This Date's Issues: 3610 • 3611
Johnson's Russia List
7 November 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Maria Eismont: Chechnya leader appeals to Clinton for help.
2. Reuters: Russian PM says Russia stuck in transition.
3. Thad McArthur: Re: 3609-The Guardian (UK)/West Can Act.
4. Abraham Brumberg: Reply to Shevtsova.
5. Itar-Tass: Leftists Hold Rallies in Moscow to Mark October Revolution.
6. Inter Press Service: Russia: October Revolution Fading into Oblivion.
7. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Gorbachev tells of taunts that
8. Los Angeles Times: Robyn Dixon, Chechens Believe Russia's Aim Is to
Obliterate Nation. War: Refugees say military is harder and crueler and this
conflict is not just a repeat of earlier action.
9. Washington Post: Robert Kaiser, Blinded By What We Saw At the Wall.Ten Years Later, It's Obvious That Nothing at All Was Obvious.
10. Moscow Times: Yulia Solovyova, U.S. Students Talk Russian Politics.]
Chechnya leader appeals to Clinton for help
By Maria Eismont
ON THE CHECHEN-INGUSH BORDER, Russia, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Chechnya's leader
appealed to U.S. President Bill Clinton to help end the ``genocide of the
Chechen people'' as Russia tightened its grip on the breakaway region on
Russian guns shelled the outskirts of the capital Grozny and warplanes bombed
areas to the south, west and east of the city forcing residents to join the
thousands scrambling to leave for the relative safety of neighbouring
``I will never go back to Chechnya, it is a damned land,'' said Satsita
Busuyeva, 30, after she crossed the border. ``Even if they pay me lots of
money or if they cover the whole land with carpet, I'll never come back.''
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, a relative moderate who has little control
over Chechen field commanders, wrote to Clinton for help.
``We are ready for dialogue, ready to consider different ways of regulation
which respect the rights of Chechens to live freely and safely,'' Maskhadov
was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. ``The Chechen people have huge
hopes that the United States will use its authority to defend human rights,''
MOSCOW SILENT ON MASKHADOV
Russia's leadership has given no sign that it is ready to talk to Maskhadov.
But its six-week-long offensive against Islamic fighters whom Moscow blames
for staging bomb blasts in Russian cities has brought growing criticism from
the West over civilian casualties and the refugee exodus.
A correspondent for Interfax news agency in Grozny said a western suburb came
under artillery fire from Russian troops on the Tersk ridge at about noon
(0900 GMT) on Sunday.
Russia's defence ministry in Moscow said it could neither confirm nor deny
A ministry spokesman said earlier aircraft had bombed Chechnya's second
biggest city Gudermes and other villages to the east and south of Grozny,
killing Islamic fighters.
``The troops are continuing to expand their control over positions in
Chechnya and they are reinforcing those positions,'' the spokesman said by
``Air and artillery fire is continuing to destroy the guerrillas, their bases
and camps in regions like Gudermes.''
Russia's army headquarters at Mozdok, just outside the rebel region, was
quoted as saying fighter planes and bombers had hit Chechnya more than 100
times in the last 24 hours.
PLANES BOMB GROZNY OUTSKIRTS
A correspondent for Russia's NTV television in Mozdok said planes had bombed
the southwest outskirts of Grozny, where troops say over 2,000 guerrillas
have gathered. Russian troops were shelling the Chechen stronghold of Bamut,
west of Grozny.
He reported that Russian warplanes were targeting positions in southern
Chechnya, bombing roads leading to neighbouring Georgia, where some refugees
have been fleeing.
The line of refugees waiting to cross to Ingushetia stretched for seven km
Refugees passed freely through the tiny border crossing where earlier this
week several were crushed to death in a fight to join the 200,000 who have
Ingush officials said thousands had entered Ingushetia, while only about
1,000 had returned to Chechnya to find their loved ones in the war zone.
Refugees have described the villages they left behind as ghost towns.
Russia's last war with Chechen separatists ended in defeat in 1996.
Russian PM says Russia stuck in transition
MOSCOW, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview
published on Saturday that Russia was stuck in a transition period after the
end of the Soviet era but no one could turn it back to the past.
Putin said Russia should play a leading role in the world economy and that he
aimed to boost the arms industry to help overall recovery.
In a television interview, Putin said Russians were pleased with what he had
done so far as premier.
``Russia as a whole is as if at a crossroads. There can be no question of
moving backwards. Even if anyone wanted to, Russia could not turn back to the
past. The country is totally different now,'' Putin told the Kommersant
``For 10 years we have been in a state of transition...But we cannot remain
in that state forever,'' he said.
Putin, a former KGB spy and head of the domestic security service, was named
prime minister in August although he was a little-known state functionary. To
the shock of many, President Boris Yeltsin also said he wanted Putin to
But his ratings in opinion polls have risen during the so-far successful
offensive against Moslem rebels in breakaway Chechnya and he is now among the
leading figures in surveys.
DOING WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT
Putin told Russian television that his popularity had increased because he
was doing what Russians had wanted for a long time.
``Apparently I have simply hit the nail on the head with my actions. I am
doing what they have wanted for a long time. This is what it's (the rise in
ratings) connected with,'' RIA news agency quoted him as telling Russian
The tough-talking premier, who has taken a hard line on Chechnya vowing to
destroy ``terrorists'' in the separatist region, said he was a little
concerned that Russians expected too much from him.
``This social expectation for a miracle is a very big responsibility,'' he
said, adding that Russia still had many problems to deal with. He said the
economy, social sphere and international policy presented Russia with
Putin told Kommersant one of his main goals would be to revive the weapons
industry. The sector has become a shadow of what it was in the Soviet era but
is still important.
``The government must ensure the growth of revenues from the sale of
weapons,'' he said. ``Russian arms and their creators are the resource, that
key link with which we can begin to pull up the whole of the Russian
He said this would also help Russia carve out its place in the world economy.
``We must stop the process of our being left behind by the economically
developed nations of the world, and find the path which will allow us to take
up a suitable place in the ranks of leading nations in the 21st century,''
From: "Thad McArthur" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 3609-The Guardian (UK)/ West Can Act
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1999
The referenced editorial is almost surreal in its arrogance. While calling
for strong action against Russia to stem the war in Chechnya - freezing IMF
loan disbursements, intensifying the money laundering investigations against
Kremlin officials, calling Mr. Putin onto the carpet, bringing in the UN -
the Guardian fails to mention the main reason any attempt by the West to
moderate Russian behavior is doomed: Bill Clinton and Tony Blair just spent
several weeks and hundreds of billions bombing an independent state whose
government they recognize, and did so without even a nod towards the UN or
the UN Charter. Expecting the Russians to show more deference to the
international community and to international law in dealing with an internal
matter (Chechnya is acknowledged by all Western powers to be an integral
part of Russia) is, to use once again the only word that fits the situation,
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1999
From: abraham brumberg <ABrumberg@compuserve.com>
Subject: Reply to Shevtsova
A. BRUMBERG: UNFAIR TO SHEVTSOVA
On Nov. 2 Lilia Shevtsova took me to task for for unjustified strictures
of her book YELTSIN'S RUSSIA. She is right on several counts and I
apologize for them: Apparently I was so irked by parts of her book (I say
this in explanation, and not justification) that I let myself go overboard
in my criticism. At the same time, I still maintian that her discussion
of economic reforms and the Chechen war she was seriously flawed .
Accordingly, I rewrote the offending paragraph and this is tghe way it will
appear in the review scheduled for publication on November l4:
Shevtsova discusses "economic reforms" and their tergiversations even
though, as has been pointed out by many analysts, nearly all of them have
amounted to massive theft, especially the "privatization" scheme of
Anatoly Chubais, whom she chooses to label a "liberal," as she does, God
help us, that other "reformist", Burbulis. She is rightly critical of
some of the disastrous consequences of Yeltsin et al's "shock therapy" yet
neglects to explore the collusion--for which there exists no dearth of
documentation-- between the criminal mafias and the government apparatura.
She leaves no stone unturned in scouting every twist and turn of
Yeltsin's political shenanigans, every cabinet reshuffle, without stopping
to consider that these steps (invariably welcomed by Strobe Talbott and
others as yet another breakthrough to a democratic system) had in fact no
deeper meaning than another attempt by Yeltsin to keep his nose above
water. And in her chapter on the Chechen war of l994-95, she accuses the
Chechen leader Dzokhar Dudayev for his complicity in causing the slaughter.
One need not waste any sympathy on Dudayev to realize that virtually any
other leader in his place would carry on his countrymen's two-hundred year
old struggle for independence no matter what the costs--as the current
war so clearly demonstrates.
Leftists Hold Rallies in Moscow to Mark October Revolution.
MOSCOW, November 7 (Itar-Tass) - Despite the official celebration of Accord
and Reconciliation Day in Russia this Sunday, left-wing forces held
demonstrations and rallies on the occasion of the 82nd anniversary of the
October Revolution in the Russian capital.
Organisers of the rally in the Lubyanskaya Square claimed in an interview
with Itar-Tass that the event was attended by over 300,000 demonstrators.
However, this square cannot hold such numbers of people, according to any
Other sources claimed that the rally drew around 7,000 people, including
representatives from 26 Russian regions, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine,
Georgia and Byelorussia.
The rally was addressed by leader of the Russian Communist Party Gennady
Zyuganov who expressed opinion that "by pooling efforts of all patriotic
forces, it is possible to correct the situation and to revive again the
ideals of fraternity and justice".
He sees top-priority tasks of Communists in reviving Slavic brotherhood of
states of the former Soviet Union. Zyuganov expressed hope that a Union
Treaty would be soon signed with Byelorussia and then with Ukraine.
According to the Communist leader, "Russian people always sought to create a
A demonstration of Labour Russia rounded off its demonstration in the
Revolution Square with a rally which was addressed by Labour Russia leader
Viktor Anpilov and Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili as well as other
members of the Stalinist Bloc -- for USSR.
The gathering whose number did not reach clearly the planned 5,000, chanted
traditional slogans "For Motherland, for Stalin" as well as slogans
denouncing the present power.
The rallies were mostly attended by senior citizens. Woman pensioner
Kapitolina Ivanovna told Itar-Tass that she has been attended such rallies
since 1991. Besides, she comes regularly, every Sunday, "to defend the Lenin
mausoleum" together with other sympathisers of the movement.
Politics-Russia: October Revolution Fading into Oblivion
MOSCOW, (Nov. 5) IPS - As the 1917 Russian socialist revolution approaches
its 82nd birthday on Nov. 7, its main slogan -- Peace! Land! Bread! -- seems
to be almost as valid today as it was then, but not even the most nostalgic
here are seriously considering a return to communism.
The anniversary, however, is still a national holiday. It was always a
strange date, celebrating an October revolution in November.
The explanation is that Russia did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until
about five centuries after it was instituted. In the old Russian calendar,
the Revolution started on Oct. 25.
Likewise, the perception of the holiday is somewhat mixed -- the older
generation still considers it a revolutionary celebration.
Younger people view it as yet another day off, while the government prefers
to interpret it as a sort of reconciliation day.
However, hard-line Communists seem to be unable to say good-bye to their old
view of life. Conditions for a new socialist revolution in Russia are yet to
materialize, concedes Nina Andreeva, a famous opponent of Mikhail Gorbachev's
reforms a decade ago.
She now leads a small Bolshevik party, which explains the demise of Soviet
socialism and the Soviet Union's collapse by the fact that after Soviet
dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, his successor Nikita Khrushchev
transformed the Communist party into a "party of all people" instead of just
the working class.
The party decision was due to the fact that, under Marxist theory, it was
difficult to explain why in 35 years of socialism the state had been
enlarged, rather than shrunk, and especially to maintain that a "proletarian
dictatorship" was still needed in a classless society.
Class struggle, Khrushchev said, had now adopted an international dimension.
This time a homogeneous Soviet people, while building a "developed socialist
society," was also sustaining a struggle against world capitalism,
representing all workers of the world.
This conception, the new Bolsheviks say, weakened the CPUS (Communist Party
of the Soviet Union). They also argue that for some eight decades, the
"imperialists" have been aiming at slandering the October Revolution, but
they fail to explain why the "imperialists" managed to succeed.
Other Communist hard-liners sound like members of a marginalized strata of
For instance, die-hard Communist Albert Makashov has called for Pres. Boris
Yeltsin to be executed and urged the deportation of all Jews from Russia.
Makashov became notorious in October 1993 when he led Parliament's uprising
against Yeltsin, which was suppressed with artillery.
>From 1917 onwards, Soviet Russia managed to become the world's second
superpower through a rapid and controversial industrialization process. But
the economy started a process of stagnation in the 1960s and proved unable to
match Western standards of living.
At the same time, the Soviet Union was largely outspent by the United States
in the costly arms race of the Cold War period. After 1991, when the system
collapsed, Russia experience a fast economic and social regression and it is
now plagued by poverty, corruption, ethnic conflicts and a war in Chechnya.
In 1917, Russia was the weakest among industrialized countries and at the
crucial juncture of World War I, the country's economic, social and military
structure was on the verge of collapse. Some analysts now tend to view a
Trying to capitalise on widespread discontent, every autumn Russian Communist
party leader Gennady Zyuganov and other leftist leaders call for
demonstrations and rallies to protest against the government policies.
Protesters usually demand unpaid wages, and sometimes yell insults at Yeltsin
and the government, but in most cases the rallies are be peaceful, although
closely watched by police. But, tired of being unheard, Muscovites tend to
shrug off the demonstrations as irrelevant.
This year, the eighty second anniversary of the October Revolution was
quietly marked by Russian Communists. On Nov. 4, Zyuganov called it a
celebration of the country's history and pride, but did not call for any
In Moscow the police now prevent marchers to go across Red Square - the
traditional venue for grand Soviet parades. These days,
black-capped Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, a would-be Russian president, is keen
to turn the Russian capital into a showcase of capitalism and to get rid of
the Soviet legacy.
He turned Manezh Square -- next to the Kremlin and another venue for
Communist demonstrations -- into a giant underground shopping center.
Luzhkov also redesigned the access to Red Square in line with traditional
Orthodox Church architecture -- thus making a military parade with tank
columns virtually impossible. The last such parade here took place in 1995,
to mark the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory against Nazi Germany in
World War II.
However, the mummified remains of Vladimir Lenin, the revered Revolution
leader, are still displayed in his mausoleum on Red Square -- not without
debate. Some politicians and notably Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Orthodox
Church, have repeatedly called for their removal.
The Patriarch said it was inappropriate to use the country's central square
as a cemetery, while others argue that Lenin himself would have strongly
opposed the idea of becoming a mummy.
In a yet another symbolic move, Russia's last tsar Nicholas II and his family
were reburied on July 17, 1998 -- exactly 80 years after the entire family
was executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries.
Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Russia has undergone dramatic social and
economic changes. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev -- labelled a
"traitor" by his hard-line opponents -- has argued that he had never
regretted the decision to let the former communist bloc fall apart.
The October Revolution now seems to be undergo a major rethinking - both
domestically and internationally. It has been argued that
an understanding of the Russian Revolution is vital for figuring out why the
left failed in the 20th century.
Russian Communists still believe that the Revolution was the greatest turning
point in world history, while their opponents view it just as a coup
engineered by a well-organized, determined and ruthless minority, which
eventually ruined the country.
But for many Russians -- notably the younger generation -- these debates read
like some ancient controversy of Church Fathers.
The Sunday Times (UK)
7 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Gorbachev tells of taunts that pained Raisa
Mark Franchetti Moscow
DURING the years her husband ran the Soviet Union, she was as hated within
Russia as she was loved in the West. Raisa Gorbachev's compatriots derided
her as too fashionable and too opinionated and complained that she wielded
too much influence on their country's leader.
Mikhail Gorbachev now wants to put the record straight. In an emotional first
interview since her death from cancer nearly two months ago, he has revealed
how she was hurt by the constant barbs but was reconciled with her public in
the final days.
"She suffered a lot as a result of all the rumours surrounding her," said
Gorbachev, 68, looking older than his years. "It became very clear when I
read her some of the thousands of sympathy letters we received in the
hospital. They made her cry and once she turned round and said, 'Do I have to
die to deserve their love?' "
The last Soviet president, who dismantled the communist system after coming
to power in 1985, said Raisa still often appeared to him in his dreams. The
couple's last "conversation" was in a dream he had weeks after she died in
the German hospital where she was being treated for leukaemia.
"I dreamt the phone rang," he said. "It was her. 'Hi,' she said. 'Where are
you calling from?' I asked. Then I woke up. With her I lost the most
important thing, the sense of my life. I still can't believe she died. I
can't accept it. She comes to me in my dreams every night and actually I feel
as if I am always with her."
In the interview, broadcast on Russian television, Gorbachev sought to
redress the image of his late wife as a lover of the good life who was
consumed by a passion for expensive imported fashion at a time when most of
her compatriots lived in poverty. So worried was she about being accused of
abusing her position that she always kept the receipts of any goods she
bought, he said. She always gave up the presents that she received from
visiting foreign heads of state.
When Gorbachev was forced to resign at the end of 1991, he and his wife were
given an hour to move out of their state flat in Moscow. He recalled how his
arch rival, Boris Yeltsin, said he had heard rumours that Gorbachev possessed
a gold credit card.
"I didn't even know what it was, but Yeltsin seemed to know all too well,"
said Gorbachev. "Yeltsin said that if I had done anything wrong, it was the
time to confess and he would guarantee my safety."
Dwelling on his wife's wardrobe, long the object of media speculation and
envy, Gorbachev said Raisa had little money, in fact, to buy clothes. "The
state dacha, flat and transport were all free, but buying clothes was always
"Before ordering a new dress, Raisa would sell an old one to a second-hand
shop. People thought her wardrobe had no end, like that of a tsar, thousands
of items. That's all rubbish. She was aged 30 the first time she used
The pair met in Moscow in the 1950s when they were both students. They
married in 1953, with the future Soviet leader paying for his wedding suit by
selling corn in his home town of Stavropol. Raisa borrowed bridal shoes from
"We were always there for one another, all our lives," said Gorbachev,
choking back tears. "We were like two halves of an apple. She was my closest
and most passionate adviser. Everything that happened, the difficulties, the
crises, she lived through them with heart and soul. She was especially hurt
by the fact that people failed really to understand her or me.
"People still consider my respect for her a weakness."
Los Angeles Times
November 7, 1999
[for personal use only]
Chechens Believe Russia's Aim Is to Obliterate Nation
War: Refugees say military is harder and crueler and this conflict is not
just a repeat of earlier action.
By ROBYN DIXON, Times Staff Writer
SLEPTSOVSKAYA, Russia--Patima Ablusheva is a child of war, born nearly
four years ago during the last fight for her homeland. As Russia's shrieking,
creaky military machine again rolls over Chechnya, she is one of the early
victims of this reborn conflict.
Her head swathed in bandages and her hands blistered, Patima cries with
uncomprehending rage. She was burned Oct. 18 when a bomb set afire her
relatives' home in a suburb of Grozny, the Chechen capital.
Hers are not the worst injuries at a hospital here in the neighboring
Russian republic of Ingushetia. Several children have lost limbs. A young
woman whose legs and arm were amputated is propped in bed in a dim corridor,
her face pale, her features sagging with shock, pain and exhaustion.
Russia, defeated in the 1994-96 war over Chechen independence, pushed
back into the southern separatist republic early last month after Moscow
blamed guerrillas there for raids on nearby Dagestan and terrorist bombings
in Moscow and other cities.
But Chechens say this war is not simply a repeat of the last. Refugees
fleeing the bombs say the Russians seem harder and crueler this time. Many
Chechens are predicting higher casualties. This, and the sense that the
Russian media are ignoring their plight, leaves the Chechens feeling
impotent, angry and betrayed.
Although the present war seems largely politically motivated, with
Russian parliamentary and presidential elections approaching, many of the
refugees are convinced that the aim is to obliterate the Chechen nation.
And remembering Stalin's mass deportation of the Chechen people in 1944,
many of them use the word "genocide" to describe what is going on. The
killings are haphazard but calculated, they say. It is not possible to fire
rockets into a market or village without a large civilian toll.
Satsita Abdulayeva, 28, a refugee here injured in the Chechen village of
Samashki, said Russians gave civilians more warning of attacks during the
1994-96 war. "They are tougher this time around," said Leche Ansarov, 40,
"This war is different from the previous one because the frenzy of the
Russian troops and the barbarity of the actions are more pronounced, compared
with the war of 1994-96," Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who fought in
the last conflict, said in a recent interview with The Times. "They even used
cluster bombs. Cluster bombs and rockets are terrible things, especially when
used against personnel and peaceful civilians."
It's a view supported by many analysts in Russia and the West.
"They are using indiscriminate bombing and using artillery in a
direct-fire role of obliterating and destroying civilian buildings over the
whole of Chechnya, not just in Grozny. And that's a significant difference,"
said Charles Blandy, senior fellow at the Conflict Studies Research Center at
Sandhurst, the British Royal Military Academy. "This time they are not only
occupying Chechnya but trying to obliterate the whole of Chechnya. They want
Chechnya without the Chechens, basically."
In a column in the English-language daily Moscow Times, analyst Andrei
A. Piontkovsky wrote Thursday that Russians must ask themselves whether they
approve "of the government's decisive actions toward the physical elimination
of one of Russia's ethnic groups."
Evidence of Civilian Casualties Mounts
There is mounting evidence of the civilian casualties, with 282 wounded
Chechen refugees having been treated in two Ingush hospitals close to the
Chechen border since early last month.
The Red Cross confirmed a Russian attack on a marked Red Cross convoy
Oct. 29 that left 27 dead. On Oct. 21, several rockets slammed into Grozny's
crowded market and other sites, killing at least 118 people. Chechen
officials later claimed that the number of casualties had risen to more than
Human Rights Watch representatives in Ingushetia report that 27
civilians died Oct. 3 in the bombing of Urus-Martan, about 15 miles southwest
of Grozny, and that dozens died Oct. 27 in Russian attacks on the village of
Samashki, about 25 miles west of the capital.
And on Saturday, Chechen officials said, at least 32 people were killed
in air and artillery bombardments of Grozny, including eight children and 12
Yet the story of the Chechens' suffering is not being told elsewhere in
Russia. Television reports portray a conflict this time in which soldiers
look decisive and strong instead of lost and desperate, in which terrorist
bases and not civilians are being hit and in which Russian generals have the
whiff of victory in their nostrils.
So far, the Russian government has successfully imposed a virtual
information blockade on independent reporting of the war.
"The last time, Chechnya was open to journalists and aid workers. This
time, they have decided to isolate Chechnya from the world. It means a very
tight information campaign," said Thomas de Waal, coauthor of the book
"Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus."
That may explain why Russian support for the war remains high. The
conflict's architect, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, is now the nation's
most popular politician because of his tough approach to the war. He plans to
run in the presidential election in June.
"I think the war has very little to do with the stated aim of defeating
terrorism," De Waal said, "and a lot to do with the political agenda and the
agenda of military leaders who lost last time."
Although the toll in casualties would be horrific, Russian generals say
they are determined to push through to the end this time--implying that their
defeat in 1996 occurred because they were prevented from doing the job
properly. Yet they face a steep challenge.
"They're going to have to go on and on," said Anatol Lieven, an expert
on the former Soviet Union at the Independent Institute for Strategic Studies
in London. "They're going to have to take Grozny and occupy the mountainous
regions, rake through every village and arrest tens of thousands of young
men. The whole thing looks to me like a big nightmare."
Lieven added: "Given the disproportion of the forces, if the Russians do
keep going, slogging away at no matter what cost to themselves or the
civilian population, then maybe they will win. But that won't finish things.
It will just mean there will be endless smaller attacks on the Russian forces
in Chechnya and terrorist attacks in Russia and so on."
"Any military victory on the plains will be a hollow victory because the
only way to settle things in the Northern Caucasus is a negotiated settlement
with sufficient economic aid to places like Chechnya and Dagestan," he said.
"Until people have jobs and opportunities, Muslim fundamentalism will attract
Refugees Flee to Ingushetia
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 Chechens have fled to Ingushetia, some
living in rail cars, barns, tents and warehouses, but most with Ingush
families. Beside a rail car at the Sputnik refugee camp outside
Sleptsovskaya, newly washed garments flap on a clothesline like bright flags.
Mud-caked shoes are in neat rows by the rail car's door.
Maria Bakayeva, 61, was a child when she and her family were herded into
cattle cars and deported to Kazakhstan in 1944. She remembers how people
suffered and starved on the harsh steppes. But the bombing that hit her town
of Urus-Martan last month was worse.
"All our street from beginning to end was bombed, and many died," said
Bakayeva, who is living in the rail car.
Jembulat Asmayev, 14, lost both parents when Russians stormed Grozny
more than six years ago. A few weeks ago, the bombers were back and the
Grozny orphanage where he lived with three of his four siblings was evacuated
"I was afraid. I thought, 'It's happening again,' " he said.
His description of the Russian attacks in late 1994 and early 1995 is
chilling. "When the rockets hit the houses, we felt as if they were falling
right on top of us. I kept thinking, 'Is this the time they're going to hit?'
Jembulat doesn't understand why the Russians bomb Chechens. And he
doesn't know the circumstances of his parents' deaths, just that they were
out of the house and were killed somewhere. But he does not hate ordinary
Russians or soldiers who follow orders.
"I don't know who's to blame, but if I did know, I'd be so angry," he
said softly, all the time turning a small object over and over in his hands.
It was a bullet.
Ask this child where it will all end, what he hopes for, and he looks
silently into the middle distance. There is a long, painful pause--but no
Mayerbek Nunayev in Grozny contributed to this report.
7 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Blinded By What We Saw At the Wall
Ten Years Later, It's Obvious That Nothing at All Was Obvious
By Robert G. Kaiser
When young Germans danced through the final breach in the Berlin Wall 10
years ago Tuesday, American thinkers great and small tried to make sense of
the Wall's fall. Many tried to forecast what would happen next. The
predicting proved perilous.
Looking back at them now, those prognostications share a certain quaintness.
They were nearly all rooted in the Cold War realities that had created the
American frame of reference for nearly half a century. But the
prognosticators could not grasp the fact that this frame of reference was as
doomed as the Wall itself.
Many of the forecasters realized that a different world was coming, but none
successfully escaped the constraints of the old reality to imagine a new one.
A computer-assisted search of the archives--extensive but not
exhaustive--discovered no analyst or statesman, no commentator or professor
who understood then that the hole in the Wall would be quickly followed by
the utter collapse of European communism and the Soviet Union, soon producing
a weak and bumbling Russia half the size of the U.S.S.R., with a fraction of
Nor did any seer predict a united Germany of the kind we have today, mired in
economic and political crises and unable to exert much influence outside its
own borders. Much more common were predictions of a resurgent--and
threatening--Germany. Many prophets foresaw the end of the Warsaw Pact, but
usually in conjunction with the end of NATO, too; none predicted then a
revived NATO with new members who had recently been Warsaw Pact members.
Reading what smart people said and wrote a decade ago is a stiff reminder
that prognostication can be a fool's errand. This is not to say, though, that
running the errand has no value; the prognosticator's art can be provocative,
entertaining and even illuminating. Sometimes the effort is so bold as to
evoke awe. Consider the predictions of William Safire, the New York Times
columnist and proprietor of an oft-used crystal ball:
"The rest of the dominoes will fall," Safire wrote four days after the Wall
did, in a column outlining "the realities that will flow" from the unexpected
breach in the Cold War's most potent symbol. "Bulgarians and Czechoslovaks
are next, and even the police state of Rumania awaits an uprising. . . ."
A good start, but then trouble: "Economic crisis will be transferred to
Turkey as West Germany absorbs its eastern German unskilled workers and sends
back the legions of Turkish workers. . . . Germany, already the world's
largest exporter, will dominate the economies of Central Europe and invest
heavily in the Soviet Union . . . The phase-out of U.S. troops stationed in
Germany will begin soon. . . . Germany, tired of apologetics, will stare down
its own Greens and become a nuclear power with Star Wars rocketry making it
an Uberpower before the turn of the millennium. . . . Other Europeans will
work together to 'stop the Germans,' less out of historic fears of militarism
than from the competition of militant industriousness."
Well, not quite. Turkish workers were not expelled from Germany, Germany has
not become a nuclear power, nor does it (yet) dominate the economies of
Eastern Europe. Some U.S. troops left Germany, but nearly 70,000 remain.
Rather than trying to stop Germany, the other Europeans sought comfort from
the strength of Germany's deutsche mark by creating a common currency, the
euro. The Germans' "militant industriousness" has produced an economy lately
less successful than France's. Of Safire's six forthcoming "realities,"
roughly 1.5 proved to be real.
The problem with trying to see the future is the present. What we know
usually overpowers our ability to see what might be coming. What is is; it
has the advantage of tangible existence. This makes the present hard to
shake, no matter how smart you are.
Such inertia explains the most common miscalculations in the prognoses of a
decade ago. One was that Soviet communism and the Soviet Union would survive
the dramas of the fall of 1989 (and of course they did--but only for two
years). Another was to presume that even without a wall, two Germanys would
have to exist--the Russians would demand it, or the French, or the Germans
themselves. In both cases, it was just too difficult to imagine that what was
would no longer be.
Yet some did rise above the present to see part of what was to come. Martin
Malia, a University of California professor, published a self-consciously
anonymous article (signed "Z") in the scholarly journal Daedalus that was
excerpted on the New York Times op-ed page in January 1990. He wrote: "1989
will enter history as the beginning of communism's terminal crisis." Malia
understood that there was no hope that the Soviet system could be
successfully reformed: "There is no third way between Leninism and the
market, between Bolshevism and constitutional government." Reform would
inevitably lead to "the liquidation" of the party-dominated system. This was
a shrewd insight.
But Malia did not think the liquidation would come quickly. "The
revolutionary events of 1989 should not breed the illusion that the exit from
communism these events presage will itself be rapid. . . ." It would be "a
long time coming." Malia, a fervent and eloquent anti-communist, was unable
to see that the object of his fervor was so weak already.
Rapidity of change also flummoxed George F. Kennan, whom history will record
as a true prophet for his 1946 prediction that the Soviet system could fall
over time. Kennan, former ambassador to Moscow and author of the classic
"Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin," testified before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee at the beginning of 1990.
The security of Europe, Kennan observed, was tied up in the complex realities
inside the two Germanys, where NATO and the Warsaw Pact confronted one
another with large military forces. The delicate arrangements in the
Germanys, including nominal four-power control of Berlin, would be threatened
by any consideration of German unification, Kennan said. He recommended that
the major powers agree to a "binding moratorium of at least three years'
duration" that would freeze European realities in place--no changes in NATO
or the Warsaw Pact, no "alterations" of borders and states. In the meantime,
statesmen could prepare, "in a careful and deliberate manner. . . a new
European security structure."
This advice from a scholarly retired diplomat had a certain tidy logic, but
it showed scant respect for the energies already loose in Central Europe.
Even Kennan, whose original mind often took him to unexpected conclusions,
could not escape the spell of accepted wisdom. He thought the situation was
delicate, but the forces ripping down the Iron Curtain were anything but
Rapid German reunification was just too much for many to imagine. A smug
Newsweek article in late November 1989 ridiculed President George Bush for
saying that the United States would welcome early reunification: "His blithe
announcement . . . was premature and unhelpful. He may well come to regret
having made it."
Many German experts could not imagine East Germany choosing self-destruction.
One was Ronald D. Asmus of the Rand Corp., who wrote in the Los Angeles Times
days after the Wall fell: "Having rejected the Soviet model, East Germans do
not simply want to blindly embrace the West German model." Asmus opposed
unification: "It is in everyone's interest that East Germans be given the
hope and the necessary incentives that will persuade them to remain and to
rebuild their society."
Why would two Germanys be "in everyone's interest"? Well, this was more
consistent with the way things had been for 45 years, and therefore more
orderly, less threatening. But events quickly demonstrated that no
conceivable incentives would persuade East Germans to maintain a separate
identity and state.
Henry Kissinger, born in Germany, saw this at once. Three weeks after the
Wall crumbled, the former U.S. secretary of state wrote in Newsweek: "German
unification in some form has become inevitable, whatever the misgivings of
Germany's neighbors and World War II victims." The driving force, Kissinger
saw, would be German public opinion.
He was less clairvoyant, however, about the Soviet Union. From 1985 onward,
when Mikhail Gorbachev had become the Soviet leader, Kissinger was skeptical
about Gorbachev's intentions; he held to that skepticism even after Gorbachev
gave up any pretense of control over Eastern Europe. In his Newsweek article,
Kissinger entertained the possibility that the Russians might still try to
use their nuclear superiority over Germany and Japan to coerce both into
helping rebuild the Soviet economy.
The idea that even after the amazing changes of 1989, the Soviet Union
remained determined to dominate world politics was also hard for Kissinger's
old boss, Richard M. Nixon, to shake off. "The Soviet military is leaner but
stronger today than when Gorbachev came to power five years ago," Nixon wrote
in the Washington Times in January 1990. He enumerated countries from
Afghanistan to Nicaragua where, he said, the Soviets continued to meddle
against American interests. He accused Gorbachev of "disarming the West
psychologically," and said the Western powers should not provide economic aid
to the Soviet Union "unless Soviet foreign policy becomes less aggressive."
But Nixon also saw the possibility that Gorbachev might "lead his people away
from aggression abroad." Other cold warriors rejected that notion. Sen. Jesse
Helms (R-N.C.) said that Gorbachev's was "in fact more aggressive . . . than
previous regimes," whose goal was "to turn the world into a socialist system
dominated by the Soviet Union."
Predictions are doomed if they are based on a misunderstanding of underlying
conditions. Some of the prognoses made a decade ago that look most foolish
today started from flawed premises.
For example, Jerry Hough of Duke University, a Kremlinologist who prides
himself on holding strong and unconventional opinions, argued in
congressional testimony at the end of 1989 that Gorbachev and the Soviet
Union were in a stronger position than most Americans realized. Quoting CIA
estimates (which we now understand were wildly off the mark), Hough said the
Soviet gross national product was $2.8 trillion, "bigger than that of Japan
and the two Germanys combined," and predicted that Soviet multinational
corporations would soon be exporting cheap manufactured goods all over the
world. "Gorbachev is doing very well," Hough wrote in January 1990, "and
1990-91 will be years in which we will have to come to grips with that
Walter Russell Mead of the World Policy Institute made another sort of
economic miscalculation. In an article for Harper's magazine published early
in 1990, Mead wrote that "the post-Cold War era is beginning," and the United
States was headed for the sidelines. "It is Japan and Germany who stand to
map the post-Cold War world economy; in this new world, the United States may
well be the Argentina of the twenty-first century." Mead (and many others)
misread Japan's and Germany's economic success in the '80s as permanent. Ten
years later, the American economy is the envy of both those countries.
Another prognosis that got considerable attention in 1990 was written by John
J. Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of
Chicago. In a closely argued and utterly confident analysis that ran as a
cover story in the Atlantic Monthly, Mearsheimer said that NATO and the
Warsaw Pact both would dissolve, that "Western European states will do what
they did for centuries before the onset of the Cold War--look upon one
another with abiding suspicion."
Projecting the likelihood of violent conflict in Europe, Mead urged the
United States to help non-nuclear European powers acquire nuclear weapons,
because nuclear deterrence would be the best hope for maintaining peace. The
possibility of a growing European Union with a common currency and a
willingness to wage a war against a defiant neighbor such as Serbia found no
place in Mearsheimer's forecast.
Ten years is a short time, as the passage of the last decade reminds us.
There's no magic in a 10th anniversary. We're only at a way station on the
road to . . . whatever comes next.
It does seem safe, however, to predict that 10 or 20 years from now,
Americans will look back at this end-of-millennium moment and note how many
of our 1999 instincts still resembled Cold War reflexes. We talk a lot about
post-Cold War realities, but we're still carrying a lot of Cold War baggage.
The Senate debate on the nuclear test ban treaty was a reminder of that. So
is the defense budget, which still includes exotic weapons systems imagined
in the '80s as a hedge against aggressive Soviet procurement programs that
collapsed years ago. A striking example is the Navy's proposed fleet of $2
billion New Attack Submarines that remains in the budget despite the absence
of an enemy force worthy of it.
The events initiated in Berlin a decade ago have not yet fully played out.
The Russian drama is certainly far from complete. And there are four
communist regimes still in business: China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.
Why should they survive when all the others collapsed? Will Martin Malia, so
prescient in some respects 10 years ago, be proved right in his prediction
that communism everywhere was dying--"not just in Russia but from the Baltic
to the China sea, and from Berlin to Beijing"?
Robert Kaiser is an associate editor of The Post.
Washington Post researcher Mary Lou White contributed to this article.
November 4, 1999
U.S. Students Talk Russian Politics
By Yulia Solovyova
When Josh Adams returns from Moscow to his native Illinois to work at a
Republican congressman's office, he wants to be able to explain the state of
affairs in Russia to his colleagues. He wonders if State Duma Deputy Sergei
Yushenkov can help him figure it out.
"If you ever manage to explain it, come back and we'll put up a monument to
you," Yushenkov, a member of the Democratic Choice party, said.
The exchange occurred at a recent meeting between U.S. students and Russian
political leaders organized by the Moscow-based Grint Center for Education
and Culture and Moscow Teachers' University. The organizers, who plan to
continue arranging such events, hope they will help America's future
decision-makers bring home a better understanding of their former Cold War
Adams, 23, who studies international relations with a focus on Russia at
Western Illinois University, came to Moscow through a Truman University
program to study Russian politics, history and economics at the Grint Center,
and has twice participated in meetings with Russian politicians.
"It's a great way to get information across. You can ask questions directly
to politicians rather than try to look for their opinion on a particular
issue in the newspapers," Adams said. "You can't write down emotional or
In the course of two meetings, U.S. students and professors heard members of
the Social Democratic, Communist, Yabloko and Democratic Choice parties speak
about their political platforms and views on Russia's current problems.
Yevgeny Pashentsev, a professor at Moscow Teachers' University, said the goal
of the project is "to make Russia more predictable" for the world.
Besides Yushenkov, last week's meeting - dedicated to ways of overcoming the
economic crisis in Russia - also featured Irina Osokina, a Moscow City Duma
deputy from the Yabloko party.
Osokina's presentation, in which she explained Yabloko's so-called new NEP,
named after Vladimir Lenin's New Economic Policy, proved too in-depth for the
students. Few seemed genuinely interested, and some doodled in their
notepads. The questions they asked had less to do with the nuts and bolts of
hard economic policy and more to do with the latest scandals - for example,
whether Boris Berezovsky is responsible for the latest war in Chechnya.
Osokina, who was speaking to U.S. students for the second time, said their
understanding of current political processes in Russia was "very low."
But she says the lack of understanding comes from both sides. When she
visited Wisconsin as part of a delegation from the Russian provinces, the
level of the Russians' knowledge of the U.S. administrative system proved
"Many prejudices are caused by ignorance," Osokina said. "These students are
future political analysts and [such meetings] are a type of people's
diplomacy for them. Personal connections create a more positive attitude
toward a country."
But despite their apparent lack of interest, Osokina won the students'
appreciation with Yabloko's anti-corruption stance and her own honesty and
"She seemed interested to hear from us, and that's what makes democracy
work," said Brian Parker, 20, who studies at American University in
Of all the politicians they have met, the students said it was hard-line
Communist Anatoly Kryuchkov who made the biggest impression on them. Though
they disagreed with most of his points, they said they respected Kryuchkov
for his willingness to come and express "very anti-American" views to a room
full of Americans.
"It's up to the Russians to decide which parties they support," Adams said.
"My job, if I become a politician, is to decide which people think like I do
and want what I do, and work with them."
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