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Johnson's Russia List
4 December 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Hundreds Pay Emotional Tribute to Hunger Strike "Martyr."
2. Reuters: Top U.S. officials to visit Russia next week.
3. New York Daily News: Lars-Erik Nelson, Let's Buy The Russian Army.
4. Reuters: Russian minister, US officials discuss START-2.
5. Washington Post: David Kramer, Pipeline Dreams In the Caspian.
6. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, THE X IN UNEXIMBANK.
7. New book: Pekka Sutela, The Road to the Russian Market Economy.
8. IntellectualCapital.com: Richard Pipes, Some Good -- But Mostly Bad --
News From Russia.
9. Elena Sokova, The Prospects for a Democratic Coalition.
10. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: TV Center's Soviet
11. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Web site puts top Russians
12. Vladimir Shlapentokh: Reply to Abraham Brumberg on Galina
Hundreds Pay Emotional Tribute to Hunger Strike "Martyr"
ULYANOVSK, Russia, Dec. 03, 1998 -- (Agence France Presse) Around 1,500
family, neighbors and pupils took part in an emotional funeral Thursday for
a Russian school teacher who died during a mass hunger-strike to protest
Aleksander Motorin, a 43-year-old veteran of the Afghan conflict, died on
Wednesday after a 10-day fast to wring promised funds from Moscow, prompting
the media to dub him as the first "martyr" of Russia's economic crisis.
Hundreds of sympathizers from the housing estate served by School Number
20 where Motorin taught accompanied the coffin, which remained open in line
with Orthodox Church tradition up to the hearse.
A military band played Chopin's funeral march as the cortege moved off.
Motorin became a teacher after leaving the army following the Soviet Union's
withdrawal from Afghanistan.
At the Arkhangelsk cemetery six kilometers (three miles) away, a guard of
honor fired a volley of shots over the grave in a tribute to the former army
"He was a very good teacher. Everyone loved him," his pupils said.
A Communist Party official at the cemetery urged mourners to continue the
fight to rescue Russia's economy, whose perennial crisis deepened over the
summer when the ruble plunged and the government defaulted on its debts.
The primary school teacher, who earned 400 rubles ($23) a month, was the
first reported victim of protests which have swept Russia as the
government's wage arrears continue to mount.
Motorin, a father of two, had been refusing food for 10 days and died at
his home in this Volga river region.
He and hundreds of colleagues in the city -- the birthplace of
revolutionary leader Lenin -- had been protesting salary arrears dating back
Some 450 teachers from 10 schools and colleges at Ulyanovsk decided 11
days ago to go on hunger strike after regular strike action had failed to
push the authorities to pay up.
Last week their numbers were down to 320 as more than 100, already
weakened by privation, dropped out for medical reasons and seven were
Emergency funds announced by Moscow for the teachers in the town had still
not arrived Tuesday, Russian television station reported.
Increasingly desperate state employees, hurt by prices which have soared
since the summer financial crisis, have increasingly resorted to hunger
strikes to highlight their plight.
More than 27,000 teachers throughout Russia were on strike in November
over unpaid wages.
Hospital and emergency service workers in the Amursk area and Khabarovsk
in Russia's Far East, have gone on hunger strike to press for wage payments,
the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Valentina Matviyenko, the deputy prime minister for social affairs,
admitted a month ago that the government would be unable to make good wage
arrears by year's end, despite a promise by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
On Oct. 1 public sector wage arrears stood at 88.1 billion rubles ($5.16
billion), according to official figures.
Top U.S. officials to visit Russia next week
WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Senior officials from the U.S. Treasury and
State Department will visit Moscow next week for talks with Russian leaders,
administration officials said on Thursday.
A State Department official said foreign policy and economic issues would both
be on the agenda.
"It's part of the regular pattern of consultation on foreign policy and the
whole range of issues ... That would include economic matters," the official
He said Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott would travel to Russia on Dec
11-12. A Treasury official said deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers
would also be on the trip.
Russia, which devalued its rouble currency and defaulted on some debts in
August, has been holding talks with officials from the International Monetary
Fund, but there has been no agreement on the resumption of payments from a $23
billion loan agreed before the default but now suspended.
The IMF, seeking advice on how to resolve the economic woes, invited
government officials, academics and politicians to a "brainstorming session"
on the Russian economy last week.
Anders Aslund, a Carnegie Institute economist who participated in the talks,
said there had been "an amazing degree of consensus" on the policy objectives
Russia should adopt -- simplifying a cumbersome tax system, cutting taxes,
fighting corruption and producing realistic budget plans.
But he said there was little chance of new economic policies until there were
new presidential elections.
"I think there is a general sense that you cannot really do much before there
are presidential elections," he said. "The earlier there are elections, the
better, because until then the Russian economy can only go down."
President Boris Yeltsin is currently in hospital recovering from pneumonia. He
has had a string of ailments since undergoing open heart surgery in 1996, but
has given no indication he plans to step down before his term expires in
New York Daily News
November 30, 1998
[for personal use only]
Let's Buy The Russian Army
By Lars-Erik Nelson (email@example.com)
WASHINGTON - As the Christmas shopping season begins, consider this bargain:
For about $1 billion, the price of a single nuclear submarine, we could buy
the Russian Army - the whole thing - and put it on the U.S. payroll.
Mathematically, it's simple. There are slightly more than 1 million Russian
soldiers. Privates receive $4 a month, when and if they get paid at all. For
$48 million a
year, you could hire all the privates, leaving the rest of the $1 billion
for officers, weapons systems and bases.
Why should we do this? In hopes of stopping one of the world's nuclear
powers from disintegrating into anarchy, warlordism, nuclear-weapons
peddling, pogroms and civil war.
At the very least, says former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, we
should send food to the starving Russian soldiers and help to build housing
for displaced troops.
"That is in direct U.S interests," Scowcroft says. "Those nuclear weapons
are still there, and desperate people do desperate things."
Keeping the Russian Army intact also might preserve it as a force for law
and order as Russia descends into anarchy, a prospect highlighted by the
month of democratic legislator Galina Starovoitova in St. Petersburg. A
functioning Russian Army also might be used to deliver food to
bypassing the thieves who have stolen U.S. aid and sold it at a profit.
The Defense Department already is considering shipment of surplus military
rations to Russia to avert starvation in the ranks.
The administration also wants to send $500 million worth of emergency food
relief for civilians, provided that a way can be found to distribute it
fairly and without corruption.
Could the Russian Army be a worthwhile investment for us?
Retired Army Gen. William Odom, who has just written "The Collapse of the
Soviet Military," a revelatory account of the downfall of Communist military
power, believes the once-mighty Red Army is too corrupt to be of much use.
"There is no way you want this military system to survive," he said over the
phone. "One reason the troops are not being paid or fed is that their
officers are just
skimming off the money. The troops are being used as free labor by corrupt
generals who sell them as slave workers to the nearest farm or factory."
As for keeping order as Russia breaks down into anarchy, Odom says, "I don't
know of any units that wouldn't join a pogrom. Imagine if you're a regimental
commander: One-tenth of your recruits have been victims of homosexual rape.
They have been manhandled and brutalized in the barracks [under a vicious
system of hazing]. Your junior officers detest you. You have stolen their mess
allowances. There have been murders and thefts in the unit, and the troops
have been sold as laborers. Are those people going to keep order?"
Odom also thinks it is a mistake to pay the Russians to dismantle their
nuclear weapons. "We're better off if we let the missiles deteriorate in
their silos," he said.
"After about a month without testing, the tritium triggers go bad. Instead,
we're paying the Russians to pull out the fissile material, and if I am an
Iranian scientist with
my own weapons program, I'd much rather buy the fissile material than a
With the murder of Starovoitova, Russian civil society is breaking down
before our eyes. "She was not corrupt," Odom says. "She was one of the few
who understood the meaning of law and rights, and she was leading the charge
against the new anti-Semitism. Her murder was a declaration of war against
To fight that war against an organized, disciplined, armed
nationalist-Communist Russian mafia, the civil government has an
overwhelmed, underpaid police force, an
internal security service of dubious reliability and a collapsing army.
For $1 billion or less, we could buy the army. So could the Russian mafia.
Russian minister, US officials discuss START-2
MOSCOW, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev discussed the
decommissioning of Soviet nuclear weapons with a visiting group of U.S.
congressmen on Thursday.
Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted the Defence Ministry as saying Sergeyev
had informed the group about Russia's progress towards ratification of the
START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Tass and U.S. embassy officials gave no other details of the meeting with the
group of nine members of the U.S. Congress who are in Moscow for consultations
with Russian parliamentarians.
The 1993 START-2 treaty would cut U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear warheads
by up to two thirds from about 6,000 each to no more than 3,500 each by the
year 2007. The U.S. Senate has ratified the treaty but Russia's State Duma, or
lower house, has held back for financial and political reasons.
The Duma has accelerated moves towards ratification of START-2 in the last few
weeks and more progress was reported on Thursday.
Duma officials said the first stage of preparing amendments to a draft bill
for ratification had been completed and the proposed amendments would now be
sent to Duma committees and parliamentary groups for consideration.
Once approved by the Duma, the draft law goes to President Boris Yeltsin for
December 3, 1998
[for personal use only]
Pipeline Dreams In the Caspian
By David J. Kramer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The writer is associate director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The region around the Caspian Sea has assumed a large role in the Clinton
administration's strategy toward Russia and the other new independent states
in the area, as well as Iran and Turkey.
The key to this strategy is promotion by the administration of a pipeline
from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey. This route, in bypassing both
Russia and Iran, would accomplish three U.S. foreign policy goals:
strengthen the independence of the Caspian states by reducing their
dependence on Russia for energy exports; exclude Iran from any possible
windfalls; and solidify ties with Turkey, a NATO member. (From Turkey's
perspective, it also would cut down on traffic through the crowded Bosporus
All these would appear to be laudable goals. The trouble is that the oil
companies involved in the Caspian do not support construction of the
administration's favored pipeline (estimated cost between $2.5 billion and
$4 billion, the most expensive option by far), preferring instead a
substantially less expensive route from Baku to Supsa, Georgia, on the Black
Sea. From there, oil would be shipped through the Bosporus to the
The consortium of oil companies involved in the Caspian meets tomorrow
and is expected to postpone for a third time a decision on the Baku-Ceyhan
route. The depressed price of oil and indications that Caspian energy
reserves might not be all they were cracked up to be leave American oil
executives unconvinced that construction of the pipeline is feasible or
The fact that the oil companies have not caved in and agreed to endorse
this route, despite strong administration pressure, reflects their
unwillingness to become pawns in Caspian geopolitical games, particularly
given the possibility of an eventual change in U.S. policy toward Iran. The
clash between the companies and the administration over the pipeline is
ironic for a White House that prides itself on the aggressive promotion of
U.S. business interests around the world. The Clinton administration's
preoccupation with promoting the route has made construction of that
pipeline an end in itself, leaving the administration seemingly oblivious to
the tenuous state of affairs in the Caspian.
U.S. policy toward these states is predicated on winning the personal
favor of each leader currently in power, which makes American policy overly
dependent on unstable and/or authoritarian regimes in the region. When a
change in leadership occurs in one or more of the Caspian states, peacefully
or otherwise, U.S. policy will be adrift. Having failed sufficiently to
emphasize political and economic reform in the region, the United States has
compromised its core principles for the sake of a questionable geopolitical
Since October's presidential election in Azerbaijan, the government of
reelected President Haidar Aliev has cracked down on the opposition and has
unnecessarily resorted to violence to put down recent demonstrations. The
unrest stems from Aliev's conduct of the elections. To avoid a second round
of voting, which he might have lost, Aliev went all-out to win the first
round with the required two-thirds vote -- a high threshold, which invited
fraud and abuse. Aliev delivered on both counts, and his victory was ensured
by a central election commission clearly stacked in his favor. Now a
reinvigorated and reunited opposition seeks to remove the "dictatorial
regime" of Aliev.
In Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze, whose nation will have a key
role in the pipeline issue however it plays out, recently put down an
insurrection in his country, the fourth major challenge to his leadership
this year. Suspicions about Russian involvement in plots against
Shevardnadze abound. Instability in his country works to Russia's advantage
by dampening oil companies' interest in running a pipeline through Georgia.
Across the Caspian in Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is busy
rigging his country's next presidential election, which the nation's
parliament agreed to schedule two years early. Kazakhstan's electoral
commission rejected, on the flimsiest of grounds, the candidacy of
Nazarbayev's most formidable challenger. Meanwhile, presidents Saparmurad
Niyazov of Turkmenistan and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan don't even go
through the charade of holding elections, and yet both leaders have been
feted at the White House. So too have Aliev and Nazarbayev.
The mild words of protest from the Clinton administration about the
recent problems in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan fall on deaf ears. Both Aliev
and Nazarbayev know that their countries' strategic importance and energy
assets mean more to the United States than does political reform in their
countries. The administration says next to nothing anymore about the
authoritarian rule in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
As an election observer in Azerbaijan, I was struck by the generally warm
response I received traveling around the country. A number of people
approached me and my colleagues and thanked us for coming to observe their
country's election. The United States must not let these people down by
whitewashing what is happening in their country or in the other states in
the region. U.S. policy toward the Caspian region must be built on more than
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
>From The Moscow Tribune, December 4, 1998
THE X IN UNEXIMBANK
>From John Helmer in Moscow
Beware the X in Uneximbank, and whatever you do, don't touch it
with new money!
That's the message from an episode of the popular American science-fiction
television series, "X Files" running at the moment.
In the X-plot, the intrepid FBI agent Mulder goes on the track of a mysterious
rock which is smuggled into the United States by some people you can tell
are bad, because of the way their ties don't quite tuck into in their
collars; and because they kill people who get in their way.
The rock, agent Mulder learns, comes -- you'd never guess! -- from Norilsk
in far-flung Krasnoyarsk Krai.
The American scientist who tries to examine the Russian specimen in an
isolation lab ends up covered in slimy black spray and tiny leeches, which
seem to suck the life out of the good doctor, leaving him inside his isolation
suit half-dead, or half-alive, or something forensically unfortunate.
Mulder jumps a plane immediately for Krasnoyarsk, and makes on foot
for a place just south of Norilsk he calls Tunguz. There he spots a secret
gulag where slave-labourers dig away all day, and are then put to
bed in unspeakable barracks. Mulder is captured by the Norilsk mine
goons, and put to bed himself.
That's when he gets a nightly spray of the black slime he realizes
turned his Washington colleague into a zombie.
All this happens in just one episode. The last I saw of Agent Mulder,
covered in fencing wire and coated with slime, was followed by the "To be
continued" sign. That was in another country, at another time, and I haven't
seen the sequel.
Did the FBI rescue its man from Norilsk? Were the black slime and leeches
At Uneximbank in downtown Moscow, they have all the answers in their own
X-file. That's the file in which Vladimir Potanin, chief executive of
the bank, and Alexander Khloponin, chief executive of Norilsk Nickel,
have placed their plans for "restructuring". "We will work to restructure
our foreign debts," Vladimir Gudilin of Uneximbank's Treasury Department,
added, when he gave a foreign news service a tantalizing peek into the
X-file a few days ago.
You see, the slime and leeches in the American science-fiction aren't
a patch on the slime and leeches Potanin has working for him to turn the
large human organizations he controls into a state halfway between life and
What restructuring means is the X in Uneximbank. It's the mystery rock
Agent Mulder traced back to Norilsk. It's the process by which a bank
that, according to itself, was Russia's fourth largest until August,
managed by a man the press called the Russian banker of the year (1997),
turned into a black hole of obligations exceeding $2 billion.
That process has also sucked the cash out of every Uneximbank-controlled
asset in shipping, chemicals, refining, and crude oil production, not to
mention Norilsk Nickel itself, Russia's largest mining house -- leaving
them zombies, just like the rock-scientist and Agent Mulder.
Restructuring for Potanin, Khloponin, Gudilin, and their agents means
surgically removing the live cash-producing assets from the corporate
corpse of the Uneximbank group, leaving it bankrupt and unable to
pay its debts. At Norilsk Nickel, a similarly planned restructuring
would create a new cash-producing unit, registered outside Krasnoyarsk
and Murmansk, where all of Khloponin's obligations are, and let
the corpse of the company choke to death on the slime of accumulated
losses, tax arrears, and unfunded pension and wage commitments.
Making zombie Russian banks look alive was the self-appointed and profitable
task of the accounting firms with internationally famous names that start
with A and end with W. Zipped up in their expensive isolation suits,
they analyzed the insides of banks like Uneximbank, and pronounced them
alive and healthy. Somehow they missed the X-file, the one where all the
liabilities were hidden. Lucky for the auditors, they got safely away without
any of the slime sticking.
What will it take the sci-fi section of the television FBI to solve the
mystery of the Norilsk rock? Will the organized crime and racketeering strike
force catch up with Potanin?
To be continued.
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998
From: Saajasto Tiina <Tiina.Saajasto@bof.fi>
Subject: Forthcoming publication - The Road to the Russian Market
Economy. Selected Essays, 1993 -1998.
Forthcoming in December 1998 -The Economic Crisis in Russia from the
Author: Pekka Sutela (Director of the Bank of Finland Institute for
Economies in Transition - BOFIT)
Publication: The Road to the Russian Market Economy. Selected Essays, 1993
Publisher: Kikimora Publications 1998, ISBN 951-45-8409-0.
A u t h o r
Pekka Sutela graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1973 and
defended his doctoral dissertation in 1984. He pursued a teaching career
at the same university and was also an Academy of Finland researcher until
1990, when he joined the Bank of Finland. After a further spell as
professor in the university, he has been the head of Bank of Finland
Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT) http://www.bof.fi/bofit
since 1998. A specialist in Russian and Soviet economic thought, policies
and developments, he has published widely in the field and is a frequent
consultant and commentator. This volume brings together articles on the
Russian economy written by Pekka Sutela in 1993-1998. The discussion
ranges from macroeconomic stabilisation to privatisation, but the unifying
theme of the papers is the question about the characteristics and
performance of the emerging Russian market economy. Leaving a centrally
managed economy is the banal side of the equation; the crucial issue is
what kind of a market economy there is. The argument presented here is
that the contours of the new system are already visible, that they will
probably remain quite similar in the time foreseeable, and that they give
little reason to expect a fast-growing, efficient and competitive economy.
The open crisis that erupted in Summer 1998 has not only short-time
consequences. It will also strengthen many of the characteristics
studied in this book.
The Road to the Russian Market Economy. Selected Essays, 1993 -1998.
C o n t e n t s
1.The Russian Economy in Crisis and Transition
2.The Economic Transition in Russia
3.The political economy of stabilization of Russia
4.Fiscal federalism in Russia
5.The instability of political regimes, prices and enterprise financing
and their impact on the external activity of the Russian enterprises
6.Russian privatization policies
7.Insider privatisation in Russia: speculations on systemic change
8.But ... does Mr. Coase go to Russia?
9.Privatization in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and of the
former Soviet Union
10.The future of the Russian economy
11.The role of banks in financing Russian economic growth
12.Russia: economic system and the current economic crisis
Information and subscription:
tel: 358 - (0)9 - 1912 3295
Some Good -- But Mostly Bad -- News From Russia
by Richard Pipes
December 3, 1998
I was hoping this month to report nothing but encouraging news from Russia for
a change. But unfortunately, the good news has been overshadowed by a
political tragedy: the murder of Galina Starovoitova, Russia's outstanding
female politician and a fearless fighter for democracy and law.
Toward the rule of law?
The good news concerned retired naval Capt. Alexander Nikitin. The Russian
Federal Security Police, the successor to the KGB, arrested Nikitin early in
1996 on charges of espionage. His "crime" was to share with a Norwegian
environmental organization data on the radioactive pollution caused by leakage
from Russia's decommissioned and disintegrating submarines. Nikitin says all
the information he had provided was available in public sources.
After being held in prison and under house arrest for two-and-a-half years, he
finally was brought to trial in October. In a bizarre twist of legal
procedure, the Navy regulations Nikitin was accused of violating were declared
so secret that the Defense Ministry refused to show them either to him or his
The St. Petersburg judge in charge quickly ruled that the prosecutors had
failed to provide sufficient evidence against the defendant. Although he
refused to acquit Nikitin, who remains under house arrest while the
prosecution digs up more evidence, the verdict was unprecedented. In the words
of the Financial Times, "For the first time in history, a Russian court has
thrown out treason charges" brought against a citizen by the secret police.
... Two steps back
Then came the bad news. In October, a communist member of the Duma, retired
Gen. Albert Makashov, delivered publicly an inflammatory anti-Semitic speech,
in which he called for Russia's "yids" to be rounded up and jailed. Then he
complained to an Italian newspaper that there were too few Russians in the
government and called for the introduction of ethnic quotas in government
What aggravated the situation was the refusal of the Communist Party to
condemn such pronouncements by one of its members. Indeed, the head of the
Moscow branch of the party declared himself in agreement with the ex-general.
Subsequently, President Boris Yeltsin denounced Makashov, and so did the
patriarch. But Makashov has been punished neither by the state nor his party
for violating the human rights provisions of the Constitution.
In this charged atmosphere Starovoitova was murdered the night of Nov. 20,
the first political execution of a dissident woman in Russia since Stalin's
death. Starovoitova, born in 1946, had been involved since the 1980s in the
democratic movement. Later she worked for Yeltsin, breaking with him over the
war in Chechnya. On the eve of her assassination she called on the Duma to
condemn Makashov, which it refused to do. A marvelously courageous and yet
gentle woman, she won many friends in Russia and abroad.
Her murder had all the earmarks of a contract killing. Although the Russian
police claim to have some valuable leads, so far no one has been arrested and,
given the record, the prospects of the assassins being brought to justice are
not good. In fact, not one contract killing of a prominent personality has
been solved so far.
The likeliest explanation for her murder is that Starovoitova obtained
evidence of criminal political activities in her native St. Petersburg, which
she was about to reveal. She also announced her intention to run for the
presidency in 2000, which threatened the interests of some potential
candidates. Although she well knew she had no chance of winning, she might
have attracted enough votes to endanger the other contenders.
A climate of violence
The most disturbing fact about today's Russia is that the communists and neo-
Nazis (the two are often indistinguishable), who have lain low since the
collapse of the Soviet Union, are now crawling out of the woodwork and openly
challenging the fledgling democratic order. Genocidal ideas are openly
pronounced, and murder is increasingly employed to remove political opponents
from the scene. The Constitution plays virtually no role in Russia's politics,
which means that the rule of law is yielding to violent language and violent
Richard Pipes is a professor of history and has previously served as director
of Russian studies at Harvard University. He is a contributing editor of
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998
From: CRES@miis.edu (CRES)
Subject: The Prospects for a Democratic Coalition, by Elena Sokova
The Prospects for a Democratic Coalition
Elena Sokova, Senior Research Associate and former librarian of the Center
for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Monterey Institute, recently returned to
her native Russia. She prepared these notes on the current situation there on
November 30, 1998.
Last week was packed with high-profile events. The scandal around the alleged
Federal Security Service (FSB) plot to assassinate Boris Berezovskiy. Attempts
by President Ilyumzhinov of Kalmykia to announce the independence of his region
from Russia, which elicited a harsh response from both the Kremlin and the
Federal Assembly. Accusations that Boris Yeltsin took bribes in the form of
shares in the Russian Public Television Company (ORT). And many others, each
discussion and analysis for weeks. Against this colorful background, the routine
announcement that President Yeltsin had yet again fallen ill, right before a
planned meeting with his Chinese counterpart, failed to become the top news
story last week, contrary to tradition.
One news story overshadowed all the others. On Friday night, November 20,
Starovoytova, co-chair of the party Democratic Russia and a deputy of the State
Duma, was killed near her apartment in St. Petersburg. This shocking news caused
much speculation about who is behind the murder—whether it was the Communists
and nationalists she was consistently fighting with; the St. Petersburg criminal
gangs, which are actively engaged in the upcoming elections in that city;
Duma Speaker Gennadiy Seleznev; or even the democrats themselves. Each version
could be the right one. The investigation is under way, but there is no
guarantee we will ever know the name(s) of the person(s) who contracted and
executed this murder.
Contract killings have become part of Russian political life. She was not the
first political figure to be assassinated. But she was the first female
politician on this list. And probably the first one who was not engaged in any
commercial or financial activities that in many other similar cases were
considered possible grounds for assassination.
Needless to say, a society where political leaders are murdered too frequently
for it to be accidental has serious health problems, but the society that cannot
defend a woman is definitely sick. In other countries, reportedly, even the
Mafia does not point its guns at women. I wish that in Russia, the "equal
rights" of men and women could have found another way to manifest themselves.
How many women politicians at the top of the current Russian political Olympus
can you name? Novodvorskaya, Lakhova, Pamfilova, Khakamada, Matvienko – that is
it. If you rate them by the degree to which their political activity is
independent from others, the list gets even shorter. Probably only Novodvorskaya
can claim political self-sufficiency and political influence independent of
other figures. Where did the women who were brought to the public arena during
perestroika disappear to?
Why did they have to quit active involvement in politics? Were they forced out
by their colleagues of opposite sex? Or was it female intuition that politics in
Russia is a life-threatening activity and they followed their instinct of
self-preservation? There are very few of them now in politics, and on November
20 the number became even smaller. Let us now have a look at the immediate
effects of this shocking event on the political scene.
Galina Starovoytova was known as a proponent of an alliance of all democratic
forces in Russia. She had called for the union of all democratic parties and
movements in St. Petersburg for the city elections, which are to be held on
December 6. Her death brought the issue of consolidation of democratic
representatives to the fore of the political agenda with new strength. Many
democratic leaders, and those who call themselves democrats, publicly announced
their willingness to unite, when they
spoke at her funeral and in interviews immediately after her death.
Despite the calls not to use Starovoytova's death in political games, it was
used by almost all members of the current political elite to gain political
capital. Even the democrats themselves couldn't resist the temptation. Although
if you listen to the political leaders' self-identification, you would be
surprised to hear that almost all of them, except hard-line Communists and
ultra-nationalists, call themselves democrats and claim to belong if not to the
right wing of political spectrum, then definitely to
The loose use of the words "democracy" and "reforms" in the last six or seven
years has caused them to become virtually synonyms with swear words. "These
democrats and reformers" like Chubais, Gaidar and Nemtsov, according to the man
on the street, are responsible for unfair privatization, which created the
current oligarchs and moguls; for financial pyramids that ruined the country's
financial system; and many other sins that have made life more miserable for the
vast majority of the population than it was before the reforms. For this reason,
identifying oneself as a democrat does not ensure victory at the polls, whether
these parties run as a single bloc or individually. And those who have not been
tainted by power have to be extra cautious.
Just imagine the kind of political capital the godfather of Russian
privatization, Anatoliy Chubais, could bring to Grigoriy Yavlinskiy. Yavlinskiy
and his Yabloko party were opposed to his privatization program and to the
Chernomyrdin government all along, including periods when Chubais was in the
government. Yavlinskiy and his party have quite a stable support base of at
least 12 to 15 percent of the population (according to various opinion polls).
He is considered an honest, professional, and truly
democratic political leader. Why doesn't he have more support? Some say he
doesn't have enough charisma to be a national leader. Others say that he speaks
the language of intellectuals, which is not understood by common people, and
thereby loses the rank-and-file voters.
There is one more factor that limits his chances to become a nation-wide
Yavlinskiy is Jewish. Unfortunately, this still plays a role in the choice of
the masses. It is OK for a Jewish person to be next to the top (a popular
pre-Revolutionary saying goes: "a learned Jew at the governor's side"), but not
at the very top. Makashov and other members of the Communist Party would not be
so open with their anti-Semitism if they didn't know the real mood of the
population. The triumphant victory of
Governor Kondratenko's Otechestvo movement (not to be confused with Luzhkov's
Otechestvo) in last week's elections in Krasnodar Kray proves that calls to
"Kill the Jews to save Russia," which have been used several times in Russian
history, can still be used in the present day.
In spite this, Yavlinskiy is the only democratic leader who is a serious
contender for the presidency in the next elections. But if he unites with
Chubais, Gaidar, Nemtsov, or Chernomyrdin, all of whom eagerly seek any
possibility to ensure their future entry into the political elite-in-power, he
may lose his supporters. In a recent interview on NTV's program "Itogi,"
Yavlinskiy said that he and his party think that democratic leaders and
reformers cannot close their eyes to corruption and theft. He ruled out a
union between democrats who think there is no place for theft and corruption and
democrats who think theft should be allowed for the greater goals and think that
corruption is inevitable in a transitional economy. One could claim, of course,
that this is simply a populist game, the same that Yeltsin played in the 1980s,
when he earned popularity with similar slogans. Regardless, Yavlinskiy's
statement reflected a broadly shared belief that Chubais, Gaidar, Nemtsov, and
Chernomyrdin are not only
responsible for the economic failures of Russia, but for nationwide corruption
as well. This means that not all united fronts are positive: some coalitions can
bring defeat to all participants.
At the same time, there is a need for such unity. Russia, which has over 90
national political parties and over 150 political movements, has to learn to pay
attention to the programs of political leaders and parties and proposed measures
instead of general promises "to continue the course toward reforms and
democracy." What kind of reforms exactly and what is your definition of
democracy: freedom to do whatever you want, or freedom with some limits that
ensure the freedom and rights of
other members of society? This is the question that voters should start asking.
To a large extent, political leaders prefer to run on their personal
rather than on the merits of specific identifiable programs and political
parties. Even Luzhkov's Otechestvo movement, whose creation was so loudly
announced recently, lacks any clear identification except orientation toward its
leader. What is the orientation of Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia now that it
is no longer the party of the government? And those are the giants among
political parties. The small parties
mean nothing to the vast majority of the population. Finally, what is the
orientation of Luzhkov and Chernomyrdin themselves? They are not running on a
specific program but rather personal popularity. Worse yet, the voters cast
their votes based on their assessment of the personal qualities of a candidate,
rather than his or her views.
You can argue that the ability to choose is positive in and of itself, but
country where voters choose on the basis of personality rather than political
programs and where the political culture of the population is low, election
results are likely to be skewed. Hopefully, the next elections, for which
preparations are already under way, might force them to create fewer but larger
blocs. Under the present system, at parliamentary elections a party needs to get
at least five percent of the vote or all its
votes are proportionately distributed among parties that were able to pass this
five-percent barrier. Apparently the democratic camp lost a lot in this fashion
at the 1995 parliamentary elections.
December 4, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: TV Center's Soviet Agitprop
By Leonid Bershidsky
When Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar, Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Kiriyenko and other
liberal has-beens set up a "right-center" political movement the other day,
they took pains to distance themselves from Moscow Mayor Yury Luz hkov.
"If Luzhkov becomes a big boss - I mean, the biggest boss - his slogan will be
'All power to the bureaucracy'," Nemtsov told reporters. "And he will make it
tough for you guys to get information and publish it. Moscow papers do not
criticize him now because he can cut off the sewerage."
I am sure Luzhkov would deny this. Saying you are against a free press is
suicide for a political candidate. But confirmation of Nemtsov's remark came
almost immediately from quarters close to the all-powerful mayor.
Most Russian television stations ran Nemtsov's comments in full. But TV
Center, the station controlled by the Moscow government, did not.
A TV Center report on the formation of a "right-center" movement just said
Nemtsov had pointed out the movement's "certain differences" with Luzhkov's
party, Otechestvo. The journalist added that the differences did not appear to
be unbridgeable. There was no mention of Luzhkov's purported threat to
economic and political freedoms.
Censorship works in two ways. The censored television channel or publication
can be told to report the offending information but attach vicious comments to
it. That is the way things worked at NTV when former presidential bodyguard
Alexander Korzhakov's goons raided the office of MOST-Bank. The station gave a
lot of prominence to the news of the attack on its main shareholder - and made
it sound as if Korzhakov's people were worse than bandits.
NTV, of course, could not be expected to try to investigate the reasons for
Korzhakov's hatred of MOST-Bank. It is a clear case of censorship - whether by
MOST or by NTV people themselves.
But the other way censorship works is perhaps more dangerous for the end user
of news - the reader or the viewer: the offending news is simply withheld.
That is the way Soviet agitprop worked in the bad old days. And that is the
way Luzhkov's propaganda machine is working now. About the boss, it's either
good news or it's no news.
It is not too much to ask that information should reach the viewer or reader,
no matter what comments are attached to it. TV Center could have savaged
Nemtsov after reporting his comments, but the viewer would have heard the
comments, and they could have helped him form an opinion of Luzhkov.
Moscow media, either directly controlled by Luzhkov or simply using city
sewers and other utilities, do not write about Luzhkov when he has a problem.
For example, there has been nothing in the papers about the post-crisis
troubles of the Moscow city budget, though the federal budget's woes are all
over the front pages. And there has never been any meaningful investigation of
the city's enormous business empire and how it was set up.
Imagine for a moment that Luzhkov is president and Moscow TV stations, as well
as newspapers, are subtly encouraged to pursue the same editorial line as TV
Center. Will they resist? I do not think so.
ORT, surviving mostly on the connections of its unofficial chief, Boris
Berezovsky, to President Boris Yeltsin's family, is so shaky financially it
will have to bow to Luzhkov's pressure. NTV will need to stay friends with
Luzhkov because it is part of the Media-MOST empire, which can easily be
strangled with a little hostile interference from the authorities. RTR is
state-owned, and its line is the government's line.
Total fairness from a Russian politician in dealing with the media cannot be
expected. But at least people like Yeltsin and Anatoly Chubais have allowed
news outlets to criticize them. Luzhkov is not likely to tolerate much of
that. We simply will not hear about him when he has the slightest problem, or
when one of his grandiose plans fails.
Nemtsov hit the mark with his remarks about Luzhkov's mistrust of media
freedom. And, instead of demonstrating the mayor's broad-mindedness and
reporting the criticisms, the Moscow government's TV station suppressed them.
This says something not only about Luzhkov, but about the people who do PR for
him.They are ham-handed enough to make laughingstocks of themselves if Luzhkov
ever comes to power. But the last laugh will be on the reader and viewer.
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
4 December 1998
[for personal use only]
Web site puts top Russians at risk
By Marcus Warren in Moscow
RUSSIAN politicians' home addresses and a telephone conversation between
President Yeltsin's daughter and a tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, have made a
brief but dramatic appearance on the Internet.
A web site called Claw published the details, as well as messages from top
journalists' pagers and wild allegations about a recent notorious murder,
before being blocked last week.
Claw claimed its purpose was to "reduce the gap between the Russian elite
and the people of Russia", adding: "The country must know everything about
its elite." But some disclosures are so detailed that they could be used by
contract killers. The site's 300 pages included a description of the Chief
Prosecutor's flat, its security features and his children's addresses. The
site also accused Mr Berezovsky of involvement in last month's murder of
Galina Starovoitova, a liberal MP, and claimed the next target would be
another liberal leader, Yegor Gaidar.
The bizarre claim, for which there is no evidence, has been aired before -
by Alexander Korzhakov, President Yeltsin's former bodyguard. The attacks on
Mr Berezovsky, the transcripts of private conversations and the web site's
whole style provoked immediate speculation in Moscow that Mr Korzhakov was
Mr Korzhakov, an eager collector of compromising material on politicians
while head of Mr Yeltsin's security service but now an embittered enemy of
the Kremlin, still has close links to Russian intelligence and is an MP.
In recent weeks he has produced documents purporting to prove that Mr
Berezovsky transferred shares in a major Russian television station to Mr
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998
From: Vladimir Shlapentokh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reply to Abraham Brumberg on Galina Starovoitova
Dear Doctor Brumberg:
Your letter concerning the murder of Galina Starovoitova shocked and amazed
me, and not because I do not share your views on the bandit capitalism now
installed in Russia. It astonished me for your insensitivity to the
solemnity of a human death. Not only the Russian intelligencia, whom you
choose to mock, but certainly the majority of Americans, even the most
uneducated, follow the ancient precept De mortuis out bene out out ninihil
(Say nothing, if not in praise of the dead). Neither "Sovietskia Rossia"
mouthpiece of the communists, nor the hateful xenophobic and anti-semitic
"Zavtra" with its accumulated hatred of Galina, used the occasion of her
death to ridicule her personal traits as you did.
It is not only that the moment of her murder was hardly the time and place
to launch such an attack against Galina, but also the image you have left of
her is so highly unbalanced and unfair.
I have known you both. There has not been, to use your terms, as much
traffic between the two of us as I might like, but enough for me to come to
respect your brilliant and witty mind. I have been privileged to know Galina
for some 25 years. Indeed an extraordinary personality such as hers was
bound to have had traits that jarred with conventions both in America as
well as in Russia. But how dare you present a portrait of this remarkable
politician that focusses on such petty events as speaking out of turn at a
meeting of demographers, or her irreverence towards "nearly all of her
colleagues," in the face of her heroic defense of the Armenian people (a few
days ago there was in Yerevan a special concert in which Rostropovich
played, in Galina's memory), and of the high risks of her participation in
the events of 1990-1991, and the bravery of her challenge to the communists
and the nationalist in the Duma only a few days before her death.
Dear Dr.Brumberg: should I tell Russian readers of JRL that your attitudes
toward death are not typical for most Americans, highly educated or not, who
like "Russian intelligentsia" do not ignore an advice from ancient Rome?