This Date's Issues: 3072 •
Johnson's Russia List
28 February 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
I spent most of Saturday coping with a major computer failure
I managed to rescue the most important thing: the recipients' email
addresses. But some messages sent to me in the last day or two are
lost. Not quite a Y2K meltdown but close enough to be scary. Anyone
have a good deal on a new computer? I need something faster and more
reliable than my old patched together Compaq. It's too risky for all
of us. (This message is being sent via a 5-year old laptop.)
1. S. Lawrence: Re: 3069 Hough & responses.
2. Itar-Tass: YELTSIN'S Life out of Danger-Mironov.
3. Business Week: Carol Matlack, Could He Be Russia's Next President?
Primakov's control of media makes him a player.
4. Moscow Times letter: Mikhail Pogorely, No Foreign News?!
5. Argumenty i Fakty, Yeltsin's Former Speech Writers on Job.
6. The Electonic Telegraph (UK): Robert Uhlig, Missile alert over
7. Interfax: Russian Commander: Missile Forces To Fix Y2K By 1 Nov .
8. The Times (UK): Brain surgeon cuts away heroin slavery.
Anna Blundy in Moscow reports on the controversy over a Russian doctor's
attempt to save lives by removing the tissue that makes addicts of people.
9. Obshchaya Gazeta: Primakov Popular Support Addressed by Leontiy
Byzov and Vladimir Petukhov.
10. The Electronic Telegraph: Marcus Warren, Struggling Russia finds a
new icon in the Iron Lady.
11. Reuters: Yeltsin in Hospital, Doctor Fears Overwork.
12. Electronic Telegraph: Alice Lagnado, Cook to tackle Russia over arms
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999
From: "S. Lawrence" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 3069 Hough & responses
This discussion should cover a deeper concept. But can people stop
being academic spermatozoa thrashing about on the surface while never
getting to the truth?
Concerning "private" structures in Russia: Westerners find it truly
difficult to escape their deeply-rooted Euro-American instincts and
comprehension of law and property. This has caused and will continue
to cause them to lose money in Russia.
There are no truly "private" banks or companies in Russia simply
because there is no legal system in Russia. No law that can't be
bought, no court that can't be bought, no official (straight up to
you-know-who) who can't be bought. Control, not ownership, is the
issue. Control of cash flows of assets, not assets themselves. In
short, power not property.
Who needs legal title when 1) it is dangerous, 2) unenforceable, and
3) reveals thing best left secret? Trace most the large Russian
"private" structures far enough through the maze of multi-layer and
multi-country offshore "owners" and you will find either no owner
(just powers of attorney and access to cash flow) or former senior
While working with one of the 7 oligarchs, I once asked in naivete
"Who really owns this company?" With a smile and a small dose of
sarcasm he replied: "Why, of course, the PEOPLE do." Like the
generations of Communists leaders and managers before him, he had no
need to formalize his power in a Euro-American legal sense any more
than a "family boss" in Sicily does or does a gorilla with a big stick
in the jungle.
Westerners should try some out-of-the-box thinking. Legal codexes,
statutes, constitutions, shareholder rights, etc., are devices that
Russians use to provide illusory comfort to foreigners incapable of
differentiating form from function, fact from reality. Add a dose of
deeply-imbedded xenophobia and a zero-sum mentality, and it's no
surprise that Russians abuse naive foreign investors, take their
money, and then show them the door.
I can't get out of my mind the picture of W.C. Fields up on soapbox:
"Step right up, folks. This way to the Egress."
YELTSIN'S Life out of Danger-Mironov
MOSCOW, February 27 (Itar-Tass) - President Boris Yeltsin's life is out of
danger, Sergei Mironov, head of the medical centre of the president's
business management department, said.
He told journalists on Saturday that "the diagnosis remains the same,"
adding that Yeltsin's condition "is absolutely stable."
He noted that this is an "exacerbation of the gastric ulcer which has not
Mironov said that "the president's life is out of danger of course, but we
were alarmed by the fact that unfortunately a gastroscopy today did not
show a full regeneration in the ulcer area."
He added that it showed slight bleeding in the stomach which has been
"Nevertheless, these two circumstances forced us to recommend the president
hospitalisation for better monitoring, adequate conservative therapy and
treatment to cure this ailment," Mironov said.
Asked whether the exacerbation was caused by aspirin, Mironov said that "we
do not use the aspirin which is advertised and which we use at home. The
president gets small dosages of cardio- aspirin which is fully absorbed in
the intestine and does not affect the mucous membrane of the stomach. So it
is not its fault here."
Asked whether it was a planned or emergency examination, Mironov said,
The president had a very busy schedule, especially in the last two weeks,
which included international meetings, the signing of important documents
and a meeting of the Customs Union. All this "left its mark. Boris
Nikolayevich got tired, of course, and felt some indisposition by the end
of the day. He said he did not feel quite well, he felt weak," he said.
Mironov said that the doctors did not find any dramatic changes in the
president's health, but blood tests showed a drop in hemoglobin and
erythrocyte, which indicated minor internal bleeding.
Asked if the doctors will allow the president to work with the documents,
Mironov said "we would not welcome that of course, because it is not
mechanical work. Believe me, I know what amount of documents Boris
Nikolayevich edits, reads, and corrects. I have seen almost no documents
that he would mechanically sign. So it is real work, creative work.... Our
recommendation is that this professional load should be reduced for the
next few days."
March 8, 1999
[for personal use only]
Could He Be Russia's Next President? (int'l edition)
Primakov's control of media makes him a player
By Carol Matlack in Moscow
When viewers of Russia's RTR TV network tuned into the evening news show
Vesti on Feb. 15, the familiar face of anchorman Mikhail Ponomarev was
gone. The newscaster was pulled off the air after Prime Minister Yevgeny M.
Primakov installed new management at the government-owned network.
Ponomarev says he was fired because he fought the managers' efforts to
censor his broadcasts. The new head of RTR's news operation, he grouses, is
an ex-intelligence officer ``who first saw a Betacam camera a month ago.''
Maybe so. But Primakov didn't pick RTR's new bosses for their
journalistic skill. Five months after taking office, the Prime Minister is
making a bold push to consolidate his power--starting with Russia's
broadcast media. He is tightening his grip on government-owned news
outlets, filling key jobs with operatives from Russia's Foreign
Intelligence Service, which he once headed. And he is expanding the federal
government's role in privatized media organizations, squeezing out rivals
and cutting deals to expand his access to regional outlets.
SINGLE-MINDED? These moves have convinced many observers that Primakov is
preparing to run for President, even though he steadfastly denies it and
has argued against calls for early elections to replace the ailing Boris N.
Yeltsin. ``Primakov has made his choice to run. Everything he does is
directed toward this goal,'' says Yevgeny Volk, an analyst in the Heritage
Foundation's Moscow office.
Primakov's power play began last year at media outlets owned by the
federal government. In recent years, ``previous governments didn't pay much
attention to these media, but Primakov has changed that,'' comments
Vyacheslav Nikonov, director of the Fond Politika, a Moscow think tank. For
example, to impose discipline at RTR, which has lost viewership, the Prime
Minister hired Lev Koshlyakov, a veteran of the Foreign Intelligence
Service. He also placed ex-operatives atop the Itar-Tass news service and
Radio Rossiya network.
More recently, the action has shifted to ORT, the country's biggest TV
network. The government, which holds a 51% share in the privatized network,
is trying to squeeze out financier Boris A. Berezovsky, a minority
shareholder who has effectively run the network with the Kremlin's
acquiescence. Berezovsky and his allies are battling the move in court.
But most analysts expect Primakov to prevail. That would not only give him
control of a network reaching 72% of Russian TV viewers daily but also send
a message that he is not beholden to tycoons, such as Berezovsky, who grew
fat on the spoils of privatization.
Primakov's good relations with natural-gas giant Gazprom could boost his
political fortunes still more. Gazprom, Russia's richest company, could be
a major source of campaign cash. It also owns 30% of NTV, Russia's biggest
independent network, as well as dozens of local TV stations and more than
100 newspapers and magazines. After a private meeting in January between
Primakov and Gazprom Chief Executive Rem Vyakhirev, the government gave
Gazprom a $400 million break on gas export fees. In exchange, industry
experts say, Primakov has been given greater control over Gazprom's
political and media activities.
All this is bad news for other Presidential candidates, who fear a
repeat of the 1996 elections, when the national networks rallied behind
Yeltsin and blacked out his Communist rival, Gennady Zyuganov. Moscow Mayor
Yuri M. Luzhkov is building his own national network, TV-Center, but its
viewership is tiny compared with ORT's and RTR's. Other candidates, such as
Zyuganov, retired General Alexander Lebed, and liberal economist Grigory
Yavlinsky, have even less access to the airwaves.
Not everyone thinks Primakov, 69, is really gearing up for a
Presidential race. ``He's too old and not in good health,'' says Georgy
Bovt, a commentator at the newspaper Segodnya. But for now, Primakov is
Russia's most popular politician. If elections to replace Yeltsin were to
be held today, he would beat Luzhkov by 46% to 25%, and his other rivals by
even wider margins, according to a February poll by the Foundation for
Public Opinion, a Moscow-based polling group.
With that kind of head start, backed by a formidable media arsenal, a
race for President may be too much to resist.
February 27, 1999
No Foreign News?!
In response to "Island Keeps World at Bay," Feb. 19:
I really appreciate most of Leonid Bershidsky's op-ed stories. His sharp
humor and well-balanced mixture of skepticism and criticism always catches
Yet I categorically disagreed with his statements on foreign news coverage
in the Russian press. He writes: "Kommersant is actually not unique in its
reluctance to report foreign news. The serious daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta
contains an average of four international news stories per day. Izvestia
and Segodnya average about four and a half each."
The idea that more foreign news needs to be covered is a good one, but I
would argue that what matters here is quality rather than quantity.
As far as the amount of foreign news goes, it seems to me that Bershidsky
is exaggerating somewhat. Russian newspapers and especially television are
in fact crammed with foreign news. People here were sick of the
On any given day, some 30 to 40 percent of the news will deal with foreign
or international events. In my opinion, this is due to a variety of
factors. First, the closed nature of information concerning the economy,
defense, finance, the political elite governing Yeltsin's or other leaders'
regimes, and so on. Most of this often highly interesting information
regarding Russia is just reprinted from Western sources.
Another reason for the high level of international news is the ease with
which interesting foreign stories can be obtained. In most cases CNN or the
New York Times are the first to get something new, and to get a story from
the Internet does not require much money. I know for a fact that many
journalists in Russia use this method.
In media that are openly dependent on the state or oligarchs, there is
often also a wish to divert attention from internal problems and a desire
to overcome the "island isolation feeling" by covering foreign news.
Let's take another "random selection" of foreign coverage by major dailies,
say Feb. 23 when newspapers were flooded with Russian stories about Soviet
Army Day and the premiere of the new Mikhalkov film, "The Barber of Siberia:"
Segodnya - 10 "foreign" stories of the 27 stories of the day;
Izvestia - 15 out of 34;
Kommersant - 12 out of 35;
Noviye Izvestia - 11 out of 23;
Komsomolskaya Pravda - 3 out of 11;
Moskovskiye Novosti - 9 out of 20;
Nezavisimaya Gazeta - 10 out of 24.
By "foreign stories" are meant all articles on international and foreign
news, along with those that show both Russian and foreign sides of events -
such as stories on START and Abdullah Ocalan.
Whilst understanding the importance of the problem and being ready to agree
with the author that the media should help to combat Russia's isolationist
tendencies, I wouldn't rely on Bershidsky's count nor, as a result, on his
National Press Institute,
Yeltsin's Former Speech Writers on Job
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 957
February 1999 (Signed to press 23 Feb 99)
Interview with Lyudmila Pikhoya, Aleksandr
Ilyin and Konstantin Nikiforov, who used to be Yeltsin's speech writers, by
"How Speeches Were Written For Yeltsin" -- first paragraph is AiF
within slantlines in bold in original]
For more than eight years Lyudmila Pikhoya, Aleksandr Ilyin, and
Konstantin Nikiforov wrote texts for all of Boris Yeltsin's public
speeches. They agreed to
give an interview specially for AiF only after their dismissal. Until now
they have been
avoiding journalists since they had a private agreement with the President on
confidentiality of their work.
[Aleksandr Ilyin] People tend to think for some reason that the
President is no great speaker. But
when working on a speech, we could see more than once that he has a feeling
for language. He
cannot stand cliches and stock phrases. Boris Yeltsin is a good editor.
//How did you work on speeches? Did he provide you with an outline or did
you simply discuss
[Lyudmila Pikhoya] There were different ways. Sometimes he invited us to
meet him, discussed the
peculiarities of the given political moment, shared ideas, and offered his
On other occasions, he would ask us to write text in accordance with our
concepts and later he
would correct it, write his amendments on the margins or dictate his
telephone. He was never satisfied with just a single version. Quite often
we had to write about
10-15 versions. If he got an idea at night, he could call us at home. There
preparing which he tormented himself and tortured us. But it was
interesting to work with him
in those years. He was constantly brimming with proposals and impulses.
[Aleksandr Ilyin] But as his physical activity declined, his creative
drive dwindled too.
[Konstantin Nikiforov] Any speech was important to him. Even a welcome
speech should include
interesting facts and ideas. Like a good actor, he worked on a speech until
the very moment he
had to face the audience, and he introduced amendments into his speech even
while going to the
//We know that the President likes to improvise. Often, while making a
speech, he would put
his papers aside and start talking about something totally different, thus
[Aleksandr Ilyin] He has tremendous memory. He could simply keep some
ideas in his head and voice
them while giving the speech. In fact, he had thoroughly prepared many
kept them secret. Regrettably, this ad-libbing became worse with time, but
does not want to change his favorite style.
[Lyudmila Pikhoya] Boris Nikolayevich used to always prepare thoroughly
the manner of his
performance. For instance, in 1992, before addressing the US Congress for
the first time, he
requested video tapes with speeches by other presidents. He watched very
Havel or Lech Walesa addressing the US Congress. He invited various
interpreters for consultations.
//Could you make out Yeltsin's mood from his handwriting or corrections?//
[Lyudmila Pikhoya] Difficult to tell. On the whole, his handwriting is
not very good. But whenever
he had to correct text, he used to do this with a good pen with black ink
and in large letters. He
did not permit himself sloppy corrections even when he worked in cars or
onboard aircraft. We
have never seen him writing with a ball-point pen or a pencil.
//And if the President was dissatisfied, did he drag you over the coals?//
[Konstantin Nikiforov] He never raised his voice. Another thing used to
happen: if he was upset or did
not like something, he could send back a practically completed speech and
demand that a new one
//When did you last see the President and work on a speech together?//
[Aleksandr Ilyin] During the presidential campaign. After that the
number of intermediaries
between us grew. I am not even sure that the corrections to texts that we
received in the last 18
months had been made by Boris Nikolayevich himself. They were most probably
made by certain
heads of the presidential administration. //Why do you think so?//
[Aleksandr Ilyin] Because only words were corrected whereas ideas were
crossed out completely,
and this is something very unusual for Boris Nikolayevich. We could discern
a striving to make
text smoother, simpler, and more primitive. The President saw only the
version. As a rule, he did not like it, and emergency work had to be done
right before his
address. //Maybe this is the reason why you are no longer in the Kremlin?//
[Lyudmila Pikhoya] In the last years we did not have an opportunity to
discuss these problems with
the President. But we do not like this style of work either.
//So it seems the problem is not the President but his entourage?//
[Aleksandr Ilyin] The President is a living human being who can work
actively and with dedication,
can fall ill or become tired. This things used to happen before too. But
the point is that his
power and policy depend not only on him but also on the potential of the
presidential team, his
administration. In recent times, his administration has been losing its
There is hope after Nikolay Bordyuzha has joined the administration. Now
it will depend on him
too how Boris Yeltsin will go down in history.
The Electonic Telegraph (UK)
27 February 1999
[for personal use only]
Missile alert over Millennium bug
By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
IN the most threatening indication yet of the potential effects of the
Millennium bug, America and Russia have agreed to man a joint early-warning
station in case the software glitch triggers a nuclear missile attack.
American officials proposed a centre in case the bug caused a faulty
computer to think that a missile attack was under way, prompting an
unnecessary retaliatory offensive. Their Russian counterparts agreed to the
proposal at military talks during the week.
Under its terms, Russian and American officers will sit side by side during
the weeks before and after the start of the new year to help to avoid
confusion if a computer error disrupts either country's missile-warning
Vladimir Yakovlev, head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, said: "We have
reached a preliminary agreement on this and consultations are now being
carried on at a working group level. We have not yet decided the question
of where this centre will be located and the scope of its activity. It's
early now to speak of timetables for bringing this centre on line. But
nonetheless, such terminals of the centre should be located on United
States and Russian territory."
Russia has only recently acknowledged the existence of the Millennium bug
and the threat it poses. At the end of last year it admitted the glitch
could affect its nuclear missile force. Mr Yakovlev said the Strategic
Rocket Forces expected to resolve their Millennium bug problem by November.
Some experts fear that the bug could cause Russia's defences to believe
erroneously that an attack has begun. Moscow has ruled out an accidental
launch; an American defence chief rated the risk of an unauthorised launch
Russian Commander: Missile Forces To Fix Y2K By 1 Nov
SAMARA, Russia, Feb 25 (Interfax) - Russia's Strategic Missile
Forces plan to have their millennium bug problem solved by November 1, the
said on Thursday [25 February]. There are two main aspects to the so-call
Y2K or millennium bug
problem expected because outdated computer software that may mistake the
year 2000 for 1900,
the commander, Col. Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev, told reporters in Samara. The
first is the need to
replace some of the hardware, and the second the need to replace software.
The country's armed
forces already have a program approved by the Defense Ministry and spanning
a period until
November, Yakovlev said. "Measures to implement it require monthly funding.
The program has
already been implemented for the (first) two months of this year, and
everything is going
according to plan." All the outdated hardware is to be replaced by November
"so that we can be
certain in December that the program is working," the commander said. The
Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department had agreed set up a missile early
Yakovlev said in answer to a question by Interfax. "We have a preliminary
agreement to that
effect and consultations are now under way at the expert level." But it has
not yet been decided
where the center will be located and what specific tasks it will undertake,
the general noted.
"It's too early now to speak about when the center will commence operation.
must have facilities on both U.S. and Russian territory. "The matter does
not allow for hasty
decisions because it is much too sensitive an area for Moscow and
Washington," he said.
The Times (UK)
February 27 1999
[for personal use only]
Brain surgeon cuts away heroin slavery
Anna Blundy in Moscow reports on the controversy over a Russian doctor's
attempt to save lives by removing the tissue that makes addicts of people
THE famous St Petersburg brain surgeon, Svyatoslav Medvedev, has found a
cure for drug addiction and claims a 70 to 80 per cent success rate.
However, the process involves inserting a needle into the brain and
removing what Dr Medvedev believes to be the offending tissue.
Dr Medvedev says the success of his technique lies in the fact that his
operation treats the addict's
psychological addiction while other methods concentrate first and foremost
on the physical side of the illness. Of the hundred or so heroin addicts
who have undergone Dr Medvedev's revolutionary procedure over the past two
years, most have found themselves suddenly free from a compulsion that had
thus far blighted their lives.
"This is not a new operation," says Dr Medvedev of the St Petersburg
Institute for the Human Brain. "The procedure has been commonplace for more
than 30 years. It is just that we have renamed the disease." The operation,
according to Dr Medvedev, has long been performed worldwide to treat
various obsessive-compulsive disorders and particularly phantom pain
syndrome, through which Dr Medvedev drew the inspiration for his addiction
cure. Many sufferers of phantom pain syndrome endured such agony in their
absent limb that they had become morphine addicts in their efforts to
relieve their symptoms.
After he had introduced a thin needle into the brain of these patients with
the use of only a local anaesthetic, the sufferers found that, not only had
their phantom pain disappeared, but their morphine addiction had been
alleviated as well. This phenomenon provided Dr Medvedev with the idea for
his cure. "You see, addiction is a kind of obsession and this process does
not change any part of the personality. We know how to reach the structures
we need to eliminate without damaging any other parts of the brain," he says.
Dr Medvedev is from a long line of physicians. His great-
great-grandfather, doctor to both Lenin and Stalin, disappeared without
trace in 1927, and his mother, Natalya Bekhtireva, is a revered neuro-
Dr Medvedev does not believe that his technique will ever become
widespread, for although he thinks it could be used to treat addiction to
gambling, over-eating or alcohol, he does not believe it should be. "Of
course, any interventive surgery is dangerous. In Czechoslovakia in the
1950s two surgeons were given licence to perform this type of surgery on
dangerous criminals and psychopaths. Although the technique was successful,
there was obviously a grave moral question.
"This surgery is a last resort for my addicts. Heroin can kill you in four
years. My patients have almost no functioning liver and they all suffer
from hepatitis B and C. The operation is a matter of life and death." Dr
Medvedev emphasises that, although he has discovered a cure for addiction,
he believes it should only be used in extreme cases. "We are not treating
heroin dependency. We are treating imminent death," he says.
Despite the obvious advantages of the treatment, there are still those who
pour scorn on his institute. Aleksandr Andrianov, head of the Association
for the Fight Against Drug Addiction and the Drug Business, says: "If you
want to cut off a corn, there is no reason to remove your whole leg. The
Ministry of Health has certainly not given its permission for this kind of
operation to be performed."
But Russia, which has been flooded with heroin since the collapse of the
Soviet Union - 390kg (about 858lb) of the drug and 893kg (1964lb) of
unprocessed opium were seized en route to Russia from Turkmenistan alone in
1998 - is in dire need of a cure of some kind.
A report published last year by London's International Institute for
Strategic Studies said: "A very real danger exists that one or more of the
Central Asian states will become 'narcocracies' similar to Burma and
Colombia." It added that Kyrgyzstan alone was exporting more narcotics by
1995 than Burma or Thailand.
Yevgeni Tolkachev, of Moscow's 17th Narcological Hospital, barely has room
for his 500 patients who stay about 21 days each. All of them are heroin
addicts and he admits that his recidivists are many.
It is hospitals like this that might benefit if Dr Medvedev's methods were
to become more widely used. Although he believes in his treatment programme
of anti-psychotics coupled with psychiatric help, he thinks it is hard for
the users, who are getting progressively younger, to extricate themselves
from a drug-using lifestyle.
With heroin currently priced at 600 roubles (£20) a gram, this can be a
difficult lifestyle to maintain.
"None of them work. The boys steal and the women often sell themselves," he
says. Although many methods of treatment have been tried in Russia,
including a recent effort on the part of Aleksei Suvernev, a Siberian
doctor, to heat patients' bodies to the point of hyperthermia in the belief
that this removes the physical dependence on drugs, Mr Andrianov believes
that addicts should be left to die.
"If they want to stop, they will. There is nothing you can do to help them.
There are 1,000 hospital places for addicts in Moscow and there's never a
free bed. We don't have the right to refuse them, but they always start
Primakov Popular Support Addressed
Obshchaya Gazeta, No. 7
18-24 February 1999
Article by Leontiy Byzov and Vladimir Petukhov under the rubric "In Their
"August Shook the Pockets but Not the Heads"
The Impoverished Society Longs for Stability
A half year has passed since the August collapse. In theory,
such shocks should have a strong impact on the public awareness and
evoke a painfully acute reaction from the population. But what we
have been observing during this half year in Russia is an obvious
paradox. Instead of the anticipated increase in social tension, one
can speak more about a certain decline. Not only have there been no
mass outbursts of civil protest, but there has not been any radical
shift to the left in public sentiments.
Perhaps the financial crisis affected a relatively small group
of Russians? No, that is not true. The results of sociological
studies conducted by the Russia Independent Institute of Social and
National Problems shows that 81 percent of those polled feel that
they have suffered from the devaluation and default and 49 percent
find the deterioration of their material position "very
significant." The proportion of people who evaluate their life as
relatively favorable decreased during the half year from 34 percent
to 22 percent, and every fifth person considers himself to be poor,
below the poverty line.
As we can see, the citizens agree that life has become harder,
but they do not go beyond registering this fact. The proportion of
the "left wing" electorate, who are prepared to support the
Communists and other similar forces (on average the "nucleus" of
inveterate supporters does not exceed 11-12 percent), remains
stable. Polls show a rapid increase in the popularity of nominees
from the current political system, Yuriy Luzhkov and Yevgeniy
Primakov, while Gennadiy Zyuganov's ratings have stayed the same or
even dropped somewhat, and there is a loss of interest in such a
"nonsystem" leader as Aleksandr Lebed. Fewer and fewer people are
ready to engage directly in protest actions and more and more of
those who recognize the futility of protest are afraid of the social
disturbances that could stir the country up (60 percent of those
questioned have these fears today).
As distinct from the period at the end of the 1980s and the
beginning of the 1990s, the society is not divided into two
irreconcilable camps--supporters and opponents of reforms.
Moreover, one can see a tendency toward the unification of various
segments of the population in the face of the overall threat of
instability. In any case, there are now practically no social
groups, social segments, or political forces that would be prepared
to "set their house on fire" in the name of some lofty ideas. The
majority are clearly not inclined toward a radical breakdown of the
existing system (this viewpoint is held by no more than 12 percent
of the respondents), but toward a gradual change of the
socioeconomic course (60 percent).
Thus one can assert that as a result of the crisis our
political regime, strange as it may be, not only did not grow weaker
but even grew stronger. If one pays attention to the clan interests
of individual groups within the "party in power" and the current
political system as a whole--today it is potentially more stable
than it has been at any time in the past five years.
Explanations for this paradox must be sought in the deep
structures of the public awareness. In particular, in the change in
mass assessments of the entire stage of reformation of post-Soviet Russia.
Among the acquisitions valued by Russians today, in spite of a
negative attitude toward the authorities as a whole, is the right to
a private life, including freedom of movement, freedom of
entrepreneurship, freedom to obtain information, electivity of
agencies of authority, and so forth.
Even after August, about 47 percent of the population
continued to regard the transition to a market economy as more of a
positive phenomena than a negative one (with 39 percent thinking
that the transition to the market is an extremely gross mistake or
even a crime). As a result, the model of socially oriented
capitalism with state regulation of decisive spheres of life and
broad economic freedom at the lower levels--in small and medium-
sized business, trade, and the sphere of services--is gaining
Among the stabilizing factors one can include the fact that
today's authority is extremely fragmented and, consequently, social
dissatisfaction has lost its focus. While previously, to the
question of who is to blame, many responded without pausing:
Yeltsin, Gaydar, Chubays, Chernomyrdin, or "democrats" in general--
today, of all these people only Yeltsin is still "afloat" (57
percent say he is mainly to blame for all the misfortunes), and he
is not in a condition where he can be held strictly accountable.
And the role of many governors is becoming increasingly
"ceremonial," since the life of the simple people depends not so
much on them (which governors have managed to do anything
outstanding in their regions?) as on the local (rayon, city)
authorities and the low-level leadership.
Society's psychological unreadiness for sharp changes in the
political course is well illustrated by the citizens' attitude
toward the Primakov government. Its activity, according to the
latest information, is given a positive evaluation by 38 percent of
Russians (negative--14 percent, neutral--48 percent). This level of
support is a very high vote of confidence under the conditions of
total economic ruin. It is typical, however, that only 24 percent
of those questioned believe that the "Primakov government will
manage to do anything significant," while 78 percent think he has
either not achieved anything or his achievements have been extremely
insignificant. This means that Yevgeniy Primakov and his government are
perceived more as a "moral factor" that has a positive influence of
the social climate than as a force that is capable of radically
changing the economic situation. The confidence in the government
is determined to a considerable degree by the personality of the
premier, which falls into the traditional image of the "father of
the nation" and is practically not carried over to other members of
his cabinet. Society sees in Primakov a leader who is capable of at
least keeping the situation in the country in a state of a fragile balance.
Moreover, as studies show, Primakov fell quite successfully
within the range of public expectations, combining an orientation
toward moderate market transformations and democratic values, on the
one hand, with a large state role in regulating socioeconomic
processes, including taking advantage of the experience of the
Soviet period, on the other.
It is also important that Primakov is perceived as a statesman
who thinks systematically, and not an "oligarch" who by definition
looks out only for himself or his clan, and in this sense he
presents no threat to the modern Russian elite. Although Primakov's
position as a potential leader of the elite does not always
correspond to society's expectations. Only 26.6 percent are
prepared to support his promotion to the post of president, while
39.2 percent are not (and more than 34 percent are undecided).
Working against Primakov in public opinion are his age, his lack of
clear "presidential" plans, the ineffective information-propaganda
support for government activity, and so forth. With his rating of
12 to 14 percent (fluctuating over recent months), it is still not
guaranteed that he will make it to the second round. This would be
possible only with consolidated support from the "party in power"
for which this is also a question of survival of the system. Since
Yuriy Luzhkov as an alternate candidate of this "party" does not
suit the presidential administration and some of the political
elite, Primakov does have a chance.
Whether he should take advantage of this chance in the
parliamentary elections is an open question. First of all, it is
unclear whether or not Primakov needs this, since participation in
the Duma elections will place him in a competitive position with
other representatives of the "party in power" and also the
opposition long before the presidential race. But public opinion
probes show that the hypothetical "Primakov bloc" could well compete
and with a favorable confluence of circumstances could share first
and second place with the CPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation].
Primakov and his advisers have a possibility of occupying the
left-centrist niche, which has not been taken over by other
political forces. After all, Yuriy Luzhkov with all this "left
protest" rhetoric, is perceived, especially in the provinces, as the
leader of the more well-to-do part of society and is minimally
capable of accumulating the protest potential of the regions.
Primakov's current electorate is considerably more to the left, and
this means that the prime minister in principle could consolidate a
new "party in power" in a more promising direction, which would make
it possible to overcome the split of society into "left" and "right"
that has marked the last decade.
The Electronic Telegraph
27 February 1999
[for personal use only]
Struggling Russia finds a new icon in the Iron Lady
By Marcus Warren in St Petersburg
A NEW cult of personality was born in Russia yesterday when a giant
portrait of Lady Thatcher gazed down on the creation of a political party
named after her and dedicated to saving the country from disaster.
Fans of the "Iron Lady", many of them wearing blue rosettes with her
portrait, packed a hall in the country's second city to hear paeans of
praise to their heroine and launch "The Thatcherites of Russia". What Lady
Thatcher did for Britain, Thatcherism could do for Russia, speaker after
speaker told the audience.
Yuli Dorofeyev, one of the party's founding fathers, said: "We all know
that the ideas of Margaret Thatcher allowed Great Britain to rise again. We
believe that those same ideas will lift Russia out of its current abyss."
Britain then, before Lady Thatcher, was like Russia today, the orators
said, showing slides of piles of rubbish in Leicester Square during the
Winter of Discontent and scuffles on the Grunwick picket line to prove
Pictures of the party's ideological mentor and guide were everywhere. There
was no escape from her image. But the lady herself was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the audience had to be satisfied with a keynote speech from Sir
Alfred Sherman, the writer and her one-time comrade-in-arms, billed as the
"the Engels of Thatcherism". He said: "Margaret Thatcher flashed through
the skies like a comet. She brought hope." However, the Thatcher legacy was
one of failure as well as success, he argued. "She failed in the crucial
task of reducing the state's share of the national income. Without this,
nothing can succeed," he said.
This was not what the rank and file had come to hear. What they really
wanted to know was: was Sir Alfred an envoy from the great lady, or at
least the bearer of a message of her support? Sir Alfred said: "I've had
nothing to do with her since 1984 when she 'deshermanised' the Centre for
Security was tight for yesterday's congress. But the police did not
intervene, even when proceedings degenerated into rowdy political carnival.
"Thatcher supported Gorbachev who destroyed the Soviet Union," heckled
Vyacheslav Marychev, who was notorious for occasionally attending the
Russian parliament dressed as a woman when he was a member. Mikhail
Druzhininsky, a former businessman, said: "This is how Marxism arrived in
Russia in the last century."
Certainly yesterday's audience, with more than its fair share of wild-eyed
men with long bushy beards, seemed closer to Bolsheviks than Young
Focus-Yeltsin in Hospital, Doctor Fears Overwork
MOSCOW, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin was back in
hospital on Saturday receiving new treatment for a stomach ulcer, the
latest in a series of ailments that have all but sidelined him for several
The new health problem was another blow to Yeltsin's hopes of staging a
convincing comeback after months of illness and waning authority, although
it was not considered serious enough to force his prime minister to cancel
plans to go on vacation.
Doctors said they had advised Yeltsin to stay in Moscow's Central Clinical
Hospital for a few days after an examination on Saturday showed the ulcer,
which forced him to spend two weeks in hospital in January, had started
slightly bleeding again.
"Unfortunately there is a worsening of the stomach ulcer, which has not
fully healed. There is of course no threat to the president's life," Sergei
Mironov, the chief Kremlin doctor, said in comments broadcast by ORT
The Kremlin had said on Wednesday that Yeltsin, 68, had completed his
rehabilitation from the ulcer.
But Mironov said new problems could have been caused by Yeltsin's workload,
including a recent trip to Jordan and culminating in meetings with Chinese
Premier Zhu Rongji on Thursday and the heads of four former Soviet
republics on Friday
"You saw what a full work schedule the president had, especially in the
last two days," Mironov said.
"Of course that had a certain effect. Boris Nikolayevich got a bit tired,
of course. Yesterday he did not feel very well, and said he felt some
discomfort and weakness."
Interfax news agency quoted Mironov as saying he had told Kremlin aides
that the president, often described as a difficult patient who ignores his
doctors' advice, should reduce his workload for the next few days.
Presidential press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin said Yeltsin felt "okay." He
said the president had spoken to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov by
telephone from hospital and told the premier to go ahead with his planned
10-day holiday in southern Russia.
A government spokeswoman confirmed Primakov had left for the Black Sea
resort of Sochi as scheduled.
The ulcer is the latest in a series of complaints, including bronchitis,
exhaustion and pneumonia, which have kept the president out of public view
for much of the past five months. He had quintuple heart bypass surgery in
Since Primakov took office, the premier has overseen most of Russia's
day-to-day affairs, standing in for Yeltsin on high profile foreign trips
to Europe and Asia while the president has been sidelined by illness.
But Yeltsin has jealously guarded the wide powers granted to him by the
1993 constitution and bristled at suggestions his authority is declining.
The Kremlin has said he is still in control of the country's nuclear arsenal.
In recent weeks Yeltsin has tried to raise his profile, visiting his
Kremlin office more frequently and making efforts to greet foreign visitors
in Moscow. He also defied doctors' orders by going to Jordan for the
funeral of King Hussein.
This week, in a joint television appearance with Primakov, Yeltsin vowed to
stay on as president until his term ends in mid-2000, and said Primakov,
who is a year older than his boss, had promised to remain as premier.
28 February 1999
[for personal use only]
Cook to tackle Russia over arms to Iraq
By Alice Lagnado in Moscow
ROBIN COOK, the Foreign Secretary, is to seek clarification of Russia's
arms links with Iraq, highlighted in The Telegraph, when he makes a
bridge-building visit to Russia on Wednesday.
Relations between Moscow and London have been strained since President
Yeltsin withdrew his ambassadors to Britain and the US in protest at their
involvement in punitive air strikes against Iraq in Operation Desert Fox at
the end of last year. Such a move was unprecedented even during the height
of the Cold War.
Despite differences of opinion over Iraq, Britain and the US believe that
it is crucial to maintain a constructive dialogue with Moscow, particularly
with Kosovo peace talks in the balance. Mr Cook will continue his efforts
to ease Russian concern about where the talks are heading.
When Gennadi Zyuganov, the leader of Russia's Communists, was asked last
week about the talks, he criticised American tactics, calling Madeleine
Albright, the US Secretary of State, "Madame War". His statement reflects
Russian disapproval of Nato threats to use airstrikes if the negotiations
On the same day, the Russians again attacked The Telegraph's report two
weeks ago of Moscow's extensive arms deals with Iraq. Dmitri Yakushkin, the
Kremlin press spokesman, calling the allegations a "complete provocation".
The Telegraph revealed that Moscow had signed deals worth more than £100
million with Saddam Hussein to reinforce his air defences, in breach of the
UN arms embargo.
British officials have confirmed that Mr Cook will raise the issue of
Moscow's close ties with Iraq during his discussions with Yevgeni Primakov,
the prime minister, who was identified as the architect of the deals.
Despite recent tensions, a British embassy spokesman insisted that the trip
is simply a working visit which was planned months in advance and would
have gone ahead irrespective of recent tensions. The spokesman said: "The
whole idea is to strengthen the friendship, to deepen our engagement with
Mr Cook will be dealing primarily with Mr Primakov who, besides being
fitter than Boris Yeltsin, is known for his cool negotiating skills.
Moreover, Mr Primakov is desperate to secure more money from the
International Monetary Fund, which stopped lending to Russia when it
defaulted on debts in August and plunged into financial crisis.
During Mr Cook's three-day visit he will go to the northern port of
Murmansk to discuss the problems of nuclear waste disposal and then travel
to Moscow before moving on to Sochi, the Black Sea resort where Mr Primakov
has his country retreat. An indication of Moscow's desire to improve
relations is the fact that the Russian ambassador, who resumed his London
posting on Boxing Day, will accompany Mr Cook on his flight to Moscow.
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