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Johnson's Russia List
6 November 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: U.S. warns Russia on printing money. (Strobe
2. Tom Adshead: Thoughts on Kipp and Sutela in 2460.
3. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, CLINTON'S KASHA NO FOOD FOR REFORM.
4. Robert McIntyre: Russian Mortality Crisis.
5. Dale Herspring: Kipp on Rice.
6. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: Jew-Bashing Isn't
7. Zavtra: General Albert Makashov, "Usurers of Russia" and comment
by Gennadiy Zyuganov. (DJ: Obviously, no approval is implied by
carrying this here.)
8. Reuters: Adam Tanner, Russians survive on as little as $5 a month.
9. AP: Judith Ingram, Moscow Cultural Life Feeling Squeeze.
10. Alexander Nakhimovsky: How to save Russian lives and the American
U.S. warns Russia on printing money
By Carol Giacomo
WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The United States will find it harder to back
International Monetary Fund lending for Russia if the government prints
massive amounts of new roubles, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said
In a speech, he expressed concern that Moscow may repeat past mistakes, like
``the massive printing of money.''
In that case, ``the economic situation will probably get worse before it gets
better and we will be far less able to help Russia through the International
Monetary Fund,'' he said.
Talbott made his comments in a speech prepared for delivery to the World
Affairs Council in Los Angeles. A copy was made available by the State
The adminstration pointman on Russia, he is to make an even more comprehensive
address on Russia on Friday at Stanford Univerity. Officials have said the
second address is expected to contain the strongest U.S. public criticism yet
of Russia's retreat from free-market economics.
In his World Affairs Council speech, Talbott stressed ``the Russians' future
course is no one's choice but their own.''
He spoke a day after the Russian government announced for the first time that
it will not pay its foreign debts next year and will seek to renegotiate the
Russia unveiled a new economic plan last week that calls for greater state
control over the economy and the rouble currency, tax breaks for industry and
some financing from the central bank through printing more money.
It has been criticised privately by U.S. officials and received a chilly
reception from foreign creditors and the Russian press.
An IMF mission left Moscow on Friday, failing to agree on the disbursement of
a previously promised $4.3 billion payment from a $22.6 billion bailout
package agreed in July.
The IMF will remain open to new talks, but Moscow must come up with a
realistic 1999 budget and a ``program which could be supported by the
international community,'' the IMF said.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presaged the hardening U.S. line when
she said in Chicago on Oct. 2 that Washington was not reassured that Russia's
new government had a cogent economic plan and believed the crisis there would
not soon abate.
In a speech, she said: ``The best way to help Russia now is not necessarily to
send more money.''
``More big bailouts are not by themselves going to restore investor confidence
in Russia ... In the long run, the gap between Russia's needs and its
resources must be met not by foreign bailouts but by foreign investment,'' she
In his speech, Talbott found some ``good news'' in Russia despite the problems
because the country ``so far at least, is grappling with its economic dilemma
in a democratic fashion.
New Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and his government have ``cut deals, made
compromises and embarked on programmes for which they will be held accountable
to voting citizens in parliamentary elections a year from now and in a
presidential election scheduled for the year 2000,'' he said.
He also predicted that if Russia ``can avoid the twin dangers of economic and
political meltdown,'' there is a ``good chance'' Russians will eventually
overcome the hardships they now face.
From: Tom Adshead <TAdshead@ufg.ru>
Subject: Thoughts on Kipp and Sutela in 2460
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998
I would like to thank Messrs Kipp and Sutela for their very interesting and
thought provoking pieces. Kipp's argument that the focus should be on
institutions rather than people is very compelling, and Sutela's observation
that New Deal style policies cannot work when there is no effective capital
stock is also compelling.
From my point of view as an equity analyst, both of these points highlight
what is wrong with the Russian companies that I cover. The problem is that
there is no feedback mechanism to make management alter bad policies. For
instance, our old friend Magnitogorsk just announced that they are going to
spend tens of millions of dollars to build a pipe plant. Not a bad idea in
itself, and good to see them going up the value chain. However, they could
buy Chelyabinsk pipe plant for $25 mn. This would give them more, for less.
The frustration is that there is no way for outside shareholders to
challenge a decision like this. One of the problems of Russian industry is
not just the lack of investment, but the way that capacity is used. There
are a few good managers in Russian industry, such as Bogdanov at Surgut, and
Samshov in Kandalaksha, who have taken not especially good capital and
turned it into good companies. The secret is good management, and not
stealing. Our problem is that there is no way to get rid of bad managers. So
even if there is more demand, or more investment funds, either companies
will be unable to satisfy this demand or they will misuse the capital. This,
I think, is a paraphrase of what Mr Sutela was saying.
This is where Kipp's arguments come in. We need institutions, like courts,
and police, which can enforce what is not too bad a legal system. The
problem is that there is a strong bias in the international aid community
against supporting government institutions. The boards of the World Bank and
the EBRD do not want to see their money going to finance government
spending, mainly on ideological grounds. It's actually a reasonable view,
namely that money that goes into government is gone, whereas if you finance
a company or a power station, you can at least point to something physical.
However, given that so much money has been wasted, maybe it now makes sense
to try and waste it in a less wasteful way. Support for institutions is less
sexy, and gives much less in the way of concrete results but these things do
not build themselves. In fact, they are much harder for the market to build
spontaneously than physical infrastructure. If you want them built quickly,
then they need resources. So my suggestion would be for donors to cut their
losses, and focus aid on providing infrastructure spending, and even
salaries for the judiciary, the tax collectors, and law enforcement. If all
you do is make those jobs attractive enough, so that losing them is
unattractive, then people may stop taking bribes.
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
The Moscow Tribune, November 6, 1998
CLINTON'S KASHA NO FOOD FOR REFORM
Whatever ingredients President Bill Clinton and his advisor on
Russia, Strobe Talbott, stir into the Russian policy pot, they always end up
with kasha. That's the Russian word for porridge, and metaphor for mess.
Take the latest Clinton offer of bulk commodities and concessional
credits for meat purchases, followed by Strobe Talbott's lecture on economic
reform -- you have to wonder whether Washington has learned any
Russian lessons at all.
When keeping President Boris Yeltsin in power was the sole objective
of American policy, it was understandable that Clinton, Talbott and
others would utter a lot of nonsense in defence of reform. Even when they knew
that reform meant corruption, that was what held Yeltsin's consitutency
together; what drove the printing presses; what kept trade and finance from
Now that Russia's trade and finance have collapsed, and President Yeltsin
is on his last legs, the United States faces its first serious choice in
Russia since 1991. That year, the U.S. chose Yeltsin in place of Mikhail
Gorbachev. Now the choice is who should replace Yeltsin.
If blandishments about food aid, channelled through a system of favoritism,
kickbacks, and phony invoices, is Clinton's idea of a sweetener,
while Talbott issues the refusal of the global financial community to
refinance Russian debt, what does that say about America's political
preferences between Russia's presidential candidates, Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov; the Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov; and the Governor of
Krasnoyarsk, Alexander Lebed?
Even if they are the alternatives to the Communist Party candidate, not
one of them is likely to be persuaded that Clinton and Talbott know
what they're talking about. They, and we, are more likely to suspect the
Administration really wants to see discredited reformers Yegor Gaidar,
Anatoly Chubais, and Sergei Kirienko return to power.
But does anyone in Washington seriously believe reform in Russia means
those men are electable? Or that their chances will improve if
conditions in Russia become even worse than they are today?
Before Clinton calls for the National Intelligence Estimate on
that one, there's a question about reform that both the Russian political
establishment, and the American one, should be addressing first.
This is the question of reform of the Russian constitution. It's simple:
Should the powers the new president of Russia will exercise be the same ones
Yeltsin took, after he blasted the Supreme Soviet to bits?
Remember that the idea of presidential power in Russia was a creation of
arch-courtiers like Alexander Yakovlev and Sergei Shakhrai, advisors to
President Gorbachev and President Yeltsin. For similar reasons in different
political circumstances, they thought change in Russia required giving their
boss unlimited power.
The Communists have almost consistently stuck to the old slogan, "All power
to the soviets!" Today, that means stripping the feeble, discredited
Yeltsin of powers he abused, so that a healthy, popular successor could not
hope to start from the same point.
What do healthy, popular candidates like Primakov, Luzhkov, and
Lebed think about constitutional reform, if it means sharing the power they
hope to win, even before they get their hands on it?
And what does Clinton answer to the same question? Is he so
confident he will get the new man into the Kremlin, he would prefer
him to rule according to the Yeltsin constitution? Or is Clinton unsure
enough that he would prefer a constitutional reform to add new checks and
balances between the presidency and parliament, as an insurance policy for
It's probably too late for these questions to be answered democratically
by the Russian people, voting in a referendum. That's because Russian law
prohibits a referendum being held at the same time as an election. By the
time enough of a consensus could be formed to frame the referendum,
the campaigns for the Duma and for the presidential election
will be well under way.
Then, as now, the politicians who think they can win those elections
will be reluctant to divide the spoils beforehand.
And yet, without a constitutional shift of powers, there is almost no
chance of restoring the rule of law in Russia, or limiting the abuse
of power that has brought the country to its state today. For the moment
though, only the Communists have the ideological motive, as well as the
political weakness, to support this reform. Everyone else, including
Clinton and Talbott, prefers to put it off, while talking up economic
reform instead. Now that this nonsense can no longer mean the re-election of
President Yeltsin, there is no sense, no principle, and no prudence to
justify putting constitutional reform after economic reform on Russia's list
There is time, and there are enough votes, to implement this reform
in the Duma, the Federation Council, and in two-thirds of the Russian
federation's subjects. But this presupposes a genuine consensus between
parliament and government on power-sharing and accountability. Gorbachev,
Yeltsin, and their courtiers always stood in the way of that,
because they had other ideas of what to do with state power and state
If Primakov, Luzhkov and Lebed are in opposition to them, let
them declare, quickly, where they stand on constitutional reform; and let
them throw their forces into the battle to get the reform enacted before
it's too late for Russia, again.
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998
From: "Robert McIntyre" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russian Mortality Crisis
WIDER Research on the Russian Mortality Crisis (re: Ray Thomas
Listed at the end of this note are references to several studies done
at the United Nations University/World Institute for Development
Economic Research on exactly the question Ray Thomas underlines in
#2456/2. Thomas reports on a paper delivered by Martin McKee and
notes that the connection between unemployment, stress, alcohol
consumption and the possibly special Russian prevalence of binge
drinking, and overall mortality.
I simply list my interpretation of several of the provocative findings
of this research: (1) the mortality rise is concentrated among "prime
working age" men, with little negative effect on the elderly and even
some improvement in child health (both surprising in light of the
collapse of the health care system); (2) that carefully constructed
comparisons of other countries undergoing dramatic labor market
disruption show similar results in Argentina and East Germany (in the
first case in the absence of an adequate social support system, in the
latter with the replacement of one system with very different one,
sharp rejection of prevailing norms and values and large-scale forced
early retirement as an unemployment control tactic) and no reaction at
all in Finland (continuity within an extensive social-democratic
welfare state, but in the presence of a heavy-drinking male
sub-culture). Baltic and Eastern/Central European countries more or
less fit into this overall pattern.
This is a causally complex matter that is treated systematically in
the studies cited below. One conclusion that connects directly with
the question raised by Ray Thomas is that what happened in Russia is
best understood as an "adaptation crisis in which uncontrolled stress
played a central role". A rise in the prevalence of binge drinking
makes sense under these conditions and its mortality effects are made
larger by a sharp fall in the relative price of alcohol (after the
abandonment of Gorbachev period anti-alcohol policies), lower quality
alcohol, and the deterioration of the emergency medical system.
G.A. Cornia, "Labor Market Shock, Psychosocial Stress and the
Transition's Mortality Crisis", Research Paper #4, October 1996
G. A. Cornia and R. Paniccia, The Transition's Population Crisis: An
Econometric Investigation of Nuptiality, Fertility and Mortality in
Severely Distressed Economies", Moct-Most, no. 6, 1996
R. Paniccia, "Short- and Long-term Determinants of Cardiovascular
Mortality: An econometric Assessment of the Working Age Population in
Russia, 1965-1995", Research Paper #14, June 1997
and the V. M. Shkolnikov and G. A. Cornia chapter "Population Crisis
and Rising Mortality in Transitional Russia", in Cornia (editor) The
Transition Mortality Crisis (manuscript, 1998).
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998
From: Dale R Herspring <email@example.com>
Subject: Kipp on Rice
I would like to associate myself with Jake Kipp's comments regarding Condi
Rice's lament for a "liberal Russia." To begin with, I am not certain
that a liberal Russia was ever in the cards. I think that is
wishful thinking -- pushed in large part by an academic and governmental
bureaucracy -- that thinks that the rest of the world is waiting to
adopt American -- or at least liberal institutions. It is part of the
human rights mentality that sees only one possible definition of the term.
Whether we like it or not, Russia has a very different cultural, and
historial political culture and while there are many academics (and
especially political scientists; a community to which I belong) who seem
to think that rationality is the same the world over and it is our task to
make sure that others behave in the same fashion that we do, I am not
sure that their suggestions make a lot of sense.
Besides, as one of my former USG bosses used to point out, lamenting does
not really solve any problems (he is now in Bosnia trying to help put the
country back together). Regardless of what we want for Russia or what
Russians want for their country, we must deal with reality -- and the fact
is that the situation in Russia is getting worse daily. Furthermore, it
bothers me to see someone who made her reputation on communist militares
(Condi's book on the Czechoslovak military remains a classic) to take such
a simplistic view of Lebed. I agree with Jake, he is a lot more complex
than Condi seems to assume. It is time for us to become a bit more
sophisticated in our view of military officers -- or in this case former
military officers. Not all of them are Neandrathals. What would Lebed
do if he comes to power? Given the chaos in Russia I suspect he would
crack down hard. But then I think that whomever takes over will do the
same thing. Maybe if we had not been pushing the liberal agenda in both
the economic and political spheres Russia might not have ended up in the
mess it is in. As one of my colleagues put it, "we are not to blame, they
made their own choices." This is certainly true, but we and some of our
mindless economists did not help matters -- in fact, their insensitivity
to the culture and history of Russia only made matters worse.
November 6, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: Jew-Bashing Isn't Hot News
By Leonid Bershidsky
Russia's most influential TV journalist, NTV president Yevgeny Kiselyov, gave
an unusual interview to Interfax Wednesday, slamming the Communist Party for
anti-Semitism and for what he called its hatred of people in general.
"Voting in the State Duma, where the Communists were practically unanimous in
refusing to condemn the anti-Semitic, misanthropic remarks of General [Albert]
Makashov, showed this party's true face," Kiselyov told Interfax. "This is the
end of the myth of the Communist Party's internationalism."
Kiselyov's hatred of communists is common knowledge, and it does not prevent
Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov from appearing quite often on Kiselyov's
current affairs show "Itogi" - who is Zyuganov to refuse free publicity? But
his harsh statement to Interfax might seem a bit much: After all, one expects
a journalist at least to put on a show of impartiality.
Yet I cannot say I disapprove of Kiselyov's harsh words. You cannot go far
enough in criticizing the Communists after their refusal to seriously censure
Makashov, a member of the Communist faction in the Duma, for claiming in two
public speeches last month that zhidy, a slur for Jews,were responsible for
Russia's economic problems and so should be rounded up and jailed.
Communist leaders have refused to criticize Makashov for more than
"hotheadedness." Zyuganov has mumbled something about the need for a "public
dialogue" on the problems he thinks Russians and Jews have with each other. He
has also expressed the view that there were too many people with non-Russian
names in previous governments.
Anti-Semitism is a crime under Russian law. The Communists' lenience toward
Makashov makes them accomplices to the crime. And it's absolutely right that a
journalist should get excited and say the things Kiselyov said. Readers, who
are also voters, should be provided with the information that a certain group
of politicians consists entirely of anti-Semites. They should also be made
aware these politicians are dangerous.
The problem is, in Moscow only Jews, or people whose employers are Jews, worry
about things like Makashov's "yid" remarks. Kiselyov, of course, is employed
by Media-MOST, a company owned by Vladimir Gusinsky, a prominent Jewish
activist and a co-owner of Israel's Maariv media group.
NTV has been raising hell about anti-Semitism in Russia for some time, but it
found little support in other media.
ORT television news anchor Sergei Dorenko once let loose a stinging tirade
against anti-Semites when his boss, Boris Berezovsky, turned out to have dual
Russian-Israeli citizenship and his critics objected to his appointment as
deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council.
"Consider me a Jew," Dorenko suggested, pugnaciously offering to take on
anyone who had a problem with Jews.
ORT's director general, Igor Shabdurasulov, lashed out at the Communists'
anti-Semitism Thursday, but Berezovsky's newspapers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta and
Noviye Izvestia, have not had much to say on the Makashov matter this week.
Berezovsky is not Jewish in the strict sense of the word - he is an Orthodox
Christian. It looks like he just does not want to stress his Jewish origins as
much as Gusinsky does it. Or maybe Berezovsky thinks the less one talks about
anti-Semitism, the less hostile attention is drawn to Jews.
The general reaction of the Russian press to the Duma debate on Makashov and
the Communists' obvious official anti-Semitism has been mild. The stories
published in national newspapers Thursday, the day after the debate, were
small, and no one saw fit to offer any analysis of the obvious discrepancy
between the Communists' declared "internationalism" and their hatred of a
particular religious and ethnic group.
Only the daily Kosmomolskaya Pravda used the word "disgrace" when speaking of
the day's events at the Duma, which included Vladimir Zhirinovsky stating that
the Jews are "very strong, talented and wealthy and they can compensate for
the moral damage they incurred [from Makashov's remarks] by taking a nice
Of course, the daily Segodnya also described the debate as an "ungainly
sight." It is owned by Gusinsky and edited by Mikhail Berger, who is Jewish.
I am Jewish, too, and I guess it would be obvious to the Communists why I am
making a fuss about their Jew-hatred. It may also explain my inability to
understand why reporters with no Jewish roots and no Jewish publishers do not
make much of a fuss. Forlornly, I still think anti-Semitism should be equally
ugly to everyone, regardless of ethnicity.
Makashov Blames Crisis on Jews
Zavtra, No. 42
20 October 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by General Albert Makashov: "Usurers of Russia";
and boxed item by Gennadiy Zyuganov
Life in our country is getting worse and worse. Never before
has it been this bad in Russia. Even under the Mongol yoke.
Who is to blame?
The executive branch, the bankers, and the mass media are to
blame. Usury, deceit, corruption, and thievery are flourishing in
the country. That is why I call the reformers yids.
Who are these Jews?
In English they are called Jews, in French--Juif, and in
Yid is not a nationality, yid is a profession. Balzac's
Gobsek is a Juif, the Gogolian skinflint Plyuskhin is a yid. These
images have become a permanent part of world literature. Whoever
reads Pushkin, Dostoyevskiy, Gogol, or Shevchenko knows no other
word to designate the ravager, the bloodsucker feeding on the
misfortunes of other people. They drink the blood of the indigenous
peoples of the state; they are destroying industry and agriculture.
They are destroying the Russian army and navy and its strategic
nuclear forces. They accept the population's money to be kept in
the banks and then give it away, leaving nothing for funerals, for
rent, or for old age. Having taken over television, radio, and the
press, they do not give a damn about the history and culture of the
country that nurtured them, saved them from the furnaces and gas
chambers of fascism, and took responsibility for educating
They grabbed whatever they could, and today they own 60
percent of Russia's capital. The concepts "Zionist" and "yid" are
inseparable. The intelligentsia say "Zionist" but the people use
Pushkin's word: "yid." The concepts of Zionism and fascism are
inseparable, and when they scare people with Russian fascism, it is
the same as when a thief shouts: "Stop that thief!"
In all the synagogues, the heders and yeshivas, the Center for
the Study of Judaism, the Jewish University imeni Maymonid, in the
teachings of the rabbis and the Jewish teachings they read the Torah
and the Talmud and speak about the superiority of "God's chosen"
Jewish people over all the others, including Russian. And nobody
from the Ministry of Justice threatens them.
Since 1989, when I went into public politics, many people have
begun to claim me as a fellow tribesman. Yes, there is Prince
Makashvili Street in Georgia. At the banquet table they called me
prince. When I was arrested in Armenia the Karabakh committee in
Azerbaijan called me Alibek Makashev, and simple, honest Armenians
call me Albert Makashanyan. Today people ask me how the internal
affairs minister of Chechnya, Kazbek Makhashev, is related to me.
Russian historians tell me of a pre-Orthodox Russian fertility god
There are many of us Makashovs in Voronezh, Saratov,
Stalingrad, Penza, and Tambov Oblasts, especially in the Khoper
My father, Mikhail Ivanovich Makashev was born in 1914 in the
village of Rogachevka. He went in as a junior commander in the
Finnish War and came out of the Patriotic War as a senior
lieutenant. My grandfather, Ivan Vasilyevich Makashev, was a
Cossack of the Khoper Military District of the Great Don Forces. He
fought in World War I in the Caucasus. My mother, Anna Fedorovna
Borisova, was born in 1917 in the village of Krasnyy Log in Voronezh
Oblast. She completed the sixth grade and at the age of 12 became
an orphan after a smallpox epidemic. She was taken in by a country
doctor, Natalya Vasilyevna. When my mother was 14 years old she
went to work giving smallpox vaccinations.
The name Albert was given to me by the mistress, Natalya
Vasilyevna, when she was reading the George Sand novel "Consuelo" in
1938. It is a good thing that during that time of friendship with
Germany they did not call me Adolph. I was christened Dmitriy by
old-rite Christian ladies in Krasnyy Log in honor of St. Dmitriy
Donskoy. So I am the "son of a cook." I was reared and educated by
the Soviet regime. I graduated the Academy imeni Frunze and the
General Staff Academy with gold medals. I worked my way up from
platoon commander (commander of a remote intelligence group) to
commander of two military districts. Without protection and without
I was an internationalist until at one congress they called
out: "Citizens Arbatov, Korotich, Gelman and Ko..." There were so
many little mutts nipping at my heels at that time. I survived.
The people elected me deputy to the legislative chamber.
On 10 October the puppeteer Shenderovich was playing around
with my name and patronymic, hinting that I was related to Albert
Einstein. To hell with him, Shenderovich, although he is not so
inoffensive, especially during serious times. Shenderovich jokes
around, he likes the chaos in Russia. And he is the one who called
for people to vote for Yeltsin.
I am a Russian general. When I see what the cosmopolitans are
doing with my Motherland--Russia (the Soviet Union)--it makes my
blood boil! The little devils "got me" with their threats in
connection with the events of October 1993. I said that even after
I died I would take at least a dozen yids with me to the great
beyond. An eye for an eye!
We have figured out who is to blame. Now--what shall we do
Every politician, every prime minister and minister, every
banker and journalist should personally evaluate this
In the future or, better, now, we should establish
proportional representation of each nationality in all branches of
Usurers have never been liked in any place or at any time.
Especially today, when the Russian people are waking up.
Gennadiy Zyuganov: The essence and spirit of our party
lies in friendship of peoples and respect for each individual,
irrespective of nationality. Even Makashov will obey the party's
demands. But, on the other hand, there is not a single audience
today--I emphasize, not a single one--that does not ask questions
about the subject of the Jews. And this subject should alarm all of
us. It is no secret that the personnel policy pursued by Yeltsin
violated the principle of national representation in all our
country's enforcement agencies, the economy, finances, and
journalism. In a multinational country it is absolutely necessary
to adhere to those principles whereby none of the peoples feels
encroached upon. Today it is the Russian people themselves who feel
encroached upon. For the first time in their thousand-year history
they have found themselves divided into pieces by sovereign borders.
There are 25 million Russians who have been left outside the borders
of the Russian Federation! Russophobia has reached such extremes
that, for example, a certain Kreder degraded the Russian people by
erasing from the history textbook the battles of Stalingrad and
Orel-Kursk and well as the entire historic feat of our fathers on
the Eastern front.
As for the journalists, things have reached the point
where even the anniversary of Valentin Rasputin--that great Russian
writer--was not mentioned on a single program! The same thing is
true of Mikhail Nozhkin, Aristarkh Livanov... Many talented Russian
writers and artists are simply not shown on television! Let us get
everything back to normal--and there will be no more statements like
From the television program "Akuly Politpera," 19 October
FEATURE - Russians survive on as little as $5 a month
By Adam Tanner
STAVROPOL, Russia, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Yuliya Simenyak, a full-time secretary
who makes out the schedules at the local university, earns 90 roubles ($5.50)
a month, yet continues to live a decent if spartan life.
She is just one of millions of Russians whose pay cheques are a pittance but
are yet able to make ends meet in a time of what statistics suggest is a deep
``I live with my mother who has a salary of 500 roubles ($31) a month,''
Simenyak said. ``We only have enough money for food.''
``You see this chain around my neck? I bought it long ago, as I did the dress
I am wearing,'' she added.
Despite the country's crisis, the legendary Russian ability to endure hardship
has leant a semblance of normality to Stavropol, a southern city surrounded by
agricultural land where former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began his
Hundreds of vendors at the central market offer a rich variety of fruit,
vegetables, fish and meat. Stores on the city's main Karl Marx Boulevard
remain well stocked with imported televisions and Nike sneakers.
``I often wonder why things look as good as they do,'' said Alexei Selyukov,
the Stavropol region's chief prosecutor, referring to life after the August
devaluation of the rouble and near collapse of the country's banking system.
HIDDEN RESOURCES OR THE ROAD RUNNER THEORY
Local officials and residents have two explanations for the semblance of
normality amid deep economic crisis.
One explanation is that Russians have hidden resources -- significant assets
beyond their regular salaries, from side businesses and jobs, to savings under
their mattresses and food stocks from garden plots.
``The statistics written on paper are far from the truth,'' said Viktor
Cherepanov, deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin's representative office in
``In the city, a store clerk might earn 300 roubles ($19) on paper, but more
is coming directly from the owner,'' he said.
``In rural areas, farm workers have a very large additional income from their
side efforts such as raising cows and selling milk or chickens and selling
Many city families benefit as well. More than 87 percent have garden plots
outside town where they grow food.
Larisa Pashena, who owns a fabric store in town, said her garden crop was
essential to her daily living, supplying vegetables to pickle for the winter.
``We have many jars at home filled with cucumbers, tomatoes and other food,''
she said. ``We grow or buy them in summer when they are cheap and save them up
for the winter.
``In the West, you go to your weekend house to rest. Our weekend consists of
going to the garden to cultivate potatoes,'' said Pyotr Akinin, head of the
economics department at Stavropol State University.
These plots are so vital to Russia's food supply that even though they take up
just 2.6 percent of cultivated land, they produce half of the country's food,
according to the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation.
``Stavropol is better off than many regions because it lives off fruitful
land,'' said Cherepanov. ``People in our region have always lived well because
they have always had their own plots to grow on.''
But apart from hidden wealth, there is another explanation as to why Stavropol
still seems so normal. Call it the ``Road Runner'' theory.
Like a character in a slapstick animated cartoon, Russia's economy ran off the
edge of a cliff in August, but it will take a while to look down, realise
there is nothing below but air, and drop into the canyon.
``Things may look normal now, but in a few months, after the winter, it's
likely to get a lot worse,'' said Alexei Sokolenko, a 60-year-old artist who
earns his living teaching students as he rarely sells any paintings now.
TRADE LIVES ON
Shop assistants say the people of Stavropol are still shopping, buying even
Grocery store worker Valentina Chernova hawks U.S.-produced vitamin
supplements she says will improve your sex life.
``One pill of this and you'll feel the result in an hour and half or two
hours; it's a super stimulant!'' said the middle-aged woman, pointing to a jar
of pills costing 640 roubles, more than many people make in a month.
``Everyone wants to live a full life so they are still buying them anyway,''
Chernova said. ``Of course, on my salary I cannot afford them so I have never
Olesiya Gerasmova, 22, who works in a store selling imported perfumes and
toiletries, said sales have risen since the August crisis because people want
to look and feel good in hard times.
There are also other reasons why the August banking crisis and devaluation,
which cut the value of the rouble by a third, may not deliver a mortal blow to
Food prices remain low, with a tasty loaf of bread costing about a dime (10
cents). And of the few people who had money in banks, 91 percent had accounts
with Sberbank, the state savings bank which is still working, according to
Governor Alexander Chernogorov.
Clearly, there are signs of hardship in Stavropol. Some residents gather
around a noticeboard wearing signs around their necks hoping to sell
apartments or other property. Roads and buildings are in need of repair.
Some poeple have cut back on what they consume. ``In mornings I used to have
coffee and juice. Now I drink only Russian tea,'' said Yelena Stovburova, who
works in a stationery store.
Yet amid difficulty, many keep their sense of humour.
``I have some good news and some bad,'' a smiling aide to the governor
announced recently when walking into a room of several government workers.
``The good news is that Wednesday is pay day. The bad news is that it is only
Stavropol Mayor Mikhail Kuzmin's explanation of the current economic situation
mixes the ``hidden resources'' and ``Road Runner'' models.
``Externally, things seem normal,'' he said in an interview. ``But of course
people are worse off today. We are still going forward on inertia, including
``Everyone survives in their own way,'' he continued. ``But if nothing
changes, then things will only get worse.''
Moscow Cultural Life Feeling Squeeze
By JUDITH INGRAM
November 5, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) -- As the lights go up, technicians are still adjusting the
pulleys that carry the curtains and backdrops up and down. They test the
voyage of a small crescent moon across the stage, and make way for the young
couple who open Anton Chekhov's play, ``The Seagull.''
Director Iosif Raikhelgauz paces below, stopping short to kick over a basket
of props left lying in the wrong place and badger the troupe about showing up
``From now on, we concentrate on the production,'' he implores, glaring at the
actors who are still ambling into the theater. ``You can do your talking some
other time. You can make the rounds of the shops some other time, too.''
It's the final stretch of rehearsals for next month's premiere at the School
of Contemporary Drama, one of dozens of theaters partly funded by the Moscow
Despite Russia's economic crisis, the theater season is off to a roaring
start, with two high-profile productions of ``Hamlet'' and a series of well-
received premieres playing to packed houses.
Music lovers are likewise filling concert halls, and spectators are lining up
for museum and gallery openings. Ticket sales haven't declined noticeably,
probably because -- unlike most everything else in Russia -- ticket prices
haven't gone up and still cost only a dollar or two.
Yet the country's grinding economic problems have led to a reduction in
corporate sponsorship that had been replacing dwindling state funding in
recent years. The sponsorship has helped Moscow maintain its world-class
cultural scene in the post-Soviet era, but even the most renowned institutions
in Russia's richest city are now facing cutbacks.
The Tretyakov state art gallery, home to some of Russia's richest treasures,
has been receiving only enough funding from the Cultural Ministry over the
last year to cover salaries. It owes $860,000 for utilities, cleaning and
security services. Only the intervention of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has kept
security guards on the job despite their lack of pay.
The gallery has built up an impressive army of international corporations and
Russian firms to support it. But with the economic crisis, the support is
evaporating, and the gallery has already had to postpone the opening of a new
children's wing and forego catalogs for two autumn exhibits.
``If suddenly the sponsorship stops, and I mean Russian sponsors, the museum
simply won't survive,'' said Valentin Rodionov, the Tretyakov's director.
``Because of the economic slide, I don't expect there will be much economic
activity here. And that worries us a lot.''
The Russian National Orchestra, under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev, is another
cultural institution that has thrived on corporate patronage -- and been
completely independent of state and city funding. Its backers include an art
foundation in the United States and corporate sponsors such as Chevron, Amoco
and United Technologies.
Even so, it has been forced to cancel two concerts this fall for lack of
``Our Russian sponsors are still there, but how much we'll be able to work
with them in the future, I just don't know,'' said Marina Makelyan, the
spokeswoman for the orchestra.
Artists and cultural managers are also worried they'll lose the following
they've built up over the years.
``Our audiences are middle-class, youth, intellectuals. We have a duty to
support them by keeping up our premieres, which is hard without government
support,'' said Marina Druzhinina, the director of the School of Contemporary
Last year, the city budget provided for new productions and equipment, and
capital repairs for the seafoam-green, 19th-century building where the theater
Now, the theater's cut of the city budget is just enough to cover salaries and
utility payments -- and they're already a month late.
``We're living on crumbs. If we want to be able to afford more than a loaf of
bread, we're going to have to earn it ourselves,'' Druzhinina says. ``That
means working harder and finding sponsors.''
This season, Druzhinina is launching a search for a new kind of funder, one
who will advance the theater enough money to stage a new production and recoup
the investment a year after the show closes.
First, though, she has to get the ensemble to agree to make sacrifices beyond
accepting a shrinking real income. Already, most of the actors and other
theater workers have jobs on the side.
``They'll be required to play as many performances as possible to return the
money, and go on tour so that we can earn more, because we don't have a big
theater here,'' she said. ``It's a huge risk; as a government-funded theater,
we've never had to do such things before.''
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998
From: Alexander Nakhimovsky <snakhimovsky@CENTER.COLGATE.EDU>
Subject: How to save Russian lives and the American soul
How to save Russian lives and the American soul
This post is prompted by two news items. According to today's NYTimes, the
Russian government admitted that it had about two weeks' supply of food.
According to Reuters (JRL 2460, #7), the US is ready to "provide at least
$500 million in grain and meat to help Russia through the winter, provided
Moscow promises the aid package will be fairly distributed… That means
making sure there is a 'sound system for distributing, monitoring and
counting the food,' a White House spokesman said."
Situation on the ground.
The US government still seems unable to understand that the only organized,
motivated, well-paid, and well-armed force in Russia today is the organized
crime. Arraigned against it are:
· corrupt and underpaid government bureaucracy, both local and federal
· poorly paid and outgunned police force, well-penetrated by the enemy
· slightly better paid but probably even deeper penetrated security forces
· well-intentioned but completely unprotected judges, the press and NGOs
· a desperately poor and humiliated Russian army
· a dispirited, hungry and exhausted population
Given this "correlation of forces," who is going to "make sure"? The US
government's demands for a sound system of distribution literally add
insult to injury, because (perhaps out of the best of intentions) the US
policies have contributed to the massive transfer of wealth and power to
The American soul.
We've heard on several occasions from Dr. Stephen Cohen about how America
risks losing its soul in Russia. He has a point: in a well-defined and
measurable way, the current rulers of Russia have less soul than their
Communist predecessors. Under Brezhnev, the children of Norilsk went south
every summer. Under the new management, with which the US is associated,
they stay home. However, he seems to suggest that the way for the US to
regain its soul is to give Russians a lot of money, forgive them all their
debts, and otherwise leave them alone. This is wrong, on both counts.
Russia cannot save herself alone, and you cannot get your soul back for a
lot of money. What is needed is a simple, direct, visible, joint action.
Joint with whom?
Look at the list above. The only force that is not outgunned by the mafia
and not penetrated by it is the army. It has the organizational
wherewithal. It covers the entire country. It has airfields, trucks and
helicopters. It also has little to do.
Make it a joint US-Russian or NATO-Russian military exercise, "Feed the
Hungry," perhaps within the Partnership for Peace framework. Fly the food
in US military cargo planes to Russian military airfields to be reloaded to
Russian military trucks and helicopters and distributed by armed convoys.
If the soldiers steal a little food for themselves, so be it; Russian
soldiers deserve more food than they get. And if they are caught selling
stolen food to the hungry, they can be tried by a military tribunal,
without going through the overworked and easily intimidated civilian courts.
Is it realistic?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Without adequate food and
fuel assistance (and this includes distribution), a lot of people will die
this coming winter. Especially vulnerable are those over 70, who went into
battle in the Great Patriotic War. On the Russian side, many in the
civilian government will be opposed, but Primakov just might go for it,
especially if the West also provides food, pay, and spare parts for the
There may be some in the US who will oppose any help to the Russian army.
This would be misguided. The West needs a strong Russian army. The West
needs a Russian army that has high morale and good training, so it can take
good care of its nuclear arcenal. And it will do wonders for the American
soul, if instead of an investment banker, the US is represented by an army
sergeant unloading food from a US military plane.
Computer Science Department