This Date's Issues: 3345 • 3346 •
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
Johnson's Russia List
17 June 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Radio Riga Network: NATO Official Confident of Latvia's Membership.
2. AP: Ex-Russian Premier Primakov Has Back Surgery.
3. Itar-Tass: LEBED APPRECIATIVE OF RUSSIA PARATROOPERS'' MOVE TO
4. Los Angeles Times: Nikolai Sokov and Anna Vassilieva, THE CULTURAL
ROOTS OF RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR IN KOSOVO.
5. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Balkan Thrust
Puts Russia in The Doghouse.
6. Bill Slaven: Law.
7. Financial Times: Camdessus praises Russia.
8. AFP: Russian business giants pledge price cap, economists scowl.
9. Reuters: Russian army goes through paces, gets nowhere.
10. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Kommersant Sale, Yeltsin Succession Rumors.
11. The Russia Journal: Gregory Feifer, Limonov's Un-Official Culture
12. The ELECTRIC FUTURE PROJECT from RUSSIA in Washington.
13. Peter Ekman: Spying on Foreigners.
14. International Herald Tribune: William Pfaff, Russians and Serbs Have
a Big Choice to Make.]
NATO Official Confident of Latvia's Membership
Radio Riga Network in Lativian
15 June 1999
[translation for personal use only]
If Latvia continues to actively pursue the reforms
it has begun, it has reason to hope that it will be among the first
candidates for admission at the NATO meeting in 2002. This was stated at
the end of his two-day visit to Latvia by the NATO Assistant
Secretary-General [for political affairs], Klaus-Peter Klaiber. He
expressed the conviction that Latvia will make full use of the
opportunities offered by the action plan for membership, and will be able
to make successful preparations for membership of the alliance. The NATO
representative once again expressed appreciation for Latvia's expressed
wish to send its soldiers to peacekeeping operations. He pointed out that
the main thing is not how big a force a country sends, but the fact that
it participates in these operations.
Ex-Russian Premier Has Back Surgery
June 16, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) - Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov underwent successful
back surgery in Switzerland and was to return to Russia in a few weeks, a
news report said Wednesday.
Primakov, who canceled several meetings this spring while he was still
premier because of severe back pain, had the surgery Monday at a Geneva
clinic, the Interfax news agency quoted doctors as saying.
The doctors said Primakov would recuperate in Switzerland and return to
Russia in late June or early July. The report gave no other details.
Primakov, 69, is widely popular in Russia, and opinion polls show he could be
a top presidential contender. After repeatedly denying any presidential
ambitions, he indicated last week that he didn't exclude the possibility of
LEBED APPRECIATIVE OF RUSSIA PARATROOPERS'' MOVE TO KOSOVO
KRASNOYARSK, June 16 (Itar-Tass) - Krasnoyarsk Territory Governor
Alexander Lebed told a news conference on Wednesday that bringing a
Russian paratroop unit to Kosovo was "certainly the right decision" but
that Russia must go further and be present in areas adjacent to Serbia.
The Governor pointed out that Russia must participate in the
peacekeeping mission in Yugoslavia, for "otherwise we would lag behind
forever and drop out of the (peacekeeping) process without an
opportunity to get back to it".
It is necessary to take such decision quickly, for uncertainty about a
numerical strength of the Russian contingent "does not do honor either
to our military or politicians", Lebed emphasised.
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Nikolai Sokov)
Please find the full text of our op-ed article which was published today,
June 16, in Los Angeles Times in an abridged form.
THE CULTURAL ROOTS OF RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR IN KOSOVO
by Nikolai Sokov and Anna Vassilieva
Dr. Nikolai Sokov is Senior Research Associate at Center for
Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Anna Vassilieva is Russian Studies Program Head at Monterey Institute of
They are authors of a forthcoming study of the influence of Russian
culture on Russian negotiating style.
The unexpected march of a Russian battalion to Pristina cannot be
explained solely by strategic calculations. It also has a strong
cultural-psychological component, which the United States must understand
if it is to develop an appropriate response. Fortunately, the current
crisis, if managed properly, could actually relieve tension and enable
Russia to assume a more cooperative posture toward the United States over
the next several years.
During the 1990s, Russia has returned to many pre-1917, pre-Communist
behavioral patterns. Among them is a tendency to oscillate between
extremes, including patience and rebellion and messianism and self-doubt.
A student of Russia will easily recognize this pattern in the history of
"peasant wars": after decades of complacency, peasants would rebel
suddenly and violently, leading Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin,
to exclaim: "God forbid that we see a Russian mutiny, senseless and
A decade of US-Russian cooperation conceals the tension over foreign
policy that has been growing for years: Bosnia, the enlargement of NATO,
rocky relations with the IMF, US plans to accelerate deployment of a
national missile system. The war in Kosovo was only the last straw in a
haystack of grievances that became unbearable in Moscow.
When tensions rise to that level, policy is driven by emotions as well as
rational calculation. In 1877, when Russia was entering a war with Turkey,
Tsar Alexander II understood perfectly well that Russia was in an
financial crisis and that all great powers would turn against it. But he
also understood that he should ride with the popular tide or perish: the
elite was firmly on the side of war, emotions ran high, and the centuries
old crisis in the Balkans triggered a disproportionate response.
During the recent Balkan crisis, a beleaguered President Yeltsin managed
to force his government to cooperate with the West despite strong and
widespread opposition to NATO's actions. As his special envoy, Viktor
Chernomyrdin played a critical role in persuading Milosevic to accept NATO
terms. Not surprisingly, Moscow expected a major place in the
international peacekeeping force. But when Strobe Talbott came to Moscow,
he explained that NATO had already made a decision and Russia had the
choice of going along or being left out. Apparently, this ultimatum was
the last straw.
The dash of the battalion to Kosovo is not principally about a military
revolt against Boris Yeltsin and his complicity with NATO. The military
initiative represented a much broader, elite-wide consensus about the need
for Russia to reclaim its rightful place in the sun. The military action,
which certainly was known to if not sanctioned by the Presidential
Administration, united almost everyone, from Communists, to die-hard
nationalists, to pro-market and pro-democracy moderates. About the only
person to speak against the move was a popular standup comedian, Mikhail
The good news is that there may be a silver lining in this dark cloud over
Kosovo. If managed intelligently and with sensitivity to Russia's
conflicting emotions about its self-esteem and support for social justice,
the issue of the battalion in Pristina may help Russians to vent their
emotions, regain a sense of pride, and return to a more cooperative and
patient posture toward the West.
Americans are unlikely to understand the logic of Russian thinking or
behavior, which does not accord with their conception of rationality. But
this confrontation over an airfield in Kosovo is not principally driven by
rational calculations. As the 19th century Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev
observed, Russia cannot easily be fathomed:
One cannot understand Russia,
Nor measure her by a common yardstick.
She has a special character
In Russia one must simply believe.
It is unreasonable to expect NATO decisionmakers to fashion policy based
on Tyutchev's advice. Nevertheless, they would be well advised to examine
carefully the cultural roots of Russian behavior. Such an examination
leads us to predict that once the rebellion - manifest in the dash of the
battalion - is behind, Moscow is apt to revert to a much more patient and
complacent stance. U.S. policy should strive to reinforce this tendency
and to preclude or at least postpone another rebellion.
June 17, 1999
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Balkan Thrust Puts Russia in The Doghouse
By Andrei Piontkovsky
Special to The Moscow Times
Having heard a pair of "heartfelt" speeches by President Bill Clinton; having
marked with champagne the victory in the Balkans f a controversial victory,
but a victory nonetheless; sick and tired of the 35-degree-Celsius heat in
America, Washingtonians headed to the beach last Friday somewhere around
midday, to enjoy a well-earned long weekend.
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, a well-known
expert on the mysterious Slavic soul, was on the TV screen, warning in vain,
like a televised Cassandra, about the march of the Russian paratroopers and
urging the NATO command to occupy Pristina airport immediately. They brushed
him off as they would obtrusive flies.
In any case, Madeleine Albright called her good friend Igor, who assured the
secretary of state that no introduction of Russian troops into Kosovo was
possible without prior agreement with the Western partners.
The next morning the Americans felt like idiots who had lost at three-card
monty. Friend Igor babbled something about it being a mistake that would be
immediately corrected, after which he disappeared, only appearing a few days
later to declare proudly that it was not for him f a serious international
political figure f to keep track of the movement of this or that battalion.
The Russian battalion's march to Pristina has created serious problems for
NATO. First of all, it was completely legal, from a formal and juridical
point of view. Wishing to sanctify its operation with the United Nations'
authority, NATO accepted the UN Security Council's resolution, which is not
clear cut concerning the structures and command system for the KFOR forces.
In any case, in the context of this resolution, the introduction of forces by
a permanent member of the UN Security Council f Russia f was as legal as the
introduction of NATO forces.
As for the strictly military logic of this development, it is easy to
ascertain. Having dug in at the airport and awaiting reinforcements, the
Russian troops, together with remaining Serbian units, could have created a
Serbian enclave in northern Kosovo, which would have been under the
protection of the Russian KFOR.
But the Serbian troops and Serbian population left Pristina, and the 200
Russian paratroopers were left to defend themselves, parked on the airport's
runway. The daring military action turned out to be as senseless as Moscow's
entire policy in the Balkans conflict.
In Kosovo, we betrayed both the Albanians, by not wanting to know anything
about the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, and the Serbs, by
first backing Milosevic's policy, suicidal for the Serbian people, and then
twisting his arm.
As for our "Western partners," first we snarl threateningly at them, calling
NATO "a criminal organization which has no right to exist"; then we amicably
wag our liberal tail, offering our services in hopes of being thrown a very
And when they patronizingly pet us behind the ears, repeating "Good
peacekeeper, wise peacekeeper," we, remembering our world-power pedigree,
suddenly start snapping, trying once again to bite.
As a result, we are either hated or held in contempt by one and all.
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999
From: bill slaven <email@example.com>
Regarding Andrei Liakhov's excellent legal history in DJL3344, I
believe the point he is making is that enforcement of the
law----including legal principles such as federalism---is the major
impediment to the development of civil society. We are past the time
when experts can assist Russian development with legislative drafting
except to address legal procedures for enforcing the legal rights of
June 17, 1999
[for personal use only]
Camdessus praises Russia
By John Thornhill in Moscow and Quentin Peel in London
Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund,
yesterday praised Russia's economic progress and hinted the Fund might
release the first tranche of a promised $4.5bn loan as early as next month.
Mr Camdessus' upbeat comments come on the eve of a highly-politicised summit
meeting in Cologne of the Group of Seven industrialised nations plus Russia.
The G7 countries have been dangling a financial carrot in front of Moscow's
nose to help persuade Russia to conclude a deal defining the status of its
peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.
However, a senior G7 official said this week that hopes of any financial
package might be dashed if there was no agreement on deployment of Russian
troops. "In that case, it is quite possible that there will be no Russian
package," he said.
The IMF is still likely to insist the Russian government enacts new
tax-raising legislation, shreds recently-introduced foreign exchange
restrictions, and disproves allegations that it misused previous credits
before it releases fresh monies.
Last week, the IMF received a report from the Central Bank of Russia
explaining why billions of dollars of currency reserves had been transferred
to Fimaco, an obscure Jersey-based fund management company, over the course
of several years. The IMF also wants to reassure itself that part of a $4.8bn
credit released last July was not misappropriated.
Speaking at an economic conference in St Petersburg, Mr Camdessus said Russia
was beginning to recover after last August's financial crash. "Lately we have
seen a slowing of inflation, an increase of business activity, improved tax
collection, improvement of the trade balance," he said.
After meeting Sergei Stepashin, prime minister, Mr Camdessus said he believed
the government had the necessary strategy and commitment to achieve results:
"We see each other eye to eye on what needs to be done for the next few
months. He has the full support of the IMF in the initiatives he wants to
adopt and the policies he wants to implement."
Independent economists suggested the Russian government had done well to keep
the budget deficit under control - even though this had meant the pensions
and wages of government employees had barely been increased following the
rouble's sharp devaluation.
The release of fresh IMF credits, however, would mainly be used to repay
maturing loans. "The Russian government owes the IMF about $800m in July and
that would be a very good month for the fund to give them a refinancing
loan," said one economist.
Mr Stepashin warned Russia would become a "world pariah" if parliament did
not pass the tax-raising laws needed to trigger the release of IMF loans.
lawmakers will today debate the main draft law proposing to levy extra taxes
on petrol stations.
Russian business giants pledge price cap, economists scowl
MOSCOW, June 16 (AFP) - Russia's business giants on Wednesday pledged to cap
prices until the end of the year in a move critics warned smacked of
The pact was signed in the government White House by Russia's top 53
companies which account for more than 50 percent of the country's gross
These included natural gas giant Gazprom, oil companies LUKoil, Yukos and
Surgutneftegaz, electricity monopoly UES, the Russian railways ministry and a
slate of coal mining companies and large factories.
The pledge allows its participants to punish "within limits of Russian law"
members that breach any of the 13 points in the accord.
"This agreement precludes any interference by the government," First Deputy
Prime Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko said in televised remarks.
"This is a new step in stabilizing the real sector of the Russian economy,"
the economy chief added. "Our agreement is an open, market and democratic
Anatoly Chubais, the former Russian economy reform chief who now heads UES,
said that the agreement would have "a healing effect" on Russia.
"It is impossible to set prices with agreements and decrees, but an agreement
can put a stop to dangerous trends," Chubais said.
In the deal, the companies agreed to raise prices at a maximum rate of
0.5-percent below the monthly pace of inflation.
The agreement also bans participants from setting prices in any unit other
than the ruble -- a practice now commonly ignored because of erratic
movements of the Russian currency following last summer's financial collapse.
"Price increases on basic goods inevitably lead to price increases, a fall in
demand for domestically produced goods, a fall in production, and a further
fall in the economy and the living standards of Russians," says the document,
a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
The companies added that they felt "responsible" for Russia's recent collapse
and would like to help the nation pull out of its economic nose-dive.
Aksyonenko has been placed in charge of a special committee ensuring that the
companies keep to their price-cap pledge.
The pact met scathing criticism from Moscow's business watchers.
"A Specter of Socialism," the respected Kommersant newspaper warned in a
gloomy banner headline.
"Why argue about inflation targets and monetary emission ... when it turns
out that businessmen can be forced to produce quantities that the government
demands and sell at prices that the government sets."
"Most of those who will sign the agreement today will not agree with any of
its points," Kommersant said.
The price-cap deal was signed amid government efforts to pressure parliament
into ratifying a slate of belt-tightening and tax-raising measures that could
lead to vital new loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Kommersant said the pact was part of an ill-conceived government effort to
convince pro-Communist lawmakers that new taxes in the IMF package would not
lead to steep cost of living increases.
Fund managing director Michel Camdessus speaking in Saint Petersburg
Wednesday said he was "optimistic" about the long-term prospects for Russia.
But short-term prospects according to the government's own prognoses are
still not good. Finance chief Viktor Khristenko said that the life of
ordinary Russians in 2000 will be even more difficult than it was this year.
"Because we are cutting down on tax privileges, life in 2000 will be even
more difficult," Khristenko said in a published interview. "We have to be
honest. The number of people who receive tax privileges is equal to the
Russian army goes through paces, gets nowhere
By Nathan Pettengill
BALASHIKHA, Russia, June 17 (Reuters) - ``To the vehicles!'' shouts the
lieutenant, and 21 soldiers scatter toward a long garage where their trucks
are lined up in precise rows.
In seconds, each driver has hooked up the battery to his truck and jumped
behind the wheel. Metallic green doors slam in unison, keys are clicked into
the ignition -- but the trucks go nowhere.
The Balashikha Motor Unit, based 30 km (20 miles) from Moscow, is once again
forced to go through deployment drills without actually deploying.
Mandatory training, which a few years ago used to consist of 500 km (310
miles) of driving each month, has been cut to 100 km (60 miles) a month
because the unit cannot afford more fuel.
And so, taking the keys out of the ignition on a day without fuel, the 21
drivers fall back into formation.
Russia's rapid deployment of a paratroop unit through Serbia and its
occupation of Pristina airport has reminded the world of Moscow's desire to
remain a world military force and a player on the international scene.
The paratroopers' stand was greeted triumphantly by a Russian public and
government accustomed to hearing mostly bad news about the state of their
military. The popular Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets welcomed the act as
providing ``one day of ecstasy'' that ``saved the honour of the nation.''
Yet while 200 Russian paratroopers from a peacekeeping force in neighbouring
Bosnia have planted their national flag with determination and defiance into
a distant spot in the Balkans, a far greater number of cash-strapped Russian
home troops, such as the Balashikha unit, are struggling to survive.
The Balashikha Motor Unit was created in 1954 so that highly-trained military
drivers could, at a moment's notice, leave the base and take generals and
supplies to pre-arranged destinations in an emergency.
The unit is not earmarked for Kosovo duties, although some soldiers and
officers are filing applications in the hope of being seconded to a transport
ENOUGH FUEL TO LEAVE BASE -- ENOUGH TO GET BACK?
The unit's soldiers say they remain ready to do their job at home but are
worried it is becoming increasingly difficult do so because many of their
``emergency'' trucks go without spare parts and petrol is rationed.
One driver said he was certain the unit would have enough fuel for him to
drive to his destination, but he would not count on having enough to make it
back to base.
In addition, many of the rank-and-file are kept busy just ensuring there is
food to eat.
The 200-man unit is supplied with military food procurements. But, for the
most part, it relies on the efforts of 15 of its soldiers who are constantly
watering tomatoes, feeding chickens, slopping out pigs and minding eggplants
among the hangers and parade grounds.
The cafeteria is stocked in this way, which is more than can be said for the
soldier's own coffers.
Soldiers receive a monthly allowance of 18 roubles and 50 kopecks, which is
less than one U.S. dollar or, as one private says: ``Enough to buy a bar of
soap, some cheap cigarettes, and, maybe, on a big holiday, a small cake,
provided that everyone chips in some money.''
Officers receive pay of about 50 U.S. dollars a month, which is a regal
amount in comparison to their men, but a small salary for the Moscow region,
even after the economic crisis of last August.
Most of the officers' wives are unable to help with household expenses
because they are transferred with their husbands but not provided with an
official residence permit that would allow them to work.
Most remain at home, in a wooden dormitory shack called ``the module'' where
each family has one small room and shares a bathroom and lavatory with 30
Conditions in most other units across Russia are no better as military
Add to this desertions, reports of bullying, and the memory of recent failure
in Chechnya when often untrained and ill-equipped troops were sent into
battle and it becomes clear why Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said recently
that Russia's armed forces are in a ``catastrophic'' state.
KOSOVO FUNDING A MAJOR QUESTION
It also raises the question of how Russia could fund a prolonged peacekeeping
There is scant room in Russia's already spartan budget to raise money by
transferring funds from other sectors of the economy and not much more money
could be siphoned off from other units like the Balashikha Motor Unit.
Moscow's military ambitions in Kosovo will be determined largely by the
diktat of severe financial limitations.
While the paratroopers hold the airport, an important military site, their
comrades at the Balashikha Motor Unit remain behind, proud of their
colleagues bravado, but divided about whether they want to go.
``I don't have any desire to go there (Yugoslavia). Here it is quiet,
peaceful and calm, at least for now they are not bombing here. I don't want
anything like Chechnya or Afghanistan. It's better when things are quiet and
when they don't send us anywhere,'' said one private.
But Senior Lieutenant Sergei Miller thinks many of his men would jump at the
offer to join an international force.
``Many will say, 'Well, why should I go? Well, they will pay more money
Balashikha and other Russian units yearn for more money, especially given the
attrition of resources and morale.
Yet despite the problems, the Russian armed forces remain one of the world's
largest and are still influential, thanks to their nuclear weapons as well as
their sheer weight of numbers.
Kommersant Sale, Yeltsin Succession Rumors
14 June 1999
[translation for personal use only]
"Rumor Rated" feature "prepared by Mariya Fedorina with Mariya Markina"
Tatyana Dyachenko Was a Rocker (Contemporaries
Against the background of the "family's" increasing fight for survival,
there has been a flurry of rumors about how Yeltsin's reign as czar will
be extended. The most unlikely include, for example, the rumor that the
president's successor will be his daughter Tatyana. And there is even an
idea of what kind of image might begin to be fashioned for Mrs.
Dyachenko. Not for nothing have there been reports in certain media of
late about Tatyana's love of rock and roll when she was young. They found
witnesses of the Sverdlovsk period of the life of the Yeltsin family, who
say that the young woman was part of a group of young people who liked
Russian rock and parties and did not eschew alcohol. And when it ran out
they would even dip into the holy of holies -- Boris Nikolayevich's
stock. But he did not chide the young people; he was actually very lavish
with donations from the oblast party committee's stores. Maybe, by
joining in the antics of the reckless crowd of young people, Tatyana was
trying to deaden the sense of resentment following the divorce from her
first husband and father of Boris Yeltsin Jr. This she succeeded in
doing, according to the malicious gossips. It was there, in Sverdlovsk,
that she met her new love, a sound man for the popular rock group Urfin
Dzhyus. They even got hitched legally, albeit secretly. Rumor has it that
the young couple were happy for less than a year, and it is not
inconceivable that father, who did not approve of the son-in-law's
occupation, had a part to play in the divorce. Or maybe this is merely
idle rumor. Although Boris Nikolayevich clearly has first-hand knowledge
of rock and roll -- not for nothing did Aleksandr Gradskiy,the patriarch
of Russian rock, get a State Prize this year.
Campaign To Buy Up Media (Market Rumors) [subhead]
To buy or not to buy? It is as big a question for Berezovskiy as "to be
or not to be" was for the prince of Denmark. It is said that the
Kommersant Publishing House, the object of the purchase, was waiting with
bated breath -- would he buy or not? Naturally the process is beset not
only by rumors, but by throngs of weird theories. The most extravagant
rumor goes as follows: Vladimir Yakovlev was visited by people from Boris
Abramovich asking him to sell the publishing house, which currently has
big debts. But instead of the usual haggling, the visitors showed the
owner of Kommersant a portfolio containing materials amounting to a
criminal case. The plan of Berezovskiy's people was that this would get
the publishing house management to sell Kommersant to them. Moreover,
rumor has it the Anatoliy Chubays was also in the frame, wanting to get
his hands on this media organ. As for the criminal case, it is claimed
that it has nothing to do with corruption and financial jiggery-pokery,
but is allegedly connected with a very serious crime which people are
evidently trying to pin on Vladimir Yakovlev. It is claimed that the
fight for ownership of Kommersant will take place this very week between
Berezovskiy and Chubays. It is not surprising that it is a
no-holds-barred fight, since in this case the main thing is winning
rather than just taking part -- after all, victors need never explain, as
Yeltsin Outwits World Community (Western Media) [subhead]
It is absolutely typical of us. When you need clear and intelligible
information, all you get is two days of rumors. There have been rumors
aplenty from Moscow for President Clinton, the NATO leadership, and the
whole of progressive mankind, including the Russian and world media. The
rumors concerned the unauthorized introduction of assault troops into
Kosovo and stationing of them in the British contingent's deployment
zone. In this way we demonstrated to the world the significance of rumors
about present-day Russian policy. As for their content, the most
plausible is the following: Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was very annoyed
about Milosevic's capitulation. But what really incensed him was the fact
that the Yugoslav president timed it to coincide with Russia's
Independence Day. So Yeltsin decided on that very day, 12 June, to
demonstrate to the whole world his absolute independence. First, his
(Yeltsin's) independence from family and entourage. Second, Russia's from
all accords. Third, our military's independence from our diplomats.
Fourth, Premier Stepashin's from the country's leadership. As a result,
on 12 June, Russia became possibly the most independent country,
overtaking Mongolia in the process. No one considered what would happen
on 13 June, since independence of cause and effect has always been a
characteristic of Russia's supreme commander in chief.
Kremlin Trips Stepashin Up (Kremlin Rumors) [subhead]
Last week the Kremlin came clean about its plans regarding the possible
succession. The successor might well be Sergey Stepashin, presidential
chief of staff Voloshin said. But since people have long since stopped
believing the Kremlin, there was talk that it was all over for Stepashin,
apparently. The main theory was that they had deliberately started to
plug Stepashin prematurely so that he would fizzle out by fall and would
then be replaced by a "fresh" Nikolay Aksenenko. But he already has an
iron grip on the presidential election. And special emphasis is placed on
the railroad supremo's organizational talent, his phenomenal work-rate,
and his ability to see things through. Others claim that Stepashin is the
genuine successor, while Aksenenko is being deliberately plugged as a
negative antithesis in the hope that the people, like the Duma, will vote
for the one they know better -- Stepashin -- rather than for the
mysterious railroad man. The most experienced Kremlin watchers say that a
list of successors really does exist, it is now closed, there are three
names -- Chernomyrdin, Aksenenko, and Stepashin -- on it, all three have
approximately the same starting positions, Boris Nikolayevich himself is
waiting at the finish with a stop-watch, a little way off you have the
familiar panel of judges to see fair play, except that the finishing tape
has not yet been stretched across the track, and we do not know where it
will be stretched, who will stretch it, and whether it will be stretched
at all. But it is all according to the rulers....
"Vote Or You Lose!" to be translated into Ukrainian (Foreign Media)
Despite the fact that the fateful event called the "breakup of the USSR"
took place rather a long time ago, kinship between peoples has remained
strong. It is evident not only in the spontaneous mass trade in
Belarusian sour cream and Ukrainian lard outside railroad stations, but
also at presidential level. For example, rumor has it that the "Vote Or
You Lose!" presidential election promotional program, in which mass
support from Russian pop stars and his own heroic gyrations on stage
significantly boosted Yeltsin's ratings, have taken the fancy of Boris
Nikolayevich's Ukrainian counterpart in a big way. So Kuchma has decided
to draw on his senior comrade's experience and apply it in Ukraine.
It is said that, unfortunately, Sergey Lisovskiy, inspiration behind
and organizer of the original action, cannot personally assume the
leading role since he is a temporary emigre somewhat further abroad. But
the "Vote!" idea is alive and kicking even without him. Indeed, the cast
is largely the same. Rumor has it that the series of concerts planned to
take place very soon to bolster the Ukrainian people's belief that Kuchma
is their president will be hosted by Iosif Davydovich Kobzon. Groups such
as Shao? Bao!, Splin, and the like will be singing in squares.
The Russia Journal
June 14-20, 1999
Limonov's Un-Official Culture Forges Nostalgic Nationalism
'We are living in a period immediately following a great historical
collapse. So for us, nationalism is very painful and a very necessary
Once-Exiled Writer Assumes New Persona as Extremist Politician
Bt Gregory Feifer/The Russia Journal
The National Bolshevik Party's headquarters are in a dank basement of a
central Moscow building. Its "recruitment center" is replete with
hand-painted self-styled propaganda posters of Beria, among others, and a
portrait of Stalin together with hand-painted red armbands for sale with
the party's symbol: a white circle reminiscent of Nazi flags with a black
hammer and sickle inside.
Several barbells stand on the floor. The city gave the party's founder,
writer-turned-extremist nationalist politician Eduard Limonov, offices for
his headquarters. But due to failure to pay rent, the organization is
always under threat of eviction. "They don't kick us out because we're in
public view," Limonov said in a recent interview.
A crowd of easy-going young men and women laugh over crosswords inside. In
a threatening, corrupted city, dominated by crooked cops, Mafia and a
public that pushes and shoves and spits and regards fellow citizens with
disdain, Limonov's world of revolutionary nostalgia creates a certain
"Limonov is connected not to the creation of a Russian national idea, but
to the creation of a personal literary myth," Moscow Duma deputy Yevgeny
Bunimovic, a poet, says. "That's correct because an artistic type like
Limonov for whom personal life is a sort of artistic research, that is
natural. His party is not a party, but a collection of young partyers who
determinedly accept those kinds of extremist rhetoric and views."
Although it exudes a studied idealism, in fact the organization advocates
xenophobic nationalism and violent change, copying the symbolism of regimes
that murdered tens of millions of its own citizens.
It is clear that Russia's collective consciousness has fundamentally
changed over the past two years. Call it tiredness at looking to the West
for economic, political, and technological models. Or impatience with
growing massive corruption and disparity between wealthy and poor after
expecting some kind of transformation to the better.
Nonetheless, there is a growing acceptance that Russian society will not
"progress" in the way Western observers had been hoping. Limonov's is an
extreme example, but representative of an inward-looking trend. Russia's
current sociological movement isn't one forward, or backward (to a
socialist state), but rather toward a new system that is still in mahy ways
fundamental ways similar to what it has been for centuries.
"What has really changed is that [two years ago] there really was a sense
of the future, that we live in difficulty today, but tomorrow we'll take
one step, then another and a third and things will be better," art gallery
owner Marat Gelman says. "It was of course tied to democratization. Today
there's a feeling that that's it. It won't get better."
One of Russia's calls to resurrect an interpretation of its past-while at
the same time to topple the current system-comes from Limonov's basement.
In 1992, the exiled Russia writer returned to Russia after almost 20 years
abroad to join Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic
Party. Limonov soon split and formed his own party. One of his first
actions was to try to initiate a boycott on all foreign goods. The party
also calls for a revolution to revive pre-Communist Russian culture, create
a true socialist economy and expand Russia's borders.
Limonov's newspaper, Limonka-which means "hand-grenade"-currently spews
racial and anti-Semitic nationalist hatred and organizes nationalist
demonstrations and protests.
"We are living in a period immediately following a great historical
collapse," Limonov says. "So for us, nationalism is very painful and a very
necessary process. We should look at our identity to understand who we are
and what we want. And it's absolutely natural. Actually, we are starting a
But in attempting to forge a new Russia, Limonov looks backward,
emphasizing a return to a mythical promised land. In doing so, Limonov does
not acknowledge that a mythical place changes and that people themselves
are not the same as they were in the past. That type of non-self-reflective
nostalgia tries to repair a temporal gap.
Nationalism utilizes individual memories and proposes a collective plan for
the rebuilding of the lost myth. Limonov bases his highly problematic myth
of nationality on the power of an imagined community of Slavs.
But whereas the attempt to mythologize is self-conscious in Limonov's early
books such as his "fictionalized" autobiography Eto ia-Edichka-which
scandalized both Westerners and Russian emigres-and in which the past is
presented as hazy fragments, there is no implicit self-reflection in his
writing after his return to Russia. To appeal to potential supporters of
his party, Limonov uses any and all strains of cultural myth available to
Limonov himself says Russia has three general types of emerging
nationalism. The first is that of the Russian National Unity (RNE)
extremist nationalist paramilitary movement. Its notorious leader,
Alexander Barkashov, is running for the lower house of the state
legislature, the Duma, this year. NG-Photo
Russia Is Everything Everything Else Is Nothing! Limonov inciting his
crowds under a party banner during a 1997 demonstration.
"The nationalism of Barkashov, of Russian National Unity is very narrow,
very, I guess, racist, very hateful toward everybody," Limonov says.
Another form is Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's. "The nationalism of Mr.
Luzhkov is a nationalist capitalism. That is an honest-answer face that is
smiling, but in reality, it's a very harsh life-it's a social oppression,
social exclusion, if not racial," Limonov says. "And then there is the
National Bol-shevik Party."
"It's based on an allegiance toward a state. If a person wants to share his
blood for our country, we don't care. We are much brighter and we
understand that we will never win if we exclude people."
Although he speaks convincingly, Limonov's writing is transparently
manipulative, and his political ideology by definition exclusive. In one
article, Limonov combines his individual "destiny" with the fate of his
imagined community. It is, he writes, "perfectly clear to me that Dec. 17,
1995, will not bring any significant changes in the country's fate. I will
participate in the elections in Moscow's single-seat District No. 194 only
because my personal political destiny obligates me to try to get into the
That destiny is couched in the rhetoric of Russian history. Limonov calls
for the resurrection of an "oprichina," invoking the name of a second court
set up in the 16th century by Ivan IV (The Terrible). He couches his image
of the medieval court in myth, particularly one that Stalin invoked. It is
of a reign of terror, of an elite group of warriors loyal to the mad tsar
terrorizing the Russian countryside.
Before his return to Russia, most literary critics separated Limonov from
his fictionalized autobiographical persona. But Limonov says he always
wanted to enter politics. "My political actions are a continuation of my
writing. If one reads more carefully, even in my first novel, one can find
a lot of politics and political thinking also and ideas about what I always
believed and what I believe now," Limonov says.
Limonov refuses to pierce the surface of his persona, refusing to talk
about literature. "Postmodernism is not a political term, I don't
understand it," he says in response to a question, adding, "I'm a
But, using literary tactics, he cunningly appeals to individuals by molding
individual nostalgia into a common myth with language of all strains of the
collective popular culture. Limonov's own myth, couched as "destiny," has
ascendancy. It becomes an authoritarian ideology.
And it is an ideology he plans to continue pushing. "We obviously don't
live in the 18th century, but we are deciding a lot of similar problems,
and if the world thinks that we are absolutely like them and that we want
the same things, it's not reasonable to think so," Limonov says. "We are
living through a different period of our history. We are searching for our
new identity and nationalism in necessary. The next 50 years of Russian
history will be a time of nationalism. The question is which nationalism
will win in Russia."
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999
Subject: Please Announce
The Eurasian Center presents for you and your friends:
YURI TSAREV, Musician
The ELECTRIC FUTURE PROJECT from RUSSIA
Music and video for the New Millenium
Friday, June 18th
(Reception and 2 Performances)
7:30 p.m. - 12:00 p.m.
AT THE RUSSIA HOUSE
1800 Conn. Ave., NW (DuPont Circle)
Entrance/Donation $7 men, $5 women
win a $50 Gift Certificate to the Russia House Restaurant
?'s call 202-966-8651 or Eurasia@aol.com
visit our new website at
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999
From: "Peter D. Ekman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Spying on Foreigners
Yesterday's incidents were very likely nothing, but I'd never before, in my
5 years in Russia, felt like I was being spied on by the FSB. I thought that
I'd ask JRL readers if they'd run into similar incidents - if they live in
or more generally if anybody has any good information on how much spying
still goes on against foreigners in Russia. How much should we expect to be
spied on? After all the USSR had a huge apparatus to watch foreigners, and
there are no laws (that I know of) against this activity.
The incidents were as follows. After visiting the U.S. Embassy and
looking around a bit at the paint blotches and other results of the recent
demonstrations, I walked south on the Garden Ring. About 5 minutes later
a woman asked me in Russian where Belorusskaya Vogzal was, starting arguing
with me when I explained, asked me how long I'd been in Moscow, where
I worked, what was my name, and 3 or 4 other personal questions in a fairly
smooth way, all in the space of about a minute. When I made it clear that the
conversation was at an end, she started speaking to me in English - still
personal questions. She ran up to me a few minutes later and started
California driver's license at me (I'm not kidding). She was obviously a
but was she a scam artist? a crazy woman? or a spy?
The second incident was surprisingly similar, but probably not related.
Five minutes after the first incident a business person walked up to me and
in Russian for directions to Kosmodamianskaya Naberjnaya, asked if I worked in
Moscow, where I worked, complimented my Russian, and said goodbye in English.
He certainly wasn't a crazy person. Maybe I just look like an information
Well, please send any related info to email@example.com.
International Herald Tribune
June 17, 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians and Serbs Have a Big Choice to Make
By William Pfaff
PARIS - The Russians' seizure of the Pristina airport was audacious but
foolish. It was good for the battered morale of the Russian army, but bad for
the country's position in the world.
Moscow had been courted by Washington and the European governments to help
negotiate Yugoslavia's surrender, and to draft the UN Security Council
resolution giving legal foundation to the international protectorate that
Kosovo now becomes. Russia played an important and recognized role in ending
the war, and was assured a place in what was to follow. Now it has seriously
annoyed all the Western powers and has little to show for it.
Seizing the airport was good fun. Camping there is likely to become irksome.
And if talks to settle the matter break down, the Russians will find that
holding the airport does not mean that they can use it. There already are
reports that Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary have refused Russian requests for
overflights of reinforcements for Pristina.
The affair has given Moscow a bargaining edge in the short run but has
damaged its longer-term position.
NATO is not going to allow the Serbian-Kosovo border region to be placed
under independent Russian control, as the Serbs would like.
The Russians need the further financial support that they are supposed to be
given at the Group of Seven meeting this week. They want respect, which the
Western powers have offered, if not always tactfully.
The United States has invited something like this ever since the Clinton
administration decided to expand NATO, in disregard of the Bush
administration's explicit assurance, at the time of Germany's unification,
that this would not take place.
A further example of the Clinton administration's foreign policy frivolity is
that the airport episode need never have happened. British paratroopers could
have been at the Pristina airport long before the Russians had the White
House not imposed a 24-hour delay so that European forces would not enter
Kosovo before the U.S. Marines and steal the televised glory.
In Moscow, political confusion reigns and is likely to last well beyond this
year's parliamentary elections, until Boris Yeltsin finally makes way for a
new president. NATO's war against Yugoslavia has rekindled old pan-Slavic
sentiment, the illusory and distracting notion that the Slavic peoples share
a special destiny and must unite against non-Slavs.
This lies behind the widely voiced sentiment that Russia should support
Serbia. Russian media coverage of the war frequently left out what the Serbs
had done to the Kosovars to cause the international intervention.
The pan-Slavic idea had a damaging influence on Russia in the 19th century
because it opposed close relations with Western Europe and tried to keep
Russia apart from the general development of Western civilization.
It was, paradoxically enough, a product of German romanticism, convincing
some Russian intellectuals that it was better to be poor and backward, but
close to nature, than to be rich and civilized like the French and English,
whose advanced development allegedly proved only that they were on the brink
Serbs are also victims of such ideas, thinking that they are inherently
superior to their neighbors and therefore justified in treating them the way
they have treated the Kosovars. When others strike back, Serbs angrily
complain that they are the innocent victims of conspiracies by enemies of the
Pan-Slavic unity mostly is historical myth. Serbia and Bulgaria have mainly
been rivals. Russia helped Serbia get its independence in the 1870s, but in
this century the pre-1941 Serbian monarchy was closer to France and was an
enemy of Bolshevik Russia. Tito broke with Stalin in 1948 because Russia
threatened Yugoslavia's independence.
Why should Russia hurt its own interests today by protecting the corrupt and
brutal Milosevic regime? Russian support for Serbia indulges the paranoid
political culture in Serbia, which has done so much harm not only to Serbia's
neighbors but also to Serbia itself. The country has no serious future, other
than to reopen relations with Western civilization, install democracy and
give up its linked fantasies of national superiority and national persecution.
It has to come to terms with the reality that Serbia intolerably repressed
the Kosovars, inviting their rebellion, committed war crimes and has been
defeated. The game that Russia is playing in Kosovo comforts the Serbian
denial that any of this happened.
The West is ready for reconciliation with the Serbs. It wants solid relations
of mutual respect with Russia. It is up to the Serbs and Russians to choose.