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Johnson's Russia List
15 June 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Bruce Bean: Timothy Thompson's Narrow View of Russia.
2. William Mandel: COMMENT ON TAIBBI; the eXile.
3. Washington Post: Patricia Brennan, Rediscovering a People's
Creativity. It's Found in Art, Architecture, Music, Film and
Religion. (Re PBS television series, "The Face of Russia.")
4. Financial Times (UK): Charles Clover and John
RUSSIA: Largest tax payer threatens revolt. (Gazprom)
5. the eXile: Edward Limonov, We Will Eat You, Westerners,
Dearest Yankees, And Arrogant Europeans.
6. RIA Novosti: YEGOR GAIDAR, THE LEADER OF RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC
CHOICE, SPOKE ABOUT THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY AND HIS
PARTY'S PRIORITIES AT THE 6TH CONGRESS OF THE PARTY.
7. RIA Novosti: Chubais on Party Congress.
8. AP: Maura Reynolds, Russia's Unique Way To Kick Habit.
9. AP: Russia Likes Alcohol's Revenues.
10. The Economist Review of Books and Multimedia: Books on
11. Baltimore Sun: Kathy Lally, Russian law would OK more foreign
From: BeanMoscow@aol.com (Bruce Bean)
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 1998
Subject: Timothy Thompson's Narrow View of Russia
Tomothy Thompson's complaint about Americans not taking Russia seriously
establishes only that he frequents the wrong spots.
American investment in Russia exceeds that from Germany and all other
countries, although not by as much as it will if and when the international
oil companies are permitted to invest through production sharing.
Many Americans find it very easy to get along with Russians and not quite all
of us head off to watch sports reruns. The press does love exciting stories
about lying, cheating and stealing, but those of us who live and work among
Russians find those characteristics less prevalent here than in the land of
hot dogs and apple pie.
Next time Mr Thompson is in Moscow he should try a new restaurant or two,
avoid Jean MacKenzie's uniquely negative columns in the Moscow Times and get
in touch with some of the 20,000 Americans who are happily working and living
in Moscow. If they weren't happy they wouldn't be here. Of course many
Americans here work long hours away from the spots the Exile favors and many
have their families here, thus avoiding the need to frequent such spots or the
Natasha's Thompson says he noticed. I doubt anyone with local knowledge
believes we are being "worked over" here. In fact the German business
community would likely also reject Mr Thompson's survey of their habits in
Moscow. Next trip spend more time with the Moscow Business directory and less
with the EXile. Americans do not need to be "tough" in Russia. They do need
to pay attention to what is really happening.
Bruce W. Bean
Chairman, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia
Partner Clifford Chance
From: email@example.com (William Mandel)
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 1998
Subject: COMMENT ON TAIBBI; the eXile, from William Mandel c/o
To fully appreciate the significance of Taibbi's report on the social
upheaval begun in Russia, the following information will be useful.
Prokopiyevsk is not, as he put it, 'tiny.' Its population is 270,000, and
this city of miners has, for example, a high school of music and art whose
students put on a truly original show when I was there that would knock 'em
dead on American major network TV. Nor is Prokopiyevsk "in the middle of
nowhere," as Taibbi stated. It is part of an industrial region, Kuzbass, as
well known to Russians as Pittsburgh to Americans before rust-belt times.
Kuzbass started as the "American Industrial Colony" founded by Dutch and
U.S. engineers and skilled workers under direct contract with Lenin.
Most important, it is inaccurate to extrapolate to Russia's mining regions
the American situation in which "doctors, teachers, and miners don't even
speak to each other socially in normal situations." As here, teaching is
overwhlemingly a female occupation. Unlike here, medicine at the M.D. level
is also. Miners were paid more than either teachers or doctors in Soviet
times and, on paper, still are. 30% of the people in science are female, and
a higher percentage still of engineers. Many female professionals in places
like Kuzbass are married to miners. It is not uncommon for scientists, a
term applied there to all researchers with college educations, to be the
children or wives of miners. It is not surprising, therefore, that, as
Taibbi reports, roughly a third of the railway-war participants and
protesters elsewhere are people with higher education.
While the time of outbursts of indignation is never predictable, it was
mistaken for the top union bureaucrat in Moscow, Kravchenko, quoted by
Taibbi, to have called them spontaneous. When I interviewed the Prokopiyevsk
strike leaders at length in 1990, they gave the government six years to
bring about what they thought were necessary changes and did expect things
to get worse before they got better. They have maintained an organizational
structure. Their original strike committees have metamorphosed into what are
now called Committees of Salvation.
Any interested in knowing what they thought in 1990 and their perspectives
for the future may read the complete transcripts of my interviews with mine
strike leaders in Prokopiyevsk as well as the Ukraine's Donbass and
Kazakhstan's Karaganda in The Station Relay, Vol. 5, published by Highgate
Road Social Science Research Station, Berkeley, CA. Phone: (510) 525-3248,
fax (510) 525-3313, email firstname.lastname@example.org
233 Lake Drive, Kensington, CA., 94708
Phone: (510) 525-7653
14 June 1998
[for personal use only]
Rediscovering a People's Creativity
It's Found in Art, Architecture, Music, Film and Religion
By Patricia Brennan
"I think there's a special link between Russians and Americans. Russians
think big, they have a certain expansive attitude toward life, they
don't like to think in little boxes, they agonize a lot. Americans do
this too," said James H. Billington, who has been fascinated by Russia
since he was a boy.
"Englishmen and Frenchmen don't sit around saying, What does it mean to
be English, or French? Where is England going, or France? You'd have to
sit with the French for many, many years before those kinds of questions
would ever come up.
"But with Russians, two glasses of vodka and you're into some deep, deep
discussions: What does it mean to be Russian? And Americans too: Who are
we? Why are we?"
This week, Billington, the librarian of Congress, brings his life-long
fascination to television with PBS's "The Face of Russia," a three-part
series beginning Wednesday at 9 on WETA, 10 on MPT.
It was in 1939, on a family visit to the World's Fair in New York City,
that Billington, then 13, saw exhibits from a land that soon would
become the war-time ally of the United States. The curious boy realized
that he didn't know much about that nation.
An elderly Russian emigr advised him to read Vladimir Tolstoy's hefty
novel "War and Peace."
Young Billington heeded that advice.
"After that, no book seemed too long," he recalled. "Also it persuaded
me that you can learn more from yesterday's book than today's newspaper.
Through reading 'War and Peace,' you got the sense that this was a
country you could relate to -- strong families interacting with big
events, families going off to war and so forth. It was happening all
around us in America, people going off to war. That gave it sort of a
During high school, Billington took lessons in the language from the
widow of a former Russian Army general. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford
University, he rented a room from the sister of Russian novelist Boris
To Billington, Russians were always interesting and never enemies.
"My interest began during a period when we were allies during the war,"
he said, "so I began with a more positive orientation, I guess, than
people who grew up during the Cold War."
At Harvard and Princeton universities, Billington taught courses and
wrote books about the country, including "The Icon and the Axe" in 1966.
Over four decades beginning in 1958, he traveled to Russia with
presidential, congressional, academic and church delegations.
In the 1960s, he took his own family there for a year, and his four
children attended Russian schools.
Billington remained a Russophile throughout the Cold War, even during
the days when the Soviet Union was, in Ronald Reagan's words, the "evil
Named librarian of Congress in 1987, Billington was in Moscow in 1991
when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1992, with the cooperation of
Russian authorities, he arranged and brought to the United States an
exhibit of previously secret material from the Soviet archives.
Under Billington, the world's largest library now has about 1.5 million
volumes in Russian or about Russia, as well as films, posters, photos,
recordings, manuscripts and musical scores.
But Billington realized when he saw a poll taken several years ago that
most of his countrymen "didn't have a very good fix" on things Russian.
The poll asked Americans to name their favorite novelists, composers and
other artists from that country.
"Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky and so forth were very high on the
list," he said. "Then they were asked to list the cultural level of
various countries, and Russia was dead last. So people obviously hadn't
made a connection," he said.
This week, Billington hopes to reach millions of Americans with
hour-long programs the next three Wednesdays.
"This uses artistic material, but this is not about art," he explained.
"It's about a nation, a people, the particular history and psychology of
a people and their encounter with the creative process.
"I'd like to think this series opens up the study of art a little more
to the understanding of cultures and peoples different from ourselves.
Great art -- original art, particularly art that breaks out of the box
-- tells us a lot about the psychology and the problems of the people
because art tends to be the hypersensitive nerve endings of a
The series, part of PBS's growing collection of television programs done
in a high-definition format, begins with an installment called "The Face
on the Firewood," recounting the history of Christianity in Russia and
its recent revival. Billington explores churches large and small,
including the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev and the Cathedral of the
Assumption in the Kremlin, and explains the importance of Russian icons,
including Our Lady of Vladimir, considered the national icon.
Next week, "The Facade of Power" focuses on architecture and two
influential women, the empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great.
"Facing the Future," the last show, looks at the many forms of Russian
music and film.
The series is produced by Malone Gill Productions, the Library of
Congress, WETA, Public Media Incorporated and Media-Most, Russia's
largest privately owned media conglomerate and owner of NTV, which will
air it there.
Russia is changing as it gets reacquainted with the outside world and
with its own cultural history, Billington believes.
"The Soviet Union was not all Russia -- Russia had a lot deeper layers,
and they've all resurfaced," he said. "What we see, now that Communism
is gone, is Russians rediscovering all the things they missed out on
when Stalin clamped down the Iron Curtain and they more or less lived in
isolation during the Cold War period. They're also rediscovering their
own past, which they were also to a large extent cut off from, a very
rich and somewhat disturbed but essentially enormously creative and
quite positive set of cultural creations."
For "The Face of Russia," Billington chose to focus on key figures.
Among them are novelist Nikolai Gogol, notable for his classic, "Dead
Souls"; composer Modest Mussorgsky, whose masterpiece "Boris Godunov"
dramatized the conflict between Russia's rulers and its people, its
reverence for tradition and its passion for revolution; and director
Sergei Eisenstein, master of the new Russian obsession, cinema.
"They're very Russian, but they all have some ethnic mix," said
Billington. "Russia in that sense is kind of like America -- a very
different history, very different development, but they're similar in
the sense that it's kind of a wide civilization rather than just a
country. It's a multiculture; it's absorbed all kind of different
cultural strains and ethnic groups, and yet they have a very strong
sense of national identity as we do."
Billington believes that to understand the Russians, one must understand
that "the crises they're going through are not just to be looked at in
terms of economic statistics or political gangs. What's being tested . .
. is the enormous creative potential of these people. That's the other
big theme [of the series] -- that it's a culture of explosions, not a
gradual development. They put up with a lot of problems for a long
period of time and then suddenly something takes off. I think they very
well may be on the verge of quite dramatic changes."
The series also includes what he calls "a lot of wild and crazy
monomaniacal characters," including an artist who did 600 sketches for
one painting over 25 years and another who has spent 20 years creating a
unique form of animation to illustrate one short story.
"An awful lot of them are this way," he said. "The place is absolutely
littered with great, uncompleted works of art. No civilization has ever
produced more great, uncompleted works of art. The Library of Congress
has a collection of Russian reference books that are uncompleted."
The Russian tendency to leave works unfinished is due to their "rather
turbulent history," Billington believes, "and because they do big
projects -- too big. I call it metaphysical overload. They're late in
this business of art. They almost over-believe in it when they discover
it. It becomes almost a religion for them."
The third installment looks at how Russia's art forms, both traditional
and new, are affecting the country's political process.
Unfortunately, the current political state is not always good for the
art, Billington said.
"Art is not flourishing the way it used to because the state subsidy has
been removed," he said. "This has been a terrible shock for artists,
particularly the performing arts. The things that are dependent on money
are weaker. But the things that are dependent on freedom are stronger."
Modern Russians also are trying to create a constitutional rule of law,
he said, what he calls "a federated democracy." This too is an exercise
"The founding fathers in our country saw that as an art, really, a
creative act," he said. "Creating our Constitution . . . was an enormous
leap of creativity. Nobody had ever done this before."
For the first draft of the new constitution, the head of the Russian
parliamentary commission worked at the Library of Congress. Initially,
Billington said, they chose a model similar to the one the United States
"But the new government adopted something more like the French
constitution, with an extremely powerful presidency," he said. "As a
result they have a parliament but it doesn't really have power and
authority and they don't yet have a separate and independent judiciary.
It's a period of chaotic experimentation where they're creating a new
kind of society."
Financial Times (UK)
15 June 1998
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Largest tax payer threatens revolt
By Charles Clover and John Thornhill in Moscow
Russia's largest taxpayer has threatened to rebel against high tax rates
and proposals to increase them further, just as pressure on government
finances is reaching a critical level.
Rem Vyakhirev, chairman of Gazprom, the gas monopoly, said at the
weekend the company would stop signing new contracts to export gas
unless the government reduced value added tax rates from 22 per cent and
excise taxes from the current level of 30 per cent.
He said the high taxes meant Gazprom was losing about $1 per 1,000 cubic
meters of gas on its exports to Europe. "With such 'requisitioning',
Russian gas delivered to the centre of Europe is loss-making," he said.
He also criticised a proposal that would force Gazprom to pay the excise
tax upon delivery of gas to the customer, both foreign and domestic,
rather than upon payment.
Mr Vyakhirev's threats come at a particularly inopportune time for the
Russian government, which faces a severe medium-term cash crunch due to
over-borrowing on the Treasury bill market. Foreign investors have begun
to sell their holdings of treasury bills after losing confidence in the
Russian government's economic programme, sending the country's capital
markets into a tailspin.
If T-Bill redemptions continue, this would put severe strain on Russia's
foreign currency reserves, and could eventually provoke a devaluation of
"I think that the next two weeks will be critical for the Russian
government," said Dan McGovern, managing director of emerging markets
research at Merrill Lynch, the US investment bank. He said additional
funds would be forthcoming from the International Monetary Fund and the
Japanese export import bank later this month. But, before then, "the
government will have to place treasury bills with foreigners and use tax
revenues to make [Treasury-bill] redemptions instead of paying miners
During previous fiscal crunches, the Russian government has often
squeezed Gazprom for additional revenue. The departure of Viktor
Chernomyrdin as prime minister in March has removed an important Gazprom
ally, who defended the company from the revenue-hungry finance ministry.
Mr Chernomyrdin was the former head of the Soviet gas industry and
creator of Gazprom. Last month, Mr Vyakhirev said, Gazprom paid one
quarter of the government's total tax revenues.
This month, the government submitted a draft law to the state Duma, or
parliament, which would increase the tax liability of Gazprom by
assessing excise taxes upon delivery of gas rather than upon payment.
Gazprom only collects between 10 and 15 per cent of its revenues from
gas sales in cash.
Mr Vyakhirev has repeatedly criticised the proposal. Earlier this month,
he said that imposing payment of excise taxes on delivery, while cash
payment rates were so low, "would mean the end of Gazprom".
"It's simply that there has been a change of government and one has to
explain everything again," he said, referring to Mr Yeltsin's
appointment of Sergei Kiriyenko as the new prime minister. He said the
government should mortgage part of its 40 per cent share in Gazprom to
oil companies Shell or Eni, the company's two strategic partners, in
order to raise revenue.
June 4-18, 1998
The Limonov X-Files
We Will Eat You, Westerners, Dearest Yankees, And Arrogant Europeans
By Edward Limonov
Mark Ames asked me to write "about crisis." Crisis? What crisis? Which
one crisis? Russia is in permanent state of crisis from March 1985, when
senile Politburo of Soviet Union's Communist Party have chosen fatal
destructive Mikhail Gorbachev as its General Secretary. Twelve years of
convulsions, of agonies, of dying. But we are still alive. Our
collective body have tragically shrinken, big members of that body, the
"republics" of South Russia and those of Central Asia are amputated. So,
we are invalid totally handicapped body, only a huge thorax without
hands and without legs. Useless thorax cannot act, it just seat there
between China and perpetual frost of Arctical Sea. It just seat and rot.
I feel deep shame to be a Russian, deep shame to drag my fucking Slavic
face across the world. To be a Russian in 1998 it is like to admit that
you are village idiot, having feeble brains. We Russians, when we decide
to be a peaceful, instead we demonstrate to the world our super-stupid
masochism, because we always overdo things. Beside that, we are at our
best when we aggressive, we cannot be a peace-loving, timid nation. It
is apparently not our cap of tea. For 13 years now we are voluntarily,
without an invitation, licking Yankee's big ass, and even fat asses of
small European nations. Nobody even ask us to perform that licking job!
At first Westerners didn't believed at our masochism. As late as in
1988, big Fritz Helmut, enormous pork wearing a jacket have called
Gorbachev "a Goebbels." Because his straight German brains refused to
believe that Russians are masochists. Big Fritz Helmut apparently badly
read Russian literature. He forget that together with an aggressive
masculine heroical features of national character (it responsible for
heroical actions such as taking Berlin in 1945), we Russians have such a
nightmarish feature as a "Russian Soul." That fucking Russian Soul! The
fact of having it should be considered a high state of treason, should
be punished by capital punishment, death by strangulation perhaps. If
our men are alcoholics, and they are, if our women too friendly with
strangers, and those bitches are, that because of Russian Soul. That
very Russian Soul what makes us highly attractive to the foreigners.
Sort of mystical stupidity that push us to give our women to strangers,
give our territory to unheard countries as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, give
our blood, heads, and genitals to such bloody beasts as Chechens. We are
more naive than American Indians of 17th century, when invaded by
sinister scoundrels of Europeans. We gave up 27 millions of our people
to dangerous regimes of our enemies. We gave up warm seas and beautiful
subtropical resorts. We almost begged that big chunks of our best
territory were taken from us. We worship all foreign goods, including
mediocre cultural production of Hollywoodian Jews (we call it American
culture), and even Spanish-born soap operas delighting our unexperienced
senses, just like American Indians worshipped Yankee that brought
mirrors and whiskey.
We are perfect people to be exploited, cheated, deprived of possessions,
sexually and otherwise abused, and finally being killed and eaten.
Yes, being eaten. Because after all the things what been performed on us
over last 12 or 13 years, the only logical conclusion of process will be
to do just that: to dismember our bodies and eat us.
Crisis? No. Total degeneration of our Russian nation. Long, painful
degeneration. We are dying, we killing our babies: 4 millions of babies
per year. In 2040 it will only be 60 million of us, not 130 million as
today. And next to us lives Asia. Pitiless, cruel, rich in children,
with obedient women and brave, fanatically fighting men. Islam's
religion guards Asia severely, codex of "Shariat" gives its moral
strength and ruling over the lives of 1 billion of souls. We enviously
watching Asia. One day someone as crazy as Limonov ill force Russian to
adopt Islam, and it will put an end to our "crisis." Then we will eat
you, Westerners, dearest Yankees, and arrogant Europeans.
YEGOR GAIDAR, THE LEADER OF RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE,
SPOKE ABOUT THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY AND HIS
PARTY'S PRIORITIES AT THE 6TH CONGRESS OF THE PARTY
MOSCOW, JUNE 14, RIA NOVOSTI'S EDUARD PUZYREV - As long as
Boris Yeltsin is the president of the country, Russia's
Democratic Choice will bear political responsibility for
everything taking place here, party leader Yegor Gaidar said at
the 6th extraordinary congress of the party, held in Izmailovo
Concert Hall in Moscow yesterday.
Gaidar pointed out that the formation of a new government
led by Sergei Kiriyenko as a logical and objective step, since
Chernomyrdin's government "started losing the reformist bearings
dramatically quickly by the autumn of 1997, which eventually
resulted in a financial deterioration." He believes that the
next task of the new "young government led by Kiriyenko" is to
ensure a 20% credit ceiling for the real economy sector and to
cut the interest rate on foreign credits down to 10%.
He called on the members of his party to get ready to elect
democratic deputies to the State Duma in 1999 and a democratic
president in 2000. "We should support pro-reform governors in
the regions, and rally small and medium businessmen in
opposition to communist governors," he said.
Chubais On Duma Dissolution
MOSCOW, JUNE 14, RIA NOVOSTI'S EDUARD PUZYREV - There is a
chance that the State Duma will be dissolved next spring,
Anatoly Chubais said yesterday at the 6th extraordinary congress
of Russia's Democratic Choice, speaking as a rank-and-file party
member. "I can tell you this as an independent expert working in
Russia's power engineering," he said. "We should have ready
candidates for new elections in the regions and for the
presidential elections in 2000."
Chubais pointed out that party members have fought and will
continue to fight for carrying on the policy of reforms. "We
have a programme, intellect, and a leader. But we lack zeal,
energy, strict discipline, and confidence of what we are doing,"
he said. We should "not adjust to what the oligarchs and
governors do, but make them do what is necessary to carry on the
reforms and develop democracy," he added. The forthcoming
elections should ensure the advancement of deputies from
Russia's Democratic Choice to the State Duma, who would serve as
the basis for a powerful right-wing/centrist coalition in the
Russia's Unique Way To Kick Habit
June 14, 1998
By MAURA REYNOLDS
MOSCOW (AP) - The hammer taps as regularly as a heartbeat. In front of a red
curtain, behind a green-draped table, a man in a white coat seems to glow
while repeating an incantation.
``Into your brain, into your brain, into your brain I place the anti-alcohol
code,'' he says. His small silver hammer moves up and down.
The men in the audience are still and silent. A few are crying. Most have
spent years battling their drinking problems in vain. They've been on the
wagon for at least two weeks and paid the equivalent of $100 to reach this
climactic moment. And when they walk out the door, they believe, they will
finally have the power to stop drinking.
``You are free people - free of the power of alcohol,'' the man says
soothingly as he closes the session.
This is the daily ``seance'' at the Dar Center, one of the largest of a new
crop of private treatment centers in Russia offering ``cures'' for what is
perhaps the country's most widespread and deep-rooted health problem:
Vodka has long been the balm and bane of Russian life. It is as common as
candy, sold in kiosks on most street corners for as little as $3 a bottle,
affordable even for financially pressed Russians.
The damage is visible everywhere, from tattered figures huddling near heating
grates to businessmen weaving their way home at night, a briefcase in one hand
and a canned gin-and-tonic in the other.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the desperation of Russia's many
problem drinkers and their families has fueled a thriving market in anti-
alcohol remedies - many useless, some dangerous.
There's an herbal tea that promises to take away cravings for booze. There are
treatments that claim to work by ``filtering'' blood or administering electric
There are injections and below-the-skin implants, known by the trade names
``Torpedo'' and ``Esperal,'' that reputedly form poisons when combined with
alcohol. Although it's seen as hyperbole, the patient is told he will
literally die the next time he takes a drink.
One of the most popular methods is hypnosis, which is the foundation of the
program at the Dar Center. After the group hypnotism, patients have a quick
individual session with the doctor, in which they are ``coded'' for whatever
period of time they request - usually one to five years.
What none of these methods promote is life-long abstinence from alcohol.
Dr. Mikhail Polykovsky, the chief doctor and hypnotist at the Dar Center, says
abstinence is too frightening a concept for most alcoholics.
``What we want to do is free them from their fears,'' he says.
Polykovsky's philosophy differs markedly from approaches common in the West.
In fact, the whole history and pattern of alcoholism in Russia has special
In Russia, drinking yourself into oblivion is considered acceptable behavior.
Social gatherings usually include liquor, swilled straight, with obligatory
rounds of toasts to family, guests and friendship. Refusing to take part is
considered bad form, and social rules dictate that once a bottle is opened, it
must be finished.
According to some studies, Russians consume less alcohol on average than many
Europeans, such as the French and Italians. But the way the Russians drink is
far more dangerous.
Russia's Health Ministry says alcohol poisoning - drinking a lethal amount at
one sitting - causes an extraordinary 50,000 deaths a year.
In the United States, which has nearly twice the population, the number of
such deaths is 400-500 a year, says Vladimir Treml, a Duke University expert
on Russian drinking patterns.
``It's not that Russians drink so much (overall), it's that when they do drink
they drink in an uncontrolled fashion,'' Treml says.
No one knows for sure how many Russians are alcoholics. The Health Ministry
says its official number - 2.5 million - is clearly three or four times too
But even though alcohol dependency is extremely common, there is little
sympathy for those affected. Russians still consider it less an illness than a
``Russian society promotes drunkenness through many traditions, and then
condemns the person who can't handle it,'' says Dr. Oleg Zykov, chief
physician at one of Moscow's few Western-style rehab clinics.
Government services are simple and short-term, amounting to little more than
Neighborhoods have squalid ``dispensaries,'' sometimes inside police stations,
where drunks found lying on the street are taken to sleep it off. There are
also two official alcoholism hospitals in Moscow, where patients can check in
for 45 days to dry out.
That's about it. There is little in the way of long-term counseling, and many
can't stay sober for long.
``We send them back to the same home, job and surroundings that caused them to
drink in the first place,'' admits Dr. Sergei Zolotukhin, deputy chief
physician at Narcological Hospital No. 17.
The free market is taking over where the government leaves off.
Volodya, a recovered alcoholic who declines to give his surname, says he must
have tried every one of the methods on the market before finally joining one
of Moscow's 30 Alcoholics Anonymous chapters.
``It's the only thing that says you have to live a healthy lifestyle,'' he
says. ``And if you're an alcoholic, one part of a healthy lifestyle is
Western experts believe Russia won't make substantial progress in combating
alcoholism without undergoing significant cultural changes. And one of those
is the acceptance of abstinence.
``We have to learn that alcoholism is like an allergy. If you are allergic to
something, you just don't eat it,'' says Zykov. ``That's not a tragedy.''
Russia Likes Alcohol's Revenues
June 14, 1998
By MAURA REYNOLDS
MOSCOW (AP) - One reason Russia's government doesn't do more to combat
alcoholism is that the state is addicted to the bottle in its own way.
``Vodka has always been an example of government greed and hypocrisy,''
President Boris Yeltsin said last year in a national radio address.
``The authorities have always said that drinking is bad for you. But at the
same time it was vodka, in fact, that allowed the government to make ends
Taxes on alcohol have been a significant contribution to Russia's federal
budget for many years. In Soviet times, they were said to constitute more 25
percent of state revenues.
In the post-Soviet period, many liquor businesses are trying to stay one step
ahead of the tax inspector. But levies on wine and spirits are still an
important source of income, Yeltsin said.
``When the people spend their money on vodka, it should go to the treasury,
not to swindlers,'' Yeltsin said, urging his countrymen to drink legally taxed
liquor. ``We will give (the tax money) to pensioners, soldiers, doctors, and
teachers. It will help build the economy.''
But such appeals fall largely on deaf ears - and strained wallets. Government
officials estimate the state loses as much as $360 million a month from
evasion of alcohol taxes, or more than four times the amount Yeltsin said it
takes in each month from such taxes.
The government also has tried to turn consumers away from bootleg booze by
repeatedly warning it can be deadly.
But Vladimir Treml, a Duke University demographer who has studied Russian
alcohol use, says the warnings are aimed less at protecting citizens' health
than filling treasury coffers.
``They try to perpetuate the perception that tainted alcohol is a serious
problem,'' he says. ``But the real problem is that they depend on it, too.''
The Economist Review of Books and Multimedia
June 13, 1998
Russia and Chechnya
CHECHNYA: CALAMITY IN THE CAUCASUS.
By Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal.
New York University Press; 416 pages; $26.95. Pan; £6.99
CHECHNYA: TOMBSTONE OF RUSSIAN POWER.
By Anatol Lieven.
Yale University Press; 436 pages; $35 and £25
ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, 1994, the Russian army turned a modern city, Grozny,
into a charnel house. This obliteration of the capital of Chechnya was a
crime against humanity. These two books attempt to explain why it
happened and to apportion the blame. Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal
(who has written for The Economist) provide a straightforward account;
Anatol Lieven a meditation on what happened, drawing subtle conclusions
about contemporary Russia and ethnic conflict, but missing some of the
Both make it clear that some sort of conflict was almost inevitable. The
distinctiveness of the Chechens is the most notable fact about them. In
“The Gulag Archipelago”, Alexander Solzhenitsyn says: “There was one
nation that would not give in . . . These were the Chechens.” They
adopted Sufi Islam in the 18th century, and remain a clan society, with
a system of blood revenge instead of codified law.
The attitude of most Russians towards them is summed up in the
inscription on the statue in Grozny of a tsarist general: “This is the
vilest people on earth.” On February 23rd 1944, Stalin deported every
Chechen man, woman and child in typhoid-ridden wagons to central Asia. A
quarter of the population died. And, as their military commander said in
1994: “We have always acted on the assumption that Russia is acting out
a wish to expel the Chechen people from its territory.”
If conflict was inevitable, the difficulty in resolving it was, as both
books suggest, in good part the responsibility of the first president of
independent Chechnya, Jokar Dudaev, one of the highest-ranking Chechens
in the Soviet Union. Ms Gall and Mr De Waal claim that he was invited to
head the Chechen independence movement as a “wedding general” (a
dignatory who lends an air of grandeur to a feast), but then rapidly
radicalised the nation’s politics. He seized power by force. He ordered
a mobilisation of the male population, arming them with weapons stolen
from a Soviet garrison. He closed parliament and gunned down an
opposition rally. His regime wrote fraudulent cheques on the account of
the Central Bank of Russia. And he proved impossible to negotiate with,
raising hopes of peace talks one minute and dashing them the next.
But if Dudaev, who died in the war, shoulders some of the responsibility
for the failure to avoid confrontation, Russia is to blame for the final
resort to violence, and the subsequent carnage. In mid-1994 the auguries
for a settlement looked good. Dudaev’s regime was collapsing. The
Kremlin then included people who knew something about Chechnya. And the
wider battle in Russia between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian
parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, had come to an end—a battle
that had bedevilled Chechnya because Mr Khasbulatov was himself a
Chechen and had used his connections there to embarrass Mr Yeltsin.
Hopes of a settlement vanished in the autumn of 1994. When Mr Yeltsin’s
popularity with the public was at its lowest, hardliners grabbed their
chance. Arguing that a solution to the Chechen problem would prove
popular with the Russian electorate, they tried to overthrow Dudaev by
proxy. When that effort failed, the president gave the order to invade.
As Mr Lieven cruelly exposes, not only had the Russian army learned
nothing from earlier defeats in the Caucasus. It had even forgotten the
lesson of its own victory in the battle of Stalingrad in 1943: that
cities can be taken only with relentless determination and with infantry
attacks. The Russians offered neither. He goes on to argue, in a sweep
that extends to Russia’s privatisation programmes and left-over Russian
communities in every last corner of the ex-Soviet empire, that the
failure in Chechnya was symptomatic of a wider decline in Russia.
Both books pay tribute to the Chechen people. They alone emerge from the
calamity with honour. Commanded by gangsters in Grozny and assaulted by
criminals in Moscow, they managed to create a nation for themselves
against overwhelming odds. Whether they can make it thrive is another
story, not discussed here.
Jun 14 1998
By Kathy Lally
Russian law would OK more foreign adoptions
Bill calls for increase in regulations, awaits president's approval
MOSCOW -- Traveling 5,000 miles from Baltimore by airplane and overnight
train into the unknown, their luggage disappearing just long enough to
provoke anxiety, Mary Lou Kenney and David Bolton arrived in the Russian
city of Ulyanovsk to find their new baby daughter covered with bright
The orphanage staff received them warmly and provided immediate
reassurance. Nine-month-old Anna had a perfectly normal case of chicken
pox, and the eruptions had been painted with an antiseptic routinely
swathed over children here.
The current of uneasiness that had flowed through the adoption process
began to dissipate. The Kenney-Boltons had begun their search for Anna
as the Russian parliament was threatening to severely restrict or even
cut off adoptions by foreigners. But since they adopted their child,
legislation has been passed that will enable thousands more foreigners
to adopt children from Russia's overcrowded orphanages.
The Baltimoreans, who had chosen their child with the help of a
30-second video, wondered if they would find unreported health problems.
And they asked themselves a natural question: Would they love this
"After being with her half an hour," Bolton says, holding Anna and
grinning at her, "she was so engaging there were no doubts at all."
Just as this newly expanded family was reveling in its good fortune,
Russia's parliament, the Duma, was preparing to pass a bill that would
offer thousands of other American families a similar opportunity to
rejoice. Overcoming nationalistic rhetoric that compared foreign
adoptions to baby-selling, the Duma listenedto the pleas of doctors and
orphanage directors and agreed that more than anything, children need
families, no matter their nationality.
Significance for Americans
The bill, passed by the Duma June 5, holds enormous significance for
Americans. Since foreign adoptions became legal here in 1992, more and
more Americans have been coming to Russia to adopt. By last year, when
Americans adopted more than 3,800 children here, compared to 3,500 from
China, Russia had become the most popular place in the world for
"People here waiting to adopt are hungry for news of these changes,"
Kenney said from Baltimore.
The Duma bill, which still awaits the presidential signature, would
require adopted children to keep their Russian citizenship until they
are 18, would order Russian consulates to monitor the welfare of the
children and would permit "intermediaries" to act on behalf of adoptive
"I think the changes will be invisible to most adopting parents," says
Michele Thoren Bond, first secretary and consul in the immigrant visa
department of the U.S. Embassy here.
However, Bond says, the agencies they work with would be subject to new
requirements. The bill demands more thorough licensing and regulation of
foreign adoption agencies, though the details have yet to be spelled out
in actual regulations.
In general, agencies would have to document their staff's
qualifications, provide evidence of licensing in their home state and
tax records to show that they are not-for-profit.
"Now they want better regulation," Bond says, "and that's completely
Adoptive families' godsend
With fewer and fewer infants available in the United States and with
economic hardships here increasing the population of orphanages, Russia
has become a godsend for adoptive families.
In 1992, Americans adopted 324 children here. In the last fiscal year,
the U.S. consular office in Moscow issued visas for 3,851 adopted
children, and even higher numbers are expected this year. In the first
eight months of this fiscal year, 3,311 children were adopted, with 697
in December alone.
On some days, as many as 50 children and their parents crowd into the
visa department's cramped waiting room.
The first versions of the Duma bill proposed a moratorium on foreign
adoptions and would have prohibited agencies from acting on behalf of
adoptive parents -- which would have made it nearly impossible for most
Americans to adopt a child in Russia, where they would be bewildered by
language and bureaucracy.
Backlash against foreigners
Though most Russians are grateful that children are being adopted by
foreign families rather than spending their lives in institutions, the
adoptions have inflamed nationalist sensibilities in some political
circles. And even legislators who don't object to foreign adoptions have
been uneasy about the operations of private adoption agencies.
"Adoption has always been perceived as a state function, such as
marriage," Bond says. "They don't see how a private agency can fit into
Some officials regard the fees agencies charge as tantamount to buying a
"Paying $10,000 for a child -- it's a new slave trade," Gennady
Zyuganov, the Communist party leader, said during debate on the bill.
Americans often pay $20,000 or more for the adoption. which includes
charges for home study, the cost of the agencies' work, visas, travel,
hotels and administrative costs in Russia. Some officials here charge
that bribes are paid to give children to foreigners instead of Russian
"I think the agencies are in a position to justify their fees," Bond
says. "Most are not-for-profit and are audited every year by the IRS."
She doubts that Russian families are refused when they seek to adopt.
"There is such a huge number of children available for adoption," she
says. "They could satisfy all the demand and still have 500,000 children
in institutions. They've got 60 kids for every family interested in
Bond says that the number of parents coming here to adopt has had an
effect on opinion. Hundreds of judges, orphanage directors and doctors
have had an opportunity to meet the people who are taking Russian
children to America.
"Overall they are very warm, thoughtful and fabulous representatives of
the U.S.," she says. "You couldn't ask for better examples of what kind
of citizens our country produces. They're really good folks."
At a conference on adoption earlier this year, organizers said that only
100 Russians had expressed interest in adoption last year, and only 12
of them actually adopted. Over the past five years, as the economy has
collapsed, the number of children in orphanages has increased one and a
half times, according to Boris Altshuler, who helped organize the
Family-oriented, connection-dependent Russian society offers bleak
prospects for orphans. The conference reported that 20 percent of the
children who grew up in orphanages became vagrants, 30 percent ended up
in prison and 10 percent commit suicide.
"When they leave the orphanage there's nowhere for them to go," Bond
says. "They have no training. They can't get a job, and certainly no one
wants to have an orphan date his daughter."
Most of the babies and children adopted here are developmentally behind
Americans their age. They suffer from poor diet and too little
stimulation and attention. But most orphanages are clean, and the people
who run them love children and do the best they can with very few
Kenney, formerly an editor and now a full-time mother, and Bolton, a
geologist, were very pleased to see how well the Ulyanovsk orphanage was
They began their quest by attending a workshop in Baltimore sponsored by
Families Adopting Children Everywhere, which led them to the adoption
agency in Baltimore county that they finally chose.
They already had one child, Matthew, 5, but nature had not offered them
a second one. "We always felt we wanted more than one child," Kenney
Anna, they say, is small for her age and at first didn't seem interested
in trying to stand up, but they expect her to thrive on the love and
attention she'll get. The doctor who examined her here told them, "You
will see, she's like a flower who will open up."
Already, she has learned to wave and say something that sounds exactly
like "bye" to her parents, who describe themselves as starry-eyed.
Matthew embraced his new sister more warmly than they could have hoped.
The first day they were back home, Anna was crying in her crib and
Matthew raced upstairs to her. On the way, he called back to his mother:
"She needs me!" he said.