Center for Defense Information
Research Topics
CDI Library
What's New
CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List
Johnson's Russia List


September 3, 1998   

This Date's Issues: 2343 2344  2345

Johnson's Russia List
3 September 1998

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Yeltsin, Communist foes poised for showdown.
2. John Dunlop: New book: Russia Confronts Chechnya.
3. Craig Copetas: Bear hunting.
5. AFP: Crisis takes Russia back to Revolution of 1917: Lebed.
6. Journal of Commerce: Michael Lelyveld, Corporate US rethinks free 
market for Russia.

7. Moscow News editorial: A Routine, If Troubling, Pessimism.
8. Joan Urban: Russian communists.
9. Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Yeltsin's mental decline 
shocks viewers.]


Yeltsin, Communist foes poised for showdown
By Gareth Jones

MOSCOW, Sept 3 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin turned back to tackling
Russia's crippling political and economic crisis on Thursday after a two-day
summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton at which he pledged no retreat from
market reforms. 
But with the Communist-dominated parliament bent on rejecting his candidate
for prime minister a second time on Friday, Yeltsin's chances of ending the
turmoil looked slim. 
Despite the political deadlock, acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was
set to convene a session of his interim government to discuss ways of staving
off economic collapse. 
``We are using up time, which is dearer to us than any other resource,
including money,'' Chernomyrdin said on Wednesday. 
In apparent contravention of his own constitution, Yeltsin has already
reappointed some ministers by decree, including the defence, interior and
foreign ministers. A cabinet would normally be formed only after the State
Duma lower house had endorsed the prime minister. 
Chernomyrdin is widely expected to lose Friday's vote and a third rejection
would force a dissolution of the Duma and an early parliamentary election
fraught with risk for Yeltsin. 
Chernomyrdin, named prime minister by Yeltsin on August 23 amid deepening
chaos five months after being sacked from the same job, is under Communist
pressure to change economic course. 
On Wednesday the Duma, which overwhelmingly rejected Chernomyrdin's candidacy
two days before in a first confirmation hearing, voted a non-binding package
of measures that would reimpose some Soviet-style state controls on the
But Clinton, who was due to leave Moscow early on Thursday, said Russia could
expect Western financial help only if it stuck with market reforms. 
`As a friend, I say I do not believe that you can defy the rules of the road
in today's global economy any more than I can defy the laws of gravity,''
Clinton told opposition leaders. 
``A country that rebuffed Napoleon and Hitler can surely adjust to the
realities of the global marketplace,'' he said. 
Yeltsin, his position weaker -- after the collapse of the rouble and a
temporary debt moratorium -- than at any time since he ditched communism in
1991, vowed there would be no going back. 
During his appearances with Clinton, the 67-year-old Russian leader spoke
clearly and moved normally but at times seemed confused, sparking renewed
concern about his stamina and general fitness to rule the vast, nuclear-armed
The rouble has lost half its value in two weeks and Russians are starting to
stockpile food in expectation of price rises. 
The central bank set its official rate for Thursday at the current market
rate, 12.82 roubles to the dollar, compared with 10.88 on Wednesday and 6.31
on August 14. 
Struggling to clean up the mess in government finances, the central bank also
ordered six big banks to move funds belonging to private citizens into the
state savings bank -- effectively writing a state guarantee under every rouble
they held. 
Boris Fyodorov, the acting deputy prime minister who heads a working group on
economic policy for Chernomyrdin, was due to brief the cabinet on Thursday on
his findings. But he has stressed that so far his group can only advise. 
``We do not make any decisions. We only make proposals. What conclusions will
be drawn is a political decision,'' said Fyodorov, one of the few reformers
expected to make the transition to the new government if it is confirmed. 
Fyodorov has been holding talks with Argentina's former economy minister
Domingo Cavallo, credited with taming his country's hyperinflation in the
early 1990s. 
Andrei Kokoshin, secretary of Russia's advisory Security Council, was also
expected to report to ministers on the economic and social situation in the
Kremlin aides and opposition leaders alike have warned of mass revolt in
Russia if the political vacuum persists. 
``A riot is something nobody wants. It will sweep away everyone -- all the
political forces,'' said Boris Berezovsky, an influential tycoon with close
links to Yeltsin's entourage. 
``People whose names we do not know will come to power,'' he said. 
Alexander Lebed, a regional governor and presidential hopeful, said the army
was ripe for revolt. He said he told Clinton that Russia was less stable than
at the 1917 revolution. 
``Now we have huge stockpiles of poorly guarded nuclear weapons,'' the former
paratroop general said. Lebed has often given warnings of mutiny among poorly
paid troops who control the world's second biggest nuclear arsenal. 


Date: Wed, 02 Sep 1998
From: John Dunlop <>
Subject: New book: Russia Confronts Chechnya

Dear David:

Yesterday, Cambridge University Press published my new 234-page book:
Russia Confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict. The book's
chapters are:
1. The Chechens' encounter with Russia
2. Soviet genocide
3. The eruption of the "Chechen Revolution"
4. Dudaev in Power, 1992-1994
5. Russia confronts secessionist Chechnya, 1992-1994

CUP's American office is located at: 110 Midland Avenue, Port Chester, NY
(Tel: 914-937-9600; Fax: 914-937-4712)

With best wishes,
John B. Dunlop
Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution


Date: Wed, 02 Sep 1998 
Subject: Bear Hunting
From: "Craig Copetas" <>

Dear Mr. Johnson - - - I'm a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in
I've become quite enamoured with you report over the past few days, chiefly 
because I'm heading to Russia to help cover the continuing story there,
found your compendium extremely useful and wonderfully eclectic (especially 
excerpts from the eXile). I worked as a correspondent in Moscow for some six 
years, was the first journalist to be awarded a visiting scholar post at the 
Harriman Institute at Columbia University, and wrote a book entitled "Bear 
Hunting with the Politburo" (Simon&Schuster, 1991). I've told you all that 
because attached you will find a short item I wandered into pleasure
writing the other night. Perhaps it might be of some value to others who read 
your report. 
Please use it if you so desire, but be aware this is not an excerpt from the 
WSJ, just something I felt like putting together.

A Russian bear (Ursis arctos) is the world's largest
terrestrial carnivore. Cannibalism occurs more frequently among
this species than among any other animal group. Born with an
incessantly antagonistic disposition and an innate ability to
camouflage that fact, the bear uses his viciousness as a weapon. 
With stocky feet, small eyes, a broad head, and twenty highly curved
claws that are impossible to retract, the Russian bear medved 
will strike without notice and eat his victim completely.
Those who professionally hunt the bear within Russia assert that
he is far more preoccupied with wielding ultimate power over his
domain that with developing strategy. Indeed, amateurs who confront
wild bear are warned not to pay attention to his facial expression. 
A bear's facial muscles are so poorly developed that it's impossible
for him to make the expressions that other animals normally use to
telegraph their intentions in the wild.
In ancient times, the ancestors of the people who now inhabit
many parts of Russia worshiped the bear as a totem animal; he was
the object of mystery cults, which sometimes included ritual
sacrifice. The bear, through religious creed and deity and the
heavenly configuration of Kallisto (the constellation Ursa Major,
the Great Bear), enjoyed exalted status. Over the past ten days,
the world's financial markets have learned much about the Russian
bear. To be sure, the use of bear metaphors to describe the ruble
without a cause range from "Russian bears mauling the great bull
market" to "will the bull become a bear."
But the analogy is slightly flawed what Russians call (ital)
tufta (endital): creative misrepresentation.
The Russian language has a word for bears that become extremely
savage and ruthless: (ital) shatoon. (endital) Ivan the Terrible
was fond of setting shatonni on humans for the sheer pleasure of
seeing how they would destroy their victims. Later tsars had the
teeth of captured shatooni filed down into stumps; dogs were then
released upon them, with spectators gambling on the outcome of tooth
versus claw. Boyars, the oligarchs of old Muscovy, indulged in the
practice of pouring alcohol into muzzled shatooni to observe the
outcome. A special breed of dog, nicknamed the shatoon laika, was
later develped to hunt the animal in the wild depths of Russia's
northern winter. Today, shatonni are not pursued for sport or by
sportsmen. They are stalked and executed at great risk by
professional hunters to ensure the survival of the people they would
Of course, one might well argue that bears are supposed to
hibernate in winter. Their dens plush, their bellies lined with
green foliage, bears supposedly use this respite to prepare
themselves for the challenges of rebirth. Not the shatoon. The
very word, in fact, describes a bear of such physiological dementia
that nature prevents it from hibernating in winter. Instead, the
shatoon roams the landscape, killing.
Shatoon is an expression unique to the Russian vocabulary. 
During Soviet times, northern Russian villagers and hunters used it
as a cautionary noun to describe the apparatchiks who appeared to
have been displaced by the perestrokia policies of Mikhail
Gorbachev. Since 1991, however, the shatoon has come to represent
the corrupt clique of Russian politicians and businessmen who were
to have been eradicated by, among other weapons, the intervention of
International Monetary Fund loans, the application of Western
financial expertise, and the Western world's faith in the
charismatic anarchy of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
In the great taiga, Russia's vast subarctic forest, tales abound
of shatooni rishing up from apparent death to devour their
executioners. Of course, the Russian language for centuries has
been rich in fables, puns and double entendres that reflect the
great gulf between dreams of what might be and the harsh reality of
what is. Nonetheless, Valeri Sherabokov , a hunter with whom I
spent weeks tracking a shatoon some ten winters ago, explained that
Russian villagers grieving through financial crisis after crisis
then as they do today never considered the bear an enchanting
character. The shatoon, Mr. Sherabokov said, will never tell you
the truth. He will also never lie to you. "He will tell you what
you want to hear: that he is dead."
For nearly a decade now, Western leaders have allowed Kremlin
fairy tales to lull them into complacency. So as U.S. President
Bill Clinton and the IMF miracleworkers arrive in Moscow with more
money and ideas to contain the fallout of Russia's economic
collapse, they'd be well served to remember the story of the shatoon
and the eerie expression of blankness, animation and frustration
that passes across the animal's face. Bear hunters warn its
countenance has everything to do with magic, and the skill to make
people believe in what is not real.


United States Information Agency
02 September 1998 
(US to support Russian decisions that stabilize situation) (1080)

Moscow -- President Clinton told members of the Russian Duma and
regional leaders at Spaso House in Moscow September 2 that he is
"proud of what America and Russia have achieved together in reducing
the threat of nuclear war and in cooperating in areas like Bosnia.
"Today," he noted, "we announced two other steps to cooperate -- first
in the sharing of early warning information on missile firings; and
second, in a commitment to dramatically reduce our stocks of
plutonium, a move that might also be of benefit to the Russian
Addressing the "economic challenges facing Russia today," Clinton said
he recognized "that around this room there are many different points
of view represented, and I think that is a good thing for the strength
of Russian democracy.
"Second," he said, "I think it's important to point out that all over
the world there are many countries that have democratically elected
leaders and successful economies, and rather dramatically different
social systems, different approaches to achieving success economically
with elected leadership. So Russia must have its own approaches that
keep the nation strong, that care for the people who are in need, that
prepare for the future of your children. And no other country can
define that approach, and no other country's approach would be exactly
right for Russia. But I do not believe you can find one country in the
world that is economically successful that has completely ignored the
ground rules of the global economy."
Clinton told them he hoped they would be able "to bridge your
differences to agree on, first, a program to stabilize the current
situation, and then a path to finish the framework of basic things
that every successful economy has; then, within your democratic
system, whatever decisions you make about how to organize your society
are your decisions to make and we will support you and find a way to
work together."
Following is the White House text:
(begin text)

Office of the Press Secretary
(Moscow, Russia)
September 2, 1998


Spaso House
Moscow, Russia

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I'd like to thank
all of you who have come here today to Spaso House. I have met with
several of you before here, and as always, I attempt to come to Russia
with the view of listening to a wide variety of views and meeting
everyone I can who is involved in the activities of the day.
I am pleased to be joined by the Secretary of State, Madeleine
Albright; our Secretary of Commerce, Bill Daley; and the Secretary of
Energy, Bill Richardson; and with some distinguished members of
Congress. I see Senator Bingaman and Congressman King. I don't know if
Senator Domenici and Congressman Hoyer are here or not. But we all
want to get to know all of you.
I am proud of what America and Russia have achieved together in
reducing the threat of nuclear war and in cooperating in areas like
Bosnia. Today we announced two other steps to cooperate -- first in
the sharing of early warning information on missile firings; and
second, in a commitment to dramatically reduce our stocks of
plutonium, a move that might also be of benefit to the Russian
I'd like to, before I go out and start to visit with you individually,
make just a couple of observations about the economic challenges
facing Russia today. First of all, I recognize that around this room
there are many different points of view represented, and I think that
is a good thing for the strength of Russian democracy. Second, I think
it's important to point out that all over the world there are many
countries that have democratically elected leaders and successful
economies, and rather dramatically different social systems, different
approaches to achieving success economically with elected leadership.
So Russia must have its own approaches that keep the nation strong,
that care for the people who are in need, that prepare for the future
of your children. And no other country can define that approach, and
no other country's approach would be exactly right for Russia. But I
do not believe you can find one country in the world that is
economically successful that has completely ignored the ground rules
of the global economy.
For all their differences, all the countries that are succeeding have
some things in common. They have tax systems that are fair and bring
in revenues adequate to meet their spending requirements. They have
marketing systems that regulate and provide for effective banking and
trading in the country. They have a rule of law which permits commerce
to succeed and to proceed on predictable terms in which individual
interests are properly protected.
Now, when countries have this, whether they're large or small, whether
they're in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, wherever they are, they see
that money flows into the country instead of flowing out of it.
I come here as someone who considers himself a friend of your country
and someone who deeply believes that in the century just ahead of us
America and Russia must be partners. I hope you will be able to bridge
your differences to agree on, first, a program to stabilize the
current situation, and then a path to finish the framework of basic
things that every successful economy has; then, within your democratic
system, whatever decisions you make about how to organize your society
are your decisions to make and we will support you and find a way to
work together.
But if the basic framework is not in place, as a friend I say I do not
believe that you can defy the rules of the road in today's global
economy anymore than I could defy the laws of gravity by stepping off
the top floor of Spaso House. It has nothing to do with politics, and
everything to do with the way the world is working today. But if you
can find a way to work together and work through this crisis, the
United States will stand with you and will not presume to judge on the
specific social systems you decide to put in place within a democratic
system with a strong economy that has integrity of its fundamental
Thank you again for coming.


Crisis takes Russia back to Revolution of 1917: Lebed

MOSCOW, Sept 2 (AFP) - Kremlin hopeful Alexander Lebed said Wednesday 
the political and economic turmoil in Russia was more acute than before 
the 1917 October Revolution, warning of civil unrest if parliament was 
Speaking after meeting the visiting US President Bill Clinton at the US 
ambasador's residence here, Lebed said: "The situation today is worse 
than in 1917.
"In '17 there was a classic revolutionary situation. Now, neither the 
upper or the lower classes know what to do.
"The most important thing is to avoid a situation in which the State 
Duma reject three times the candidate (for premier) and or that Yeltsin 
dissolves" the lower chamber of parliament, he said.
"I think we have to continue with reforms. We can only recover from the 
crisis by taking the democratic path, not by going backwards to a less 
than radiant past," Lebed concluded.
The former paratroop general earlier Wednesday warned that President 
Boris Yeltsin could trigger a popular uprising if he moved to dissolve 
the State Duma lower house of parliament in their tussle over his choice 
of premier.
Yeltsin, who is at loggerheads with the Duma over his choice of prime 
minister, has vowed to stand by Viktor Chernomyrdin despite his 
overwhelming rejection by deputies at a confirmation hearing on Monday.
"If Yeltsin takes any radical decision, everyone will rush to defend the 
parliament," the governor of the mineral rich Siberian region of 
Krasnoyarsk told the Interfax news agency.
"We could see a repeat of 1991," he said, referring to the dramatic 
defence of parliament by Yeltsin and thousands of ordinary Russians 
against a Communist putsch against then Soviet president Mikhail 
"Hatred for the current regime runs deep in the Russian provinces," said 
Lebed, a leading contender to replace Yeltsin in the Kremlin in 
presidential elections set for 2000.
He added that the president "would be committing political hara-kiri if 
he dissolved the Duma," which is dominated by the opposition.
Several Yeltsin aides and advisors have recently warned of a possible 
dissolution of the Duma, which on Monday overwhelmingly rejected his 
choice of premier.
Under the 1993 constitution Yeltsin must dissolve the lower chamber and 
call early legislative elections if the Duma throws out his nominee as 
premier three times.
Earlier, Lebed told the commercial NTV television station that "the army 
could get aggressive," if the current tussle between the Kremlin and the 
legislature degenerated into open conflict.


Journal of Commerce
3 September 1998
[for personal use only]
Corporate US rethinks free market for Russia 
American executives say Russia should be left to find its own answers, 
without being forced to conform to IMF programs to get aid. 

Through seven years of crises, U.S. business leaders have insisted that 
you can't turn back the clock in Russia.
Now, some are starting to argue that the Russians should at least be 
given a chance to try.
The turnaround comes as President Clinton closed a two-day Moscow summit 
Wednesday with renewed promises of support and pressure for market 
"I know this is a difficult time, but there is no short cut," Mr. 
Clinton said.
"If the reform process can be completed, I for one would be for greater 
assistance to Russia." In response, President Boris Yeltsin pledged 
allegiance to the process that he started on Jan. 1, 1992, with the "big 
bang" of price decontrols.
"We are still obliged to take these reforms to the end, through the end, 
and correspondingly get a reward for that," he said. 

Only hardship

"What reward?" has been the response of many Russians who can see only 
hardship as their ruble dropped to 8.5 cents Wednesday.
The currency has fallen by a factor of more than 20,000 since Nov. 1, 
1990, when the then-Soviet government took the first steps toward 
monetary reform. Mr. Clinton's formula of dangling carrots before the 
Russians, while insisting that they bear greater pain, has sparked scorn 
among analysts. 

'It is pathetic'

"I think it is pathetic," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon 
Center for Peace and Freedom in Washington. "These people are almost 
addicted to their concept of social engineering. This administration is 
a global nanny."
What makes this ruble crisis so different is that it has also started to 
destroy support for Western-style economic prescriptions among some 
major U.S. business interests. 

Differ on details

"We were so supremely confident in what we were saying. Guess what? It 
didn't work," said Deborah Anne Palmieri, president of the 
Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.
While Mr. Simes and Ms. Palmieri differ on details of what needs to be 
done, they agree that Russia should be left to find its own solution, 
without being forced to conform to International Monetary Fund programs 
as a prerequisite for aid.

Wage and price controls

If that means instituting wage and price controls, or renationalizing 
basic industries to ensure supplies and employment, so be it, says Ms. 
"This is just crying out for a Russian solution that's bottom-up and 
suited to Russian needs," she said.
"We need to be looking at this as an international state of emergency."
On Wednesday, there were increasing signs that the architecture of 
Western solutions had collapsed.
Despite IMF warnings that there can be no further loans without 
increased tax collections, the August tax take fell 900 million rubles 
below that of July, nearly 35% short of budget targets, according to 
Bridge News.
Giant Gazprom, the nation's gas monopoly and top tax debtor, reduced its 
monthly payment by 500 million rubles below the level it agreed to pay 
only one month ago. 

Big investors show resolve

In the past week, some major and traditional strategic investors in 
Russia have shown their resolve to stick with the country.
McDonald's Corp. pledged normal operations, saying it will open its 40th 
outlet this month, Intercon's Daily Report on Russia reported.
Boeing Co. said it has no plans to cut back on its projects in Russia
and will actually increase its staff.
A spokeswoman for heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. said the 
company has no second thoughts about building a new plant near St. 
Petersburg at a cost of some $50 million, announced just last month.
But most other businesses are on hold while the ruble's value tries to 
find its floor, said Kay Larcon, senior vice president of the U.S.-
Russia Business Council in Washington.
"I don't think anybody's leaving," she said. But she added, "I don't 
think they can sell anything." 

New level of pain

Despite modern Russia's history of coup attempts and catastrophes, Ms. 
Larcon also sees this crisis as a new level of pain for both Russians 
and foreign investors.
"They've been through it all, they've seen everything, and this is the 
worst," she said.
One change is that some major U.S. companies were caught with their 
deposits in Russian banks when the Aug. 17 smash-up came, said Ms. 
Although Western banks fought a long legal battle to gain access to the 
market, many foreign investors preferred to do business with Russian 
institutions because of their contacts.
The devaluation and the moratorium on short-term debt payments caught 
U.S. corporations by surprise. 

Shape of things to come?

After struggling for years with the lack of a tax code, land reform and 
production-sharing legislation, foreign companies now have no idea what 
the future shape of Russia's government, its economy or its regulatory 
framework will be.
But Ms. Palmieri believes there will be no future for business until 
putting food on Russian tables takes priority over economic theories.
"I'm just seeing this enormous sense of despair, just shattered 
expectations," she said.
"All of the companies are concerned about the human side of this."


Moscow News
September 3, 1998 
EDITORIAL: A Routine, If Troubling, Pessimism 

Most expatriates living in Moscow have by now received more than their 
share of worried telephone calls or e-mails from friends and family 
Is it safe in Moscow? Is there food? Is there hoarding? Are the Russians 
rioting in the streets? 
On the one hand, these questions are easily laughed off. Moscow today is 
not Jakarta, where looters are smashing in store windows. Russians have 
been through so much in recent years that for most, the crisis du jour 
-- so far, anyway -- seems simply routine. 
Yes, many people have lost their life savings in failed banks. But tens 
of millions of people lost their savings in the hyperinflation of 1992, 
and millions again lost their savings in the MMM-style pyramid crashes 
of 1994. This time, at least, the Central Bank is planning to insure 
those lost savings, so for now Russians are simply waiting, and 
borrowing money from employers or friends to get by. 
Yes, imports and the ruble are evaporating. People are responding by 
buying either their favorite imported laundry detergents or cigarettes, 
or by putting their rubles into even bigger ticket value-holders, like 
dollars or cars or gold. 
But in 1992, when the ruble crashed and prices soared, there were fewer 
such legal opportunities to protect one's assets: whether dollars or 
detergent, it was all much more difficult to buy. Moreover, in 1992, 
Russians did not yet know how quickly a free market system could deliver 
a spectrum of goods across the length and breadth of their 
continent-sized country. When President Boris Yeltsin announced he was 
freeing prices, many quite naturally feared widespread shortages and 
famine. But since then, the Russians have learned that if the market is 
good at one thing, it is at delivering goods to people who want to buy 
them. They have also learned that they are generally an enterprising 
people, and today, their fears along these lines are not that they will 
starve, but that they will be greatly inconvenienced. 
And yet, these days are more troubling than 1992 ever was. Back then, 
the president and the parliament were jockeying for advantage -- but 
there was not yet 1993's sobering precedent of a parliament in flames, 
or 1994's specter of civil war with Chechnya. Back then, there was 
hardship and anxiety -- but also an energetic, popular president, and a 
national sense of hope that better days were around the corner. 
There is much cheery gallows humor at the moment, and people are 
confident in their own resilience. But there is also no national sense 
of hope. And this quiet pessimism, even if it does not spell riots and 
chaos, seems to be both logical and deeply disturbing. 


Date: Tues, 2 Sept 1998
From: "Joan Barth Urban" <>
Subject: Hough and Squier on Russian communists

Dear David,

I share the concerns of Jerry Hough (#2336) and John Squier (#2341) about all
the talk of "old communist measures" and "old-line communists" looming on the
Russian horizon. The problem, however, is not that today's Russian communists
are throwbacks to the pre-1985 CPSU but that they are a mixed bag of incipient
fascists and incipient social democrats and, yes, some extremist Leninist
revivalists. How this would all pan out should they share power is anyone's
guess, but it would clearly depend on the general situation/crisis in the
country. For the sake of clarity and analytical balance, I include some
excerpts from my recent NCEEER project report comparing the left in Russia,
Ukraine, and Belarus. The earlier material is based on my book, co-authored
with Valerii Solovei, Russia's Communists at the Crossroads (Westview, 1997).
If any JRL reader would like infomation on sources for the post-1996
developments, please contact me at the above address. 

J. B. Urban, The Communist Movement in the Russian Federation
After the bans on the CPSU and Russian Communist Party prompted by the failed
August 1991 coup..., a half dozen or so successor left-wing organizations
emerged in the Russian Federation during late 1991 and 1992.... The Russian
Constitutional Court's late 1992 lifting of the ban on the grassroots "primary
party organizations" of the former CPs paved the way for the mid-February 1993
"revival-unification congress" of the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation (CPRF). The CPRF, in turn,... entered into a tense, polemical
rivalry with the extremist RCWP [Russian Communist workers' Party], leaving
the rest of the successor communist groups to dwindle in significance and
The activist core of the CPRF has been from the start an eclectic group,
and... by mid-1998 its cohesion was seriously undermined by multiple fissures
and public polemics. Party documents describe the CPRF as the successor to
both the CPSU and the latter's upstart anti-reformist offshoot, the Russian
Communist Party (founded in mid-1990). However, many of the more hardline
elements of the short-lived Russian CP declined to join the CPRF, while the
latter's leader, Gennadii A. Ziuganov, espouses a kind of ethnocentric Russian
nationalism that is sharply at odds with traditional Marxism-Leninism as well
as the official Soviet doctrine of proletarian internationalism. In addition
to the Ziuganovists, the CPRF's elite includes two additional tendencies, one
attuned to the Gorbachev initiatives of the mid-to-late 1980s and thus
incipiently social democratic and the other adamantly Marxist-Leninist in
orientation. For analytical purposes, [I call] members of the more moderate
group "Marxist reformers" and those of the second one "Marxist-Leninist
Ziuganov's nationalist tendency embraces individuals from both these latter
proto-factions although he himself inclines toward a blend of Marxist
reformism (tolerance of a mixed economy and organized religion, acceptance of
electoral politics and political pluralism) with his own unique brand of
Russian ethno-culturalism (characterized by Great Russian powerhood,
traditionalist social and spiritual values, and above all the assumption that
the population is imbued with an ingrained collectivist spirit dating back to
the peasant communitarianism of tsarist Russia). The CPRF Chairman's bridging
of at least two of the three major tendencies within the CPRF elite has
facilitated his leadership of the party as a whole and, until recently,
enabled him to contain its centrifugal tendencies....
The Program officially adopted at the Third CPRF Congress in January 1995
was the result of a year-long process during which the above three proto-
factions submitted competing drafts and amendments, engaged in intense
debates, and worked out compromises on the basis of feedback received from
lower-level party activists whose views spanned a far broader spectrum, from
ultra-left to pragmatic reformism. The final version of the Program set forth
an explanation of the Soviet collapse, a Marxist-Leninist analysis of current
conditions in Russia and the world, a statement of the CPRF's ultimate goals
of socialism and the (voluntary) reestablishment of the USSR, and a lengthy
road-plan on how to get from the present to that "bright future." Briefly, it
attributed the dissolution of the Soviet Union to subversion by hostile
foreign forces and domestic traitors (led by Gorbachev). It described the
contemporary world as dominated by global capitalism, with the "golden
billion" in developed countries exploited by the pressures of credit card
consumerism rather than subsistence wages and the peoples of the third world
condemned to ever greater immiseration due to neo-colonialism and resource
According to the Program, this "exploitation of man by man" could be overcome
only under socialism, the development of which was to be achieved in three
stages. During the first stage the CPRF's eventual conquest of majority
support by legal, constitutional means and creation of a "government of
people's trust" would solve Russia's mounting socio-economic crisis by means
of government regulation of the economy, a universal social safety net, strict
enforcement of the law, and an end to presidential rule. The Program devoted
considerably less attention to the second stage, except to affirm that social
ownership of the means of production would gain ascendancy over private
ownership. And it said still less about the third stage of full-blown
socialism, in a replay of the former Soviet leaders' persistent ambiguities on
this subject.
With regard to the final shape of the CPRF Program, a few words are in order
regarding the shifting "correlation of forces" among the proto-factions, on
the one hand, and between the party elite and its activist supporters in the
regions on the other. The ideas of the Marxist reformers, such as support for
legality, competitive elections, and a mixed economy, predominated in the
program resolution of the party's second, so-called "revival-unification,"
congress in early 1993.... One year later, however, when the process of
drafting an official CPRF program began in earnest, popular disillusionment
with the Yeltsin regime was intensifying due to the autumn 1993 shelling of
the Russian parliament and the continuing economic downslide, now compounded
by "nomenklatura privatization." The moderate Marxist reformers thus took a
backseat to the Ziuganov nationalists and the Marxist-Leninist revivalists in
the debates over successive program drafts.
.... However, in the program's final form, approved at the January 1995
Third CPRF Congress,... the leadership as a whole decided to gear the official
CPRF Program to the thinking of the party's rank-and-file members, who were
more likely to be attuned to the ideas of the Marxist-Leninist revivalists
than to Ziuganov's ethno-cultural exceptionalism.... Circumstantial evidence
that this decision was based primarily on tactical calculation is to be found
in the political profile of the top CPRF leadership confirmed by the January
1995 congress, in which Ziuganov-style nationalists and Marxist reformers were
much more prominent than the Marxist-Leninist revivalists.
Following Ziuganov's defeat in the mid-1996 presidential elections, there
were moves to rethink the CPRF Program, to devise a document... that would
give lie to the pervasive media caricature of the communists as orthodox
revivalists. At the Fourth CPRF Congress in April 1997, however, the party's
1995 program was reaffirmed with only minor revisions.... Still, the
personnel changes enacted at the April 1997 congress did not notably alter the
correlation of forces that had prevailed in the party's Presidium since
January 1995. 
In short, the Marxist reformers continued to exert a more direct impact on
routine party policy than... the essentially unchanged revivalist program
would suggest. As in 1995, this discrepancy was partly the result of the
ongoing divergence between the party's leadership and its grassroots members.
Indeed, the latter were becoming ever more impatient and radicalized by the
conjunction of Russia's unabated economic depression with Yeltsin's prolonged
health problems and the consequent political stalemate in the highest reaches
of government. But the gap between the CPRF's rhetoric and the actual conduct
of its leaders, particularly in the State Duma, was also due to the fact that
the major proto-factions continued to share a commitment to acting according
to "constitutional and legal norms," at least during the party's projected
"first stage" on the path to socialism. Such observance of the democratic
rules of the game perforce shifted the burden of day-to-day directives to the
Marxist reformers. 
All the while, the specific public policy orientations of the three groups
sharply diverged. The Marxist reformers were evolving in the direction of
post-World War II European social democracy, with its commitment to multi-
cultural, universalist norms and its acceptance for the long term of a mixed
economy in which government intervention and social welfare guarantees
tempered the impact of market mechanisms. The Marxist-Leninist revivialists
remained convinced that only socialism, qua extensive public ownership of the
means of production, offered promise of a just society, and they continued to
extol Lenin and his paramount creation, the USSR, along with class-based
internationalist solidarity. The Ziuganov nationalists, in contrast, sought to
rebuild the military might as well as industrial base of Great Russia, reverse
the "Americanization" of its popular culture, and reinculcate what they
perceived as the traditional Russian ethno-cultural mores of collectivism and
"clean living." In the short term, however, both the Marxist-Leninist
revivalists and the Ziuganovists acquiesced in the reformist strategy of
gradualism and legality on the path to government power.
Throughout 1997 the communist deputies in the State Duma thus participated in
the normal give and take of parliamentary politics, seeking compromises when
feasible rather than votes of non-confidence in the government of Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin....
Nevertheless, by mid-1998 the tenuous equilibrium among the CPRF's proto-
factions began to give way to open cleavages as each reacted in different ways
to growing societal unrest (teachers' strikes, miners' blockages of the Trans-
Siberian Railroad) and the crisis triggered by Yeltsin's peremptory dismissal
of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and his cabinet in late March. The Marxist
reformers, foremost among them CPRF first deputy chairman Valentin A. Kuptsov,
insisted on strict discipline within the CPRF's Duma fraction, or caucus, as
well as among the party's ranks in general.... Suffice it here to say that
their efforts to keep the lid on internal-party disagreements was logical in
view of the fact that they were the group most threatened by the party's
incipient centrifugal tendencies; for on their own they would have little
option but to align themselves with the fragmented, ill-defined, and
historically weak Russian center-left. 
In contrast, the more extremist supporters of Marxist-Leninist revivalism
began to voice in public views that were close to those of the CPRF's arch
rival, the Russian Communist Workers' Party (which had won 4.5% of the votes
in the 1995 parliamentary election), views that were likewise shared by a
substantial number of their own rank-and-file comrades.... [I]n early 1998
they penned an open letter "To the Communists of Russia," signed inter alia by
four members of the CPRF Central Committee, in which they lambasted Ziuganov
for unmitigated ideological deviationism, accused him along with State Duma
speaker Gennadii Seleznev and others of violating the party's official Program
by virtue of their compromises with the Chernomyrdin government, and called
for "a purge of turncoats from the leading organs of the CPRF." 
At the same time, these radical left dissenters sought to form a "Leninist-
Stalinist platform in the CPRF".... However, the unscheduled (vneocherednoi)
Fifth CPRF Congress, abruptly convened on May 23, 1998, refused to sanction
the creation of "political platforms" of any kind, and the CPRF Presidium
subsequently dissolved the offending "Leninist-Stalinist platform." It seems
safe to conclude that the Marxist reformers, Ziuganov nationalists, and indeed
the more moderate Marxist-Leninists had joined forces to repudiate this
blatant challenge from the extremist revivalists.
Meanwhile, the Ziuganov group itself began to split three ways. On the eve
of the Fifth CPRF Congress, Aleksei I. Podberezkin, long an advisor to
Ziuganov and articulate champion of Russian state power, openly called for the
removal from the CPRF leadership of the "odious" party bureaucrats represented
by "Kuptsov and his entourage." And in early July he became a co-founder of
the new center-left oppositionist Union of People's Power and Labor.... If
Podberezkin took a moderate tack, Viktor I. Iliukhin, outspoken communist
chairman of the Duma's Committee on Security..., moved in the direction of
militant extremism. On June 22, 1998, Russian wire services reported him as
saying that the CPRF had the right to use "illegal" as well as legal means
against the Yeltsin regime since criminals "must be fought with whatever means
[are] at one's disposal, not those the regime itself had imposed." Then,
shortly after the sensational murder of the anti-Yeltsin retired general and
Duma deputy, Lev Ia. Rokhlin, on July 3, 1998, Iliukhin succeeded Rokhlin as
head of the All-Russian Movement in Support of the Army, Defense Industry, and
Military Science.
While Ziuganov, unlike Iliukhin, continued to express his commitment to
working within "legal and constitutional norms," he too shifted to resolute
opposition to the Yeltsin regime. Throughout April he repeatedly prodded the
oppositionist deputes in the Duma to block the confirmation of Sergei V.
Kirienko as Russia's new prime minister.... Soon thereafter, in an interview
published in Sovetskaia Pravda on May 12, 1998, Ziuganov castigated those
"ideologists of a 'within-system opposition' " (read Marxist reformers) who
found it hard to adjust to this new situation. Even more striking was his
impassioned reiteration of his own particular brand of Russian ethnocentrism.
In a thinly veiled jibe at the Jewish origins of some members of various pro-
Yeltsin circles, he accused the regime of squeezing out ethnic Russians
(russkie) from positions in government, science, medicine, culture, and
diplomacy, and of forcing them to struggle for their very survival. Ziuganov
thereupon designated the slogans of a "national liberation struggle and
resistance to genocide," "the integrity of Russia," and "the Russian idea," as
the banner around which the "overwhelming majority of the people regardless of
ideologies and class interests" would unite. And he implied that all of the
above notions amounted to a "new political doctrine," a new conception of
"Russian [ruskii] socialism."
This report was completed in July 1998. 


Electronic Telegraph (UK)
3 September 1998
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin's mental decline shocks viewers
By Marcus Warren in Moscow 

PRESIDENT Yeltsin is still walking and talking but rarely manages both 
at once and occasionally fails to do either with much conviction.
Once it was his heart, with its irregular rhythm and clogged arteries 
that worried his family, his aides and the West. Now his whole body, and 
the mind inside it, appear to be failing the 67-year-old Russian leader.
His performance at yesterday's press conference with President Clinton 
was shocking only because it was shown live on TV and the most 
embarrassing moments could not be edited out.
The halting rhythm and dull cadences with which he answered the question 
that almost everyone gathered in one of the Kremlin's grandest halls 
wanted to ask were typical of the last few weeks.
Would Mr Yeltsin contemplate nominating anyone other than Viktor 
Chernomyrdin, his first choice, to be prime minister and, if not, was he 
prepared to dissolve the Duma, he was asked.
The Russian president was lost for words. He seemed to have been 
stricken. Seconds ticked away before he attempted a response.
"I have to say . . . (10 second pause) we . . . (five seconds) . . . 
will see . . . quite . . . a lot of events . . . to ensure that we 
achieve those results . . . (nearly 15 seconds). That's all." 
The laughter that greeted this pitiful sight reflected general 
embarrassment. Like someone drifting into senility, Mr Yeltsin then 
ecided that the audience was laughing with, rather than at, him.
The Moscow summit has been rich in such moments. On Tuesday, Mr Clinton 
had to grip his hand to steer him through the protocol.
Doctors suspect Mr Yeltsin may be suffering from one or more of a number 
of ailments, including emphysema and Parkinson's disease. His real 
problem may be old age and wear and tear after decades in the hard 
living, hard drinking world of the Communist Party elite. And there is 
no treatment for that particular condition.


Return to CDI's Home Page  I  Return to CDI's Library