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Johnson's Russia List
3 August 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Xinhua: More Russians Suffer Mental Disorders.
2. The Times (UK): Golden age of Brezhnev. Russians are nostalgic for an
era of stagnation in a totalitarian society, writes Richard Beeston in Moscow.
3. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: BOLDYREV SAYS FOREIGN LOANS "SENSELESSLY
4. Itar-Tass: Chubays Praises Results of Stepashin's US Visit.
5. Interfax: Luzhkov, Primakov Most Popular Russian Politicians.
6. Interfax: Maskhadov: West Tries To Push Russia Out of N. Caucasus.
7. Interfax: Lebed: North Caucasus Tensions May Destabilize Russia.
8. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, Demography And Development.
9. John Semlak: Re: 3416-Poverty.
10. Job Announcement--Oregon State University.
11. Wladislaw George Krasnow: T.S. White Series.
12. Brent Cutler: Brain Drain from Russia/3413.
13. Reuters: Big risks ahead for Russian economy, IMF says.
14. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Russia's future faces present
challenges. Rising star must first rebuild his party. (Vladimir Ryzhkov)
15. Interfax: Poll: 66% of Russians see NATO Enlargement as Threat.
16. Stratfor commentary: Timing is Everything in U.S.-Russian Defense
17. The Independent: Helen Womack, Street Life - Russia's little empty
18. Moscow Times editorial: Witch-Hunt Won't Cure Old Wounds.]
More Russians Suffer Mental Disorders
MOSCOW (Aug. 2) XINHUA - Four million Russians are registered at outpatient
clinics as suffering from mental disorders, the Interfax news agency reported
"In the last decade, the number of people suffering from mental disorders has
more than trebled," Interfax quoted the country's human rights commissioner
Oleg Mironov as saying.
The rising incidence of mental illness is attributed to "the unfavorable
social and economic situation in the country, social insecurity,
unemployment, ethnic conflict, forced internal and external migration, and
other factors that produce a condition of stress."
In addition, 4.5 percent of Russia's children suffer from mental disorders,
Interfax said, quoting Mironov's press service.
The commissioner also accused military recruiters of "wanton practice of
meeting military draft targets at any cost" by getting "people with clear
symptoms of mental disorders" into the military.
The Times (UK)
August 2 1999
[for personal use only]
Golden age of Brezhnev
Russians are nostalgic for an era of stagnation in a totalitarian society,
writes Richard Beeston in Moscow
LESS than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a record number of
Russians regret the passing of their former empire and look back with growing
fondness to the stagnant era of Leonid Brezhnev's rule.
While it might seem hard to regret the passing of the 1970s in Russia,
characterised by the empty shelves, the stifling bureaucracy and the
repression of dissent, Russians are becoming misty-eyed for a period
remembered most fondly for its innocence, humour and stability.
The nostalgia has manifested itself in a trendy theme restaurant and a
popular television programme, but it has also encouraged Brezhnev's grandson
to run for Governor and could even influence the outcome of the presidential
elections next year.
Last week an opinion poll indicated that 85 per cent of Russians regretted
the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the highest figure since its collapse in
1991. The results are hardly surprising, given Russia's rapid loss of status
and its calamitous experiment with free-market reforms. More intriguing was
an earlier poll in which Brezhnev, who was General Secretary of the Communist
Party from 1966 until his death in 1982, was voted the best Kremlin leader of
the 20th century.
Andrei Piontovsky, a leading political commentator, believes that the
Brezhnev factor could help to explain why Yevgeni Primakov, a former Soviet
Politburo member, intelligence chief and, until two months ago, Russian Prime
Minister, is the most popular politician and could well be the next
Mr Primakov, a solid but unimaginative leader, failed to get to grips with
Russia's economic problems, but nonetheless restored a sense of stability
after the collapse of the rouble last year. His popularity was increased
further by his tough stand against Nato's action in Kosovo.
"Former Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov's fortunate attribute of resembling
Leonid Brezhnev, both outwardly and in the essence of his policy, brings him
a certain popularity within the tired and disoriented society," Mr Piontovsky
wrote last week in the Moscow Times.
"Primakov's rating corresponds remarkably to the results of the poll that
asked who was the most outstanding Russian politician of the 20th century.
The winner of that poll, by an overwhelming majority, was not Stalin, Lenin,
Stolypin or Gorbachev, but Leonid Ilych Brezhnev. In him, and his Primakov
incarnation, the post-Soviet myth of a golden century is actualised."
Quite how far that popularity runs will be put to the test this month in
elections for the Governor of Sverdlovsk, the Urals region once run by Boris
Yeltsin. Andrei Brezhnev, 37, Brezhnev's grandson and the leader of an
offshoot of the Communist Party, said that he was encouraged to launch his
political career after a Moscow newspaper published letters praising his
In the West, Brezhnev is probably best remembered as the leader who turned
the Soviet Union back towards a totalitarian regime after Khrushchev's failed
experiment in reform. Under his leadership, Soviet tanks put down the Prague
uprising in 1968 and, in his dotage, he ordered the disastrous invasion of
Afghanistan. While the Soviet Union became an undisputed world superpower
under his rule, economic stagnation and official corruption sowed the seeds
for the empire's destruction.
Most Russians recall the era as a time when the State provided the basics of
life, such as housing and a job, and when a few luxuries were possible via
the thriving black market.
The mood is best captured by the weekly programme, Old Apartment, which
chooses a bygone year and invites guests to reminisce in a studio set
complete with the books, pictures and music of the time. A similar nostalgia
permeates Petrovich, a Moscow restaurant decorated with period memorabilia,
including photographs of stern-faced Soviet celebrities in ill-fitting suits.
The menu offers dishes such as "Paul Robeson" caviare and "Gensek", a
shortening of general secretary, a tongue and horseradish dish. Unlike the
Soviet era, when restaurants were notorious for bad food and offensive
waiters, Petrovich's food is good and the service friendly and prompt.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
2 August 1999
BOLDYREV SAYS FOREIGN LOANS "SENSELESSLY SQUANDERED." Meanwhile, Yuri
Boldyrev, the deputy chairman of the Audit Chamber, the independent Russian
government agency established by the parliament to monitor the use of state
budgetary funds, said that he was convinced that previous International
Monetary Fund credits had been "senselessly squandered." Boldyrev claimed
that a "huge quantity of foreign loans went toward the creation of various
foundations and centers under the Russian government and president," which
spend the funds for carrying out various "consulting services."
Boldyrev was Russia's "comptroller"--chief corruption fighter--at the
beginning of Yeltsin's tenure, but was fired in 1993 after he brought
evidence of corruption among high-level military officials and in the Moscow
city government to the president's attention. The comptroller's post was
abolished after Boldyrev was fired. Boldyrev's electoral bloc, which he
formed last year, did well in St. Petersburg's local elections last
December. Boldyrev said that the main task of his bloc in the upcoming
parliamentary elections will be to push for "a mechanism of punishment of
state officials for crimes carried out" (Russian agencies, August 2).
Boldyrev has said that he would support a presidential bid by former Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and his bloc is likely to enter into any
coalition Primakov joins--when and if he does so.
Chubays Praises Results of Stepashin's US Visit
MOSCOW, July 30 (Itar-Tass) -- Prime Minister
Sergey Stepashin has put an end to a long pause in Russia's relations
with international financial institutions, and this can be regarded as
one of the main results of his visit to the United States, Anatoly
Chubays, chairman of the board of EES Rossii, believes.
Speaking in an interview with the Vek newspaper, published in its latest
issue, he said: "Negotiations on debts can be perceptibly intensified,
and a real chance to attract investments can appear only on the basis of
the agreements reached with IMF."
Chubays shares the opinion of the Russian prime minister, who during his
visit to the U.S. persistently called attention of politicians and
businessmen to the fact that the risk for investors had been reduced to a
minimum in Russia, and that its national economy was being revived.
"There is no doubt that Stepashin in right in this case. Of course, we have
not fully recovered after the 1998 crisis. But the growth of industrial
output is a fact. According to the information of the State Committee for
Statistics, it amounted to 1.5 per cent during the first five months of
the current year. I am positive the figure it not the result of some
statistical tricks," Chubays said.
In his opinion, "our economy is actually approaching the highest level
during the whole of the pre-crisis period and during the past decade --
the level of late 1997."
In this situation the absence of investments becomes the main factor
curbing the economic growth. He believes, however, that they will not
start coming until next summer.
This will be the result of "political and not economic factors. If the
results of the presidential election are reasonable, then major
investments will start coming. After that economic growth will be far
greater than one per cent," he said.
Luzhkov, Primakov Most Popular Russian Politicians
MOSCOW. Aug 1 (Interfax) -- The weekly Interfax
VREMYA reported with reference to an opinion poll held by the All-Russia
Public Opinion Fund in July, that of all Russian politicians only Moscow
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov "are close
to an ideal." During the poll the respondents were asked to say who the
richest and the most handsome and well-bred politicians are in Russia.
The poll revealed that Russia's top three most handsome politicians are
Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Kiriyenko and Sergei Stepashin, and the least
appealing - Boris Yeltsin, Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The
most well-bred politicians, in the respondents' opinion, are Yevgeny
Primakov, Grigory Yavlinsky and Sergei Kiriyenko, and the most ill-bred
Vladimir Zhirinovsky (60%), Boris Yeltsin (2.7%) and Alexander Lebed
(1.98%). In the opinion of the respondents, Luzhkov is the richest of the
regional leaders. Next come Governor of Kursk region Alexander Rutskoi
and Governor of Saratov region Dmitri Ayatskov. The results of the poll
suggest that Luzhkov and Primakov, who in the opinion of those polled,
have the optimal combination of qualities, are also the leading
challengers for the presidential post. Experts think that behind the
answers to "unserious questions" stand the population's important
Maskhadov: West Tries To Push Russia Out of N. Caucasus
GROZNY. July 30 (Interfax) - Chechen President
Aslan Maskhadov says the West is trying to push Russia out of the North
Caucasus as it has done so from the South Caucasus. Speaking on Chechen
TV on Friday he expressed doubt that Western and Russian intelligence
services could be operating in the region jointly. "The oligarchs and the
party of war oriented on the West may connive with Western services,
though," Maskhadov said. According to him, Western and Muslim countries,
Russia's oligarchs, the party of war and Chechen groups conniving with
them coordinate their efforts in and around Chechnya. "It is their
purpose to undermine Russia from the inside and later oust it from the
Caucasus," Maskhadov said. "They are trying to begin the process of
dividing Chechnya into spheres of influence, causing chaos, developing a
public attitude toward it as an ungovernable territory which should be
spoken to in the language of force and later spreading this pattern to
the North Caucasus as a whole," he said. "The regular provocations on the
border are instigated by Western intelligence services in order to set
Russia and Chechnya against each other forever, prevent them from
developing civilized relations and becoming partners," he said. "The West
is currently supporting a Dagestani group so that it would fully oust
Russia and spread the seat of instability to the rest of the North
Caucasus and also to Azerbaijan and Georgia," Maskhadov said.
Lebed: North Caucasus Tensions May Destabilize Russia
MOSCOW. Aug 1 (Interfax) -- Governor of
Krasnoyarsk territory Alexander Lebed thinks that "complications in the
North Caucasus may lead to the introduction of a state of emergency in
the whole of Russia." "Chechnya is an old wound bleeding in the North
Caucasus now. Attempts are being made to upset stability in Dagestan,
tensions have arisen in relations between Ingushetia and North Ossetia
and the situation in Karachayevo-Cherkessia is unstable," he told
Interfax in Moscow Sunday at the festive events to mark the Day of the
Russian Airborne Troops. Regarding the airborne troops' readiness, he
said that "two thirds of the airborne troops are outside Russia - in
Abkhazia, Bosnia and Kosovo." "But Russia also needs airborne troops as
problems may arise in the North Caucasus," he said. He said that the
airborne troops are "in need of total training and must be strengthened."
He also said he has devoted 26 years to the airborne troops and is proud
of being a paratrooper. "I worked may way up from commander of a unit to
commander of an army. There are no tasks the paratroopers cannot fulfil,"
Russia: Analysis From Washington--Demography And Development
By Paul Goble
Washington, 2 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The demographic crisis in the Russian
Federation and several other post-Soviet states serves not only as a break on
economic development but also appears to be so deeply rooted in the social
fabric of these countries that economic growth there by itself is unlikely to
overcome it anytime soon.
And that pattern -- one very different from countries in Western Europe --
almost certainly will limit the ability of these societies to develop
politically as well, thus further restricting their chance to escape from
their communist pasts and to create the foundations for self-sustaining
That disturbing conclusion is suggested in a new study prepared for the U.S.
Defense Department by a group of scholars including Murray Feshbach, Nicholas
Eberstadt and Vladimir Kontorovich. They focused on the Russian Federation,
but their conclusion that the demographic crisis there "is unique from other
historical precedents" clearly applies to other parts of the post-Soviet
region as well.
Falling birthrates and rising death rates, the authors point out, mean that
the Russian population will almost certainly be smaller in the future than it
is today. Indeed, on Friday, the Russian statistics agency appeared to
confirm that by releasing figures showing that the population of the Russian
Federation fell by 346,700 in the first five months of 1999 alone, an
acceleration of a trend that began earlier in this decade.
Because the number of deaths in the Russian Federation exceeded the number of
births there during that period by 396,000, the agency said, the decline
would have been even greater -- had it not been for the migration of some
47,000 ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics back to the Russian
Many analysts have blamed this situation on the economic difficulties the
Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states now face. But the authors of
the Defense Department study suggest that the demographic problems are much
deeper, appear to be getting worse, and are likely to last even after these
countries have begun to recover economically.
Some of these problems, these authors suggest, are rooted in ecological and
epidemiological situations that the authorities do not appear to have either
the resources or even the will to reverse. And these health problems,
reflected in both falling life expectancies and declining populations, will
in turn make it difficult for the Russian Federation and other countries to
bounce back economically as quickly as many appear to expect.
In many respects, the authors of this study suggest, the health profile of
Russia today currently resembles one in a Third World country that is doing
poorly rather than the kind found in more developed states, even those that
have gone through an acute economic crisis or even depression.
But perhaps the most important finding of this new study, the one with the
broadest application, is that economic development by itself will not provide
a sure cure for the demographic difficulties found in the post-Soviet states.
Instead, these problems by themselves are likely to create political
challenges in each of the three very different demographic regions of the
former Soviet space.
In the Slavic countries, where the demographic crisis is the most severe, the
aging and increasingly ill population is likely to demand expanded health
care at a time when the authorities are trying to reduce government
expenditures in order to allow for economic growth. Such demands could
provide a base for political leaders interested in expanding the size of the
state at the expense of the economy.
In the Baltic countries, where the populations are among the oldest in
Europe, pensioners are in many instances turning away from the parties which
led the drive to the recovery of independence toward political groups which
promise to take care of them and their pension and health concerns in the
future, a shift that may change the politics of all three of these countries
over the next decade.
And in the historically Islamic countries of Central Asia, still high
birthrates not only are putting more pressure on existing facilities but
creating conditions for future political instability by reducing the average
age of the population to levels more common in the poorest Third World
countries than in Europe.
Demographic developments like these seldom attract much attention as they are
taking place, but their consequences appear likely to prove far more
important than many of the events which now garner headlines.
From: "John Semlak" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 3416-Poverty
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999
I would like to respond to this bit from JRL #3416, article #1 entitled "1/3
of Russians live in Poverty."
"After the ruble devaluation, many imports became prohibitively expensive
Russians. The agency didn't give exact foreign-trade volumes, but monthly
figures show exports totaled $34.4 billion against imports of $19.6 billion,
for a trade surplus at around $14.8 billion for the first half of the year.
Russia's trade surplus was just $900 million from January to June of 1998."
This paragraph suggests that the reason Russia's trade surplus went up
15-fold was that imports became more expensive and Russians switched to
buying domestic goods. While this was undoubtedly a factor, the primary
reason is more likely the rise in the price of oil, increasing the return on
one of Russia's main exports.
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999
From: Jesquier@aol.com (John Squier)
Subject: Job Announcement--Oregon State University
David--I'm not sure if JRL is an appropriate place for this kind of
announcement, but Oregon State University needs a replacement faculty member
with an expertise in contemporary Russia. This list probably has more people
on it who fit the bill than any other, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The
announcement follows. Thanks! --John Squier
The Department of Political Science at Oregon State
University in Corvallis, OR is seeking a replacement
instructor to teach two undergraduate courses per
quarter for three quarters during the 1999-2000
academic year. The salary is $26,000 for a nine-month
contract, and includes health benefits and
participation in TIAA/CREF. Among the courses which
the department would like taught are:
Intro to Comparative Politics
Russian Politics (tsarist and Soviet, but principally
Intro Methods (a basic undergraduate introduction to
Russian Foreign Policy
Topics (preferably an Eastern European focus)
This is not an exclusive list of acceptable courses,
and can be changed based on the instructor's
background and interests. The position reauires at
least an ABD, and would be ideal for someone who
wanted to work while finishing his dissertation.
(Someone with a completed Ph.D. would, of course, be
qualified as well). Interested individuals should
contact acting department chair Richard Clinton at the
following e-mail address:
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999
From: "Wladislaw George Krasnow, PhD" <email@example.com>
Organization: Russian American Goodwill Associates
Subject: T.S. White Series
With great interest I have been following T. S. (Tom) White's series of
articles on doing business in Russia with the subject heading
Entrepreneur 1 thru 4.
Entr. 1 was devoted to the use of Russian interpreters (JRL 3377); 2 -
to doing feasibility studies (JRL 3382); 3 - forming a company in Russia
(JRL 3392); and 4 - Russian documentation requirements for registering a
foreign business (JRL 3398).
Peter Ekman concurred with White's advice to avoid forming joint
ventures in Russia because of "all the horror stories that abound."
Ekman cited a number of "horrors" involving well-known big joint
ventures, "etc., etc." But he also wisely asked about success stories.
Andrei Lyakhov obliged by compiling the list of ten (JRL 3394), adding
that he could make the list "a mile long."
Now, the real question is this: Whether, in the mind of an enterprising
and fair-minded American eager to start a new business venture in
Russia, Ekman's "etc., etc." is longer than Liakhov's "mile"? In other
words: Does the negative experience of even attempting to do business in
Russia outweigh the positive or not ? If it does: What can the Russians
and their government do to motivate individual Americans'
entrepreneurship in Russia?
Can T.S. White, or anybody else, tell me whether they tried to hire
American-born Russian interpreters, if they were dissatisfied, as White
obviously was, with the Russian ones?
Also, what is White's response to Liakhov's correction that since 1995
"there is no such legal form in Russia as a joint venture" and that the
precedures have been greatly improved?
Twice I tried to e-mail directly to Mr. White, but my message bounced
back. It's pity, for he has raised issues that are very germane to any
improvement of U.S. - Russia business climate, regardless what our
governments do or fail to do on the huge macroeconomic issues. I am
looking forward to a continuation of his series, more discussion and
practical suggestions to those contemplating doing business in Russia.
JRL is the right forum for this.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brent Cutler)
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999
Subject: Brain Drain from Russia/3413
Brain Drain in Russia, maybe...but let us look at another perspective. My
initial results in expanding Mensa in Russia are really quite promising and
show that a lot of brilliant minds are still hanging around and very
enthusiastic about the future. Others that left are returning with a
little capital and a lot of ideas, so just be aware some people in Russia
are looking to a great future.
BACKGROUND: Mensa, as you know is a world wide organization whose
membership is based on having an IQ in the upper 2% of the population
(approximately 146 or higher). Our second testing in Russia last Friday
the 23rd of July. An astounding 11 new qualified members, many in the 99th
percentile. This group represent a lot of opinions, but I can say most
all would agree, Russia has a lot of potential, NOW, and is a great place
to live and prosper.
Brain Drain, yes from a research side I can see that funding is down and if
there is no funding for your particular speciality, you must go to where
the job is or convert your skills. This is the same in US Defence or
Aerospace or Bio-engineering in the USA. True raw intelligence however,
from the way I see it, is finding a way to survive in Russia, prosper in
Russia and to help the country grow to its true potential! Be careful of
your assumptions about Russia, dear worldwide readers....it is a future
force to be reckoned with...and not its ballistic missiles. The real
danger is in the creativity, intelligence and hard work ethic of the young
up and coming generation. Capitalism isn't so hard a doctrine to learn and
if your clever, this is an amazing place to make a life.
Brent L. Cutler
Director, Mensa Russia
Big risks ahead for Russian economy, IMF says
By Janet Guttsman
WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Russia's economy faces considerable risks and
the government must revive structural reforms and improve its tax position to
cement its economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.
A strongly worded IMF statement summarizing a July 28 review of the Russian
economy said Russia's failure to tackle ``underlying fiscal problems'' had
been the main factor behind last year's financial crisis, when the government
devalued the rouble and defaulted on some domestic debts.
``Directors cautioned that considerable risks remain,'' the IMF said. ``They
stressed that Russia's extremely difficult economic and financial situation,
amid a sharp cut-back in access to external financing, should lend a sense of
urgency to the need for fundamental and lasting reform.''
The IMF economic review took place on the day that the fund effectively
rolled over Russia's debts to the IMF with a new $4.5 billion loan.
The IMF released $640 million from this credit immediately, but the money
will go straight into an account at the IMF and will never actually reach
Russia owed the IMF some $17 billion before the latest loan was approved. It
must repay $7.3 billion this year and next, as well as service billions of
dollars in debts to other creditors.
The IMF has approved a series of loans to Russia in the last years, but
Russia has a poor track record of meeting the reformist promises needed to
get the cash. Monday's statement admitted preconditions underpinning this
latest loan included ``elements...that had been proposed before, but had not
been carried out.''
It said industrial output rose 5 percent in the second quarter compared to a
year ago as consumers stopped buying pricey imported goods. The government
must meet its promises on reform in order to sustain this tentative recovery.
``The limited recovery and the measure of stability achieved in recent months
would prove unsustainable unless strenuous efforts were made to reduce the
fiscal deficit and to accelerate structural reforms,'' it said.
Russia's promised 2 percent 1999 primary budget surplus, excluding interest
payments, was appropriate, but the primary surplus would have to be even
wider in 2000, the IMF added.
Russia's dismal track record on meeting past promises to the IMF centres on
lower-than-expected tax collection and delays in closing ailing banks. But
Russian officials said on Monday that they had fully met July's revenue
``The budget is being fulfilled 100 percent. This has not happened for a long
time,'' Alexander Livshits, Russia's envoy to the Group of Eight
industrialised countries, said.
The IMF statement also reiterated deep IMF concern about the way Russia had
channelled money through Fimaco, a central bank subsidiary based in Britain's
``These transactions constituted an episode of a fundamental lack of
cooperation on the part of the authorities and a serious violation of
Russia's obligations to the fund,'' the report said. ``A number of directors
felt that the corrective actions taken so far fell well short of what was
IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer said last week that the
transactions meant Russia had misrepresented its reserve figures by about
``The central issue was, were we lied to,'' Fischer said, using surprisingly
blunt language for an IMF official. ``The answer to that ... is unfortunately
2 August 1999
[for personal use only]
Russia's future faces present challenges
Rising star must first rebuild his party
By David Filipov
MOSCOW - Vladimir Ryzhkov, the political whiz kid of Russia's parliament,
stared bleakly out at his charges, a group of senior legislators sweltering
in the heat of a cramped conference room.
''Where's Andreyev?'' snapped Ryzhkov, a boyish-looking 32. The room fell
silent. Men and women old enough to be his parents lowered their heads like
timid schoolchildren. ''Why is it that whenever we need Andreyev, he's always
somewhere else?'' he asked, frustrated that he couldn't find his foreign
There are days when Ryzhkov, with his clean image and his thoughtful ideas on
how to make Russia work, looks like the kind of young leader the country
needs to deliver it from a wasteland of corruption, ineffective governance,
and public apathy.
But there are other days when Ryzhkov appears hard-pressed to save his own
party from self-destruction, let alone solve the problems of this vast
nation. This recent day was shaping up to be one of those bad days for
Ryzhkov and his centrist political bloc, which was trying to fend off a
parliamentary rebuke to its leader for his role as a Yugoslav peace mediator.
If Ryzhkov's party is going to stand half a chance in December elections, it
had to block the measure.
This is a long way from Ryzhkov's beginnings as a budding historian in the
Siberian city of Barnaul, where he passed time between classes he taught at
Altai State University by fly-fishing or hunting prairie dogs and Altai
Ryzhkov was thrust into politics in 1991, after he led opposition in Barnaul
to the attempt by Moscow hard-liners to oust then-Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev. Appointed the region's deputy governor at age 25, he won a seat in
the Duma in 1995. And in 1997, he rose to national prominence when he was
elected first deputy speaker.
Now, Ryzhkov is an acknowledged star in Russian politics, recognized as a
talented organizer and eloquent speaker who has earned the respect of both
his ideological enemies and his elder party allies in the Duma.
Is Ryzhkov destined to be the Russian statesman of the future, ''the
politician of the next wave,'' as one leading analyst calls him?
Even if he does not make it, Ryzhkov is worth watching. His views, which
combine patriotism and liberal values, exemplify the way young Russian
democrats have evolved from the anti-Soviet, pro-Western ideological fervor
that propelled the democracy movement to power a decade ago. Then, they
supported the radical market reforms prescribed by President Boris N.
Yeltsin's government and its Western backers as the quickest way to freedom
These days, Ryzhkov is writing a history of the Yeltsin era that describes a
dysfunctional, derelict state run by an erratic and isolated president, a
weak government, and a few entrenched, cynical cronies.
''There is no Kremlin; there is no government; there is no clear political
policy,'' Ryzhkov has said. ''There is only a constant battle among different
groups to control finances. I've turned my back on all of them and turned to
He has produced a copy of the campaign platform for the Our Home party that
spells out his vision: The government must help create open markets, foster
effective small businesses and a workable banking system, create and protect
civil society and rule of law - and then get out of way.
Most of all, the government must be representative, chosen from among leading
political parties in parliament, rather than formed and run at the
president's whim, as in the current system.
Ryzhkov foresees grass-roots parties replacing bureaucracies and state
institutions as the main actors in the political arena. Naturally, he
imagines his party as one of the winners in such a system. But there is a
problem with that.
Created when Viktor S. Chernomyrdin was prime minister in 1995, Our Home
actually is the antithesis of a grass-roots party. Backed by Gazprom,
Russia's powerful gas monopoly and Chernomyrdin's former fiefdom from his
days as Soviet gas minister, Our Home presented itself as the establishment,
a ''Party of Power'' made up of leading celebrities, business magnates,
regional leaders, and Cabinet members.
That approach won it 10 percent of the vote and 60 of the Duma's 450 seats in
December 1995, enough to make Our Home the lower house's third-largest bloc
behind the Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist party.
But since Yeltsin fired Chernomyrdin in April 1998, Our Home's fortunes have
dwindled. Many of the party's most powerful backers have quit. Many Russians
blame Chernomyrdin for the country's problems.
''People often saw in us ... the party of bosses, cut off from the people and
following their own corporate interests,'' Ryzhkov says.
It's time to start from scratch.
Bending his lanky frame over his office desk, Ryzhkov flipped though a
notebook stuffed with samples just back from the printers of bumper stickers,
baseball caps, pins, pennants, posters, and other campaign paraphernelia, all
decked out with a snazzy logo on a stately blue background.
''That is the color of a party of the people, our people, our country,'' he
told a recent visitor as he showed off the samples. ''Look at that. This is a
Russian, conservative blue.''
He may be on to something: The concept that a political party must stand for
something, even if the message is something as simple as ''conservative.'' In
contrast, Russian parties, save one major exception - the Communists - have
tended to be built not on ideas but around the personalities and political
ambitions of their leaders.
''Conservative,'' in Ryzhkov's interpretation, seems to include a revised
view of the Soviet past. He condemns the intolerance, repression, and crimes
of the Soviet regime. But he refuses to see recent Russian history as an
entirely black period, and not just because his mother was a leading official
in Altai's Communist Party during the Soviet era. There is a pride in Soviet
cultural, scientific, and even political achievements.
''`Not for anything would I change my fatherland or change the history God
has given us,''' Ryzhkov quotes from a volume of Alexander Pushkin, Russia's
most celebrated poet.
Russian conservatism also seems to mix Western, neoliberal ideas and values
with other influences. On Ryzhkov's recent reading list with Pushkin are
''Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents,'' Harvard scholar Richard E.
Neustadt's study of American government, a collection of works by ancient
Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse, and a history of czarist Russia's own brief
experiment with parliamentary democracy at the beginning of the century.
His party's approach is a pretty abstract way of building a political base,
and Ryzhkov knows it. He also knows that, at least for now, election
campaigns in Russia are won not by ideas but by those who control television
stations. Yeltsin's Kremlin has television stations. So does Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov. But Ryzhkov has balked at joining election alliances of these
That stance is unusual in a system where personal enrichment is seen as a
politician's birthright. Ryzhkov has failed to take advantage of even the
legal loot - a private Moscow apartment, personal cars, country houses -
afforded members of the Duma.
He has a two-room apartment 45 minutes west of the Kremlin where he lives
with his wife, a law student, and 5-year-old daughter. He has the use of a
car and driver, which he must give up if he leaves parliament.
''I guess I'm just not very practical,'' Ryzhkov has said. But he doesn't
like to talk about this subject. ''I do not want people to think I am a
The tensions between the new-style politico Ryzhkov and the old-style
apparatchik are evident. Ryzhkov will not say it, but he knows Chernomyrdin
has no inclination for bumper stickers and party politics. While Ryzhkov was
writing Our Home's antibureaucratic platform, Chernomyrdin was working his
way back into Gazprom's management.
It was late on a recent sultry Friday evening when Ryzhkov finally put aside
the trials of his day job. The Duma was all but empty; the lawmakers and
power brokers had fled steamy Moscow for country homes.
Ryzhkov looked back on his week. He had found Andreyev and had fixed that
messy Yugoslavia problem. He had seen his new bumper stickers. He had
dictated a few chapters in his new book.
''This,'' he said, ''wasn't such a bad week.''
Anastasia Saschikhina, a Globe researcher, contributed to this report.
Poll: 66% of Russians see NATO Enlargement as Threat
MOSCOW. July 30 (Interfax) - As many as 66% of
Russians believe NATO enlargement to the east is a threat to Russia, only
14% hold the opposite opinion and 21% are undecided. These figures come
from a poll of 1,500 urban and rural residents conducted by the Public
Opinion Foundation on July 10. A similar poll was taken in spring 1997
when the matter was widely debated by the Russian media. At that time a
concern about enlargement was shared by 51%, and 34% saw no threat. Thus
in two years, and probably especially in the wake of the Kosovo conflict
the Russian public's attitude toward NATO has become more watchful.
2100 GMT, 990802 – Timing is Everything in U.S.-Russian Defense Talks
On August 2, Russian and U.S. defense officials announced that a meeting
between U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister
Igor Sergeyev had been postponed, possibly until the fall. A meeting between
the two defense chiefs had been scheduled for sometime in the beginning of
August, although a date had not been specified. According to published
reports, Sergeyev, who is vacationing in the Black Sea port of Sochi, asked
for the meeting with Cohen to be held August 2, a day after the conclusion of
Cohen’s week-long visit to Ukraine, Georgia, South Korea and Japan. According
to officials from both countries, the meeting was postponed by "mutual
The need for a meeting between the Russian and U.S. defense chiefs was
evident in the wake of the Kosovo conflict. Not only did NATO’s bombardment
of Yugoslavia drive a wedge between NATO and Russia, but the Russian Foreign
Ministry’s eventual cooperation with NATO – selling out the Yugoslav
government at the last moment – drove a deep wedge between the Russian
Foreign and Defense Ministries. The wedge was so deep that the Russian
Defense Ministry deployed troops to Kosovo without bothering to inform the
Foreign Ministry, and in direct contravention of Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov’s promises to NATO.
Prior to Operation Allied Force, their respective national interests demanded
that Cohen and Sergeyev proceed gradually toward confrontation. The U.S.
needed to ensure that Russia was driven as far back as possible and that its
neighbors were suitably reinforced before Russia eventually recovered and
attempted to reassert itself. Thus, Cohen was committed to support a policy
of NATO expansion and of strengthening political and military ties from
Moldova and Ukraine to the Central Asian republics. Sergeyev was responsible
for Russia’s security, which meant first and foremost halting Russia’s
retreat and thereby limiting the amount of political and military ground
Russia would eventually have to recover. Thus, Sergeyev was duty-bound to
oppose NATO expansion and involvement around Russia’s periphery. Both men had
jobs to do, and time to do them.
In Kosovo, both military chiefs were dropped in the same boat by their
respective countries’ foreign policy makers, as Russia’s Foreign Ministry and
the U.S. State Department turned an inevitable but gradual competition into
an all-out race. This explains Cohen’s original intention, in early July, of
seeking a meeting with Sergeyev. Cohen sought to assure Sergeyev that U.S.
defense planners were not the ones behind the decision to bomb Kosovo, and
that they had no desire to accelerate competition with Russia because of the
bombing campaign. Competition was just fine at the old pace.
However, the timing of Sergeyev’s request to meet with Cohen August 2, and
the subsequent postponement, signals a different agenda on the part of the
Russian defense minister. As Beijing did not accept that the bombing of
China’s embassy in Belgrade was an accident, so Sergeyev found it hard to
swallow that NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia was not directly aimed at Russia.
NATO’s behavior toward Russian forces after the bombing and Cohen’s trip to
Ukraine and Georgia only reinforced this impression. While in Georgia, Cohen
announced the U.S. would provide helicopters and patrol boats to aid the
defense of Georgia’s borders, and extended a cooperation agreement while in
And so, in the wake of Cohen’s tour, Sergeyev sought to discuss U.S. and NATO
involvement within the boundaries of the CIS. He wanted linkage between
general tension reduction and specific U.S. cooperation with Russia’s former
satellites. Cohen, who was scheduled to return from Georgia on August 1, was
not looking for such a topical discussion, and wanted to avoid mixing his
recent visits with broader issues of U.S.-Russian military relations. To
discuss events from Cohen’s trip could only serve to exacerbate the situation
between the two countries. So, the meeting has been postponed to a less
sensitive time. Sergeyev, however, is unlikely to forget specific NATO and
U.S. provocations any time soon.
The Independent (UK)
3 August 1999
[for personal use only]
Street Life - Russia's little empty Oxford
By Helen Womack
"Having a lovely time. Wish you were here." I am away from Samotechny Lane,
sending this postcard from Suzdal.
Actually, it would be reassuring if anybody were here. This ancient Russian
city is an architectural jewel, comparable perhaps to somewhere like Oxford,
yet at the height of the tourist season it is almost deserted. I arrived as
the sun was setting, coming over a glorious plain with a prospect not of
dreaming spires but of dreaming onion domes, Suzdal being one of the
so-called "Golden Ring" religious centres of old Russia.
Now I am staying in the concrete Tourist Centre. A private hotelier leapt
into the road as I passed, trying to attract me to his bed and breakfast, but
I had already booked the former state hotel. It is fine. The renovated room
costs $20 (Ł12.50) a night. There is soap and toilet paper. I have promised
the private man to dine at his guesthouse instead.
I explore the city. It has a kremlin (fortress), a convent, two monasteries,
dozens of churches, dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries, and a nearly
200-year-old shopping arcade with wrought-iron signs for the cobbler, the
milliner and the wine merchant. Little wooden bridges take me back and forth
across the river Kamenka, meandering and thick with water lilies.
I am looking for the world famous Church of the Intercession on the Nerl. It
is featured in thousands of pictures.Simple, white and standing alone on the
bank of the river Nerl, it is as perfect as a pearl. But I discover that the
church, built in 1165, is not in Suzdal itself. I must drive through the
nearby city of Vladimir, grim and industrial despite its historic centre, to
Bogolyubovo. When I arrive, I find that the church is smaller than I expected
and somehow spoilt by electricity pylons, cars and other 20th-century
Returning to Suzdal feels like coming home. There are no high-rise buildings
here.The city is like an extended village of wooden houses with lace curtains
and geraniums in the windows. Goats and geese stand at the bus stops.
The locals are poor. A sign in the supermarket lists the times when the
hospital will pay blood donors. At night, the street lamps are not lit. The
city budget lacks funds.
Yet, there is a feeling of quiet dignity here. The statue of Lenin in the
central square is not overpowering. Capitalism also seems to have touched
Suzdal only lightly. Absent are the kiosks that make other Russian cities
If only there were more road signs to encourage tourists. If only at the
private Kuchkova guesthouse they could do something about the flies. Then
Suzdal would indeed be a five-star tourist destination. So why are there so
few visitors? Because rich Russians go abroad and poor Russians do not have
holidays, while Westerners are scared off by the country's instability.
Suzdal is distinctive, an island of beauty in a sea of mediocrity. Yet,
umbilically linked to the rest of Russia by the poor, anarchic road I
described last week, it is dragged down to the common level. In that sense,
it is anything but an island and will only prosper when Mother Russia herself
August 3, 1999
EDITORIAL: Witch-Hunt Won't Cure Old Wounds
Fifty years after KGB official Mikhail Neverovsky participated in organizing
the Stalinist deportations of Estonians to Siberia, the Estonians have struck
back. Neverovsky, now 79 and on crutches, was convicted over the weekend of
crimes against humanity. He faces four years in jail.
The deportations were horrifying. Tens of thousands of people were packed
into cattle cars, shipped across the country and then dumped in unsettled
wilds. Thousands did not survive. Since there is no statute of limitations on
mass murder, it seems reasonable to hunt down the officials responsible for
But there is, of course, no small danger of going overboard. It is
questionable whether Neverovsky is truly guilty or simply a scapegoat -
albeit an unadmirable one - for larger powers who have died long ago.
East Germany and Lithuania both threw open their secret police files in 1992,
and Latvia did so partially in 1993 and 1994; all were shocked and dismayed
to see national heroes unveiled as KGB or Stasi collaborators. Lithuanian
prime minister Kazimiera Prunskiene lost her post when her name came up among
such collaborators; so did the Latvian foreign minister, Georgs Andrejevs.
The case of Andrejevs, a young doctor recruited in 1963 by the KGB to spy on
his colleagues, is particularly interesting. Rather than risk his career,
Andrejevs has written that he decided to play along - by filing boring
reports filled with nonsense, and behaving eagerly but doing nothing. Even
his enemies say Andrejevs was a great doctor who modernized Latvia's
hospitals; but Latvia's parliament stripped him of office in 1994.
As Andrejevs' story suggests, the hunt for KGB collaborators that has gone on
in the Baltics and Eastern Europe can be destructive and unjust.
But, at least the Balts and East Europeans are wrestling with these
historical and moral issues. Russia, by contrast, has all but given up on
discussing history. No one cares. (The exception, of course, is election
season, when NTV and ORT can be counted on to start running British-made
documentaries about the Soviet Communist Party and reruns of Nikita
Mikhailkov's "Burnt By The Sun.")
Partly, this Russian apathy is a reaction to the flood of horrible news
people had to absorb in the early days of glasnost. Newspapers and television
chronicled the horrors of Soviet rule. It got to be overwhelming; people lost
interest and tuned out.
Between the extremes of apathy and witch-hunt there is a middle path - one
that opens all historical archives for careful study. Then voters and
politicians can try to listen to history and to draw lessons from it. A
future president might seek the nation's future "national idea" by doing just