This Date's Issues: 3371 •
Johnson's Russia List
1 July 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT: What if Yeltsin
Fights to Stay ... But Loses?
2. Reuters: Russia economy improving though govt broke.
3. Interfax: Primakov Returns to Moscow, Says Feels Well.
4. Moscow Times: Lebed Eyes Duma.
5. Julie Corwin (RFE/RL): Re: Russian Fed. Report and JRL.
6. Ira Straus: Re: STRATFOR forecast on growth of Russia-China alliance.
7. Lucy Komisar: Controlling power by controlling power.
8. Grzegorz W. Kolodko: Transition to market and post-Washington consensus.
9. Tom Manson: JRL - What is to be done? (DJ: Thanks for the many useful
comments I have received about JRL. This one is of broader interest.)
10. Moscow Times: Melissa Akin, Will Yeltsin Ban the Communists?
11. AP: Russia's Disabled Fight for Rights.
12. Reuters: Russia fears UN losing control in Kosovo mission.
13. Itar-Tass: Russian Agrarians to Break Union with Communists.
14. Itar-Tass: Deadline for Re-Registration of Parties Expires in Russia.
15. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Russia snubs would-be
16. Minsk Belapan: Poll shows Lukashenka Favorite for Head of Union.]
July 1, 1999
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: What if Yeltsin Fights to Stay ... But Loses?
By Andrei Piontkovsky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Special to The Moscow Times
One would think the political beau monde would permit itself to relax a bit
in the hot summer months, in an atmosphere of almost-forgotten relative
economic and political stability. Moscow, however, is filled with alarming
rumors and expectations about an unconstitutional course of events. No one
believes that HE is really planning to step down. Carrying out the Duma
elections on time is wonderful, but, according to the constitution, real
power belongs to the president, and we have never had a legal transfer of
power from one democratically elected president to another. It is not like
the transfer from the 35th to the 36th. It is much more complicated and much
more important to the country than democratically choosing the president the
He -- and, even more so, "the family" -- do not want to leave. A union with
Belarus, a confederalization of the country, a state of emergency connected
with the situation in the Caucasus -- this is the set of variants feverishly
being discussed in the Kremlin. Everyone is writing about this every day --
and quite rightly so. It seems to me, however, that the degree of "the
family's" political isolation, the degree of society's almost physiological
rejection of it, is already so great, that all of these plans are doomed to
There is, as I see it, a different danger in these plans. The
extra-constitutional intentions of "the family" could provoke the political
class to take preventive measures that themselves might sneak beyond the
boundaries of the constitutional field. A scenario in which President Boris
Yeltsin voluntarily leaves office at the persistent urgings of the leaders of
both parliamentary chambers, and the lawful prime minister carries out new
presidential elections three months later, seems too serene in the context of
our historical experience.
I am afraid that it will all end with some kind of Committee for National
Salvation or Government of Public Accord, which will forget for a long while
about any elections at all, for fully understandable and objective reasons.
Take our beloved Yevgeny Maksimovich, who by some strange laws of political
physiognomy reminds one more and more of beloved Leonid Ilich. He has finally
offered his long-awaited voice from distant Switzerland, saying he is ready
under certain circumstances to serve the Fatherland.
If Primakov really is that loved by the people, as his ecstatic fans from the
Council for Foreign and Security Policy assure us every day, then God grant
him the chance to participate in the presidential elections and defeat all
his rivals. But given all his debatable and non-debateable merits, Yevgeny
Maksimovich possesses an absolute aversion toward public politics. He would
like -- very much like -- to become the head of state. This breathed from
line of the crafty January letter "on public consent," which cost him the
premiership. Only he would like to do so without all this electoral idiocy
like dancing at rock concerts or, even more so, engaging in public debates
with opponents. He would like them to come and beg him to become father of
the nation and savior of society.
To part in a dignified way with one elderly former alternate member to the
Soviet Politburo without having another one dumped on us: Here is the modest
task for Russia's fragile democracy at the threshold of the third millennium.
Russia economy improving though govt broke
By Brian Killen
MOSCOW, July 1 (Reuters) - Russia's financial collapse last year may have
turned out to be a blessing in disguise, at least for those involved in the
Analysts say many Russian companies, benefiting from the de facto devaluation
of the rouble in August, have never been so competitive. Industrial output is
recovering and the stock market has risen from the ashes.
``The situation in Russia has improved greatly,'' said Anders Aslund,
senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in
``The government ran out of money, which was the best thing that could have
happened to it. Therefore the government is being forced to cut the most
unnecessary expenditures and reduce the budget deficit,'' he added.
Of course, vast fortunes were lost on markets when Asian contagion turned
into a particularly virulent Russian flu. Foreign investors fled the carnage
and they are unlikely to return soon in big numbers.
Many Russians saw their savings frozen in troubled banks or eroded by a jump
in inflation. Jobs were lost, and the state is now virtually bankrupt, its
credit reputation in tatters.
The world's biggest country remains on the brink of a sovereign debt default,
and successive governments have done extremely little to repair the damage.
NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM
Yet analysts say all is not doom and gloom.
``The point is that the government has no money and the important thing for
the economy is that the old subsidisation ends, and that has essentially
happened,'' Aslund said, adding that there is much less barter now.
``Things have improved much more than you would expect from just looking at
Most believe the International Monetary Fund will approve a new $4.5 billion
loan for Russia this month, allowing the government to service debts to the
IMF itself and receive additional billions from the World Bank.
This will save Russia the ignominy of becoming one of the few countries to
default on IMF debt, and will open the door to restructuring agreements with
other foreign creditors.
``From a purely macro-economic fundamental standpoint, this year will be
relatively successful for Russia,'' said Natalya Orlova, economist at Alfa
Bank, referring in part to rising industrial production and slowing
``The economy is still benefiting from the effects of devaluation, in
particular there is a considerable improvement in import substitution,'' she
REFORMS STILL SLOW
But analysts see little happening in terms of structural reforms, with
banking system reform painfully slow.
The lack of political stability is also a strong deterrent to foreign
investors. A parliamentary election is due in December and a presidential
poll in mid-2000.
``Even if political stability returns with the parliament and new president,
Russia still has to put in place very considerable changes and improvements
in corporate governance,'' Orlova said. ``It will take some years.''
Foreign investors in Russia complain bitterly about cumbersome tax
regulations, corruption and crude violations of minority shareholders'
Nevertheless, analysts see an equities market boom marking the twilight of
President Boris Yeltsin's era.
``Because Russia fell so hard, it will no doubt be the best-performing stock
market in the world this year,'' Aslund said. Russian stock indices, worst
emerging market performers last year, are now around the levels of last
Jonathan Garner, Flemings' director of emerging market strategy, agreed that
Russian stocks had star potential, especially since the market had been
``We've been bulls on Russia for some time now and it's pretty well panning
out the way we thought it would,'' he said, adding that oil and gas firms
which profited from the rouble devaluation and higher oil prices this year
had fuelled gains.
But, while pointing to the potential of certain stocks, Garner was under no
illusions about Russia's problems, particularly non-payments and
non-transparent regulatory process.
``Don't get me wrong, we're still looking at a country that will take years
to regain access to international credit markets... where debt restructuring
has to be agreed and the economy is in very poor shape.''
Primakov Returns to Moscow, Says Feels Well
MOSCOW, June 29 (Interfax) -- Former Russian Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov on Tuesday returned to Moscow from Switzerland,
where he had undergone an operation for radiculitis "Yevgeny Maximovich
feels well," his wife Irina Primakova told Interfax. It was not a very
difficult operation and went successfully, she said.
The only recommendation doctors gave was that he temporarily limit his
physical activities, she said. Primakov made several important political
statements in Switzerland. Asked whether he would run in the upcoming
Duma or presidential elections, Primakov replied that he does not rule
out the possibility.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has repeatedly asked Primakov to join the
Fatherland movement, which he leads. Luzhkov promptly phoned Primakov in
this regard but no decision was made.
July 1, 1999
IN BRIEF: Lebed Eyes Duma
MOSCOW -- Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed said his People's
Republican Party intends to participate in the December parliamentary
elections, Interfax reported Wednesday.
"I will definitely take part in the parliamentary elections," Lebed said at
an Interfax news conference. "I'm preparing for the elections seriously and
Lebed also said that he had not yet decided whether he will run for
president, Interfax said.
"I must see how the parliamentary election campaign develops before I make a
decision," Interfax quoted Lebed as saying.
Lebed said his party does not need allies in the parliamentary elections.
"The political scene has left and right wings. I want to stay in the middle,"
Lebed said, quoted by Interfax.
From: email@example.com (Julie Corwin)
Subject: Re: Russian Fed. Report and JRL
Your readers might be interested in a weekly publication available for free
RFE/RL on events in Russia's regions. This week's "Russian Federation
covered growing efforts to restrict the freedom on regional newspapers,
continuing difficulties paying wages to state workers and Aleksandr Lebed's
recent sacking of a top deputy. Issues are available online at
http://www.rferl.org/russianreport. Or you can send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of
the message. Regards, Julie Corwin
From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com (Ira Straus)
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999
Subject: Re: STRATFOR forecast on growth of Russia-China alliance
Regarding STRATFOR's Third Quarter Forecast -- that the main trend in the
world is an evolving Russia-China alliance directed against America and the
West, and that the West probably will fail in its halfhearted uncoordinated
efforts to forestall or reverse this trend:
This is probably right, and extremely important at that. Nevertheless, there
are still decent opportunities for reversing the trend, and it is equally
important not to exclude them or to treat prediction fatalistically. A
recognition of alternative scenarios is always needed alongside recognition
of the main trend, to keep us honest and avoid collapsing the actual space
for intelligent choice.
The recent past, as invoked by STRATFOR, provides good evidence of
opportunities for reversing the trend. STRATFOR is absolutely right in saying
that the emerging Russia-China anti-unipolar alliance helped inspire
Milosevic's actions, letting him think he had space to go forward with a new
run at more ethnic cleansing; and that this was a miscalcuation,
overestimating the maturity of the anti-Western alliance, and leading to a
partial political reversal in Moscow. What's missed in this account is only
one thing: that this reversal in Moscow presented at the time (and to a
lesser extent still presents) an important chance to reverse the trend toward
a Russia-China alignment vs. the West.
The immediate opportunity was bungled, to be sure. We discredited
Chernomyrdin on Kosovo, by using him too ruthlessly, and by saying so out
loud. (We didn't compromise enough with him, making too many points a matter
of principle and refusing to listen to or compromise with the counter-points,
a few of which had merit for preventing a reverse ethnic cleansing and
limiting the KLA role. STRATFOR's earlier analyses have provided evidence
that, on the occasions when we did compromise with Chernomyrdin, in the next
days we broke most of the compromises and simply used Russia's signature as a
legitimation for going ahead with our previous plans. And then there was the
Clinton boast in the New York Times about how NATO was using Russia. How not
to win friends and influence people...)
Nevertheless, we could have done otherwise, if we had been aware of the
opportunity and paid decent heed to the honor of Russian moderates and
democrats, rather than thinking only about Kosovo and about NATO's honor. We
could have worked more fairly with Chernomyrdin, which would have had the
result of validating the new Western-oriented turn in the Kremlin and
discrediting the more hardline Ivanov and the Generals (Ivashov). Instead,
our discrediting of Chernomyrdin led directly to the renewed primacy of his
critics, Ivanov and the Generals and to the run on the Pristina airport.
My supplementary forecast, accordingly, is there will be more such
opportunities in the coming months, less dramatic than the one just bungled
but still (if coupled with long-term opportunities that have been lying
dormant) potentially adequate for reversing the trend. And that all or nearly
all of them will go unused, not only for the want of political will and
coordination in the West that STRATFOR points to, but also for want of the
very awareness of their existence.
From: "Lucy Komisar" <LKomisar@email.msn.com>
Subject: Controlling power by controlling power
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999
Jerry Hough makes an important point about controlling power by controlling
A propos, in El Salvador in the 1980s, the state electric company (CEL) was
an important institution in the power base of the military, which ran it.
Security guards for CEL were organized into a death squad.
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999
From: "Grzegorz W. Kolodko" <email@example.com>
Subject: Transition to market and post-Washington consensus
Transition to market and post-Washington consensus
By Grzegorz W. Kolodko
The author, a key architect of Polish reforms, is a professor at Warsaw
School of Economics and Visiting Professor at Rochester University. He was
First Deputy Premier and Finance Minister in Poland in 1994-97. In 1998-99
he was a Visiting Fellow at the World bank and the IMF. His new book From
Shock to Therapy. The Political Economy of Postsocialist Transformation is
forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
Ten years ago, when the post-communist transition to market economy and
democracy begun, so-called Washington consensus was thought to represent
the received wisdom on the proper way to step from stabilization to
growth. According to this belief a tough financial policy, accompanied by
deregulation and trade liberalization, would be enough to eliminate
stagnation and launch economic expansion. The proposals for reform based
on this reasoning were used to address structural crises in various
regions, despite the fact that they had been developed mostly as solutions
to problems in Latin America. This orientation in policy reform have had
an important impact on the course of the post-communist transition, too.
The policies of the Washington consensus were not drafted in order to
solve the crisis in post-communist countries entering a period of
transition toward a market economy. The early consensus was actually aimed
at distorted market economies. For this reason, nations facing other
challenges have never found satisfactory answers to their most pressing
questions in the Washington-backed policy. Its interpretation vis-a-vis
the post-communist countries suggests that it would be sufficient to
liberalize prices and trade and then fix the financial fundamentals, and -
of course - privatize the state assets. The faster and more, the better.
Subsequently, growth should occur and be sustainable. Unfortunately, it
has not been the case.
Such approach has partially failed with respect to the transition
economies because it has neglected the significance of institution
building even when the other fundamentals are by and large in order. This
oversight explains why so many Western scholars did not at first properly
understand the true nature of the challenge. Institutions can be changed
only gradually, and they exert a very strong influence on economic
performance. It was quite naive to expect robust economic growth so soon
after the fundamentals (but not the institutions) were in place. In fact,
in the real economic affairs, it is not possible to sustain fundamentals
if they are not backed by solid institutions.
Rapid growth was anticipated because it was assumed that market
institutions, if they did not appear out of thin air, would rise up quite
spontaneously the day after liberalization and stabilization. However, the
day after liberalization and stabilization was even more depressing than
the day before. Because of the neither plan, nor market systemic vacuum,
productive capacity was being employed even less; savings and investment
were declining, and instead of rapid growth there was rapid recession. The
lack of appropriate institutions turned out to be the key element missing
from the transition policies counseled by the Washington consensus.
Liberalization and privatization, unsupported by well-organized market
structures, generated not sustained growth, but a lengthy period of
contraction. This was not an inherited problem; it was the result of poor
Under some circumstances, the reasoning of the Washington consensus may be
relevant in dealing with the challenges faced by distorted, less-developed
market economies. However, in these economies, market organizations have
already been in place for years. The post-communist economies possessed no
basic market organizations, since such organizations had not existed under
the centrally planned regime. Therefore, because the absence of these
organizations had apparently gone unnoticed until after the beginning of
the transition, the market had no place to set roots and grow. Especially
if the liberalization was rapid and the privatization radical, but in
other cases, too, there could be no adequate and timely positive supply
response. The misallocation of resources and of investments merely
continued, although now for different reasons. This has been the main
cause of the great transitional depression, lasting so long (even the
whole decade in Russia and Ukraine) in several post-communist countries
The economic policy orientation based upon neoliberal monetary orthodoxy
had a tremendous influence on the course of changes in Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet republics, as well as in the Asian socialist economies,
but from the results it appears as though these nations did not all draw
the same policy conclusions. A number of less-developed and transition
economies realized quickly that there can be no sustained growth without
sound institutional arrangements. Especially Poland was able to move from
ill-advised early shock without therapy to therapy without shock in
1994-97, when this country GDP grew by 28 percent under the well-known
program Strategy for Poland, in which the implemented policy not always
had followed the IMF orthodoxy. An attempt to return to it after 1997 has
slowed down the growth again and caused growing social tensions.
Yet lessons are learned and since the mid-1990s the IMF and the World Bank
have been paying more attention to the way market structures are organized
and to both the institutional and behavioral aspects of market
performance. Now they know that liberalization and institutional
organization are both required for the market and economic growth. Because
of the bitter experience of transitional contraction it has become clear
that there will be no sustained growth unless the sound fundamentals a
balanced budget, balance in the current account, low inflation, a stable
currency, liberalized trade, and a vast private sector are supported by
appropriate institutions. Indeed, they do matter even more than
There is now a consensus that the Washington consensus ought to be
reconsidered, revised, and adjusted to reflect the lessons learned under
real conditions. Both the Russian malaise and the Polish success prove
that such revision is necessary.
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999
From: Tom Manson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: JRL - What is to be done?
You asked for feedback about the list, particularly from Russians. Well,
I’m not Russian, but my wife is and I live in Moscow away from the centre
and the flesh pots. I don’t shop at the Western supermarkets and can quite
happily live without a good Bloody Mary and other things you can only get
I find the list very useful because it allows me to keep in touch with the
real world and the level of informed debate about politics and foreign
policy is much better than can be had anywhere else. I look forward every
morning to reading the list before breakfast.
However, there is one area where I feel the list is weak, and it is no
fault of the list since the list can only reflect what actually is written.
There is not enough carefully researched, informed debate about what is
actually happening here at the socio economic level. To me, this is quite
frankly dangerous because so often debates about political matters or about
reform start from base assumptions that are taken for granted. I have been
looking carefully at the list since I contributed an article and have seen
how many times people outside the country start from the ‘fact’ that GDP
has halved since 1988 and that ‘most of the population is living in
increasing poverty’. Most do make both these assumptions.
I received a number of replies to my contribution and all agreed that
statistics about output changes are meaningless in the context of the
transition from a planned economy which squandered resources on a massive
scale to an economy where some the worst examples of waste are being
corrected. As for the suggestion that people are living in poverty, again
I had no contradiction to my suggestion that most people are better off
today than they ever have been. I have also been asking a large number of
Russians, who after complaining about the changes, admit willingly that
they are much better off today. Indeed, I would love to throw the
suggestion of increasing overall poverty back to those who make the claim
and ask ‘tell me, when exactly was the period that people had more than
today?’ ‘When was this Golden Age?’
A real analysis would go back to the 1980s and would find continual
‘deficit’ (shortages). Going further back and asking about housing, the
questioner would hear the horror stories I have heard about families in the
1960s living in one room with grandmother and baby and sharing a toilet
with three other families. That was common at all levels of society.
A further assumption that is uncritically taken for granted in many
discussions on the list is that the crisis of last August has wrecked the
economy and further impoverished the population. This assumption is 100%
wrong. First, as any economist would expect, the devaluation of the rouble
has led to huge import substitution and has increased domestic production
of goods and services. I have been asking my contacts in industry and they
all have said that today production levels are higher than they have been
since the end of the Soviet system and since quality in general has
increased, this production is real production for the market and not to
make statistics in the plan. A recent article in the list mentioned this
and asked the right sorts of questions - will this increased production
lead to investment from cash flow and above all is enough management good
enough to take advantage of this window of opportunity? My views is that
many enterprises have not made enough changes and will squander their
temporary advantage but there are a growing number that will not.
As for the idea that the crisis has impoverished the population, this is
nonsense of the worst kind. Anyone who knows Russia and its history would
realise that the population does not trust the state with its money, nor
does it trust roubles. In recent times, the state has confiscated savings
in Roubles a number of times, the most recent currency ‘reform’ being in
the early 1990s. Nor, by and large, does the population trust banks. The
retail banking sector was tiny in August and whilst the fact that lines of
depositors made headlines and whilst anyone losing money is disgraceful,
the fact is that a very small percentage indeed of the population had bank
Russians save in Dollars under the bed and a very wide range of people have
a few hundred dollars there. What the total amount is I don’t know, but I
have heard the amount of $30 billion quoted. A significant part of the
capital flight is, therefore, under individual people’s beds and reflects a
totally rational response to maintaining the value of savings where there
are literally no other safe places to put money. What has been the impact
of the crisis? In rouble terms, peoples savings have increased
considerably in value. There has been some inflation, but I would estimate
that the value of peoples savings has doubled so long as what is purchased
is Russian produced. It is common to save dollars for holidays. This year
Sochi is experiencing its best year since Soviet times. There, I can see
real investment. My wife is there now and she confirms this, but says that
unfortunately the management of the hotel has not yet learnt to cook food
other than Soviet style! Otherwise, the place is being transformed.
A major problem is that very few of the political and administrative elite
here have any incentive to look dispassionately at the current economic
state of the nation. Foreign journalists should realise this. If a
Republican congressman blames a Democratic administration for wrecking the
economy, the evidence put forward for this attack is likely to be closely
scrutinised. An opposition always attacks the Government, and the strange
Russian political system ensures that most politicians of note are in the
opposition. Even Yavlinsky from Yabloko is in the opposition and his
generally sensible remarks were recently introduced by the assumption that
GDP has halved.
What is strange is that the Government rarely makes an attempt to correct
the opposition on its major battlreground, that of the economy. The problem
here is that the political elite is still largely composed of people who
have gained all their basic assumptions from the Soviet period and who are
economically illiterate. They see the role of politics as allocating
resources to help friends, they still believe in grandiose projects and
still have the very common feeling that making money from ‘trade’ is
somehow morally wrong.(It is a curiosity that Russians see little wrong in
stealing from the state: a common saying is ‘he who does not steal from his
employer steals from his family’, but the dislike of commercial profit is
widespread.) The political elite is uncomfortable with the new parts of the
economy and really don’t understand it. The stability of personnel in the
Civil service is remarkable and this is one of the main reasons why
economic statistics by and large cannot be trusted.
As for the successful enterprises, far from wanting to disclose their
activity, they do everything they can to hide it. I was talking to a
Director of a major industrial plant recently and asked him how business
was. He replied that production levels were very high. ‘We try to keep it
quiet but unfortunately, the tax police are beginning to realise this now!’
If what I am saying is accepted as being possibly true, (and I am asking
for no more than that), then the implication for many of the debates in the
list is quite large. Take the debate about the role of Western advisers.
If people are actually better of, they are not likely to turn away from
Western economics, and indeed, in today’s list, only 30% of the population
thought that Russia should do this, a figure that coincides remarkably with
the Communist votes and with my estimation of the number of losers in the
transformation process. Western advisers are not seen as having wrecked
the economy but they are quite rightly seen as having badly mismanaged the
Again, a belief in the complexity of the transformation process reinforces
the conviction that step by step reform, based on the real situation is
what is needed now. It underlines the need to understand before making
sweeping demands for major changes.
I cannot resist having as swipe at Keith Hudson’s satirical article. He
started from the fact that Khruschev’s son is taking US citizenship to
propose that millions of young Russian should be encouraged to emigrate. He
failed to notice that the younger Khruschev’s sons want him to come back to
a land where apparently poverty is increasing and which will never change.
I almost was fooled until I realised that the article was so similar to
Jonathan Swift’s ‘simple proposition’ for the solution of poverty in
Ireland that it must be a satire.
Other debates take on a different aspect if it is not taken for granted
that the economy is in catastrophic decline. Even political instability
can be seen as useful if it stops politicians meddling in the economy!
I am pleading for a more informed discussion about what is really happening
to people’s lives here, a discussion that can get away from those with axes
to grind. I would like a debate about how you actually can design measures
that can understand the complexity of the situation, that use, for
instance, data on expenditure (which is consistently shown to be much
greater than disclosed income). We need a discussion that looks for the
growing industries instead of concentrating on the disasters.
Above all, I would ask all those who begin their proposals with the two
assumptions of economic decline and increasing poverty to come and have a
look with an open mind. Try to see not just Moscow but other places as
well. Try to talk to ordinary people and ask them what life was like before
and how it is now. Treat the utterances of politicians in the same way that
they are treated at home. What will be seen is a society that has huge
problems, many of which are slowing the process of transformation. But it
is also a society that has already changed and this change is continuing.
It is also a society where much of the change is for the better and where
there is real hope, balanced as always by the normal Russian pessimism.
July 1, 1999
NEWS ANALYSIS: Will Yeltsin Ban the Communists?
By Melissa Akin
The Communists claim President Boris Yeltsin has drafted a decree banning the
party, and that it's lying in his desk drawer just waiting to be signed.
One Communist, Viktor Ilyukhin, has even come up with a possible date of
issue: July 17, the anniversary of the Bolsheviks' execution of Tsar Nicholas
II, a symbolic anniversary that Yeltsin could use for final revenge against
his old enemies.
In the corridors of the State Duma, where they lead the leftist majority,
Communists say they are ready to go underground if the decree is ever signed.
But their casual tone belies predictions that Yeltsin is about to fulfill
what he considers his historical mission by decreeing a full stop to the
history of the Russian Communist Party.
The Kremlin is clearly on a campaign to rattle the Communists. It has
threatened to inflict moral devastation by removing Soviet founder Vladimir
Lenin's corpse from its Red Square mausoleum.
But while analysts say there's an outside chance the unpredictable Yeltsin
might actually make good on that threat by the summer's end, a ban on the
Communist party is not likely, because the biggest loser in that scenario
could be Yeltsin himself.
Opinion polls show a public deeply disenchanted with Yeltsin, who is blamed
for failed reforms and faced with constant reports in the news media that he
is controlled by a corrupt inner circle.
He and members of the inner circle face an uncertain future if Yeltsin leaves
power following June 2000 elections, as prescribed by the Constitution. One
of them, financier and sometime Kremlin bureaucrat Boris Berezovsky, is
already under investigation on charges of money laundering and illegal
Media have predicted that other members of the family, including Yeltsin's
daughter and adviser Tatyana Dyachenko, could face similar probes if Yeltsin
loses control of the country after the 2000 elections.
Kremlin fears that the Communists could come to power and lead a revenge
campaign could serve as one motivation for a ban on the party.
Berezovsky has called repeatedly for a ban. Duma Deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky,
whose steady support of the president has raised some eyebrows, also took up
the theme Wednesday at a press conference.
He said Lenin would be cremated, then buried, and that August 19, anniversary
of the failed 1991 coup, would be a good day to do it. Communists would be
placed under house arrest and the Duma's fall session would be cancelled,
Interfax quoted him as saying.
An attempt to find evidence of unconstitutional behavior by the party turned
up nothing. Now Yeltsin appears to be out of constitutional avenues to revoke
the Communists' registration, which would deprive them of the right to run in
upcoming elections and consign them to political oblivion as their ageing
electorate dies off.
A presidential decree would violate the Constitution and could even serve as
grounds for prosecution if Yeltsin leaves power after the 2000 elections.
But a ban on the party might not even prevent individual Communists from
running: They could run as independents or simply choose a new party. The
Communists have a host of allies in such political groups as Movement to
Support the Army, the Agrarian Party and the Spiritual Heritage movement.
Some prominent Communists have dual membership in those movements and the
Communist Party f such as leader Gennady Zyuganov, also a member of Spiritual
Heritage, and Ilyukhin, who runs the Movement to Support the Army.
Analysts have also mentioned the National Patriotic Union, a block of leftist
parties, as a possible election vehicle for a disbanded Communist Party.
Yeltsin would face the voter outrage that would likely follow a ban,
strengthening the left at the polls.
"I'm not inclined to think that banning the Communist Party would call forth
social protest actions," Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Center said in
Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "But there is no doubt that the protest mood would come
out in voting for leftist parties that take up the banner of the leftist
Yeltsin would also risk galvanizing the leftist camp, which has shown strong
signs of schism between radicals and moderates in the last six months.
But no one has ruled out the possibility that the willful and unpredictable
president might try it anyway, risky as it is.
Sergei Kolmakov of the Fond Politika think tank said Yeltsin's desire to go
down in history as the destroyer of the Communists would continue to push the
Kremlin camp's drive to preserve itself.
"Inside, he is dissatisfied that the mission isn't finished, that the
Communists are putting themselves in positions of power, that they have
torpedoed reforms, that this is all because of their abuses," Kolmakov said.
"He is trying to realize outdated stereotypes."
Russia's Disabled Fight for Rights
June 30, 1999
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - At first, Leonid Yefremov's colleagues at a Russian
machine-building factory would barely look at him, or at the stumps he has
where others have hands. They were terrified of trusting him with tasks.
He knew he was lucky to be hired at all - only a small fraction of Russia's
disabled people are employed. But he wanted more. He wanted to work.
Now the lanky, energetic 22-year-old is the computer king in his department,
and even his bosses turn to him for technical advice.
In Russia, success stories like his are scarce. Yefremov and other activists
with disabilities met this week in Moscow to try push for better - and
better-enforced - laws allowing them to work.
``They don't think of us as having brains,'' Yefremov said Wednesday. ``We
have to change that attitude.''
Many of Russia's 10 million disabled people rarely leave their apartments.
Almost nothing is wheelchair-accessible - not public buses, not schools, not
even many medical clinics. And Russian apartment buildings often don't have
Because so few people with disabilities go out in public, those who do are
especially feared and stigmatized.
Government money for the handicapped has never been substantial and has
further dwindled because of Russia's economic problems. Last year's economic
crisis prompted many businesses to slash staff, and disabled workers were
among the first to go.
Yefremov knew his options were limited when he finished an electronics course
last year at a technical college in his hometown of Kurgan, 1,000 miles east
After compiling the necessary documents to prove he was capable of working,
he hit the job market - and rejection.
Eventually, thanks to legislation offering tax breaks to companies that hire
disabled people, Yefremov landed a position at the Monin machine-building
plant in Kurgan.
``They wouldn't even look at me. They wouldn't give me anything to do,'' he
said. ``It turned out no one knew anything about computers, and they had no
other choice but to ask me for help. Now they look at me as an equal.''
Yefremov, who suffered an electric shock as a child that cost him his hands,
has long been enthralled by computers. He worked out a way to use a keyboard
with his arms and a homemade pointing device.
Russian activists have mixed feelings about the law passed in 1995 that
helped Yefremov land his job.
The legislation leaves it up to local governments to define rules for
encouraging companies to hire people with physical impairments, and several
regions have yet to do so.
The law also establishes quotas for businesses that employ disabled people,
and employers sometimes create superfluous jobs to meet the requirements. In
the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not include such
Enforcement of the Russian law has been lax. Many companies invent disabled
employees to receive the tax exemptions, said Denise Roza, coordinator of
Perspektiva, a U.S.-funded group that organized this week's conference.
Even in relatively progressive regions like Moscow, movement on hiring the
disabled has been sluggish.
About 3,500 disabled employees are registered as working in the Russian
capital at 25 businesses, according to Yekaterina Sukhacheva, a lawyer
working as a representative of the AFL-CIO in Russia.
``Things are much worse since the (economic) crisis. No one can afford to
hire a disabled person. They're considered extra,'' she said.
Hiring a person with a disability often ignites anger among other employees,
``They see us as bodies taking up space that could be taken by a healthy
person,'' he said.
Russia fears UN losing control in Kosovo mission
By Lida Poletz
UNITED NATIONS, June 30 (Reuters) - Insisting Kosovo remain an integral part
of Yugoslavia, Russia said on Wednesday it feared Western nations were trying
to take over the United Nations' role in rebuilding the war-devastated
``Tendencies have appeared to ... dilute the United Nations' role in the
restructuring of Kosovo and make the U.N. and its secretary-general a mere
executor of someone else's initiatives and efforts,'' Moscow's deputy Foreign
Minister Alexander Avdeyev told reporters.
Avdeyev spoke after a meeting of high-level officials from 18 countries
brought together by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss the civilian
mission in Kosovo that the United Nations is administering.
``We are anxious to preserve the multi-ethnic nature of Kosovo, where every
nationality is protected politically and economically on the basis of the
territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yugoslavia,'' Avdeyev said.
But although participants said the mood was constructive, the gathering
highlighted fragile relations with Western nations since NATO's 11-week
bombing of Yugoslavia.
Avdeyev, in comments to Russian journalists, said Moscow was anxious that the
civilian mission in Kosovo should remain under United Nations supervision
following the U.N. Security Council's authorisation of the mission. Moscow is
one of five veto-wielding permanent council members.
Avdeyev also objected to restrictions most Western nations are placing on aid
to Serbia as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in office.
He said placing conditions on economic assistance was an ``interference in
Yugoslavia's domestic affairs.''
Moscow has pledged to send 3,600 peacekeepers to Kosovo and 200 policemen,
and Avdeyev said Russia hoped to offer help to rebuild the war-torn region's
Many of the factories in Yugoslavia were built using Soviet equipment and
standards, he said.
The European Union is undertaking a long-term reconstruction programme for
the Balkans. Members are still divided over how much assistance should go to
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has insisted only basic
humanitarian supplies go to Serbia as long as Milosevic, indicted by a U.N.
tribunal for war crimes in Kosovo, is still in power.
Russian Agrarians to Break Union with Communists.
MOSCOW, June 30 (Itar-Tass) - The Agrarian Party of Russia (APR) will not
band together with the Communists for the parliamentary election scheduled
for December, its leader Mikhail Lapshin told a news conference on Wednesday.
The APR, which is now a member of the Popular Patriotic Union (PPU), decided
to go separately because the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
(CPRF), which is the linchpin of the PPU, had said it would not team up with
anyone, Lapshin said.
However, that does not mean that "we are taking to the path of confrontation
with the CPRF," he said.
Russia's 43 million peasants can give the APR five million to six million
votes during the election to the State Duma so that they have their own
representation in the lower house.
The APR will team up with the trade union of agricultural workers and
Deadline for Re-Registration of Parties Expires in Russia.
MOSCOW, June 30 (Itar-Tass) - The deadline for the re- registration of public
associations, parties and organisations by the Justice Ministry expired on
Only one third of 70,000 associations have been re- registered. The Vesti
television news programme explained this by the fact that many associations
"were created on the spur of the moment by considerations of expediency".
The parties and movements that applied for re-registration today "did not and
cannot seek participation in the parliament elections. If they wanted to
participate, they should have registered before December 19, 1998, that is a
year before elections."
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
30 June 1999
Russia snubs would-be American Khrushchev
By Marcus Warren in Moscow
THE decision by Nikita Khrushchev's son to apply for American citizenship
is having bizarre, if predictable, consequences for the Soviet leader's
grandson still in Russia.
Half in jest, Nikita Khrushchev Jr has compared his fate to that of those
sentenced to death under Stalin merely for being related to those convicted
of treason. Institutes which used to be only too glad to help the grandson, a
journalist in Moscow, or his father, an academic in Rhode Island, have turned
One former Communist Party official even implied in a telephone conversation
with Nikita that his father had betrayed his country and "sold out to the
Americans". When Nikita Jr asked one design institute for a photograph of a
space rocket dating back to the Soviet period, he was told that the institute
did "not maintain links with foreigners".
Although still a Russian citizen, Nikita was told he would be shown the photo
only if the FSB, successor to the KGB, granted its written permission for his
One archive told the journalist that it would now only allow him to copy its
documents on his father's behalf if he paid the price for foreigners - 40
times higher than that for Russians. Sergei Khrushchev, who arrived in
America in 1991, will be awarded American citizenship on July 12.
Poll shows Lukashenka Favorite for Head of Union
Minsk Belapan in Belarusian
June 29, 1999
A sociological survey of 837 Belarusian nationals and 1,062
Russian nationals on Belarus-Russia unification, which was held by the
Moscow-based national and international security fund's social research
centre and the civic committee for promoting the Union of Belarus and
Russia, showed that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was the
most desirable leader of the union.
In response to the question: "Which Belarusian or Russian politician
would you like to see as the leader of the union Belarusian-Russian
state?" The Belarusian respondents answered as follows: Lukashenka - 23.9
per cent, [the Russian parliament speaker,] Gennadiy Seleznev - 17 per
cent, [Moscow Mayor] Yuriy Luzhkov - 14 per cent, [former Russian Prime
Minister] Yevgeniy Primakov - 11.8 per cent, [the Russian Communist
leader,] Gennadiy Zyuganov - 9.2 per cent, [former Belarusian Prime
Minister] Mikhail Chyhir - 5.7 per cent, [Russian President] Boris
Yeltsin - 2.5 per cent.
A comparative majority of Russians questioned, 24 per cent, would also
like to see Lukashenka as the leader of the union state. Lukashenka is
followed by Luzhkov and Primakov, 12.9 per cent each.
[Description of Source: Belapan -- Independant news agency often critical
of the government.]
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library