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Johnson's Russia List
27 May 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. RFE/RL: Floriana Fossato, New Government Takes Measures To Manage
2. Russia Today satire: Mary Campbell, My Dinner With Zyuganov.
3. Moscow Times: Andrei Zolotov Jr., Media Chiefs Accuse Kremlin of
4. The Independent (UK): Imre Karacs, Collapse of communism ruins
eastern school system.
5. Yeltsin's Radio Address on Miners' Strike.
6. Christian Science Monitor: John van Schaik, Russia Hopes to Clean
Up on Its Dirty Past.
7. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Teachers' Objections to Education Reform Outlined.
8. Interfax: Gorbachev Takes Positive View of Lebed.
9. Interfax: Gorbachev: System Resting on Yeltsin Should Go.
10. Tokyo's Asagumo: Yoshiaki Sakaguchi (National Institute of Defense
Studies), "Russia at the Crossroads."
11. Reuters: U.S. says Russia is not carrying out religion law.
12. Reuters: Russian govt faces test of rocky finances.]
Russia: New Government Takes Measures To Manage Job Crisis
By Floriana Fossato
Moscow, 26 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's new government has gained a small
window of opportunity to persuade angry coal miners, state-sector employees
and increasingly anxious Western investors and domestic business leaders of
its ability to govern. However, economic analysts argue that the government
will have to show huge political and economic initiative, if it wants to
achieve some much-needed results.
Following two days of intense negotiations with top government officials,
at the week-end, frustrated coal miners lifted a ten-day blockade of the
Trans-Siberian and North Caucasus railroads. The national protest, after a
week of wildcat protests, immobilized more than 600 freight and passenger
trains on the tracks across Russia, inflicting damages that the Transport
Ministry put at about $29 million. The blockades also hurt many industries,
which could not transport their goods to markets or obtain vital supplies.
The temporary resolution of the issue came as a surprise to many, as it
followed a first day of unsuccessful negotiations in the Siberian region of
Kemerovo, in the southern Rostov region, and in the northern Vorkuta region,
conducted respectively by First Deputy Prime Ministers Oleg Sysuev and Boris
Nemtsov and by Economics Minister Yakov Urinson.
Thousand of angry miners, who have not been paid in months -- and, in
some cases not in the last two years -- seemed in no mood to back away from
their demands to receive full payment.
In his Friday radio address, President Boris Yeltsin raised tensions as
he told strikers their protest was "unreasonable," and that they were making
an already difficult situation worse. Yeltsin said that the protesters "have
ceased to be an instrument of resolving economic issues and threaten to
cause huge damage to the whole of the country."
Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov quoted the President as saying that the
miners had "gone too far," and that Yeltsin believed that coal miners "have
not yet learned to work in a market economy."
The immediate reaction of miners was to vow to block the railways until
all the overdue wages were paid. However, after intense negotiations, the
miners agreed to end the blockade -- for the time being. Key rail lines to
Eastern and Southern Russia were re-opened. Officials in Kemerovo said
Monday that it will take about a week for trains on the Trans-Siberian
railway to get back on schedule.
Only miners in the Artic Komi Republic continued to prevent freight
trains from traveling on the Moscow-Vorkuta railroad. Miners complained that
Urinson, who conducted the talks on behalf of the government there, had
been "poorly prepared for negotiations."
The government has long pledged to solve the problem of overdue wages in
the coal industry -- and in other sectors -- but, little has been done,
driving miners and their families to become, what is commonly referred to as
"prisoners of their own mines."
Friday, First Deputy Prime Minister Sysuev was confronted by an angry
crowd of miners, other workers and families, who had been calling for the
resignation of Yeltsin and the entire government. Sysuev said he had not
come with "empty promises," as the government understood the depth of the
problem in the mining industry and was taking steps to resolve it. He also
said "the authorities have realized that economic reforms are irresponsibly
conducted faster than accompanying social support is given."
First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, speaking after his return to Moscow,
said, "many words have been said in the past, but now there is time only for
decisive action." And, he added, "the government will immediately act to
create new jobs for workers made redundant, when financially ailing mines
are closed down."
Closing down unprofitable mines is a measure international financial
institutions favor, but which governments have been hesitant to implement.
The government's inability to tackle the issue of restructuring the coal
industry, in a more resolute way, has led to the spiraling of the wage
Nemtsov said the government favors closing down loss-making mines. But,
he added that this will take place only where enough money is found, along
with the creation of new work places, and creation of a proper social safety
net, including the possibility of relocating and employment in different
regions for miners who lose their jobs.
Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev, a former top Communist leader who has
expressed his support for new Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, took part in
the negotiations together with Sysuev. Tuleyev, who enjoys wide respect
among miners in his region, said the most difficult issue addressed during
negotiations between the government and strike representatives was not the
payment of back wages, but, rather, the way the government would address the
problems of workers made redundant when unprofitable mines are closed.
The government's approach was sufficiently effective to persuade miners
to lift their blockade. However, Tuleyev, who told the miners he would
guarantee the new government fulfills its obligation, said miners would
review the results July 1, and would renew their blockades if they were not
satisfied with the progress made.
On the Nemtsov-led negotiations in Rostov, Russian news agencies reported
state funds were found to pay three months' back wages. And, according to
Itar-Tass, it was decided to withdraw money from the accounts of
intermediaries, who are supposed to trade the mines' production on their
behalf. However, according to government data, the middlemen owe more than
500 million rubles to the mines, and special teams are being formed to
investigate possible diversion of money that was supposed to go to wages and
to meet other needs of that region's mining sector.
Most of the unpaid wages are not owed by the state, but directly by the
mines, a great number of which have been privatized. However, company heads
say they cannot pay their workers, because they are not being paid by the
government and private customers who buy the coal.
Despite their readiness to appease the miners, Sysuev and Nemtsov did not
contradict Yeltsin and Kiriyenko, who, last week, insisted that the
government would not give in to mounting demands to loosen its austere
monetary policy to pay all the miners' back wages. The two ministers
explained to the miners that there would be no printing of money, and no
re-distribution of funds between regions or between different sectors of the
Kiriyenko last week had said the new government "is responsible not only
for putting out today's fire, but also for the future of the country's
economy as a whole."
Overall, analysts suggest that the government's performance during the
crisis was effective. Nikolay Petrov, a senior associate with the Carnegie
Center in Moscow, told RFE/RL that the government "has dealt rather well
with this crisis... despite subjective attempts by other people to exploit
the outcome of the situation to their ends."
According to Petrov, trade union activists in the regions have played a
much more positive role in the negotiation than national leaders, and the
strike once again showed that "big trade unions, keeping their Soviet-style
traditions and their immense properties, don't have real influence over the
workers, who are driven mainly by anger and frustration."
Rory McFarquhar, an analyst with the Russian-European Center for Economic
Policy, told our correspondent that the government had "successfully
defended the budget vis-a-vis the miners' demands." However, he adds that
"the overall economic situation is very precarious, as crisis seem to feed
on themselves." According to McFarquhar, "objectively, Russia's economic
situation was worse in the past two years, but subjectively, for a
confluence of difficult circumstances, the new government is in a situation
where many people, including concerned investors and financial operators,
have lost their previous confidence and perceive it as being worse now."
Russia Today satire
My Dinner With Zyuganov
United We Stand
By Mary Campbell
(Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is in a restaurant with a number of
his party members. To his left and right are Gennady Seleznyov and
Zyuganov: (tapping knife on glass to get attention)
Okay, I've invited you all here so we can practice party discipline.
Zyuganov: Party discipline. Do you remember what that is? That's when
the leader ME gives an order and the party members YOU follow it.
Zyuganov: (gritting teeth)
I said, unquestioningly, Gennady.
Seleznyov: Oh yes, yes…of course.
Zyuganov: So, here goes. When the waiter comes and asks for our orders,
we will all have the fish. Understood? The fish. All right, here he is.
My good man, I'll have the fish. Gennady?
Seleznyov: (perusing menu)
Hmmm…what's the special this evening?
Zyuganov: (pounding table)
I said we'd all have the FISH! Never mind what the special is, Gennady,
have the FISH!
Seleznyov: (paying no attention, addressing waiter)
How's your pasta?
Zyuganov: (grabbing Seleznyov by the lapels)
Have the FISH! Just one little FISH! (losing it)
GENNADY, FOR GOD'S SAKE HAVE THE FISH!
Seleznyov: (looking mildly puzzled)
"For God's sake?" You're a Communist. What's that supposed to mean?
Zyuganov: (head on table)
It means I'm at the end of my rope.
Ilyukhin: I have an idea.
Zyuganov: (head still on table)
I know your idea. Impeach Yeltsin. That's always your idea, but I don't
see that it will help us in this situation.
Actually, I have another idea. We could all write our orders on pieces
of paper and slip them to the waiter.
Zyuganov: (looking up)
A secret ballot?
Ilyukhin: So to speak.
Zyuganov: I know what happens to you guys on secret ballots.
Ilyukhin: Come on boss, give it a chance.
Zyuganov: Okay, then, we'll write our orders, but everyone orders fish,
(murmurs of assent all round, they pull out pens and paper and begin
Ilyukhin: (intent on his piece of paper)
Ilyukhin: Do you spell 'goulash' with one 'l' or two?
And I suppose you think a goulash is some tropical breed of trout, do
you? I said we were all having the fish! What do you mean, how do you
spell goulash? Are you out of your mind? What will happen to this
country if my deputies are allowed to go around ordering goulash at
Waiter: You know, Boris Nicholayovich Yeltsin usually recommends our
veal to his guests. He speaks very highly of it. He actually devoted a
Friday radio address to it.
Zyuganov: Boris Yeltsin recommends the veal? Boris Yeltsin thinks we
care what he recommends for dinner? You tell Boris Yeltsin…(rising and
wagging finger at Yeltsin)
You tell Boris Yeltsin…
Ilyukhin: I'll have the veal please.
Seleznyov: I'll take the veal as well.
Zyuganov: You tell Boris Yeltsin…
(waiter looks at him expectantly, Zyuganov fixes him with a fierce
Zyuganov: You tell Boris Yeltsin that his opinions are not welcome! Tell
him we are able to order for ourselves! Tell him his arrogance and
tyranny are not appreciated! Tell him that we are about to bury our last
czar and we do not need another!
Waiter: I'll be sure tell him that the next time he's here, Mr.
Zyuganov. (turns to leave)
Zyuganov: Oh, and waiter…
Waiter: Yes, Mr. Zyuganov?
Zyuganov: (sinks back into chair, mumbles)
I'll have the veal as well.
May 27, 1998
Media Chiefs Accuse Kremlin of Meddling
By Andrei Zolotov Jr.
Television executives struck back at President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday
by accusing his government of persistent attempts to control broadcast
Speaking before influential figures in journalism from around the world,
they also said Russian media are facing a tough time because of the
Kremlin's unease about parliamentary and presidential elections in 1999
ORT general director Ksenya Ponomaryova told the gathering that the
relationship between the government and television is "absolutely
"The majority of Russia's leadership perceives television as their own
instrument," no matter what its form of ownership, Ponomaryova said.
Although ORT is 51 percent government-owned, it operates as a private
corporation and is widely considered to be controlled by tycoon Boris
Opening the annual conference of the International Press Institute on
Monday, Yeltsin sharply criticized the media tycoons, calling them the
"worst censors" and the biggest threat to freedom of the press in
On the same day, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky lashed out
at television companies, saying their coverage of last week's miners
strikes went "beyond reasonable limits" and ignited further protests.
Yeltsin plans to meet the leaders of the major television stations
Earlier this month, Yeltsin signed a decree transforming state
television and radio company VGTRK into a unified holding company to
manage the government-owned RTR national television channel, regional
companies and the transmission facilities used by all Russian
television, both private and state-owned.
Ponomaryova said Yeltsin's decree has an "extremely questionable" legal
and political base and other channels "perceive it as an attempt to
finance state-run media at the expense of private media."
Private channels fear VGTRK may establish unfavorable transmission rates
for private users. Ponomaryova said the government uses rates to
"blackmail" commercial television.
Eduard Sagalayev, founder of the private TV-6 network and president of
the National Association of Broadcasters, said private broadcast
companies, especially regional ones, are already charged five to six
times more than state television for signal transmission.
The heads of NTV and TV-6 expressed their anger at Yastrzhembsky's
remarks about the extensive coverage of the striking miners, who
succeeded in blocking the Trans-Siberian and other major railroads
Sagalayev attributed it to a "post-Soviet syndrome" among Russia's
leaders. Officials tend to think that "if miners do not lie on railroads
on TV screens, they do not lie on railroads in reality," Sagalayev said.
The Kremlin is trying to tighten control over television because it is
unsure of the channels' backing during the upcoming elections, media
"We all feel that hard times for us are coming," Sagalayev said.
Television will be under increasing pressures because of the "anxiety"
in the Kremlin, he said.
NTV general director Oleg Dobrodeyev said that by giving their unabashed
backing to Yeltsin in 1996, independent television journalists set a bad
precedent for future elections.
But Dobrodeyev said the situation will be different in 2000 because
Russian business and government elites are not "monolithic" as they were
during the last campaign, when they united to prevent a Communist
The new chairman of VGTRK, Mikhail Shvydkoi, attempted to ease private
"One cannot speak of any [information] monopoly of the state," Shvydkoi
said. "It is impossible to re-create the Soviet system of the
relationship between the state and television."
Shvydkoi said that the exact outline of the new "state concern" will
become clearer within the next two weeks, but assured the international
audience that VGTRK's relationship with regional companies will be a
"partnership." The government-owned companies have largely been under
the control of increasingly influential regional leaders.
The state-run and private television companies should complement each
other in their programming policies. RTR and Kultura should be able to
afford more public interest and educational programs than their private
counterparts, Shvydkoi said.
The Independent (UK)
27 May 1998
[for personal use only]
Collapse of communism ruins eastern school system
By Imre Karacs in Bonn
The children of the revolutions of 1989 are losing out on learning, as
the education system bequeathed by communism unravels. According to an
alarming report published by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)
yesterday, schools are crumbling across Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union, and literacy rates are plunging. Teachers are demoralised,
The Unicef report, unveiled in Bonn by the organisation's goodwill
ambassador, Sir Peter Ustinov, is the first comprehensive study of
education in the region since the fall of communism.
"The quality of schooling has fallen," it concludes. "Huge reductions
have taken place in many countries in real public expenditure in
education - by almost three-quarters, for example, in Bulgaria."
Wars and ravaged economies have put intolerable strain on education
budgets. In Georgia, textbooks can cost the equivalent of several
months' wages. Teacher's salaries, traditionally low in comparison to
other professions, have declined further, and in some countries are paid
several months late.
Full literacy was one of the few real achievements of communism, but
recent years have seen the emergence of school-leavers who cannot read
or write. The problem is most acute in the former Soviet Union, but even
in Central Europe, whose pupils still outscore England in maths and
science, a growing proportion of children fail to acquire basic
The widening gap between rich and poor threatens to push the less
fortunate to the margins. There is an explosion in the number of private
schools, which bleed the state sector dry of teaching talent.
Although Unicef recommends teaching reforms, it concedes that the
biggest problem is lack of funds. After the longest period of depression
this century, the region's economies are beginning to turn the corner.
But for those who are just being disgorged onto the jobs market after
nine miserable years in the classroom, help will be too late.
Yeltsin Gives Radio Address on Miners' Strike
Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Ekho Moskvy
Text of regular weekly radio address by Russian President Boris
Yeltsin to be broadcast on 22 May
Dear Russians! Coal mining regions in our country are on strike now.
Problems of the coal industry, which have been accumulating for years, made
people leave the pits and take to the streets. Strikes are an effective
device if people want to be heard and to make sure that their demands will
be met. However, currently strikes have gone beyond the reasonable limit,
and they are no longer an instrument for settling economic issues. They
have become a factor which threatens to inflict enormous losses on the
entire country. Many railways are blocked, thousands of cars have piled up
at stations, transport workers are losing millions, and enterprises are
suffering most of all. They are not receiving raw materials, components,
or fuel. This means that production comes to a standstill and economic
ties are disrupted.
The most important thing is that people are suffering. Food,
medicines, and vital supplies fail to reach regions in time. It is
impossible to go on a holiday, on a business trip, or to visit relatives.
Given the situation, governor Aman Tuleyev had to introduce a state of
emergency in Kemerovo Region. Thousands of cisterns containing fuel and
lubricants and chemical substances are stuck on the rails, and it is
impossible not to guard them. In the event of an accident people would
suffer, food would burn, and so would valuable cargo.
I receive detailed information about the situation in the coal mining
regions every day. I have already signed a decree on solving the problems
of the coal-mining industry as quickly as possible. The government has
already met leaders of the coal miners' trade unions and have reached an
agreement with them. Additional money was found in the budget which will
help to improve the situation. Deputy prime ministers [Boris] Nemtsov and
[Oleg] Sysuyev and heads of the coal mining departments have left for the
regions where miners are on strike. [Prime Minister] Sergey Kiriyenko has
submitted a draft law to the State Duma which will make it possible to cut
expenses on the upkeep of the government, the president's administration
and both houses of parliament by one-fourth, in order to allocate the saved
money to meet miners' needs.
The government itself is the first to set an example of saving money
by halving the number of its employees.
All this is only the beginning of a vast program for saving state
money. To put it briefly, the federal authorities are doing their utmost
to put out the fire of incandescent fury and to lift the coal-mining
industry out of the crisis. Unfortunately, the industry's problems have
been accumulating for a long time, and it is impossible to settle them
overnight. However, those who are going to make their political capital on
other people's sorrow are stirring the extremist group of miners. As a
result, threats ensue: "We shall fight to the end until we are given
everything right on the spot." They do not want to listen to any sober
arguments or reasonable explanations. They want their problems settled
immediately, which means at the expense of someone else. Who should the
government take the money away from? Maybe from pensioners, students,
doctors, teachers, and metallurgy workers? Do they need money less than
In order to ease the current potentially explosive situation
irresponsible statements are being made, such as: " Why don't you print a
couple of billions of rubles? " This categorically should not be done
because it would make our economy slip back, and would be a real
It is pointless to try to twist the government's arm. We shall not
take anything away from anyone, and neither shall we print more banknotes.
Dear Russians! I appreciate all disgruntlement and pain experienced
by miners, but no one has the right to aggravate peoples' lives, which are
already difficult enough. By paralyzing the work of railways they have
already inflicted huge losses on our economy and brought suffering to
thousands and thousands of innocent people. Not even by one day will
miners get closer to the settlement of their problems by sitting on the
rails. They will only impede this settlement and aggravate the situation,
which is already complicated. Look how glad revolutionary-minded deputies
in the Duma are! Extremists of all hues are trying to play on the miners'
hardships, and communists are even convening an extraordinary congress.
They are used to sucking up to people's spontaneous rallies, trying to lead
rebellions and revolutions.
No! We shall not repeat our past mistakes. I believe that the
miners' reason will win. I have no doubt that together we shall manage to
sort out all our problems.
Thank you for attention.
Christian Science Monitor
MAY 27, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia Hopes to Clean Up on Its Dirty Past
For signing a global emissions treaty, Moscow wants right to sell its
unused 'pollution quota.'
By John van Schaik
Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Russia, notorious for systematically poisoning its environment in the
Soviet era, hopes to make a windfall out of the sale of clean air.
Adapting to free-market thinking, Moscow wants other countries to buy
part of its air-pollution quota under a global environmental treaty.
Russia's quota will not be used fully, mainly because of the collapse of
the country's industrial sector.
Russia is making the right to sell its share of pollution credits a
condition for official approval of the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement
was reached at a conference in Japan last December, when 38
industrialized countries committed themselves to reduce emissions of
toxic gases in an effort to fight global warming. They decided, in
principle, to set up a market where countries could sell unused
pollution allotments to other nations that emit more than agreed. The
protocol is to be signed before April 1999.
PROSPEROUS POLLUTION: Smoke from a factory in Norilsk, Russia is seen
locally as a sign of prosperity. Many such facilities have shut down,
leading to an estimated 30 percent drop in toxic-waste emissions since
Russia supports efforts to lower the emission of fumes such as carbon
dioxide, but "there must be some financial profit ... in order to sign
the Kyoto Protocol," says Sergei Kurayev, director of the Department of
International Cooperation at the Environmental Protection Ministry in
Covering one-seventh of the world's surface, Russia is its
second-largest polluter after the United States, and Moscow's support is
crucial for the protocol to work. Fully aware of its strategic position,
Moscow is trying to turn the treaty into a cash cow of potentially
billions of dollars.
The price of a metric ton of marketable pollution has yet to be
determined, but could be anything from a few dollars to $50, experts
say. Negotiations on the quota market are currently under way between
some protocol partners, such as the US, Russia, Australia, Japan,
Canada, Norway, and Ukraine. A special conference devoted to creating
the market is scheduled for November in Argentina.
Setting up the market is a highly complicated task, negotiators say. "We
need to come up with a system of shares, of certificates, with brokers,
with a stock exchange," Mr. Kurayev says.
Some environmental organizations have their doubts whether the market
would function properly if and when it is established. "The quota trade
is like trade in real estate on the moon," says Greenpeace Russia
spokesman Yevgeny Usov.
The trade in toxic gases, a topic of great tension in Kyoto, is supposed
to reward clean industries and serve as an incentive for dirty companies
to invest in better technologies. The system is to help realize the aim
of the Kyoto Protocol - to emit in the year 2010 only as much as the
world did in 1990. But the trading system will not reward Russia for its
efforts to cut toxic emissions - because there are hardly any such
efforts. "It will indeed reward Russia's dirty past," says a Western
diplomat who asked not to be identified.
Before its collapse in 1991, the Soviet Union was a heavy polluter.
Precise quantities are unknown, but Russian officials estimate that the
output of toxic waste has dropped 30 percent to about 1 billion metric
tons since 1990. This decline is directly related to the Soviet breakup,
the end of state subsidies, and the collapse of the economy.
Looking after the environment is not a priority in a country where
millions are unemployed. Here, dilapidated factories use antiquated
technologies, smoking chimneys are a sign of prosperity, and chemical
experts say toxic waste is dumped next to housing areas.
Russia's Economic Affairs Ministry sees the economy growing again in
coming years - and with it, pollution levels. The Environmental
Protection Ministry estimates that the country's toxic gas output in
2010 will be back at 1990 levels, so Russia will adhere to the Kyoto
norm. But officials calculate that before then, Russia will emit some 2
billion metric tons less carbon dioxide than its quota allows.
It's still unclear whether any money received from the sale of toxic
tons must be spent on environmental improvements or if it can be used to
serve the government agenda. If Kurayev had his way, the money would be
reinvested in projects such as planting trees, cleaning polluted areas,
or upgrading factories with cleaner technology.
Teachers' Objections to Education Reform Outlined
21 May 1998
[translation for personal use only]
ITAR-TASS report: "Major Action in Defense of Education. Last
Bell Sounds From Squares"
Moscow, 20 May -- A major action in defense of education is taking
place in the Russian Federation today. The main reason for the mass
demonstration was the education reform. In particular educators are
protesting a reduction in spending on education, a 20-percent reduction of
lecturing staff, the introduction of charges levied from each student for
the use of social and consumer facilities (of around 1,500 redenominated
rubles per annum), a 10-15 percent reduction in the number of students
receiving free education, and the introduction of restrictions on higher
educational establishments' consumption of electricity and their use of
public utilities. Members of the organizing committee of the Russian union
of state education and scientific workers consider that these intentions
are against Russian law and conflict with the rights, interests, and actual
opportunities of the majority of Russia's citizens.
Russian educators and lecturers do not intend to allow higher
education to be the preserve of affluent people; the state should continue
to guarantee the availability of free education. Vladimir Pavlikhin,
deputy chairman of the Education Workers Trade Unions Central Committee,
stated this at a news conference. He noted that at present there is still
a ratio of 170 persons per 100,000 of the population receiving higher
education, which conforms to international standards of developed states.
Activists do, however, consider that if the proposed system of reforms for
the sector is implemented, the number of people with higher education in
Russia will sharply decrease. [passage omitted; government reaction to
all-Russia protest action was to issue directive on paying teachers'
vacation pay. Description of protest action in following areas given:
Kamchatka, Buryatia, Altay Kray, Chita, Volgograd, Archangel, and Tambov
Oblasts, Moscow, and Yekaterinburg. In some areas action was supported by
workers from other sectors and teachers are boycotting final school
Gorbachev Takes Positive View of Lebed
MOSCOW, May 22 (Interfax) -- "People pin the hope for an improvement
of the worsening situation in the country on General Aleksandr Lebed, a
strong-willed personality and a patriot," ex- Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev told journalists in Moscow Friday.
People appreciate Lebed's successful efforts to end hostilities in
Moldova and Chechnya, he said.
Gorbachev likes Lebed for not being involved in corruption.
He was also impressed by Lebed's statement that he had to learn a lot
to run Krasnoyarsk territory where he, Lebed, had won the gubernatorial
Lebed is on the threshold of the toughest test now, Gorbachev said. "I
wish him success. Success will come his way if he is far- sighted and
shrewd as well as resolute," he said.
Gorbachev believes Lebed when the latter says that he has become
governor to improve the lot of the population in the territory. "He may
also like to test himself before reaching for more. In this sense the
territory whose area is four times that of France is a good launching pad,"
At the moment, however, Lebed "is carrying a great burden of
responsibility, undergoing a test which I want him to pass," he said.
The federal authorities are "obviously at a loss for what to do.
Luckless people, luckless Russia, luckless government," Gorbachev said.
Gorbachev: System Resting on Yeltsin Should Go
MOSCOW, May 21 (Interfax) -- Ex USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev,
talking to journalists in Moscow Thursday, suggested that the whole system
resting on Russian President Boris Yeltsin "should walk off the stage."
The current administration has distanced itself so far from life, from
Russia that I am sure the whole system which rests on the president should
walk off the stage. It is not known how this will happen, but "I certainly
would not like an All-Russia civil conflict," Gorbachev said, adding that
it's the worst that could happen to the country.
People "should not necessarily wait for elections", Gorbachev said,
adding that "the situation can take such a turn that political forces will
have to use Russian experience and traditions" and tell the president that
his time is up and his plans are unfeasible.
The last years have convinced him, he said, that "without a change of
power and of the political system, it is impossible to change the policy
that is worsening everything in Russia, affecting more and more strata,
forcing them to plunge ever deeper in crisis.
At the same time, the initiators of the presidential impeachment have
launched it for political reasons, not because of the plight of Russia.
"The procedure of impeachment is only a waste of time, so instead of it
other means should be found," Gorbachev said.
Linking impeachment to the upcoming extraordinary congress of the
Russian communist party, Gorbachev suggested that Zyuganov and his
associates did not want to surrender initiatives to other forces in the
Communist Party, in the People's Patriotic Union of Russia, and in the
left-wing movement as a whole, and for this reason, they are playing tough.
"This game disappoints me," Gorbachev said.
Japan: NIDS Analyst on Russia
Tokyo Asagumo in Japanese
23 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Yoshiaki Sakaguchi, chief researcher, Second Research
Office, Second Research Department, National Institute of Defense Studies
[NIDS]. First article of a subseries of the series: "Reading the World: The
Strategic Environment in the 21st Century": "Russia at the Crossroads"
The future course of Russia, a giant country in Eurasia, constitutes a
very important factor in security for its neighboring countries.
Here, I will not predict the future of Russia on the basis of the
present situation; instead, let me think of the Russian future from a long
According to Aleksandr (Janov), the author of "The Russian Challenge,"
whenever a reform move took place, an antireform move surfaced to put a
brake on it under Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union, and this cycle was
repeated through their long history. What is more, a reform period always
ended with a frustration in regard to reform and the appearance of a
high-handed ruling system. This cycle applies to reform in the 1920s, the
advent of Stalin"s dictatorship thereafter, and also to
Khrushchev"s reform and the ensuing emergence of the Brezhnev ruling
regime. It is possible to grasp the present reform in Russia as a
continuation of the epochal reform that began with Gorbachev"s
perestroyka. In this context, it is interesting to note whether the great
reform period of these more than 10 years will end with a frustration in
regard to reform and the appearance of a high-handed ruling regime or will
Russia change into a truly democratic country through the achievement of
reform. There were two grave critical moments when reform was feared to be
frustrated. A coup d"etat took place in August 1991 by a Soviet
conservative faction in an attempt to end excessive reform. This coup
d"etat accelerated the flow of reform, contrary to its aim. It
disbanded not only the Communist Party"s ruling system, but also the
Soviet Union itself. After Russia emerged as well, a fierce confrontation
continued between President Yeltsin and the conservative parliament (former
Supreme Soviet), bringing the situation to the point where the parliament
Despite those critical moments when reform was feared to be
frustrated, the present great reform period has thus far been continuing.
Why? The reason is that the present reform differs greatly from a series of
past ones in nature. Every reform in Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union in
the past was "reform from the above" executed on a dictatorial
leader"s initiative. In contrast, the present one takes on the strong
character of a "reform from below." The beginning of the present reform
period depends largely on the initiative of Gorbachev, to be sure; but at a
certain point of time, popular moves got animated, accelerating the flow of
reform. It may be said that Gorbachev"s perestroyka and glasnost let
loose pent-up energies of the people aspiring for reform. In this period of
great reform, the people, rather than the leader, have thus become the
major actors of reform.
In this connection, attention should also be given to the continuity
between the Brezhnev era and the Gorbachev era. Some point out that
Gorbachev"s reform was already in preparation during the Brezhnev era.
That is, from a social perspective, a rise in the people"s educational
standards and a rapid progress in urbanization in terms of population
characterize the Brezhnev era, which is called "the age of stagnation."
As a result of a sudden increase in the number of highly educated
urbanites, the Brezhnev era saw the formation of a kind of Soviet-style
civil society centered on cities. Diverse views of value began to grow up
among Soviet citizens, and a tendency to seek a pluralistic political
system gradually heightened among them. A gap also enlarged between the
citizens" changed consciousness and the existence of a one-party
system, which allowed only the Communist Party to rule. This whipped up an
undercurrent that expedited Gorbachev"s emergence and his reform. In
other words, the present great reform period is the continuation of the
Brezhnev era in terms of the undercurrent. If one notices this continuity,
one will realize that the present great reform period has been continuing
since as early as the 1970s or thereabouts.
The present great reform began and has been pushed by a strong
pressure from Soviet or Russian society, rather than being linked to the
individual personality of a leader named Gorbachev or Yeltsin. It is not a
temporary state which will end when there is a change of leaders.
Mr. Yoshiaki Sakaguchi, chief researcher, Second Research Office,
Second Research Department, National Institute of Defense Studies:
Graduated from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; Took courses for a
doctorate degree at the Graduate School, Keio University; withdrew from the
school after taking required credits; entered the National Institute of
Defense Studies in 1989; age 40.
[Description of source: Tokyo Asagumo in Japanese—weekly
newspaper on defense issues]
U.S. says Russia is not carrying out religion law
WASHINGTON, May 26 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday
that Russia has not carried out a law widely seen as discriminating against
minority religions, permitting continued U.S. aid to Moscow.
The law, enacted in September, names Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and
Buddhism as Russia's traditional religions and imposes a variety of
regulations on minority and foreign faiths.
Under U.S. law, Clinton must certify that Russia's Law on Religion has not
been implemented for U.S. government aid to continue to flow to Moscow.
Clinton made this judgment on Tuesday, but said Russia's record on the matter
bears continued scrutiny.
``Russia has applied the new Russian Law on Religion in a manner that is not
in conflict with its international obligations on religious freedom,'' Clinton
wrote in a ``presidential determination'' released by the White House.
``However, this issue requires continued and close monitoring as the law ...
can be interpreted and used to restrict the activities of religious
minorities,'' he added.
Among the faults that critics have found with the law are that it imposes a
15-year waiting period for religious groups to register, limits unregistered
groups to informal, private practice and puts severe restrictions on foreign
The law, signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in September, has been
sharply criticised by members of the U.S. Congress, the Clinton administration
and human rights groups.
FOCUS-Russian govt faces test of rocky finances
By Alastair Macdonald
MOSCOW, May 27 (Reuters) - The Russian government, trying to ride out a
financial market storm and defend the rouble with a new austerity package,
faces a test of nerve on Wednesday if investors snub a routine call for new
Finance minister Mikhail Zadornov said on Tuesday he expected the market,
which has forced the cost of government borrowing to an 18-month high and
shares to their lowest in the same period, to start rewarding ministers'
efforts to cope with a severe shortfall in budget revenue and burgeoning
But even after announcing $10 billion of spending cuts -- some 12 percent of
the entire 1998 budget -- he appeared to acknowledge the government would find
few takers for eight billion roubles ($1.3 billion) of 294-day bills at
Dealers said that even the highest interest rates on government paper since
late 1996 were unlikely to tempt them.
Zadornov, a 35-year-old liberal economist very much in the mould of new Prime
Minister Sergei Kiriyenko's cabinet, said the state itself would buy ``a
significant amount'' of its own debt on offer at the auction, organised by the
It was not clear just how it would go about that but dealers said the
authorities could, among other things, prevail on friendly banks to accept
bills at lower rates than others in the market. Yields rose to over 60 percent
on Tuesday from the mid-50s.
Like Kiriyenko's defiant refusal on Tuesday night to even consider devaluing
the rouble to help reverse last week's hike in official interest rates to 50
percent from 30 percent, Zadornov's announcement was a declaration of self-
His assertion that government rouble-denominated short-term debt offering
annual interest close to 60 percent -- or some four times that on Russia's
longer-term dollar debt -- was a bargain was, however, not shared by many
investors, who fear a weaker rouble if the government fails to control its
Despite the austerity plan, fears that Kiriyenko, 35, will find it hard to
control the deficit have been fuelled by a bitter 10-day protest by unpaid
coal miners, whose blockades of vital rail lines, finally removed on Tuesday,
cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars by official estimates.
Some market analysts expressed scepticism that the government's buying its own
debt at auction can steady nerves.
One factor, however, that could restore some confidence, which has also been
dented by runs on emerging financial markets in Asia over the past week, could
be an endorsement from the International Monetary Fund, Russia's biggest
The IMF is considering whether to advance the next $670 million slice of a
$9.2 billion loan to Moscow.
Zadornov said he had full IMF backing for the budget cuts plan, which also
included new revenue raising schemes, and that the green light on the loan
from Washington would soothe fears.
Kiriyenko said he had no intention of sacrificing the steady rouble, one of
the few unmitigated economic successes of his predecessor Viktor
Chernomyrdin's five years in office under President Boris Yeltsin, and
insisted that a devaluation would bring only temporary relief on rates while
But his day ended badly on Tuesday with the announcement that no one had bid
for a 75 percent stake in Rosneft , the last big oil company in state control.
Kiriyenko said a new tender would be launched next week. The government,
anxious for funds, looks likely to have to lower its $2.1 billion reserve
With political and business interests already manoeuvring for a presidential
election to succeed Yeltsin in the year 2000, there will be some in Russia
relishing ministers' discomfiture.
Yeltsin himself, seemingly keen to bow out on a high, threw his backing on
Tuesday behind the austerity plan. But with the election looming, his patience
with Kiriyenko may be limited.
The Communists who dominate parliament have scented blood and plan impeachment
proceedings against Yeltsin. That is more of an irritant than a real threat.
But the latest crisis could provide new catalysts for changes in the political