including at the highest level, given the necessary
assurances to its American partners that there are no contacts in the missile
sector between our official structures and Iran,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman
Valery Nesterushkin said in a prepared statement.
``The relevant Russian agencies are working constantly to prevent contraband
activity in this sector,'' he added, noting that Russia had tightened controls
on exports of technology that could have possible military applications.
The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Russian agencies suspected of
supplying missile technology to Tehran, which Washington accuses of sponsoring
terrorism, were on an informal U.S. list and would receive ``extra scrutiny''
before receiving U.S. aid.
The USA Today newspaper reported that the State Department had declared 20
Russian agencies and research facilities ineligible to receive U.S. aid
because they might have supplied missile technology to Iran.
A State Department spokesman said there was no formal ban prohibiting such
entities from receiving U.S. assistance.
He refused to discuss which Russian agencies were on the list, although he
said the Russian Space Agency, mentioned in the USA Today article, was not on
Robert Gallucci, named in February as special envoy to work on U.S. concerns
about Russian cooperation with Iran's missile programme, is due in Moscow next
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998
From: "Inst. for Democracy in E. Europe" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Uncaptive Minds publication
Uncaptive Minds has recently published a special double issue on "The Rise
of Nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union."
The first half is the edited proceedings of a symposium held in Kyiv that
brought together leaders of independence and national movements from
throughout the former Soviet Union. Papers were presented and formal
comments made by Vyacheslav Chornovil (Rukh Party, Ukraine), Vincuk
Viacorka (Belarus National Front), Refat Chubarov (Mejlis of the Crimean
Tatar People), Mart Nutt (Republican Party, Estonia), Faouzia Bavromova
(Tatarstan Independence Party "Ittyfak"), Ali Kerimov (Azerbaijan Popular
Front), among others. The issue is available from the Institute for
Democracy in Eastern Europe for $7.50 plus postage and handling (email:
<email@example.com> or write: 2000 P Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington,
Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe tel: (202) 466-7105
2000 P Street NW, Suite 400 fax: (202) 466-7140
Washington, DC 20036 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org