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Johnson's Russia List
25 June 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: Moscow Mayor Says Russia 'Not Independent'
2. AP: Khrushchev's Son Passes U.S. Test.
3. Drudge Report: KOSOVO PLAN THWARTED: HUNGARY, BULGARIA, ROMANIA BLOCKED
RUSSIANS FROM AIR SPACE!
4. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, PARTY LINES: Russia's Leader In
Anti-Graft Fight Is Swiss.
5. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Yelena Yegorova, The Word 'Fatherland' Is Worse
Than An Obscenity. Censorship Reintroduced to ORT. (Russian TV Ridiculed for
6. Interfax: Poll Shows Russians Have Lost Interest in Yugoslavia.
7. RFE/RL: Floriana Fossato, Russia: Media Congress Turns Into Political
8. H-NET BOOK REVIEW: Bourgeois Revolution or Incompetent Revolutionary?
David Stone reviews Jerry Hough's Democratization and Revolution in the USSR,
9. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Dina Tanatova, Russian Press Rating: Back to State
Oversight? (Poll Shows Lack of Trust in Russian Media)
10. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Mikhail Rostovskiy, Yet Another Heir. Is
Stepashin Going To Lose His Legacy. (Kremlin Wants Aksenenko as Yeltsin Heir)
11. The Economist: Russian financial disinformation.
12. UPI: Threat reduction agreement extended.
13. Interfax: Russia's Dubinin: IMF Tranche Was Used Legally.]
Moscow Mayor Says Russia 'Not Independent'
MOSCOW, June 18 (Itar-Tass) - Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov said on Friday that in the current international situation Russia
has turned to be "not independent," especially in its foreign policy.
Thus, Russia was plainly "disregarded" in the settlement of the Balkans
conflict, Luzhkov said at the Federal Border Guards Academy.
Moreover, Russia is being pushed toward certain steps in the area of
and economic policy, namely a fixed emission level or excise duties, he
noted. In his words, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "is seeking to
dictate what the Russian government and state should do," but the IMF
does not fully comprehend Russia and tries such approaches on it that are
valid for "minor states."
"Economic pressure on the Russia population will be heightened" when
governmental bills that have been coordinated with the IMF are passed,
the Moscow Mayor stressed and suggested that "another path" be taken,
i.e. developing real sector of the economy rather than putting an "extra
burden on the impoverished population."
Khrushchev's Son Passes U.S. Test
June 23, 1999
By TERRENCE PETTY
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Sergei Khrushchev breezed through the U.S.
citizenship test today, and next month will swear loyalty to a country and
way of life that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev - his father - promised to
``We both passed,'' Khrushchev said with a smile as he and his wife left
the Providence office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
``Our heart is here. We will be good citizens,'' said the 63-year-old
Khrushchev, who looks much like his deceased dad.
Khrushchev missed one out of 20 questions on the test. His wife, Valentina
Golenko, got all of them right.
Back during the Cold War, when Nikita Khrushchev was in power, his son's
decision to become an American would probably have been seen as an act of
treason. So is Nikita Khrushchev spinning in his grave?
Sergei Khrushchev doesn't think so.
``The world has changed'' since the times when his father was in power, he
said. But then he added: ``I hope he would approve.''
Khrushchev has said his father's ``we will bury you'' remark was
misunderstood. The remark meant that capitalism would die and that the
Soviet economic system would bury it.
Khrushchev was besieged by reporters after taking the citizenship test. All
wanted to know why he had decided to become an American citizen.
``When you are living in a country, it is natural to become a citizen,''
replied Khrushchev, who moved to the United States in 1991 and is a
professor at Brown University.
He argued there was no irony in him becoming an American citizen because
his country of birth and the United States are no longer enemies.
Still, Khrushchev conceded there might be Stalinists back in his homeland
who would view him as a traitor.
``But you find crazy people everywhere,'' he said.
At the height of the Cold War, Khrushchev was an engineer who built rockets
that were pointed at the West. He came to the United States first as a
visiting professor. He says he decided to stay because he liked the freedom
the found here.
If it weren't for their heavy Russian accents, Khrushchev and his wife
would seem as American as baseball, apple pie and hot dogs.
They have a ranch house in a Providence suburb. He drives a Buick.
He and his wife will be taking the citizenship oath on July 12.
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX THU, JUNE 24, 1999 20:59:22 ET XXXXX
KOSOVO PLAN THWARTED: HUNGARY, BULGARIA, ROMANIA BLOCKED RUSSIANS FROM AIR
Russia's military had a detailed plan to seize Kosovo's main airport days
before 200 Russians
drove there from Bosnia ahead of the NATO peacekeeping operation,
superreporter Bill Gertz
revealed in Thursday's WASHINGTON TIMES.
And on Friday, the WASHINGTON POST expands on the Gertz exclusive:
Russia's surprise deployment of those 200 troops was part of a scheme to
send a contingent of
1,000 or more men into Kosovo -- a contingent ordered to stake out a
Russian zone in the NW
sector of the province!
"The carefully planned operation was thwarted when the governments of
Hungary, Bulgaria and
Romania, prodded by the United States, denied Russian requests to use their
airspace to fly
more Russians into Kosovo," reports the paper's David Hoffman and Bob Kaiser.
June 25, 1999
PARTY LINES: Russia's Leader In Anti-Graft Fight Is Swiss
By Jonas Bernstein
It has become de rigeur to hold forth against corruption. International
Monetary Fund Managing Director Michel Camdessus recently did in St.
Petersburg, and Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin does so regularly. But
while the changing rhetoric is welcome, talk is, as they say, cheap. It is
enough to remember that President Boris Yeltsin announced the first of his
many anti-corruption campaigns back in 1992. Their failure should have made
it clear that fighting corruption here is, as Alexander Lebed once put it,
like shadow boxing.
This week saw a fresh example of Russian authorities' selectivity when it
comes to corruption: The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the legality of
an investigation into alleged abuses of office by Yury Skuratov, the
suspended prosecutor general. Meanwhile, according to Skuratov himself and
various media, the anti-corruption cases Skuratov launched - involving the
Central Bank, the business activities of several key "oligarchs" and, most
importantly, the Kremlin itself - have been frozen.
Skuratov is no Russian Frank Serpico. Various media have reported that
Skuratov's alleged romp with two call girls was arranged (and filmed) by
several bankers whose own activities were under investigation. Skuratov's
investigations, apparently, were also partly instigated by the Kremlin's
opponents in the State Duma and elsewhere.
But there is another person involved in these investigations, one who has
no dog in Russia's domestic political fight - Swiss federal prosecutor
Carla Del Ponte. She, as Kommersant noted Thursday, reportedly supplied
Skuratov last March with "valuable operational information on bank accounts
of the presidential entourage."
Del Ponte is no novice in such matters: She played a key role in ferreting
out more than $130 million deposited into Swiss banks by Raul Salinas,
brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas - much of which,
prosecutors in both countries believe, came from payments made by Colombian
drug cartels. Raul Salinas was sentenced to 50 years for murder in
January, while Carlos Salinas remains in exile. The prosecution of Raul
Salinas was pushed by Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Salinas'
hand-picked successor. The potential parallels cannot be lost on the
Yet Del Ponte's joint efforts with Skuratov are viewed with suspicion not
only here. The Swiss foreign ministry, at the request of its Russian
counterpart, has reportedly forbidden Swiss officials from meeting with
Skuratov or sharing information with him, should his planned trip to
Switzerland, at Del Ponte's invitation, ever materialize. On Thursday, a
Swiss member of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly accused Del
Ponte of leaking confidential information and interfering in Russia's
internal affairs. Curiously, these things happened in the same week
Switzerland agreed to help track down funds allegedly stashed away by
"The question of the best means to employ to prevent a conspiracy from
arising in high places with the object of obtaining immunity from the law
is one of the most difficult political problems to solve," the French
philosopher Simone Weil wrote more than a half century ago. "It can only be
solved if there are men whose duty it is to prevent such a conspiracy, and
whose situation in life is such that they are not tempted to enter it
When it come to Russia, those "men," it seems, are a Swiss woman.
Russian TV Ridiculed for Banning Song
19 June 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Yelena Yegorova: "The Word 'Fatherland' Is Worse Than An
Obscenity. Censorship Reintroduced to ORT"
The Kremlin has done nothing all week but parade
its love for Luzhkov in public. But friendly embraces before the lenses
of the TV cameras are one thing, and the true feelings harbored for the
capital's mayor in the corridors of power another thing entirely....
On 17 and 18 June singer and deputy Yuriy Kobzon was due to have
recorded two new songs for the "Song of the Year" program, which goes out
on ORT [Russian Public Television]. As agreed, he sent the sound
recordings to the television studio in advance and waited for an
invitation to shoot the video footage. He did not have to wait for long.
On a hot summer's morning Kobzon received a phone call from Anna
Dmitriyeva -- the program's editor -- who asked him in apologetic tones
to "modify your repertoire a little." "In what sense?" Kobzon asked,
taken aback. "Well, you understand, Iosif Davydovich," Alla Dmitriyeva
launched into explanations, "the second song you suggested, 'Arise,
Fatherland!', in the directors' opinion arouses unnecessary associations.
Well, why would we advertise Fatherland and Luzhkov?"
At first Kobzon thought that they were playing a joke on him. Or at the
very worst that they were mocking him. But that was not the case. ORT's
musical directors stuck to their guns: Either change the song, or sing
just one -- "Wait for the Season." A very famous song, and one in tune
with the mood of Russians languishing from the heat! Until yesterday
Kobzon hoped that, at least with the arrival of Shabdurasulov [as deputy
chief of the Presidential Staff in charge of the media, public relations,
and speech writers], this strange episode could be closed successfully.
However, Shabdurasulov did not even think of apologizing. The song
"Arise, Fatherland!" (music by Igor Demarin, words by Nikolay Zinovyev)
was banned from ORT.
"They invited me to phone Berezovskiy. "Only he has the power, they told
me, to settle this question," Kobzon said in an interview with Moskovskiy
Komsomolets. "Yes, I know Boris Abramovich well; but I'll be darned if
I'll humble myself before anybody. Why should some Shabdurasulov tell me
what I can sing and what I cannot sing? It is an outrage! What, has
censorship been reintroduced in Russia? Under Soviet power every singer
had a special creative passport in which the songs authorized for
performance by the artistic council were recorded. Now look: Even in
those days they trusted me and I did not have any creative passport. Yet
now it turns out that I have to ask for permission to sing about my
Fatherland, about my Motherland? By the way, it is my dream that 'Arise,
Fatherland!' should become the Russian national anthem."
Even if you forget the obvious absurdity of the situation, ORT was
needlessly playing safe. A song is a song, and if not for the refrain no
one would have paid any attention to it. From which it follows that the
word "fatherland" is worse than an obscenity. And soon, it would appear,
it will be removed from textbooks, from Pushkin's verses, from articles,
and so on and so forth. Maybe even the prayer "Our Father" will be
banned. So as not to arouse unnecessary associations. What "father"?
Poll Shows Russians Have Lost Interest in Yugoslavia
MOSCOW, June 18 (Interfax) -- The interest on the
part of Russians in the Balkan developments, which was very high at the
beginning of air strikes in Yugoslavia, began to diminish fairly quickly
and has now decreased by half. The number of people telling Public
Opinion fund pollsters that they enquire about the Yugoslav news several
times a day dropped from 43% on April 3 to 23% on June 5. Both polls
covered 1,500 people. Those blaming NATO for the conflict dropped from
63% in April to 49% in June. Yugoslavia was blamed by 7% and 11%,
respectively. Russians regarding the air campaign against Yugoslavia as a
direct threat to Russia's security dropped from 70% in April to 64% in
Russia: Media Congress Turns Into Political Forum
By Floriana Fossato
Moscow, 24 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A congress of Russian language newspapers
and television stations began this week in Moscow and is now in the Black
Sea resort of Sochi.
About 300 participants from 48 countries are attending the event, which was
organized in part by the Itar-Tass news agency.
Our correspondent reports that one of the most peculiar features of the
first two days of the event was its emphasis on politics rather than on
The goal of the gathering -- highlighted by Russian President Boris Yeltsin
in his opening message -- was to have been the exchange of professional
information and contacts among Russian-language journalists.
However, judging by the remarks made by many leading politicians who
stopped by to address the congress, it's clear the event is being seen as a
warm-up for Russia's upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin opened the congress Monday by emphasizing
the need to support Russian citizens abroad. With his eyes clearly on the
economy and his government's need to attract foreign loans, he put an
economic twist on the issue. He said Russians abroad are well placed to
encourage foreign businesses to invest and help restore trade ties.
Former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko was also on hand for a speech.
Kiriyenko heads a centrist political movement called "New Force" and is a
candidate to be Moscow's next mayor.
In a bid to possibly win support for the mayoral vote (set for the end of
the year), he told participants he thinks Yeltsin should resign before his
term expires next June. He said the resignation would be part of the
process of handing power back to the Russian people.
Kiriyenko will be running against popular incumbent Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
Luzhkov, however, has his sights set higher. He wants to be Russia's next
In his remarks to the congress, Luzhkov openly complained about what he
called the Kremlin's ongoing "anti-Luzhkov" campaign.
Luzhkov's relations with the Kremlin have been difficult for more than a
year, but they've really soured in the past few weeks. Luzhkov was one of
the first top politicians to call openly for Yeltsin's resignation, and his
presidential ambitions are reportedly far from being approved by Yeltsin's
Also attending the congress was Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, who talked
about the necessity of amending the 1993 constitution in order to give more
power to the parliament. Seleznyov's Communist Party controls the Duma and
is very sensitive to any attempts to weaken the body.
The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Marat Baglai, told the congress
he does not subscribe to Seleznyov's statements. He said political
stability in Russia in the absence of a developed party system can only be
ensured by a strong presidency.
United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan also attended the forum. He
said Russia remains a vital component in solving world problems on the
brink of the millennium.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who met with Annan yesterday, said Russia is
developing a policy to lessen confrontation in its relations with the West.
He said Russia favors strengthening the U.N. and the Security Council.
Igor Shabdurasulov, the general director of Russian Public Television
(ORT), addressed the sensitive issue of media control in the elections. ORT
is Russia's biggest broadcaster and covers almost 100 percent of the
country's territory. The state has a controlling 51 percent share in ORT,
but the station is widely seen as being close to Kremlin insider Boris
Shabdurasulov told the gathering that the elections will be the touchstone
by which the civic maturity of Russia's media will be judged.
He vowed that ORT's election coverage will be independent and will not be
biased in favor of groups with the most money to spend. He said a large
organization recently tried to buy media coverage on his television station
and that this will not be tolerated:
"I will not name names, but I can say that we received a letter [recently]
from a very big organization. The text was straightforward. It said it was
organizing an important event for such and such a date and asked that [we]
cover the event as part of our Vremya [main news] broadcast. The letter
said that payment would be guaranteed. We will not do this kind of thing --
at least as long as I am ORT director. This command-style in relations with
the media ahead of elections is unacceptable for us, and this is a position
Shabdurasulov added, however, that ORT has always been and remains the
president's television channel and has never made a secret of this fact.
It's not clear what he meant by this statement, but as an explanation,
Shabdurasulov said this is not a matter of personal contact between him and
Yeltsin but a system of relations between the channel and the head of state.
Shabdurasulov also said a special system to monitor all hidden and direct
political advertisement had been set up at ORT ahead of the elections.
Despite the abundance of political statements, most delegates to the
Congress seemed happy to see so many politicians in person. Some delegates
told RFE/RL that more professional issues can be focused on in Sochi, where
fewer politicians are expected to attend.
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1999
Sender: H-Net Russian History list <H-RUSSIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
From: Martin Ryle <email@example.com>
Subject: REVIEW: STONE ON HOUGH, _DEMOCRATIZATION AND REVOLUTION_
H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-Russia@h-net.msu.edu (June, 1999)
Jerry F. Hough. _Democratization and Revolution in the USSR,
1985-1991_. Washington: Brookings Institution, 1997. xvi +
542 pp. Tables, notes, index. $59.95 (cloth),
ISBN 0-8157-3748-3; $26.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8157-3749-1.
Reviewed for H-Russia by David Stone <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
History Department, Kansas State University
Bourgeois Revolution or Incompetent Revolutionary?
In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev took over one of the world's two
superpowers as its first healthy reformer in decades. Six years
later, that superpower disintegrated as his efforts at reform
ended in disaster. How could good intentions go so disastrously
Jerry Hough, in an always provocative and insightful survey of
Gorbachev's years in power, answers this question by seeing
Gorbachev's revolution as part of a pattern. What happened in
the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991 was nothing less than a
bourgeois revolution to rank with the great revolutions of European
history. The Soviet bourgeoisie, those who controlled and managed
the means of production, destroyed their political system in order
to create a new one that would transform their _control_ over the
means of production into _ownership_.
Hough's middle-class revolution requires a middle class to carry
it out, and here he builds on his previous work. Hough begins
his book by conceding that "In retrospect, every Western
scholar--certainly including me--understood parts of what
happened and why but completely misunderstood other parts" (p. 3).
In the essentials of his argument, though, Hough returns to
familiar ground. In asserting that the fall of Communism was
essentially a middle-class revolution, Hough also argues that the
Soviet Union had developed by the 1980s a pluralist and
differentiated middle-class made up of groups capable of
recognizing, articulating, and defending their institutional
interests (pp. 8-10, 19). This growing elite, familiar from much of
Hough's earlier work, saw an opportunity to alter the Soviet
Union's political system to its own advantage.
Hough's book systematically questions the conventional wisdom
of what happened to the Soviet Union. To criticize Gorbachev as
strategically and tactically inept, which Hough does at length, is
now hardly a radical view, but Hough goes beyond that to find
Nikolai Ryzhkov, Gorbachev's prime minister, to be perhaps the
sole figure in Gorbachev's Kremlin with the realism and political
savvy to reform the Soviet Union without destroying it in the
process. Though Hough has few kind words for Gorbachev, when
he does compliment him it is in a way utterly alien to the standard
literature. Archie Brown, for example, a scholar far kinder to
Gorbachev than Hough is, concedes that "one of [Gorbachev's]
problems ... was that he underestimated the intensity of nationalist
feelings and assumed too readily that an extension of political and
economic liberties within the framework of a genuinely federal state
would lead to a resolution of the national question."  Absolutely
wrong, argues Hough. Non-Russian nationalism, as Gorbachev
recognized, posed little threat to the integrity of the Soviet state.
Gorbachev correctly perceived the real danger to the USSR as
_Russian_ nationalism (pp. 216, 238).
By focusing his broad claims on Soviet elites, and his narrative
on Gorbachev himself, Hough deliberately neglects many of the
issues central to more standard interpretations of the fall of
communism. Foreign policy is almost entirely irrelevant--Hough
devotes one chapter to US-Soviet relations and Eastern Europe,
but it has little to do with his overall argument. The issue of
nationalism hardly appears at all, except (as mentioned above) in
the context of Russian nationalism. Hough also cares nothing
about the revelations glasnost provided on the dark side of
Soviet history, or the growth of civil society around such issues
as environmentalism. Elites made this revolution, so elite politics
are what truly matter.
Hough introduces and concludes his book by stressing the
importance of a small group of Soviet elites, the bourgeoisie
of this bourgeois revolution. His actual text concentrates on a
much smaller group--Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and a handful of advisors
around them. Readers should be aware that despite his
description of the collapse of the Soviet Union as a bourgeois
revolution, Hough talks little about socio-economic groups. His
book is instead high politics at its height, and though he at time
reverts to his initial concept of the beliefs and attitudes of a
broader Soviet middle class (see, for example, pp. 449), his story
is essentially that of Kremlin politics.
As a result, Hough relies for his source base on exhaustive
knowledge of the memoir literature produced by Gorbachev and
his lieutenants, supplemented by the Soviet press and personal
interviews. Few come off well from this: Gorbachev is fatally
indecisive, and Yeltsin is a power-hungry demagogue. The
heroes, as it were, of Hough's story, are the conservative opposition
to Gorbachev. No high-ranking apparatchik--Yegor Ligachev and
Ryzhkov, to name just two--could seriously question the need for
reform. Soviet conservatives, however, correctly saw the dangers
inherent in the pace and manner of Gorbachev's reforms.
Gorbachev's response to opposition was to villify it to serve his own
needs, to use the Stalinist bogeyman to discredit advocates of a
slower pace of reform.
Hough rejects the interpretation, one Gorbachev himself endorses,
that entrenched conservatives and bureaucratic resistance are
to blame for Gorbachev's failures. Those with positions of power
and influence under the USSR's Brezhnevite system, this
argument runs, had no interest in seeing a more open society and
fought Gorbachev at every turn. Hough utterly rejects this portrayal
of Gorbachev as simply powerless to force through his initiatives
against hide-bound Stalinists. On the contrary, according to
Hough, Gorbachev was always solidly in control. Responsible
for personnel under Yurii Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko,
Gorbachev had built an enviable network of solidly loyal clients
throughout the Soviet political elite, and most importantly in the
Central Committee. He was in no danger from party conservatives,
even Yegor Ligachev. The danger of a Ligachev-centered
conservative opposition was "grossly overdrawn" (pp. 63-4, 92).
More broadly, the _nomenklatura_ stood to benefit, not lose,
from Gorbachev's reforms, and so could hardly have presented
a serious threat to perestroika. Hough, arguing here with the
benefit of hindsight, asserts that the _nomenklatura_ as a group
saw the opportunities for quasi-legal and fully illegal seizure of
state property that the dissolution of a command-administrative
economy would offer. This is the bourgeois revolution at work;
with such a lucrative possibility looming, what good apparatchik
could reject radical reform?
Even Boris Yeltsin, the _bete noire_ of Gorbachev's final years
in power, is for Hough a Gorbachev creation. Yeltsin, like
Ligachev, served as the bad cop for Gorbachev's good cop.
Just as Ligachev had provided a safe means of frightening
Soviets into recognizing the need for continued reform, Yeltsin
personified the dangers of irresponsibly rapid reform. By aiding
Yeltsin's push to become chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet,
Gorbachev put a face on Russian nationalism, giving it a
(supposedly) safe outlet while frightening other republics into
backing Gorbachev's moderate alternative to Yeltsin's radical
populism (pp. 329-332).
It is Hough's tight focus on Gorbachev that gives this book its
chief flaw. Though practically every chapter contains an
unexpected insight, or turns established wisdom on its head,
Hough's explanations rely on a man who remains, essentially,
inexplicable. Gorbachev was evidently intelligent and skilled
enough to rise on his merits from Stavropol peasant to General
Secretary, but utterly incapable of governing capably once he had
done that. Hough's book is a litany of incomprehensible mistakes
and oversights in Gorbachev's management of perestroika.
For Hough, then, Gorbachev is both a shrewd political operator,
putting himself in power through the adroit use of patronage
politics and Kremlin maneuvering, and at the same time
staggeringly naive about the importance of institutions to
managing a modern state and economy. Gorbachev's utter
neglect of the importance of getting institutions and incentives
right as a precondition of reform, a neglect he shared with myriad
Western Sovietologists, stems from a number of sources. First,
Gorbachev lacked a theory of transition, a plan to direct his effort
to change the Soviet Union. Instead, he improvised a series of
increasingly desperate and confused strategies that ended in
This did not have to happen. Gorbachev had available, Hough
argues, a number of concrete models for reforming Marxist-Leninist
systems that he simply neglected. The Chinese precedent of
carefully-controlled, state-led reforms of agriculture and the
economy was one alternative; Hungary's goulash communism
another (pp. 16-22, 491). Rather than carefully thinking through
the institutional requirements of transition, Gorbachev simply torched
existing institutions of party and state in the hope that a new Soviet
society would rise from the ashes, never anticipating the dangers
of demolishing institutions without constructing others in their
place (pp. 103-106).
Behind this neglect of institutions lay a streak of anarchism.
Gorbachev, like Yeltsin, "came to accept Karl Marx's assumption
that the state does not play a crucial or even useful role in
economic performance, that it is parasitic and that planning
can be achieved as it withers away" (p. 2). This, combined with
an irrational fear of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy, made
Gorbachev demolish the power of the state in a misguided attempt
to thereby revitalize a stagnant system. He surrendered the
Communist party's leading role in Soviet society, but never
created the mechanisms to replace the party's essential
administrative functions (pp. 269-273).
Hough also notes Gorbachev's weird reluctance to use judicious
force to maintain the cohesion and authority of the Soviet state,
though the citizens of Vilnius and Tbilisi might differ from Hough
here on the extent of Gorbachev's willingness to use force. Over
the course of 1989 and 1990, when disintegration had not yet
passed the point of no return, Gorbachev's actions seem so
confused and paradoxical that Hough observes "it seemed
Gorbachev was deliberately fostering chaos to liberate himself
from the Politburo and Central Committee control and build support
for a strong presidency with emergency powers" (p. 250). Having
created just such a strong presidency, however, Gorbachev then
never used his powers to halt the disintegration of the Soviet
Union. He held back from controlling Soviet mass media or
republican elections, and the use of force was intermittent,
spasmodic, and largely ineffective (pp. 249-254).
Hough finds Gorbachev's indecision so puzzling that he even
seems at times to agree with Nikolai Ryzhkov's contention that
"there was a concerted plot to destroy the Communist party and
the Soviet Union" (254). In looking at Gorbachev's handling of
the Union Treaty and Shatalin's 500-Day Plan, Hough can come
up with no rational explanation for Gorbachev's behavior. "Many
conservatives," he writes, "could think of no better answer than
that he and his chief advisers were CIA agents, and one can
understand their problem in finding another explanation" (pp. 368-9).
Hough argues that Gorbachev had every opportunity in early
1991 to build on a societal consensus around some decentralization
of power and moderate economic reform. Gorbachev rejected this
opportunity; Hough does not explain why (pp. 399-400). From
March through December 1991, Gorbachev neglected numerous
opportunities to salvage the Union. Hough concludes that "even
today many of those closely associated with him remain mystified
by his thinking, and Westerners too can only guess" (p. 405).
It is Hough's reliance on such a puzzling and contradictory
central character that makes his book fall short as a master
narrative of the collapse of the Soviet Union. If most events are
explained by the poor choices of a misguided reformer, what
explanation do we really have? Hough's book is no less valuable
for that; at every point Hough aggressively and provocatively
asserts new interpretations of the key events in the fall of
communism. No scholar of Gorbachev's revolution can afford
to neglect what Hough has to say.
 Archie Brown, _The Gorbachev Factor_ (Oxford, 1996), p. 30.
Poll Shows Lack of Trust in Russian Media
11 June 1999
[translation for personal use only]
"Lightning Poll" by Candidate of Sociological Sciences Dina Tanatova,
docent of Moscow State Social University, under the "Russian Press
Rating" rubric: "Back to State Oversight?"
A poll conducted this spring by the Sociological
Information Center of the Russian State Service Academy under the Russian
Federation president posed the question of the degree of society's trust
in the mass media. Three categories were polled: state employees,
representatives of the regional political elite, and the population. It
is noteworthy that all three categories proved uncommonly unanimous in
their assessment of the press. But this is what is strange: A majority of
those polled were no less unanimous in their insistence on strengthening
state control of the mass media (see the tables). Is this nostalgia for
censorship? An allergy to free speech? A desire to protect oneself from
To what extent do you trust articles in the central newspapers?
State employees Political elite Population
Fully trust 3.8 2.7 2.9
Not fully trust 79.6 81.2 56.8
Not trust at all 11.2 11.3 11.6
Hard to say 5.4 4.8 28.7
Should state control of the content of radio and television programs and
press articles be strengthened?
State employees Political elite Population
Control should be
strengthened 43.4 37.6 32.9
Only some TV channels
and newspapers should
be controlled 29.1 25.8 27.7
Should not be 24.2 33.9 30.8
Hard to say 3.3 2.7 8.6
We asked well-known specialists to comment on the result of the poll.
We invite readers to the discussion.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika Fund:
"The results of research by other sociological services really do confirm
that more than 60 percent of citizens do not trust the Russian press. The
situation is reminiscent of the late eighties and early nineties, when a
gulf of alienation arose between the press and society. The semiofficial
information that filled the newspapers, radio, and television at that
time had the opposite effect to that intended.
"Today the mass media's readers, listeners, and viewers, first, are
disappointed in the regime, and they perceive the press as being part of
it. Second, citizens are tired of propaganda and discreditation, which
take the place of information in the mass media. Everyone is also tired
of being thought a blockhead without his own conception or opinion of
what is going on.
"But I am categorically opposed to strengthening state control of the
mass media. Freedom of the press primarily means specifically freedom
from the state, not from anyone else. For today the state itself has been
privatized by a narrow circle of people. So is it necessary to strengthen
their control over the mass media, which is already unprecedented?"
Grigoriy Shevelev, president of the Russian Television Development Fund:
"I do not believe that when people advocate strengthening state control
of the mass media, they have in mind the introduction of censorship.
Rather, they formulate in this way the need for public regulation and
would like citizens to have some forms, rules, and regulations governing
their direct influence over the press. From this viewpoint their desire
"Dissatisfaction with the lack of regulations relates primarily to the
mass media. Their bias, the degree of authenticity of information, the
ratio of national to foreign television product, advertising policy --
all this is of concern to viewers and what it requires is public
regulation. Unfortunately, society really does not yet have at its
disposal the necessary range of appropriate mechanisms."
Vladimir Svetozarov, director of the National Press Institute:
"In my view many people now still simply do not see the connection
between freedom of the press and public trust in it. They think: The
regime will set about 'instilling order,' and the press will at once
become objective and decent. This is why the majority are in favor of
strengthening state oversight of the mass media. Although it seems to me
that the fall in public trust in the journalist's word is largely
accounted for by the fact that the press frequently serves the interests
not of society but of the power elite.
"We conduct our own research into the situation in the Russian press and
we know that the power structures' real influence over the press and the
electronic mass media, particularly outside the capital, is too great
today. Unfortunately, with the approach of the elections this dependence
is increasing. The section of the poll in which state employees and
representatives of the political elite favor greater control reflects
precisely their desire to crush the mass media once and for all for their
own political advantage. If this trend is not halted, no independent mass
media, of which there are so few in Russia, will be left at all.
"Therefore I take a sharply negative attitude to any control which violates
laws on freedom of speech and the mass media. True, today we as citizens
have not yet learned how to independently influence the development of
the mass media. The road to a civil society is very long and very hard.
But it is all the more important not to lose what has already been
achieved. At least not the freedom of speech that we have today."
Kremlin Wants Aksenenko as Yeltsin Heir
23 June 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Mikhail Rostovskiy: "Yet Another Heir. Is Stepashin Going
To Lose His Legacy"
On his return from his trip to Cologne Sergey
Stepashin may discover that an unpleasant surprise awaits him at home.
Moskovskiy Komsomolets has been told by a former top official of the
Kremlin administration that Yeltsin's entourage has made another decision
about the president's successor. As was to be expected, he is certainly
not the premier, but his first deputy, Nikolay Aksenenko.
A little while ago Aleksandr Voloshin, chief of the Presidential
Staff, suddenly publicly stated that Stepashin could well be the next
incumbent of the Kremlin. But it is very possible that entirely different
decisions were in fact being made deep inside Yeltsin's residence.
According to a retired Yeltsin courtier who has retained close links with
the Kremlin, over the last two weeks the president's immediate entourage
held a whole series of political consultations. And the new "Kremlin
Politburo" soon delivered its verdict: Stepashin must step aside in a
while and First Vice Premier Nikolay Aksenenko must become the
president's successor. In other words, Yeltsin's team will invest money
in him in the 2000 elections.
There are plenty of indirect signs that Stepashin is losing his influence
inside the Kremlin. Take for instance Yeltsin's statement in Cologne that
he is "half" satisfied with Sergey Vadimovich [Stepashin]. Or the fact
that another government member -- State Construction Committee boss Anvar
Muzafarov, whose dubious deals have been reported in Moskovskiy
Komsomolets -- was appointed against the premier's wishes. But none of
Moskovskiy Komsomolets' other sources was able to confirm or deny the
statement by the former presidential official. In the White House Premier
Stepashin prefers not to discuss intrigues around the Kremlin even with
his closest associates. "Relax and wait until tomorrow," one major
Russian politician told Moskovskiy Komsomolets. "This decision is just as
flimsy as all the earlier ones. There will be another change of mind
soon. The Kremlin is as fickle as they come!"
More than a month after the appointment of the new premier the White
House apparatus is still in a frenzy of activity. Moreover, the
difficulties are increasing with literally every day. Moskovskiy
Komsomolets has learned that the premier's personal team, headed by
Vladimir Engelsberg, the chief of his secretariat, is locked in a tough
tussle with the majority of government officials. "Stepashin's people are
ignoring the local rules of the game and are trying to establish their
own," a high-ranking denizen of government house told Moskovskiy
Komsomolets, venting his feelings. "These methods may be fine in police
work. But they are frankly useless here." For instance, the premier's
entourage and Sergey Vadimovich himself constantly break the rules for
work with documents. Papers are very often passed from hand to hand and
are not registered according to the prescribed procedure. It is also
common for officials to be asked to issue a paper in literally half an
hour, thereby breaking every imaginable and unimaginable rule. There are
also bitter complaints at the "less than delicate manners" of some of
Sergey Vadimovich's associates.... All this is leading to constant
disruptions to work and to ceaseless rows. For instance, Stepashin's main
specialist on work with documents -- Vladimir Tsarev, deputy leader of
the premier's secretariat -- recently walked out on him, banging the
But lack of understanding between the premier and his subordinates is an
objective phenomenon. If the head of government and his team are
sufficiently competent, equilibrium will be established in the White
House in due course. Something that is far more dangerous is another
trend. At one recent conference a very close associate of the premier --
Andrey Chernenko, leader of the White House apparatus -- was on the point
of approving the agenda for future government sessions. But suddenly one
of the local "apparatus old hands" asked a question that reduced everyone
to exceptional embarrassment: "What is the main aim of the government's
work? What are you intending to do first? Your priorities are simply not
clear from this timetable!"
Seeing that the official was right, the angry Chernenko ordered that the
document be immediately reworked. But this will hardly solve the general
problem. As the premier's associates frankly admit, Stepashin did not
expect and did not want his move to the White House. Small wonder that,
now he finds himself premier, Sergey Vadimovich does not have much idea
what to do in the strategic sense. And if the boss is not clear about
this, what can be expected of his subordinates? Of course, if Stepashin
sets himself the goal of becoming a proper premier he has some chances of
success. But in order to do this you need to have at least a minimal
degree of confidence in your future and sustained support from the
Kremlin. So the conclusion suggested by all this is unfortunate. Until
the question of power is finally decided, only the craziest of optimists
can expect great achievements of the Russian Government.
June 26, 1999
[for personal use only]
Russian financial disinformation
M O S C O W
DURING the cold war, the Soviet Union loved to plant disinformation in the
foreign press, in the hopeoften justifiedthat it would slip, unchecked,
into the West's public consciousness. A cynic looking at Russia's behaviour
over the $22 billion-worth of restructured Soviet debt that it owes to the
London Club of commercial creditors might feel nostalgic. A series of
untrue or misleading stories have popped up, seemingly designed to bounce
western opinion in Russia's direction.
On May 28th Prime-Tass (part of what was once the Soviet Union's official
news agency) reported in gushing terms some preliminaryand
inconclusivetalks in London between Mikhail Kasyanov, then Russias chief
debt-negotiator, and London Club negotiators. These became urgent
consultations beyond the bounds of the London Club, conducted with key
figures in the world of finance. Not a description those on the western
side of the negotiating table would recognise.
A week later, on June 2nd, the same agencyquoting an anonymous confidential
source in the London Clubsaid that Olivetti, an Italian company, was
interested in buying all of Russias London Club debt for $25 billion. The
company itself denied the report. Mr Kasyanov, by now finance minister,
played it down in an interview the next day, without quite denying that
something of the kind was afoot.
And then on June 16th Prime-Tass reported that the London Club had
consented to a six-month deferment on ex-Soviet debt. The source,
supposedly, was Fitch-IBCA, a credit-rating agency. Sadly, it had said
nothing of the kind. Mr Kasyanov also made the same claim, and added, for
good measure, a remarkable misreading of the grace period stipulated in the
London Club agreement. Russia had been due to pay $850m in debt-service on
June 2nd. Mr Kasyanov maintained that, unless the creditors responded by
June 16th, this would constitute acceptance of Russias request that they
simply extend (roll over) the debt for six months. In fact, the agreement
specifies a grace period of 15 working days. This ran out on June 24thand,
as The Economist went to press, Mr Kasyanov was in New York, trying to
persuade a group of tough fund managers not to sue for their money. Some
Nevertheless, there has been a new surge of optimism about how Russia will
treat its creditors. The price of the debt in question--known as IANs--rose
by 30% this week, to more than 16% of its face value. This followed
strenuous attempts by leaders of the G7 rich countries to be nice to Russia
at their summit in Cologne. They even made mildly encouraging noises about
re-rescheduling Russia's debt to the Paris Club of official creditors. And
the IMF seems poised to make one more (really, absolutely) final exception
to its own rules and shell out $4.5 billion from next month.
Perhaps the tall stories were meant to boost morale at home rather than
influence negotiations abroad. Certainly, compared with Russias lethargic
approach to tax and banking reform, and the central banks continuing
reluctance to explain properly its holding of some of its reserves in a
shell company in Jersey, this burst of financial spin-doctoring is more
irksome than horrifying. In any case, the ever-hopeful Mr Kasyanov has
promised radical (if unspecified) economic reforms next year. They should
scotch silly worries about Russia's future ability to pay. Reportedly.
Threat reduction agreement extended
WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) - Russia and the United States have
extended to 2006 a program that helps prevent the proliferation of
nuclear weapons and material in the former Soviet Union, Pentagon
spokesman Ken Bacon announced.
The agreement, known as Cooperative Threat Reduction or more commonly
as the Nunn-Lugar program, was extended during meetings June 15-16.
Congress has appropriated $2.7 billion for CTR, $1.7 billion of which
went directly to help Russian security and dismantling activities.
The program has helped Russia eliminate 50 missile silos and 284 land
and submarine-based strategic ballistic missiles, in addition to 40
heavy bomber aircraft. CTR also provides security enhancements at 50
Russian nuclear weapons storage sites, and has plans to enhance security
at 73 more.
CTR funding is also being used to construct a facility for the
storage of nuclear material for up to 12,500 dismantled warheads, and is
being used to terminate Russia's production of weapons-grade plutonium.
Russia's Dubinin: IMF Tranche Was Used Legally
MOSCOW, June 23 (Interfax-FIA) - Sergei Dubinin,
the vice- chairman of Gazprom's executive board and former chairman of
the Central Bank of Russia, said at a press conference in Moscow
Wednesday that a series of checks had proved that the International
Monetary Fund's $4.8 billion tranche released to Russia in the summer of
1998 had been put to legal use. Dubinin said that "the Prosecutor
General's Office has sent a letter to the IMF saying that the Central
Bank and the Russian government handled this infamous tranche in strict
accordance with the law." The letter is expected to be published and
discussed by the IMF board of directors, said Dubinin. He added that the
FIMACO company issue has been studied by the Audit Chamber and the
Prosecutor-General's Office. Moreover, the international company
PriceWaterhouseCoopers has drawn up a preliminary report that has already
been forwarded to the Central Bank and IMF. It says that the dealings
between the Central Bank and FIMACO were absolutely legal, Dubinin said.
"Everything that has been said about the IMF tranche and FIMACO is a
bald-faced lie that is being refuted now," he said, adding that he will
"work to ensure that the public knows the truth." He also said that "all
operations with FIMACO that have affected the implementation of the
monetary program by Russia are in compliance with the memorandum agreed
upon with the IMF." Dubinin said that "the rules of the game" stipulated
in that memorandum were being implemented when he chaired the Central
Bank. He admitted, however, that not all of the specified documents are
available to him at the moment.