This Date's Issues: 2168 • 2169
Johnson's Russia List
8 May 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. VOA: Michele Kelemen on latest political developments.
2. Los Angeles Times: Vanora Bennett, Career-Minded in Russia Hit
the Books to Get Ahead. Education: Soviet-era professions are out as
students aim for free-market success. Workers go back to class.
3. the eXile: Press Review by Abram Kalashnikov, Are You A Technocrat?
4. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Geoffrey York, Islam in
5. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, FORMER SOVIET FACADE OF TOLERANCE
ERODED BY RUSSIAN RACIST ATTACKS.
6. Reuters: Gorbachev backs General Lebed in Siberian election.
7. Boris Kagarlitsky: Students radicalising in Russia.]
TITLE=RUSSIA POL (L-ONLY)
INTRO: MORE THAN SIX WEEKS OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY IN RUSSIA
SHOULD COME TO AN END FRIDAY WHEN PRIME MINISTER SERGEI KIRIYENKO
FILLS REMAINING CABINET SEATS. THE 35-YEAR-OLD PRIME MINISTER
HAS STREAMLINED THE CABINET, BUT THERE HAVE BEEN FEW SURPRISES.
AS V-O-A'S MICHELE KELEMEN REPORTS THE CABINET INCLUDES A FEW NEW
FACES AND SEVERAL MINISTERS FROM THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT.
TEXT: PRIME MINISTER KIRIYENKO SAYS HE IS NEARLY FINISHED
PUTTING TOGETHER HIS TEAM TO MANAGE RUSSIA'S ECONOMY. HE TOLD A
CABINET MEETING THURSDAY HE LISTENED TO OPPOSITION GROUPS WHEN
MAKING PERSONNEL DECISIONS, BUT CHOSE MAINLY THOSE HE THOUGHT
WERE COMPETENT AND PROFESSIONAL.
/// KIRIYENKO ACT ///
HE SAYS WE HAVE WORKED WITH THE SUGGESTIONS FROM LAWMAKERS AND
POLITICAL FACTIONS, BUT DID NOT ALWAYS FOLLOW THEM. HE SAYS
THE PRINCIPLE WAS NOT POLITICS, BUT PROFESSIONALISM.
SOME ANALYSTS SAY MR. KIRIYENKO AND PRESIDENT YELTSIN HAVE KEPT
THEIR PLEDGE TO BRING IN YOUNG REFORMERS, BUT NIKOLAI PETROV OF
THE CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER SAYS LITTLE HAS CHANGED. HE SAYS THAT
GIVES WEIGHT TO THE THEORY MR. YELTSIN USED THE CABINET SHAKE-UP
AS A WAY TO PUNISH FORMER PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN,
WHOSE PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS AND GROWING INFLUENCE HAD ANGERED
THE RUSSIAN LEADER.
/// PETROV ACT ///
I AM NOT SURE THAT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING MR. YELTSIN
WAS MAKING ANY PLANS OTHER THAN PUSHING AWAY MR.
CHERNOMYRDIN. IT IS TYPICAL FOR HIM TO START DOING
SOMETHING WITHOUT HAVING A GOOD PLAN. THIS POLITICAL
CRISIS SHOWS THAT BEING VERY GOOD IN TACTICS, MR.
YELTSIN IS NOT GOOD IN STRATEGY.
/// END ACT ///
THE RUSSIAN LEADER SUCCEEDED IN PRESSURING RELUCTANT LAWMAKERS TO
CONFIRM MR. KIRIYENKO BY THREATENING TO DISSOLVE THE LOWER HOUSE
OF PARLIAMENT. BUT THE LONG CONFIRMATION PROCESS AND DELAYS IN
SHAPING THE CABINET HAVE BEEN COSTLY BOTH POLITICALLY AND
ECONOMICALLY. THE GOVERNMENT IS ONLY NOW GETTING DOWN TO WORK
AND IS LIKELY TO FACE FIERCE OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT.
MR. YELTSIN'S SPOKESMAN SAYS THE RUSSIAN LEADER'S TOUGH STAND IN
HIS SHOWDOWN WITH PARLIAMENT IS A CLEAR SIGN THE RUSSIAN
PRESIDENT IS FIRMLY IN CONTROL. IN A RADIO INTERVIEW THURSDAY,
SPOKESMAN SERGEI YASTRZHEMBSKY REJECTED ACCUSATIONS MR. YELTSIN
IS BEING OVERLY INFLUENCED BY HIS FAMILY OR A CLOSE GROUP OF
//// YASTRZHEMBSKY ACT IN RUSSIAN, ESTABLISH AND FADE ////
MR. YASTRZHEMBSKY SAYS THE PRESIDENT LISTENS TO VARIOUS POINTS OF
VIEW AND IT IS EVEN POSSIBLE TO ARGUE WITH HIM WHEN A DECISION IS
BEING MADE, BUT ONCE IT IS MADE THE PRESIDENT IMPLEMENTS IT IN A
THE KREMLIN SPOKESMAN ADDS THE DECISION TO STREAMLINE GOVERNMENT
WILL ENHANCE THE PRESIDENT'S ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS.
Los Angeles Times
May 7, 1998
[for personal use only]
Career-Minded in Russia Hit the Books to Get Ahead
Education: Soviet-era professions are out as students aim for
free-market success. Workers go back to class.
By VANORA BENNETT, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--When Oleg Podobryansky was a teenager, his dream was to become a
top Soviet scientist, doing research that would expand the frontiers of
Soviet knowledge to undreamed-of places.
But Podobryansky graduated with a doctorate in biochemistry in
1991, the year his Soviet Union and its dreams fell apart. The
once-lofty state science institutes were too broke to hire him.
So he left the world of science. To make enough money to survive
under capitalism, he started trading consumer goods. He set up a small
firm. He married. He prospered. But he kept hankering for knowledge.
Last year, at age 33, Podobryansky went back to school. This time
around, he's chosen a major that fits his present way of life as a
well-off businessman and father living in a city whose brand of
capitalism has become relatively stable. He's getting his master's
degree in economic theory.
Podobryansky's trajectory shows the changes that have taken place
in higher education in Russia this decade as young people growing up
with radically different lifestyles and expectations from those of their
parents--and of their own childhoods--train, or retrain, for the future.
"There was a long phase where students dropped out of school
altogether and went off to trade on the street instead. But that's over
now. Kids know they need to equip themselves properly for the job market
these days. And they're flocking back to educate themselves," said Alla
Tilinina, deputy dean of the baccalaureate department of the Higher
School of Economics, founded after the Soviet collapse.
"It's very useful," the trimly bearded Podobryansky said of his new
studies at the Higher School of Economics. "What I need now is some
theory, as well as some new management techniques, to help me at work."
He has no regrets about the past and no intention of making a
career in the academic world. But he's glad to be back in class--to him,
it symbolizes the end of the uncertainty of those early post-Soviet
days, when learning suddenly meant nothing, and life briefly became a
brutal matter of dog eat dog.
Different Subjects Popular in Soviet Days
In earlier times, during the settled years of Soviet stagnation--as
recently as 1980--more than two-thirds of students at college were
learning the rugged professions that the Soviet system
glamorized--engineering, medicine, agriculture and many branches of pure
and applied scientific research for civilian or, more often, military
The macho daydream of Soviet science students was to become a
cosmonaut. More realistically, they could be confident that good exam
results would land them prestigious, well-paid work in a huge state
institution. In a nation whose self-image was of a giant, smoothly
functioning machine, almost 50% of all college students were future
Then came the first period of change. Polls from the despairing,
uncertain perestroika years at the end of the 1980s were notorious for
showing that schoolchildren thought their best employment hope for the
future was a career as a butcher, taxi driver, street trader or
hard-currency prostitute. The number of students in higher education
dropped sharply as thousands took the same route as Podobryansky.
Parents wrung their hands in despair at the idea that education was
going out of style.
Now another change has come as the first generation of post-Soviet
high school students figures out the best way of getting ahead in the
new world. These days, the magnetic pull of the giant machine has
weakened, and the attractions of entrepreneurship have grown stronger.
Kids growing up in a world of television ads for every imaginable luxury
want access to the new wealth, but they also want the best of the new
qualifications. The more discerning students of today want their minds
stretched as much as their wallets.
"I'm not going to be an academic; I want a career in the private
sector later, in a company or a bank," said Katya Pkhaladze, 19, a
cheerful economics student embarking on the grueling, 44-hour-a-week
undergraduate course at the Higher School of Economics. But she thought
she might first complete not only her four-year undergraduate studies
but go on to earn a two-year master's degree, and she had shopped
carefully around the top institutes for the best program before taking
entrance exams to her school.
The choices college students are making may not be quite what their
parents had planned for them 10 years ago, but they once again reflect
an attachment to formal education that parents can at least respect.
Valery Karpov, 45, wanted his oldest daughter, Natasha, to be a
linguist. He started teaching her English and French when she was just 5
and dreamed that she would one day have the prestigious job of teaching
literature at Leningrad State University.
Natasha got as far as the second year of her five-year university
course. Then she thought again. It was 1992: Half her friends had left
to make money--the more intelligent half, she said. She got a part-time
job as manager of a business center at a hotel in Leningrad, now renamed
St. Petersburg, but carried on studying part time. Meanwhile, dubious
job offers poured in.
"We were so worried all the time," Valery Karpov recalled. "Natasha
would come home saying she'd been offered this job or that job, all with
fly-by-night new private firms; there'd be phone calls late at night
from men with rough accents. It seemed like her only future was in some
kind of mafia."
Father Seeks Help From Alabama Friends
After a year of this, Natasha's father asked his foreign scientist
friends in faraway Alabama to help her get a place at an American
college. She dropped her language studies and began studying business in
the United States. Next year, with qualifications in marketing,
accountancy and other modern skills, she plans to come back to Russia to
look for a job. She is fluent in English, but she won't be trying to
teach literature. Natasha wants to become a tycoon.
"It's not at all what we expected for her. But it's a real relief
that--in spite of all this turmoil--she has good qualifications, has
finished college and will have a proper professional job to go to," her
Last year, 14-year-old high school students in Moscow were polled
by the Vtsiom opinion survey agency about career and study aspirations.
A majority said they wanted to go into business, but as top-flight
professionals: 21% as economists or accountants, 20% as lawyers, 18% as
financiers and 14% as entrepreneurs.
Less popular, with roughly 2% of children opting for each, were the
jobs of politician, journalist, computer operator, doctor, diplomat,
bank teller, model, car salesman, translator and hairdresser. Only 2%
opted for the dark side of new Russian life, saying they wanted to be
mafiosi or professional killers. And 1% wanted to become prostitutes.
No one wanted to be an engineer or a cosmonaut.
Education Ministry figures show the same shift in priorities among
students who enrolled in college last year. Less than a quarter of
college students today are now learning engineering; instead, a quarter
of them are learning the hot new subject, economics, up from the 10% who
enrolled in Soviet economics courses in the 1980s. Language studies are
up too, and trendy disciplines such as environmental studies have
appeared for the first time.
Spruced-Up Courses and New Colleges
Old universities and institutes are sprucing up their courses, and
new colleges are opening to cope with the demand. A religious university
of 450 students has started up in Moscow. As one might expect, it offers
courses on subjects relating to Russian Orthodox Church history and
culture to young people who want to get back in touch with traditions
lost during the Soviet era. But it also offers courses in ecology, law
and economics, "with a necessary infusion of morality," as founder
Father Ioann Ekonomtsev says. A similar college exists in St.
But economics studies are the biggest crowd-pullers. The high-profile
Higher School of Economics and the New Economic School, both in Moscow,
were founded in the early 1990s as a way to spread Western-style
economic thinking in the Russian academic community. The schools'
founders wanted to train a new generation of economists to teach Western
methods, and to provide a labor pool of trained experts for work in
ministries and private firms.
The Higher School of Economics offers degrees in economics, law,
management, sociology and finance. It gets government financing for the
best 200 of its approximately 400 students. Others pay fees of about
$100 a month.
Dozens of other economic and business schools are advertised in
newspapers and in the subway. New colleges must pass muster with the
Education Ministry to be accredited as places of learning; after that,
they must fight a second battle, to win state funding from the national
budget or find sponsors.
The total number of college students is rising again too, from
583,000 in 1990 to 748,000 last year. But, in a country of 150 million
people, this is still a tiny minority--mostly the children of a
"We're trying to make our education more accessible to more
people," said Yaroslav Kuzminov, chancellor of the Higher School of
Economics, which advertises its courses on big billboards on the streets
outside every faculty building. "But higher education is still very
elitist. You tend to get the children of the powerful, not the man on
the street, coming in. I think that's something that could cause
problems in the future unless we change it."
Keeping the Science Option Open
The bright-eyed students thronging the corridors of the Higher
School of Economics mainly studied math and physics in high school. Most
are also the children of scientists and professionals in the old Soviet
"I was always a techie, good at math, but didn't want to do arts
subjects," said Kostya Arshakuni, 19. "But math is a good roof over your
head. It's turned out to be the perfect basis for my economics now."
But some of the students regret that the old days--when working in
science was regarded as the most prestigious career choice--have passed.
One, 18-year-old Sveta Savicheva, said she sometimes yearns for
further study of math and physics. Although Sveta, a pixie-faced girl
with long blondish hair, is glad to be learning economics, she has
joined an evening "science circle" of students who want to keep their
options open by continuing their studies in math and physics. This extra
study will let students like Sveta write doctoral dissertations after
they graduate as economists--if they decide, after all, that science is
their real love.
"You need a technical education of some sort," Sveta said. "Once
you've got that, you've got your road through life mapped out. I opted
for economics because it's practical and marketable, but I'm a bit sorry
to have given up science and want to keep the door open."
In a sign that the educational revolution is coming full circle,
math and physics professors are saying, hopefully, that more students
are beginning to enroll in their abstract courses again.
"The number of kids studying natural science at university dropped
a lot, but it's going up again now," said Semyon Musher, who teaches
physics at Novosibirsk University. "People are starting to value our
basic science, because it's good. Even if you don't become a scientist
later, your brain is trained, and you have a good mathematical basis for
working in other fields."
From: "matt taibbi" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998
Hope you're rested and ready to get back at it...It was very good to meet
you finally, and I hope you had a good time. Your performance at Papa
John's was shocking: I haven't seen anyone press that much flesh since the
last Mitt Romney's Senate campaign. In any case, I hope you've gained some
more insight into Russia and into the effect you're having here. As you can
see, you really do have a good number of fanatical readers.
As promised, I'm sending along a piece from our new issue.
Thanks again, and I look forward to getting your lists again.
Are You A Technocrat?
By Abram Kalashnikov
Refresh my memory here...I don't remember when it was, but someone was
telling me not long ago about this theory he had that the workers ought to
control the means of production, that capitalism and imperialism would be
succeeded by socialism, and that the state would eventually wither away.
Weird little theory, and it came with an even weirder twist; it was totally
apolitical. The guy who was telling me about it insisted it was all based
on science, not politics. It was proven fact, a historical inevitability,
not hypothesis. Not opinion.
Wait-now it comes back to me. That was Marx! And wait, it turned out that
he was...full of shit! His little "apolitical" theory gave the world enough
politics this century to last humanity until the next ice age. And what
Funny how all that slipped my mind. Maybe it's because I've been reading
the news too much lately. That's because lately, that whole "apolitical"
thing is making a comeback, in the guise of the word "technocrat"-and no
one is calling the whole phenomenon ridiculous. They're taking it
Few events in recent Russian history have demonstrated the capacity of the
Western press to spread insidious doublespeak better than the rise to power
of Sergei Kiriyenko. No sooner had this balding little patsy been thrust
into the Prime Minister post by Boris Yeltsin than every hack in town was
calling him a "technocrat", or a "young technocrat". It was a great label,
and it seemed to fit the nerdly-looking Kiriyenko well. You could somehow
see him tucked away behind a computer screen, technocratting away. There
was only one problem; no one knew what the hell the word meant.
There was confusion everywhere. Sometimes, as with the Moscow Times,
"technocrat" seemed to mean the absence of resolve in the battle against
"This means also sharing some power with the communists and
nationalists in a government headed by the lackluster technocrat Sergei
Kiriyenko or someone else. Reforms, including military reform, will
inevitably stagnate. But stagnation is nothing new in Russia."
...while at other times, as in Reuters news releases, "technocrat" seemed
to mean just the opposite, i.e. enthusiasm for anti-communist policies:
"At 35, Kiriyenko's political experience is limited to four months as fuel
and energy minister and about eight months as a deputy minister. He has won
a reputation as an effective technocrat who is fully behind market
The AP, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Moscow Times, the Washington
Post, Reuters, and a host of Russian papers all repeatedly referred to
Kiriyenko as a "technocrat". In doing so, they were all playing follow the
leader. Boris Yeltsin himself referred to Kiriyenko as a "technocrat" in an
address to the nation:
"Kiriyenko is what they call a technocrat, an expert in management. He is
a man who is not linked today with any (political) parties or movements. At
the same time he is capable of conducting dialogue with anyone, he's ready
to listen to the opinions of different sides."
The word "technocrat" isn't new, although its sudden resurgence in news
coverage of Russia has been marked by a fresh approach to the word in
general. Webster's defines "technocracy" as "a government by scientists and
engineers," but for the most part, the media has tended to use "technocrat"
to describe anyone who is said to be more problem-solver than ideologue.
Whether or not the word is used in a positive way has tended, over the
course of this century, to depend a lot on how society feels about ideology
or politics in general.
In the ideological fervor of the McCarthy era, for instance, it was not
uncommon for major American newspapers to associate "technocracy" with
communism. The word somehow fit the image of the unfeeling, robotic Soviet
infiltrator; the Hearst newspapers in the fifties frequently referred to
"bloodless technocrat communists" in their coverage.
But when a few years passed and Americans grew tired of rah-rah politics
and jingoistic speeches, politicians suddenly started lining up to define
themselves not as politicians, but technocrats. Mike Dukakis, for instance,
used the term to explain away his lack of personality. It didn't work;
Dukakis wasn't a good enough politician, it turned out, to trick voters
into believing he wasn't one.
While the manipulation of the "t" word might have horrified Webster, there
was one group in the United States which distinguished itself throughout
the 20th century by its entymological correctness. In July, 1918, a group
of self-serious veterans of Federal government service gathered at Waverly
place in Manhattan to form what subsequently became known as "The
Technocracy." These were guys who'd read their dictionaries and decided to
agitate, appropriately enough, for the actual establishment of a government
of scientists and engineers.
Technocracy's leader, an engineer named Howard Scott, was called the "Chief
Engineer" of the group, while his deputies held titles like "architect" and
"forester". Together, these middle-class scientists worked steadily over
the years to propagate themselves as the vanguard of a new "non-political"
movement, which would help lift society out of the muck of the competing
ideologies of capitalism and communism.
All of which sounded like a good idea. The only problem was, the
Technocrats were lunatics. Their platform was like a hellish mixture of Ayn
Rand and discarded Star Trek scripts, full of adolescent posturing about
their supra-rational, masculine approach to social problems, and dilettante
plans for rescuing humanity through technology. Among other things, they
advocated restricting travel on the American continent to waterways
(because ground travel required too much use of non-replaceable fuels) and
prohibiting the use of chromium metal for decorative purposes in modern
architecture. Technocrat literature was littered with creepy Heaven's
Gate-style catchwords, like "Price System" (describing capitalist
economics), "Area" (rather than "state" or political territory), and
"kinetic force". Instead of talking about per capita consumption, they
talked about how much "non-renewable kinetic energy" people expended in
their lifetimes. In short, these were people who would have been Dungeons
and Dragons freaks, if the Middle Ages had celebrated air conditioning and
But the real reason Technocracy never got off the ground as a major force
in America (although a few Technocrats served in FDR's cabinet) wasn't that
its leaders were demented retards. The real problem with Technocracy was
that its central premise was totally ridiculous. It claimed simultanously
to be above politics and opinion, while having an opinion about everything.
One Technocratic writer in the fifties even advocated a program of full
conscription during the Korean War as a "patriotic solution" to the
conflict. Technocrats also tended to favor the abolition of free enterprise
You've got to be pretty stupid to call for the abolition of free enterprise
in the United States of America, of all places, and expect people to treat
you as a harmless "non-politician." But the Technocrats did. They claimed
that all social problems had pre-existing nonideological solutions, much
the way Michaelangelo believed the perfect statue already existed inside
the uncut stone. In this sense, they differed from "ordinary" politicians
in exactly one sense: they didn't admit the possibility, even in theory,
that they could be wrong about anything.
What does all of this have to do with Kiriyenko? A lot. Because when
Western reporters call the new Premier a technocrat, they're laying the
same specious garbage on their readers that the actual Technocrats tried to
lay on the world. There is no such thing as a non-political politician.
Look it up in any dictionary: politics is the study of government. The head
of a government is always necessarily, by his nature, a politician. Even if
he says he isn't one. Especially if he says he isn't one.
Even more than its predecessor, "reformer", "technocrat" is an extremely
dangerous word. It anesthesizes people, makes them believe that government
is just a matter of hard work and elbow grease, and not the contest of
interests that it is. Once people swallow the concept of the "technocrat",
it's a short step to convincing them that society is just a big jumbo jet
that needs one pilot in total control. After all, you don't fly a plane
with opinions. You just solve problems along the way.
When reporters try to tell you that someone is a technocrat, what they're
really trying to do is tell you the difference between Right and Wrong.
Take the Reuters quote above. By lumping together the words "technocrat"
and "supportive of market reforms", they're telling you that market reform
is the one and only solution to Russia's problems, the only one a
"technocrat" would choose. Like it's not an opinion, but scientific fact.
Marx tried the same thing. It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now. No
matter whose byline you see it under.
Date: Tue, 05 May 1998 17:52:42 +0300
From: Geoffrey York <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: The Globe and Mail
Subject: Islam in Tatarstan
May 5, 1998
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
By Geoffrey York
KAZAN, Russia -- In the ancient heart of Islam’s most northern outpost,
a giant new mosque is slowly rising toward the sky.
Turkish construction workers are clambering over the half-built brick
minarets, just a few metres from government offices in a historic
Russian fortress near the Volga River.
The massive mosque is a symbol of Russia’s Islamic revival. More than
400 years ago, a legendary old mosque on the same site was destroyed by
Ivan the Terrible during his brutal conquest of the Tatar khanate at
Kazan. Today an Islamic crescent is displayed on the tallest tower in
the fortress, signalling the rebirth of the religion.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, pundits warned that the
Islamic revival could pose a formidable challenge to Russia’s political
leaders. The Tatars, the second-biggest ethnic group in Russia, were
seen as one of the most likely challengers. Their oil-rich republic,
about 700 kilometres east of Moscow, occupies a strategic territory in
the Russian heartland.
But in the confrontation between secular and religious authorities in
Tatarstan, the Islamists have suffered a crushing defeat. While their
mosques are expanding, their political influence is weakening. They have
proved no match for the authoritarian tactics of the shrewd ex-Communist
leaders who still control this region.
~We lost, and the state has won this game,” says Gabdoulla Galioullin,
the former head of the Tatarstan Muslims.
Mr. Galioullin, a fiercely independent mufti, was elected the leader of
the region’s estimated one million Muslims in 1992. He often clashed
with the Tatarstan government.
But in February the government called a meeting of the Muslims, stacked
it with handpicked delegates and paid for their travel expenses. The
delegates obediently voted to depose the mufti and replace him with a
~I was not considered politically reliable to the state,” the mufti
said in an interview in his office in a nineteenth-century mosque in the
centre of Kazan.
The defeat of the Islamists is a testament to the power of Russia’s
regional chieftains. Tatarstan’s president is Mintimir Shaimiyev, a
veteran Communist Party functionary who served as the Communist boss of
this region when the Soviet Union was still alive. Like many other
governors and presidents across the country, Mr. Shaimiyev rules his
region with an iron fist, brooking little opposition from any
independent political or religious groups.
In 1995, dozens of militant Muslim students threw a scare into the
president when they stormed and seized a former Islamic college in Kazan
and occupied it for five days, defying the armed riot police who
surrounded the building. The students insisted that the building must be
converted to a madrasa, as it was before the 1917 revolution.
~It was like a revolt, a political bomb,” Mr. Galioullin said. ~It was
a shock to the state. It was the first time since 1917 that anyone had
taken this kind of action.”
The Muslims won the skirmish, and the building became an Islamic
college again. But the rebellion prompted Mr. Shaimiyev to launch a
crackdown on the Islamic movement.
Their leader, Mr. Galioullin, was subjected to criminal charges and
lengthy police interrogations. He was prohibited from leaving the city
for eight months.
Since then, the pressure has tightened. Of the 22 mosques in Kazan,
only nine are considered to be independent of government control. The
region’s secret police, a former branch of the Soviet KGB, closely
monitors the activities of the independent mosques. The police wiretap
their telephones and recruit informers in the mosques. Only the most
loyal imams are allowed access to broadcast time on the local television
The independent mosques are plagued by financial problems. Their
newspaper was forced to close last summer because of a shortage of
money. There is still no Islamic university in Kazan, so the imams must
travel to Uzbekistan for their religious training. Friday prayers are
often led by visiting Muslim clerics from Turkey.
~In the villages and remote areas, the salary of the imams and the
heating and electricity is all paid by the state,” Mr. Galioullin said.
~That might be why they can control us.”
Mr. Shaimiyev, meanwhile, has consolidated his power as the dominant
figure in Tatarstan. When he ran for re-election in 1996, not a single
candidate dared to oppose him. He won a Soviet-style victory with 97.5
per cent of the vote. Shortly afterward, the Tatarstan constitution was
amended to allow him to seek a third term in office in 2001.
After his election triumph, Mr. Shaimiyev issued a presidential decree
making it illegal for the media to insult him. Fines of up to $8,500 can
be levied against anyone who insults him in public.
Such incidents are unlikely. The president maintains tight control over
all of the local media. Last week, the sole remaining opposition
newspaper in Tatarstan was forcibly shut down. A local court ordered the
paper to be closed because of an obscure technical violation -- it was
registered as a Tatar-language publication, yet it was publishing in
both Russian and Tatar.
The biweekly newspaper, Golden Horde, was published by the main Tatar
nationalist group, known as Ittifak. Once a major rival of the
president, the Tatar group has been forced to the sidelines.
~I can’t even hold a meeting of our members because we don’t have a
building,” said Bernard Kasimov, chairman of the Kazan branch of the
4,000-member association. ~We had a building, but it was taken away from
us. Then our bank account was closed because we have no office. They’re
trying to destroy all opposition.”
The Muslims are philosophical about their fate. Unlike the more
militant Islamic separatists of Chechnya, the Tatar Muslims are isolated
in the centre of Russia, thousands of kilometres away from the nearest
Islamic nation. They have intermarried with their Russian neighbours for
centuries. After more than 70 years of official atheism in the Soviet
era, they see the Islamic revival as a slow and gradual movement.
It will take many years for Tatarstan to achieve political and
religious freedom, Mr. Galioullin said.
~This was a totalitarian state,” he said. ~We were always afraid to
express our opinion. It was inborn. And the fear is still inside us.”
May 7, 1998
[for personal use only]
FORMER SOVIET FACADE OF TOLERANCE ERODED BY RUSSIAN RACIST ATTACKS
By Colin McMahon, Tribune Foreign Correspondent.
The newspaper story barely was noticed except by a fraction of Moscow's
population. In honor of Adolf Hitler's birthday, the account said, neo-Nazi
groups were threatening to kill an Asian a day in the city.
Police discounted the rumors, but Asian and African students who live every
day amid the dangers of racism in Russia could not be so casual.
Then reports started coming in. About 20 skinheads brutally beat a couple
of Asian women near the Arbat pedestrian district. A Nigerian, an Indian and a
Kenyan were attacked in separate incidents.
Over the weekend at a popular outdoor market, skinheads jumped an American
Marine, an African-American from the U.S. Embassy contingent.
Whether those incidents had anything to do with the published threats is
unclear. But since neo-Nazi skinheads made their vow April 20 to begin
killing, fear has risen among African, Asian and other foreigners of color who
study, work and live in the Russian capital.
Though racism in Soviet times usually was hiding beneath the surface, it
has become a more visible and perhaps more volatile social ill in Russia since
the old order fell.
"I'm always on guard; it's always on my mind," said Michael Angara, 28, a
Filipino who works as a purchasing manager for a Moscow cafeteria. "You have
to know where to go, where not to go. I have to take precautions every
Angara said the article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta quickly became the talk
among his friends.
Taiwan's Embassy ordered its citizens to stay home from school. Other
missions, including the U.S. Embassy twice, also have issued warnings alerting
The Marine was attacked Saturday afternoon while walking with an American
woman, also black, through Gorbushka market at Fili Park, a popular spot to
buy CDs and videocassettes.
Four men described as in their 20s and with shaved heads pounded on the
Marine, knocking out a couple of teeth and fleeing when the screams of his
companion brought market security forces and Russian civilians, police said.
Citing privacy concerns, U.S. officials declined to identify the victim but
said he had received the necessary medical care.
A suspect in the attack had scars on his knuckles when arrested Monday. In
an interview on Russian television, he called himself "Boose" and boasted
indirectly about the incident.
"To be honest with you, they just seem to be attracted to my fists like
metal to a magnet," he said. "Everywhere I go, they bite me on my fists."
Later, he talked about his beliefs in "genetic socialism" and purity of the
In the old USSR, such talk rarely was heard except around the kitchen
table. Officially, the sweeping, ethnically diverse nation was color-blind, a
defender of the world's oppressed against the West.
The symbol of this great tolerance was Patrice Lumumba University, named
after the Congolese revolutionary. The school was home over the years to tens
of thousands of students from the Third World.
That tolerance was merely a facade, kept in place by the same system that
maintained political, social and economic order. Jews were always second-class
citizens, and people from the Caucasus and Asian republics were constantly
reminded: Soviet they may be, but Russian they were not.
When the Soviet Union began to collapse, the facades crumbled. People felt
free to say aloud what they had whispered, and the weakness of the justice
system gave rise to criminal impunity.
As elsewhere in the post-communist world, economic troubles, the growing
gap between rich and poor, have frustrated young people who cannot find
suitable work and go looking for scapegoats.
Though the street crime rate in Moscow is lower than in most major U.S.
cities, random attacks on dark-skinned foreigners are not unusual.
The incidents sometimes start slowly but menacingly with a potential victim
being asked for beer money. They then grow into verbal abuse and epithets and
culminate with physical attacks.
Police often look the other way when foreigners complain, or if they do
intervene, they let the perpetrators go.
"Even if you report it, the police do nothing," said Arnold Rombo, 23, a
Kenyan studying economics at the former Patrice Lumumba, since renamed the
Russian University of People's Friendship.
"If a Russian wrongs you, and you are a foreigner, then he is always in the
Gorbachev backs General Lebed in Siberian election
MOSCOW, May 7 (Reuters) - Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev on
Thursday praised tough-talking reserve general and would-be Kremlin leader
Alexander Lebed and said he deserved to succeed in his bid to become a
Lebed faces the Kremlin-backed incumbent Valery Zubov in a run-off
May 17 for the governorship of Krasnoyarsk Territory, a vast, mineral-rich
region of Siberia that he hopes will become his launch-pad for the Russian
presidency in 2000.
Gorbachev, who lost his job when Russian President Boris Yeltsin and other
republican leaders dissolved the Soviet Union in late 1991, said Lebed was a
patriot who understood ordinary Russians but stopped short of endorsing him
for the presidency.
``(Lebed) can be taught and, what is very important, he is devoted to
Russia,'' Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Lebed's strong character and lack of narrow political affiliation were also
points in his favour, Gorbachev said.
The former Soviet leader, whose policies of glasnost and perestroika opened
Russia up to the outside world in the late 1980s, is the second well known
public figure in Russia to support Lebed's bid for the Krasnoyarsk
The influential business tycoon Boris Berezovsky has also backed Lebed
helped finance his election campaign. But Berezovsky has also said he wants
former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, not Lebed, as the next president.
Gorbachev, 67, said Lebed would be useful to Russia irrespective of
went on to become president.
``Like (Moscow mayor) Yuri Luzhkov, Lebed is seen as a man of the people who
is also able to get on with the nomenklatura,'' he said.
Gorbachev said Luzhkov and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, both
possible rivals for the presidency in 2000, had attacked Lebed precisely
because they understood he was a dangerous opponent.
If Lebed, 48, wins the Krasnoyarsk governorship he automatically becomes a
member of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. If he
loses, he has said he will give up politics. After a 10-point lead over Zubov
in the first round, however, that seems unlikely.
Gorbachev suggested that, if elected in Krasnoyarsk, Lebed might become the
leader of the upper house, a post currently held by the pro-Kremlin centrist
Lebed and Gorbachev may seem unlikely political allies but they have at least
two things in common -- they both dislike Yeltsin and they were both defeated
by him in the last presidential election in 1996.
Gorbachev, dismissed by most Russians as yesterday's man, won less than one
percent of votes cast in that election but Lebed came a strong third behind
Yeltsin and Zyuganov.
As a reward for his support in the decisive second round, Yeltsin made Lebed
his security adviser but fired him after the election for being too ambitious.
Date: Mon, 04 May 1998
From: Green Left Weekly <email@example.com>
Subject: From Renfrey Clarke
Students radicalising in Russia
By Boris Kagarlitsky
MOSCOW The left in Russia is not extremely popular among
young people, but this does not mean that neo-liberalism is.
During the '90s, young people, students in particular, earned the
reputation of being very apolitical. It is true that they suffered less
during economic "reform," were able to adjust faster to the
changing social and economic conditions, and were more capable of finding
occasional opportunities to earn money.
During the Chechen War the students tried to avoid military service, but
there was no strong anti-war movement. When the war was over, the ruling
elite thought the "student problem" was also over.
The regime and its neo-liberal ideologues saw the new generation
(especially its educated members) as their passive supporters and a reserve
of the "loyal middle class." They were therefore shocked when
student protests erupted in Ekaterinburg last month and spread all over the
In Ekaterinburg, student protests started on April 14 and continued for
about a week. Young people vehemently opposed the government's view that
education should be paid for and privatised. They wanted it to stay free
and public. In reality, the quality of private education in Russia is so
low that even people who can afford it prefer traditional state-run
The students were also sure that education is a right, not a privilege.
Finally, they were unhappy that, instead of paying them subsidies, the
government wants students to pay their own way by taking waged working
while studying. Such policy would mean social apartheid: working-class
young people could not enrol in those faculties where full-time study is
The students were united. Even the privileged students from better-off
families joined the protests, a new phenomenon which shocked the
pro-establishment commentators and was characterised in the media as a type
What shocked them even more, however, was the use of force in Ekaterinburg.
Russian troops bombing Grozny or police dispersing hungry workers and
beating "communist radicals"--that is OK. But when the same
brutal methods were used to disperse students, including the children of
"good families," the establishment media did not hesitate to
condemn police violence. Police officers were forced to repent in public
and the authorities were forced to negotiate.
Right-wing journalist Andrey Cherkizov, who tried to assert the right of
the police force "to protect itself against student violence,"
received no support from his colleagues or audience. When Cherkizov asked
his (usually politically loyal) audience to call the studio to support his
thesis that young people must work hard (rather than demand educational
subsidies) and that the police did the right thing "kicking their
stupid heads," the great majority of those who called disagreed.
Even Cherkizov's (accurate) description of students carrying a red flag and
the slogan "Today we come with slogans, tomorrow we'll come with
guns" didn't change the mood of the audience, which sympathised with
On April 18, the National Student Forum was opened in Moscow. Students from
different parts of the country came together to express their support for
the principles of free and public education.
The forum received a lot of positive press coverage, even though its
left-wing orientation was clear from the beginning: the organising
committee was dominated by members of the Komsomol [the Communist Party
youth organisation]. Daria Mitina, a Komsomol member of the Duma, plus many
other leftists were elected to the leadership of the Russian Student
Movement, launched by the forum. The only member of the leadership who is
not a leftist is a social democrat.
The student radicalisation is an important symptom of the change that is
occurring in Russian left politics. Since 1990, the left in general lacked
new activists. Now, for the first time in years, more young people are
getting involved in socialist politics.
The Leftist University in Moscow, a system of free political education
classes for young people, has been very successful, and over the last year
the membership of the Komsomol increased from 15,000 to 20,000.
These developments indicate that more people are realising that the
neo-liberal theory of the new generation reaping the rewards of capitalism
is simply not true. As young people get older they find they confront the
same problems as earlier generations.
At the same time, young people are becoming fed up with the corruption and
injustice of Boris Yeltsin's regime. While the Communist Party is clearly
not interested in the students, more students are becoming interested in
communism and will find their own methods of struggle.
[Subject: Correction on Boris Kagarlitsky's article
Due to editorial error, a reference to the Komsomol in Boris Kagarlitsky's
article `Students radicalise in Russia' said that it is the youth
organisation of the Communist Party. In fact, it broke from the party last
year. Our apologies for the error.
Green Left Weekly]
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