This Date's Issues: 3458 • 3459
Johnson's Russia List
23 August 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russia's Luzhkov lashes out at Kremlin ``regime''
2. Reuters: IMF official says Russia needs more radical reforms.
3. The Times (UK): Maimed by embracing the market. Michael Binyon examines
a devastating UN indictment of how, in the Nineties, privatisation in east
Europe's former communist states has led only to human misery.
4. Newsday cover editorial: Brother, Can You Spare A Ruble? / Russia Must
Rescue Itself, Economically, Politically.
5. Los Angeles Times: Michael Reynolds, Echoes of an Empire in Free Fall.
6. Itar-Tass: Yeltsin Ready to Back "all Constructive Forces" at Polls.
7. Financial Times: Andrew Jack, Nemtsov fails to build coalition.
8. Reuters: Kuchma tops Ukraine presidential field.
9. AFP: Jiang, Yeltsin to discuss regional security with Central Asian
10. New York Times letters: As Russian Power Wanes, Violence Spreads.
(Responses to Robert D. Kaplan's "Why Russia Risks All in Dagestan" (Op-Ed,
Russia's Luzhkov lashes out at Kremlin ``regime''
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Moscow's powerful mayor Yuri Luzhkov lashed out at
the Kremlin in a television interview on Sunday, delivering his fiercest
criticism yet of what he called the ``regime'' of President Boris Yeltsin.
Luzhkov, the driving force behind a new electoral bloc many analysts say
looks unstoppable in a December parliamentary election, did not specifically
name his former political ally Yeltsin.
But he said the Kremlin had wrecked Russians' dreams of living in a
``Today we no longer have authorities in Russia, but a regime, a regime that
names its successors,'' Luzhkov told an interviewer on RTR state television.
Yeltsin, who sacked Sergei Stepashin from the prime minister's post two weeks
ago, has told Russians he wanted his new prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a
former KGB spy with no public profile, to succeed him in a presidential poll
``Is that democracy? A regime that takes decisions to use the security forces
to apply political pressure to its opponents?'' said Luzhkov, who has in the
past accused Kremlin insiders of launching bogus investigations into his
wife's business deals.
``Look at what has happened at the General Prosecutor's office. People are
being installed who are not willing to carry out tasks in the name of the
law, but in the name of whatever you will. That is frightening.''
He added: ``What society have we created? We all struggled to strengthen the
foundation of a democratic society after (the hardliners' attempted coup in)
1991. And where is democracy?''
Luzhkov's Fatherland party has linked up with a powerful group of regional
bosses and last week the bloc lured Russia's most popular politician, former
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, to head its electoral list.
The coalition has attracted moderate leftists formerly allied to the
Communists, and now looks set to dominate December's election to the State
Duma, parliament's lower house.
It may also catapult Luzhkov or Primakov to the presidency.
Luzhkov said he would back Primakov if the latter ran for president in next
year's poll. Primakov has advocated reducing the president's powers, and some
have suggested that Luzhkov may be hoping to take on a new, more powerful
Luzhkov said he did not think state television would be permitted to air his
After the interview RTR's political commentator Nikolai Svanidze told viewers
Luzhkov had bet his interviewer a bottle of liquor that his critical remarks
would not be broadcast.
``I know you, Yuri Mikhailovich (Luzhkov) do not drink, but others sometimes
do, and you owe us a bottle,'' Svanidze said.
IMF official says Russia needs more radical reforms
LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Russia needs to implement more radical reforms, a
top International Monetary Fund official said in a letter published in
Monday's Financial Times.
``Of course we share the frustrations of other friends of Russia about the
failures of economic policy,'' John Odling-Smee, director of the IMF's second
European department, said in the letter.
However, he said the IMF was right to remain engaged in its attempts to
improve Russian policies through persuasion and strict loan conditionality,
and that its credibility would not be damaged by lending in current
Russia has been an IMF member for less than 10 years but is already the IMF's
biggest single borrower. The fund has repeatedly halted payments because of
worries about low tax collection or sluggish progress on reforms.
IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer said at the end of July
the Russian economy was doing better than expected but the IMF was asking
Russia to provide more information about its central bank reserves in the
wake of ``misreporting'' about funds channelled through a subsidiary of the
The Times (UK)
23 August 1999
[for personal use only]
Maimed by embracing the market
Michael Binyon examines a devastating UN indictment of how, in the Nineties,
privatisation in east Europe's former communist states has led only to human
Attempts to transform the state economies of Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union into a market system may prove to be the biggest departing
mistake of this millennium, a United Nations report asserts. The transition
of these countries has, in reality, been a Great Depression, plunging more
than 100 million people into poverty, with many millions more hovering
precariously above subsistence.
This indictment of the way former communist economies have been privatised is
made in the latest report on the region by the UN Development Programme, and
is sure to provoke huge controversy. It claims that the social and economic
upheavals of the 1990s have been calamitous for a vast swath of eastern
Europe and Central Asia, leading to widespread poverty, alarming falls in
life expectancy, widening inequalities between the sexes, falling investment
in education, the collapse of public health and the spread of disease, crime,
nationalist violence and suicide.
The report, one of the most negative assessments of the change from communism
to capitalism ever issued by a world organisation, paints a picture of human
misery stretching from Hungary to Kyrgyzstan, from the Black Sea to the
Arctic Circle. Basic security, freedom from hunger, economic and social
rights, proper housing and decent pensions have all been swept away by the
ferocious sacrifice of everything to the market, the report says.
Centrally planned economies that overlooked political choice and individual
rights have been replaced by policies under which individual responsibilty
took centre stage without much consideration for those left behind, says
Anton Kruiderink, the UNDP regional director for Europe and the former Soviet
Union and author of the report. Neither blind trust in centralised authority
nor in the market have proved capable of producing the democratic instruments
needed to correct the distortions that both ideologies produced.
In a foreword to this bleak document that could almost have been written by a
diehard defendant of the old communist system, he cites World Bank figures
showing that in 1989 about 14 million people in the former communist bloc
lived on less than $4 a day. By the mid-1990s that number had risen to about
The main criticism of the report is that across Eastern Europe and Russia,
the state has become too weak and institutional reform has been neglected.
Society's values have been turned upside down, dissolving the glue that held
them together. The new nations enjoy neither proper democracy nor proper
regulatory instruments to make a market economy reasonable and equitable.
"When transition becomes only a partial process, benefitting primarily the
young, the dynamic, the mobile, the connected, and leaving behind the
vulnerable, then the surge in poverty, already so visible, will destabilise
societies and reverse whatever this new economic growth is capable of," Mr
He adds: "Growing human insecurity is at the source of human violence, and
when democracy gets equated with misery, its hope will turn into
disillusionment, with many more volatile societies coming our way."
There are, the report concedes, some bright spots. Slovenia and Poland have
recouped their lost output and appear to have laid the foundations for a
prosperous future. Similarly, although the Czech Republic, Hungary and the
Baltic states face numerous difficulties such as falling birth rates, high
suicide rates, growing unemployment and widening income gaps, they have made
"noticeable progress" towards creating dynamic and efficient economies.
However, the gains of a few countries are "all the more poignant" in view of
the suffering of others.
Homeless in Moscow: Russia "stutters from one crisis to the next", says a UN
The report's harshest condemnation is reserved for the former Soviet Union,
where almost nothing seems to have gone right. "These societies have
unravelled in a traumatic manner," it says. "The largest of these imploding
societies is Russia, which continues to stutter from one crisis to the next."
Such sweeping judgments are bound to draw sharp criticism from the
governments of the 27 countries surveyed in this report, and will be refuted
by Western politicians who have long argued that only the private market can
deliver human rights, wealth and economic growth. But the UN has assembled an
impressive array of statistics, many drawn from the countries surveyed, to
back its harsh judgments.
The most devastating is the cost in human lives. During the ten-year
transition since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there has been a decline in
life expectancy almost across the region, with falls of at least four years
in countries such as Russia, where the latest figures show that men are
living only until the age of 58 on average. Several million people have not
survived the 1990s who would have done so if the life expectancy levels
achieved by the start of the decade had been maintained.
Accompanying this sad trend is a grim rise in suicide and disease.
Tuberculosis and other diseases once all but vanquished are returning as big
killers, especially in the former Soviet Union. Aids and sexually transmitted
diseases are also spreading rapidly, coinciding with a huge rise in
prostitution among impoverished women, drug abuse and the breakdown of
A third cost of transition identified by the report is an extraordinary rise
in poverty. In Armenia, according to a household survey conducted by the
Ministry of Statistics in 1996, about 55 per cent of households were poor,
judged by a modest official poverty line based on a minimum consumption
basket. Of these, half were "very poor". In Kyrgyzstan, according to the
National Statistics Committee, 71 per cent of the population had an income
below the poverty line - which was based on the assumption that 60 per cent
of total income was spent on the food needed for survival.
Human poverty, defined as a lack of basic human capabilities, has also risen.
Malnutrition affects millions. The number of pregnant Russian women suffering
anaemia trebled between 1989 and 1994. In Moldova, a survey showed that
between 20 and 50 per cent of children had rickets from a lack of Vitamin A.
Throughout the former communist world, pensioners have been especially hard
hit by the new market economies. The disabled have lost access to benefits.
Migrants and refugees have been exposed to acute financial difficulties. And
single families are particularly vulnerable.
Poverty has often been caused by the state's inability to pay wages. In
Ukraine and Russia these arrears amount to about 4 per cent of GDP; in
Kazakhstan they are estimated to amount to some 40 per cent of GDP.
The fourth cost of transition is the widening inequality in wealth and
incomes. This is exacerbated by inflation, which tends especially to affect
the price of food, a large item in the budgets of the poor. Between 1991 and
1996, food prices in Armenia rose by 24,000 per cent, whereas the prices of
non-food items rose by 7,800 per cent.
A fifth drawback identified by the report is the growing inequality between
the sexes. The advent of more democratic regimes has led, paradoxically, to
lower percentages of women in decision-making positions. Women have been
pushed out of public life, while the cuts in social services have affected
them more. Violence against women has also risen, with physical abuse from
spouses becoming more noticeable and more women falling victims to crime.
Women desperate to find employment have found themselves forced into
prostitution within the region and in Western Europe by organised crime
A sixth cost has been the deterioration of education. The sharpest falls in
spending on schools and universities have been in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and
Georgia, but almost everywhere enrolment and attendance rates, especially at
pre-primary schools, have fallen. In the former Soviet Union, more than
30,000 pre-school facilities were closed betweed 1991 and 1995. Overcrowding,
dilapidation, lack of heating, underpaid teachers and a lack of health checks
have also taken their toll.
The final price paid, says the report, is higher unemployment and
underemployment. This has been a main source of social hardship in the 1990s,
as much in the richer east European countries as in the poorer states in the
south and east of the former Soviet Union.
Related to this is the rise in "black" economies, which, in countries such as
Hungary, account for 30 per cent of total national income. The result is that
large parts of these new market economies are by-passing taxation. Taken
together, the UNDP says, these seven costs underline a "dramatic
deterioration" in human security for the former communist states.
Privatisation, which occurred in fits and starts, was never uniform. The "big
bang" theory was "seriously flawed".
Alternative strategies to economic and social reform must be fair and
uniform, the UNDP insists, and benefit not just the few but the mass of the
population. There must be a shift from private consumption to investment and
human capital formation. Otherwise, it predicts, the outlook is grim for all
those who looked at sunny horizons as communism fell. Mr Kruiderink speaks of
a "meltdown of expectation". Rarely has an economic report been as bleak.
22 August 1999
Brother, Can You Spare A Ruble? / Russia Must
Rescue Itself, Economically, Politically
Nearly a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has hit
bottom. It can't go much lower and continue to function. Plummeting from
its pinnacle as menacing superpower to its current slough as moth-eaten
deadbeat, Russia has become an international embarrassment and a
nettlesome problem for U.S. foreign policy.
With its chaotic government disheveled economy and anarhic society,
Russia today is a deeply dysfunctional democracy. And though Moscow
remains desperately dependent on western financing to stay afloat, its
relations with Washington are at their lowest ebb since it shrugged off
Communist rule in late 1991.
How to deal with Russia as it lurches around in search of its fate
has become one of the most difficult problems facing U.S. foreign policy
makers. More pointedly, debate over whom to blame for the abysmal state
of U.S.-Russian relations is becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential
"Who lost Russia?" It's a resonant but ultimately specious question.
Russia is down, but not totally out. In fact, in some small but key
ways, things may be starting to look up for that benighted country -
which has nowhere left to go but up. Its economy, which went into
free-fall a year ago when the ruble was devalued and Moscow defaulted on
$40 billion in short-term international debt, is showing signs of an
upsurge. Its current crisis is political: Tottering President Boris
Yeltsin has fired Russia's fourth government in little more than a year,
raising fears of a disruption of next summer's presidential elections.
More important and constructive than assigning blame for Russia's
problems is coming to a sober assessment of what the United States can
and ought to do to improve its relations with Moscow and help Russia
emerge from its mess. But it's equally important to recognize that
Russia alone is to blame for much of its dysfunction and Russia itself
must be responsible for fixing it.
Corrupt From the Top Down
At the bottom of much of what's wrong with Russia is corruption -
corruption so pervasive and on a scale so vast that it's hard for
Americans to fathom. As much as $250 billion is believed to have been
illegally transferred to private accounts or investments in the West in
the last five years - at least twice as much as Russia's national budget
of $25 billion for 1999. Corruption flourishes at the highest levels of
government and trickles down to the most minute everyday transaction. It
has vitiated Russian culture and has led to a crippling level of public
cynicism. It is also responsible for the gross disparities in wealth,
with the top 10 percent of Russians possessing more than 50 percent of
the nation's wealth. It feeds on a still bloated and lethargic
bureaucracy and fuels the Russian mafiya, one of the largest and most
powerful organized crime clusters in the world and a disturbingly
dominant part of the social landscape of the new Russia.
Corruption also discourages foreign investors, many of whom were
badly stung after the initial surge of enthusiasm in the heady days
following communism's fall. One of the consequences is that Russia's
economic output this year is expected to be lower than that of Belgium,
a country with 1/14th its population and 1/50th its land mass.
Yet, one year after its economic crisis, sparked by the collapse of
the ruble and the vertiginous rise in prices of imported goods, Russia
is now showing signs of revival. The weaker ruble has created favorable
conditions for industrial growth by boosting demand for domestically
produced goods. The hyperinflation cured by the weaker ruble has not
returned. And many economists believe Russia is now experiencing the
start of a turnaround, driven not only by devaluation but, as important,
by rising oil prices.
Create, Enforce Rule of Law
None of this will help, however, if Russia doesn't strengthen its
legal system and the structure of institutions needed to make a modern
democracy function in a competitive global economy. That Russians still
have faith in a free-market system that has let them down time and again
since the fall of communism is heartening. They are still willing to
believe that if they give it time, Russia will emerge from chaos into
the semblance of a functioning democracy. But their patience must be
The economic and systemic reforms advocated for Russia by western
advisors such as Harvard's Jeffrey Sachs - architect of Poland's
successful if painful transition - were never implemented fully. They
were at best a hodge-podge that allowed some of the worst aspects of
conflicting economic systems to emerge, with the state still retaining
too much control of prices and production but allowing an unchecked and
anarchic form of capitalism at its most rapacious to ravage the working
At the same time, the United States invested far too much political
capital in a single, unstable man, Yeltsin, cultivating no other
alternative - though Yeltsin, it must be said, allowed few credible
successors to emerge. To back Yeltsin, Washington pressured
international lenders into making ever-larger loans to Russia even
though there were no signs that Moscow was making the reforms necessary
to ensure the loans would be repaid. Perversely, during this time,
President Bill Clinton was also backing an ill-advised expansion of the
NATO alliance that began to turn Moscow against the West. Rising
anti-American and anti-western sentiments finally exploded into outright
hostility when NATO went to war with Serbia, a Russian ally, over
Russia Acts Like Outsider
Relations between Washington and Moscow are now at a disturbingly
low ebb. Progress on arms agreements is stalled, with Russia's Duma
continuing to reject strategic nuclear arms reductions. At the United
Nations Security Council, Russia has become a truculent rival rather
than a partner of the United States, often blocking crucial initiatives
on Iraq or the Balkans. Russia continues to sell proscribed arms
technology to rogue states like Iran despite international agreements
against such sales. And Russia's control of its nuclear weapons
continues to erode, with plutonium shipments suspected of being leaked
out illegally to terror groups.
Yeltsin's increasingly erratic style of government doesn't help. So
far, the Duma has acted responsibly. Parliamentarians didn't overreact
to his latest spasm of firings, hoping instead that by keeping a calm
front they wouldn't incite Yeltsin into more extreme measures, like
suspending the coming elections or, worse yet, declaring a national
emergency and adopting martial law.
What's Washington to do? In truth, Russia must save itself. Western
meddling at this point would be pointless and counterproductive. Clinton
and his successor must reassure Russians that the United States will
continue to support their desire to create a fully democratic nation
integrated into the international community. And NATO should be
discouraged from any further expansion, particularly into the sensitive
Baltic countries - a move that Russia would see as dangerously
Beyond that, Russia must be put on notice that economic aid is, to a
large extent, conditioned on Moscow's willingness and ability to show it
can behave responsibly in economic and security areas. Russia cannot be
a perpetual deadbeat. Neither can it thumb its nose at arms agreements.
Transition May Take Years
But the West cannot expect a sudden transformation of Russian
society, either. Russians went from serfdom in the near-feudal system
under the czars to subjugation under communism for nearly seven decades.
They had no experience with self-government or the free market.
Suddenly, they had freedom with no controls in a proto-capitalist jungle
in which only the wiliest flourished. Corruption will be tough to
eradicate. It was a fixture of the Communist state's power centers. Now
it has been spread across society, with more financial incentives than
ever before. Today, Russia's economy is sick but not terminal and
recovering slightly. Its politics are brutally Machiavellian, but there
is no sign that its people yearn for dictatorship - yet. Its society is
chaotic and its workers demoralized, but Russian citizens seem willing
to endure stolidly through crisis after crisis to get closer to what
they see in the West.
But only when ordinary Russians can see the rule of law being upheld
at the highest levels of their government will their corrosive cynicism
be replaced with a glimmer of optimism toward the future. That could
take a generation or more.
Los Angeles Times
August 22, 1999
[for personal use only]
Echoes of an Empire in Free Fall
By MICHAEL A. REYNOLDS
Michael A. Reynolds Is a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Near Eastern
Studies at Princeton University. he Has Lived, Studied and Worked in Russia,
the North Caucasus and Turkey
PRINCETON, N.J.--A new constitution granting new rights and freedoms,
including the right to vote, is proclaimed. People dance and joyfully embrace
in the streets. Their country is free, moving ahead, joining the civilized
nations of the world.
Boris N. Yeltsin's Russia in 1991?
No, the Ottoman Empire in 1908, the place described, ironically enough,
by Czar Nicholas II as "the sick man of Europe," the multiethnic and
multiconfessional empire that few can or wish to remember today, including
its main successor state, Turkey.
Western policymakers would do well to dust off their history books and
reread the sections dealing with the terminal decline of the Ottomans. After
the "new start" of 1908, the reform movement faltered and the government
drifted. Giddy optimism among Ottoman subjects turned into bitterness and a
sense of betrayal. Finally, the reform movement came to an end when the
empire's former subjects humiliated it in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. A
frustrated young Ottoman officer, Enver Pasha, seized power in a coup on Jan.
23, 1913. Thirsting to restore the empire's greatness, he plunged Ottoman
Turkey into World War I the following year. The "Eastern question" that
dominated diplomacy in the late-19th and early-20th centuries--managing
Ottoman decline--was finally answered with the dismemberment of Enver's dream
state in the world's first global blood bath.
The similarities between Ottoman disintegration and the continuing
collapse of Russian power should be disquieting. The Ottomans built their
empire fighting under the banner of Sunni Islam. Their all-encompassing
Islamic ideology gave the Ottoman state more than a transcendent purpose: It
stamped its institutions with the imprimatur of eternal truth. Even tax codes
were defined till the end of time.
Meanwhile, beyond the Ottomans' boundaries, new and more powerful
technologies, and new and more efficient forms of military and economic
organization, sprang up. When the empire's military strength began to wane,
so, too, did the elite's faith begin to waver. As the Ottomans' own
chroniclers tell us, state officials began to use their offices not for the
greater cause of the empire but for the greater size of their private purses.
In addition to the military challenge, a whirlwind of economic change in
the form of an evolving global market and industrial revolution began
penetrating the Ottoman lands, transforming the Ottoman economy. The state's
institutions, fossilized on the outside and rotting from the inside, no
longer performed their functions. The farthest-removed of Ottoman lands slid
into the orbit of other powers; domestic disorder set in. In the Balkan and
Anatolian countrysides, marauding bands, some with political agendas, most
without, pillaged the land with impunity.
Substitute the words "Marxism" for "Islam," "information revolution" for
"industrial revolution," "organized-crime gangs" for "marauding bands" and
"1991" for "1908" and you have a short narrative of the decline of Soviet,
now Russian power. Although this "Eurasian question" has been with us for
nearly two decades, Russia policy analysts have preferred to fantasize about
a Russia either resurrected to play a great-power role as a rival to the West
or reborn as the West's liberal democratic ally.
But as Shamil Basayev, who led the Chechen cause, and his band of
Dagestani moujahedeen are demonstrating, far from being reborn, Russia may be
in terminal decline. If the stakes were high at the beginning of the century,
when failure to adroitly handle Ottoman decline led the great powers into a
clash in the Balkans and World War I, the stakes today are even higher.
Russian territory stretches from Europe, in the west, to China and Japan, in
the east, on which is located some 10,000 nuclear warheads.
Yeltsin and his newly appointed prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, seem
determined to lead Russia into another military humiliation, possibly their
version of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. True, the Russians face a foe
numbering fewer than 2,000, and, to date, there have been no signs of a
general anti-Russian uprising in Dagestan. But in the three years since
Russia lost its war with Chechnya, its forces have evinced little
improvement. Not only can't they defend the Dagestani border, they can't even
protect the Dagestani government. In May of last year, Russian Federation
security forces couldn't stop a maverick gangster and a few busloads of
gunmen from riding into the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, and seizing the
republic's parliament building.
If Russia can't dig out Basayev's small band, it likely will attempt to
contain the conflict by exploiting Dagestan's ethnic diversity. This means it
will back one or more ethnic groups in the burgeoning civil war. Dagestan's
half-million Avars, the largest single ethnic group in Dagestan, at
one-quarter of the republic's population, are a likely candidate for Russian
support. The Avars enjoy a relatively privileged position in Dagestan's
political life and stand to lose the most should Dagestan remodel itself
along strictly Islamic lines. They are also known to be wary of the Chechens.
But the chances of this strategy backfiring are high. Dagestan has, so
far, resisted the siren song of self-determination and anti-Russian rebellion
precisely because it is so ethnically fragmented. None of Dagestan's 30-odd
nationalities form a sizable plurality, and none feel secure with the
dominant model of statehood today, the nation-state. The result is a peace
underpinned by an ethnic MAD (mutually assured destruction) doctrine.
This strength, however, is also Dagestan's Achilles' heel. The one
identity that unites virtually all Dagestanis is a Muslim one. It is a strong
identity and, moreover, one that is historically bound up with the struggle
against Russian colonialism. Although Islam came to Dagestan's Caspian coast
in the 8th century with the Arab conquest, it failed to penetrate in a
rigorous form into the mountainous regions until the 19th century, when Sufi
sheiks organized the mountaineers' resistance on the structure of their
Basayev does not need a spontaneous Islamic insurrection to triumph. It
will be sufficient to plunge Dagestan into a protracted civil war. As a
populace already tormented by impoverishment and corrupt government wearies
of the added strife of war, it will reach for a solution with the lowest
common denominator. As in Afghanistan, radical Islam can build on a common
identity and provide a political order that, however imperfect, is still
Some might object that, other than Chechnya, no region, not even Muslim
Tatarstan or the Bashkir republic, has pushed for a complete and total break
with Moscow. But the point is, if the Kremlin goes under, they might not have
any choice. Others might contend that the shared language, culture and
traditions of Russians renders an Ottoman-style breakup inconceivable. Such
ties, however, did little for the political cohesion of the post-Ottoman Arab
lands, and there is no reason why they should keep such a vast country as
Russia unified. After all, the birthplace of Russian cultural identity is
Kiev, now the capital of a place called Ukraine.
That Russia's Caucasus has been in open rebellion for some eight years
is alarming enough. But the failure of the Russian state to adapt and respond
to this challenge, among many others, signals a state doomed to
self-destruction. No crisis has galvanized the Russian state into
long-awaited rejuvenation. Its response has grown steadily feebler and less
coherent. Far from worrying about balancing a resurgent Russia, the West had
better begin preparing for Russia's burial.*
Yeltsin Ready to Back "all Constructive Forces" at Polls.
MOSCOW, August 22 (Itar-Tass) - President Boris Yeltsin is ready, as before,
to render assistance to "all constructive forces" at the parliamentary
elections, presidential press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin said live on the
Ekho Moskvy radio station on Sunday. His statement was circulated by the
station's news section.
According to Yakushkin, "the president's position has not changed since the
start of the year". The spokesman emphasised that "the president's office is
engaged in political work on a broad range, and contacts the office has,
cover all the segments of political forces".
In the press secretary's words, the head of state repeatedly stated that he
is riled by the fact that the State Duma lower house is preoccupied with
"senseless political debates" rather than with specific laws. "Opposition is
necessary, but it should be constructive rather than destructive," Yakushkin
"The president would like that professionals would win seats in the next Duma
and the elections should be clean as well as honest and should pass in a
civilised manner," the spokesman noted.
The press secretary stated that Yeltsin is satisfied that the latest meeting
of the cabinet "specially discussed political preparations for the polls".
"This is proof that the president regards preparation of the elections which
must pass and will pass on the set date, the main thing in the government's
work," Yakushkin added.
23 August 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Nemtsov fails to build coalition
By Andrew Jack in Moscow
The leader of one of Russia's centre-right parties gearing up for
December's parliamentary elections yesterday stepped up his rhetoric in the
face of the failure to build a broad-based coalition over the weekend.
Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the Just Cause movement, who was
campaigning in St Petersburg, attacked the powerful centrist alliance
headed by the former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov as representing
"bureaucratic capitalism and a nomenklatura and oligarchic system".
His comments came after the collapse of discussions to recruit Mr
Primakov's successor, Sergei Stepashin, to a centre-right grouping along
with two other former prime ministers, Victor Chernomyrdin and Sergei
Mr Stepashin, who has been courted by several parties attempting to
capitalise on his popularity at the time of his abrupt dismissal earlier
this month by President Boris Yeltsin, said on Saturday he had resolved to
stand in a personal capacity in his home city of St Petersburg.
His decision was followed by a second blow for the centre-right forces,
when Mr Kiriyenko said he planned to join forces with Anatoly Chubais, the
former reformist minister whose popularity is low following the
privatisations of industrial groups that he masterminded in the mid 1990s.
Mr Chernomyrdin ruled out any such alliance for his Our Home is Russia party.
The divisions and in-fighting on the right stand in stark contrast to the
growing power of the list headed by Mr Primakov, in association with the
Fatherland movement led by Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, and the
regional governors' All Russia party.
Vladimir Yakovlev, the governor of St Petersburg, was elected head of the
All Russia party on Saturday, although like Mr Primakov, Mr Luzhkov and
Mintimer Shaimiev, the head of the autonomous republic of Tatarstan and
another leader of the coalition, he does not plan to stand for a seat in
Mr Nemtsov acknowledged over the weekend that the Fatherland-All Russia
party represented the main competitor to the Communist party in the
forthcoming elections. Observers are closely watching the next steps of
Vladimir Putin, the new prime minister, who many believe was appointed to
try to fracture the Primakov coalition.
ANALYSIS-Kuchma tops Ukraine presidential field
By Christina Ling
KIEV, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Stripped to his shirtsleeves and sporting a floppy
straw hat, beaming Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma didn't look like a man
fighting for his job as he worked the crowds this week to launch his
In fact, while Ukraine may be fielding an unprecedented 15 candidates for the
presidential election on October 31, political and diplomatic analysts
believe few of them as yet pose any real challenge to him.
``There's fair scope between now and then for Kuchma to try to over-ensure,
by putting pressure on the media, for example, and that could lead to a
groundswell of indignation. But there's no real signs of that so far,'' said
one Western diplomat.
``It's really his to lose at this point.''
Reports of political pressure on the media are common, but their origins are
hard to trace. Press freedom is in any case a low priority for many citizens
trying just to eke out a living.
In that context, too, Kuchma's strength is a puzzle as he struggles with deep
economic and financial problems which have eroded already low living
standards as the election approaches.
A fuel crisis in July -- a combination of government policy and rising crude
oil prices -- sent the hryvnia currency plunging through the floor of its
designated 1999 trade corridor and created new problems for farmers who were
in any case having trouble harvesting a relatively small crop in a country
that was once the bread basket of the old Soviet Union.
Billions of hryvnias in overdue wages and pensions remain unpaid and
thousands of Ukrainians live mostly off what they grow in the garden.
But campaign posters at a country fairground this week portrayed Kuchma, who
has said the economy will be his main ``opponent'' in the race, as a bulwark
of ``peace and harmony.''
``Clearly the economy is not his strongest challenger,'' the diplomat said,
adding that Ukrainians seemed to be simply thankful to have avoided the
deeper political, ethnic and economic crises of neighbouring Belarus, Russia
and the Balkans.
``People on the whole yearn for stability, although it is a kind of
Ihor Popov, the head of the independent Voters' Committee of Ukraine which
provided observers for last year's parliamentary elections, noted polls were
unreliable and that Kuchma's star had faded while other hopefuls' had risen
in recent weeks.
But analysts see the appeal of extreme leftist Natalya Vitrenko, now neck and
neck with Kuchma and who favours breaking relations with the IMF and freezing
state debt payments to use funds for domestic needs, fading as election day
And, while the three main leftist candidates are Kuchma's closest rivals,
analysts say their number alone could work against them. ``The more
candidates you get on the left, the more fractured their votes will be,''
another diplomat said.
The head of the independent Kiev Centre for Political Research, Mikhailo
Pogrebinsky, said that even a candidate representing all leftist movements in
the event they buried their differences could get no more than 40 percent of
If Kuchma did not get a simple majority of votes to win outright on October
31, he could still win over a leftist rival in a second round. ``Forty
percent are for the left, but there is no one candidate who would suit
everyone,'' Pogrebinsky said.
That would provide continuity but would not necessarily extend any hope for
major economic improvement, analysts say.
Some suggest moderate Socialist leader Olexander Moroz and, Yevhen Marchuk, a
former prime minister and once chief of the Soviet-era KGB, as candidates who
might promote reforms, although they say neither stands much chance of
winning without cutting a deal with rival groups.
Jiang, Yeltsin to discuss regional security with Central Asian states
ALMATY, Aug 22 (AFP) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chinese
counterpart Jiang Zemin fly to Kyrgyzstan this week to discuss regional
security and economic issues at the third "Shanghai Five" summit.
Along with their Central Asian counterparts, Nursultan Nazarbayev of
Kazakhstan, Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan and Imomali Rakhmanov of Tajikistan,
Yeltsin and Jiang will discuss progress on demarcating and demilitarising the
nearly 8,000-kilometer (5,000-mile) former Sino-Soviet border.
Boosting trade between China and its neighbors and political issues are also
on the agenda of the two-day summit Monday and Tuesday in Bishkek, the tiny
capital of the mountainous Central Asian republic of 4.8 million people.
Kyrgyzstan and China will also sign a separate bilateral document to boost
cooperation along their shared border, the Interfax news agency quoted a
Kyrgyz presidential spokesman as saying last week.
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China were expected to sign a trilateral
agreement, the spokesman told Interfax. No further details were provided.
The meeting between Yeltsin and Jiang will be their first since the ailing
Russian president received the Chinese leader at Moscow's Central Clinical
Hospital in November.
Although Yeltsin was hospitalised with a bout of pneumonia, the two leaders
managed to sign a border accord and an agreement on Sino-Russian political
relations in the 30-minute encounter.
Yeltsin's last visit to Central Asia in October was also marred by health
After he stumbled at the airport and was steadied by Uzbek President Islam
Karimov, the Russian president cut short his Central Asian tour after making
a brief one-day appearance in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
His spokesman put the president's weakness down to a "cold."
The Shanghai Five got its name for its first summit in Shanghai, China, in
April 1996 where the five countries penned a historic treaty to demilitarise
their common border.
That treaty asserted the countries' intention to replace military forces
along a wide band on each side of the frontier with border guards and
exchange data annually on military activities along the border, such as troop
exercises or deployments.
Meeting a year later in Moscow, the five states agreed to mutual 15-percent
troop reductions along the 3,000-kilometer (1,875-mile) border shared by the
three former Soviet republics and China.
Such cooperation in recent years is a far cry from the border conflicts of
In 1967, clashes over the uninhabited Damansky island on the Ussuri River
located between Russia and China left an estimated 54 people dead.
And twice, in 1961 and 1967, tens of thousands of ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs
tried to cross from China's western Xinjiang province into Kazakhstan to
escape Chinese repression.
This February, Kazakhstan returned three Uighurs who had illegally crossed
the border from China, a move criticised by human rights observers who
considered the three refugees.
China also has been keen to boost trade ties with the former Soviet republics.
In November 1997, Yeltsin and Jiang signed an economic accord in Beijing to
boost economic development in the border areas mainly in Russia's Far East.
A year later in July, Jiang traveled to Almaty where he and Nazarbayev
discussed the construction of a Chinese auto plant in Kazakhstan and various
construction projects in the new capital, Astana.
They also finalised the demarcation of their common border and settled
ownership of several disputed areas.
New York Times
August 22, 1999
As Russian Power Wanes, Violence Spreads
To the Editor:
Robert D. Kaplan (Op-Ed, Aug. 17) simplifies the geopolitical causes of the
Dagestan crisis by emphasizing Russia's "centuries-old battle with Muslim
warriors in the North Caucasus." The most immediate reason for the current
conflict appears to be rooted neither in Russian aggression nor in
ethnic-based national self-determination by the 33 ethnic groups within the
Dagestan republic, but rather in Chechen agitation to further a publicly
declared desire to merge with Dagestan to form an independent republic that
borders on the oil-rich Caspian Sea.
DEMETRIOS G. MELIS
New York, Aug. 17, 1999
To the Editor:
Robert D. Kaplan's "Why Russia Risks All in Dagestan" (Op-Ed, Aug. 17)
doesn't mention that a large, illegal Russian military presence on Georgian
soil is a primary reason why Georgia remains today a "mass of breakaway
A report I wrote for the Center for Defense Information documents how some
10,000 Russian troops deployed on Georgian territory exert an often
destabilizing influence on Georgian politics and economics. This Russian
military apparatus has consistently proved successful in manipulating
internal Georgian politics.
In the economic realm, perhaps most important to Russia, the Russian oil
pipeline to the Black Sea port of Novorossisk will gain if the Russian
military foments new instability in Georgia that stops the flow of Caspian
oil through Georgia's competing oil pipeline to its port of Supsa.
Washington, Aug. 19, 1999
To the Editor:
Robert D. Kaplan (Op-Ed, Aug. 17) overlooks the real significance of the
ongoing challenge to Russian rule in the republic of Dagestan. The conflict
is not just "one new chapter in the larger, bloodstained history of the
Caucasus" but rather a significant new chapter in the history of the
disintegration of Russian power in the Caucasus and of the power of the
Russian state in general.
The problem suggested by the struggle in Dagestan is not the projection of
Russian power into Georgia and Azerbaijan. It is the more serious problem of
the retraction of the power of the Russian state from the North Caucasus in
particular, and from all aspects of Russian life in general.
In the Caucasus, Shamil Basayev, the Chechen commander of the insurgents, is
making a bid to fill the resulting vacuum. Elsewhere in Russia, that vacuum
has already been filled by organized-crime syndicates and gangs.
MICHAEL A. REYNOLDS
Madison, Conn., Aug. 18, 1999
The writer is a doctoral student in Near Eastern studies at Princeton
To the Editor:
Re "Why Russia Risks All in Dagestan" (Op-Ed, Aug. 17): Robert D. Kaplan
characterizes Russia's complex actions in its southern republic of Dagestan
as part of an effort to destabilize Georgia and Azerbaijan. But does "stable"
really mean pro-Western? Eduard A. Shevardnadze's "benign despotism" in
Georgia is not as simple as Mr. Kaplan makes it: the Georgian Parliament is
only a nominal institution, and the country is governed by a president whose
executive powers are limited to issuing decrees in a country that is
In Azerbaijan, another country coveted by Western oil interests, concern for
the plight of the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh needs to be balanced by the
500,000 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan in Armenia, a country with fewer
attractions for the West.
Mr. Kaplan's recommendation of greater cooperation with Turkey's military to
end Russia's destabilization of the region is dangerous. Is it possible that
the impasse in the region is the result of too much such cooperation?
Portland, Ore., Aug. 18, 1999
The Times (UK)
August 23 1999
[for personal use only]
Mother tongue twisted by alien invasion
BY MICHAEL BINYON
CAN you decline the word Coca-Cola in Russian? Not if the multinational has
its way: the name is a registered trade mark, they insist, and must remain
the same, whatever case grammar demands. Iulia Safanova disagrees.
"It's already a Russian word," she says. In the accusative it must therefore
be written as Coca-Colu, and in the genitive as Coca-Coli. And her word
A member of the Russian Language Institute, she is one of the enthusiastic
amateur guardians of a language that is sagging under an avalanche of trade
names, anglicisms and wholesale borrowings of business words and phrases.
Russian, she insists, must still be correctly spoken, and that includes the
huge vocabulary of neologisms. Unlike France, Russia has no prestigious
academy to police its language. Advice comes from two tiny rooms, packed with
all kinds of dictionaries, in an old Moscow mansion where a poorly paid team
mans a hotline to tell about 100 callers a day how to speak and write their
The institute, founded in 1958 by Sergei Ozhegov, the author of Russia's most
popular and authoritative dictionary, is part of the Russian Academy of
Sciences. It brought together a cultured group of linguists who insisted in
Soviet days that, however stultifying the government decrees, official
pronouncements and political speeches, they were properly written - the right
cases, proper spelling and, a particularly ticklish feature of Russian, the
correct stress in the long, polysyllabic words.
It almost disappeared in the post-Communist turmoil. By 1992 funds had run
out, the telephone was cut off and the building had to be given up. But
people continued calling, contacting the linguistic guardians at their home
numbers. And as the economy looked up, Ms Safanova and her colleagues decided
just over a year ago to reopen the hotline.
The plan was to charge for each call, making use of the new-fangled automatic
toll lines. Luckily, before their ambition incurred new debts and expenses,
the rouble crashed. The hotline survived - and remained free.
Calls today come from all sources - teachers, pensioners, politicians,
writers and especially lawyers, wanting to know how to draw up contracts in
Many questions have been prompted by the change from communism to a market
economy: Russians suddenly need to know how to set out business letters
properly and what are the standard compliments and expressions of respect
expected by the West. In Soviet days, such flourishes were considered relics
of capitalism and letters were gruff and blunt.
New words are the biggest challenge. The "new" Russians' vocabulary is
peppered with russified English - computer terms, fashion and pop language
and phrases borrowed wholesale from Western advertising.
The older generation is bewildered, unable to understand the disc jockeys on
popular private radio stations or the slogans on advertising hoardings.
"People ask 'What does taimsher mean?' 'What is a vautcher?' "
Ms Safinova, however, insists that Russian should not try, like French, to
outlaw foreign words; not only would this be a hopeless task, but it would
fossilise the language.
"We can't forbid anything," she says. "People must make their own choices on
the words they use."
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