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Johnson's Russia List
9 May 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Facing impeachment, cornered Yeltsin prepares to strike back.
2. Reuters: Russia WW2 vets say Clinton today's Hitler.
3. AP: Belarus Keeping Nuclear Facilities.
4. Peter Mahoney: Kosovo and US-Russian Relations: An Alternative View
5. AP: US Charges Stilt Russian Steel Town.
6. Wallace Kaufman: Russia, Pipes, Poverty and Property/3276.
7. Albert Weeks: Missed opportunity? (Yugoslavia).
8. Vladivostok News: Russell Working, Forget the Central Square; city
needs a Gulag monument.
9. Moscow Times letter: Russia's Market Unreal and Anger Is Against Elite.
10. Los Angeles Times: Steven Merritt Miner, Is Russia the Right Nation
to Be Carrying the Serbs' Ball?
11. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Chernobyl invaders reclaim
Facing impeachment, cornered Yeltsin prepares to strike back
MOSCOW, May 9 (AFP) - Russia's unpredictable and often erratic President
Boris Yeltsin this week faces an impeachment vote which observers fear may
end in political confrontation and financial doom.
A cornered Yeltsin has always struck back at his foes and analysts say he
is likely to do so again when parliament picks up the five-count hearing on
The Kremlin, however, needs the Communist-controlled parliament now more
than ever as a heavy stack of key tax legislation rests at its doorstep.
Russia's economic future depends on those bills since the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and other lenders refuse to stretch a last-chance
lifeline to Moscow until reforms finally come into law.
Now even the most sober Kremlin watchers are warning that Russia has
entered yet another spell of uncertainty that in the worst-case scenario
could turn the nation into a financial pariah and see Soviet-era
nationalists running the show.
"A constitutionally empowered president with Mr. Yeltsins record for doing
the unexpected, and who feels as cornered and as isolated as does Mr.
Yeltsin currently, is a highly volatile variable," the MFK Renaissance
investment firm cautioned in a recent note.
"All omens portend a fairly serious escalation in political uncertainty."
Impeachment would deliver a deep personal wound to Yeltsin. It would rid
the president and his family of political immunity and close his chapter in
the history books on a humiliating note.
Relations here have already turned so testy that Yeltsin at times refuses
to shake Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's hand.
"No matter what the outcome of impeachment things will be far worse after
the vote then they already are," said Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage
Foundation research institute. "We are staring at government paralysis."
Parliament has been plotting impeachment for years but had previously
stalled from fear that a furious Yeltsin would dissolve the chamber in
But impeachment plays well with frustrated voters who last week gave
Yeltsin a two-percent approval rating. Parliamentary elections, meanwhile,
are only seven months away.
One count -- Yeltsin's decision to launch the disastrous 1994-1996 Chechen
war -- has a fair chance at collecting enough votes to send the entire
procedure to the courts and later the upper chamber of parliament.
"Impeachment rests on only a few votes," Volk said. "Right now it is too
close to call."
Powerful lawmaker Alexander Shokhin has already predicted that Yeltsin will
fire Primakov's government on Thursday evening.
"Of course Yeltsin wants to get rid of Primakov and he will," said
political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky. "It is just a question of time."
By firing Primakov -- or by axing Communists from his cabinet to make the
premier resign on his own -- Yeltsin would start a chain-reaction that
could quickly lead to a shut-down of parliament.
Deputies have rallied around Primakov and his leftist economic aides.
Almost any other candidate for the post would fail to win confirmation.
The constitution in that case allows Yeltsin to call for new elections.
A Russia without a confirmed government or parliament and headed by a
visibly ailing and sometimes rambling president is an unpleasant prospect
Analysts further point to sever anti-western sentiments here blown up by
NATO strikes against Yugoslavia which could lead to nationalists and
Communist sympathisers storming into power at the next elections.
The fate of any IMF-sponsored legislation would then likely be doomed for
This gloomy scenario however may yet be averted if Primakov uses his best
diplomatic skills on his Communist supporters in a bid to avert an
"Success by the government at managing to cut a compromise which is
acceptable both to (parliament) and to the IMF would provide powerful
evidence that perhaps, after all, the Primakov road to economic recovery is
more than a pipe-dream," MFK Renaissance said.
Russia WW2 vets say Clinton today's Hitler
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, May 9 (Reuters) - Russia celebrated the anniversary of Nazi
Germany's defeat on Sunday with many veterans saying U.S. President Bill
Clinton and other NATO leaders had filled Adolf Hitler's boots in leading
air attacks on Yugoslavia.
``Clinton and NATO are worse bastards than Hitler. Shame on them!'' said
Heidar Sufiyani, 75, who helped liberate Berlin in 1945 at the end of World
Leaders of the NATO alliance waging a more than six-week-old air war
against Yugoslavia have compared its leader Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler.
But veterans in Russia, which bore the brunt of fighting against Nazi
Germany, strongly disagreed.
``Between Hitler and Milosevic there is a world of difference and it's
absurd to compare them,'' said Mikhail Cherikov, 75. ``There is a complete
parallel between Hitler and NATO.''
Russians, who feel a common Slavic and Orthodox Christian bond with
Yugoslavia, have rallied against the NATO air war.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin presided over the Red Square parade and
made no mention of Yugoslavia, but hailed the unity that Russians found in
celebrating the end of Nazi Germany.
``Today's victory holiday unifies Russians, regardless of their beliefs and
political inclinations,'' he said in a short speech. ``Every city and
village marks this great day. Every household remembers the fallen and
raises a toast to victory.''
Later Yeltsin said World War Two was a lesson in the danger of war
spreading, Russian news agencies reported.
``All countries should not forget the main lesson of war. The rule of power
may spark a big fire,'' he said.
But his opponents said Yeltsin had let the Yugoslav war begin, since the
West no longer feared Russia's degraded military. Communist Party leader
Gennady Zyuganov said parliament would vote to impeach him in hearings this
``We are about to strip him of his duties,'' he told a rally where tens of
thousands of communists and nationalists waved hammer and sickle flags,
anti-Semitic and anti-NATO banners.
``China -- drown the American serpent,'' read one in reaction to NATO's
bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on Friday. NATO said the bombing
was a terrible mistake.
The Soviet Union suffered more than any other country during World War Two,
losing 27 million people, and its victory over Nazi Germany was one of the
few lasting Soviet-era achievements.
``We were at the front and know how terrible bombing is. In America very
few understand because they were never bombed,'' said Anastasia Titova, who
fought in Ukraine.
Cities across the former Soviet Union celebrated Victory Day with
ceremonies, but for some it was bittersweet.
Yakov Khartenko, an 87-year-old major who fought in Berlin, summed up the
loneliness of many veterans at a festival in Almaty, the largest city in
``This celebration brings tears to my eyes. I live alone, and the friends
that I served with have all died,'' he said.
Alexander Lukashenko, hardline leftist president of Belarus where a quarter
of the population perished during World War Two, led a parade of thousands
through the streets of Minsk and said Serbian-led Yugoslavia was waging the
just war of today.
``The Yugoslavs today are defending the right of people of the whole world
to a quiet life,'' he said.
Even amid condemnations of the Yugoslav conflict, some veterans remembered
their former World War Two allies warmly.
``After the war I served with Americans for two months on joint patrol in
Vienna,'' said Sufiyani, who wore a blue military uniform with pins noting
years of service in the Soviet KGB. ``If any of them are still alive, a big
hello to them.''
Belarus Keeping Nuclear Facilities
May 8, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- Belarus has kept its nuclear missile facilities even though
it has given up all its atomic warheads, its president said Saturday
according to a news report.
President Alexander Lukashenko has lamented Belarus's decision to relinquish
its nuclear weapons after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. He gave up
the last of the weapons at the end of 1996, expressing regrets that have only
grown stronger since.
On Saturday, he said ``all launch pads have been preserved despite pressure
on the part of both NATO and Russia,'' the Interfax news agency reported.
Lukashenko made the statement in response to a reporter who asked whether
Russia would deploy nuclear missiles in Belarus if the two countries merge.
Lukashenko added that the two sides hadn't discussed the issue.
He has pushed hard to unite his nation with much larger Russia, but many
Russians are wary of the idea because Belarus' economy is one of the least
reformed among the former Soviet states and most of its 10 million people are
From: email@example.com (Peter Mahoney)
Date: Sat, 8 May 1999
Subject: Kosovo and US-Russian Relations: An Alternative View from
Kosovo and US-Russian Relations: An Alternative View from Moscow
By Peter P. Mahoney
The recent contribution by Alan Ruosso, Director of the Carnegie Moscow
Center (JRL #3275), presents itself as a sober, academic think-piece. The
piece is rather long on facts and somewhat short on analysis, but I have
little quarrel with the "facts" that Ruosso cites. My problem is not so
much with what he says as what he doesn't say. By concentrating almost
exclusively on Russian "facts" while virtually ignoring correspondingly
important Western "facts", Ruosso has presented, in my view, an ultimately
distorted, one-sided view of the situation that reeks of subtle and
not-so-subtle anti-Russian, pro-American bias.
First, my one quarrel with Ruosso's "facts". In his efforts to explain the
uniform opposition of Russians to the Balkans debacle, Ruosso offers the
following: "...even the more sober-minded, liberal voices expressed feelings
of genuine frustration and outrage at the decision. So too did average
Russians, partly, one suspects, out of feelings of humiliation at being
sidelined, partly out of fear, and partly out of incomplete understanding of
the conflict thanks to unbalanced reporting by the local press." What about
opposition based on moral grounds, what about international legal grounds,
what about purely strategic and tactical grounds? Are Russians not capable
of forming opinions based on somewhat deeper insights that Ruosso attributes
Humiliation? NATO's so-called diplomatic efforts -- although the
Clinton/Allbright Johnny-one-note foreign policy style (Do what I tell you,
or I'll beat you to a pulp) could scarcely be characterized as diplomacy --
have been a failure, NATO's military tactics have been a failure, NATO's
strategic planning and ability to think through the full consequences of its
actions have been a failure. NATO, which smugly ignored Russia and the UN
when it initiated this colossal blunder, now must turn to them in an effort
to extricate itself from the mess it has created. The greatest humiliation
in the Kosovo crisis belongs to NATO, not Russia.
Fear? Yes, Russians are afraid of NATO. This supposed "defensive military
alliance" in its search for new missions after the demise of the Cold War,
has now shown its willingness to interfere in the internal affairs of
European countries not to its liking, to use offensive military force
against a sovereign nation which refuses to bend to its will, and to redraw
European territorial boundries through the use of force (anyone who stills
believes that Kosovo will remain a part of Yugoslavia after this is engaging
in fantasy). I would say Russian fear is entirely justified. Ruosso
expresses the fear that Russia with its 10,000 nuclear warheads might be
pushed further into the camp of rogue states. I'd say the bigger fear in
the rest of the world, and certainly here in Russia, is that the United
States has already joined the camp of rogue states.
Unbalanced reporting? This is not exactly the exclusive domain of the
Russian media. As Matt Taibbi, in his own inimitable style, has pointedly
described, the almost exclusive reliance of the Western media on "official"
sources of information has rendered them little more than propaganda
mouthpieces for NATO governments. One might argue that the seeming strong
public support for the Kosovo intervention in the West is due, in no small
part, to this blindered adherence to the official line by the Western media.
Some old Greek geek named Aeschylus (sp?) once coined a phrase: In war,
Truth is the first casualty. I'd say the dude got it right.
Ruosso gives us the "fact" of the "hysterical" reaction by some Russian
politicians. While this fact may be true, failure to note the hysterical
rhetoric of a number of Western politicians used to justify their actions in
Kosovo -- the casual use of the now-cliched word genocide, the comparison of
the situation in Kosovo to the Holocaust, the branding of Milosevic as a
"little Hitler" -- presents a distorted and unbalanced picture: Russian
politicians are hysterical, Western politicians are not. Ruosso doesn't say
that, but his choice of "facts" implies it.
Ruosso goes on at length about some of the "regrettable" timing of the
Kosovo bombing (I love this word "regret"; it has come to mean, "I
flocked-up, but I'm not going to admit my mistake, I'm merely going to
express pseudo-sorrow at its consequences."). I'd like to note another
piece of "timing". The President of the United States, the most powerful
man in the world, had just gone through an utter, public humiliation -- the
most intimate details of his private life exposed, branded as a liar and
philanderer, almost kicked out of office for his actions -- and he was
totally powerless to do anything about it. To deny that this had anything
to do with his subsequent expressions of power in Kosovo is to deny the most
basic of human reactions, and Bill Clinton, if anything, has shown himself
to be fraught with human frailties.
Perhaps the greatest failure of NATO in the whole Kosovo situation has been
the moral one, eloquently expounded by Richard Cohen in his Nation piece.
The moral hypocrisy of NATO's rhetoric on Kosovo -- demonizing the Serbs
over the refugee crisis, while utterly refusing to acknowledge its own
complicity in precipitating the crisis; branding the Serbs as war criminals
for killing civilians with bullets, while piously "regretting" killing
civilians with bombs -- is clear for the world to see. NATO's response that
the difference between them and the Serbs is one of intent falls flat. A
drunk driver has no intention of killing a pedestrian, but is held
criminally responsible for his reckless actions.
Rightly or wrongly, much of the world repressed and degraded by petty
tyrants and inhumane systems of government have looked to the West --
specifically the US -- to provide moral leadership, especially so here in
Russia. The efforts of true reformers to establish a democratic and humane
system of governemental, social, and economic stability here -- already
battered by economic crisis, political incompetence, and entrenched systemic
corruption -- may very well have suffered a fatal blow from the moral
failure of the West in Kosovo. The hands of the communists and nationalists
have been significantly strengthened just prior to the Duma elections, and
the spectre of an even more anti-West, anti-democratic Russian government
has become a distinct probability. It will be a turn for the worse from
which this country will not soon recover.
This, in my view, is the central analysis of the effect on Russian-US
relations of the Kosovo bombing, and one which, in my view, Ruosso totally
US Charges Stilt Russian Steel Town
May 8, 1999
By ANGELA CHARLTON
CHEREPOVETS, Russia (AP) -- Almost no one in Cherepovets took home a paycheck
this year until April. Not the director of the mammoth Severstal steel
factory, whose smokestacks punctuate the city skyline. Not the foundry
workers, not the mayor, not the emergency room nurses.
The city's fortunes hinge on Severstal and how many sizzling slabs of steel
squirt out of its aging rollers. Last year, it was Russia's largest steel
producer. This year, a trade fight with the United States over cheap Russian
steel flooding the U.S. market has stunted Severstal's output.
``When the mill suffers, everyone in the city suffers,'' said Olga
Zhilovskaya, who peddles beef at a farmer's market in Cherepovets, a northern
city of 320,000 people. Packing up a pile of bloody, unsold ribs, she
estimated the day's profits: 200 rubles, about $8.
Shrugging toward her 4-year-old son, Dima, she added, ``I have nothing
against America, but we have to feed our children, too.''
The trade debate -- centered on U.S. charges that Russian producers
``dumped'' steel at below manufacturing cost -- is not the only reason wages
have been delayed in Cherepovets. But it has added to the headaches haunting
Russian industry and fueled resentment of America and the economic reforms
that many Russians blame for their poverty.
And it has frustrated young, Western-trained managers at factories like
Severstal, who feel betrayed by the free-trade policies they embraced.
Industrial production across Russia plunged after the 1991 Soviet collapse,
contributing to the country's protracted depression. Many manufacturing
giants subsist on barter with domestic customers and pay workers with goods.
Severstal, thanks to its energetic management, pulled itself out of that
slump, shedding inefficient communist-era habits and bringing in cash by
boosting exports and foreign investment. And company officials say they did
it without government subsidies.
But a new economic crisis consumed Russia last August and crippled many of
its banks. The factory's bank accounts and those of many of its domestic
customers were frozen. Investor confidence plummeted.
Then Washington threatened to impose staggering import duties on Russian
steel, prompting the Russian government to strike a deal in February to slash
steel shipments 70 percent.
Severstal relied on exports for nearly 60 percent of its revenue last year,
with more than a third of its foreign sales to the United States, company
officials said. They're not pleased with the export restrictions.
``Such protectionism in favor of American businesses is a violation of the
ideals of a country like the United States ... ideals that they have tried to
teach us,'' said Mikhail Noskov, Severstal's financial director.
U.S. steelmakers, meanwhile, say the deal is too soft on Russia. They contend
low-priced imports from Russia and other countries caused thousands of
layoffs and a few bankruptcies.
The Clinton administration is struggling to satisfy the U.S. steel industry
without abandoning efforts to help Russia restructure its economy -- and
without prompting retaliatory measures that would hurt U.S. exporters.
The European Union and other countries have pursued similar restrictions on
Russian steel, but none as strict as the United States.
The United States accused Russia, Japan and several other countries of
dumping steel on U.S. markets after demand in Southeast Asia and Russia
plunged when they were hit by economic crises in 1997 and 1998.
Russia, which relies on steel for 7 percent of its gross domestic product,
maintains its prices were fair. It says the U.S. industry's troubles stemmed
from mechanization and last year's strike at General Motors, a huge steel
Russian steelmakers warn that the February agreement could lead to $1 billion
in losses and the layoff of 100,000 people at Russian mills.
Adding a new problem, the Russian government is introducing a 5 percent tax
on exports that Severstal says will cost it tens of millions of dollars a
Since the penalty duties were threatened by Washington in November, Russia
has virtually halted exports of hot-rolled steel to the United States.
Severstal was able to pay off its huge wage arrears in April only by
suspending a program to upgrade decades-old equipment and freezing expansion
Grime-coated rolling machines sit idle in some of Severstal's shops, where
silence replaces the normal clamor of hisses and clangs that comes from
churning out steel.
Severstal's management is desperate to avoid layoffs because it fears social
unrest. Instead, it pays for stability by delaying wages, keeping them low --
the average is 2,300 rubles a month, or about $90 -- and maintaining a
workforce it admits is bloated.
The mill and its empire employ 47,000 people, nearly half the workers in
Cherepovets, and its taxes make up the bulk of the city budget. When times
are tough at Severstal, retirees get no pensions, the orphanage stops buying
meat for its cafeteria, environmental programs to clean up the toxins coughed
up by the mill's outdated furnaces are stalled.
``We have all our eggs in one basket,'' said Yuri Kuzin, the mayor's economic
adviser. ``It's not very wise, and dangerous.''
Built in 1955 in a sleepy village 360 miles north of Moscow, Severstal grew
into one of the Soviet Union's biggest producers of steel for tanks, ships
It also grew dozens of appendages that it is now trying to spin off: a
furniture factory, farms, the city's 17 sports facilities.
The going has been slow, but analysts say Severstal has proved more adaptable
than other Russian steel companies. In recent months, the mill has redirected
some exports to Asia as demand picked up there with the rebound in the
Gennady Borisov, who works at Severstal's blast furnace No. 5, Russia's
largest, no longer looks to his job for the stability and prestige it offered
when he started 25 years ago. But he's terrified of losing it.
Borisov, 44, spends his shift sweating over a 3,630-degree furnace that sees
three or four on-the-job deaths a year. He lives in a sagging apartment
building with irregular hot water and windowsills perpetually crusted with
soot from the mill's smokestacks. The potholed street outside is strewn with
Still, he says, it could be worse.
``If the (U.S. dumping charges) mean I lose my job, then I'll have something
to complain about,'' he said.
From: "Wallace Kaufman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russia, Pipes, Poverty and Property/3276
Date: Sun, 9 May 1999
Charles Morris' dyspeptic review of Pipes book on property, law and liberty
attempts to trash the thesis by emphasizing the exceptions while ignoring
the proof that is in many puddings. Russia's inability to create a
significant property owning class or to protect anyone's property, has been
it's greatest failing and the most certain proof that its authoritarian
centralism continues to treat individual initiative as a threat to the body
While I was a resident advisor for housing reform in Kazakhstan I calculated
that the single greatest pool of wealth in the country lay in the ownership
of homes and apartments (then about 80% privatized, a stunning fact compared
to 66% private home ownership in the U.S.). Home ownership was also the
most evenly dispersed wealth in the country, as it is in Russia. In most of
the former Soviet Union, unfortunately, this distribution of wealth means as
little as a can of beans to a starving man with no can opener.
Without mortgages, property registration, title security, foreclosure laws,
just compensation guarantees, affordable insurance, and other legal and
financial infrastructure owners cannot use the equity they have to finance
education, medical needs, farm equipment, or entrepreneurship. To put it
another way, people who might rely on themselves are forced to rely on a
government less and less able to provide for them.
Pipes makes the right connections when he sees that the welfare state,
whether in America or the CIS, is a danger to individual liberties. Charles
Morris says that Dred Scott, "surely didn't feel liberated by the Supreme
Court decision that upheld his master's property rights." On the other hand
Dred Scott fared much better than the millions sent to the gulags as slaves
of the state. The Soviet Union needed slaves. The United States understood
that former slaves needed property to remain free.
Charles Morris protests that Pipes too adamantly embraces the power of
private property to nurture liberty, and too vehemently warns that
government control destroys both. I suspect Pipes understands and
underlines the importance of property because he knows the history of Russia
and the USSR much better than his reviewer.
Date: Sat, 8 May 1999
From: Albert Weeks <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
Subject: Missed opportunity?
My optimistic analysis in JRL of an approaching accord on Kosovo
involving a Russian peacekeeping presence in that
province has been scuttled, it would seem, by the errant
NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy, no less.
This deplorable, or as the British call it "tragic," incident
has created a dangerous swerve in the road
to settling the conflict. It is such a grievous error,
the latest bombing of Belgrade, in fact, that it might now
be time for the NATO powers-that-be to
actually exploit this latest bit of over-touted "hi-tech," "pin-point"
extravagance by simply, magnaminously declaring a unilateral
NATO bombing halt. That is, unless they
want the onus and charges of criminality to be switched from
Milosevic to NATO commanders! Which is already being
To me, frok, the very begunning this has been a mistaken,
God-forsaken enterprise. At best, it was a dangerous gamble
while being, at heart, militarily and politically unfeasible, untenable.
Well, enough has been written already about the absence of an exit
strategy, or any clear, convincing statement of the politico-military
and tactics underlying the air campaign. Which by itself, obviously,
could not and will not settle matters on the ground.
"Loss of face" for NATO in cutting bait? That is secondary,
given the new, extremely unfavorable turn of events. It is clearly
time for a major conciliatory gesture on NATO's part no matter
how it may "look." It is has now become a case weighing only losses,
some losses against other losses in a no-win situation.
NATO has lost the first round -- militarily and politically -- and
had better face up to it ASAP.
May 7, 1999
Forget the Central Square; city needs a Gulag monument
By Russell Working
Across from the Second River Bus Station stands a two-story wooden building
that houses an odd collection of businesses: a lawyer's office, a notary
public, a dentist, a newspaper, a funeral home and, in the basement, a new
The paint has weathered away, but the structure retains touches of old
Russian craftsmanship. The window frames are carved decoratively, and stars
embellish some of the beams. The building, like Lubyanka in Moscow, stands at
the heart of one of the 20th century's great convulsions of evil. It was a
clinic for Vladivostok's gulag transit camp, from which the NKVD sent
hundreds of thousands of slave laborers north and worked them to death in the
Next door, an auto repair shop sits in what looks like a stone-fronted bomb
shelter half buried in the hill, and on Wednesday, the steel doors were
locked and nobody knew where the mechanic had gone. But I could hear the
ghosts calling within. It was once the camp's morgue.
These days, by the port of Vladivostok, workers are repairing the crumbling
Monument to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East, and they have
slopped gallons of glossy black paint over two sculptures of soldiers and
peasants at its base. But as a taxpayer, I object. I want a monument to those
who were sent to their deaths through the Vladivostok transit camp. And
because I know my voice carries great weight with the mayor's office, I wish
to call attention to the plans of Valery Nenazhivin.
Nenazhivin is a grizzled Vladivostok sculptor who has claimed an old brick
building as his studio and works amid disembodied metal heads, a pair of
wooden lovers and a likeness of Andrei Sakharov. In 1985, Nenazhivin
completed a 2.8-meter sculpture of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in the
Vladivostok transit camp December 1938. Until the late 1980s, it was
impossible to find Mandelstam's works in print in the Soviet Union, and
Nenazhivin typed and distributed them through samizdat, or clandestine
Nenazhivin wanted to place the sculpture at 2nd Rechka. But in September, the
mayor's office finally put it behind a cinema at the Stoletya bus stop. The
figure lasted six months before hooligans smashed its head and left hand.
Nenazhivin plans to cast a new Mandelstam in copper, and he hopes the new
mayor's administration will place it beside the old camp building.
Nenazhivin wants people to remember, despite the difficult times nowadays,
just how bad things were in the Soviet Union. He is impatient with nostalgia.
"I keep telling people, no matter how bad it is, it is nothing compared to
what we lived through," he said. "What we have now, even if our democracy is
a little funny sometimes, is so much better than it was in the past."
Nearly everyone at Kolyma, the gold mine gulag near Magadan, was transported
via Vladivostok. In 1935, 44,601 live prisoners arrived. In 1936, there were
62,703. In 1937, 80,258 came to dig gold in the tundra. So the numbers went
during Stalin's terror.
Thus, while it is stirring to reflect on the Bolshevist struggle that brought
modern Vladivostok into being, the city should save its paint. Let the
monument crumble. Vladivostok has others it needs to remember.
May 8, 1999
Russia's Market Unreal
In response to "Market Just Playing With Numbers," a May 7 editorial.
Your editorial actually was one of the best opinion pieces I have read during
the last five years, and I congratulate you for it.
This country, with all the human and material resources available to it,
should now, at least theoretically, be one the wealthiest and strongest
powers in the world. Instead, it has been reduced to a basket case where
nothing seems to work and the vast majority of the Russian people suffer
thanks to the draconian mismanagement of its resources by both the foreign
"whiz kids" that you mention and the Russian nomenklatura. I fully concur
with your idea that what happens in the minuscule and wildly speculative
Russian stock market is not at all relevant to the present situation in
Russia. Nothing short of a thorough overhaul of the system by which this
country is governed and painful structural reforms will bring Russia back to
I only disagree with the last sentence in your editorial which reads: "...
and investors who pour their money into Russia on a whim will just as happily
rip it back out overnight." You better not be so sure of this - this time
around they just may not be able to do so. Another financial panic-run could
be too big a blow for present-day Russia to handle or survive, and the
ensuing chaos will surely finish off whatever little hope that remains for a
democratic and prosperous future. I think we all know what will happen then.
Chief Operating Officer
ENKA Real Estate Group, Moscow
Anger Is Against Elite
In response To "Americans Safe, For Some Reason, In Moscow," an April 28
essay by Matt Bivens.
The author of the article is absolutely right: Americans are safe in Moscow.
The reason is simple. The rank and file people are angry, of course, because
of their poverty, hardships and the absence of any hope of improvement. So
their anger is in fact directed against the ruling elite - those who ride in
expensive foreign cars, etc. As for the bombing of Yugoslavia, it is a good
pretext for some people to give vent to their anger by criticizing the
country's leadership. If there is any exasperation against the United States,
it is mainly because the United States is seen as the backer of the New
Russians - the "Mercedes" public.
By the way, I always read The Moscow Times on public transport and I have
never seen any frowns of found anyone glaring at me. Nor have I heard people
cursing the United States. It is, rather, the political tricksters who are
trying to divert people's anger from the hardships so as to use it for
political purposes. But, in the final analysis, this anger turns against the
ruling elite and, perhaps, the political tricksters themselves. It's good, of
course, to express indignation at the bombings. It would also be good not to
have to see poor elderly people looking for food in dustbins in the streets
Karren G. Danielyants
Los Angeles Times
May 9, 1999
[for personal use only]
Is Russia the Right Nation to Be Carrying the Serbs' Ball?
By STEVEN MERRITT MINER
Steven Merritt Miner, a professor of Russian history at Ohio University, is
the author of "Selling Stalin," about Soviet propaganda.
ATHENS, OHIO--From the outset of the war in Kosovo, the Russian government
objected in the strongest possible terms to the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization's bombing of Yugoslavia. At first, many Western leaders and
analysts believed that the Russian objections could be ignored with
impunity, because the evils of the Serbian-led slaughter and expulsion of
ethnic Albanian Kosovars seemed so manifest, and Russian isolation and
weakness so evident.
But when NATO's air campaign failed to produce quick results, two
things became clearer: The Russian government and people have a radically
different view of the Kosovo war than do most Westerners; and that if the
war is to end with a negotiated solution, rather than a NATO military
victory, Russia's position as the only major European nation supporting
Yugoslavia is central to crafting any end to the fighting. It is thus
important to understand the reasons for Russia's stance on Serbia. History,
current political considerations and even the structure of the Russian
Federation all pushed the Kremlin toward supporting Belgrade.
The Balkans have always been crucial to Russia. Historically, economic
considerations have been less important than religious, cultural and
military-strategic ones. The Russian people received their brand of Eastern
Orthodox Christianity a millennium ago via Balkan Slavic missionaries, and
though the religious tie is no longer as strong as it once was, it exerts a
steady gravitational pull. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexi II visited
Belgrade last month to pray with packed crowds in that city's cathedral and
to underline his church's support for fellow Slavic Orthodox Christians.
Back home, Russian believers have raised money, and even volunteers, to
assist the Yugoslav war effort.
Strategically, the Russians have long regarded the Balkans as vital,
particularly Serbia, the first Orthodox, Slavic nation to regain its
independence from the Ottoman Turks. Russian czars consistently sought to
prevent any outside great power from dominating the peninsula. They are no
less eager today to prevent a U.S.-led alliance from doing so. During the
19th century, Russia's leaders, notably the Pan-Slavs, saw themselves as
"elder brothers" of the smaller Balkan Slavic peoples. From 1828 to 1914,
they fought four major wars--and suffered disastrous defeats in the Crimean
War and World War I--to contest control of the region. Although Russia
fought these wars to advance its own strategic interests, a seductive
mythology exists among Russian nationalists to the effect that their
countrymen have always shed their blood to defend their weaker Slavic
That these historical and emotional ties remain strong is starkly
demonstrated in a recent survey of Russian public opinion, published in the
Economist magazine. Most of the world watches the murder and expulsion of
ethnic Albanians with horror and lays the blame squarely on Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic and his regime. Russians, by contrast, blame
the Albanians for the current conflict in Kosovo; only 2% believe the Serbs
are responsible. Even more startling, 87% favor sending Russian
antiaircraft missiles to Serbia, in violation of their own government's
pledges to the contrary and in the face of a NATO embargo; 71% support a
political union among Russia, Belarus and Serbia, for which arrangement the
lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, recently voted; and 42%
actually claim that they are willing to volunteer to fight on the Serbs'
behalf. Even if these figures contain a large dose of armchair bravado,
they nonetheless reflect a sharply different view of the war as seen from
Not all the reasons for Russia's support of Serbia lie in the past or
in some mystical-historic bond linking the Slavic peoples. The NATO assault
on Serbia raises a number of troubling precedents for Russia's current or
future rulers, of whatever stripe. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union,
and the secession of the principal non-Russian republics from the union,
the Russian Federation remains a patchwork quilt of minor nationalities.
Boris N. Yeltsin's government prosecuted a bloody war against Chechen
secessionists with a level of ferocity not yet approached in Kosovo, with
deaths estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000.
The Western press never took up the cause of the Chechens, and the
NATO powers stood quietly by as the slaughter continued for months, afraid
of throttling Russia's fledgling democracy by defending the rebels.
To Russians, the Kosovo operation suggests at least the possibility
that things may be different in the future. Knowing the internal threats
they face, Russian leaders refuse to accept the notion that outside powers
can intervene at will in a sovereign state to sort out a violent
secessionist struggle. Instead, Russia insists that such decisions can only
be made by the United Nations, where Russia still exercises a veto.
Today, Russians helplessly watch the eastward extension of their
victorious Cold War rival NATO, and many of them fear that what NATO does
to Serbia today, it might do tomorrow to Russia itself. Although such fears
seem far-fetched to Western ears, they are real and rooted in strong
memories of the Nazi invasion and the 27 million dead that the Soviet Union
suffered in World War II. Furthermore, these fears have been fanned
shamelessly not only by the nationalist and communist press, but also by
Russia's official organs, which have recycled outlandish Serbian propaganda
unfiltered. Thus, according to the official "Voice of Russia" radio
service, NATO--not the Serbs--has deliberately driven ethnic Albanians out
of Kosovo in order to create a pretext for its air assault; indeed, the
whole operation is seen as a practice run for an attack on Russia itself.
For the time being, calmer heads have prevailed in Moscow. The chaos
of the Russian economy and the sad state of its armed forces limit Moscow's
diplomatic muscle. NATO leaders are hoping to capitalize on Russian
weakness and need for Western economic aid in order to press Moscow to
abandon its Serb clients. But the Russian position is not as weak as it
appears. President Bill Clinton and his NATO allies have stuck their heads
into the equivalent of a diplomatic bag: Although a decision to prosecute
an air war, without the leavening of ground troops, has minimized allied
casualties, it has also been insufficient to prevent Milosevic from
emptying Kosovo of its Albanian population. As allied unity eroded with
each report of Serb civilian casualties, NATO looked desperately to a
once-ignored Russia for help.
Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov, no friend of the West, has
sent his more moderate predecessor, Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, to mediate a
peace. Primakov would dearly love a negotiated settlement dividing NATO and
leaving Serbia in control of Kosovo, and it would seem that the deal
outlined in Bonn last week has given him much of what he wants. Clinton
will no doubt hail the new agreement as bringing peace in our time to the
Balkans. But, as ever, the devil is in the details. Although Kosovo regains
some sort of autonomy, while Serbia retains overall sovereignty, what this
will mean in practice, when the society is smashed and its people scattered
to the winds, is hard to guess. The Kosovars' armed force, the Kosovo
Liberation Army, will be disarmed as part of the agreement, whereas the
Yugoslav Army, though slated to be withdrawn from the province, will retain
its powers and remain as a constant threat just across the borders from a
disarmed Kosovo populace. The allies have agreed to U.N. "security forces,"
rather than to a strongly armed, purely NATO force, will police the
province. The inclusion of Russian troops in that force will guarantee the
Serbians a great deal of leeway.
Furthermore, although the agreement stipulates that ethnic Albanians
must be allowed to return to their homes, it is worth recalling that, four
years after the Dayton agreement promised the same thing to Bosnian
Muslims, they remain in exile. Finally, Milosevic and his cronies, who
have, with some justice, been compared to the Nazis for their killing of
unarmed civilians, are once again partners in an agreement with the Western
democracies, left in power without having to face investigation or
punishment for war crimes.
Although the Bonn agreement, if it stands as outlined, will certainly
be spun by the White House as a great allied victory, in fact, it is a
giant retreat. Belgrade has faced down the most powerful military alliance
in the world and has survived. Russia has taken a weak diplomatic hand and
parlayed it into a central role in settling the Kosovo conflict. NATO has
already paid a huge diplomatic price to end its muddled war against Serbia;
it will be interesting to see what it will now pay in cash. Russia watchers
should not be at all surprised if, in the near future, international
lending agencies suddenly rediscover their zeal for extending loans to
Russia and for rescheduling Moscow's vast debts.*
The Sunday Times (UK)
9 May 1999
[for personal use only]
Chernobyl invaders reclaim death zone
by Mark Franchetti
THE journey to Valery Belienko's home in the village of Bartolomeyevka, 50
miles north of the stricken Chernobyl nuclear power station, is eerie and
arduous. High barbed-wire fences with signs warning of radioactive
contamination and two roadblocks manned by armed Belorussian police
separate its deserted streets from the outside world. Access is forbidden
without a pass.
A convicted thief, Belienko lives in what locals call "the zone". A vast
irradiated area of 1,700 square miles spanning the borders between Russia,
Belarus and Ukraine, it has been sealed off since the fourth reactor at
Chernobyl exploded on April 26, 1986.
Thirteen years later, Belienko is among hundreds of people who have broken
through the barbed wire and set up home there.
"Living there is like going back to the last century. The place is
completely wild," said Yuri Kuzmich, an official at the Belorussian
ministry for emergency situations in the nearby city of Gomel, 190 miles
southeast of the capital, Minsk.
"We know the area is used to hide stolen cars. We constantly come across
looters roaming around the empty villages, stealing everything and anything
they can find."
A ghostly silence weighs over Bartolomeyevka, one of 341 villages cleared
after the accident in Belarus alone. Large mounds mark the site of
contaminated homes that were razed to the ground and buried in shallow
graves beneath the undergrowth. Small, dried-up pairs of felt boots inside
the burnt-out former school are the only sign that hundreds of children
once lived here.
"I just live off the land," said Belienko, who drifted into the zone after
emerging impoverished and without a home from jail. "I moved into an
abandoned home because here there is no rent to pay. I know the area is
contaminated but I am not worried. I have nothing to lose anyway."
The series of contaminated areas that make up the zone are encircled by
police posts, barbed-wire and watchtowers. About 250 armed guards comb the
wilderness daily to catch looters, poachers and intruders who venture in,
sometimes to pick mushrooms from forests that are highly radioative. Every
year teams of heavily armed special forces carry out raids known as "poppy
missions" to prevent local drug traffickers from using the more remote
areas to grow poppy seeds.
Yet the authorities appear prepared to tolerate the squatters, in some
cases even giving them semi-official status. In Zubropitomnik, an area 19
miles north of Chernobyl once dotted with 35 villages, Vladimir Linkevich,
61, is the only resident left. Released after 25 years in labour camps and
penal colonies for theft and burglary, he roamed the area for years,
sleeping in contaminated homes and living off canned food looted from
abandoned village shops.
Two years ago the local authorities gave him a radio transmitter, a
tattered uniform and a small house with electricity, and assigned him to
guard and tend a herd of bison which is routinely tested to monitor
radiation levels on animals.
"I came here because I had nowhere else to go," he said. I have been living
off this land and breathing this air for years but I still feel fine. I
spent several months roaming around one village so close to the reactor
that you could see it. But I drink my own brand of homemade vodka, so I am
The authorities have adopted a contradictory attitude to the zone. During a
visit to the area last year, Alexander Lukashenko, the republic's
president, appalled local officials by saying that it was safe for some of
the 235,000 people evacuated after the accident to return. There do not
appear to be any plans to encourage resettlement, however.
Many living in the zone agree with the president. "I don't care about
radiation and to be honest I don't even believe it's dangerous," said
Nikolai Gordunov, a former electrician who returned to his village three
years ago. Aged 44, he looks more like 60.
"Sometimes in the winter, before I go to bed at five in the afternoon to
escape the snow and freezing wind, I stare at the desolation from the
window and listen to the silence. There is nothing else to do. But I was
born inside the zone and this is where I want to die."