This Date's Issues: 3078 •
Johnson's Russia List
5 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. UPI: Yeltsin sacks CIS leader Berezovsky.
2. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, PARTY LINES: Berezovsky Is Out,
Primakov Will Be Next.
3. Jacob Kipp re Moscow Times and bagels.
4. Edward Lozansky: Berezovsky in Washington.
5. Itar-Tass: No Has-Been Will Ever Head Government Again
6. The Economist: Grudge match. (Re Russia's debt).
7. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Letting Caspian 'black
gold' lie. Low prices, disappointing results have oil companies scaling
back big plans.
8. Interfax: Zhirinovskiy Assails Primakov Government.
9. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Vladimir Popov, professor, The Razor's Edge, or
Centrism the Russian Way. (Poll Rates Russians' Political Preferences).]
Yeltsin sacks CIS leader Berezovsky
MOSCOW, March 4 (UPI) In an unexpected finale to a tumultuous day of
Russian politics dominated by rumors that a government reshuffle may be
imminent, Russian President Boris Yeltsin sacked billionaire businessman
Boris Berezovsky ("beh-reh-ZAW-skee") from his post as executive secretary
of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups 12 of the former
Soviet republics, on Thursday night.
The dismissal of Berezovsky "for exceeding the limits of his executive
authority as executive secretary of the CIS and for failing to implement
instructions of the chairman of the Council of the CIS heads of states
(President Yeltsin)" caused a jubilant reaction among Berezovsky's foes in
the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament.
Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov ("ghen-NAH-dee seh-lehz-NYAWF") said he
believed many people would raise a glass of champagne or something stronger
to toast Yeltsin's decision.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov ("zoo-GAH-nawf") was even more blunt,
saying "finally justice has triumphed."
Berezovsky, who heard the news after arriving in the Azerbaijani capital
Baku ("bah-KOO") as part of a tour of Caucasian capitals, bitterly fired
back that Yeltsin has no authority to sack him.
Berezovsky told reporters it was up to the CIS council to make such a
decision, but his days as secretary of the commonwealth are surely numbered
as few of the 11 other presidents of the CIS member-states would side with
Berezovsky against Yeltsin, virtually ensuring that the sacking will come
into force soon.
Yeltsin has ordered Berezovsky to cut short his trip and return to Moscow.
The tycoon has so far refused to do so, and is spending the night at a
hotel in Baku. His next destination is unknown.
Berezovsky had earlier said he would leave his post if a single member of
the CIS council moved to dismiss him.
Last week the Duma voted unanimously in a no-confidence motion against
Berezovsky, calling for his removal from the CIS post.
Although the Duma had no power to remove the shady businessman, Yeltsin's
decision today will be warmly welcomed by his opponents in the chamber.
However, political analysts in Moscow were quick to point out that the real
reason for Berezovsky's removal could be traced to the tycoon's constant
intrigues and meddling in the work of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yvegeny
Primakov ("yehv-GEH-nee pree-muh-KAWF"), using his media empire to
discredit the government and certain ministers, who have been accused of
Berezovsky is also involved in a scandal over the alleged bugging of the
president's family and senior Kremlin officials, an accusation that was
bound to ruin the powerful mogul's already shaky relationship with
Yeltsin's inner circle.
The roller-coaster day began on a stormy note after a Russian news agency
reported that Yeltsin is planning to reshuffle Primakov's Cabinet, and had
even issued an ultimatum to the prime minister to sack his Communist deputy
premiers within 10 days or resign.
The Kremlin was forced to repeatedly and angrily dismiss the swirling
rumors, which caused a political storm in the Communist-dominated State Duma.
Yeltsin's spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin ("dih-ME-tree yah-KOOSH-kin") called
the report "absolute rubbish," but agitation in the Duma and the media
frenzy over a possible rift between Yeltsin and Primakov reached such
proportions that Yakushkin was forced to make additional denials live on
Yakushkin said Yeltsin, who is in hospital recovering from a stomach ulcer,
had "made no statements of the kind, or demands to anyone."
The spokesman accused certain forces of trying to destabilize the political
situation and undermine government unity for their personal gain, hinting
at Berezovsky's recent anti-government statements.
Despite the repeated denials from the Kremlin, the Duma was still in an
uproar over the mere possibility of a sudden dismissal by Yeltsin of senior
Communist ministers or even the forced resignation of Primakov, prompting
Yeltsin's chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha ("nee-koh-LYE board-YOU-zhuh")
to intervene by contacting the Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov to assure him
that the rumors were unfounded.
The initial report claimed Yeltsin had demanded the removal of two senior
Communists, deputy premiers Yuri Maslyukov ("YOU-ree mass-loo- KAWF") and
Gennady Kulik ("koo-LEEK"), from the Cabinet following media allegations
that the two men were involved in a corruption scandal.
Maslyukov's press spokesman says the reports of corruption are "scandalous
slander," adding that the deputy premier plans to file defamation charges
against Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a daily controlled by Berezovsky that printed
Maslyukov, who is the government's economic supremo and the most prominent
Communist in Primakov's Cabinet, has come under criticism for his handling
of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund on the resumption of
loan disbursements to Russia.
The IMF, which froze a $17.6 billion loan package to Russia after the
country's economic meltdown last August and its default on domestic bonds,
has refused to release additional funds to the cash-strapped Russian
treasury until the new Cabinet presents a coherent economic program.
Primakov, who has taken a 10-day vacation in the Black Sea resort town of
Sochi ("SOH-chee"), was silent on today's uproar in the capital.
March 5, 1999
PARTY LINES: Berezovsky Is Out, Primakov Will Be Next
By Jonas Bernstein
Boris Berezovsky has been fired from his post as CIS executive secretary.
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has emerged victorious. He has by now enjoyed
a triumphant march through Russia's political institutions, and the post-
Yeltsin era appears at hand.
Primakov may have engineered Berezovsky's ouster, but he himself could soon
follow. The prime minister visibly lost momentum last week, when Yeltsin,
before returning to the hospital, vowed that the prime minister would serve in
his post unimpeded until the year 2000.
Much like the medals with which Stalin used to decorate generals just before
having them shot, such pledges from Yeltsin tend to be the kiss of death.
Remember this one? "I am saying: They will remain working until the year 2000
... I will not give them away, I will not allow them to be touched."
That's what Yeltsin said about Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov in February
Just a few months earlier, Chubais and Nemtsov had been crowing about their
success in driving Berezovsky out of the Kremlin. Back then, Berezovsky sat on
the Kremlin Security Council and Chubais and Nemtsov were the two first deputy
prime ministers. But even as the "young reformers" were trading
congratulations and political high-fives, Berezovsky struck back: The infamous
"book scandal" surfaced. Chubais and four of his lieutenants had each accepted
$90,000 "advances" on a scholarly book they were supposed to write about
privatization. The advances came from a company with ties to Uneximbank, which
at the time was winning sweet privatization deals from government agencies
controlled by this so-called "Writer's Union."
The kompromat, or compromising material, about the book scandal was widely
believed to have surfaced courtesy of Berezovsky - a parting shot at his old
enemies. So one wonders what Berezovsky may have in store for his far more
dangerous foe Primakov. One also wonders how furious Yeltsin is at having to
give up Berezovsky, again - and how unforgiving he will be towards Primakov, a
man he already is clearly hoping to get rid of.
So what next? On Thursday, the Kremlin authorities were vigorously denying
that Yeltsin had given Primakov an ultimatum to fire the Communists in his
Cabinet - even as they were hinting Yeltsin could embarrass the government by
personally taking over the IMF negotiations. Yeltsin could continue such not-
so-subtle harassment of Primakov until Primakov, exasperated, quits. Or he
might just sack him outright - and soon.
What, after all, does he have to lose? The Communists would go ape, but the
rest of the country would not: Primakov may be relatively above the fray and
even mildly popular, but it is doubtful that most Russians, who regard all
politicians with skepticism, see him as qualitatively different from the rest.
And if they didn't rise up when Yeltsin shelled his opponents, they'll hardly
do so when he simply hands them pink slips.
As for the IMF and Western leaders: They, of course, would be delighted to see
Primakov go, particularly if the successor Cabinet has a requisite number of
But whether he follows Berezovsky out of the government's revolving door or
not, my sense is that - in the wink of an eye - the Primakov era has already
come and gone.
From: "Kipp, Jacob KIPPJ" <KIPPJ@LEAV-EMH1.ARMY.MIL>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 12:32:09 -0600
Regarding: Moscow Times March 4, 1999 EDITORIAL: Down With Donuts,
Up With Bagels
Thoughts of a SP:
Real Expats, those who were around before the fall of the USSR, will
remember real Russian donuts, "ponchki," hot, heavily aroma, and powdered
sugar. We well also recall real Russian bagels, "bubliki," sold at most
bread stores -- remember the sign "khleb" -- bubliki were hard as stone but
delicious -- great with tea. We did not have ersatz America in the
"Starlite Diner" and lived off the economy -- lines, shortages, and the
ecstasy of unexpected finds. So now we mark the passing of Dunkin Donuts
and the advance of a Canadian bagel company. One small point, we shopped
with ordinary Russians and felt a certain solidarity -- found many things to
admire in the ordinary folks. We endured together. Sorry, I don't think
this Expat community shares those values. I guess it is the difference
between being an ordinary American exchange student in say Paris and being
part of the global commercial elite. You really missed something very
extraordinary. I hope the bagels are good. If you can find some ponchki
and bubliki try them.
From: Lozansky@aol.com (Edward Lozansky)
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999
Subject: Berezovsky in town
Eurasia Group is pleased to announce a special roundtable in the Eurasia Forum
Russian Foreign Policy and the CIS
featuring Boris Berezovsky, Executive Secretary of the CIS
Paul Goble, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
DATE: Tuesday, 9 March 1999
TIME: 3:00pm - 5:00pm
PLACE: The Willard Inter-Continental
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
In April 1998, Boris Berezovsky's appointment as Executive Secretary of the
CIS was unanimously approved in what was visibly regarded as an attempt to
revitalize the then quiescent Commonwealth. The CIS has largely been
construed as Russia's attempt to maintain control throughout its former Soviet
boarders. To dispel this perception, Berezovsky has encouraged Russia to
support the sovereignty and independence of the Newly Independent States while
encouraging economic unity. Mr. Berezovsky will discuss the viability of this
Union, what has been implemented thus forth and what remains to be
accomplished. He will consider the effects of the August crisis on this
Union, and what measures must be taken to ensure the future stability of the
This event is an informal business discussion with senior level executives
from US companies active or interested in the CIS. If you have any questions
please contact Arrun Kapoor (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dany Beylerian
(email@example.com) of Eurasia Group at tel: 212.366.9560; fax:
212.366.9699. Participation fee: $100, Non-Profits: $50, Eurasia Group
Members: free. R.S.V.P. must be given prior to Friday, 5 March to ensure
proper registration. Inquire for sponsorship information. A full refund will
be made available if cancellation is made by Thursday, 4 March.
EURASIA FORUM-with Boris Berezovsky
9 March 1999 at 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Willard Inter-Continental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
No Has-Been Will Ever Head Government Again Seleznyov.
MOSCOW, March 4 (Itar-Tass) -- "They who think that the Cabinet can be easily
toppled today are mistaken. None of the have-beens will become chairman of the
government again," State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said in an exclusive
interview with Itar-Tass on Thursday.
In his comment on the latest media attacks on the government, Seleznyov said,
"All this behind-the-scenes scheming aiming to hand down a sentence to the
present government is apparently designed to drum up support from the voters.
But the schemers forget that the voter is now different."
The Duma Speaker stressed that "the gaidars, shokhins, nemtsovs and kiriyenkos
are persons of the past, have-beens."
He said that "the latest attack on the Yevgeny Primakov cabinet is designed to
make the West wonder yet again what is happening in Russia. "It is a
deliberate campaign designed to show that members of the Cabinet of Ministers
are unable to conduct negotiations with the international financial
institutions," the Duma speaker noted. "A panic is being created and this
naturally affects the sentiments of the business leaders who are inclined to
do business in Russia. It is directed against those among our partners whose
fates are bound to Russia," he added.
Seleznyov expressed confidence that the critical sentiments will be overcome
"but for this joint efforts are needed on the part of all branches of power."
Later on Thursday, Seleznyov on instruction from the lower house met Yeltsin's
chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha to discuss interaction and consolidation of
efforts of the branches of power in the present situation. After the meeting
he quoted Bordyuzha as saying no plot was being hatched against the Primakov
government in the presidential administration. "It is not the president's
desire to break the neck of the government but the wish of the people behind
the mass media because they think themselves to be fashion trend-setters in
politics," Seleznyov said.
According to Seleznyov, Bordyuzha confirmed that "this is all absolute fiction
and no ideas concerning the Cabinet of Ministers have appeared or been worked
upon in the administration of the president."
March 6, 1999
[for personal use only]
FINANCE AND ECONOMICS
M O S C O W
IN THE first chapter of Russia’s modern financial history, greed beat fear.
Convinced that Russia was too dangerous to be allowed to fail, foreigners
piled into short-term state bonds, called GKOs, and lost more than $10
billion last August when default and devaluation proved them wrong. Now, in
the second chapter, fear is beating greed. Even when faced with
confiscatory restructuring terms, most western banks have chosen to settle
rather than risk a tussle in the courts.
Neither side has covered itself with glory. Russia has barely bothered to
negotiate at all. Instead, it has issued a series of unilateral and usually
opaque instructions, terms and deadlines, all of which have subsequently
been revised or extended—although never to the creditors’ significant
advantage. For their part, the western banks have squabbled mightily among
themselves, losing their collective nerve at every critical juncture.
The biggest falling-out came this week, when Deutsche Bank, which was
chairing the creditors’ 19-strong steering committee, announced that it
would accept unilaterally the terms offered—worth at best six cents in the
dollar (and probably much less)—on its own behalf, though not on its
clients’. The other banks, outraged, sacked Deutsche on March 1st, and then
voted to continue without a chairman. Two banks, including Japan’s Nomura,
are thought likely to sue. The rest are likely to take what the Russians
This deal is designed to keep as much foreigners’ money as possible inside
Russia. Only 3 billion roubles ($125m) will be immediately payable in cash.
The rest—amounting to around 70 billion roubles by the end of the year—will
be paid in new rouble bonds, with predictably unattractive coupons and
maturities. These can be traded, but almost all the proceeds must be kept
inside Russia, where they can be used to buy more bonds (yummy!), or
equities (yippee!), or deposited in local banks (hurrah!).
The prospect of new money looking for a home has already pepped up Russia’s
once moribund stockmarket (see chart), which has begun to pick up after
last year’s cataclysmic falls. But a big injection of liquidity almost
certainly spells trouble for the rouble, which has remained remarkably
stable in the past three months.
Could it have ended differently? Perhaps, had western banks been tougher
earlier. Hawkish financiers in Moscow lament the failure to sue Russian
banks last year for not honouring their rouble forward contracts. For when
foreigners proved unwilling to stand the political and other costs of a
lawsuit against a mere bank, the Russian government quickly realised that
its creditors’ bite was even more feeble than their bark.
Christian Science Monitor
March 4, 1999
Letting Caspian 'black gold' lie
Low prices, disappointing results have oil companies scaling back big plans
By Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
It was supposed to be the next Persian Gulf, or another North Sea. It was
thought that indications of a fabulous reservoir of oil would bring vast
wealth to the impoverished and unstable region where the United States,
Russia, and Iran vie for influence.
But the Caspian Sea basin is still just a dream. Low world oil prices are
slowing the search for its fabled black gold. The potential remains just that
- and hopes of an immediate bonanza have dulled.
With oil prices hovering around $10 a barrel and doubts growing about the
reserves, oil companies are rethinking plans. Some are pulling out or paring
down operations, citing high transport costs and questionable deposits. Others
are delaying projects.
"With the price fall, people are more cautious about spending money and are
walking away from exploration projects," says Stephen O'Sullivan, a Moscow-
based oil analyst with the international brokerage United Financial Group.
"Maybe expectations of a pot of gold in the Caspian were a little ahead of
reality. Now realism is creeping in. It's clear it's not the bonanza it was
thought to be."
US first choice in danger
One of the biggest casualties may be a multibillion-dollar pipeline heavily
pushed by the Clinton administration.
Geological conditions have led oilmen to believe that there are up to 200
billion barrels of oil out there. Not far away, onshore in Kazakhstan, the
huge Tengiz field boasts 6 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Scientists
believe similar resources lie beneath the Caspian.
But it is costly to transfer the oil to markets, owing to a lack of proper
infrastructure and pipelines.
Washington is obsessed with what future route may be chosen, as the Caspian
lies at the heart of an unstable region. The sea is ringed by Azerbaijan,
Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Russia. Nearby are Georgia, Tajikistan,
Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Washington is still lobbying hard for a 1,080-mile pipeline leading from Baku
in Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. It argues that such
a route would limit dependence on Russia and undermine Iranian competition for
an alternative pipeline.
Washington's interest in the Caspian is strategic as well economic in a region
fraught with political complexities.
The US, which has slapped sanctions on Iran, does not want oil passing through
that unfriendly state. The Clinton administration is also vying to wrest
influence in the region from Russia, partly because of political instability
in the country, a collapsing regional power since the 1991 fall of the Soviet
One reason Washington favors the Turkey route would be to bring that country
more firmly into the NATO orbit, and closer to Europe. Turkey has had frosty
relations with the European Union since being passed over for EU membership
talks in 1997.
"We believe that the East-West transit corridor is the way to go," Clinton's
special envoy to the Caspian, Richard Morningstar, told reporters during a
visit to Moscow on Feb. 25. "We think that it is good for the region and ...
it is good for all countries in the world."
Mr. Morningstar was to defend the pipeline's economic viability at a hearing
yesterday by a Senate subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export,
and Trade Promotion.
More pipelines needed?
He has a tough case to argue, with estimates that the pipeline will cost up to
$4 billion to build. So far, international consortia working in Azerbaijan
have not found test-drilling results that would justify such spending. "We
think the potential is there. But we don't know if there is need for another
route," says Carl Burnett, President of Mobil Oil Kazakhstan Inc.
At present, oil either goes by rail or existing pipelines to Novorossiysk in
Russia through volatile Chechnya or to Supsa in Georgia's Black Sea. Another
pipeline is under construction from Kazakhstan to Russia's Black Sea port,
with expectations that it could handle up to 12 million tons by 2001.
However, in anticipation that there will be more oil flowing, proposals have
been floated for further pipelines either running east from Kazakhstan to
China, south to Iran, or upgrading routes to Supsa and Novorossiysk.
US-based Chevron and Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell agreed last December to study
the feasibility of the Baku-to-Ceyhan pipeline being pushed by Washington. But
industry sources say oil firms increasing favor the shorter, cheaper route to
Georgia's Black Sea port, or one leading to Iran.
"The pipeline scenario depends on the volumes of additional oil discovered,"
says Phil Meek, president of Chevron Munaigas Inc., based in Almaty.
It is a sort of Catch-22. If production does not increase, there will not be
more pipelines. But without more pipelines, production is very expensive.
Gloom deepened in Baku with the news last month that a consortium led by US-
based Pennzoil was pulling out after drilling three exploration wells. The
consortium, Caspian International Petro- leum Company, said reserves of oil
and gas found did not make its $3 billion project worthwhile.
Meanwhile, oil industry sources say Chevron wants a 30 percent cut in tariffs
to export oil from Kazakhstan because current oil prices render production too
One of the companies that is remaining in Azerbaijan questions whether new
pipelines are needed. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company says the
two current pipelines linking Baku with Novorossiysk and Supsa can handle the
105,000 barrels per day output expected this year. Operations are not
expanding, for now, says spokeswoman Pamtaman Bayatly of the 10-member
consortium, whose $11 billion contract involves developing proven oilfields.
"Certainly the price drop is affecting oil projects in Azerbaijan," she says.
"We have to review our plans for this year and explore ways to reduce
Oil majors say they are committed to remaining in the Caspian, noting that
they take a long-term view. They point out that over the past century oil has
gone up and down, averaging between $15 and $18 a barrel.
Their thinking is that if prices remain low for several years, supplies
elsewhere, such as the North Sea, will be used up. Then demand - and thus
prices - would rise again and the Caspian's attractiveness would return.
"Of course people are looking at where they can cut costs ... but we're here
for the longer term," says Peter Henshaw, a spokesman for British Petroleum-
Amoco in Baku.
Asked how long his firm would tolerate an oil price slump, he replied: "I'll
pass on that one."
This sanguine view is not taken by smaller, national companies such as
Kazakhoil, which last year cut costs and the amount of oil pumped because
profits were merely one-fourth of those in 1997.
"The situation is tough with price falls. If the crisis continues there will
not be enough money to build new pipelines," says Kazakhoil spokesman Sergei
Zhirinovskiy Assails Primakov Government
MOSCOW, March 3 (Interfax) -- Russian ultranationalist Vladimir
Zhirinovskiy came out with a flamboyant soliloquy on Wednesday and among
other things attacked the government of Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov.
"What is there that makes it better than the governments of Kiriyenko and
Chernomyrdin?" Zhirinovskiy told a news
conference in Moscow. Sergey Kiriyenko and Viktor Chernomyrdin headed former
reformist Cabinets. "What good has this government done in the six months
(after it took office)? Nothing," the nationalist said. The current
government, he went on, does not go further than
words, while in practice it has done nothing to improve the population's life.
Nor do any of the ministers have a humanistic education, Zhirinovskiy claimed.
They are "typical
geeks, metalworkers, plumbers." He also accused the liberal Yabloko group and
Party of backing the government.
In dealing with Russia's most serious problems, Zhirinovskiy said: "Everyone
and I steal as well.
"If my mother hadn't been stealing food at the restaurant, I would have died.
"I've been stealing all my life, both in the times of the Communists, when I
stationery, and these days; when I go to a banquet, I'll wrap up a fork in a
napkin and shove it
into my pocket.
"Stealing is bad, but it is the state that forces us to steal." Talking about
the Communist Party, he
insisted on banning the group "for legal reasons." The party program contains
"anti-constitutional points," among which is the goal of building a communist
society, he argued. Switching to world politics, Zhirinovskiy, leader of the
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said that the LDPR put forward a
"historic initiative" on Wednesday that Moscow propose complete global
disarmament. The party made an appeal to that effect to
President Boris Yeltsin and the government. He was sorry that the lower house
of parliament had rejected an LDPR motion for taking a ratification vote on
March 5 on the START II treaty.
Speaking about the latest anti-Semitic statements by Communist parliamentary
deputy Gen. Albert Makashov, Zhirinovskiy accused the media of blowing up
the matter. "There is no anti-Semitism" in Russia, the LDPR leader said.
"If the mass media hadn't been showing
Makashov's speech and hadn't been advertising him so widely there wouldn't be
any problem." The general is pursuing a fairly successful election campaign
and the media "are playing into his hands," Zhirinovskiy said. Extolling his
own party, the nationalist said the Liberal Democrats were "the only party
whose ideas work," which makes other groups envious in "the way
a beautiful woman evokes the hatred of an ugly and stupid women." However, he
warned, no one should be trusted -- "neither Lenin, nor Marx, nor (Russian
Communist leader Gennadiy) Zyuganov, nor ourselves (the LDPR)" -- everyone
must be assessed on the basis of "facts and
their practical actions." He also reported that he had a medical checkup
recently and that "all my organs are in order." Refusing to answer any
questions, Zhirinovskiy ended the conference by telling four sexual jokes
that featured Zyuganov, Russian lower house speaker Communist Gennadiy
Seleznev, Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Poll Rates Russians' Political Preferences
24 February 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vladimir Popov, professor, doctor of Philosophical Sciences:
"The Razor's Edge, or Centrism the Russian Way"
The sociologists of the Russian Independent Institute of Social and
National Problems established this spectrum of Russians' political
preferences: Supporters of radical market reforms constitute 7.2 percent,
of centrism -- 16.6 percent, of an independent Russian path of development
-- 15.6 percent, of communist ideology -- 10 percent, and of social-democracy
-- 5.2 percent. At the same time, 44.6 percent of Russians are apolitical --
they do not group themselves with any of the ideological-political currents.
At the end of last year we polled over 100 people on the subject of their
conception of what constituted "liberalism," "social-democracy," "centrism,"
"left-wing" and "right-wing." The greatest difficulties in answers were
by: "centrism" (about 80 people could say virtually nothing, a few answered
with aphorisms of the type "it is when it works for both sides," "sitting
on the fence," "it is when the mafia is in the center, and we are
on the fringes"), "social-democracy" (about 60 people answered more or less
comprehensibly) and "liberalism" (opinions were divided here). It was easier
with "left-wing" and "right-wing" -- they were connected with specific
There is no question, of course, of a representative poll, but its results
nevertheless induce serious reflections.
Why did we present these data? In order to reveal a paradox: the more
movements, the more political elite take part in the battle for the future
electorate, the less the electorate's knowledge of the true intentions of the
politicians. Against the background of the people's
crisis of confidence in authority (political, economic and informational)
after 17 August the crisis of the Russian multi-party nature increasingly
intensified. We know that the number of parties counted per village is
in the dozens. During a crisis in confidence of the civilian society in a
people turn to the savior- parties, to the savior-leader as their last hope.
Multi-party cynicism suppresses this inner call, however. Each "kray," each
unknown or very well-known party urges on its own according to one principle:
"Whoever shouts louder."
Our people, however they are degraded, are wise in their own way. Wise from
life, from the experience of their ancestors, from thousand-year trials of
their fate. Wise not in political science, but in their intuition or,
to Stanislavskiy, their "super-consciousness." Therefore, whoever answers the
deep-seated question of the electorate, whoever is able to include in the
creative channel of reforms the most conservative, but most powerful force
-- the people -- will be successful. The people's trust
is the key to success, and their distrust -- to a further fall into the abyss.
What Stands Behind the New "Isms"?
And in particular, what stands behind the word "centrism," in which and around
which a crush is being created from both the left (left centrism) and the
(right centrism). Is Russia's fate obviously -- to live "by isms"? It would
appear that a division into "left-wing"
and "right-wing" has formed: Zyuganov -- left-wing, Anpilov even farther left
-- a left-wing radical, Chernomyrdin -- to the right, just a little more to
the right -- Yavlinskiy, and farther -- the first radical Gaydar and his
We must, finally, look into the essence of
just what is "left" and "right" of center, and what is more, what is "center"
itself. And we must determine which of them most closely corresponds to the
mentality of the Russians.
The conception of the prospects of the center is linked to the conception of
the "leftishness" and "rightishness" of a party and of movements, of
and collectivism, democracy and ochlocracy. We have confused or rather,
democratic policy with liberal, and democracy -- with extreme right-wing
Democratic politics may be both "to the left" (social-democracy) and "to the
right" (liberal-democracy). At the same time, it is even more worthless to
single out "left-wing" and "right-wing" only by personalities and by leaders
(well what sort of liberal-democrat is Zhirinovskiy?).
Right-wingers are supporters of liberalism, of a liberal reform policy. Its
goal: maximum economic freedom, private property, individualism,
support of capital, and minimum state intervention in the affairs of
proprietor-owners. Our "leap" to privatization is radical-liberalism of the
first order. That is, the most extreme, most
"right-wing" liberalism. And the less of it a party or movement has, the
closer it is to center.
The former NDR [Russia Is Our Home] was an example of this. More precisely,
"Yabloko" has secured itself in the "right center." But it has poor
technology for the development of its image on the plane of answering the
deep-seated question of our people. Yavlinskiy's ratings
seems to have frozen at the stable mark of 10-11 percent.
Left-wingers (the farthest left) are supporters of state property, rigid state
control of the economy in the interests of the majority, the priority of
public and collective interests over individual interests, the
of private ownership, etc. The "softer" the
position of a certain specific party, the closer it is to the "left center."
Social-democrats occupy the true "left center" (in the political sense)
throughout the world. Their "hobby-horse" is the expression and protection of
the interests of the majority of workers on the basis of efficient use of all
forms of ownership. They set as their goal the building of a
social state. For them, a market economy is not an end in itself, but a means
to improving the life of the majority, social justice is not equality, but
equal opportunities to develop the capacities and qualifications of each
individual. The main thing is -- the presence in
society of as large as possible a number of efficient owners for all forms of
property: personal, private, collective, corporative, state.
The Path to Centrism in Russia
But what is the center in Russian politics? Or centrism? Russia has no
political centrism. For us, therefore, today's centrism is obviously a
movement to some common vector of both the right and the left. Centrism as a
political movement (association,
party) should solve a number of essential problems today:
1. Implement the integration and convergence of capitalism with
of what sort of capitalism, it is, after all, very many-sided? And which
socialism? Swedish, Italian, French or Chinese, Soviet? In this connection,
Yuriy Luzhkov's formula, "work in a
capitalist way and distribute in a socialist way" sounds, possibly,
politically accurate in a centrist way, but is very incomprehensible to the
consciousness in the accepted manner.
2. Ensure not simply equal rights, but the integration of all forms of
ownership in the direction of increasing the total number of efficient
proprietor-owners, or the "middle class." Our analysis of the
the relations of ownership in the developed
countries of the world shows that this form of integration is identical to
Russia, but in privatization it trailed behind civilization (19th century
capitalism). Today, "personal-corporative" ("individual-collective,"
"liberal-commune") ownership is
predominant in the leading countries of the world. The essence is not in the
title, but in the principle: realization of personal interests, in the
and with the aid of the collective. It turns out that what is promising for
is, on the one hand, taking into account the tradition of the Russian artel,
cooperation and the commune, and on the other
hand, modern forms of economic management -- primarily small-scale and medium-
3. For centrism, it is necessary to integrate liberalism with democratism
of the people). The liberal-democratic position turns up. But again, this
niche is occupied,
or rather, squandered, by the LDPR [Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia].
4. Centrism should bear within it the capacity to solve the "eternal"
of confronting Slavophilism and Westernism, plus Eurasianism, and what is
to express its relation to the "basic Russian path of development," because
each time, this is the source of the choice of model for Russia's economic
development. If Russia is Europe, and Asia, the West
and the East, the North and the South, does it need any sort of centrist
"social ideal" or "ruler-idea?" The future of centrist Russia is impossible
without an answer to this question.
5. Centrism cannot evade an answer to the question: how do we strengthen
Russia's unity, not only from the standpoint of federalism, but also by
to smooth out the conflicts related to the traditional division of the country
into a "backward" periphery and an
"advanced" center, the capital? Today the concepts of "central authority,"
"Moscow authority," "oligarchy," "corruption" and "new Russians" are
in the peripheral public opinion with the capital of Russia, and hence,
leadership. Moscow, which has "grown excessively fat," and the power of the
capital serve, for the impoverished hinterland where most of the electorate
live, as the social irritant which will consciously and
unconsciously program the motivation of the citizens' behavior at this year's
How can this problem be solved with the aid of the Moscow centrist movement?
That is the question of questions.
6. It is important to reveal the common, that is, among all the peoples
populating Russia, "Russian ethos" and the "Russian superethos," among
faiths, and to
lean on it to work out the Russian state ideology or national idea, the ideal
society. Russia is a semi-religious, multi-faith country. Which ethics should
lie at the
basis of our political and economic reforms? What will happen with the
accumulating force of
Islam? There are still few people to seat alongside the church leaders. Can
this problem be
successfully solved, given the growing religious fundamentalism? It can, but
for this we
must manage to pass along the "razor's edge," mastering the fine art of
working with believers
and religious organizations. For the time being we more often observe "clumsy"
7. We are faced, in reality, with making the rights of the individual and
civilian society equal with the rights of the state. A pyramid of authority,
inverted from foot to head, has formed in Russia, in which the civilian
services the state, whereas it should be the other way around. Today the
situation has been exacerbated by the fact that, embedded in
the people's consciousness is the stereotype: "authority and the mafia -- are
one." It takes long, delicate, laborious work to build a truly democratic
pyramid of authority. But we must begin it right now.
8. Finally, let us talk about perhaps the most complicated problems of
those who are to the left and the right, are close to the center and
In the first place, about the possibility of integrating the interests of the
wealthy minority and the poor majority,
about the ability to persuade, to compel the former to share with the latter,
as a number of
Western countries did at one time, when emerging from a crisis. And continue
to do right now.
For this, we must master the technology of curbing the instinct of
ownership and authority, but for us right now there is an even more
task -- curbing corruption as an uncurbed
phenomenon of these instincts. The principle of pleasing both the rich and the
poor does not work here. In so doing, we must not permit hyperinflation with
an "empty budget" and at the same time must pay off all debts and index
And against this background, restore the faith of
the masses in the policy of the state and in the politicians. Which for you
are not again "razor's edges" on the path to creating "centrist" authority in
Russia? Especially since the extreme "right-wings" and the extreme
may close ranks in the struggle against the centrist "Fatherland" movement,
which is gathering points.
Hope Dies Last
Does centrism have any prospects as a political platform in Russia? It does!
The potential of the centrist Fatherland movement which is being formed is
quite high. Mainly with respect to two parameters: the personal charisma of
leader and the financial possibilities. As for
the ideological-contentual, political credo of the movement, however, here we
have pendulum movements at hand. How hard it is today to explain why the
respected Yuriy Mikhaylovich, in the course of the year, swung from "new
socialism" to "new capitalism," and later on, to "capitalism-socialism"
the capitalist way"). At first glance, it
looks like wisdom. To take part of the electorate away from some, and from
others, and from still others. And to gain his own, if we consider that today
almost half of the population does not group itself with any sort of
current whatsoever. But with what he can recruit it, is he apolitical?
God grant success to the centrists, however. If they win, they will be the
first centrists in Russian political history. And we will stop rushing from
one extreme to another. For the time being, it is hard even for Luzhkov to
pass along the "razor's edge," even at the beginning of the
path. He still represents a wealthy megalopolis, and this means, wealthy
people, and it would appear that he is slipping to the right. Perhaps this
is only natural? Moscow has formed more as a "right-winger." Moreover, there
is a niche on the all-Russian political market which was
formerly occupied by the "party of power." What is more, essentially, Moscow,
the capital authorities, and all Muscovites are identified in the eyes of the
periphery with the "new Russians," that is, the most "right-wing" imaginable.
And the chances for victory of extreme right-wingers are for the time being
very few. This means that the chances of the "right
center" are increased.
At present, according to our analysis, Yevgeniy Primakov, who knows how to
implement the balance of equilibrium in society delicately, calmly and
reasonably, is closer to the concept of a "genuine Russian centrist." That is
obviously why there are so many sudden
attacks on him from various sides. It would seem that, in the interests of the
future of Russia, Luzhkov and "Fatherland" are objectively doomed to "nestle"
against Primakov's shoulder.
Subjectively? The decision rests on the diplomacy of the consent of the one
and the compromise of the ambitious charisma of the other. In the interests
of the electorate, the people and Russia's salvation, it would seem necessary
for them to unite. But this is for the time being from the realm of hopes.
The reality can be different -- our pre-election technology is based on
criticizing the existing authorities, on "ingratiating oneself," on the
blows of the "ignoble."
Unfortunately, the electorate bite at this, obviously again because of our
traditions -- the kulak battles, when village would go for village, street
would go for street. But where is the mental perspective?
Given all the attractiveness of the appearance of new associations and blocs,
their programs and the subtleties of the pre-election technology, the
significance this time, under the conditions of the people's crisis of
confidence in the authorities, will proceed from the depths of the
and soul of the people, from the spiritual needs of their
mentality. In other words, we must take today's Russian reality into
The results of the reforms and particularly the blow to the people after 17
August substantially shifted the motivation of political preferences to the
left. All the data attest to this: from the evaluation of the material
situation to the general state of social health, the spiritual health of the
Russians, and to a displacement to the left of the
Russians' fundamental values.
I think that Yuriy Luzhkov was a bit hasty in publicly dissociating himself
from the "left of center." Of today's politicians, the closest to him
(according to the results of our analysis) is Gennadiy Seleznev, the chairman
of the State Duma. Together or alongside (for moments) is another Gennadiy --
Zyuganov. At the last NPSR [People's Patriotic Union of
Russia] congress he came down abruptly on the "left-wing step," in the
direction of Anpilov.
Thus it turns out that two unknowns are the most identical to the Russian
electorate: Primakov and Seleznev. It is possible that Luzhkov from the
right, and Zyuganov from the left will attach themselves to them. Or
And perhaps, Yegor Stroyev wants to? Or will
Aleksandr Lebed powerfully take wing? Or will a new political figure, more
identical to the Russians, suddenly appear? I would like there to be less
"beating of brows" and more competition of minds at the forthcoming election.
It would appear that the answer to the question: "Who will win in the
forthcoming elections?" should be sought not only in the "enigma of the
Russian soul," but more often in its paradoxical simplicity and trustingness.
For anyone who has seriously studied the character of the people, the
riddle will lie in the polarized nature of the traits of this
character, in its contradictoriness, in the presence of counterbalances. The
ability to swing from one extreme, for example, from "long-sufferingness"
to "rebelliousness." This is where, in my opinion, the reason lies for the
traditional division of politicians into "left-wing" and "right-wing," from
this stems the absence of centrism and traditional
defeats of reforms and reformers in Russia, from this come the disturbances
and revolutions, the reform and anti-reform cycles.
Hopes for the common sense of centrism are therefore crucial for Russians and
Russia. We must publicly acknowledge a very important fact: the openness and
trustingness of the people have made it possible for the authorities to
all kinds of experiments on them. How many there have been -- we cannot
Every time, in failure, the great long-sufferingness has
gone to the other extreme -- rebelliousness. Holding the character of our
people in the center is a big problem for centrists. It is very important
not to do anything stupid. We must not hastily create a middle class as a
stabilizing basis for centrism. It is important to
understand that a mentality can be rapidly broken and rebroken only with great
There are no traditions of centrism in Russian history. They must be created,
by abandoning political egoism. But we must be formed with the concept of
centrism not so much from dialog and sharp polemics with the "left-wing" and
the "right-wing," as from an analysis of the
archetypal mental traits in the character of the people as the future
electorate, and from this, above all, build the economic program, and this
means, the pre-election program of the centrist movement. This requires
delicate work. To do it means to pass along the rope over the
abyss in our many-sided, modern world of political struggle.
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library