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Johnson's Russia List
18 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: Primakov Outlines Priorities for Talks in US.
2. Infoart: Who's Online In Russia - Demographic Survey.
3. Moscow Times: Matt Bivens, Wary Primakov Can Win Big From
4. Itar-Tass: Tass Details Content of Power Branches Joint Statement.
5. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Economic Revival Seen as Reason for Criticism of
6. Reuters: Maslyukov Criticizes Market Economy.
7. Reuters: Debt relief won't help Russia without reforms-paper.
8. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Hard-up Russia keeps selling
off state firms.
9. Stephen Handelman: new book on germ warfare.
10. Andrei Liakhov: Javlinsky.
11. Ivilina Dimova: Russian book titles.
12. Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy: Kiriyenko Could be Disqualified From any
13. Andrew Miller: What's in a Name?
14. Reuters: Russian general says US shield plan a ploy.
15. AFP: One-Third Of Foreigners Accept Russian Debt Deal.
16. Transitions: Sergei Stankevich, Russia's Lost Decade of Reform.
17. Interfax: Poll Shows Russians Disagree on Ethnic Issues.]
Primakov Outlines Priorities for Talks in US
MOSCOW, March 17 (Itar-Tass) - The upcoming
session of the Russian-US economic cooperation commission in Washington
on March 23-25 will discuss Russia's vital economic issues, Prime
Minister Yevgeniy Primakov told Itar-Tass in an interview prior to his
visit to the United States to attend the commission's session.
"When preparing for the session, we foremost paid attention to the
following issues. First: how to re-orient the commission's work to
provide real assistance to the solution of the problems faced by Russia
-- those of stabilization and economic restructuring at the macro- and
micro levels, Primakov said.
"Second, how to maximally clean up the "jams" and unsolved problems that have
accumulated during the commission's work and how to improve the
commission's efficiency. It is no secret that of the 200 documents signed
with the commission's framework, far from all work.
"Among our economic priorities, I would like to single out the minimization
of the negative consequences of the anti-dumping investigation in the USA
as regards the deliveries of Russian rolled stock, an expansion of the
quota for commercial space launches by Russian booster rockets, final
settlement of the issues linked with the implementation of the
inter-governmental agreement on high-enriched and low-enriched uranium,
resumption of the funding for Russian projects under the US Eximbank
credit line, cancellation of the Jackson-Venik amendment and striking
Russia out from various discriminating and restrictive lists.
"We also intend to thoroughly discuss with Americans possible ways to
boost contacts as regards small business, cooperation in
telecommunications and commercialization of technologies and interaction
in implementing a regional investment initiative.
"The agenda for the upcoming work in Washington is packed, and what is
more important, it is concrete, so we are preparing for it most
thoroughly," the premier said.
Who's Online In Russia - Demographic Survey
MOSCOW, RUSSIA, 1999 MAR 17 (NB)
By staff, Infoart.
The Comcon company has a new program designed to pinpoint who's on the
Internet in Russia. The project, dubbed "Web-Vector," will provide data on the
major characteristics of Internet users in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and all of
Russia.The project will also supply Web professionals with objective
parameters for calculation of the effectiveness of Internet advertising
The study is done quarterly in 40 Russian cities and embraces the adult
population (above 16 years old). Cities have a population of 250,000 or
higher, which constitutes 55 percent of the population in Russia. Each
quarter, 7,800 people are interviewed, including 1,100 in Moscow and 600 in
St. Petersburg. During the year, there are more than 30,000 respondents to the
study, the company says.
According to studies done in 1998, currently there are 5.3 million users of
home PCs in Russia. One of every four users (1.3 million) has Internet access.
According to ROCIT (Russian Non-profit Center for Internet Technologies)
estimates, the number of Internet users in Russia was about 1 million by July
Comcon data also reveals that, by the end of 1998, 60 percent of Russian
Internet users were men and 40 percent were women.
Comcon also notes that Russian Internet users prefer the following search
systems and catalogs to find data on the Web: Yahoo (26.0 percent), AltaVista
(25.5 percent), and Lycos (14.5 percent). As to Cyrillic search engines, the
top three are Rambler (23.6 percent), Aport (18.2 percent), and Yandex.ru
March 18, 1999
Wary Primakov Can Win Big From Skuratov
By Matt Bivens
The Communists are jubilant. The Kremlin is frightened. And the other big
political players, from the Moscow mayor to the prime minister, are circling
in search of a few scraps of political advantage.
That much is clear in the wake of the Federation Council's decision to defy
President Boris Yeltsin and keep Yury Skuratov in his post as prosecutor
This battle over Skuratov is far from over, and what will be worth watching is
how Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov plays events. Wednesday evening, Primakov
was summoned to meet with Yeltsin at the Central Clinical Hospital. Afterward,
the Kremlin press service put out a joint Yeltsin-Primakov communiquÎ
complaining that the nation's prosecutor can't be morally tainted and so
Skuratov should still go.
Primakov himself was nowhere to be seen. But he would no doubt prefer to stay
on the sidelines in this one and watch Yeltsin struggle to solve his very
public Skuratov problem.
After all, whatever the truth of the matter may be, the public perception is
that: a) Primakov recently launched a major anti-corruption drive that
involved attacking Yeltsin family friend and billionaire Boris Berezovsky, and
b) Skuratov says he was forced out for taking on Berezovsky.
Now Skuratov looks the returning champion of justice today. Primakov obviously
looks good by quiet association - and Yeltsin, fighting to slap him back down,
looks bad, and frightened.
In fact, a Yeltsin scared, weak and challenged by a once-docile parliament is
good news for all of his foes. It is particularly heartening for the
Communists because Skuratov's thinly veiled announcement that he was the
victim not only of Berezovsky but of a sort of treasury bill insider-trading
mafia included slaps at just about every one of the Communists' traditional
enemies - from the former "shock therapy" Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar to the
privatization architect Anatoly Chubais.
But unlike, say, the Communists or Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov or Yabloko leader
Grigory Yavlinsky - all politicians who have amassed some small political
capital by complaining about corruption in Yeltsin's various Cabinets -
Primakov probably can't stay on the sidelines and enjoy the show. Yeltsin
won't let him, as Wednesday's joint communiquÎ clearly shows.
Yet the ambitious Primakov - a master of the quiet intrigue of plugging his
own people into key positions - could still win big. He has been filling
choice posts with former colleagues from the Foreign Intelligence Service, the
SVR - men like Yury Kobaladze, who is now a top executive at Itar-Tass, or
Grigory Rapota, the new chief of that earner of billions in hard currency,
weapons exporter Roosvoruzheniye.
An SVR man would make a perfect prosecutor for Primakov - and Yeltsin,
desperate to have Skuratov removed and so to restore some of his lost face,
might agree to a Primakov candidate.
For Primakov, this would have the added advantage that serious corruption
allegations against Primakov's deputy prime ministers, Yury Maslyukov and
Gennady Kulik, could be buried - just as allegations against the Yeltsin team
used to be buried by Skuratov's office.
When Skuratov was plucked from obscurity in 1995 - he was then head of a legal
institute - and offered to the country as the new top prosecutor, he had no
real patron other than Alexander Korzhakov, then the head of Kremlin security.
Kremlin officials seemed to see his weaknesses - a lack of experience, a lack
of political ties - as his strength: This was not a prosecutor anyone ever saw
cleaning house at the Kremlin, say, or at the Central Bank.
A good example of this came in 1996, when Russian media published purported
electronic-eavesdropping transcripts in which Kremlin aides Chubais and Viktor
Ilyushin are shown telephoning Skuratov and ordering him to sit on
documentation of corruption in the Yeltsin re-election campaign - and then,
after hanging up, having a chuckle at the idea of just telling Skuratov to
hand over all of the documentation.
"And then just let him try to ask for it back," Chubais says with a laugh in
one of those tapes, as reported in Moskovsky Komsomolets.
Now that's changed, and Skuratov feels safe challenging the Kremlin.
"That Skuratov has let himself stand up to the president and provoke this
sharp conflict, this means he's calculated and come to the conclusion that
Yeltsin is already not thefigure to listen to, there are stronger forces in
the country," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the INDEM research
institute. "In other words that's Primakov, [Speaker of the upper house of
parliament Yegor] Stroyev, the Federation Council, the Duma."
Korgunyuk did not have an opinion about whom Skuratov might be working for -
although most politics-watchers simply assume he's someone's tool, just as all
simply (and correctly) assumed he was lying last month when he said he was
quitting over health problems.
Most also agreed with Yury Levada, one of Russia's best-known sociologists and
politics-watchers, who said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Russia is
now headed for another round of sharp conflict between the emboldened
Communists in the Duma and the embattled Yeltsin.
Tass Details Content of Power Branches Joint Statement
Moscow, March 16 (Itar-Tass) -- The draft joint
statement of the Russian power branches, initialed in Moscow on Tuesday,
outlines mutual commitments of the president, the parliament and the
government with the preservation of their constitutional rights. Follows
the main content of the document received by Itar-Tass:
the power branches pledge not to raise the question of changes in the
constitution without preliminary consultations. They shall form a working
group on a parity basis to hold the consultations and make coordinated
proposals on constitutional amendments.
consultations on principles of the government formation and the mutual
responsibility of the government and the Federal Assembly shall be held
in the group for the sake of a greater efficiency of the state power.
the president and the State Duma shall use their rights to dismiss the
government and voice no-confidence in the cabinet only after
consultations with each other and the Federation Council.
the government and the State Duma take an obligation to give the
priority to bills on measures against the socio-economic crisis.
the president and the two parliament chambers announce their
determination to hold the elections of all levels in the time set by the
constitution and laws, "and to guarantee that the elections are fair,
open and controllable by society."
As need be coordinated changes and amendments will be introduced in the
election laws to further democratize the election process and enhance
control over the use of budget and off-budget funds in the financing of
1. in response to the manifestations of extremism in Russia, the president
pledges to submit to the State Duma changes and additions to the Criminal and
Administrative Codes within a month after signing of the accord document. The
additions shall aim to enhance measures against extremism. The State Duma will
consider them and laws concerning the place and the role of political parties,
the legal guarantees to the opposition activity and a ban on the propaganda of
Fascism in the
2. all signatories to the agreement call on state power institutions in
Russian constituencies and the municipal authorities to abstain from moves
which can harm the constitutional-legal and socio-economic space of Russia.
3. the president, the Federal Assembly and the government urge all public-
political forces to prevent anti-constitutional moves and cooperate for the
sake of civil peace. They count on an objective coverage of events by mass
media, primarily that
4. the document shall enter into force since the moment of its signing and
remain valid till the beginning of the office of the new Duma. On consent of
parties to the document, the agreement can be extended.
Economic Revival Seen as Reason for Criticism of Primakov
12 March 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vladimir Kuznechevskiy and Aleksey Chichkin: "They Are for
Smiles,, We Are For Tears"
It may be noted, albeit with a certain degree of
caution, that Russia's economy in the six months since Ye. Primakov
became prime minister has started to show the first signs of revival. But
it is exclusively Western experts who note these positive trends. Russian
experts prefer to sing only funeral songs.
According to the Russian Federation Government center for the economic
situation in the period from November 1998 through January 1999 monthly
increases in the index for the intensiveness of industrial production
have been the largest for the entire period observed since January 1990.
The volume of wages arrears is declining (from October last year through
March this year it has declined 17.5 percent). The increase in consumer
prices in February 1999 was 4.1 percent, approximately half the January
1999 increase. Finally, the banking system has started to revive. The
passage of payments and transactions across the country's entire
territory has been fully restored. And here is what some foreign experts note.
According to the "Templeton Asset Management" group of investment foundations
(United States) the prices of shares in leading Russian companies have
started to rise on the international exchanges and the decline of
industry has basically slowed down and in a number of sectors (the
chemical and machine building complexes) steady production growth has emerged.
The IMF and Templeton Asset Management also reported that in the past
two months Russia has paid foreign creditors about $5 billion. Experts
from the North American consulting corporation GP and P and the German
newspaper Die Welt note with surprise that investors operating on the
East European exchanges are managing to remove their shares from
protracted slump and explain this by the presence of positive changes on
Russia's financial and stock markets to which the East European markets
are more closely "tied." On 10 March the Budapest economic weekly Heti
Vilaggazdasag reported: "Russia, despite the financial crisis and
domestic political instability, has improved on its last year's
indicators for a number of items."
The above is obviously enough to be able to agree with, for instance,
American analysts who believe that the normalization of the Russian
economy is becoming a long-term trend.
The question arises: Why then is it now, when real improvements can be
seen even by Western experts, that a well coordinated storm of criticism
for "the economy's critical state" has been brought down on Primakov's
government and on Primakov personally?
The answer is obvious -- Primakov has been criticized precisely because
he has started to get results.
Maslyukov Criticizes Market Economy
TOKYO, Mar. 17, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri
Maslyukov criticized on Tuesday the impact of economic liberalization on
his nation as he wrapped up a four-day visit to Japan.
"I think all industries are currently in the process of collapsing,"
Maslyukov told reporters through an interpreter.
Maslyukov, in Tokyo since Sunday to boost economic cooperation between the
two nations, was responding to a question on how he saw the current state
of the Russian economy.
Maslyukov, a Communist and deputy prime minister in charge of financial and
economic affairs, said price liberalization had "destructed" not only
manufacturing industries but agricultural industries as well.
"I support market economy, it is necessary," Maslyukov said through an
interpreter. "But it is impossible to move from a controlled economy to a
market economy in one year."
Russia had industries with the potential to support the nation's troubled
economy, but the government had not prioritized such potentially healthy
industries which in turn had caused the nation's productivity to drop by 60
percent, Maslyukov said.
"Only the government has the effect of rationalizing industries," Maslyukov
He said the Russian government's medium-term economic program to be
announced in mid-April would clarify the areas in which the government
would strengthen its role as Russia shifts to a market economy.
Maslyukov also said he supported the launching of a Russian development
bank, despite opposition from the World Bank.
"Given the economic conditions of the Russian economy, I believe it is an
indispensable institution," Maslyukov said.
"A governmental financial institution would be able to solve problems which
cannot be solved by private financial institutions," he said, citing
examples such as the transportation and energy industries.
Russia was mulling the launch of a development bank which would help
finance investment projects for Russian industry, as well as participate
in the restructuring of industries and of major debts owned by enterprises
to the federal budget.
On bilateral issues with Japan, Maslyukov said he was satisfied with the
progress the two countries were making on various economic projects.
Earlier on Tuesday, Japan and Russia agreed to boost economic cooperation
in the Russian Far East region, with Tokyo offering four new programs for
technical assistance, Japanese officials said. ( (c) 1999 Reuters)
Debt relief won't help Russia without reforms-paper
MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - Debt relief from foreign creditors, Russia's
cherished dream, will be no remedy for the troubled economy unless the
state makes real structural reforms, a newspaper on Wednesday quoted
liberal economists as saying.
``With the most favourable attitude from creditors -- even if our debt is
wiped away to zero -- we shall soon get into a debt trap again,'' Vremya MN
newspaper on Wednesday quoted government monetary and credit policy chief
Alexander Pochinok as saying.
Russia needed reform and to live more modestly -- spending exceeded
revenues, while barter deals and money surrogates flourished in the regions
and one-third of tax payments were covered by mutual netting of debts,
Most company managers still had Soviet mentalities, he said.
The government is now in difficult talks with the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), an agreement with which will open the door for restructuring
talks with the London Club of commercial creditors and the Paris Club of
Government officials say the IMF deal is needed in March, or the country
could find itself in default on foreign debts.
Leading economist and former acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar said the
difficult restructuring talks could not finish before 2001, or at least
before the country got a new president in an election scheduled for mid-2000.
A former economy minister, Yevgeny Yasin, told Vremya MN Russia should ask
for a full write-off of all Soviet debts.
Christian Science Monitor
18 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Hard-up Russia keeps selling off state firms
Despite financial meltdown, investors see potential in gas, telecommunications
By Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Financial collapse. Imploded banks. Debt defaults. Unstable politics. Russia
doesn't present much to inspire investor confidence these days.
But buried somewhere in the morass is a positive glimmer that few expected:
continuation of Russia's privatization program.
Denied additional foreign loans for its sorry performance, the Moscow
government is seeking to raise money by other means, including sales of state
And despite all odds, it looks as if there are takers.
"Russia is still an important market for strategic investors," says Pavel
Teplukhin, president of the Moscow-based investment company Troika-Dialog.
"They are not scared about the current political situation and they do not
care much about the current budget," he says.
Financial analysts believe the Russian government will easily meet its target
of 15 billion rubles ($650 million) from sell-offs this year. On the block are
a 2.5 percent stake in the world's largest gas company, Gazprom, and shares in
oil firm Lukoil, as well as telecommunications holding Svyazinvest and a few
small regional companies.
The breakup of monolithic state holdings after the Soviet Union's demise in
1991 was a symbol of the government's commitment to free-market reforms. The
fact that the government is continuing on this path defies the expectations of
many market observers.
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov assumed the post at the height of the
financial crisis last September amid assumptions that he would display a
Soviet reflex to renationalize.
Instead, his Cabinet has done just the reverse. And unlike his predecessors,
who were constantly battling the Communist-led Duma, or lower house of
parliament, Mr. Primakov has persuaded the opposition to accept a modest
privatization plan for 1999 without a fight. This was no mean feat during a
parliamentary election year when grandstanding on major issues would be
When the privatization drive was at its height in the mid-1990s, the process
won a bad name by enriching a handful of wealthy entrepreneurs who had tight
connections with government officials.
Opposition politicians never lost an opportunity to say the nation's wealth
was sold to political insiders for a song.
Now the oligarchs are limping financially and some are even trying to return
companies to the state.
Primakov's tactic is to aim new privatizations at strategic investors who can
add technological and managerial skills to Rus-sian companies.
Sergei Molozhavy, deputy minister of State Property, says such investors would
provide the long-term investment needed to restore stability in Russia. "We
have to revive the market again," he told the Monitor. "It can be done only
with strategic investors."
Many analysts believe this is a wise calculation, especially in the energy
sector. They note there will always be buyers hungry for stakes of Gazprom, as
the country's largest company has huge export potential. Likewise, oil company
Lukoil is likely to attract interest.
Mr. Teplukhin, the investment company chief, was heartened by the number of
strategic investors, especially from Germany and Scandinavia, who have been
undeterred by Russia's financial misfortunes. He said indicative of the high
morale were two sales in December - of another 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom
for $650 million and the $160 million purchase by Norway's Telenor of a 25
percent stake in Russian cellular telephone provider Vimpelcom.
Mr. Molozhavy, the deputy minister, expects most sales this year to occur at
the year's end, as customarily happens. Price tags would be set in dollars for
major sales, to offset the ongoing weakening of the ruble.
THIS is not to say that underlying problems don't persist, says Alexei
Ulukayev, deputy director of the Gaidar Institute. The Moscow-based think tank
is run by the past master of Russia's economic reforms, Yegor Gaidar.
Mr. Ulukayev believes that a lack of financial resources was less of a problem
than legislation restricting foreign ownership of some companies to 25
percent. "We are creating barriers with our legislation, not just with our
financial situation," he says.
The handful of buybacks that have occurred have been for business rather than
political reasons. In most cases, the companies went bankrupt and offered
themselves to the government to assume their tax and debt liabilities.
A recent example was the government's taking a controlling stake in AvtoVaz,
Russia's largest car producer, as collateral for repayment of overdue taxes.
But generally the government, which is the biggest creditor to most large
corporations in Russia, has not welcomed returns.
That was what oligarch Vladimir Potanin found when he offered to hand back the
Angarsk refinery in Russia's Far East because it was no longer profitable. The
government politely refused.
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999
From: Stephen Handelman <email@example.com>
Subject: new book
Readers of the JRL list might like to know of a controversial book coming
on the horizon about Soviet germ warfare. I wrote it with Ken Alibek, who
was head of Biopreparat, the massive Soviet biological weapons program,
until 1992 -- when he defected to the U.S. The book is being brought out by
Random House (publication date April 7) in the U.S., Canada and UK (also in
Germany and Japan) and is likely to ruffle a lot of feathers in Moscow --
not to mention the scientific and arms control community. Alibek reveals
some details never before published about what the Soviets were up to, the
diplomatic maneuvering between East and West over bioweapons in the 1980s
and 1990s, and even more significantly, about the potential for continued
BW production today in Russia and elsewhere. The book should be order-able
over Amazon.com soon, but if anyone out there wants more information, or to
find out how to contact Ken at publication time, feel free to e-mail me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Both of us hope there will be a useful debate on
this issue in the community, and certainly would welcome the input of JRL
readers. If I can arrange it, and if you're interested, I will try to
provide some useful excerpts for the list's edification next month.
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999
From: "Andrei Liakhov" <email@example.com>
I've read an article about the above in the previous issue of JRL and I'm
really surprised at the unqualified praise of Mr.Javlinsky. Firstly he was
never considered an author of the "500 Days" programme either officially or
unofficially - at that time he was a junior member of the team of economists
(and the programme was prepared by three team comprising primarily
economists, lawyers and politologists). The idea of the programme belonged
to Messrs.Abalkin&Co., the general concept was prepared by a think tank
organised under the auspicies of the Institute of Global Economy and
International Relations of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and funded
from the President's Fund. More than 300 specialists participated in the
programme and it would be ridiculous (at the least - unless Javlinsky's US
friends have started his election campaign already by using what in Russian
is called "peredergivanie" of information) to single out a participant whose
contribution was although important but secondary (if my memory does not
fail me he was responsible for what was called "macroeconomic balancing
mechanisms" or something of this sort) and who only checked how someone
else's idea correlate rather than generate his own.
In addition Yavlinsky has demonstrated over the years that he is capable of
producing a good smooth empty speach acceptable to US State Department and
IMF but nothing else. He failed to produce a coherent economic programme in
1996, he does not seem to have it now (apart from very general slogans
declared in East Coast English from SNN). He is far from being naive, became
extremely arrogant and self centered over the years and radiates contempt
for Russia and Russian people. Look how he tried to apologise for the Afgan
war over the CNN not having a slightest idea of the reasons behind that war
or what it was really like out there! It's suffice to say here that the USSR
went into Afganistan inter alia to prevent the kind of situation which
exists there now. It's a completely different story that it was ill
concieved, badly organised, the reasons were lost half way through and it
was badly publicised.
The current image of Yavlinsky which emerges from the press and his own
musings from the airwaves (recent CNN appearance is a very good example) is
of a spaniel eager to please his masters to get a reward (the Presidenture
in this case). The trouble is that the masters do not know whether this is
the right dog (having lost Gorby to internal squabble and Yeltsin to vodka)
or whether he will bark as requested should they chose to reward him.
Yavlinsky's problem is that he does not have a team, a programme or the
masters yet. But he is trying..................
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999
From: Ivilina Dimova <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Russian book titles
Hallmark will be broadcasting a number of movies in Russia. Some of
the titles are direct adaptations of already published books or might
have been already made popular in Russia either through big screen
shows or magazine articles. we would like to avoid using a different
title for a movie that has already been shown under a different title.
I would assume that there is some kind of a way to find out what
translations of English titles exist in Russia. For our Spanish
campaign we found a book which listed most of the English titles of
popular movies and books and the Spanish translation used in the
country. Do you think that a guide of this kind could be available
for Russia. Thank you very much for your help.
Kiriyenko Could be Disqualified From any State Office
Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy
15 March 1999
[translation for personal use only]
[Former Russian Prime Minister] Sergey Kiriyenko
and other officials who took the 17th August decisions [leading up to the
collapse of the rouble in 1998] may be banned from holding state office.
At all events such a recommendation is contained in the report of the
Federation Council commission which investigated the causes and
consequences of the decisions which were taken. A draft Federation
Council resolution, which has been drawn up by the commission, also
proposes that they be banned from working for any organization connected
with the administration of state resources.
The report indicates that former Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko, former
Central Bank Chairman Sergey Dubinin, [current] Finance Minister Mikhail
Zadornov and former First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Sergey
Aleksashenko took the decisions of 17th August. The list also includes
[former First Deputy Prime Minister] Anatoliy Chubays and [former Prime
Minister] Yegor Gaydar who were invited at the time to give their advice
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999
From: Andrew Miller <email@example.com>
Subject: What's in a Name?
What's in a Name?
St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian and an American walk into a
German bar (one of the many in the city) on Nevsky Prospect and order
two shots of Napoleon cognac (they've seen the many advertisements along
the main drag for the Little General's favorite brew). The American is
distracted and doesn't notice the irony. The Russian missed those three
or four hundred days in history class. The following dialogue takes
"I was reading a book by Theodore Dostoyevsky the other day..."
"Whoa! His name is Fyodor if you please, Mr. Foreigner
Gospodin. Please, don't denigrate my culture!"
"Oh, sorry! And Lev Tolstoy isn't Leo then, I suppose."
"No, of course not."
"How about cat - is that kot?"
"Well anyway, Dostoyevsky mentions Pyotr I, I'm interested now
that I'm living here in his city so could you tell me . . ."
"No, its Peter I."
"Oh, you foreigners! And by the way, he's Peter 'the Great.'"
"Well, he brutally murdered his own son in cold blood and drove
thousands of slaves to their deaths carving the city now known as Saint
Petersburg out of a swamp in the effort to save Russia from its
Russianess by administering the healing elixir of Westerness. Russians
were so fond of his family that in 1917 they murdered the entire lot,
including the children and even their servants. What more does one need
to be considered 'great?'"
"OK, great I can see. But 'Saint?'"
"No, no. Didn't you study history? That's not Peter we're
talking about, but his Patron Saint."
"Oh right. But why 'PetersBURG'? Isn't that a . . ."
"Yes, it's German, and so were a lot of Peter's descendants.
After all, the city was supposed to be Russia's "window to the West." We
realized the problem in 1914, when the Germans climbed through the
window and were trying to kill us, and we changed it. Closed the
window, you might say. Better late than never. And Petrograd is quite
catchy, don't you think?"
"Well, for a while. But then there was the little matter of the
revolution, and we thought less of the whole Tsar business. Not of
dictators, of course, but Tsars were passe. So we went to Leningrad.
Peter killed the dragon, Lenin killed the Tsar. It's very convenient
how it all worked out."
"You see, Lenin didn't work out as well as we'd hoped. He
himself wasn't the problem, but after him there were a few ruffians who
. . ."
"So back to 'St. Petersburg?'"
"Yes, that's right. Now you're thinking like a Russian.
Leningrad just sort of left a bad taste in our mouths, so to speak."
"But Petrograd was so catchy, and so Russian . . ."
"I was wrong. You just don't understand anything."
"I'm beginning to realize that. And by 1990 you'd come to think
better of the Germans, I guess?"
"Well, there was the little matter of the second invasion in
1939, when they destroyed many southern cities, killed millions and
besieged Petera itself, starving thousands of children to death and
destroying or looting most of the city's priceless architectural
"But Russians have a real 'let bygones by bygones' view of the
world, I suppose."
"Yes, we're famous here for our liberalism. As any Jew! We
have them for dinner all the time. As long as you're not anybody we
don't like, we love you."
"Petera? Why not Pyotera?"
"Petera is a term of endearment. He wasn't only great, he was
pretty cuddly too. That's why we put his face on a 500 ruble bill. You
can only see it if you hold it up to the light, he looks kind of like an
angel. It's just really hard not to admire the guy. You haven't been
drinking a little samagon have you? This isn't that complicated. You've
got your 'Big Apple' and 'Big Easy' and we've got our 'of Peter'."
"But what about all the killing, I'd think you might . . ."
"I've got to be going now, it's March 8, the Soviet
'International Day of the Woman,' and I've got many parties to attend
and many bouquets to deliver."
I thought the Soviets were out of Vogue . . .
Not when it comes to parties.
"Of course! That means Russia plus . . . well, I forget, but
there's a couple of countries in there. There used to be quite a few
others but now . . ."
Happy Woman's Day!
St. Petersburg, Russia
INTERVIEW-Russian general says US shield plan a ploy
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - U.S. plans for a Star Wars-style missile
defence umbrella are directed against Russia as much as rogue states and
could spark an arms race, according to the general in charge of Moscow's
relations with the West.
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, a veteran and outspoken officer, also told
Reuters Russia had prepared two versions of its new military doctrine, one
to use if it approves of NATO's updated strategic concept and a tougher one
if it does not.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved a compromise to ensure the missile
defence bill did not impede arms control talks with Russia, clearing the
way for the bill's final passage.
Washington wants to protect U.S. territory and possibly allies from weapons
based in so-called rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, which have
recently tested missiles.
Ivashov, who heads the Defence Ministry's international relations section,
said the plan was a ploy.
``We are not at risk from threats someone in the United States is
deliberately making up to justify their policy,'' he said. ``A process is
under way to intercept or to be able to intercept Russian missiles, and not
just Russian missiles.''
``It means being dragged into an arms race again.''
Russia says the system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
(ABM) which Moscow regards as a bedrock of global security and arms pacts.
Washington has said it may seek changes to the treaty, which limits
long-range missile defences.
``Can it be right to launch a programme, invest money, carry out tests and
then say let's change the treaty?'' he said. ``It is a unilateral, military
pressure approach and we won't put up with it. The Defence Ministry will
not agree to changes.''
U.S. logic was to strike a deal, fail to fulfil it and violate it if
necessary, said Ivashov, who added he was unfazed by his reputation as a
``And in the face of this you say I speak in a tough way. How should one be
in such a situation? It's political fraud.''
He said Russia would probably face a fait accompli, as it had with the
enlargement of NATO to include three ex-Soviet satellites, Poland, Hungary
and the Czech Republic.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Russia signed a cooperation deal
nearly two years ago but relations are awkward.
Ivashov said NATO had an incomprehensible, dangerous and excessive
concentration of military power in Europe.
He said Russia wanted NATO's new strategic concept, which is expected to be
ready for its 50th anniversary meeting in Washington next month, to include
mechanisms to prevent conflict rather than blandishments about partnership.
Russia fears NATO wants to enshrine the right to act alone and beyond its
Ivashov said Russia's own new military doctrine was practically complete,
but there were two versions. ``The final version of the Russian military
doctrine will be adopted after the approval of NATO's strategic concept,''
The general said Moscow had briefed NATO on Russia's ideas. NATO had yet to
show Russia even outlines of its strategic concept but he said Moscow
understood it was a difficult process to agree a document among member
Ivashov said the level of Russia's presence at the NATO summit hinged on
the strategic concept and whether the alliance restrained itself from using
force in the Kosovo crisis.
One-Third Of Foreigners Accept Russian Debt Deal
MOSCOW, Mar. 17, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) A third of foreigner
investors stung by Russia's debt default last August have switched their
frozen bonds for new paper offered up by the government, the Finance
Ministry said Wednesday.
Seven months after it stunned investors by defaulting on around $40 billion
worth of domestic debt, the ministry said that 32 percent of foreign
investors had already exchanged their holdings for new instruments.
In all, 85 percent of Russian investors have agreed to the swap, the
ministry said in a statement, adding that 115.9 billion rubles' worth of
the bonds have now been exchanged.
Investors were given a grim set of options under a government debt
restructuring scheme which analysts calculated could leave bond holders
with as little as five percent of their original outlay.
The government restructuring deal returns 10 percent of the frozen sum
gradually in cash form, while 20 percent will be turned into investment and
tax offset bonds and 70 percent restructured into new long-term paper.
Tight restrictions on cash repatriation have been imposed to prevent an
all-out collapse of the vulnerable ruble.
Western banks which held around 15 billion dollars of the total defaulted
sum last August, initially dug in their heels and locked horns with the
government over its punitive restructuring package.
But individual banks have since softened their stance, with Credit
Lyonnais, Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank agreeing earlier this month to
break rank and accept the government's conditions.
Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) however, which with its clients held
30-40 percent of the frozen treasury bills, has said it will set up a
rival fund to try and wring additional compensation from the government
and seek out better investment opportunities.
The ministry statement said Wednesday that the government would stick by
its system of bond exchange despite the CSFB challenge.
Russia's Lost Decade of Reform
By Sergei Stankevich
Sergei Stankevich, a former advisor to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, is
a political scientist living in Warsaw.
Warsaw--As Russia and Poland both mark the tenth anniversary of launching
democratic and market reforms, the interim results could not be more
different. While Poland has been ascending from the status of a depressing
Soviet satellite toward that of a normal European country with a vibrant
market economy, Russia has wasted its potential in endless clashes for
power and property.
Poland has shown robust gross domestic product growth of about 6 percent
annually and has steadily lowered inflation during the past five years. In
the same time period, Russia managed only to slow down both the drop in
production and the soaring of prices. Those two main malaises of the
Russian economy, however, recently returned to their previous levels. No
wonder Russia lags far behind Poland in attracting foreign investment
(since 1989, a cumulative $10.3 billion compared with $27.2 billion).
After a series of conflicts, Poles have succeeded in creating a stable
framework in which president, government, political parties, and
self-governing regions cooperate. Hard-line communists have become a
political anachronism in Poland, virtually nonexistent in public life. The
overall political consensus established in the country is undoubtedly
connected with the rise of the middle class, which provides about 60
percent of the country's GDP and contributes greatly to the cultivating of
liberal values in society.
Russia, on the other hand, has been overwhelmed by bitter strife centered
on power sharing between major state institutions. This culminated in the
forceful dissolution of parliament in 1993 and in the bloody slaughter in
Chechnya in 1994-1996. Consequently, no working political system in the
country has been created that might be capable of alleviating or at least
controlling, the enormous domestic tensions.
In Russia, an autocratic president wages a permanent cold war against
parliament. Arbitrarily replaced governments regularly fall victim to that
struggle. The separatism of regional barons has become a chronic illness
that seriously threatens the integrity of Russia and undermines its budget.
Democratic parties are divided and absorbed by inner rivalries, generally
unprepared for an active fight to continue reforms. That is yet another
consequence of the weakness of the Russian middle class, which didn't
receive any substantial assistance from the state and was largely
eliminated during last fall's crisis. President Boris Yeltsin also failed
to consolidate the liberal-democratic forces and to secure governmental
support for the reformers--missing the unique chance to implement a reform
model in Russia similar to that in Poland.
The decade of reforms was a lost decade. Today, after having made a sort of
circle, Russia has returned to almost the same situation it was in at the
beginning of the 1990s. The idea of reform itself has been widely
discredited among Russians. It appears almost inevitable that an
authoritarian pause will dominate Russia for the next few years.
Economic ineffectiveness and the inner contradictions of authoritarianism
will make Russia ready for a further round of radical reforms, which can be
expected to start in the first decade of the coming century. It's important
at that crucial moment that Russian reformers not only draw lessons from
mistakes of the lost decade, but also take an attentive look at the
experience of reforms in Poland.
Poll Shows Russians Disagree on Ethnic Issues
MOSCOW, March 15 (Interfax) - Ethnic Russians must
be officially declared the leading ethnic group, 43% of the Russians
think while 48% disagree with this view. A vast majority, 76% of those
polled by the All-Russian Public Opinion Institute at the end of
February, belive that the ethnic policy must protect the rights and
interests of all Russian citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, but 13%
want the interests of only ethnic Russians living in the country given
priority. Five percent thought that Moscow should concentrate on
protecting the rights of ethnic Russians residing in other republics of
the former USSR while 1%, on protecting the interests of ethnic
minorities in Russia. While 20% blame non-Russians living in the country
for Russia's troubles but 71% do not share this view. The fault is with
ethnic Russians themselves who have failed to preserve their traditions,
religion and culture, 52% believe while 40% reject this view. Eleven
percent admitted that they often take not the ethnic origin of people
they meet while 20% say they do it from time to time, 25% very rarely and
40% never. Forty two percent believe that eventually the ethnic
differences will disappear or will be of no consequence while 40% do not
believe that this is possible. Three percent were optimistic enough to
think that this will happen soon.