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27 July 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. New York Post: John Dizard on Gore in Moscow.
2. Reuters: U.S. finds Kiriyenko intelligent, his task daunting.
3. Reuters: Russian Navy celebrates despite cutbacks, scandals.
4. Financial Times (UK): Chrystia Freeland, Yeltsin tightens control
of security forces.
5. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Russian Vogue a la mode.
6. Financial Times (UK): Low oil prices spotlight Caspian investments.
7. Moscow Times: Ana Badkhen, Young, Russian And Pregnant.
8. Baltimore Sun: Will Englund, Moscow mayor backs Jewish community.]
New York Post
July 26, 1998
[for personal use only]
HYPED 'NET STOCK IS SOURCE OF TROUBLE
[excerpt re Russia]
By JOHN DIZARD (email@example.com)
Vice President Al Gore went to Moscow last week to build another
"partnership" with a crooked Russian prime minister.
This time it's Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, the Scientologist, scratch-off
lottery entrepreneur and ex-"banker" who is the administration's current
protege and "reformer."
For some reason the vice president and the hacks who work for him think
of Kiriyenko as a post-Communist man. This is hard to understand, since
Kiriyenko started his career as a Communist youth movement bureaucrat.
He then became one of the launderers of the "party gold," and helped
with the party's privatization, name changes and downsizing into a crime
syndicate specializing in large-scale theft, rather than the less
profitable slavery and mass murder.
Kiriyenko has learned the "reformist" talk well enough to con the
administration, whose top Russian policy people are the special ed class
in the school of international intrigue.
He hasn't gone over quite as well with the money people. Remember the
Russian rescue package of a couple of weeks ago? That's the one where
you and the other taxpayers in the "developed" world came up with $22
billion to save Boris Yeltsin's government from devaluation and
The idea was to substitute cheap dollar bonds, yielding a mere 14
percent or so, for the ruble denominated treasury bills, or GKOs. At the
end of the week these were yielding around 60 percent for one-year
paper, after briefly declining to 45 percent on the news of the
International Monetary Fund led bailout.
The bailout was supposed to relieve the financing crunch, and, more
critically, make Al Gore and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
look less like fools for backing a criminalized government which now has
a shorter projected lifespan than the average Norway rat.
The current plan is now due to blow up late this fall. Unlike the vice
president of the United States, the hedge funds have access to
calculators. They've figured that even with a successful redemption of
the shortest-term GKOs, the Russian government runs out of cash again
sometime between January and April.
The exchange offer has bought the Russian government about an extra
three weeks of life.
In the meantime, American and many other foreign banks are now unwilling
to confirm the letters of credit issued by Russian banks. That means
that the stocks of imported consumer goods - 60 percent of the Russian
supply - are running low.
So there are a growing number of very unhappy people in Russia,
including middle-class people, who can't or soon won't be able to buy
what they need.
Oh, there is one type of manufactured product in good supply there.
There are an estimated 25 million loose AK-47s and AK-74s in the
How would you like to join the riot police in Moscow? To defend this
government? Against a mob? Sound like fun? I wonder whose side they will
take after the ruble's maxi-devaluation, which is when the balloon fully
There are fewer ways to make money in Moscow these days, but my friends
are putting as much as they can into betting on a Boris Yeltsin
departure by December. The problem is finding anyone to fade that
U.S. finds Kiriyenko intelligent, his task daunting
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, July 26 (Reuters) - When Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko
arrived to meet U.S. Vice President Al Gore in Moscow on Friday, he found no
one to greet him outside and so raced up the stairs of Spaso House, the U.S.
``I'm sorry I wasn't there to greet you,'' said an embarrassed Gore, a man who
takes great pains to follow protocol.
``I arrived earlier than expected,'' replied Kiriyenko, apparently unfazed.
``Yes, you became prime minister earlier than expected,'' was Gore's reply.
The exchange between Gore and Kiriyenko before their final meeting on Friday
night summarizes a question perplexing Russians and Americans alike: does
Kiriyenko, who turned 36 on Sunday, have what it takes to rescue Russia from
its financial crisis?
After spending two days in neighbouring Ukraine, Gore flew to Moscow last
Thursday for his first one-on-one meeting with Kiriyenko.
U.S. officials with Gore for the 24-hour visit said they found Kiriyenko
highly intelligent, his staff impressive and his task of rescuing Russia from
financial crisis daunting.
``There still is a question of how they can pick up where they left of before
the Asian crisis hit,'' said a senior U.S.
official. ``They were at the threshold of what looked like real growth for
the first time'' since the end of communism.
While no one would be drawn into speculation on whether they think the prime
minister, picked by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in March, has the staying
power to last in Russian politics, it was clear the question remains an open
Kiriyenko, a slender, boyish technocrat, took over from Viktor Chernomyrdin in
April after a bruising fight to win confirmation by the State Duma, Russia's
A former banker with just one year's experience as energy minister before
vaulting to the government's top job, Kiriyenko is a man of the new school in
Chernomyrdin, in contrast, cut his teeth under the Soviet regime and, as a
result, he had an instinctive grasp of how to talk to the old guard as he
sought to sell them on reform.
Kiriyenko has won some respect for his decisive action -- negotiating a $22.6
billion Western bailout and then pushing some economic reforms through the
opposition-dominated Duma while working with Yeltsin to enact others by
Gore made every effort to put a bright face on Russia's financial crisis and
to support Kiriyenko, offering an upbeat assessment of Russia's prospects that
is at sharp variance with the financial markets' queasy outlook on the
``I'm actually optimistic, especially after the agreement with the
International Monetary Fund, that they're going to turn the corner and start
experiencing some real economic growth soon,'' he told Reuters Television on
Still, it was clear from Kiriyenko's meetings with Gore that the prime
minister is still learning the ropes.
Kiriyenko betrayed a touch of inexperience before the TV cameras at one
session on Friday, popping out of his seat before Gore had finished signing
two agreements on nuclear cooperation.
``Hold on one second,'' Gore told the prime minister, who immediately sat
down. ``My name is shorter but it takes me a little more time.''
While the two were signing several copies of the agreement, Gore leaned over
to Kiriyenko and asked: ``Are you getting used to this yet?''
Kiriyenko replied: ``What else can I do?''
Russian Navy celebrates despite cutbacks, scandals
MOSCOW, July 26 (Reuters) - Russia's fleet marked Navy Day on Sunday with
festivities on land and sea and its commander said it was still fit for war
despite a chronic cash shortage.
Admiral of the Fleet Vladimir Kuroyedov, who was appointed last November, said
that despite substantial cuts in funding the navy, still the second in the
world by most measures after the U.S. fleet, was quite able to defend the
``I can confidently confirm that with its current forces our Russian navy is
capable of successfully carrying out the tasks posed, if need be in wartime
conditions,'' he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper at the weekend.
Kuroyedov stressed, however, that Moscow was no longer trying to match the
dominance of the U.S. Navy on the world's oceans, as its Soviet predecessor
``One can confirm that Russia does not need its fleet to provide the same kind
of balance with the U.S. Navy as the leadership of the USSR once strived
for,'' he said.
The navy's task, he stressed, was to cooperate with other Russia forces in
repelling any aggression against the country, both in terms of patrolling the
seas around the Russian coast and in providing a platform for nuclear
Kuroyedov said the navy now had 100 submarines, 70 principal surface vessels,
250 lesser vessels and some 500 aircraft.
``You are carrying out the difficult task of assuring Russia's security and
taking an active part in the reform of the armed forces,'' President Boris
Yeltsin told the sailors in a message from his holiday home in northwestern
The navy has tested Yeltsin's patience in the past.
The Kremlin was so notably abrupt when Kuroyedov's predecessor, Admiral Felix
Gromov, retired that many observers saw his departure as effectively a sacking
after a series of accidents and corruption scandals involving senior officers.
Tales of appalling conditions for ordinary seamen aboard rusting, unseaworthy
vessels are commonplace.
The Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) carried a front-page
article on Saturday recounting how the crew of one nuclear submarine carried
out their own refit when they found there were no funds to send the vessel to
the dockyard and even raised their own cash to pay for some specialised
Financial Times (UK)
July 27, 1998
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin tightens control of security forces
By Chrystia Freeland in Moscow
President Boris Yeltsin shook up two of Russia's most powerful
institutions over the weekend, sacking the country's security chief and
ordering the sell-off of part of Gazprom, the world's biggest natural
In a signal that the Kremlin is seeking to tighten its control over the
nation's muscular security forces, Mr Yeltsin removed Nikolai Kovalyev
as head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the post-communist
successor to the KGB.
His successor is Vladimir Putin, a former espionage agent in Germany who
has close links with the current presidential administration through his
job as deputy head of the Kremlin staff.
Mr Yeltsin did not offer a direct explanation for the sacking and it was
not clear if the dismissal was a prelude to a wider cabinet shuffle.
Last week, the Kremlin surprised observers by appointing a senior
communist to a cabinet post.
In March, the Russian leader stunned the world by abruptly sacking his
"You sometimes fail to understand sackings," the president said to
journalists over the weekend. "Well, I have significantly more
Mr Yeltsin, who this month steered Russia through its worst financial
crisis, also asserted his authority over Gazprom, the country's most
In an effort to boost the reserves of the cash-strapped Treasury, the
president ordered the cabinet to prepare a plan to sell off a 5 per cent
state-owned stake in Gazprom.
At the same time, Mr Yeltsin reaffirmed that the remaining 35 per cent
government holding in the company would be indefinitely retained by the
The president's order follows the central bank's decision on Friday to
lower its key refinancing rate to 60 per cent, from 80 per cent.
Economists interpreted the cut as an effort to ease the effects of the
government's tough austerity package on the real economy.
It also reflects the central bank's confidence that the rouble is no
longer at risk of a sharp devaluation.
The president's twin political and economic moves reflect the Kremlin's
two most pressing objectives at a time of deep financial turmoil: to
maintain its fragile grip on political power and to shore up the
country's troubled finances.
Mr Yeltsin, who began his summer holidays a week ago, warned that the
country was likely to face further turbulence over the next few months.
"A politically rather difficult autumn awaits us," he said. "As always,
there is a little breather and then it starts again."
Already, the Kremlin is facing persistent worker protests across the
country. Yesterday, miners maintained a blockade of part of the
trans-Siberian railway, one of Russia's vital transport arteries, and
other disgruntled workers in the southern Urals threatened to join them.
In the past, when worker complaints have become too strident, Moscow has
calmed the situation by releasing extra cash to the protesters.
But today, with government reserves depleted by a financial crisis and
the Kremlin bound by a tight fiscal programme agreed with the
International Monetary Fund, that kind of appeasement may be impossible.
Instead, Mr Yeltsin told his prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, that the
government must begin planning how it will repay the IMF, which this
month led a $22.6bn international bailout for Russia.
July 26, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russian Vogue a la mode
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- Elena Doletskaya last wore the red scarf of a Pioneer about
27 years ago, but it wasn't until eight years ago that she got a
first-hand look at fashion in the West.
The chestnut-haired 40-something beauty is editor-in-chief of the
Russian-language edition of Vogue, which launches its first issue here
Any job in Russia with the final arbiter of international haute couture
would have been impossible to conceive of until a few years ago. During
Leonid Brezhnev's Golden Age of Stagnation it was virtually impossible
for anyone but the wives and daughters of top party officials to get
their hands on any western clothes, let alone designer outfits.
Magazines which did not celebrate the latest five-year plan of, say, the
potato harvest, did not exist.
Radiant in a bright but not overly flashy pantsuit, Doletskaya blew
great clouds of cigarette smoke at her penthouse office window, with its
magnificent view of the gold-domed heart of Moscow and reflected on the
oppressive effect that Brezhnev and men like him had on Russian fashion
when she was growing up.
"There was no feel for style. We never had anything like
pret-a-porter," she said in a husky voice that Hollywood sirens used to
"Look now at old photos of peasant women and statues of heroic women
factory workers and soldiers, and you can see what the Communists
managed to make of fashion. They wanted to make a strong statement and
"We didn't even occasionally see Western women in Communist times. We
were so closed. But there were always some women here who had really
good taste. Even with scarce possibilities they managed to look great
because it was in their blood. They tailored their own clothes, used ...
jewels and were very nice to look at."
The average salary in Russia today is less than $300 a month and
millions of workers haven't received a kopeck for months, but there is
still most definitely a place here for Vogue and the luxury products and
lifestyles it promotes. The magazine will target a nucleus of several
hundred thousand fantastically wealthy "New Russians," mostly living in
Moscow, who flaunt their millions by buying only the most expensive
"We are aiming at people with enough money to buy the magazine and the
clothes and other things that we show, but we also seek a wider audience
of those who share the Vogue dream," Doletskaya said. "(Vogue) inspires
people to dream about something they can eventually have."
Versace was the first Western designer to make a splash in
post-Communist Russia and still retains a huge following today. From
Gucci to the new Japanese designers, those Russian women who can afford
it now have nearly as much choice as women in the West although prices
are two or three times higher because merchants must pay mega-bribes to
stay in business.
There are Russian designers, too, and Doletskaya sings their praises.
But starting any business in Russia isn't for the faint-hearted.
"Russian designers want to find their own way, but they must struggle
with economic problems," Doletskaya said. "Until now it has been hard
for them to find support here for the fashion industry."
Like her parents, who were both well-known doctors, Doletskaya says she
never became a Communist. It suited her conscience, but it also meant
that until a few years ago the only places she could visit were such
fashion gulags as Bulgaria and Mongolia.
Doletskaya worked for a short time in the cultural section of the
British Council in Moscow. Before that she was employed by a Swedish
electronics company. Although reluctant to provide many details about
her personal life, she said: "You can say that I was married more than
once and that I enjoyed every minute of each of my marriages
Russian Vogue is not being born in a vacuum. The magazine's initial
press run of 150,000 will compete against already established
Russian-language versions of Elle, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar and
Cosmopolitan, which claims to sell 400,000 copies a month.
While stories and photographs from the 20 other editions of Vogue will
be available on a syndication basis to the new Russian publication, the
first two or three issues of the glossy will be uniquely 100% Russian.
'Profound and deep'
"Russian Vogue will have to be profound and deep," Doletskaya said in
nearly perfect English, which she learned at Moscow State University.
"We hope to open Russia to the ... style and philosophy of beauty. By
that I mean beauty as it was meant by Tolstoy or Dostoyevski. The beauty
of life here is strongly connected with the soul, with a person's
Western visitors are often stunned by the natural beauty of Russian
women, but are horrified to see them so often tarted up in cheesy makeup
and impossibly tight outfits.
"Many Russian women may overdo it because they don't know better,"
Doletskaya said. "But that is only one tiny dimension of what Russians
do wrong as the result of the fast development of Western culture here.
"The constant use of mobile telephones in restaurants, beautiful $5,000
food spreads where none of the diners ever use any of the napkins. This
is part of the same story.
"Don't blame Russians for this. Our culture was exploded and
devastated. There was Stalin, World War II and political turmoil without
end. The country is just now trying to resurrect itself."
If Russian Vogue's boss has a personal goal it is to help women deal
with getting older.
"They give up far too soon," said Doletskaya, who obviously hasn't.
"The common view is at the first sign of a wrinkle you must hide
forever. When an American woman in her 70s shows up and is full of joy,
people here go, 'Oh, my God!' Women must believe it is worthwhile to
remain attractive for your whole life."
Financial Times (UK)
27 July 1998
[for personal use only]
Low oil prices spotlight Caspian investments
Money from western companies is needed to turn area into a global energy
source, say Anthony Robinson and Selina Williams
Low oil prices have sapped the vitality of Russia's high-cost oil
companies and raised new questions about the timing of large investments
by western companies which are needed to transform the Caspian basin
into a global energy source.
Despite this harsh economic environment, one originally minor pipeline
project from Baku in Azerbaijan to Supsa on the Georgian Black Sea coast
has been expanded and is going full-steam ahead while plans for rival
multi-billion dollar "main export pipelines" through Russia and Turkey
are marking time.
The Baku-Supsa pipeline was originally conceived as a cheap, temporary
way of transporting up to 5m tons of "Azeri early oil" from new
off-shore oilfields in the Azeri part of the Caspian sea to the west. It
entailed re-furbishing both the unfinished sectors of a Soviet-era
pipeline running from Baku to the Georgian border and the unused section
between the small Georgian oilfield of Sangori, north east of the
capital Tbilisi, and the coast.
This line originally ended at the large but now obsolescent refinery at
Batumi, on the Black sea coast.
The project was expected to cost $310m (£188m). In its original form it
required the cleaning and repair of existing pipelines and pumping
stations and the laying of a mere 39km of new pipes to complete sections
left unfinished at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
But the vulnerable pipeline through Georgia was turned into a leaking
collander during the post-independence years as thieves drilled holes
and siphoned off crude stored in the pipe when pumping ceased. It was
then distilled in home-made refineries into cheap, low-grade petrol and
"The cost of cleaning oil from the pipe and repairing the holes was
greater than expected. Also when we ran high pressure water tests,
sections of the pipe split along the seams. This revealed that pipes of
differing quality had been used in the original Soviet project,"
according to Edward Ruckstuhl, the US project manager working for the
Georgian Pipeline Company.
The failed pressure test clinched a decision to leave the remaining
pipes in place and build a virtually new pipeline capable of
withstanding the higher pumping pressures deliverable from the six new
Sulzer diesel compressor stations being built at intervals along the
920km long line.
As a result of all these changes the new pipeline, which runs parallel
to the old route and enjoys the same rights of way but now runs safely
under, rather than over, rivers and roads, will cost over $590m when
completed early next year. The money is being put up by its owners, the
Azerbaijan Interational Operating Company (AIOC) a consortium of eleven
oil companies including BP and Lukoil of Russia plus the Azeri state oil
The Azeri government is unhappy about the cost overuns which will delay
revenue flows to the government as the oil companies have secured a deal
allowing them to recoup their investment costs before paying royalties.
The government wants access to the pipeline to be thrown open to other
oil companies which would pay to use the facility. This should be
feasible because the upgraded pipeline will now be able to deliver
between 15m and 18m tons a year to the loading point at Supsa, according
to Bill Lamport, the American site manager. This means the new $100m
complex of storage tanks and pumps just south of the port of Poti will
be able to load a 150,000dwt tanker every six days when the entire
project comes on stream around April 1999.
In its uprated form the Baku-Supsa route starts with a sub-sea line from
the new Chirag-1 oilfield in the Azeri section of the Caspian sea. The
20inch diameter pipeline makes landfall at Sangachal, south of Baku the
Azeri capital, and snakes a further 820km through Azerbaijan and Georgia
to Supsa. The four huge tanks will be linked through a 36 inch loading
pipe 5.5km long to a single point mooring buoy (SPMB) projecting 3km
into the sea.
Chevron, which currently ships 1.5m tons of Kazakh crude by rail through
Azerbaijan and Georgia to the port of Batumi is also examining a project
to send oil down an existing 5m ton a year oil product line which is
currently unused but formerly carried petrol and other refined products
from Batumi to a railhead at Khashuri, near Tbilisi.
Shortening the rail journey from western Kazakhstan by shipping early
Kazakh oil along the former product pipeline would allow another 5m tons
of oil to flow to Georgian Black Sea ports. This would again be a
relatively low-cost way of lessening the urgency for building the mooted
bulk export pipelines. It would also add to Georgia's growing role both
as a Caspian oil transit country and as a supply route for plant,
equipment and general supplies.
The Black Sea port of Poti, with new ferries and roll-on, roll off
facilities, already transports 95 per cent of the AIOC's equipment and
is being developed as the main entry port for central Asia using the
Georgian and Azerbaijan road and rail system.
All these developments are being watched nervously in Russia, however,
which desperately wants future Caspian oil to flow through its own
pipelines, refineries and ports. Moscow originally agreed to the
Baku-Supsa project because it was part of a wider deal under which 5m
tons of Caspian oil passed through Russia from Baku through Chechnya to
the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. But here the plot thickens.
Russia and Turkey are competing fiercely over rival main export pipeline
routes. Moscow is touting the virtues of the proposed Caspian Pipeline
Consortium (CPC) pipeline between Tengiz in north western Kazakhstan and
Novorossiysk, Russia's only remaining big port on the Black Sea.
Construction was due to start two years ago but has been delayed.
Western oil companies are still not convinced of the need for a line
through Russia to the Black Sea which would require shipping oil through
the already congested Bosporus to reach its final markets.
Turkey, which controls the Bosporus, and Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan
president, are meanwhile pushing for the main export line to run from
Baku through Georgia and across Turkey to the deep water oil terminal at
Ceyhan. The Turkish port was built to export Iraqi crude but has been
under-used since the advent of sanctions.
While oil prices remain low the fate of both the Tengiz-Novorossiysk and
Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline projects will remain under a cloud -
while relatively low-cost projects such as the upgraded Baku-Supsa line
look increasingly attractive as ways to keep the Caspian basin in play,
but not yet on tap.
July 25, 1998
Young, Russian And Pregnant
By Anna Badkhen
Special to The Moscow Times
When she waited too long and missed her chance to have an abortion, St.
Petersburg journalist Anna Badkhen entered Russia's prenatal care
system. She still managed to have a healthy baby boy.
Gynecologist Tamara Rudenko glanced absently through her gold-rimmed
glasses at my name written on top of a medical file while I rested my
belly on a corner of her table. I had just told her my last menstrual
period was six months ago.
"Did you come to see me about the delay?" Rudenko asked with a bored
I told her I had come to register. In Russia, all pregnant women are
required to register their pregnancy with a zhenskaya konsultatsiya -- a
city gynecological office that provides pre-natal care and the papers
necessary for acceptance to a maternity hospital. Rudenko was a doctor
at St. Petersburg's Zhenskaya Konsultatsiya No. 30.
"What are you, pregnant?" she asked, finally looking at me.
And so went my introduction to free prenatal care in Russia.
Elsewhere in St. Petersburg during the months I was visibly pregnant, it
was an entirely different story. I was the object of great care and
concern from almost everybody I met. People allowed me to go to the head
of the line in department stores and at currency exchange windows. Cab
drivers gave me free rides. Soviet-bred waitresses became paragons of
politeness. Crippled, 90-year-old babushki, who ordinarily seem to
derive unspeakable pleasure from scolding everyone in sight, eagerly
yielded their seats in trams and buses. One elderly woman who insisted
that I take her seat explained to the other babushki: "We have to take
care of pregnant women. There are so few of them nowadays."
Pregnancy would have felt like an extended bubble bath had it not been
for my sobering encounters with the medical personnel who were in charge
of my prenatal care.
When I first learned that I was pregnant at the age of 21, I panicked.
Having a baby would put an end to my youth and to my career as a
journalist, I thought. After a brief discussion with my boyfriend of two
years, Andrei, I decided to have an abortion -- the most popular form of
birth control in Russia.
In St. Petersburg alone, doctors performed last yea over 60,700
abortions -- versus 32,900 births, according to the city health
Compared with other industrialized countries, Russia has an
extraordinarily high abortion rate, according to the most recent figures
from the nonprofit, New York-based Alan Guttmacher Institute, which
researches reproductive health. In 1994, for example, there were 80.8
abortions per 1,000 Russian women between ages 15 and 44. In the United
States, by comparison, the number of abortions in 1992 was 25.9 per
1,000 women in that age group, and in Finland, 9.4 in 1994.
At the time, I knew nothing of this. My expectations of what the
abortion would be like were colored by an experience I had in 1994, when
I volunteered to assist as a translator at an abortion in a Planned
Parenthood clinic in the small city of Utica, New York. Larissa, a
Russian woman in her 30s who was getting an abortion, arrived at the
clinic and was taken to a private room. There she was asked to sign
documents saying that she was making the decision of her own free will.
A counselor duly gave Larissa a detailed -- and terrifying --
description of the negative consequences of an abortion: the possibility
she might never get pregnant again, the increased likelihood of future
Larissa was then taken to an operating room, where a doctor, a nurse,
and two volunteers explained to her what the procedure would be like. I
held Larissa's hand during the operation -- to keep her from feeling
"alone," the nurse explained. When the abortion was over, nurses brought
her cookies and tea in a private room. She ended up spending about two
hours at the clinic before returning home.
Two years later in St. Petersburg, I learned that abortions in Russia
are a much different affair. When I told the doctor at Konsultatsiya No.
26 that I wanted to have an abortion, she told me to have a blood test
for AIDS and syphilis, and set the operation date as soon as possible.
"In a week, it won't be safe for you to have an abortion," she said.
So much for the warnings.
When I returned two days later for the procedure, I found seven other
women who had also come to terminate their pregnancies. We sat together
in the main hallway near the door that led to the operating room,
watching other women visiting their gynecologists come and go. When I
returned from a brief visit to the toilet, my seatmates had all
disappeared. I sat in the hallway for about 90 minutes before they
started to emerge from the operating room one by one. I knocked at the
door. A doctor came out and asked me why I didn't come to the operating
room when everybody else did. I said I thought they were assisting one
woman at a time.
"We have eight beds in here," the doctor replied. "We operate on you all
She then told me that I could not have an abortion that day because her
shift was over. The konsultatsiya, indeed, seemed abandoned. When I told
her about my deadline, she took me to an examination room, where I saw a
row of washed one-time-use-only medical rubber gloves drying on a
radiator, so they could be used again the next day. She examined me and
told me that the period of time when it was safe for me to have an
abortion had passed three weeks ago.
"The doctor who examined you must have been mistaken," she said in a
matter-of-fact tone. "It's a good thing you didn't have an abortion. It
could have only done you harm."
I took the metro home, and over the next day, Andrei and I wrestled with
the prospect of bringing the baby to term. Although I knew that having a
baby would complicate my life a lot, I also had a confusing feeling that
to terminate a pregnancy means to murder a living being. While I was
getting ready to have an abortion, I had a sense that I was doing
something wrong, and I was surprised to feel a relief when I learned
that I had no other choice but to have the baby.
The attempt at abortion behind me, I began to prepare for motherhood.
The first step was to visit the konsultatsiya in the neighborhood for
which I have a residence permit, or propiska. Other options were
limited. With a monthly salary of $500, the $210 charged by one Western
clinic for each prenatal care visit was certainly out of the question,
as was even the $20 per visit charged by a private Russian clinic. I had
to be especially frugal since I was spending more and more on
necessities like food. I remember eating seven cans of canned peaches
and then immediately consuming a kilogram of smoked sausage. I could eat
two kilograms of blue cheese in 20 minutes. It was easy to spend $20 a
day on french fries.
So I turned to Tamara Rudenko, the stout, middle-aged -- and above all,
free -- doctor at the district konsultatsiya who was to register my
pregnancy and, in theory, take care of me. Rudenko -- just like any
other doctor at any other konsultatsiya in St. Petersburg -- earned a
monthly salary of 300 rubles ($49).
Having timed my first appointment with her at the end of her shift at
7:30 p.m., I might well have been her 30th visitor that day. As soon as
I entered Rudenko's office, I was introduced to the trademark of the
konsultatsiya: The client is always humiliated.
"Leave your dirty bag there! No, there!" Rudenko's nurse ordered as soon
as I stepped inside the office with a backpack slung over my shoulder.
Later, after I had dismounted from the gynecological chair and
accidentally stumbled over a couch, Rudenko said, "I see 90-year-old
women here, and yet they are not as clumsy as you!"
During another visit, I had trouble understanding something Rudenko was
saying, and she commented, "All pregnant women have something wrong with
their heads." Whenever I came to see Rudenko, she addressed me as
"beremennaya," or "the pregnant one"; her nurse, who never introduced
herself, did not address me at all.
But even more humiliating than Rudenko's rudeness was the lack of
intimacy that her konsultatsiya provided. Although she and her nurse
shared a separate office, Rudenko shared the examination room with
another doctor. The examination room had two examination chairs and one
short sofa where the clients of both doctors were to leave their pants,
socks and underwear. Sometimes, both Rudenko and the doctor from the
adjacent office examined their clients at the same time: an intimidating
striptease, if you will. As if to underscore the fact that there is no
privacy in her office, Rudenko often saw two patients at a time, and the
women had to share their intimate problems not only with their doctor,
but also with other women who happened to be in the room. During one of
my visits, Rudenko scolded a pregnant 19-year-old patient in front of
me. "Are you serious about keeping the baby? But you are too immature to
take good care of him! Are you married?" Rudenko screamed at the crying
I endured all this for months, never once having Rudenko ask how I felt
or if I had any questions. I needed medical advice badly, so I called a
friend who knew someone at Snegiryovsky Maternity hospital, popularly
known as Snegiryovka.
Ida Vanovskaya, a doctor at Snegiryovka's intensive care ward, examined
me three times. I called her for advice four times more. She took me to
have ultrasound tests. She was not authorized to fill out the papers
that would get me into a maternity hospital -- and, therefore, could not
substitute for Rudenko -- but she gave me advice on what to eat, what to
drink, what vitamins to take and even what kind of washing machine to
buy when the baby is born. She never charged me a kopeck.
Once I complained to Vanovskaya about my humiliating visits to the
konsultatsiya. "I know, dear," she said. "All konsultatsii have the same
terrible way of treating people. It is free health care. Deal with it."
Free health care means a St. Petersburg woman in labor is entitled to
one of four to six beds in a delivery room. It also provides her with
one of up to 12 beds in the postnatal ward. It pays for the nurses to
take care of the infant for the first three days after birth: The
hospital staff only brings the newborns to their mothers for short
periods of time to nurse, five to seven times a day.
One of the best indicators of the quality of prenatal care and maternity
wards is a country's infant mortality rate. According to the World
Health Organization, the rise in Russian infant mortality rates
following the breakup of the Soviet Union stopped in recent years.
Still, the figures from WHO's division of health statistics in Geneva
are telling. In Russia, there were 18 infant deaths for every 1,000 live
births in 1995, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
In the U.S. in 1994 there were eight infant deaths for every 1,000
births, and in Finland the figure was four per 1,000 in 1995.
Free health care in St. Petersburg comes at a definite price. Mida
Samarskaya, an inspector at the city's health committee, said that in
1997, four women died from infections contracted while giving birth in
maternity wards with unsterile conditions. Another woman died last year
because of an infection that was contracted during an abortion. In some
cases, Samarskaya said, doctors and midwives are to blame, but she
cannot remember an instance of someone losing their job over a death.
By the time I was ready to have a baby, I had had enough of free health
Four hundred dollars bought me a separate room at a special "family
confinement" ward in Maternity Hospital No. 16. When I arrived at the
hospital in June 1997, the private ward was a local innovation. It
allowed my boyfriend to be present at the childbirth. It provided a
separate room and private bath for my baby, my boyfriend and me. Our
room was furnished with two beds, a crib, a refrigerator and a
television. ("Wow! A fridge! A shower!" my mother exclaimed when she
came to see me at the hospital. She said that when she was in labor
before giving birth to me in 1975, she was offered a bed in the hallway,
because there was no free space in the hospital.)
Later, the ward's personnel told us that we were the fourth couple to
ever use the new facilities since they opened a month earlier. In the
four days we stayed at the hospital, two more women arrived to give
birth there. The ward had a doctor, a midwife, a pediatrician and a
pediatric nurse. Galina, the midwife, told my boyfriend that in the
regular maternity ward downstairs, there were 32 women, 4 to a room, all
served by three nurses and one doctor.
On June 5 last year at about 10 a.m., the contractions started. Some
nine hours later, Andrei and I took a cab across town to the hospital.
We arrived at 8 p.m., after the private ward's doctor was gone. By the
time we had come, I was in labor, and Galina had to call a doctor from
the maternity ward downstairs.
"What a stupid novelty," the doctor said, regarding the private
department. "Why not have a baby the way everyone else does?" There was
something about her that immediately reminded me of my experience with
The doctor, who failed to introduce herself, examined me and said my
cervix was not adequately dilated. She gave me shots. Then more shots.
The cervix still wouldn't dilate. At 8 a.m. the next day, the doctor
told my teary-eyed boyfriend that she would have to perform a Caesarean
section. She kept coming and going from our room, shaking her head at my
At 9 a.m., Olga Kordunskaya, the head doctor of the ward, arrived on
duty. "Why have a C-section?" she asked. "In order to open the neck,
just turn it to the side, like this."
Two and a half hours later, my boyfriend rushed across the delivery room
to count the wrinkled toes of our newborn son, Fyodor.
After Fyodor was born, my boyfriend met the doctor who had advised a
C-section in the hallway.
"So, did Anna have the baby?" the doctor asked. My boyfriend said,
"And she had no ruptures?"
"No," he said.
"And is the baby O.K.?" she asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Very strange," she said with a puzzled look.
(The next day, when my mother came to meet her grandson, the same doctor
stopped by. She looked at Fyodor and said to my mother with surprise:
"Bizarre. I thought they would both die.")
Four days later, we left the hospital. Rudenkos, Caesarean sections and
washed one-time-use-only medical gloves drying on a radiator were left
July 22, 1998
[for personal use only]
Moscow mayor backs Jewish community
Outspoken nationalist departs from agenda for peace in capital
By Will Englund
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW -- Yuri Luzhkov, the burly and outspoken mayor of Moscow, is one
of those people who believe in Russia for the Russians. He also believes
in Ukraine for the Russians, and Latvia for the Russians, among other
He's a nationalist -- crude, energetic, loud and, above all, Russian, in
a land where most minority religions are not considered Russian.
But there he was at the recent rededication of Moscow's Marina Rosha
Synagogue, wearing a yarmulke and giving a speech -- or shouting one,
actually -- about how much Russia and Moscow owe the Jews.
This in the land that invented the word pogrom. Where nationalism and
anti-Semitism always have been in league with each other. Where Jewish
emigration to Israel became a river after the old restrictions were torn
down. And where the Marina Rosha Synagogue was being rededicated because
someone tried to blow it up May 13, causing some structural damage but
"He's very, very close to the Jewish people," said Rabbi Berel Lazar,
the Italian-born and Brooklyn-educated leader of the synagogue. "He
feels the Jews are giving so much to this country, and should stay here
to contribute what they can to building this country as a democracy."
And Luzhkov isn't timid about it.
"As for the Jewish nationality," he declared at the synagogue before
4,000 people, practically thumping the lectern, "we all should treat the
Jews of our Russia and of our Moscow with the utmost respect, because
they are talented people, we should understand this, and because they
are patriotic people. These are people who want the country to be happy
He denounced the "scoundrels" of chauvinism and their "black deeds."
And in case anyone hasn't caught his meaning over the years, he has made
two trips to Jerusalem, in the sort of pilgrimage that plenty of U.S.
politicians could understand.
His detractors scoff that the mayor is nothing more than an opportunist
with no principles of his own, and would be happy to turn against the
Jews if he thought that would advance his career.
"Luzhkov can wear a yarmulke today, tomorrow appear with the imams --
for him it's of no importance," said Maxim Shevchenko, the religion
editor of the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, referring to Muslim
Luzhkov and Russia's other leaders, he said, act as though they can take
the Jews, the Tatars, the Chechens, the Russians, and lump them
altogether in one big multinational "virtual reality," that ignores the
consequences of deeply rooted historical grievances.
And they have no feel for their own traditions, said Shevchenko, who is
a devout Russian Orthodox believer.
But stirring up ethnic hatred, particularly against the Jews, might not
be the most appealing alternative.
Nikolai Petrov, scholar in residence at the Moscow Carnegie Institute,
is not as critical as Shevchenko, though he agrees that Luzhkov is
probably not driven by principles in his embrace of Moscow's Jewish
What the mayor wants, Petrov believes, is ethnic peace in the city, an
image for residents of a very strong state and an image abroad of
tolerance and progress. All this could stand him in good stead if he
makes a bid for the presidency in 2000.
spite the periodic police sweeps of Azerbaijani
traders off Moscow's streets, Luzhkov has shown support as well for the
city's Islamic leaders.
"The task of the authorities," Luzhkov said at Marina Rosha Synagogue,
"is to ensure that every nationality which lives and wants to continue
to live here in the capital of Russia feels that it lives in its own
"And I say -- I always say this because this is the way I think -- that
only national unity, national patience and national concord can save and
ensure continuity of our common motherland -- Russia."
Petrov reduces that to a more practical, political formula: "Muslims are
very numerous. Jews are very influential."
Luzhkov has appointed Jews to positions in his administration (as has
President Boris N. Yeltsin), a significant change from the Soviet era,
when Jews were excluded from important posts. And it hasn't cost him
politically, though perhaps only a politician like Luzhkov can get away
with wearing a yarmulke here.
"He's so Russian in his essence and appearance," Petrov said, "that it
won't hurt him to demonstrate anything like this."
Lazar rejected the suggestion that the mayor's tough-Russian image might
be inconsistent with good Jewish relations. He believes a mayor such as
Luzhkov, "who can put his foot down," is the best ally Jews here could
have against the sort of anti-Semitic youth groups probably responsible
for the two arson and bomb attacks against the synagogue since 1994.
"If anybody can fight them," the rabbi said, "Luzhkov can."