This Date's Issues: 3075 •
Johnson's Russia List
3 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Dunkin' Donuts Leaves Moscow.
2. Reuters: Russian military upbeat on Y2K but not complacent.
3. AFP: Russian economy supremo accuses IMF chief of "indecent"
4. Fred Weir on Primakov vs. Berezovsky.
5. The Russian 24 Hour Shopping Channel.
6. Katya Sedova: Lists.
7. Moscow Times: Melissa Akin, Feuding Sides Stall Primakov Peace
8. San Francisco Chronicle: Book review by Clark Blaise of
A WEREWOLF PROBLEM IN CENTRAL RUSSIA And Other Stories By Victor
9. Bloomberg: Russian Watchdog Clears Central Bank of `Serious
10. Chicago Tribune editorial: ANOTHER AGING RUSSIAN LEADER FADES.
11. New York Times: Celestine Bohlen, Swastikas in Russia:
12. RFE/RL: Floriana Fossato, Russia: Media Losing Access To
13. Itar-Tass: Russia to Begin Crawling out of Crisis by Year
14. St. Petersburg Times: Jen Tracy, St. Pete Fights FSB On
15. Interfax: Poll Shows Russian Opposition to Treaty With Ukraine.]
Dunkin' Donuts Leaves Moscow
March 2, 1999
RANDOLPH, Mass. (AP) -- Add doughnuts to the list of victims of Russia's
Dunkin' Donuts, the Randolph, Mass.-based doughnut and coffee chain, has
closed its two shops in Moscow.
Kim Lopdrup, chief executive officer of parent company Allied Domecq Retailing
International, said Tuesday the economic crisis led to shutting one downtown
shop last week that employed 20.
``Sales were impacted by the economic collapse and it simply made sense to cut
losses for the short term and return later,'' he said, adding that sales have
been cut in half since August.
He said the other closure was due to a poor relationship with a franchisee who
was also peddling liquor and meat pies.
Dunkin' Donuts had been in Moscow about three years, Lopdrup said.
Russian military upbeat on Y2K but not complacent
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - Russia's military said on Tuesday the country had
less than $4 million to tackle the millennium computer bug in its vast
strategic nuclear forces but vowed everything was under control.
Speaking at a news conference, specialists on the so-called Y2K problem also
said final tests of reprogrammed systems would take place in October and
denied Moscow was tardy or complacent in the way it was tackling the worldwide
"I apologise in advance if I fail to justify the hopes that there may be
amongst you for an apocalypse if we do not solve this problem," Major-General
Vladimir Dvorkin told journalists, referring to Western fears about Russia's
forces as 2000 nears.
He said automatic control systems governing Russia's nuclear missiles were
immune from the central problem in which computers may mistake the year 2000
for 1900 and cause errors.
"The calendar date does not exist there," said Dvorkin, who heads Russia's
strategic missile research institute. He said the problem did exist in early
warning and systems for monitoring satellites or space, but an accidental
launch was excluded.
"Nuclear weapons control systems are at the required level of reliability,"
said Major-General Valery Khalansky of Russia's General Staff. "We have not so
far found any fatal mistakes in the systems responsible for nuclear weapons
storage nor in the systems controlling them."
"But nuclear weapons demand increased attention, so we're not content with the
results so far and will continue to check."
Dvorkin said his ministry had 85 million roubles ($3.7 million) to deal with
the millennium problem in the main areas -- nuclear arms and early warning as
well as logistics systems.
"It's not a large amount, not a small amount. If we get some help of course it
would be good," he said, noting Russia had received lots of millennium advice
from abroad but so far little cash. "If we don't get help, we'll manage
He said a third of the money was going on reprogramming and the rest on new
hardware. Extra funds could come from other ministries. Russian officials
estimate the bug could cost the country up to $3 billion but have not spelled
out where the cash will come from at a time of deep economic crisis.
"Of course we could have started tackling this problem three years ago,"
Dvorkin said. "But apart from the Y2K problem we have a large number of other
problems in the armed forces."
He said last August 30 groups had fanned out across the country to inspect 134
different military sites. Seventy were identified as problematic and a plan
drawn up to tackle them.
"In October this year the reprogrammed systems and new pieces of equipment
will be thoroughly tested," Dvorkin said. "I have no grounds for saying we
will not solve this problem."
He said talks had not yet finished on a U.S.-Russian monitoring centre that
will scan the skies around 2000.
Russia and the United States agreed last year to set up a centre to exchange
data on missile launches. The bug has given the idea added urgency. U.S.
officials visited Moscow last month to discuss it. Both sides said the talks
were on the right path.
($ = 22.89 roubles)
Russian economy supremo accuses IMF chief of "indecent" pressure
MOSCOW, March 2 (AFP) - Russian economy supremo Yury Maslyukov stoked up
Moscow's war of words with the IMF on Tuesday, accusing Fund chief Michel
Camdessus of putting "indecent" pressure on Moscow during talks on financial
"He pressures us, but that is simply indecent," the Communist first deputy
prime minister was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
"Mr Camdessus wants too much to score an easy victory and make us do something
that we will not accept," Maslyukov added.
His sharp comments came in response to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
director's announcement on Monday, when he said he was dissatisfied with
Russia's economic strategy.
Camdessus said Russia's 1999 budget was unrealistic and did not warrant the
release any time soon of a new IMF loan sought by Moscow, which is struggling
to stave off a potentially ruinous default on its massive foreign debts.
Moscow is due to make some 17.5 billion dollars in payments to foreign
creditors this year, but the budget provides for payment of only half that
Russia desperately hopes to secure a new IMF loan that would help cover a
4.5-billion-dollar loan Russia must reimburse to the Fund this year.
Economists say making a deal with the Fund is also crucial to Moscow's bid to
win agreement from private and sovereign creditors to restructure Russia's
foreign liabilities, currently some 141 billion dollars.
Maslyukov returned to the charge in a television interview later Tuesday,
telling the state-run RTR channel that the IMF was effectively telling Russia
to slash its already meagre spending by 10 percent.
He said that the budget -- whose 25 billion dollars spending plan makes it the
tightest in years -- projected a primary surplus of 2.03 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP), below the 3.5 percent demanded by the IMF.
"Out of our spending we would have to find 45-50 billion rubles (in savings)
and use them to service our foreign debt," said Maslyukov.
"You must understand that we have already cut our spending by 15 percent, so
to cut it by another 10 percent is simply impossible.
"It would severely hurt the the least well off, pensioners, state workers,
municipal economies. We can't do it," Maslyukov said.
"I am categorically against this scale" of cut," he added, warning that the
payment of all Russia's foreign debts this year would gobble up 73 percent of
Nevertheless, the government number two said he believed Moscow would
eventually agree a deal with the Washington-based Fund. He noted it was only
early March and that it usually took Moscow until mid-April to reach an accord
with the IMF.
Date: Tue, 02 Mar 1999
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
Subject: Primakov and Berezovsky
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT) - One of Russia's richest and most powerful men claims the
government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has been harassing him because
it is pro-Communist, tolerates anti-Semitism and wants to return the country
to the Soviet past.
"This Cabinet presents a colossal problem and danger," Boris
Berezovsky, a tycoon with vast interests in Russian airlines, oil and
banking, told a press conference Monday.
"I think the Primakov government lives in a world that no longer exists.
They live in a world of axioms that describes the previous age, but the
world has changed," he said.
Mr. Berezovsky, who is Jewish, has been under investigation in recent
weeks for his alleged shady business dealings and use of illegal wiretapping
equipment to record the conversations of leading Russian politicians.
Police raided the offices of one of his companies, Sibneft, last month
and seized materials that included tape recordings of President Boris
Yeltsin's private conversations.
Mr. Berezovsky is one of a half dozen top Russian businessmen, often
called "oligarchs", who pooled their immense resources to help Mr. Yeltsin
win re-election against a strong challenge from Communist leader Gennady
Zyuganov in 1996.
Some of the oligarchs were subsequently given top posts in government.
Mr. Berezovsky, former deputy chair of the Kremlin Security Council, is
currently executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a
job that gives him considerable official influence.
It is also rumoured that Mr. Berezovsky has secretly served as the
personal financial adviser and fixer to the Yeltsin family. While he
admitted that he "meets frequently" with Mr. Yeltsin's daughter Tatiana, Mr.
Berezovsky denied any monetary connection.
"Our relations never involved any material obligations or conditions,"
he said. "I never paid any money. I never made gifts of jewellery. I never
did anything that could compromise either the presidential family or me".
After Russia's economy collapsed last summer, many critics blamed the
anti-social ethics and baneful official influence of the oligarchs for the
Mr. Primakov, a former Soviet spymaster who became Prime Minister in
September, has made no secret of his dislike for the handful of super-rich
oligarchs who virtually run Russia's economy.
"It's clear that Primakov is out to get the oligarchs, and the first
target, Berezovsky, is already running scared," says Vilen Ivanov, deputy
director of the Institute of Social and Political Studies in Moscow.
"But it's obvious that the time for these oligarchs is coming to an end.
They obtained their wealth by illegal means, and they ruined the economy of
the country," he says. "That's why Primakov has a lot of popular support in
his campaign against Berezovsky".
Russia's powerful Communists, the largest party in Parliament, have
urged Mr. Primakov to move more decisively against the
oligarchs, whom they blame for bringing all the ills of capitalism to
The Parliament recently passed a motion asking the government to fire
Mr. Berezovsky from his job as head of the CIS.
Mr. Berezovsky responded this week with a call for the Communist Party
to be banned, saying it has permitted vocal anti-Semites to remain within
its ranks. He claimed the Communists are persecuting him on two counts,
because he is a successful businessman and because he is Jewish.
"The Communist Party has turned fascist and it is absolutely necessary
to prohibit it," Mr. Berezovsky said. "This organisation does not have the
right to exist in Russia".
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999
Subject: The Russian 24 Hour Shopping Channel
David, This is an entry in a journal I kept during my last visit to
Russia. I am not a writer or an expert on Russia but I do care about
what is happening there. You see I have a really good reason.....my
PS. Please leave out my e-mail adress
(Date: maybe today or yesterday)
7 am and my wife has left to visit her parents.
I am alone and tired of watching the many adverts scroll across the
bottom of the TV screen. I am even less intrested in the "news" program.
So I stroll to the window to watch a fasinating program that is played
out every day just out the window our 3rd floor Novosibirsk flat.
I take a sip of my coffee, grab a slice of bacon to munch on and sit in
the ledge and get ready for this morning's episode.
I fondly call this program "The Russian 24 Hour Shopping Channel".
Lighting my cigarette I watch as the parade of well dressed pensoners
their young charges stop by the local refuse bin (more like a refuse
heap) to see what food scraps and goodies they can find to feed their
First up a Grandmother in a coat that most would only wear to Sunday
services and her young Grandson who looks to be about 6-7 years old.
She stands close by with the ever present shopping bag as the young
child searches around in the garbage. He uses his grandmothers walking
stick as a type of crude shovel.
He soon returns to her with a few a few scraps and then returns to his
"job". After a few more trips his Grandmother and he, heads held high,
exit the stage.
(End of Entry)
This is only one small example of the 24 Hour Shopping Program. This
Program is on every hour of everyday and you don't even need a TV to
We talk about "Who Lost Russia" and "The Upper Volta with Rockets" but
What about the People? The people who are at wits end? The people who
must steal beg and borrow to eat everyday and sometimes not? The people
who have been robbed blind by their own?
Its a difficult problem at best and I would like to see more discussion
on JRL of reasonable ideal's on what we should do about this imediate
crisis in Russian.
As one Russian told me. "American Food Aid? I can't afford it".
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999
From: "Katya Sedova" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'd like to thank you for this wonderful and quite comprehensive review of
press on Russia. I was wondering whether you know of similar lists with
extensive coverage of other Post-Soviet states in general, and Ukraine in
March 3, 1999
Feuding Sides Stall Primakov Peace Pact
By Melissa Akin
A so-called peace deal among the country's political forces appeared to be a
distant prospect Tuesday, as squabbling broke out anew between the Communists
and the Kremlin.
Delegates from the Cabinet, the presidential administration and both houses of
parliament met at the government's President Hotel to hash out details of the
deal, first put forward by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in January.
Under the proposed deal, the president, parliament and Cabinet would give up
their rights to trigger government dismissals before the next Duma elections,
scheduled for December 1999.
The Kremlin representative, deputy chief of staff Oleg Sysuyev, said the
delegates had found common ground on six of eight points, Interfax reported.
But amendments to the constitution restricting presidential power and
increased parliamentary control over government appointments - parts of the
original proposal - proved stickier.
Constitutional amendments, regarded as essential by the Communists and
unacceptable by President Boris Yeltsin, were excluded from the document
altogether and left to be worked out at a later date. And parliament checks on
the government were left to the group's next session. A Kremlin official said
there was "no way" Yeltsin could agree to the Duma's formulations.
"The original text of the agreement was directed toward civil accord and
political stability," Andrei Busygin of the presidential administration was
quoted as saying by Interfax. The Duma version, he said, "is coming from
completely different positions."
The working group meets again Friday to try to iron out differences, but the
likelihood for a quick agreement is small. In any case, the political scene
has been more or less peaceful without a deal since Primakov became prime
minister in September, and the effort strikes many as his attempt to win job
Yeltsin, hospitalized with an ulcer, was in stable condition and undergoing
treatment Tuesday, the Kremlin said. Primakov is on vacation in Sochi.
Primakov is due to return to Moscow around March 11, then travel to the United
States for a meeting with Vice President Al Gore later in the month.
Meanwhile, financier Boris Berezovsky continued his information war against
Primakov's Cabinet, as his Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper printed more
corruption accusations against First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov.
New charges in Tuesday's paper link Maslyukov to embezzlement of budget finds,
some of which were earmarked for state arms dealer Rosvooruzheniye.
In a letter published by the paper, Rosvooruzheniye chief Grigory Rapota - a
Primakov ally - asked the prosecutor general to specially monitor the
investigation of the case.
"It's obvious what Berezovsky is doing," said Andrei Ryabov, an analyst with
the Carnegie Center in Moscow. "He's trying to pit everyone against everyone
else. He exerts influence by playing the middleman between them. He's trying
to make them fight: Rapota with Primakov, Primakov with Maslyukov, Primakov
Maslyukov said he would ask the prosecutor general for a slander investigation
of the paper, Interfax reported.
San Francisco Chronicle
February 21, 1999
[for personal use only]
Post-Chernobyl werewolves and other modern Russian nightmares
REVIEWED BY Clark Blaise
A WEREWOLF PROBLEM IN CENTRAL RUSSIA
And Other Stories By Victor Pelevin New Directions; 213 pages; $23.95
Nothing in the United States quite rises or sinks, despite our best
efforts, to the absurdity of modern Russia. Writers in America are
challenged by the varieties of commercial fantasy, but writers in Russia
are pressed to treat seismic transformations on a daily basis.
In author Victor Pelevin's Russia, where ``reality'' was long defined by an
openly fraudulent and totalitarian ethic (and now, by a grotesque variant
of market democracy), the native strain of satiric fantasy has been juiced
up and found still serviceable.
Each of the eight new stories in ``A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia''
is, in essence, a dream of an alternate reality. All of them, improbably or
not, are supported by daily events in Russian life.
This is the fourth Pelevin work to be translated and sold in this country,
an astonishing feat for any writer in any foreign language, particularly
for an author from such a difficult and alien tradition. He has won two
prestigious Russian literary awards and is gathering a respectable
following in the West as the ``indispensable voice'' of post-Communist
``Omon Ra,'' the first of his books to appear, satirized the manipulation
of the Russian space program; the cosmonaut learns he's never left the
hangar and guesses what his fate will have to be. The second, ``The Yellow
Arrow,'' is a work of structural virtuosity in which a sealed train,
presumed to be moving cross-country, is in reality moving backward in time.
All his work can be read allegorically on nearly any level -- historic,
philosophical, literary or political. Like Kafka's, it proceeds logically
from fantastical premises.
The title story, impossible as it may be, is probably the most
``realistic'' in tone, as in the following passage: ``Beyond a hundred
yards or so of broken ground (tiny hillocks, scattered bushes, and grass
that was too high and luscious for his liking, because it suggested it was
growing on a bog) there was the edge of a forest, thin and unhealthy
looking, like the sickly offspring of an alcoholic.''
When Pelevin applies his imagination to this Chernobyl landscape, we have a
werewolf problem. By day, modern Russians work for the state; by night,
they gather in packs and revert.
In ``Sleep,'' a character nods off at a lecture on Marxist-Leninism and
trains himself to appear awake while sleeping. So does his professor. He
ultimately discovers that everyone (except the mad and the mafia) has
developed the same survival skill.
And speaking of Russian survival skills, Pelevin's wit has never been more
apparent: ``He was obviously one of those natural talents you can still
meet in Russia who open bottles of beer on their eye socket and with a
single firm slap of the hand can knock the cork half-way out of a bottle of
dry Bulgarian wine.''
The practical effect of perestroika is celebrated in ``Vera Pavlovna's
Ninth Dream.'' Vera and Manyasha, two elderly bathroom attendants -- who,
like philosophical clowns out of Beckett, debate solipsism, listen to Bach,
Mozart and Wagner -- dream their way out of the tiled hell that holds their
identity. They see their cubicles transformed by mafia money into a chrome
and glass boutique selling Italian cosmetics.
But mafia chrome and perfume cannot block the odors of the past. For all
its wild invention, the heart of the story is its combination of
metaphysics and metafiction -- what starts in a public toilet ends in an
abstruse literary reference.
Pelevin is not a psychological writer. He does not create characters whose
conflicts are resolved dramatically or in epiphanies. They are, for the
most part, lone (were)wolves, their humanity, even their existence in
doubt. They are haunted by the suspicion that they exist only in someone
else's imagination or as two-dimensional figures, sketches on a pad.
And why should these characters exist, Pelevin suggests in this
extraordinary book, when even their biographies are owned by the state? In
``Bulldozer Driver's Day,'' poor Ivan, who'd been injured in a nuclear
plant accident, is declared a hero and interviewed by the local Pravda:
``It tells the whole story, just like it happened, only they call our plant
the Uran-Bator Canning Factory,'' Ivan's friend tells him unquestioningly,
``and instead of a bomb, a hundred-liter barrel of tomatoes falls on top of
you, but then you manage to crawl over to the conveyor and switch it off.
And you have a different surname, of course.''
Russian Watchdog Clears Central Bank of `Serious Violations'
Moscow, March 2 (Bloomberg)
-- Russia's Audit Chamber, a government agency that supervises budget
expenditure, said the central bank didn't break the law or infringe any
regulations in its conduct of monetary policy last year.
``I may disappoint you, but we did not find any serious, major violations in
the actions of the central bank,'' said Khachim Karmokov, chairman of the
The lower house of parliament in September instructed the chamber to
investigate the central bank's operations, together with an outside auditor
chosen by the bank, after the bank ran short of reserves in August and stopped
supporting the ruble.
The bank's investment strategy between 1993 and 1997 also has been under
scrutiny since Russia's highest law enforcement officer said it invested
billions of dollars of its foreign currency reserves through a small Jersey-
based offshore company, Fimaco. The central bank confirmed the use of Fimaco,
saying it invested in low risk securities and returned all profits from its
investment activities to the bank or its foreign subsidiaries.
Karmokov said the chamber was investigating the use of Fimaco to invest the
He also said the chamber disagreed with the bank over the classification of
part of the audit as a ``state secret.''
Audits carried out by the chamber into the investment of foreign currency
reserves were categorized as secret by the central bank. Karmokov said the
chamber did not think this information should be categorized as secret and
could be released to the public, as most of its contents were already known.
``We lack a common approach on a number of questions,'' he said.
Karmokov also said the chamber and the bank disagreed over the way in which
its financial results should be audited. Under the current legislation, the
central bank determines the way in which its financial results will be
The audit chamber reports to the lower house of parliament on whether approved
budget spending is carried out; it also audits state-controlled institutions.
The lower house of parliament has been discussing since the beginning of last
year a law limiting central bank independence.
The bank became fully independent in 1995.
March 2, 1999
ANOTHER AGING RUSSIAN LEADER FADES
For many admiring Westerners, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's finest hour
was the moment he clambered atop a tank in August 1991 to protest an attempted
military coup in the splintering Soviet Union. Vigorous and defiant, Yeltsin
won the hearts of Russians as well for his courage and leadership in thwarting
that ill-fated coup attempt.
Today, at age 68, Yeltsin is ailing, disoriented and hospitalized yet
again, this time for a recurring ulcer. After years of illnesses--heart
problems, respiratory infections and failing health--Yeltsin's absence no
longer seems to surprise ordinary Russians.
But Americans and other outsiders can be forgiven for wondering whether
this broken bear of a man should still have his fingers on the buttons and
codes that determine nuclear war and peace. Between his periodic
hospitalizations, Yeltsin invariably vows he won't give up office until his
term expires in mid-2000.
At times it seems that Yeltsin does more damage when he shows up for work
than when he doesn't. For example, he recently disclosed that he personally
warned President Clinton that Russia would not tolerate attacks by NATO
warplanes against Serbia. Problem was, the White House denied Clinton received
any such high-level communication from Yeltsin.
More troubling still, some leaders in the Russian parliament are openly
questioning whether Yeltsin's deteriorating health could be leading to the
collapse of central authority, and perhaps of the Russian federation itself.
The concern over Russia becoming a "failed state" has left the elite wondering
if that would mean individual regions might start breaking away, making
already shaky control over warheads, missile production or nuclear stockpiles
All this raises alarm in the West, and it should. But the Clinton
administration can do only so much to prepare for the end of another era in
the Kremlin. As appealing as it seems, U.S. policy cannot be tied solely to
one man or one leader. It simply leaves America too vulnerable. While Yeltsin
has proved a stout and reliable partner in the tricky post-Cold War period, he
has also sought constitutional changes to expand the powers of the Russian
presidency, putting more clout in his own hands.
The man who will succeed Yeltsin, temporarily, should he step aside or die
while in power, is Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, 69, who opposes
Yeltsin's leaving before his term expires. Primakov argues it is better for
stability and smooth elections.
Candidates for a successor range from ultranationalists and Communists to
Primakov himself. What Americans must accept is that Russia will choose
democratically, and we will deal with Yeltsin's successor, whoever it is,
because he is the people's choice.
New York Times
2 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Swastikas in Russia: Anti-Semitism Surges
By CELESTINE BOHLEN
MOSCOW -- With their black uniforms and barely disguised swastikas, the
followers of Alexander Barkashov's Russian National Unity party are hard to
miss, which is one reason their march through a Moscow neighborhood a few
weeks ago attracted so much attention.
The marchers, shouting out "Glory to Russia!" with stiff-armed salutes,
numbered no more than 200, hardly a show of strength in a city of 10 million.
But for Barkashov, 45, a pony-tailed karate expert and veteran of an earlier
extremely nationalist movement, just showing up was enough.
"He wanted to prove his legal rights," noted Vladimir Bondarenko, deputy
editor of the newspaper Zavtra, which provides ideological support for
Barkashov and other Russian supremacists, "that is to say, his right to walk
down the sidewalks, to go where he wants, when he wants."
These are strange times in Russia where, seven years after the collapse of
communism, hopes for lasting stability seem more elusive than ever. Elections
-- first to the Parliament, then to the presidency -- are still months away,
but, ready or not, the country is already stricken by pre-election nerves that
flare up in the press, on television and sometimes on the streets.
It was in this jumpy atmosphere that the "barkashovtsi" made their move --
and it was in this atmosphere that their Sunday outing stirred a noisy
national debate: politicians and prosecutors are once again arguing over how
to deal with Russia's peculiar, virulent brand of nationalist socialism, with
its deep strains of anti-Semitism and its glaring antagonism to the West.
How dangerous a threat is posed by Russia's 'neo-fascism' is one of the main
questions under debate. It is not difficult to make a comparison between
Russia today and pre-Hitler Germany -- a collapsed economy, an electorate that
feels bitter and betrayed, a weak central government. Poll takers do not have
to look too far or too deep to find a widespread yearning for an "iron hand."
But for all the scare talk, Russia's neo-fascist groups are still small and
marginal. Some experts maintain that they are creatures of the old KGB, while
others argue conspiratorially that they are used by the authorities to whip up
pre-election anxieties that will drive voters back into the embrace of the
"You notice they make no noise until the pre-election period, when people in
power try to use them for their own ends," said Oleg Vakulovsky, a television
documentary film maker who has become an expert on Russian fascist groups.
"The authorities have done more to boost their popularity than their own
swastikas do. But their popularity takes on a life of its own, like a
One of the themes that now unite extreme nationalists and alarm liberal
Russians is a recurrence of anti-Semitism. According to Bondarenko, it is no
more and no less than a popular expression of the humiliation of Russian
"For Estonians, Russians are the symbol of occupation," said Bondarenko,
expanding on one of his newspaper's favorite subjects. "Here in Russia, Jews
have power over finances, information and the circles that surround the
president. So for millions of Russians, Jews are a symbol of their
humiliation. You cannot stomp on national feelings for too long."
With their open attacks on Jews, Russia's hardcore nationalists, including
those in the mainstream Communist Party, have served up a challenge to
Russia's democratic politicians -- a challenge that so far has been answered
only feebly, some say disgracefully.
Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has taken Barkashov's grandstanding as a
personal affront and is trying to have the Russian National Unity party banned
from the city. Elsewhere, however, attempts to put a stop to the overt racism
have mostly ended in bureaucratic quagmires, with groups of "experts" assigned
to "study" the legal definition of "political extremism."
As the debate heats up, so does the language of hate. In Moscow, the Russian
National Unity followers are now lying low, but on television, reports of
anti-Semitic statements -- and excuses for anti-Semitic statements -- have
become practically commonplace.
The Russian National Unity party may not be the biggest danger; by employing
Nazi symbols, it has relegated itself to the political fringe in a country
that lost millions of lives in the war against Hitler.
The party -- mostly young men in their 20s and 30s, many employed in sport
clubs and security firms -- has its strongholds, particularly in the Stavropol
region along Russia's border with the unruly Caucasus. But membership, even in
this season of deep political disillusionment, does not exceed 100,000, by the
party's own boastful estimate.
There are other, even more flamboyant groups, of which the noisiest is
Eduard Limonov's Nationalist Bolsheviks, who recently interrupted a political
gathering of Russia's fast-dwindling liberal elite with chants of "Stalin!
Such shock tactics have earned Limonov, a writer and former emigre, a
reputation as an outrageous star of political theater. But his followers --
almost of all of them young students, not yet in their 20s -- number no more
than 6,000, and his victories are measured by media exposure, not by the
More disturbing than all the extreme nationalist groups (which, as Russian
nationalists like to point out, are less armed or violent than America's own
militias) is the nationalist wing of the Communist Party, headed by Gen.
His rabid anti-Semitism has become increasingly blatant and vicious, and to
date it is still unchecked. As he stumps the country, sometimes with Viktor
Ilyukhin, a fellow Communist and chairman of a parliamentary committee,
Makashov seems to have no other message than an appeal to a centuries-old
Russian instinct to blame Jews for everything.
Just last week, let loose with another tirade, this time to an enthusiastic
gathering of Cossacks in southern Russia. "So, the word 'anti-Semite' is
illegal, et cetera, et cetera," Makashov shouted into a microphone. "Yet
everything done for the good of the people is legal. The people are always
right. We will remain anti-Semites, and we must triumph."
The Makashov strategy seems to confirm the view that the Communist Party,
which can claim the sympathy of about one-third of the electorate, plans to
divide like an amoeba in the December parliamentary elections. In this view,
an extreme wing, led by Makashov and Ilyukhin, would make an open pitch for
hardline, anti-Semitic nationalists, reaching out for nationalist protest
votes that in 1993 went to Vladimir Zhirinovsky and in 1996 to Gen. Alexander
By the calculations of Bondarenko, the editor, the Makashov wing could get
as much as 15 percent of the vote. Together with the rest of the Communist
Party, which may split further between hardline Marxists and more moderate
socialists, the extreme nationalists could patch together a coalition that
could lure more than 50 percent of the members of parliament, he added.
Limonov is more dubious about the nationalists' chances, citing the pitiful
showing of Yuri Vlasov, an Olympic weight-lifting champion and hardcore
nationalist who won only 220,000 votes in the 1996 presidential election.
"Yes, sure we have popular anti-Semitism, but when it comes to elections,
people prefer to be very, very cautious and not vote for radicals," said
Limonov, whose party is one of the few nationalist groups that tries to steer
clear of racist name-calling.
Polls on the subject are often contradictory. One taken in January showed 43
percent supporting "Russia for Russians," an ambiguous slogan in a country
that has more than 100 nationalities. But another recent poll found that 83
percent considered the anti-Semitic statements of Makashov and his ilk to be
The various nationalist movements draw on different parts of the past for
inspiration -- some looking to Czarist times, others to the perceived glory of
But the movements themselves have also intertwined. Barkashov, for instance,
came from Pamyat, a late Soviet-era nationalist organization that sank from
sight after one leader was sent to prison for shouting out anti-Semitic
slogans at a literary gathering.
Both Barkashov and Makashov became symbols of violent opposition to
President Boris Yeltsin in 1993 when they helped lead an abortive coup that
ended with Yeltsin's order to shell the Russian Parliament.
Limonov sees his movement, which he says has surged in membership since the
financial crisis hit last August, as more radical, certainly more youth-
oriented than the others, and drawing on symbols of Russian power -- like
"You Americans worship George Washington, so why should we not worship
Stalin?" he asked. "I am sure if you looked into Washington's biography, you
would find unpleasant moments, too. Stalin is our national hero; he was the
head of our state at its most powerful."
But Limonov rejects attempts to paint his followers as dangerous extremists.
"It is very sad," he said. "We are widely accused of being extremists while
those big bosses -- Makashov and Ilyukhin -- are sitting quietly in their
seats in the Parliament. My question is: why aren't they being prosecuted for
not behaving properly?"
Russia: Media Losing Access To Information
By Floriana Fossato
Moscow, 2 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Relations between Russian authorities and the
media have often been strained since the end of the Soviet-era grip on
President Boris Yeltsin has repeatedly said he backs freedom of the press and
access to information. However, past governments never initiated the approval
of a Russian version of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The current
government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has given abundant signs it is
happy to work with journalists only if it can establish its own rules of the
Russian media specialists, who in recent years had recorded a trend toward
relative openness among officials, are now concerned about what they see as
signs of a tightening of control over information. They say that signs of
reduced information transparency are most pronounced at the regional level as
parliamentary and presidential elections approach.
Aleksey Simonov, president of the media watchdog Fund for the Defense of
Glasnost (transparency,) told RFE/RL's Russian service recently that on-going
political power struggles and the collapse of the advertising market make
Russian journalists extremely dependent on authorities for their own financial
According to Simonov, Russian media increasingly "have to live with the fact
that authorities do not want to deal with independent journalists". He added
that the possibility of independent journalists influencing events is
"insignificant," particularly since the August financial and political crisis.
"Two years ago I said there were some visible centers of opposition [to the
tendency,] as there were rather independent media, interested in defending
their freedom. Today, they are just not visible. The level of self-defense and
[the preservation] of standards fell from publishers to single journalists. We
can hope only in people who have not lost their integrity, including
journalists. I personally do not have other hopes."
Iosif Dzyalashinsky, professor of journalism at Moscow University and
president of the human rights fund "Commission on Freedom of Media Access,"
He told RFE/RL that the situation is particularly difficult at the regional
level, where "the right of journalists to obtain information is frequently
violated by local authorities."
"Processes that initially looked occasional --when authorities' intermittently
opened up and then obstructed access to information-- are now becoming normal.
I would call this stage tightening the ring [of control]. This means that
authorities limit the possibility of civil society to obtain information in
different sectors. And the strength of the grasp increases as one goes further
away from the capital."
Simonov said that in many regions authorities are ready to work with the media
"only following old Soviet patterns, when they have control over journalists
and are sure that media are carrying out tasks that have been imposed on
Simonov noted that last year a new trend in the conflict between many
authorities and journalists started in a number regions, linked to local
elections. He said that some governors introduced regional legislation
tightening their grip on the media "according to their wish and in full
opposition to the existing federal media laws."
Simonov said that Kursk governor Aleksandr Rutskoi is one of those regional
leaders. As a result, Simonov said, suits are being filed in court against
journalists, accused of failing to comply with regional rules.
Russian media have widely reported the worsening of the situation since last
September, when the Primakov cabinet started taking measures to limit access
to information in Moscow, too.
However, the journalistic community appears to be too fragmented and too weak
to respond to the threat. The precarious economic situation of most regional
journalists and --after the August crisis-- also of Moscow's journalists,
weakens their willingness to protest. Many journalists are understandably more
concerned about their salaries, often delayed for months by the state and
private structures that control Russia's media.
Dzyalashinsky said journalists in Moscow need to pay more attention to what is
happening to journalists elsewhere in the country:
"We would like the journalistic community to take notice of the problem in the
regions. There is what I would call a certain arrogant attitude [in Moscow]
vis-a-vis the regions. Moscow journalists are in a more privileged position.
The conflict with authorities has not yet touched them, at least not to the
extent it has effected regional journalists. We would like the journalistic
community, starting from the Union of Russian Journalists to single
professionals, to try to keep the situation under control."
Dzyalashinsky said that in Russia's regions, "the possibility to obtain
information has been cut off." He called for greater cooperation among
journalists, their employers and others interested in the availability of
Dzyalashinsky noted that at present, there are some 70,000 non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) that have the necessary experience and the desire to push
authorities on access to information. He said that if these groups and the
media can "find ground for cooperation at least on this point, the tendency
[to close off access to information] that we witness now in Russia could be
Russia to Begin Crawling out of Crisis by Year End-Opinion.
VOLOGDA, March 2 (Itar-Tass) - By the end of this year, the country will start
"gradually crawling out" of the current economic situation, although the
crisis' aftermath will be felt for more than one year to come, Russian First
Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov said on Tuesday.
According to Gustov, some imperfect laws passed in the recent years have
resulted in a paradoxical situation when imported equipment is being piled
unused at warehouses in almost each of the country's regions while potential
users have no funds to pay off all the customs duties. Thus, equipment worth
45 million German marks for a Vologda school furniture-manufacturing
enterprise is being kept idle. A similar situation is in Yaroslavl where a
baby-food production line cannot be used because of such problems. A recent
governmental resolution, allowing enterprises repay their debts by
installments, will help activate such "frozen resources," Gustov said.
In his words, the Vologda region is one of the most promising Russian region
in terms of potential investments, with its stable metallurgical and chemical
industries and smooth relations between the executive and legislative
Gustov arrived in Vologda to attend a meeting devoted to the implementation of
a federal programme for the development of Russia's linen-making industry in
1996-2000. He called the situation in the industry catastrophic and said that
the government will soon pass a resolution aimed to improve this situation.
St. Petersburg Times
March 2, 1999
St. Pete Fights FSB On Internet Spying
By Jen Tracy
Soviet-style totalitarianism may soon get a cyber-age boost with the
passage of regulations granting the Federal Security Service, or FSB,
unlimited access to all electronic correspondence, participants warned this
weekend at a St. Petersburg conference dedicated to privacy protection
issues, declaring war against the former KGB agency.
The two-day conference, organized by the Citizens' Watch human rights
group, discussed a wide range of privacy issues affecting the country in
the information age. Top among them was SORM-2, a regulation which may
ultimately allow the FSB to obtain information from Internet Service
Providers, or ISPs, without first presenting a warrant - at the expense of
the ISPs, who will be forced to pick up the tab for the pricey
FSB-certified technology required for such access.
"You remember the KGB, don't you? They're used to collecting dossiers on
citizens, just in case," said Yury Vdovin, deputy chairman of the Citizen's
Watch. "They collected, collect and will continue to collect information on
us. Now they're asking me to pay extra so they can tap me with even higher
Citizens' Watch has set a self-imposed deadline of June to draft proposals,
to be read in the State Duma, on creating a system of checks and balances
to temper the FSB's "unlimited" activities. SORM-2 is currently slated to
be enacted as soon as the Justice Ministry irons out the technical aspects
of the regulation.
To date, only one ISP has refused to conform to SORM regulations. Since
last April, Alexander Sirov of Volgograd-based Bayard Communications, has
repeatedly refused to cooperate with FSB requests for information without
some legal assurance that a warrant would first be served. He also refused
to foot the bill for the required technology.
Goskomsvyaz, the state communications agency, initially refused to allow
the FSB to revoke Bayard's operating license - currently the threatened
consequence for noncompliance. However, alarm bells went off recently when
Sirov - who constantly communicated by e-mail with friends, associates and
journalists - suddenly appeared to go missing.
"He hasn't responded to us in two weeks," Vdovin said. "We fear that
something terrible has happened to him."
Sirov may be the lone warrior in the battle against the FSB as far as ISPs
are concerned. Not a single provider representative attended the
conference, despite recent vows to unite and fight Russia's security forces.
Ivan Seckey, head of the Open Society program at the Central European
University in Budapest, Hungary, said his country has advanced far beyond
Russia in dealing with its information privacy issues, adding that ISPs
here could be doing much more to fight the FSB.
"They should delete all transmissions immediately so that the FSB can't
force them to hand over information by threatening to revoke their
licenses," Seckey said. "They don't do this now because ISPs need the
benevolence of the authorities and also because they sell certain
information for marketing purposes."
Poll Shows Russian Opposition to Treaty With Ukraine
MOSCOW, Feb 26 (Interfax) -- Almost one half - 45% - of Russians
believe that the Federation Council should not have ratified the
Partnership and Mutual Aid Treaty as long as the division of the Black Sea
Fleet, the status of
Sevastopol and Ukraine's debts for Russian oil and gas remain unresolved
issues. These are
the findings of a poll of 1,600 people held by the All-Russian Public
Opinion Center during
February 19-22. The statistical error of the poll is within 4%.
Ratification of the treaty was
supported by 28% of respondents, and 27% of the people surveyed were
The Federation Council vote was predominantly supported by people over
55 and residing in
southern European Russia, Siberia and the Far East. Most of respondents
younger than 25, in
the 40-45 year-old age group, residing in northern European Russia, living
in cities and
having voted for Boris Yeltsin regarded the ratification as premature. The
view that Russia
should own Sevastopol was supported by 78%. As few as 7% said that Ukraine
should own the city,
and 15% were undecided. Supporters of a Russian Sevastopol are
predominantly men, people
older than 40, middle school dropouts, university-educated people, those
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov in the elections, and people
residing around Moscow
and in rural areas.
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library