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8 February 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Yeltsin Aide Denies Primakov Rift.
2. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Plight of education in
Russia: few pencils, donated books Teachers, parents try to maintain
standards as funding dries up in financial crisis.
3. Itar-Tass: Russia-US Cooperation Commission to Meet on March 23-25.
4. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Inside Moscow.
5. Reuters: Sebastian Alison, Gazprom shows Russia beacon of
6. AP: Russian Children Run Gantlet of Street Life, Neglect at
7. Edwin G. Dolan: Moral Culture and Russian Prosperity.]
Yeltsin Aide Denies Primakov Rift
February 7, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- A top aide to Boris Yeltsin on Sunday denied there is a
serious rift between the Russian president and Prime Minister Yevgeny
``Differences do occur,'' the deputy chief of the Kremlin staff, Oleg
Sysuyev, said in a television interview. ``But there is no antagonism there
whatsoever or plans to dump this government.''
Moscow has been filled with rumors Yeltsin planned to fire the prime
minister or other top Cabinet officials ever since Primakov submitted a
proposal two weeks ago calling for Yeltsin to relinquish some of his powers
in return for peace with the opposition-dominated parliament.
Yeltsin said he had no intention of relinquishing any power.
Appearing on the Sunday evening television news magazine, ``Mirror,''
Sysuyev said talk of a falling-out had ``nothing to do with reality.''
In addition, he said, ``the rumors about possible resignations of a whole
number of Cabinet members are spread by unscrupulous politicians.''
Christian Science Monitor
February 8, 1999
[for personal use only]
Plight of education in Russia: few pencils, donated books
Teachers, parents try to maintain standards as funding dries up in
BY: Judith Matloff
DL: VOLOKOSAMSK, RUSSIA
Teacher Lubov Panova holds up a toy yellow-paper balalaika that she made
for her students, soundlessly strumming its imaginary strings. There is no
audience. The classroom has been emptied by a strike.
"Welcome to our virtual orchestra," she says, with a smile that is a little
Ms. Panova and her colleagues painted alphabet blocks and drew paper
decorations for the classroom. Parents donated the white frilly curtains,
lab chemicals, and books and pitched in to paint the walls.
School No. 2, 60 miles northwest of Moscow, is like many in Russia. There
is no glass to replace broken windows. Teachers can go unpaid for months.
And as in many communities across Russia, parents and teachers have united
to keep the torch of knowledge alive, with no help from government
authorities who say their coffers are empty.
"We work for free. And parents provide the rest - textbooks, labor,
equipment, wood, plaster," says teacher Nina Bukharova. "The state doesn't
The root of the problem, says Education Minister Vladimir Filippov, is that
resources have dwindled since the breakup of the Soviet Union. "Since 1991,
we have seen a radical change," he told the Monitor.
Salary delays and a lack of materials have troubled Russia for years. But
the situation has reached a crisis since the ruble's August 1998 collapse.
Currently the wage and social benefits debt owed to Russia's 1.7 million
teachers is around 15 billion rubles - or $652,000.
WHILE some teachers regularly receive a nominal portion of their monthly
salaries (worth about $26), others have not seen a kopeck for up to a year.
Still others are paid via barter, with such diverse items as hay, suits,
women's underwear, refrigerators, and cow manure.
Teachers normally accept whatever they are offered, but one group drew the
line at coffins. "They said they weren't prepared to accept coffins as long
as they were alive," says Vladimir Yakovlev, president of the Education and
Science Employees' Union.
For Tatiana Sinotova, who has not received any form of wage in three
months, teaching the Rus-sian language is a labor of love. "We show up for
work for the pupils' sake," she explains.
But her patience has a limit. Two weeks ago she joined nationwide strikes
by 400,000 teachers demanding wage arrears. Nearly half a million more
walked picket lines.
The consequences of the economic deprivation are eroding the reputation of
Russia's once famed sites of learning. Although much schooling was
authoritarian under the former Soviet regime, literacy levels were among
the highest in the world.
But the ideological freedom that came with the Soviet demise was
accompanied by deteriorating standards. Schools could not afford modern
equipment such as computers or provide free textbooks or even heating.
"Adoption of a new social model could have been an opportunity ... to build
on the best of the old education system while discarding the worst.
Instead, many children today are receiving an education that is inferior to
that their parents received," says a recent report by the United Nations
Union leader Yakovlev blames much of the financial hardship on corrupt
local officials. "There is no doubt that some local authorities are using
the August crisis as an excuse to withhold payments," he says.
He lauded the government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, which has
defied the International Monetary Fund's call for budget restraint by
envisaging 79 percent more spending on education this year.
For parents who worry about their children's futures, improving school
resources is of utmost urgency.
"Now we can help the school. But will we be able to within a year?" asks
Irina Fetiskina, whose daughter studies at School No. 2.
She then articulates one of her greatest concerns: "What if the teachers
have enough and start to drop out?"
Russia-US Cooperation Commission to Meet on March 23-25.
WASHINGTON, February 6 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian-American
inter-governmental cooperation commission will hold its 11th meeting in
Washington on March 23-25, said US Vice President Albert Gore, who
co-chairs the commission on the American side.
He said Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov would make his firts
visit to Washington in the capacity of the commission's Russian co-chairman
to attend its meeting.
The bilateral commission on economic and technological cooperation was
set up in 1993 on the decision of the Russian and US presidents, Boris
Yeltsin and Bill Clinton.
The commission is co-chaired by the Russian prime minister and the US
vice president and is briefly referred to by their names.
Therefore, the March meeting will be the first plenary sitting of the
The commission is made up of ten committees and working groups. Their
work encompasses almost all fields of economic, scientific and
technological cooperation between the two states, spanning agriculture,
space research, health , environment, energy, capital markets and regional
Gore in his outline of the commission's record mentioned
Moscow-Washington accords on a stop of production of weapons-grade
plutonium, conversion of defense enterprises to civilian uses, creation of
a law base for production-sharing agreements, furthering space cooperation,
a programme of diphtheria control in Russia and a boost to a number of
major commercial projects.
Informed sources told Itar-Tass that the recent differences of Russia and
the United States over a string of international issues have produced
traces of alienation in bilateral relations and the US administration's
concern and motivation to restore previous rapport.
This was in particular a motive behind the recent visit to Moscow of US
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Washington is readying for "indepth dialogue" with Primakov during his
A press release from Gore's office said his March meeting with Primakov
will be their third since Primakov took up the helm.
Primakov and Gore met on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum
in Kuala Lumpur in November and had an hour and a half talk at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 29.
The Sunday Times (UK
February 7 1999
[for personal use only]
By Mark Franchetti
Doctor makes a killing by soothing burnt-out Brits
Planning to start a business in Russia? Forget about high finance, import
and export or the oil trade. The future lies in psychology.
That, at least, is the conclusion of Robert Sharpe, a London-based
psychologist brought over to Moscow last week by several foreign companies
to help stressed British managers who have "crashed".
While most Russians have reacted to their country's latest economic
problems with traditional stoicism, the usually vibrant foreign community
has found life harder going. Lured to Moscow by the prospect of adventure,
high salaries and long vodka binges, many now face unemployment and the
growing threat of crime.
"Russia is a difficult place to work in. It drains you," said Sharpe, the
author of several books and self-help tapes on stress.
"Expats here are burnt out. Their colleagues have left, obliging them to
work longer hours in a climate of total insecurity. Their lives are in such
turmoil that they can't sleep properly. They need help fast."
Sharpe prescribes a three-week rehabilitation course, the first 10 days
of which are spent at home in Britain sleeping, relaxing and exercising in
quiet surroundings. Managers are then returned to Moscow, where they
undergo a further week of stress management courses to help them regain
self-confidence. In special cases, stressed spouses will also be able to
join the programme.
The treatment is in stark contrast to the advice that Russians have
received from local experts writing in the press. They say sacked
businessmen should simply renovate their flats, talk to friends on the
telephone and go to concerts, while women should consider having a child.
Despite the high price of Sharpe's treatment, which can run to £20,000,
several companies have shown interest. The alternative - permanently
relocating an executive away from Russia - can often cost much more.
"There's a market to open up in Moscow and I'll be pretty busy," said
Sharpe. "I'm planning several trips to Russia to offer my services and I
intend to open up a practice there soon."
The collapse of the rouble is not the only cause of expat stress,
however. Sharpe - who may soon become overworked himself - has concluded
that most anxiety is caused by extramarital affairs. The treatment he
intends to prescribe in such cases remains unclear.
The state duma, the lower house of parliament, has found a bizarre way of
showing just how much Russian enterprises need to improve the shoddy
merchandise they produce.
To coincide with committee hearings on a wave of bankruptcies, it put on
an exhibition titled "Bad products from hopeless factories". Visitors were
treated to a display of the worst products of the country's industry. These
included pink lace stockings so unfashionable that even a Russian would not
buy them, malformed building bricks and platefuls of gristly ham and fatty
Show time for Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, first tried his hand at
light entertainment when he appeared in a television advertisement for
Pizza Hut. He is now considering a new opportunity as a variety show compere.
Gorbachev has been invited to co-host this year's San Remo song contest,
the most celebrated competition of its kind in Italy.
Sophia Loren, the film star, and Laetitia Casta, the Corsican-born
supermodel, have also been approached. Gorbachev has yet to decide whether
to accept, but who knows? His next appearance may be on MTV.
Luzhkov's lost letters
Yuri Luzhkov, the bullish mayor of Moscow, has become the latest victim
of Russia's notoriously inefficient postal system. When he demanded to know
why he was receiving so little mail, he was told it was because he has the
same street address as a pensioner living in the city's suburbs.
Alexandra Volkova's address, like the mayor's, is 13 Tverskaya - although
her modest home is miles from Luzhkov's imposing city-centre offices.
"I have been inundated with letters to the mayor," Volkova said.
"But I have not read them, I promise."
FEATURE - Gazprom shows Russia beacon of excellence
By Sebastian Alison
MALOYAROSLAVETS, Russia, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Just a two-hour drive from
Moscow in central Russia's heartland, a down-at-heel and unremarkable small
town is being turned into a centre of excellence on the back of tomatoes,
greenhouses and gas.
The sleepy town of Maloyaroslavets lies 100 km (60 miles) southwest of
the capital, once on the main invasion route for European armies marching
It last rated a mention in the history books in 1812, when Marshal
Kutuzov dealt the final blow to Napoleon's retreating forces there. It was
the turning point of that campaign and described by its mayor as ``the
Stalingrad of the 19th Century.''
Since then it has developed into a scruffy town of 30,000 with a pretty
church and monastery, a shabby, run-down quality to the city centre, and
little to distinguish it from thousands of other small towns in Russia.
Russia's main economic powerhouse, the gas monopoly Gazprom has picked
Maloyaroslavets for a social and economic experiment which is reinventing
Gazprom is rich. Its assets include a quarter of the world's natural gas,
it is the country's largest company, and it pays around a quarter of
federal taxes collected in Russia.
It also employs people in some of the most inhospitable places on earth.
Some spend years in the Arctic, where winter lasts nine months and
everyone, especially children, suffers from a lack of vitamins, sun, and
the chance to play outdoors.
In 1995 Gazprom and the government began a programme to move staff who
had spent long periods in the far north to central Russia. Maloyaroslavets
was chosen as the resettlement zone, and its fortunes changed.
At the heart of the programme is a new business, AgriSovGaz, 99.62
percent owned by Gazprom and set up in 1995 to provide an economic bedrock
for the redevelopment of the town.
The company's chief engineer, Vladimir Kostenetsky, told reporters on a
recent visit that the business, which employs some 1,400 people, revolves
around three plants.
One makes aluminium products, including frames for pre-fabricated
buildings. Another makes steel products. A third combines the output of the
first two to make greenhouses.
A FUTURE BASED ON ARCTIC TOMATOES?
These are seen as playing a major role in Russia's agricultural future,
following examples from the Netherlands, Spain and other countries where
huge volumes of fruit and vegetables are grown under glass and plastic.
A three-hectare (seven-acre) greenhouse is already operational in
Maloyaroslavets. And ambitious plans are under way to start growing fresh
tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce in the frozen north, where fresh
goods are frequently unobtainable.
``There are many compressor stations on gas pipelines in the north with
turbines which heat gas to 30 degrees celsius,'' Kostenetsky said.
This is simply lost to the Arctic air at present, he said, but could be
used to heat greenhouses placed next to the compressor stations and provide
a welcome addition to the diet.
The next stage in Maloyaroslavets's transformation was in the provision
of housing. Once again Gazprom stepped in.
The company is owed billions of dollars in unpaid debts for gas
delivered, mostly to Russian consumers from whom there is little hope that
the money will ever be recovered.
But there are also foreign customers who have failed to pay up, including
Turkey and Romania. Gazprom decided against pursuing these debtors for cash
and resolved to accept payment in kind instead -- in this case, in the form
Turkish and Romanian building firms came to the town and have now
completed a housing estate for 6,000 people, a suburb of extraordinary
Its excellence of design and finish would make it a popular and
fashionable address in an upmarket suburb in any wealthy city in Europe or
the United States. Perched on the edge of an otherwise nondescript Russian
town, it defies belief.
``It is our pride,'' Mayor Gennady Kryuchkov, a former AgriSovGaz
employee, told reporters in his modest office, below a diploma declaring
his town ``the best kept in Russia.''
Only 120 apartments are now occupied by Gazprom workers returning from
the frozen north, but that number will rise.
A SCHOOL TO CHALLENGE PERCEPTIONS OF RUSSIA
While the town is justifiably proud of its new suburb, the greatest pride
is reserved for its 1,055-member school.
Journalists from Finland, Italy, France, Turkey, Bulgaria and Britain,
among others, taken round the school by youthful head teacher Oleg
Kravchenko, had never seen anything approaching the standards and
facilities in their own countries.
With a theatre that would grace the conference facilities of any
five-star hotel, a superb 25-metre swimming pool with a vast picture-window
looking over the snow, and a gigantic indoor sports hall, its leisure
facilities were second to none.
Academic facilities were no less impressive. The science and language
laboratories, music rooms, television studio (yes, a school with its own
television studio), library and classrooms all boasted equipment rarely
seen in schools anywhere.
In more than one classroom every child was working quietly at their own
computer terminal. In the sewing room girls (and only girls) made national
dress of the local region at their own sewing machines. The school wanted
``All the equipment was bought by Gazprom,'' Kravchenko said. ``It's the
last word in high technology.'' And Gazprom is not reticent about its role.
Above the swimming pool the Gazprom and Russian national flags shared top
Gazprom's role in funding the school underlines its status as a
state-within-a-state. Kravchenko said the government gave the school 1.8
million roubles ($80,000) a year and a further 3.5 million came from a
special fund controlled by the mayor.
He added that approximately another million roubles a year came from
Gazprom, and said the school could not possibly maintain its current
standards without this support. A tour of the school suggested Gazprom's
contribution was far higher.
The town's success raises uncomfortable questions about the arbitrary way
in which one town can land such an astonishing windfall while there is so
much misery in Russia.
Kravchenko said not just residents of the suburb benefited from the
school. Only 440 of the pupils lived in the new estate, he said, with the
majority coming from other, less-favoured parts of town.
But even so, the rest of the town, not to say Russia, must look on with
envy. Across the road from the school, the carved, painted wooden houses
characteristic of provincial Russia stand in grids of muddy streets in
silent reproach of their opulent neighbour.
Asked how their inhabitants must feel about the town's new addition,
Gazprom spokesman Anatoly Kotov agreed that ``yes, it must be horrible for
But horrible or not, at least one part of one Russian town is now endowed
with living conditions and a school which any other country in the world
would be proud of.
Russian Children Run Gantlet of Street Life, Neglect at Home
MOSCOW (AP) -- Bath-time is over, and 20 girls face one another in two
straight, silent lines along opposite walls of a corridor. Half are combing
their hair. The others watch; their heads were shaved as soon as they
arrived at the juvenile detention center because they had lice.
This is a crossroads for Russia's high-risk children -- between the tough
life on the streets, the stifling existence in state-run institutions, and
the alcoholism, violence and neglect some fled at home.
The kids are in the jail-like holding pen for everything from begging to
homicide. Their uniformed wardens fill up every minute of every day with
regimented activities to instill them with discipline. From here, some will
be sent to prison, others to orphanages, and many right back to their
families -- only to run away again.
Many families have weathered Russia's rocky transition from communism,
raising bright, healthy and motivated children in spite of the social
upheaval. But others have proven unable to cope, flooding state
institutions and the streets of Russian cities with neglected children.
"I don't want to go home. I don't want to go back on the streets,
either," protests Julia, a sullen 15-year-old in black patent-leather pumps
who was arrested after she ran away from her family and spent three months
working as a prostitute.
"What am I supposed to do, go straight to the cemetery and dig myself a
The economic slumps and legal chaos of the eight years since the Soviet
collapse have taken an especially harsh toll on poor children, and have
brought long-standing problems of child neglect out into the open.
Ragged children barely out of diapers trudge through Moscow's subway
trains, carrying hand-lettered signs with appeals for money. Kids in thin
jackets and torn boots huddle over steam vents on the wintry streets,
sniffing glue, drinking vodka, killing time.
Pediatric health has declined across Russia, with previously eradicated
diseases like tuberculosis making a comeback. Drug abuse and homelessness
among children have risen sharply.
Juvenile crime in Moscow doubled between 1990 and 1993, then fell back.
Over the past year it's been rising again, and the crimes are becoming more
violent and indiscriminate, said Tatyana Maximova, director of the Juvenile
Crime Prevention division of the city police department.
"In the old days, if we had five killings a year by juveniles, it was
considered an emergency. Last year, we had 48," said Maximova, a 20-year
Most of the young criminals come from poor families with unemployed
parents. They're likely to end up in the same bind as their parents: Their
mandatory eight grades of education have given them no skills and no chance
of finding a job. Factories and stores are no longer obligated to employ
"I would have liked to go on to a vocational school, but there were no
openings," says Julia, the young prostitute, her voice flat and hopeless.
Public spending on education has fallen by about one-third over the last
decade. Teachers' wages remain extremely low, and in at least 17 of
Russia's 89 regions they haven't been paid at all for up to six months,
sparking strikes and other actions that interfere with children's schooling.
Free lunch programs have been cut back in many schools, and the Education
Ministry has registered some cases of children being confined to their
homes for want of adequate clothing and shoes.
"The crisis is causing some children to fall out of the educational
system," warned Deputy Education Minister Alexander Kondakov.
The post-Soviet law on education has allowed parents to keep their
children out of school, in exchange for a promise to teach them at home.
The law also helped principals get rid of unruly children, said Maximova,
the juvenile cop. "Children 11, 12 years old end up on the streets, washing
windshields. They have papers saying they're studying at home, but who is
there to teach them?" she said.
And so they join the army of street children, many of whom ended up
homeless when their parents sold apartments and houses. Marginalized
families -- the poor, the mentally ill, alcoholics _ were the first targets
of crooked real estate speculators in the early 1990s, when their free
housing suddenly became a valuable commodity.
"People would sell apartments for a crate of vodka," said Oleg Zykov, a
psychiatrist who heads the No to Alcoholism and Drug Abuse foundation,
which works with street children. He estimates there are about 15,000
street children in Moscow alone.
Zykov said the large number is tied to the skyrocketing rates of
alcoholism and drug abuse in Russia: More than 90 percent of child neglect
cases are the result of parental addictions.
Sometimes, adults use children to make money for themselves.
Yanna, an undersized 12-year-old with a mop of unevenly cut brown hair,
freckles and scared eyes, recounts the odyssey from her family home in the
impoverished former Soviet republic of Moldova to the detention center:
"I came in the summer with a lady, Olya. She taught us how to beg. We
moved from apartment to apartment. The first time the police grabbed me,
Olya gave them some wine and they let me go. The next time, the wine didn't
The number of children surrendered to state custody by families has
doubled in five years to 113,000 annually, according to New York-based
Human Rights Watch. While the number of children in infant homes has risen
just over 2 percent to 18,100 during that span, the number in orphanages
for children over 3 has surged more than 60 percent to 67,300.
More and more youngsters are ending up in state custody only after
spending time on the streets.
"Earlier it was easier. A lot of children were coming from their homes,"
said Natalya Kuryshova, deputy director of the Saltykov children's home, a
140-bed orphanage in a cheerfully decorated brick building just east of
"Now we have children who know what vagrancy means, who've felt real
hunger, who've been taught to steal, who've used toxic substances."
exacerbated the problem. Prices have soared, already paltry state
child-support payments are almost worthless, and opportunities for even the
occasional job that kept many families going for years have shrunk.
"In children's homes, you're seeing more mothers come and say 'I don't
want to renounce my own child, but I don't have anything to feed him,"'
said Olga Remenets, a consultant working for the U.N. Children's Fund in
Orphanages themselves are struggling to keep the children fed, depending
increasingly on neighboring farms and businesses to supplement their state
About a fourth of the children surrendered to state custody have lost a
parent, said Zoya Karlova, a child care specialist for the Moscow regional
health department. In most cases, the children either come from troubled
families or are judged disabled -- though many have conditions that could
be easily corrected, like cleft-palates.
But economic hardship, social prejudice against disabilities and state
welfare officials combine to persuade parents to give up their children.
Human rights activists charge that the officials are motivated by the
need to keep state funds coming, and thus keep themselves employed. Parents
receive just about one-eighth of the sum that institutions do to bring up
disabled children, putting home-care beyond the reach of most families.
Officials are also motivated by the ingrained tradition from Soviet days
of handling social problems through institutions rather than individually,
and of hiding the handicapped in closed institutions.
In a report released in December, Human Rights Watch documented horrific
abuse in the institutions, where about 30,000 severely disabled children
are interned. Slaps, restraints and heavy sedation are routinely used to
keep the children in line, and many are deprived of virtually any care
beyond feeding and washing, it said.
The number of mothers and fathers stripped of parental rights because of
child abuse has grown. In Moscow alone, those rights were taken from 428
parents in 1995, 832 in 1997 and more than 1,000 in 1998, said Deputy Mayor
Valery Shantsev, who is responsible for the city's social welfare.
Some of those children are placed with relatives, but others enter the
state system -- and when they come out, they'll be unequipped for
"Society requires initiative and the ability to defend your interests,
and the (children's home) offers a rigid standard: 'Be like everybody else,
and you'll be fine,"' said Zykov, the psychiatrist.
"Then, at age 15, you're thrown into this world not only without moral
values, but without even elementary skills like how to live for a whole
month on the money you receive today -- to say nothing of how to build a
relationship with a partner, how to form a family, how to behave at work."
According to Russia's prosecutor-general, 20 percent of children who are
released from children's homes will develop criminal records, 30 percent
will become drug addicts and alcoholics, and 10 percent will commit suicide
within a year.
The children are marked for life, often with incorrect diagnoses of
mental and physical problems that haunt them into their adult years.
Andrei Sadukhin's case illustrates the vicious circle. He was abandoned
at birth and placed in an orphanage near Rostov, in southern Russia. At age
4, a doctors commission judged him mentally handicapped and he was
channeled into an institution for the disabled. He never got a chance to
The only tacit agreement that he was normal came from the army, where
Sadukhin served two years after leaving the institution. But when he
returned to Rostov to claim the housing that is legally due to all orphans,
he was refused, and offered a place in a mental hospital -- a locked
institution no better than a prison. Officials just shrugged their
shoulders when he threatened them with court action.
"I was told, 'You're retarded, and no one will believe you,"' Sadukhin
Today, the 23-year-old sleeps in doorways and basements in Moscow. He
cannot get official registration at a residence, which means he cannot get
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999
From: "Edwin G. Dolan" <email@example.com>
Subject: Moral Culture and Russian Prosperity
Moral Culture and Prosperity in Russia
Sarah Busse (JRL 3041) makes an excellent case for the importance of a
particular moral order as a prerequisite for capitalism, a theme to which
others, including of Austin Forsyth (JRL 3024) and Philip Waring (JRL 3023),
have also made helpful recent contributions. All of them argue that certain
traits of Russian culture have made it especially difficult for an orderly
and prosperous market economy to take root here.
In this area, as elsewhere, it is helpful to have some structural model to
work from, so that the discussions does not become a mere laundry list of
culture and moral values that are attributed to one or another nationality.
One of the most thought-provoking structural models of moral culture that I
have run across is that set out in Jane Jacob's book "Systems of Survival."
Perhaps some members of this list might find some of her ideas useful.
A good way to get the flavor of Jacobs's argument and its relevance for
Russia is to start with a story she relates midway through her book about a
Central African tribe known as the Iks. Her account, although not her
conclusions, relies, in turn, on Colin Turnbull's The Mountain People.
The Iks were a tribe of hunter-gatherers in the hinterlands of Kenya, who,
in the 1950s, were displaced when the government established a large game
preserve. With the advice of Western anthropologists, the government decided
to turn the Iks into subsistence farmers. They were given tools, supplies of
seeds, and instruction in farming methods.
The result was a disaster. The cast of mind that had served the Iks as
hunter-gatherers did not transfer to farming. Instead of working
industriously in good times to save up for lean times to come, as farmers
need to do, they worked only as hard as they needed to get each day's food,
as hunters do. Instead of saving seed for the next planting, as farmers do,
they ate it, as gatherers of wild foods do. Individuals who ran short of
food raided their neighbors' granaries. This reinforced the notion that it
was not worth storing anything.
When starvation hit, the Iks, who had been gentle and fun-loving as
hunters, became savagely brutal. Able-bodied young men monopolized relief
food intended for women and children. When there was a lucky year of good
rains, they exhibited greed and selfishness on a stunning scale. The weak
were cold-bloodedly robbed. Young men built a permanent racket of coaxing
relief food and monopolizing it for themselves. One elder who was a master
of deception fomented cattle raids among neighboring Masai herdsmen, and
then took payoffs from all of them for serving as an informer and double
agent. Even children became brutal toward one another. Family life broke
down and population plummeted. In short, the Iks became subject to a number
of the ills that characterize today's Russia.
Jacobs's analysis of the Ik debacle is that the government and its
advisers, in trying to convert the Iks to farming, gave them the needed
"artifacts" and "mentifacts," but not the needed "ethifacts." That is, it
gave them tools and instruction but failed to notice that they lacked a
moral code suitable to life as subsistence farmers.
Previously, the Iks, as hunters, had practiced a moral code that Jacobs
calls the "guardian syndrome." This code gets its name from the predominant
values of groups like police, soldiers, and government bureaucrats, but it
also is mimicked by groups that rely for their livelihood on the use of
force outside the framework of law, not only primitive hunters, but also
organized crime groups and freebooting warlords like those found today in
Somalia or Chechnya. The guardian syndrome, in both its benign and malignant
manifestations, emphasizes the following virtues:
Be obedient and disciplined
Adhere to tradition
Deceive for the sake of the task at hand
Make rich use of leisure
These virtues, which served the Iks well as hunters, became vices when the
attempt was made to convert them to farmers. According to Jacobs, peaceful
subsistence farming (as opposed to serfdom or slavery) requires a different
moral code, which she calls the "commercial syndrome." Its elements are:
Come to voluntary agreements
Collaborate easily with strangers and foreigners
Use initiative and enterprise
Be open to inventiveness and novelty
Promote comfort and convenience
Practice dissent for the sake of the task at hand
Invest for productive purposes
The Ik episode shows what can happen when a people is suddenly thrown into
a situation where its old moral syndrome is no longer appropriate. Leisure,
appropriate after a good hunt, failed to give way to the thrift and industry
needed to plant a crop in preparation for a distant winter. Deception, a
great virtue when practiced by hunters to track wild game, was instead put
to work against neighboring farmers and herdsmen. Young men used force and
prowess to gain a livelihood at the expense of their fellows, instead of
entering into mutually beneficial cooperation and contracts, and so on.
Jacobs, who finished Systems of Survival in 1992, had little to say about
Russian reforms, but clearly, the guardian mentality has deep roots in
Russian history. It was reinforced by Communism, which suppressed any open
manifestation of commercial morality. After 1991, the artifacts and
mentifacts of a new, capitalist way of life were imported into Russia with
little thought for their consistency with prevailing ethifacts. The clash
between the guardian mentality and the requirements of a market economy
appears to have contributed to the slow pace, and in some cases outright
failure, of market development in several specific ways.
One problem is that privatized or newly established firms in Russia were
often headed by former guardians, either "Red Directors" in the case of much
of heavy industry, or ex-Komsomol whiz-kids of the Kiriyenko variety in the
case of the financial sector. Has this generation of Russian management made
it a principle to shun force in business dealings? Has it consistently shown
a preference for voluntary agreements? Is it conspicuously honest? Do Red
Directors collaborate easily with foreigners? Are they enthusiastic about
competition? Do they respect contracts? Are they open to inventiveness and
novelty? Are they efficient? Do they channel their wealth into investments
for productive purposes? No doubt some of them do some of the time, but by
and large, these are not the traits that Western managers, working in
Russia, see as especially prominent among their Russian counterparts.
Moreover, while we see a lack of many of the commercial virtues in today's
Russian business culture, we also see many holdovers from the guardian
syndrome, both among New Russians and Red Directors. The more obvious ones
include readiness to take vengance and practice deceit, to be ostentatious
and practice largesse, and to be exclusive. There are some less obvious ones
as well. For example, Russian firms tend to be more hierarchical, as often
noted by graduates of our institute who have moved between Russian and
Western employers. They report that it is harder to see the boss in a
Russian firm and that mid-level managers have less independence. As for the
tendency to shun trading, it is interesting that Ikes and Gaddy, in their
comments on the "virtual economy," emphasize the preference of Red
Directors, whenever possible, to shield their firms from the influence of
the market rather than to seize market opportunities. At least in these
authors' view, barter, in the Russian style, is not quite commerce.
Next, I'd like to turn to another of Jacobs's points: that the guardian
syndrome is characteristic not only of legitimate institutions like police
forces and bureaucracies, but also of criminal gangs. At one point she
expands at length on importance of prowess, vengance, loyalty, largesse,
etc. to the Italian mafia. In fact, as she mentions in a footnote, she was
originally inclined to refer to this moral cast of mind as the "raider"
syndrome rather than the guardian syndrome, before finally opting for
Plato's less pejorative term.
It is hardly necessary to dwell on the fact that organized crime has found
fertile soil in post-Soviet Russia. Could the reason be, at least in part,
that the moral syndrome suitable to a successful criminal gang differs
little from the moral orientation of the CPSU, and especially its security
organs, veterans of which are said to play prominent roles in Russian
organized crime? If so, we might best characterize post-Soviet organized
crime as the privatization of guardian functions previously monopolized by
Still another of Jacobs's ideas can be brought to bear on the notion that
Russia would be better off if privatization had proceeded less rapidly, or
if the state had maintained a stronger role in developing market
institutions. (See, for example, Jerry Hough in JRL 3025). According to
Jacobs, the state is not very good at carrying out economic functions
because it lacks the necessary cast of mind. One example is the problems all
Western countries encounter in managing their defense industries. Whether
state owned, as in Europe, or privately owned, as in the United States, this
sector never achieves standards of efficiency and effectiveness seen
elsewhere in a market economy, at least in part because it is too strongly
under the influence of guardian values. A related problem with state
management of the economy is the guardian proclivity to practice largesse,
which in one country after another has meant generous subsidies to dying
shipyards, coal mines, or steel mills at the expense of the health of the
economy as a whole. Taking these points into account, it is hard to be
confident that slower privatization in Russia would have led to faster
market development. It very well might just have led to a different set of
I would not want to imply that Jacobs's model of moral culture holds all
the answers for Russia, but what I find especially valuable in it is not
just the emphasis on specific cultural traits but also on the way the traits
interrelate with one another to form logically coherent syndromes. I think
this approach remains valid even when we turn to certain characteristics of
Russian culture that Jacobs does not mention.
In particular, I have in mind the phenomenon of "black envy" that is so
strong in Russia. Black envy is the impulse to destroy the object of envy,
as opposed to white envy, the desire to attain that object. If your neighbor
buys a new car, white envy makes you buy one too. Black envy, on the other
hand, makes you slash your neighbor's tires.
Black envy is closely related to _zloradstvo_, another psychological
phenomenon that is strong in Russia. Zloradstvo is the feeling of joy at the
sight of another's suffering. Although this feeling is by not unknown to
people from English-speaking countries, it is sufficiently less salient that
the English language has no specific word for it, usually borrowing the
German _Schadenfreude_ when the necessity arises.
Although Jacobs never mentions them, it seems logical to place black envy
and zloradstvo within the guardian moral syndrome. Black envy is, after all,
akin to vengeance, although the vengeance in this case is not against a
material injury, but rather against the psychological injury arising from
the mere sight of another's success. Guardian leaders sometimes select a
particular group of outsiders as an officially sanctioned target for
feelings of black envy, something which may promote solidarity and loyalty
within the group. It is also noteworthy that many political movements of the
guardian persusion include an element of egalitarianism in their official
ideology. (Even the Nazis began as "National Socialists.") This can be
viewed as a manifestation of largesse, one of Jacobs's guardian virtues, but
it can also be viewed as an attempt to position the state as the official
channel for black envy, since egalitarianism necessarily means not just
distributing largesse to the weak but also cutting the more energetic and
successful down to size. The Bolsheviks' unleashing of the poorest peasants
against the kulaks is an especially spectacular example of state-sanctioned
White envy, on the other hand, seems more closely aligned with the
commercial moral syndrome. It would be hard to term even white envy an
actual virtue. Yet it is hard to deny that the desire to "keep up with the
Joneses" is a powerful driving force in modern, consumer-oriented capitalism.
If we look for an opposite of zloradstvo, compassion would seem the logical
candidate. Compassion with another's suffering leads to the impulse to help
the unfortunate one. Within the guardian syndrome, the instrument of aid is
largesse, administered either by the state, or, in the fashion of Robin
Hood, by one who robs the rich to give to the poor. On the other hand, we
are likely to find ideologists of the commercial syndrome advocating not
largesse, but rather, the creation of opportunity as the correct response to
compassion. "Give a man a fish, and he eats for one day; give him a net and
he eats every day." What adage could resonate more strongly with commercial
I would like to make two qualifying remark in closing. The first is in
response to an economist colleague, who, on reading an earlier version of
this comment, expressed disappointment that I was giving "soft" cultural
explanations of Russian problems priority over rigorous economic analysis
based on self-interest. I do not think that emphasis on the cultural basis
of capitalism stands in conflict with the principle that much or most of
economic behavior is motivated by self-interest. Take the virtue of honesty.
In a culture where commercial values are widely shared, traders are driven
by self-interest to be honest, or, in economic jargon, "to invest in honesty
as an element of reputational capital." On the other hand, in a society
where one does not expect honesty to be reciprocated, being honest oneself
can be a losing business strategy.
This difference exists in reality, and not just as a pious platitude in the
minds of academics. For example, I have worked for many years in textbook
publishing in both the United States and Russia. US textbook publishing is
big business and is full of tough execs who know how to play hardball, but
there, I never had a publisher openly cheat me on royalty accounting, or
offer to pay cash and split the tax savings, or offer a better royalty rate
if I would cheat another publisher on copyright permissions, or publish a
pirate edition of any of my books. They would be fools to do so because no
reputable author would publish with them again. But all of these things have
happened to me in Russia, because Russian publishers seem to view every deal
as a one-shot affair, not as the first step in building a long-term business
Second, I would like to respond to a comment made several weeks ago on this
list by Jim Vail (JRL 3019), who cautioned that Americans should be careful
when bragging about the virtues of their culture, citing down-and-out
African Americans on the South Side of Chicago as a case in point. The
validity of the commercial and guardian moral syndromes as important
determinants of social outcomes does not require us to ignore the fact that
every society is composed of some adherents to one and some adherents to the
other. It would be absurd, for example, to say that there are no
representatives of the commercial cast of mind in Russia. If so, how could I
explain the woman who stands on the street outside our apartment building
for long hours in every kind of weather to sell carrots and onions, giving
honest weight and good quality at a modest markup over cost? Similarly, the
guardian mentality is alive and well in the United States, not only in the
form of its police and army, but also in the form of South-side Chicago
street gangs, cults, violently fanatical antiabortionsts, and the like.
The point is not that one of these syndromes is inherently good and the
other bad. What makes the difference between a functional society and a
dysfunctional one is the right balance between the two, and above all, some
way of keeping each moral syndrome confined to its proper sphere. In the
United States, we can point to the festering failure of the Indian
reservation system as a case in which guardianism inappropriately applied
has all but deprived an entire ethnic group of the benefits of capitalist
development. On the other hand, in Russia we might view corruption in police
forces, especially the mixing of law enforcement with the marketing of
protection services, as a dysfunctional injection of commercial values into
an area from which they should be rigidly excluded.
Edwin G. Dolan
American Institute of Business and Economics
An independent, not-for-profit MBA program in Moscow