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Johnson's Russia List
5 February 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, PARTY LINES: Alfa's Aven Unmasks
2. Reuters: Peter Henderson, Russian reform window of opportunity
3. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Vasiliy Uztyuzhanin, "Why Did Yeltsin Leave
4. Argumenty i Fakty: "A Replacement Is Being Prepared For the Prime
5. Jamestown Monitor: Peter Rutland, RUSSIAN MAFIA: HOW SERIOUS A
6. Michele Berdy upper volta.
7. Angela Stent: Upper Volta With Nukes.
8. Mark Jones: Hamlet without the Prince. (Primakov).
9. Brendan Howley: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER'S QUERY.
10. Journal of Commerce: John Helmer, Food fuels Russian presidential
11. Reuters: Charity Says Happy with Russia Aid Distribution.
12. Mark Scheuer: Russian Honesty.
13. George Marquart: Mark Ames re. Sarah Busse.
14. Andrew Miller: "READ" IT AND WEEP. (Re literature poll).
15. Amy Knight: Yezhov.
16. Paul Backer: Comment on discussion of Russian taxes.]
February 5, 1999
PARTY LINES: Alfa's Aven Unmasks 'Reformers'
By Jonas Bernstein
In my final column for "Party Lines" last year, I responded to claims that
economic liberalism had failed in Russia by arguing that liberalism has never
been tried here.
Pyotr Aven, the head of Alfa Bank who earlier served as Yegor Gaidar's
trade minister, recently made the same case in Kommersant. Aven himself, of
course, benefited from the nomenklatura capitalism that masqueraded as
liberalism. But his deconstruction of Russia's reforms - an unsentimental
insider's view - is invaluable.
Aven argues that the reforms were a fraud even by the "young reformers"own
criteria. There was no "economic stabilization," he writes, since inflation
was lowered through "nonpayment of wages, under-financing of state orders and
insane borrowing." Meanwhile, state spending in Russia from 1993 to 1997 was
42 percent to 50 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 16 percent
to 18 percent in "communist" China. Citing economist Andrei Illarionov, Aven
writes that Russia's effective tax rate is 60 percent of GDP, perhaps the
world's highest. Yet Sergei Kiriyenko (Aven calls him "that marvelous
liberal") planned to increase the overall tax burden by 13 percent.
For Aven, the key "anti-liberal" feature of government policy has been its
"exclusive support ... for individual enterprises." This was sometimes the
handiwork of President Boris Yeltsin - like his decrees mandating tax and
tariff exemptions for such worthies as the National Sports Fundand even an
organization founded by reputed mobster Otari Kvantrishvili. And then there
was Gazprom, Norilsk Nickel. ... Such handouts robbed billions from the budget
but created what amounted to a presidential electoral slush fund from what
were essentially kickbacks.
As for Anatoly Chubais' privatization, Aven asks how one should regard a
process "in which the privatization of just one aluminum factory was
accompanied by twenty murders" and "in which the country's largest enterprises
were purchased with government money."Aven says the winners of all the major
loans-for-shares auctions were picked in advance. Not news, simply a
Aven vouches for the "personal incorruptibility and honesty" of
and most of the other "young reformers." Given the infamous interest-free loan
of 1996 and book deals of 1997, I would say the jury is still out. But Aven
lists some of their less-than-endearing qualities: "Self-identification with
God, naturally flowing from the belief in one's own exclusivity," "childish"
optimism and a readiness to lie. Hence their consistent underestimation of
price rises in 1992 and 1993, their constant predictions of imminent economic
growth, their certainty the ruble would fall no lower than 9.5 to the dollar
after the August crash.
Finally, Aven attacks the International Monetary Fund's "maniacal" focus on
budgetary and monetary policy and its "absolutely superficial" approach to
everything else. The IMF's loans created "the illusion ... of the success of
Aven's article would make good reading for Michel Camdessus, U.S. Deputy
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and everyone else who pushed the Big Lie
about Russia's "reforms." But don't expect any mea culpas. Gaidar, Chubais &
Co. recently declared that their new "center-right" coalition will fight
"nomenklatura capitalism." Clearly they, unlike Aven, have not taken a look in
the mirror. Nor, I bet, will their Western enablers.
FOCUS-Russian reform window of opportunity closing
By Peter Henderson
MOSCOW, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Embattled Russian liberal reformers on Thursday
complained that the country was in the grip of inertia and warned that
pro-market reforms might be put off until the next century.
Alexander Livshits, a former finance minister and ex-aide to President
Boris Yeltsin, told a news conference reformers were unlikely to take the
helm of the economy before the presidential election due in 2004.
"Radical liberal reform, by pretty much any estimate, is posssible in our
country only after the 2000 presidential election, and that in the best
circumstances," he said.
"It is more likely only in (the) 2004 (election), because honestly so far
I don't see any liberal among those who could realistically take part in
the 2000 race."
The so-called liberal reformers lost favour when financial crisis gripped
Russia last August and most were swept out of the government and replaced
by more conservative figures.
Livshits said Russia was now gripped by inertia and said a chance for
introducing change would end when campaigning for December's parliamentary
election heats up around March.
Many reformers say the freeing of prices in the early 1990s is the only
real market reform made since the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1991.
The economy has failed to respond to any medicine, shrinking nearly every
year since the Soviet Union's collapse. Year-on-year gross domestic product
(GDP) fell 4.6 percent in 1998, compared with a 0.8 percent rise in 1997.
Labour Minister Sergei Kalashnikov said in a newspaper interview on
Wednesday that hidden unemployment -- those who are nominally working but
are idle -- pushed true unemployment to 17 percent of the workforce from
December's official 11.8 percent.
He said a quarter of industry was "producing stuff to be warehoused" and
should be declared bankrupt.
Many reformers say they were never allowed to make sweeping changes but
were blamed for Russia's economic failure.
Boris Fyodorov, another former finance minister, wrote in the Kommersant
newspaper that the economy was being run by ex-Soviet bureaucrats who held
power in the late 1980s.
"Just like then, they are doing practically nothing concrete," he wrote.
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who fired Fyodorov as tax chief, is seen
as a political rock of stability but his team has not produced a clear plan
to turn around the economy since taking office last September.
"The situation today is so bad that we are beginning once more to near
the time of real reforms," Fyodorov said.
"There is no future for the current economic programme since there is no
(programme). So Primakov will have to change the economic team and resume
radical reforms, or the same fate awaits him as many predecessors."
"Why Did Yeltsin Leave Barvikha?"
3 February 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Commentary by Vasiliy Uztyuzhanin: "Why Did Yeltsin Leave Barvikha?"
Yesterday [2 February] Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly returned to the
Kremlin from the Barvikha sanitarium where he had been undergoing
post-hospital convalescence. Nikolay Bordyuzha, the head of the
Presidential Staff, was preparing to go to a session of the Commission for
Countering Political Extremism when, literally a few minutes before the
session began, he received a phone call from B.N. Ye. [Yeltsin]. He had to
urgently change his plans for the day.
What made the president remind everyone of his existence? The
Presidential Staff expected him to spend at least a week in Barvikha.
There are most likely several causes. It is claimed that he was greatly
angered a week and a half ago by Primakov's letter to the State Duma on a
preelection truce, which proposed depriving him of some constitutional
powers in exchange for future social guarantees. A line must be drawn
under this conflict. The resignation request of General Prosecutor Yu.
Skuratov could also be a reason. The president signed the request without
a moment's thought. The furor over Sunday's march by Barshakov's
supporters and the authorities' impotence also prompted gloomy thoughts.
In addition, the president possibly read the latest scandalous articles in
the press, which gave the head of state grounds to conclude that something
is not quite right in his native land.
Be that as it may, Yeltsin was true to his rule -- after an illness he
makes a big impression so that everyone knows who is boss.
Russian Weekly Says Yeltsin Team Wants To Replace Primakov
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 954
February 1999 (Signed to Press 2 February 1999)
[translation for personal use only]
Unattributed report from the "Politics" column: "A Replacement
Is Being Prepared For the Prime Minister"; passages within
slantlines published in boldface
It is becoming clear that /Yevgeniy Primakov/ as prime minister no
longer suits a number of politicians. His attempt to have some kind of
political statement signed by all the branches of power has become "a red
flag" for them. In particular, it displeased those whose voters might
defect to Primakov if he decides to contest the presidential election.
Top of the list is /Grigoriy Yavlinskiy/ [Yabloko movement leader].
Some reports suggest that an outflow of social democrats who once sided
with Yavlinskiy is already becoming apparent in some regional branches of
Yabloko. They are now increasingly dissatisfied with Grigoriy Alekseyevich
because of his stance of constant criticism and rejection of everything and
everyone. Primakov is a godsend for them.
Next comes /Gennadiy Seleznev/ [State Duma chairman]. It is no secret
that he too has his sights on the Kremlin. While Primakov, with his social
democratic views, occupies such an prominent post, he somehow pushes the
Duma speaker into the shade.
/Yuriy Luzhkov/ [Moscow mayor] also initially gave the Prime
Minister's initiative a hostile reception. The reason was the same. It is
possible, however, that he has not yet given up the idea of contesting the
election in tandem with Primakov.
/Aleksandr Lebed/ [Krasnoyarsk Territory governor] is in an
interesting situation. His position in Krasnoyarsk is becoming
increasingly difficult. And so, at his recent meeting with the Prime
Minister, he asked the latter for help. There are, however, some rumors
going around. It is rumored that Aleksandr Ivanovich offered himself to
Primakov as vice president--provided, of course, that the post appears in
/Gennadiy Zyuganov/ [Communist Party leader] deserves special
attention. So far, he has not made any particularly sharp statements.
Everyone realizes, however, that Gennadiy Andreyevich can strike at the
government at any time with the entire force of his faction, if he feels
that the Prime Minister becomes a serious rival.
/Boris Berezovskiy/ [CIS Executive Secretary] obviously has no
"electorate" in common with Primakov. However, to use a slang phrase, he
has started openly "bloodying" the Prime Minister. The method is an old
one: through the press and the TV channel that he controls. The reason is
that Berezovskiy /is aware of the Prime Minister's dislike for him/ and can
foresee the unenviable future awaiting him if Primakov rises to the top.
/The most interesting news, however, has emerged from the presidential
It is rumored that the main players in the administration-- /Nikolay
Bordyuzha/ [head of administration], /Tatyana Dyachenko/ [Yeltsin's
daughter and image adviser], /Oleg Sysuyev/ [first deputy head of
administration], /Dzhakhan Pollyyeva/ [deputy head of administration], and
/Valentin Yumashev/ [former head of administration], who unofficially
joined them--are very unhappy with the Prime Minister's increasing
independence. The administration was never prepared to tolerate this kind
of thing, and they are now just waiting for an excuse to replace Primakov
with an accommodating person. At present, there are three candidates.
/Nikolay Bordyuzha/. He is the current head of the administration and
Security Council secretary. Being a military man, efficient and
dependable, he can be relied on not to forget those who put him in the
post. The only problem is, will the Duma accept him, and can he run the
/Yegor Stroyev/ [Federation Council Chairman]. A very worthy and
experienced candidate. His problem, however, lies in personnel selection.
As a rule, he relies on old-time apparatchiks. One can hardly expect them
to produce a breakthrough in the economy.
/Pavel Borodin/. He is the manager of the President's administrative
office. Last spring, the idea of making him prime minister was already
considered. However, something went wrong that time. Being an experienced
economic manager and a rather apolitical person, he could suit everyone at
/There remains just one hitch/. The might of the administration
nowadays is not what it used to be. It is therefore hardly likely to
succeed in pushing through an intrigue of this kind.
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
From: Peter Rutland <email@example.com>
Subject: RUSSIAN MAFIA: HOW SERIOUS A PROBLEM?
here's a story I wrote that ran today.
Jamestown Monitor 4 February
RUSSIAN MAFIA: HOW SERIOUS A PROBLEM? A newly released study, based on a
survey of Russian firms, casts serious doubt on the widespread view that
organized crime dominates Russian industry. The paper--"Law, Relationships
and Private Enforcement: Transactional Strategies of Russian
Enterprises"--was written by Kathryn Hendley of the University of Wisconsin,
Peter Murrell of the University of Maryland and Randi Ryterman of the World
Bank. In 1997 they sent researchers to interview directors and managers of
sales and purchasing departments in 328 manufacturing firms in six cities.
They found that fewer than 3 percent of the managers reported using private
firms for contract enforcement against delinquent suppliers, and only 2.5
percent used such firms to check the credit rating of a firm. Rather than
turn to organized crime, Russian managers have simpler and more direct
strategies to enforce contract compliance. For example, some 50 percent of
customers are asked to pay up front before goods are released. Prepayment
obviously makes the problem of nonpayment a nonissue. Another common but
effective response is simply to stop doing business with unreliable
partners. Barter, which accounted for 40 percent of transactions, can also
be seen as rational in the face of uncertainty over payment abilities.
Barter deliveries are more easy to monitor than cash, and are less likely to
be seized by other claimants.
Direct representations to suppliers or customers are the most common
solution to contract problems--and were rated by the managers as the most
effective. Contrary to the image of steamy bathhouses, most of these
meetings were formal rather than informal. If direct representations do not
work, firms sometimes denounce unreliable companies to other companies, or
to local government officials. Firms also frequently threaten to go to
court. Hence the dominant pattern is mutual bargaining "within the shadow of
the law." In sharp contrast to the communist era, managers only infrequently
turn to politicians for help with supplier problems.
The paper concludes: "These data suggest that for every 100 transactions,
twenty-four experience potential disputes. Of these, sixteen are resolved
through informal complaints, seven are resolved through threats of
litigation and/or penalties, and one will be litigated."
This study's findings are one of the few pieces of good news to emerge from
the Russian economy for some time. It suggests that horizontal, market
mechanisms may be taking root; and that trust, reputation and
interdependence may in practice loom much larger in Russian industry than
mafia killings. Of course, survey data, particularly about sensitive topics
such as organized crime, are not completely reliable. But in the face of
such findings it behooves the mafia-pessimists to produce their own research
to document the pervasiveness of organized crime in the Russian economy.
It may turn out that both sides are right. The mafia grip does indeed seem
to be firm over certain sectors of the economy--such as retailing and
construction--which were not part of the Hendley/Murrell/Ryterman study.
Beyond that, crime-related disputes may be confined to a few prominent firms
in the energy and metals sectors which capture the headlines, such as the
Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Works.
(This story was written by a Monitor correspondent. For the full report, see
Middletown CT 06459
tel 860 685 2483
fax 860 685 2781
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999
From: "Michele A. Berdy" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: upper volta
So far I have received or seen notes attributing the phrase "Upper Volta
with missiles" to Malcolm Toon, Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, Helmit
Schmidt and Vitali Korotich. Sorry I brought this up. My friends and I
here in Moscow recall Gorbachev using it, but perhaps he borrowed it. In
reply to Mr. Donaldson ("I can't imagine that Mikhail Sergeyevich, even at
his most pessimistic, would have used such a phrase to describe the country
he led"), the phrase was not used in the present tense, but the
subjunctive, i.e., "if we don't do something, the USSR will degenerate to
being just Upper Volta with missiles." I will poke around here in Moscow
and see if I can get a more definitive attribution.
From: STENTA@gunet.georgetown.edu (Angela Stent)
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
Subject: Upper Volta With Nukes
Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany, talked
about "Upper Volta With Nuclear Weapons" when he visited the USSR in the
late 1970's. The phrase has been in use for at least 20 years. That's one
of the advantages of maturity!
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
From: Mark Jones <email@example.com>
Subject: Hamlet without the Prince
Primakov no longer wants power: he needs it and for the same reason everyone
else who is a player in Russian politics does: just to survive. He has already
frightened too many people to be able to retire into quiet obscurity if his
present power-play goes pear-shaped. It isn't just Yeltsin and Berezovsky who
need an amnesty, it's Primakov. Unlike the fallen oligarchs he has no
reserves in Swiss numbered accounts, no chalets in the Cote d'Azur to set
against a rainy day. Secret policemen cannot afford to retire, especially when
they have begun to use their files in the grandiose way Primakov has.
Now that he has come down from Olympus and entered the same swamp as everyone
else, Primakov can be seen for what he is: a centrist in the tradition of
Abalkin, trying to give perestroika a makeover. It cannot work. The situation
in the country no longer permits experiments. The absurdity of his position
ought to be self-evident: here we have the inheritor of the pontificate of
Dzerzhinsky, Yezhov, Yagoda, Beria and Andropov, using their means, or
threatening to, to install a social-market economy in a place where there is
neither society nor economy to begin with. He is clever - it was clever to
have someone like Roy Medvedev of all people try to invest him with the aura
of power which all secret policemen need. But the task is hopeless, in fact he
is entering the swamp in its deepest place, in the centre. He is doomed. The
best he can hope for is that Berezovsky and Yeltsin will be sucked down with
him, which seems quite likely. Russia is careening on course for its fourth
revolution. Primakov has made his play and it is already clear that he has
lost. He did not have enough: enough time, because it takes more than six
months for the kind of creeping coup he initiated to roll through the
apparatus against so much entrenched resistance; enough programme, because his
goals seem meaningful only among the tinkling silver service of Davos and they
have no meaning at all in Russia, indeed to speak of a 'social-market economy'
simply abstracts from meaning and deepens the general night, imperilling still
more thousands of his hapless citizens with extinction from cold, disease and
Crucially, he did not have enough support: Primakov was left untouched only as
long as he did nothing and appeared no more sinister than the smile on a
Cheshire cat. The instant he showed signs of movement in any particular
direction, people united to tear him apart.
So what next? As usual, the chorus of comment almost entirely misses the real
point about what is going on. It is like watching Hamlet without the prince:
talk as you will of Luzhkov, Lebed (who he?) or anyone else in the thinning
list of aspirants, until you start to talk seriously about (a) the Duma and
(b) Zyuganov, you are wasting your breath. That, incidentally, was the point
Chikin and Prokhanov were making -- because even Zyuganov, these days, seems
to forget about Zyuganov (incidentally, there was a time when David Johnson
was ruthlessly criticised by the denizens of Carnegieland, who have mostly
gone back into lurk-mode on this list, for even publishing the outrageous and
fascistic opinions of Taibbi, Zavtra/Sovetskaya Rossiya and even of yours
truly: but who now dares to deny the simple truth repeated by Chikin/Prokhanov
(JRL 3041) that "The "hunters for extremists" are those who have robbed the
people and do not want to return the spoils. The "social peacekeepers" are
those who shot at us from tanks in October 1993. The fighters against
"Russian fascism" are those who are to blame for the disappearance of 4,000 of
the Russian population a day." Who?).
Without Zyuganov (who made him) Primakov can do nothing, is paralysed and
helpless: but Zyuganov cannot help create a 'social-market economy' however
he'd like to try: the people won't let him, and so far the people have not
been abolished in sufficient numbers to ignore totally.
So Primakov cannot abolish Zyuganov and the Duma either, he can only send
them pathetic letters asking them to tie their own hands. Nor, come
to that, can Zyuganov abolish himself even if he wants to, even if Mad
Allbright wants him to. The people wouldn't let him, and that is really the
point: the Fourth Estate has made its appearance at last. You only don't
notice the masses shuffling into the room because they are, well, so quiet
and kind of, you know, grubby.
The people will not let this despised rabid dog, the Duma, be put down.
The people still have power in their hands. Squirm as much as you want
around that fact, but it is so, otherwise the Duma would have been
abolished long ago. In fact, the plain truth is that nowadays
only Zyuganov and the KPRF stands between the wrath of the people and their
tormentors: Berezovsky, Yeltsin, even Primakov, need him more than they dare
The imminent disappearance of Yeltsin threatens final chaos at the centre; the
hoped-for orderly transition to the Primakov-era has proved chimerical. The
desperation of Primakov's own actions already shows clearly that even the
limited programme of holding up the scenery while a new president is elected,
is impossible: Primakov is too weak even to guarantee orderly elections, and
that, risibly enough, is why he is forced to seek more power. His position is
hopelessly compromised and contradictory.
Who is strong enough to pluck power from the street? There is no Lenin.
Luzhkov controls the capital but his street-gangs and mafia-militia are not
enough to build a regime on, and he knows that. Luzhkov's will be a regime
bathed in blood from day one. As for Zyuganov, whether or not he is Hamlet,
his stage army belongs to Gilbert and Sullivan. I foresee the descent into
warlordism and national oblivion which so many have spoken of without quite
believing it can actually happen. But it can. Only when a warlord with an
ideology emerges can peace be restored.
As for the West, the colonial fantasising of a year or so ago has already
dissipated; after all, we can't even make a go of Serbia. The best you can
hope for is that the regime of obscurantism and terror now beginning in Russia
can be contained within its borders. Don't expect that, either, though.
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999
From: Brendan Howley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER'S QUERY
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER'S QUERY: In a book not yet published in North
America, an Irish historian writing under a pseudonym claims he is the
illegitimate son of the Tsarevich. Entitled BLOOD RELATIVE [Gollancz, 1998,
UK] the book deconstructs the DNA evidence offered re: the 'Ekaterinburg
bones,' and paints a circumstantial case for his lineage.
The author posits he was raised by surrogate parents in Northern Ireland
retained to protect the identity of his parents, whom he believes were the
Tsarevich and Princess Marina of Greece.
If any JRL readers have comments about this book's credibility and in
particular the possible links to Romanov case of Canadian fixer and
intimate of King George V, Joe Boyle, who ransomed the Romanian royals from
the Bolsheviks, kindly contact: Brendan Howley : email@example.com. Thank you.
Journal of Commerce
February 5, 1999
[for personal use only]
Food fuels Russian presidential ambitions
BY JOHN HELMER
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE SPECIAL
MOSCOW -- Need is driving the large American and European food aid programs
for Russia this year.
But the recipients of that aid include the nation's powerful politicians,
and their constituencies may end up being the best fed.
Documents just released by the United States Department of Agriculture
reveal how Russia's 89 regions line up for 200,000 metric tons of food
wheat, 500,000 tons of corn, 300,000 tons of soybean meal, 100,000 tons of
rice, 120,000 tons of beef, 50,000 tons of pork, and 30,000 tons of non-fat
dry milk from the United States.
Observers say the distribution is based on political clout.
"The governors are jockeying for all they're worth," said a leading
American meat trader in Moscow. "It's all politically motivated."
The Russian Duma, or lower house of Parliament, faces elections in
December. Many of Russia's regional governors are up for re-election later
this year and next; the next election to choose a successor for President
Boris Yeltsin is scheduled for mid-2000.
Notable figures running as candidates for the Duma, looking for a
springboard to succeed Mr. Yeltsin, include Samara Governor Konstantin
Titov, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed.
Moscow and its surrounding region will receive the majority of U.S. food
aid, including all the food wheat, and the largest single shares of the
corn (7%), rice (18%), beef (20%), and milk (33%).
St. Petersburg and the neighboring Leningrad region are next-best on the
feeding line. Together, Russia's two most populous areas dominate the U.S.
Krasnoyarsk, the regional base of Mr. Lebed, is to get 12,000 tons of
corn, 2,000 tons of rice; it is not seeking any meat. The neighboring
region of Khakassia, whose governor is Mr. Lebed's brother, Alexei, will
receive only 2,000 tons of rice. Samara, Governor Titov's base, is to get
small amounts of soy and rice.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who visited Moscow late last
month, has emphasized the care which his agency is taking to ensure that
the terms of supply, agreed with the Russian government, are strictly
These call for prompt payment to the Russian Ministry of Finance by the
recipients of the commodities, and for the channeling of these funds into
the state pension fund and other government welfare programs. USDA
inspectors will check the entire delivery chain. U.S. government officials
will audit the bank accounts.
U.S. officials emphasize the steps that are being taken to prevent
embezzlement of the commodities, or the sales receipts. They have also
assured American traders the program will ensure market pricing, and do
minimal damage to commercial business.
"Most analysts think the effect on meat prices will be much shorter than
they previously believed," commented Nathan Hunt, a U.S. meat industry
expert in Moscow. "Market forces are already driving prices up worldwide.
The effect of the aid meat in Russia will last for one month, but not for
The political influence of the aid program is something American
officials won't discuss. According to one, it was the Russian Ministry of
Agriculture that identified the regions in need of emergency food supplies.
Russian and foreign charitable organizations also contributed recommendations.
"The primary source," said one U.S. official, was Vladimir Scherbak, the
first deputy minister of agriculture, and Alexander Korolev, head of the
food marketing department of the ministry.
Asked how they allocated each region's share, Mr. Scherbak had "no
comment." Mr. Korolev had "no information," according to a spokesman.
The text of Russia's food aid agreement with the European Commission
reveals a similarly worded emphasis on market pricing and protection
against embezzlement. The EC allows the Russian government to make special
provision for free distribution of food products "in exceptional cases . .
. to the most vulnerable part of the population in these regions."
Charity Says Happy with Russia Aid Distribution
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A children's charity receiving humanitarian aid from the
United States for distribution in Russia is satisfied that the rules
regulating delivery will stop it from being stolen, the charity's director
"I personally think this aid package will be more closely watched than
any other package ever," Vanessa Horton, director of Feed the Children
(FTC) in Moscow, told Reuters.
"It's very unlikely to be stolen. It may go slowly but it won't be
stolen," she said.
The Department of Agriculture is supplying Russia with 100,000 tons of
free food in humanitarian aid as part of a much larger aid package, most of
which is to be paid for with soft loans that Russia is receiving as part of
Horton said the 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid will be split between a
number of nongovernmental organizations. FTC applied for and got 8,000 tons
of soybeans that will be distributed in children's institutions, mostly
The food will be delivered to the charity at the Black Sea port of
Novorossiisk, where FTC is opening an office. FTC will be responsible for
The food will not be loaded until documents matching individual loads of
food to individual trucks are produced. On arrival at the orphanage, both
truck and orphanage must again produce matching documentation before the
food can be unloaded.
The orphanage must then contact both the Moscow office of FTC and the
Russian government department handling aid distribution to confirm
delivery, Horton said.
As the aid will be delivered according to a timetable, non-arrival would
be realized very quickly.
Horton said distribution would also be monitored by spot checks by USDA
staff, Russian authorities and FTC itself.
"Everybody's going to be documenting it. The chances of this aid being
stolen are extremely remote," she said.
FTC will distribute soybeans in orphanages and other children's
institutions in the Russian cities of Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Vladimir,
Ivanovo, Nizhny Novgorod, Bryansk, Belgorod and Penza as well as Moscow.
The soybeans will be used to make high-protein soy milk which can be made
into yogurt or tofu cheese and used as a cooking ingredient to add protein
The process also leaves a dry residue, okara, which can be added, for
example, to dough to produce a high-protein bread.
FTC currently feeds 3,300 children and pensioners a day in Russia under
an earlier U.S. aid program. This program expires on Feb. 28, to be
replaced by the new program of 100,000 tons of aid.
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
From: "Scheuer, Mark" <MARK.A.SCHEUER@cpmx.saic.com>
Subject: Russian Honesty
I was very interested to read Mr. Edwin Dolan's discussion of Russian
eduction (JRL 3042). As I was reading his article, I began remembering my
brief encounter w/ the Russian academic culture while teaching English in
Moscow. Albeit, the classes I taught were supplementary and did not count on
anyone's academic record, I was exasperated by the degree of cheating that
took place at all levels and in all age groups. I thought one or two
incidents from the poorest students was expected, but it seemed that those
who knew the lessons had no problems helping others who did not. I know that
cheating occurs in the US, but it seemed to me to decline the older
Americans get and the farther along they are in their education. I expected
such in my Moscow English classes, but I was wrong. I found myself coming up
w/ seating schemes to combat this ritual and it became a source of amusement
for my students. They went out of their way to continue cheating and
defended the practice with a dismissive "this is Russia" (eta zhe Rossiya).
I'm hoping to learn a bit more about this issue from two sources. First, I'd
love to hear reactions/comments/discussion about what I may be
misunderstanding as "a culture of cheating" in Russia from Russian readers
of JRL (and please, I'm well aware of our president's own marital
struggles). Second, if there are any scholars who have spent time analyzing
the issue, are there any theories tying what seems to be a rampid problem in
academia to Russian society's behavior as a whole? Russia watchers are
familiar with broad claims that Russians cheat on taxes, business deals and
arms control -- is this a trend that begins at school? Or do isolated
incidents/observations blown out of proportion and conservative US
skepticism of Russia lead to false conclusions about Russian honesty?
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
From: "George A. Marquart" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mark Ames re. Sarah Busse
Aside from his lack of manners, Mr. Ames is ignorant about the nature of
Christianity and its influence on civilized society.
1. Russia was not a devoutly Christian country right up to 1917. This was
the impression created by the numerous churches and beautiful singing.
Nobody outside of Russia really knew what the situation with regard to the
people's belief in Christian principles was. Read Leskov, and if you
understand anything about Christianity, it will make your hair stand on end.
As Alexander Solzhenytsin says in the words of one of his characters in
"August 1917," "You know that the soul of the Russian people has never been
On this point, I would also like to quote part of the last sentence of
Thomas C. Owens' extremely insightful book, "The Corporation under Russian
Law, 1800-1917," "...then much of Russian economic history, even in the
Soviet period, must be explained not purely in terms of the impersonal and
universal aspects of finance, technology, and factory organization, but with
due regard for the cultural context of economic behavior."
2. Yeltsin is as much of a Christian as the Irish Christians of both sides,
who throw bombs at children. I think one could, in fact, legitimately ask
if Alexis II of all Russia is a Christian.
3. You should not confuse the church with Christianity. If you look at
western Europe in the 15-th century, you will see the same kind of
corruption and lack of ethical values that characterizes Russia, including
its church, today. It took about 400 years, and a huge change in the values
of society, before that part of the world achieved the level of morality,
which enabled it to prosper as it does today. Nobody claims that
contemporary western civilization is perfect. We do some terrible things.
But there is a distinct social conscience in the West that eventually comes
to grips with our excesses.
4. There are historians who hold that England avoided the revolutions that
swept the European continent in the 19-th century because of the
"Evangelical Revival" which took place at that time. Yes, England did some
terrible things, as all societies do. But if you look at the former
European colonies, you will still see that those that used to belong to
England are ahead of the others.
As to the remaining points made by Mr. Ames, he commits one of the most
common logical fallacies to be found: the confusion of correlation with
cause and effect. That is the only refutation those primitive arguments
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999 12:02:12 -0500
From: Andrew Miller <email@example.com> )
Subject: Literature poll
"READ" IT AND WEEP
As part of its on-going commemoration of the end of the
millennium, in its issue for the week of January 28 the Russian
newspaper Young Moscow Communist (in Russian "Moskovsky Komsomolets")
published the results of a survey of 2,409 Russians by the All-Russian
Center for the Study of Public Opinion (ACSPO - in Russian "VTsIOM") in
Moscow. The ACSPO asked: "What was the greatest Russian novel of the
twentieth century?" Respondents could recognize as many works as
One quarter of the respondents (26%) replied that the question
was "too difficult to answer."
The one-quarter non-response should not be misconstrued: it
probably does not indicate that these Russians could not answer, but
rather simply that they would not. During the Soviet era, many Russians
would have been terrified of such a question and the possible
consequences of a "wrong" answer. But the non-response is nonetheless
highly illuminating as an indicator of the profound lack of progress
that has been made away from the darkness of totalitarianism in the
virtual decade since liberalism came in to take the country for a spin
in 1991. Russians are still just as desperately afraid.
Studying the bottom of the list produced by those who could
manage to respond is as edifying as perusing the top. Only about a
tenth (11%) of those responding named a work by Alexander Solzhenitsin
or Boris Pasternak. About 90%, it seems, hadn't heard of, much less
read, either author. On the other hand, an additional three percent
named Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, a work written in English by an author
who'd been in self-imposed exile from the country for more than four
decades after rejecting the Bolshevik Revolution, and who never returned
to Russia. The definition of "Russian," it seems, is quite broad in the
sphere of literature. It is unfortunately not so broad in the area of
At the top of the list, four writers were named by at least one
in four respondents (the next highest vote-getter had only 12%
recognition). In first place, the "winner" was the only writer to
receive at least a third of the respondents' recognition - Mikhail
Sholokov (And Quiet Flows the Don). Sholokov was one of four Russians,
along with Pasternak and Solzhenitsin, to win the Nobel Prize for
fiction. Sholokov was the only Russian laureate never suppressed,
censored or exiled by the Soviet State - a dubious distinction needless
The fourth Russian to win the Nobel for fiction was Ivan Bunin,
who received it in 1933 but who, like Nabokov, rejected communism and
lived in exile after 1917. Bunin was not mentioned by a single
The third highest vote-getter was Mikhail Bulgakov for The
Master and Margarita, a novel which though many Russians say they like
few have ever actually "read," as it was published only in a censored
edition (in which form it takes on the aspect of a satire on religion
rather than bureaucracy) until quite recently and is even now not widely
available unexpurgated. Bulgakov was also not, of course, really a
novelist but rather a frustrated playwright - frustrated because it was
illegal to produce his plays (considered by many critics to be by far
the greatest of the Twentieth Century).
Which works occupied second and fourth places? They were The
Eternal Call and The Twelve Chairs. Can you name the authors?
If you said Anatoly Ivanov and the writing team of Yevgeny
Petrov and Ilya Ilf (noms de plume of Ilya Fainzberg and Yevgeny
Katayev), you win The Little Golden Calf. All three were heroes (small
"h") of the Soviet Union - Ivanov glorified the courage of the ordinary
Soviet man, while Petrov and Ilf ridiculed the West, greed and
capitalism. They are, as you know, not exactly household names in the
West. Sholokov, of course, wrote glorious and glowing, albeit utterly
benign, historical novels depicting the life of the Don Cossack.
So, among the five (two in fourth place) "great" Russian writers
of the Twentieth Century, the Russians count only one of their four
Nobel Laureates. They count one writer whose work they haven't actually
yet been able to read, and three who lionized the Soviet State that was
recently dismantled. And they count one who never wrote a word of
criticism against it.
On January 29, the The St. Petersburg Times published an article
about the teaching of history in Russian high schools. With an foreign
reporter looking on, a Russian high school senior named Natasha,
commenting on the need to "learn history or repeat it" declared: "Just
look at Stalin, who was a talented enough leader and yet led so many
soldiers to a needless death."
Talented enough, indeed.
Having made so little progress in eight years toward a more
liberal, honest and enlightened society, and beleaguered by a rapidly
collapsing economy and political process, it can hardly be gainsaid that
"Russia" as we now know it is doomed (it might have been saved by its
dynamic new generation of young people, but . . .). The only question
that remains open is what form that doom will take. In the American
film "Ghostbusters," when the heroes failed to save the world they had
to choose the manner of its destruction themselves - it turned out to be
a giant, fire-breathing Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man when Dan Akroyd tried
to frustrate Satan by offering the most benign possible of heroes, who
could "never ever possibly ever hurt anybody". Feudalism, civil war,
renewed dictatorship or simple death outright. Take your choice.
But on the other hand, both the Russian GDP (America now
produces more than sixty times the value of goods and services as does
Russia) and population (America now has nearly twice as many people) are
shrinking - it may be that Russia will simply disappear.
U. of P. BA/MA Political Science
Resident St. Petersburg (2 years)
Date: Thu, 04 Feb
From: AKnight703@aol.com (Amy Knight)
I was rather amused by Mark Franchetti's article in The Sunday Times
about the woman who claims that she was Yezhov's daughter. Am I too much of a
sceptic or does the whole story sound a bit ridiculous? This woman, Natalia
Khayutina, says that she was adopted by Yezhov and his wife after Yezhov had
her parents--her father was a Soviet trade representive in London--arrested.
She says that she was two year of age at the time and that she lived with the
Yezhovs for the next three years until her new papa, Yezhov, was arrested.
During that time, Yezhov brought her countless presents and taught her how to
skate, ride a bike and play tennis, lavishing her with love. First, it is
hard to believe that Khayutina would have such vivid memories of such an early
period in her childhood (2-5 years), let alone that she learned all these
skills at such a young age. Even more incredible is that Yezhov (who was
terribly busy with all those trials, interrogations, etc.) would have so much
time to devote to this little girl. (I don't know about others, but it took
me countless hours to get my girls off their training wheels.) Also, if
Yezhov arrested her parents when she was two, that would mean in early 1936,
but he did not take over from Yagoda until several months later. He was of
course the CC secretary supervising the NKVD and orchestrating cases against
"terrorists," but in early 1936 the victims were still limited to a fairly
select group . Whatever the case, this story appears to be yet another
contribution to the growing post-Soviet genre of recollections by kids (or
alleged kids) of former "luminaries." Sergo Beria's memoirs--where,
encouraged by his publishers, he seems to have let his imagination run
wild-- are another example. (Incidentally, Sergo is said to have received, in
the mid-thirties, a new bicycle from NKVD Chief Yagoda, who was his godfather.
I wonder if Yagoda taught him how to ride it.) It is lamentable that these
sources are given such credence in Russia.
The George Washington University
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999
From: "Paul Backer, Esq." <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Comment on discussion of Russian taxes.
It is always interesting to see a theoretic discussion of the RF tax
situation, almost inevitably I am struck that the country being written
about is very different from the one where I work and live.
A common idea that improved (read as more draconian) tax collection offers
the opportunity for the RF to address over $150 billion in its public debt.
It should be noted that arguably the RF does not have that much "public"
debt, many foreign investors were unpleasantly surprised that the famous
GKOs were not guaranteed by the RF, but rather by one of the official
banks. Leaving that aside, the TOTAL RF budget is roughly $20 billion and
less as the ruble's fall continues. What portion of that $20 billion can
be better collected to help RF meet an annual debt payment burden not much
less than its annual budget? Particularly when the grey and black sectors
of the economy arguably outstrip the public sector, ask Goskomstat guys
when they get out on bail.
Leaving aside possible rimpacts of paying taxes, most RF commercial
entities don't want to pay taxes at any price. No commercials, raids, etc.
will make them want to pay. If they wanted to pay, there are a number of
legal and fairly easy ways to pay taxes in the RF for less than 50 cents on
the dollar, let alone assessed value. There is a methodology allowing
payment of tax penalties and fines for less than 33 cents on the dollar.
Incidentally debts to many RF banks can currently be paid through
"(v)zaimozachet" for roughly 40 cents on the dollar. As a working attorney
I have seen these transactions get done. Yet, many companies simply don't
pay, b/c it makes business sense for them not to and simply because they
don't believe in their government.
The bottom line is that RF nationals don't see any benefit to paying taxes.
The RF gov't is seen (fairly or not) as impossibly corrupt and until that
perception changes, no amount of commercials, cheaper methods of paying or
ski masked raids on business enterprises are going to change that. The
only way for change is for Russia to see the emergence of political leaders
such as Giuliani (NY), Carey (sic?) (Philadelphia) or even, that historical
fave, Dewey who made a career on fighting corruption. If fighting
corruption is a losing proposition no one will do it, and things will
continue as they are and the RF will continue in the current crisis where
virtually the only way to get taxes paid is through direct coercion.