This Date's Issues: 2273 • 2274
Johnson's Russia Lisr
20 July 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Patrick Armstrong: MINERS QUESTIONS.
2. Voice of America: Peter Heinlein, ROMANOV REUNION.
3. Renfrey Clarke in Moscow: BLOCKADING RUSSIA'S ``REFORMS'',
SIBERIAN WORKERS STAY ON THE TRACKS.
4. Yale Richmond: THE SOVIET INVASION OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA:
AN ANNIVERSARY TO REMEMBER.
5. Moscow Times: Bruce Clark, Uneasy Truths of 1918.
6. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, Diplomacy Within The State.
7. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Early Stages of Lebed Rule Assessed.
8. The Economist: Russia and Dagestan. Losing control?
9. US News and World Report: Christian Caryl, Russia buries
the czar but not its squabbles.]
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998
From: Patrick Armstrong <email@example.com>
Subject: MINERS QUESTIONS
Like most of the JRL readers, I was most
fascinated by Matt Taibbi's powerful reporting on
the miners of Vorkuta (JRL 3247). Few have the courage
and determination to dig into the piles of filth
and misery in Russia.
But I wish Mr Taibbi had tried to answer some
1) If the miners have not been paid for a long
time (and not much money when they are paid), how
have they been living?
2) Why do they go down the mine and risk their
lives if they are not being paid?
3) The impression Mr Taibbi gives is that the mine
management is cheating the miners, if so, why do
they blame Yeltsin? Surely they know who's doing
it to them.
4) What is the ownership structure at the mine?
Are the miners shareholders or were they swindled
out of their shares? If they are shareholders, are
they making any attempts to remove present
Mr Taibbi's been there and very few Westerners
have; he is in a unique position to answer these
Voice of America
INTRO: LAST WEEK'S REBURIAL OF TSAR NICHOLAS THE SECOND WAS THE
OCCASION FOR A REUNION OF THE ROMANOV FAMILY THAT RULED RUSSIA
FOR THREE CENTURIES. V-O-A'S PETER HEINLEIN COVERED THE EVENT,
AND FOUND ONE BRANCH OF THE ROMANOV CLAN STILL VERY MUCH INVOLVED
IN GOVERNING...BUT IN THE UNITED STATES.
TEXT: THE ROMANOV ERA IN RUSSIAN POLITICS IS HISTORY. AND TO
JUDGE BY THE COMMENTS OF FAMILY ELDERS, SUCH AS 75-YEAR OLD
NICHOLAS ROMANOV, A GRAND NEPHEW OF THE LAST TSAR, MOST FAMILY
MEMBERS ARE PERFECTLY CONTENT TO LEAVE IT THAT WAY.
///NICHOLAS ROMANOV ACT///
WE DON'T LIVE IN THE PAST. WE KNOW THE PAST. WE
RESPECT IT. BUT WE'RE LIVING IN OUR WORLD. EVEN I LIVE
IN THE PRESENT, AND AT MY AGE I'M LOOKING FORWARD, NOT
NICHOLAS ROMANOV REPEATEDLY STRESSED THAT HE IS NOT A
POLITICIAN, AND HAS NO DESIRE TO BE ONE, EITHER IN RUSSIA OR IN
HIS ADOPTED COUNTRY, SWITZERLAND.
BUT NOT ALL HIS RELATIVES AGREE. IN FACT, ONE FAMILY MEMBER
ATTENDING THE RE-BURIAL SERVICE IS A VETERAN POLITICIAN.
SEVENTY-YEAR OLD PAUL ROMANOV ILYINSKY, A GREAT-GRANDSON OF TSAR
ALEXANDER THE SECOND, IS THE ELECTED MAYOR OF PALM BEACH,
WHEN ASKED ABOUT THE CONTROVERSY WITHIN RUSSIA ABOUT THE REBURIAL
OF TSAR NICHOLAS, MR. ILYINSKY'S POLITICAL INSTINCTS TOOK OVER.
///PAUL ILYINSKY ACT///
I'M AN AMERICAN POLITICIAN, THOUGH WAY DOWN THE TOTEM
POLE, BUT NEVERTHELESS A POLITICIAN, AND I THINK THAT'S
AN INTERNAL POLITICAL PROBLEM RUSSIA IS HAVING NOW.
MR. ILYINSKY, WHO EXPERTS SAY COULD MAKE A CLAIM TO THE RUSSIAN
THRONE, SAYS THE ONLY JOB HE WANTS IS THE ONE HE ALREADY HAS.
///2ND PAUL ILYINSKY ACT///
I'VE BEEN THE MAYOR OF PALM BEACH FOR A LONG TIME -- ON
THE CITY COUNCIL 17 YEARS, COUNCIL PRESIDENT ONCE, AND
NOW MAYOR -- AND WHETHER BEING A ROMANOV HAS HELPED ME
DO THAT, I DON'T KNOW, OR WHETHER BEING THE MAYOR OF
PALM BEACH HAS HELPED ME BE A BETTER ROMANOV, I DON'T
KNOW THAT, EITHER. BUT IN ANY EVENT THEY SEEM TO GO
TOGETHER. NOW I'M AN ELECTED ROMANOV.
MAYOR ILYINSKY'S SON, 38-YEAR OLD MICHAEL ILYINSKY OF CINCINNATI,
OHIO, WAS ALSO IN ST. PETERSBURG FOR THE REBURIAL SERVICES. HE
SAYS HE HAS NO INTEREST IN POLITICS, BUT WHEN ASKED ABOUT
SQUABBLES AMONG VARIOUS ROMANOV FAMILY FACTIONS, HE TOO, SOUNDED
LIKE A POLITICIAN.
///MICHAEL ILYINSKY ACT///
THE POLITICS ARE THERE, SOME PERHAPS ARE REAL, SOME ARE
IMAGINED. AND I'M NOT AWARE OF ALL OF THEM. AM I
TALKING AROUND YOUR QUESTION? (HEINLEIN: "A LITTLE BIT")
THAT'S THE POLITICIAN IN ME. IT'S GENETIC.
AND WHEN ASKED ABOUT THE REUNION OF ROMANOVS FROM EUROPE, THE
UNITED STATES AND EVEN AUSTRALIA FOR THE REBURIAL SERVICE, MR.
ILYINSKY HAD A TYPICAL AMERICAN REACTION.
///2ND MICHAEL ILYINSKY ACT///
I THINK IT'S AWESOME. ANYTIME WE GET TOGETHER IT'S
HE SAYS THE AMERICAN BRANCH OF THE ROMANOVS IS CURRENTLY WORKING
ON SEVERAL PROJECTS TO HELP REFURBISH THE FAMILY'S IMAGE IN
RUSSIA. AMONG THEM IS A PROJECT TO REBUILD A CHURCH OUTSIDE ST.
PETERSBURG DESTROYED BY COMMUNISTS IN 1964. HE SAYS BELLS FOR
THE CHURCH STEEPLE ARE BEING CAST AT A PLANT IN HIS HOMETOWN,
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Renfrey Clarke)
Subject: Siberian workers maintain rail blockade
#BLOCKADING RUSSIA'S ``REFORMS'', SIBERIAN WORKERS STAY ON THE TRACKS
#By Renfrey Clarke
#MOSCOW - According to Kemerovo Province governor Aman Tuleyev,
putting his views in a broadcast on July 14, everyone in the
city of Yurga condemned the local workers who were blocking the
tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Furthermore, Tuleyev
charged, the Yurga city strike committee had no authority with
the blockaders, and was powerless to direct their actions.
#Next day, the contingent of 300 workers who had been out on the
tracks in Yurga swelled to more than 3000. This episode suggests
the combativeness among the three-million-strong population of
the Kuzbass district, the devastated heartland of Siberia's coal,
metallurgical and engineering industries.
#In May Kemerovo Province, which includes the Kuzbass, was a key
battle-ground in the two-week ``rail war'' during which Russian
coal miners blocked transport routes in protest at wage arrears
stretching back for many months. Since the first days of July the
``war'' in the Kuzbass has been on again. Workers argue that the
government has failed to meet the terms of the agreements,
reached in late May in talks with Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Sysuyev, that ended the first round of blockades.
#``Trade unions claim that the region has received only 65
percent of the 1 billion rubles (US$160 million) promised by the
federal government,'' the news service RFE/RL reported early in
#The tactics used by the workers so far this month have not had
the same flavour of all-out confrontation as in May. This time
the blocking of the ``Transsib'' has not been total; many trains
are able to avoid the barriers by taking a lengthy detour. But
the struggle is unfolding in a social climate that grows stormier
by the week. The chances are increasing that the fight in the
Kuzbass will result in the rise of a working-class political
movement with a level of organisation and programmatic
consciousness quite new for post-Soviet Russia.
#The rail blockades in May were not the work of miners alone, but
a feature of the July protests has been the striking range of
workers going onto the tracks. When a picket was set up alongside
the Transsib in the city of Anzhero-Sudzhensk on July 1 (the line
was finally blocked there following a meeting on July 3), workers
from 37 local enterprises reportedly took part. Many of the
people now blocking the tracks at Anzhero-Sudzhensk are teachers,
health staff and municipal service workers. Yurga, where the
Transsib is also blocked, is not a coal-mining centre; the people
on the tracks there are largely unpaid engineering workers from
the local machine-building plant.
#As the days have passed, ``rail attacks'' have proliferated.
>From July 7 to 13 miners at Osinniki in the southern Kuzbass
blocked a strategic rail line used for transporting iron ore to
the Novokuznetsk steelworks. As of July 14, four trains were
being blocked by miners in the Krasnoyarsk District, which
adjoins the Kuzbass. On July 16 miners were reported to have
blocked the main internal Kuzbass rail line, running from
Novokuznetsk to Kemerovo. Then on July 17 RFE/RL reported that
industrial workers in three cities in Kemerovo Province had sent
an ultimatum to the Railways Ministry, demanding that trains
cease to use the detour around the blockades on the Transsib.
#At first, the authorities met the renewed blockades with efforts
to divide the protesters from other workers in the region, and
with threats of legal reprisals. Reports on July 7 had leaders of
metallurgical and chemical workers' unions appealing for the
blockades to be lifted, so that plant shutdowns could be avoided.
Meanwhile, Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov had told
journalists that his office was collecting evidence against
alleged instigators of the protests, and the Kemerovo Province
Prosecutor's Office had announced that it was preparing three
#In Russia, statements by trade union officials often reveal more
about the calculations of enterprise directors and local
administrators - with whom union leaders are apt to have close
ties - than about the feelings of workers. Rank and file
sentiment in the Kuzbass labour movement, it quickly became
clear, lay overwhelmingly with the blockaders. Anatoly Chekis,
the Chairperson of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of
the Kuzbass, was obliged to send a telegram to Skuratov declaring
that if protesters were prosecuted, the trade unions would ``have
to stand up for them.''
#Instead of the workers, it was the authorities who finished up
divided. After his attempt to discredit the blockaders had fallen
flat, Tuleyev sought to cash in on their popularity. On July 16
he threatened to file suit against the federal government for
failing to meet its commitments to the region's coal miners and
public sector employees.
#By this time, the federal government was also having to
backtrack. During the first week of the blockades, Deputy Prime
Minister Sysuyev had insisted that the government would negotiate
with the protesters only when the rails were cleared. But frantic
lobbying by Siberian provincial officials, worried at the costs
of further turmoil, forced the authorities in Moscow to retreat.
On July 16, with the protesters still on the tracks, President
Yeltsin ordered Sysuyev to travel to the Kuzbass and begin talks.
#There is no reason to think that such negotiations can quieten
the Kuzbass for any prolonged period. The region's heavy
industries are largely unneeded by the new capitalist Russia,
with its semi-developed economy centred around resource exports.
To come up with real solutions to the problems of the Kuzbass
workers, the government would have to pursue radically different
economic strategies, aimed at benefiting quite different elements
of the population. In practice, that could only be done by a
government of quite different people.
#Masses of workers in the Kuzbass have already grasped these
points. As well as demanding their wages, the rail blockaders are
calling on Yeltsin to resign, and demanding that the ``course of
the reforms'' be changed. Increasingly, labour activists in the
region are coming to see these political demands as the real
essence of their struggle.
#Implicitly, the Kuzbass militants have set themselves the goal
of constructing a political movement that fights for the
interests of the working population, instead of defending
business oligarchs and the holders of state short-term debt. The
practical and conceptual challenges faced by the militants are
daunting. Changes are needed to the state's social and economic
strategies, but what changes? Workers in the Kuzbass have set up
city strike committees that represent them in a particularly
direct and democratic way, but can these organs lead political
campaigns? And how are workers' struggles to be coordinated?
#While finding answers to such questions, the Kuzbass militants
will have to defend themselves against state authorities that
regard the trend of developments in the region with alarm.
However, the workers in the Kuzbass will be campaigning from a
position of considerable strength. Any use of force against the
rail blockades, in particular, will be very unpopular with the
#The Moscow daily <I>Nezavisimaya Gazeta<D> on July 18 reported a
Russia-wide survey which found that 36 per cent of respondents
gave ``essentially unconditional support'' to the blockades,
while only 15 per cent thought such actions wrong. Around 80 per
cent rejected the use of force against the blockaders ``in any
#Meanwhile, no fewer than 42 per cent indicated that if left
without wages for a prolonged period, they too would take part in
``rail wars'' and other mass protest actions. In today's Russia,
combativeness may not be a trait of workers in the Kuzbass alone.
Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998
From: yale richmond <email@example.com>
Subject: Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia
David, I will be gone when this anniversary comes up in August, and you may
want to hold this until August 20 or run it now.
THE SOVIET INVASION OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA: AN ANNIVERSARY TO REMEMBER
by Yale Richmond
We all remember where we were when great events in history occurred: D-day
in Europe, the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the explosion of the atom
bomb over Hiroshima, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But the event I
recall most vividly was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, thirty years
ago on August 20, 1968.
I was in Finland with my family at the end of a one-month R & R vacation
from Moscow, and to get an early start on the long drive back to Moscow we
decided to overnight in a small town on the Finish side of the
Soviet-Finish border and make an early start in the morning.
Rising early on Sunday morning, August 20, I stepped out of the hotel onto
the town square which, to my surprise, was completely empty and eerily
silent, with not a person in sight. Realizing that something was up, I
dashed back into the hotel and asked the clerk what had happened. "The
Russians have invaded Czechoslovakia," he somberly said, "and we are all
listening to our radios and wondering if Finland is next."
The Finns had good reason to be wary of the Soviet Union, having fought two
wars with the Russians in the early 1940s. But my concern was not Finland
but my wife and three little children, and whether we should stay put or
cross the border and return to Moscow.
Like the Finns, I turned to my radio to assess the situation. Using a
short-wave receiver which I had installed in my Plymouth station wagon, I
listened to the Voice of America, BBC, Radio Liberty, the Deutsche Welle,
and other international broadcasters. They all had plenty of news about
movements of the armed forces of the Soviet Union and four of its Warsaw
Pact allies but not much in the way of what the invasion meant for Europe,
U.S.-Soviet relations, or whether it signaled the start of World War III.
Shto delat'? What to do was the big question for me. There I was in a
neutral country with my entire family. Should I stay put or cross the
border? After a quick pow-wow with my wife, we decided to return and begin
the long drive back to Moscow.
And so we drove all day and well into the night, going ever deeper into the
heart of Russia while listening to increasingly alarming radio reports all
the way and wondering whether we had made the right decision. Today, thirty
years later, I look back on that morning and still wonder.
Dear readers, what would you have done in such a situation?
July 18, 1998
Uneasy Truths of 1918
By Bruce Clark
Bruce Clark is a journalist with the Economist magazine. He contributed
this comment, which he wrote in a strictly personal capacity, to The
'Red' and 'White' historians will have to come together and try to tease
out the falsehoods surrounding the Yekaterinburg tragedy.
Whatever else it may signify, the 80th anniversary of the killing of the
imperial family has briefly forced Russians, and people who care about
Russia, to concentrate on things that would be far simpler to forget.
For the "democrats" who have governed Russia since 1991, the
commemoration has once again exposed the profound ambiguity of their
political project. If the communist period was simply (as post-Soviet
rhetoric has often suggested) a tragic interlude or "derailment" in
Russian history, then what exactly is resuming now? Is it the Russia of
Alexander Kerensky, Alexander II or Alexander Nevsky? Or is it something
that differs radically from anything that has occurred on Russian soil
before? The reality of capitalist Russia (and capitalist Moscow in
particular), which acknowledges no constraints of any kind -- whether
from the lessons of history or the rule of law -- often feels intensely
anti-historical. In the land of nightclubs, mobile phones and BMWs,
Henry Ford's dictum that "history is bunk" has apparently found its
For those people who are in opposition to Russia's current political
system, history is not bunk but the only reason for hope that the
"temporary occupying regime" will prove to be no more than that. But for
them too, there is a dilemma that cannot quite be avoided: precisely
Politicians like Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and their
ideological advisers have tried hard to duck this question by
deliberately blurring the distinction in people's minds between
communism and tsarism. They like to present the Soviet and pre-Soviet
past as a long, triumphant march in which iron-fisted rulers made the
country large and powerful by using ruthless force against their enemies
at home or abroad. In this world view, Stalin takes his place along with
Peter the Great and even Ivan the Terrible. But for anyone who is
propagating this line, sometimes known as national Bolshevism, the
events of July 17, 1918, are more than an inconvenience: They are an
insoluble problem. After all, their entire strategy is to make people
forget that Bolsheviks and tsars were on different sides.
>From this point of view, drawing attention to the slaughter in
Yekaterinburg has certain political advantages for President Boris
Yeltsin's government. Faced with street protests at which the Soviet
flag and tsarist banners flutter side by side, the authorities would be
foolish not to remind people, in various ways, that Marxism and
monarchism cannot really be combined. But this sort of point-scoring is
far from the national reconciliation that the anniversary is supposed to
be engendering. Regardless of the dictates of short-term political
gamesmanship, conflicting views over what happened in 1918 and, in the
broader tragedy of the Civil War, are a wound that still bleeds. Given
less than a decade in which it has been possible for Reds and Whites to
talk to one another, this is perhaps not surprising.
As recent days have made clear, not even the barest facts about the
Yekaterinburg massacre are beyond dispute. As White Russians and
nationalists correctly point out, the investigative trail leading to the
remains that were interred this week has its origin in Soviet forensic
science, a tradition in which deception, forgery and illusion of "chance
discoveries" were cultivated with great skill. Given that so many
Bolshevik pronouncements about the fate of the royal family were
bare-faced lies, how do we know when Bolshevik witnesses or documents
are telling the truth?
However, the White Russian version, which insists that the Romanovs were
ritually massacred and their bodies almost entirely destroyed, is
probably not free of the distorting effects of agitprop either. Nikolai
Sokolov -- the investigator who relayed an account of the massacre to
the Russian diaspora -- seems to have been under strong pressure from
White commanders to tell a story that played to anti-communist (and
anti-Semitic) sentiment. Nobody should forget that a war was in progress
at the time. At some point, "Red" and "White" historians will have to
come together and attempt to tease out a few strands of truth from the
dense tissue of falsehood that surrounds the Yekaterinburg tragedy: This
will be a sign that real, as opposed to phony, reconciliation is taking
Paradoxically enough, there may be only one place where that process is
happening already: the Orthodox Church. This is belied by outward
appearances. On the face of things, no institution could be more deeply
divided by the legacy of the Civil War and communism. Relations between
the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church
Abroad (which has canonized the imperial family and decries the
patriarchate's compromises with communism) are somewhere between icy and
nonexistent. But as the Patriarchate gradually acknowledges the hundreds
of thousands of Russians who suffered martyrdom after the Bolshevik
takeover, there is a palpable knitting together of the two jurisdictions
at the level of ordinary worshippers and parishes; and through this
rapprochement, a common understanding of the tragedies that followed the
Bolshevik takeover will eventually emerge.
But the speed of this process cannot be determined by political
expediencies. It cannot be dictated by the eagerness of Russia's current
masters to put on a propaganda show and confuse their enemies, or by the
Zyuganovs of this world who want people to forget that Yekaterinburg
ever happened. People must be allowed to come to terms with the 1918
tragedy, like any other personal or public tragedy, in their own time
and on their own terms.
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Diplomacy Within The State
By Paul Goble
Washington, 17 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A dramatic increase in the number and
intensity of ties between Russia's regions and a variety of foreign
countries has prompted the central Russian government to set up a special
department to deal with such contacts.
Established earlier this year to "regulate rather than forbid" such
contacts, the new department in the Russian foreign ministry has yet to
receive full parliamentary approval. The Duma approved the measure last
month, but the Federation Council -- in which the regions are represented
directly -- has yet to back it.
On the one hand, many people in Moscow approve such expanded contacts
between the regions and foreign countries. Not only do such ties help to
promote economic development, but they are widely viewed in Europe and the
United States as entirely natural.
The European Union, for example, has institutionalized sub-state
representation in a variety of forums. And any number of American states
maintain special liaison offices in key foreign trading partners.
Moreover, the Russian authorities themselves have openly pushed ties
between regions within the Commonwealth of Independent States as a means of
promoting the integration of that organization's 12 member countries.
But on the other hand, even more officials in the Russian capital are
concerned about the problems such contacts may cause Russian foreign
policy, Russian political development, and even the stability of the
Representatives of the foreign ministry noted several weeks ago that Moscow
was extremely unhappy when several Russian regions entered into direct
economic contacts with Abkhazia, a breakaway region in Georgia. Such
contacts undercut Moscow's efforts to promote ties with Tbilisi.
The Russian Foreign Ministry was even more upset when representatives of
Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Sakha, Tatarstan and several other regions
participated in an Istanbul conference that formally recognized the Turkish
Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Not only did that declaration contradict settled Russian policy on that
island, but it inevitably raised questions in the Greek portion of the
island about just how reliable a partner the Russian government would prove
to be in the future.
And the Russian Foreign Ministry openly complained to the press in June
that Saratov Governor Dmitriy Ayatskov's efforts to promote ties with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl crossed the line between what Moscow
considers permissible and what it does not.
The Russian government is also concerned about the ways in which such ties
between its regions and foreign countries could affect domestic political
development. While the central authorities seem pleased by the economic
aspect of such contacts, they are less happy about the way in which such an
independent source of wealth allows the regions to act with respect to Moscow.
Indeed, regions with significant foreign ties often negotiate with the
relatively weak central government from a position of strength and that
allows the regions rather than Moscow to gain the upper hand on issues
including tax collections and the implementation of centrally adopted laws.
And finally, of course, many in Moscow are nervous about the way in which
such ties could help to power secessionist movements within the Russian
Federation. Many of the most independent-minded regions of the country,
ethnic Russian and non-Russian alike, are actively pushing to have
representatives abroad, just as some union republics did in the Soviet
Indeed, several recent Russian commentaries have recalled the symbolic
importance for Ukrainians and Belarusians of the missions to the United
Nations that these two republics maintained from 1945 to the end of Soviet
Tatarstan, for example, now has representatives of various kinds in more
than 15 countries. Chechnya is actively pursuing such contacts. And even
regions like Leningrad, Pskov, and Karelia are entering into special
relationships with foreign states. In most countries around the world, such
ties between regions and foreign countries would not seem to be a serious
problem. There, both the central governments and the regions recognize that
there is a more or less natural division between their powers and
But that is not the case in Russia. In that country, both Moscow and the
regions tend to view the relationship as one in which the gains of Moscow
appear to the regions like a return to hypercentralization and the gains of
the regions look to Moscow like the first step toward secession.
Because that is so, the contacts Russian regions now have with foreign
countries could prove explosive. But the creation of a new office at the
Russian Foreign Ministry suggests that Moscow may now be on the road to
institutionalizing in that country something that has long been common in
Early Stages of Lebed Rule Assessed
July 10, 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by special correspondent Evelina Azayeva: "Each Ram
Must Wear His Own Horns: Our Correspondent Took a Look To See How a
Start Has Been Made on Reconstituting Russia in Krasnoyarsk Kray
Individually by a Governor Whom Many Are Tapping for
Krasnoyarsk--The first question that Krasnoyarskers ask a
visitor is: "What do you think of our Lebed?" And they watch with
curiosity. They very much want to know: Did they choose right or
not? They themselves are not sure. As yet. And the visitors inquire
of the Krasnoyarskers in response: "What do you mean, your Lebed?"
This means that they are weighing up, consequently, what to expect
if the latter runs for president.
The paragraphs on Lebed in the local papers are very
restrained. The general mood is characterized just by the words:
But local inhabitants did share some observations with me. In
the month of his rule Lebed has been in the region about 10 days: He
flies to Germany, then to Moscow, then to the Caucasus. In the
Caucasus he pursued peacekeeping, in the FRG he received a prize for
this work. The Germans love him, the way they loved Gorbachev
also.... Now he is about to leave for Canada. He is not flying alone
but with a retinue. He drives about the city accompanied by Mercedes
automobiles, Zubov did not have these. This means that he purchased
them, then? The former governor did not have this kind of security:
He would walk about the city by himself. In addition, it is said,
Lebed lives in Zubov's former residence in Sosny, but not in the
ordinary cottage in which Valeriy Mikhaylovich dwelt but in a
luxury, recently decorated private residence, where Yeltsin met with
And the personnel shuffles carried out by the new governor?
Zubov had nine deputies, Lebed has 14, and he speaks here about the
need for a 30 percent reduction in the size of the bureaucracy. He
is intending to take on board Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov as a
deputy also, which contravenes the law: A municipal employee must
not be a public servant. People from the "aluminum group" are
noticeably thronging around Lebed: from the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum
Plant, Roskredit, and Tanako. Whether good or ill is to be expected
from this, Krasnoyarskers do not know. Lebed has the warmest
relations with Anatoliy Bykov, chairman of the board of directors of
the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, and if rumor and an article in
Izvestiya are to be believed, a mafioso of all-Russia proportions.
The governor announced publicly that he himself, Bykov, and
Pimashkov were the "three most serious types in Krasnoyarsk Kray."
And Bykov confirmed: "We want to cooperate with everyone." So he
But generally, it is said, a total personnel reshuffle is
under way. The deck is being shuffled so rapidly that journalists do
not have the time even to discuss the appointments properly. For
Lebed is appointing everyone on a trial basis. "Each ram must wear
his own horns," he says. It is said that when the newspaper
Vecherniy Krasnoyarsk did, for all that, write an acerbic review on
the appointment as deputy chief of the Department of Public
Education of the young director of a small school, the same one at
which Lebed had been nominated gubernatorial candidate, the paper
was visited immediately by activists of the Honor and Fatherland
movement. And they demanded to be given the source of the
information, and getting no response, promised that "our security
service will be taking up" this matter. I inquired of Vecherniy
Krasnoyarsk whether this was the case. It was confirmed.
The governor is not forgetting "ideological work,"
incidentally. A committee for the news media, a committee for work
with parties and movements, and a communications holding company
have been formed. Whether Lebed is following Lenin's precepts
concerning seizure of the telegraph office or whether this is being
done without any ulterior motive, time will tell.
Rumor puts down to Lebed's credit, on the other hand, the fact
that he gave the DM500,000 of the Hessen Peace Prize to families of
the fallen in Chechnya and that his very attractive spouse has been
neither seen nor heard. The people, once upset by Raisa Maksimovna,
have resolved once for all that the good wife of a politician is one
who at first sight is not there. Further to their liking are
passages so consonant with Siberians' thoughts as "84 percent of all
the country's bank assets are in Moscow, all the head firms of the
most profitable enterprises are in Moscow. We do the work here, they
have the money. All the blood has gone to the head with us, the
country is in a pre-stroke condition, one blow could be sufficient."
Lebed is promising to sort out the "flawed system of netting" and
says that he has already created an organization that will study
this matter. "I insist that we here be the smartest. What we decide,
this will be right." It is said that at meetings also, at which
Lebed speaks, and the rest remain silent, his strongest argument is:
"Like I said."
Lebed's proposal for a solution of Caucasus problems about
which the newspapers have written--the formation of a North Caucasus
Kray--appeared quite interesting also.
The first month of leadership of Krasnoyarsk Kray has not
seemed like a honeymoon to Aleksandr Ivanovich. He told journalists
that the economy that he inherited consists "only of holes" and that
Zubov had taken out big loans from the Ministry of Finance and that
this money had already been spent. And the previous administration
of the region had collected taxes from the enterprises for six
months ahead. While not having thus altered our tradition of
speaking ill of a predecessor, Lebed said that he would not further
expatiate on this subject lest he... "take bread away from the
district attorney's office."
Then Lebed, as promised, reported on the month's work. He
modestly announced that his contributions rated a "C" as yet. But,
nonetheless, scholarships and teachers' holiday pay had been
disbursed, a vacation for deaf children had been funded, medicines
had been purchased.... Generally speaking, emphasis was put on the
social sphere. To a question as to where the money was to come from,
Lebed said that the main thing is "don't lie, don't steal, and in
that case we'll have everything." And for this "we will be calm and
go about things single-mindedly, like bulldogs. In the blocks."
Unofficial sources claim that Lebed also is borrowing money, for
that matter. "He shouldn't be given any, he'll be running for
president," they say. But there's no reliable information on this
score. Perhaps people simply have it in for him?
As regards his being nominated for president, Lebed continues
to respond evasively: "Don't ask me for an unequivocal answer--it
will depend on the situation. Today, no, tomorrow, yes. I am a cat
that walks alone." About the disbursement of teachers' leave pay,
incidentally. Lebed paid out what the regional administration owed.
The rest of the teachers, though, whose labor is not paid for from
the regional budget, have been left out in the cold. It is, of
course, right in the light of the fact that "each ram must himself,"
but, on the other hand, who if not the governor could demand the
honoring of commitments from the heads of the rayons? The electorate
voted for Lebed without wondering about which budget would be paying
Vladimir Yakushenko, Lebed's press spokesman, answered your
correspondent's questions. Apropos the loan of money from outside,
he said that there are many investors, and there is no legislative
base for borrowing (a representative of a large Japanese firm,
incidentally, said that Lebed's guarantees were more meaningful for
him than those of our government--E.A.). Vladimir Igorevich
explained that Lebed lives in Sosny, not where Yeltsin and Hashimoto
met but in a "modest attic room," and travels in a Volga, and if
there are Mercedes around him, he personally has not seen them.
Concerning Lebed's relations with Bykov: "The district attorney's
office has no information on Bykov." He explained in regard to the
overseas travel that the entire retinue consisted of "the governor's
wife and myself," and the visit lasts a day or two and is for the
good of the region. I also inquired about what had been tormenting
me since the elections: "Lebed said at that time that the police
should be administered the oath and that if he does something wrong,
the police officer should be judged by a military tribunal. What is
it that police officers will be forced to do on pain of a tribunal?
Now, when starving miners are being threatened with arrest, all
sorts of things come to mind...."
"It is a question of the increased responsibility of the
police. This is all."
The press spokesman termed "rubbish" the conjecture that in
voting for Lebed, Siberians were voting for Berezovskiy. "Perhaps in
socializing with Lebed, Berezovskiy is pursuing some goals, but he
did not finance Lebed's elections." In conclusion we recalled light
moments of the elections: For example, once Lebed had arrived at a
movie theater for a meeting with the electorate and he saw that the
doors were closed and that a large poster had been put up at the
theater: Alien-4. Will he remain an alien to Siberians or will the
region really "blossom"? These are now surprising times: Even those
who voted against Lebed want everything to turn out well for him in
their hearts. Because he feels sorry for people....
July 18, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia and Dagestan
M A K H A C H K A L A
ADD Dagestan to the list of unruly statelets that threaten to tear up
Russia’s southern rim. The most multi-ethnic—and among the poorest—of
Russia’s 21 constituent republics, Dagestan is on the verge of civil
war. That is the fear of its president, Magomedali Magomedov, who was
re-elected last month. He is right to be frightened. He may already be
Dagestan now counts as Russia’s most politically violent republic—which
is saying something. For some years, car-bombings and assassination
attempts on well-known figures have been running at about one a month.
Gang shoot-outs occur just about daily. In the past two years, 14
leading politicians and businessmen have been killed. The mayor of
Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, is confined to a wheelchair thanks to a
car-bomb that nearly killed him—and did kill his brother. This year the
violence has spread. Some 30 Dagestanis are now hostages, mostly of
fellow Dagestanis. In May an armed rabble seized Makhachkala’s main
government building. Now militant Islamists have taken over several
villages in the south.
So what is Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s president, doing to stop the slide?
Virtually nothing, even though Dagestan, with 2m people, has about 70%
of Russia’s Caspian shore and its only serious seaport, Makhachkala
itself. It also controls the main pipeline taking Caspian oil west
through Russia. And it may have oil of its own—280m tonnes of reserves,
The republic also shares a long mountain border with its rebellious
neighbour, Chechnya, so serving—in Moscow’s eyes—as a crucial buffer,
blocking Chechnya’s access to the outside world (since the rebels there
have no decent road to the south).
Chechnya is undoubtedly at the heart of Dagestan’s problems—and may
prove its downfall. Chechnya’s recent spiral back into lawlessness is
infecting its eastern neighbour. Both statelets brim with weapons. Both
have gangs of kidnappers who operate with impunity.
And the Chechen war has helped make Dagestan even poorer than it was.
During the war almost all road and rail links with Russia were cut.
Dagestan’s southern border with Azerbaijan was closed. Telephone contact
became patchy at best. Dagestan has proportionately more people out of
work than any other Russian republic. Since Mr Magomedov is Moscow’s
man, he has managed to keep subsidies flowing from federal coffers, even
wangling a budget increase for the past two years. But few Dagestanis
now believe in a brighter future.
Instead, more of them are turning a receptive ear to Islamic extremism.
Home-grown militants are calling for secession from Russia and for an
Islamic state. If the fundamentalists spread their message beyond the
handful of villages now under their control and into other ethnic
groups, a national movement could take off.
The Islamists have certainly been eyeing Russia’s military bases in the
republic. A good third of the (mainly) interior-ministry troops who man
them are in fact Dagestanis. If violence flares up, it seems possible
that the Kremlin will tell its remaining troops on the spot to stand
aside. That is what happened when a mob recently stormed the main
government building in Makhachkala. Few Dagestanis, however, seem keen
to follow the example of their Chechen cousins in trying to secede. One
good reason for not doing so is that, unlike now-homogeneous Chechnya,
Dagestan is a combustible ethnic hotchpotch of some 34 different ethnic
“If there is a move to secede,” says Magomedsalikh Gusaev, Dagestan’s
nationalities minister, “the northern regions will join Russia and I
will return to my home district and fight to stay in Russia.” He points
at a tiny spot on the map in Dagestan’s south. His people, the Aghuls,
number about 16,000. And if the violence does get out of control,
Dagestan’s many groups may well set about each other. “I do not want a
war and I do not want to fight,” says a customs official. “But if any of
my relations are killed, I will have to.”
US News and World Report
July 27, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia buries the czar but not its squabbles
Yeltsin shows up, the patriarch doesn't
BY CHRISTIAN CARYL
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA--When Russia finally got around to burying the
czar and his family last week, 80 years late, some of the people in the
crowd were far from reverent. Valery Zhukov, a middle-aged physics
teacher, stood in a line of Communist demonstrators holding up signs
saying, "The bloody czar is being buried by the democrats, the traitors
of Russia." "I don't think that these are the bones of the czar,"
insisted Zhukov. "The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox
Church Abroad aren't taking part because they know perfectly well that
the czar is buried somewhere else."
That drew a snort from Oleksa Polisharov, a 64-year-old engineer, who
declared that the bones of the czar were indisputably authentic and that
Patriarch Alexei II, the head of the Orthodox Church, who conspicuously
skipped the ceremony, was a "puppet of the Bolsheviks . . . chosen by
Clearly, the emotions awakened in Russia by the czar's burial have
something to do with politics but a whole lot to do with religion. As
the nine small wooden coffins were laid to rest in the incense-filled,
pink-and-blue St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, President Boris Yeltsin, who
conspicuously turned up at the ceremony, struck an overtly religious
note: "By giving to the earth the remains of these murdered innocents,
we want to atone for the sins of our forebears."
In 1918, after a grass-roots revolution and the Communist coup that
followed, Nicholas II, his family, and four of their servants were shot
by Bolsheviks in the city of Yekaterinburg. In 1979, their remains were
secretly dug from a pit along a forest road described by one of the
executioners in his diary. After a long series of DNA tests, a
government commission finally ruled early this year that the bones were
authentic and should be given a proper burial in St. Petersburg,
traditional resting place of the Romanov dynasty.
While the country was gearing up for a major spectacle, however,
Patriarch Alexei II unexpectedly announced that the Orthodox Church
would not participate in the ceremony. To avoid offending Orthodox
believers, Yeltsin at first followed the patriarch's lead. He reversed
himself at the last minute and showed up, along with thousands of his
Yeltsin's initial decision underlined the government's rapprochement
with the Orthodox Church. In theory, the government is secular. But
Russia's leaders have embraced the church and other symbols of
nationhood to try to shore up their collapsing popularity. Ironically,
the revolutionaries who murdered the last czar were trying to sever
those same emotional links between the people, religion, and the state.
Nowadays the church consistently ranks as one of the few institutions
that Russians still respect; they may not attend services, but most
consider Orthodoxy an important ingredient of a true Russian's identity.
Politicians are correspondingly eager to be seen in the company of the
patriarch. And last year the Orthodox Church successfully pressured the
parliament to impose legal restrictions on missionaries of other faiths.
Hedging its bets. That lobbying effort is a clue to why the church was
unenthusiastic about burying the czar. "The patriarchate is worried
about the divide, the resistance, and the controversy in society," says
Viktor Aksyuchits, an adviser to the Russian government on religious
issues, who supervised arrangements for the burial. In plain language,
the Orthodox Church has to hedge its bets because it has competitors to
worry about. Foremost among them is the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,
founded in 1920 by priests who fled Russia with the aristocracy. Going
into exile saved the émigré church from the dubious moral compromises
demanded under communism.
That has left the Church Abroad on the high ground, exemplified in its
1981 decision to declare Nicholas a saint, a step that the Moscow
patriarchate continues to wrestle with. The Church Abroad has sharpened
the competition by trying to re-establish its own network of churches
within Russia. But at least the two branches of the church do agree on
one point: that the bones buried last week are not authentic. The church
in exile insists that it has the real remains, including a finger bone
of the Empress Alexandra, in a leather box embedded in the wall of the
Church of St. Job the Long-Suffering in Brussels.
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