This Date's Issues: 3625 •
Johnson's Russia List
15 November 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Kuchma trounces Communist in Ukrainian presidential race.
2. Reuters: Yeltsin throws weight behind hawkish Putin.
3. Nat Hooper: If the USSR had won.....
4. The Russia Journal: Gregory Feifer, Government gets a slide on Chechnya.
5. Stratfor: IMF's Camdessus Misses the Point.
6. Philadelphia Inquirer: Walter Uhl reviews The Sword and the Shield.
The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB.
7. Moscow Times: Yevgenia Borisova, The Truth About Polls.]
Kuchma trounces Communist in Ukrainian presidential race
KIEV, Nov 14 (AFP) -
Pro-Western Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma trounced a Communist challenger
who promised closer ties to Moscow in the second round of presidential
elections Sunday, exit polls and official figures indicated.
Kuchma had won 57.4 percent of the vote against 37.66 percent for the
Communist Party leader, Petro Simonenko, with 55.65 percent of the votes
counted, a central election commission official said.
The moderate 61-year-old president's strong lead came despite five years of
economic recession in Ukraine and corruption scandals that marred his first
Turnout was 73.8 percent, up from about 70 percent in the first round on
October 31, the electoral official said. Polling closed at 8:00 p.m. (18H00
Kuchma led the poll in the capital Kiev, with around 64.87 percent, and in
western regions, where he received up to 93 percent of the votes.
Crimea and the eastern industrial region voted mostly for Simonenko, who had
wanted a rapprochement with Russia.
Around 15 election incidents were reported to the commission. "We can't tell
yet about the seriousness of those incidents and if they will have an
influence on the results", said commission president Mikhailo Ribets.
More than 150 observers from 18 countries were in Ukraine to monitor the
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the
Council of Europe noted very limited media access accorded opposition
candidates during the campaign leading up to the first-round vote.
But voters rejected the hard-line Communist leader's pledge to bring the
former Soviet republic back into the Russian orbit and break ties with the
West, as well as bring back a Socialist economy.
"I didn't vote for Kuchma, but against the Communists," said Yevgenia, a
25-year-old student as she left a polling booth in central Kiev in the bright
Little enthusiasm was evident among the 50 million inhabitants in Ukraine,
where Kuchma was seen as the lesser of two evils.
"Everyone has known for a long time that Kuchma will win this election," said
a Kiev taxi driver.
Pollsters predicted a Kuchma win after interviewing about 6,000 people in
Ukraine's 25 regions and Kiev as they left polling booths from their opening
at 8:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) until they closed at 8:00 p.m.
The three organisations -- Socis, the Centre for Social Monitoring and the
Kiev International Institute of Sociology -- carried out an exit poll in the
first round that was within three percent of the final official result.
Simonenko had support among working-class and elderly voters in Ukraine's
Russian-speaking mining and industrial heartland in the east of the country,
who hanker after the certainties of the Soviet Union.
But the nationalist centre and west, deeply hostile to the Communists' wish
to join a proposed union between Russia and Belarus, only eight years since
Kiev gained its independence in 1991, lined up behind Kuchma.
Most of the country came under the domination of Russia in the 17th century,
and during 400 years of Russian rule in Tsarist and Soviet times suffered
repeated attempts to wipe out its culture and language.
Artist Feodosy Gumeniuk, 60, who was exiled from Ukraine during Soviet times
for painting historical Ukrainian subjects, said he was voting for Kuchma as
the "only way to keep the Communists out."
In constant conflict with the left-wing parliament, Kuchma has failed to push
through much-needed economic reforms as the country languishes in a
post-Soviet economic morass.
Unemployment affects nearly a quarter of the population, the official average
monthly wage is less than 50 dollars, and corruption is endemic while a
mountain of unpaid wages and pensions has reached record levels.
But as he cast his vote, Kuchma insisted that he had brought the country
"stability and security," the Interfax news agency reported.
According to one complaint, a hospital in southern Kherson forced its
patients to go out and vote or be kicked out, Interfax reported.
"We cannot yet judge the seriousness of these incidents and whether they will
have an effect on the final tally of the vote," Ribets said.
Yeltsin throws weight behind hawkish Putin
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin has given a
ringing new endorsement to his hawkish premier, setting the stage for
confrontation with the West over Chechnya ahead of a European security summit
Russia launched its fiercest air strikes yet against the rebel province over
the weekend, shrugging off international criticism before the summit of the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which begins on Thursday
Russian troops raised their flag over Gudermes, Chechnya's second city, which
town leaders allowed them to enter on Friday without a fight, an event Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin described as a "fundamental turning point" in the
On Sunday Yeltsin gave a ringing endorsement to Putin, a once-obscure
security official whose steely demeanor and uncompromising position on
Chechnya have made him Russia's most popular politician since becoming
premier in September.
Yeltsin, who must step down after an election next year, said a Putin
presidency would be "the only path for Russia."
"Look at his moves, analyse his deeds, how logical they are, clever, strong,"
Yeltsin said, patting Putin on the shoulder.
CAMPAIGN HEATS UP AS RUSSIA ENTERS CHECHEN HEARTLAND
The campaign in Chechnya has escalated in the past few days, as Russian
troops enter the densely populated valley south of the capital Grozny that
forms the Chechen heartland.
On Saturday Russian warplanes flew 180 sorties, the most in a 24 hour period
since the campaign began, NTV television reported from a Russian military
Russian troops have occupied most of the main east-west highway that runs
through the valley south of Grozny. On Friday night they entered the densely
populated central Urus-Martan district, taking a crossroads near the hamlet
PUTIN SHRUGS OFF CRITICISM
Western leaders have responded with shock to the scale of the Russian
military operation and civilian casualties. But Putin said some Western
leaders were stuck in a Cold War anti-Russian mindset and others were simply
"With these people (Western leaders) we must work persistently, constantly
and patiently to explain the position of the Russian Federation," he said.
Russia launched its campaign at the start of October saying it planned a
limited offensive to set up a security zone against Islamic guerrillas, but
has since steadily escalated its drive into an all-out onslaught to restore
control of the province.
Western leaders are generally sympathetic to Russia's security concerns, but
say Moscow is using too much force.
The conflict now looks set to top the agenda at the summit of the 54-member
OSCE. Yeltsin is also invited to the summit but the Kremlin has not said
whether he will go.
From: Nat Hooper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: If the USSR had won.......
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 1999
We Americans shake our heads in dismay over the difficulties the Russians
are having converting to a free market economy, or as we like to put it,
"Democracy". As time passes there seems to be more and more of a shift
backwards, towards the reemergence of Communism. How can this be?
I think it can be easily explained by imagining what WE would do if the
situation was reversed. How would America's leadership have reacted if we
had LOST the cold war? How would they (and the rest of us) have responded
if Russians were over here to teach and guide us to the wonders of their
system - Communism?
I believe the answer is obvious; We would have done everything in our power
to obstruct the process. Assuming the Soviets had overwhelming power and we
had been totally disarmed, leaving no means of physical resistance with
firepower, wouldn't we do just about what the Russians are doing? If over
50 percent of us were reduced to the level of abject poverty as have the
peoples of the previous USSR, would we be in favor of the new order?
There would always be those seeking favor or even power for themselves who
would give lip-service to the new order, but in truth, would be doing
everything they could get away with to insure failure.
And finally, knowing that failure was inevitable, wouldn't we all be
diligently squirreling away what we could for the even worse days coming?
Just an observer in Oxford, Arkansas
The Russia Journal
November 15-21, 1999
Government gets a slide on Chechnya
By GREGORY FEIFER
Parliamentary elections are little more than a month away and there's a war
on in Chechnya. But don't try getting a clear picture of what's going on in
Russia from the country's media.
While looming elections have helped split news agencies into two major camps
engaged in an increasingly dirty war of words, the Chechen war has united the
Russian press in implausibly positive coverage of Russia's campaign. One
thing is clear: In these uncertain times, attempts at objective reporting in
Russia are few.
Russia's media war becomes increasingly bitter with every passing week. A
week ago, Kremlin-influenced ORT television news anchor Sergei Dorenko ran an
interview on his analytical news program accusing Kremlin nemesis Moscow
Mayor Yury Luzhkov of being behind the 1996 assassination of an American
businessman. In the meantime, Luzhkov-allied independent NTV television's
Itogi, also a news analysis show, broadcast unadulterated anti-Kremlin
commentary from its anchor, Yevgeny Kiselov, rated Russia's most trusted
But both channels, which present absolutely opposing views on the election
campaigns, show similar reportage about Russia's war in Chechnya, which is
largely portrayed as an honorable and successful fight against "terrorism."
Reasons abound for the almost complete politicization of Russia's press in
Moscow. The chief one, as conventional wisdom has it, involves financing.
More obscure are the many contradictions in Russian law. Even less clear is
the media's response to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia last spring.
"The authorities tried to get the media on its side during the conflict in
Yugoslavia," said the Glasnost Defense Fund's Oleg Panfilov. "And they
succeeded in convincing the press that it should function not as a conveyor
of information, but as another organ of power."
Perhaps most surprising has been NTV's coverage of Russia's current
hostilities in Chechnya. During the first Chechen conflict in 1994-1996, NTV
was instrumental in contradicting official reports and statistics, and
galvanizing public opinion against Moscow's campaign. This time around, NTV's
journalists have joined colleagues from almost all other agencies in
condemning Chechnya and supporting the government's actions.
Reporters regularly broadcast from the top of moving mobile personnel
carriers, saying they are waging a successful, virtually casualty-free
campaign. Coverage is centered around the statements of Russian generals
confidently outlining battlefield victories and stating figures showing a
negligible number of Russian soldiers killed. The refugee crisis receives
minimal, if any, coverage - and even that lauds Russian forces for their work
in aiding Chechens fleeing their bombs.
Similarly, last spring, NTV showed many minutes of Serb civilian casualties
during NATO's bombing, while almost completely ignoring the plight of Kosovar
The chief reason for the bias in favor of the government is most likely
financial. NTV, for one, has recently run into cash problems with
NTV's parent company, Media-Most, is involved in a court battle with
state-controlled Vnesheconombank over what the bank claims is a $42-million
Media-Most, however, alleges that the government is trying to "strangle" it
ahead of elections.
"NTV is now trying to ingratiate itself with the government," Panfilov said,
adding that government support is especially desirable during the election
Television stations are required to give a certain amount of free airtime to
candidates. But they also show campaign advertising. "In fact, they'll show
as much as they want, and that can bring a big profit," Panfilov said.
"Cozying up to the government is an attempt not to become dependent on the
At the same time, the most attention-grabbing of Russia's political coverage
centers around speculation about which groups of financial and industrial
"oligarchs" are aligned with which politicians. One chief question is whose
influence (negative or positive) affects Kremlin decisions, especially
concerning whether the prime minister will be fired. President Boris Yeltsin,
known for making unexpected and often illogical decisions, recently dismissed
five premiers within 18 months.
However, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is wildly popular for his
hardline stance against Chechnya. His rising ratings have sunk those of
Luzhkov and his front man, the popular former Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov, who until recently headed the country's highest-rated political
bloc, Fatherland-All Russia.
That's reason enough for Gusinsky's outlets to wish Putin sacked.
But media outlets controlled by a top Kremlin insider, controversial tycoon
Boris Berezovsky - including Nezavisimaya Gazeta and ORT television - have
also recently opined against Putin, saying the West is in favor of his
removal because he is less predictable than Primakov was as premier.
Analysts say that's because Berezovsky wants Putin out and replaced with
another candidate he likes better.
Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission, responsible for overseeing the
process of parliamentary elections, has said it wants to completely forbid
the media from reporting positively or negatively against any candidate, as
that would be "advertising."
CEC chief Alexander Veshnyakov directed his comments at ORT's Dorenko, who
has lashed out against Primakov, accusing him, among other things, of being
too ill to serve in office.
But Press Minister Mikhail Lesin defended ORT, saying the ministry would file
a case with the Constitutional Court to protect Russia's freedom of the press.
The creation of the Press Ministry last summer itself was seen as an attempt
by the Kremlin to impose censorship of the press ahead of elections. But
Panfilov says Lesin is currently actually protecting freedom of the press.
"He's the worst press minister I've ever seen," Panfilov said. "But he's on
the side of journalists in stopping the threat of Veshnyakov."
At the root of many such conflicts are Russia's conflicting legal codes. For
example, the country's law on media allows commentary on political
candidates, something electoral law forbids.
Similarly, Russia's law controlling the media allows journalists to move
freely inside Chechnya, whereas laws governing the Interior Ministry bar
publication of Russian troop movements.
While a remedy is impossible, a government monitoring committee might help,
Panfilov said. "But those kinds of bodies usually end badly in Russia," he
At the same time, too many contradictions exist to make appeals to the
Constitutional Court a viable alternative.
"It would be better if legislators amend already existing laws," Panfilov
Global Intelligence Update
IMF's Camdessus Misses the Point
15 November 1999
Michel Camdessus' recent resignation from the directorship of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) invites us to consider the effectiveness of
the IMF and other international entities in managing the global economy.
There has been much criticism of the IMF. Our perception is that more than a
failure, the IMF has been largely irrelevant. From its management of the
Third World debt problem to its mishandling of the Asia crisis, the IMF did
not and could not understand the real forces driving economic development.
The problem is not so much the people as it is the focus. So deeply linked to
existing economic forces and orthodoxies, the IMF is incapable of recognizing
emerging forces and new realities. It always manages to miss the point.
The resignation of the leader of the International Monetary Fund, Michel
Camdessus, two years before the end of his term is a punctuation mark in
economic history. He came into office at a time when the worldâ€™s major
economic issues were Third World debt, the United Statesâ€™ inability to
compete with Japan and Gorbachev's attempt to restructure Russia's economy.
He leaves at a time when the major issues are the growing irrelevance of the
Third World to the global economy, the inability of Japan to compete with the
United States and the cataclysmic failure of economic reform in Russia.
Camdessus and the IMF were deeply involved in all of these issues. What is
fascinating is that despite its involvement, the institution has been largely
irrelevant â€“ except when it has been harmful.
It is important not to personalize the failure. This is not about Camdessus.
It is not even about the technocrats who manage the IMF and its sister
institution, the World Bank. Rather, it is about the impersonal forces that
govern the international system and the fantasy that a de-nationalized
technocracy can manage that system. The story of Camdessus' tenure is not
about incompetence or corruption, although there was plenty of the former and
the jury is still out on the latter. Instead, his tenure is about impotence:
the inability of the technocrats to either understand or control the forces
at work. No one could have done the job. The job was undoable.
Consider the case of Third World debt. Back in the 1980s, Third World
countries found themselves unable to repay billions of dollars in debt owed
to the world's banks. Had they all gone into default together, they
threatened to damage or even sink the global economic system. Under U.S.
Secretary of State Nicholas Brady, a scheme for refinancing the debt was
devised, with the IMF playing the role of policeman of Third World economies
by linking lines of credit to painful austerity. One might take this as a
triumph for the IMF and international institutions. Indeed it was, until we
recall the origins of the crisis.
During the 1970s, the world saw a massive increase in the price of global
commodities, led by oil. The conventional wisdom was that commodity prices
would only go higher. The Club of Rome and other sophisticated observers of
history pointed out that we were running out of scarce resources. The world
was compared to a space ship: resources were being exhausted by growing
populations and intensified industrial use. It followed that the price of
commodities like oil, copper and wheat could only go up. If the price of
commodities went up forever, it followed that the best place to invest your
money was in commodities. This was rocket science, right? The primary
producers of commodities were Third World countries that lacked industrial
capability but controlled natural resources sorely needed by the industrial
world. Any sane investor in the 1970s knew that investing in industries that
purchased raw materials was dumb, while investing in producers of raw
materials was smart.
So everyone, particularly the international banking community and the World
Bank, began pouring billions of dollars into ventures from Mexico to the
Philippines to Nigeria, all designed to produce raw materials. Since oil was
going to cost 40, 50 or even 100 dollars a barrel on spaceship earth, the
cost of production was not critical. The price was going up and it was
important to get in while the getting was good. All of the technocrats simply
knew this and the entire international economic system became skewed toward
investing and lending to Third World commodity producers.
Of course, the inevitable happened. It turned out that while the world may
have a finite amount of oil or copper, there were still huge untapped
reserves. When Third World megaprojects started production, the price of
commodities collapsed. When prices fell below the cost of production,
projects went bankrupt. We suddenly had a Third World debt crisis, which
Nicholas Brady and the IMF moved in to clean up. The Third World debt crisis
originated in an ideology of commodity scarcity that led to an avalanche of
investment decisions that wound up invalidating the ideology through its
The debt crisis, however, was not resolved by Brady, the IMF or any other
multinational institution. For Third World countries, the development
decisions made by their governments with the encouragement of the
international development community created a long-term capital shortage that
has left a legacy of misery. Nor is it clear that multinational communities
solved the crisis for the first world either. The simplistic projection of a
future in which commodity producers dominated industrial commodity consumers
was rendered false not only by the collapse in commodity prices. It was also
rendered irrelevant by another phenomenon in the early 1980s: Microsoft.
Microsoft, and the endless other software and related companies that appeared
during the 1980s, altered the equation that had obsessed the World Bank and
most other serious economic thinkers. The emergence of computing technologies
meant that it was possible to have increased economic growth without similar
increased commodity consumption. Microsoft, after all, produces wealth
without consuming commodities in proportion to growth.
The extraordinary growth of the American economy has many causes. There is no
doubt that the persistent growth of productivity in the United States is due
to the efficiencies introduced by computing. Even Federal Reserve Chairman
Alan Greenspan has acknowledged this, while also acknowledging that it is
hard to calculate impact. This much is apparent. At a time when productivity
should be falling, inflation and interest rates soaring and the economy
moving toward recession, growth in productivity â€“ driven by the effects of
computing â€“ is maintaining growth at unprecedented levels.
When Camdessus came to the IMF, Japan produced cars and cameras at lower
prices and better quality than the United States. He leaves at a time when
the ability to produce cars and cameras is much less interesting than the
ability to write software. Production has shifted in a way that is almost
metaphysical. The hardware that runs a web server is much less valuable than
the immaterial intellectual property that resides on the server. The
decoupling of value from physical production, its shift to intellectual
production, is a millennial shift whose full meaning will not unfold for many
generations. To overstate it, the Japanese bet on hardware while the
Americans bet on software.
It has been said that the IMF mishandled the Asian crisis. The reason for
this is simply that the institution and its leadership could not believe that
Asia was having a systemic crisis. Camdessus and his peers believed so deeply
in the assumption that Asia would be the powerhouse of the 21st century, he
could not accept the fact that the entire Asian enterprise was in jeopardy.
For Camdessus, Asian industrial efficiency owned the future. The economic
problems that arose were merely national problems solvable with a good dose
of IMF discipline. Camdessus did not see that Asia as a whole was crumbling
because he did not understand that Asia's industrial efficiency was both real
and increasingly irrelevant. A new game was being played, in which the Asians
weren't able to compete.
There were, of course, other problems. The IMF staff deals in numbers. It
assumes the numbers they see are in some sense connected to reality. The IMF
missed the extent of Asia's banking problems because no one, including the
Asians who collected the data, knew what the real numbers were. The lack of
transparency, as the IMF likes to call it, or lying through your teeth, as we
prefer, left the institution with a set of bogus numbers. In the case of
Russia, the distance between economic statistic and bald-faced lie has always
been short but has recently become infinitesimal.
Camdessus was no better and no worse than anyone else in his position. The
real issue is whether the world needs his position. The role of the IMF is to
provide central management at the highest level for the international
financial system. The concept misses this point: the highest level is not
where the international economic system is located. While the IMF was focused
on refinancing Western debt with petrodollars and novels were being written
about Arab world dominance, the real history of the future was being written
by unknown companies like Apple and Microsoft. When Michael Dell devised a
more efficient way to sell the computer parts Asia could barely make a profit
on, creating a multi-billion dollar company in a few years, Camdessus had
neither heard of him nor if he had, would have taken him seriously.
Men like Camdessus are infatuated with yesterday's problems and yesterday's
elite. They owe their power to those who at the top, and therefore, have
nowhere to go but down. Ironically, Karl Marx understood it best when he
spoke of capitalism and the "constant revolutionization of the means of
production." Capitalism is constantly overthrowing itself, that is its single
Camdessus is not a stupid man. The people working at the IMF are not stupid
people. But they are institutionally incapable of seeing the forces reshaping
the international economy, because their focus is on the capital cities of
the world and that is simply not where history is being made. The
organizations that will define the next twenty years of history are probably
completely unknown to anyone today. Certainly no one in Washington knows of
them or takes them seriously. Therefore no one at the IMF can possibly know
what is really going on in the world's economy.
The idea that you can manage an economy from the top down is the central
fallacy. When the IMF governors meet, they can't possibly know the economic
entities and forces redefining the system, precisely because they are no
longer down in the trenches, creating the future. That means the IMF will, at
best, have some sense of what happened yesterday, maybe â€“ depending on the
numbers â€“ it might know what is happening now, but has no way of
understanding what will happen tomorrow. Therefore, the governors will not
wind up making bad decisions nearly as often as they will wind up making
irrelevant ones. That is why, as Michel Camdessus leaves, we can't help but
think of him as the man who kept missing the point.
14 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Vasili Mitrokhin's access to the spy agency's files has yielded surprises.
Soviet traitor revises history of the KGB
The Sword and the Shield
The Mitrokhin Archive
and the Secret History of the KGB
By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin
Basic Books. 700 pp. $32.50
Reviewed by Walter C. Uhler (email@example.com)
Walter C. Uhler, chief of financial services at the Defense Contract
Management Command in Philadelphia, writes on Russian and military history
for various periodicals. Spies can get fed up with their work.
In March 1971, I returned to the United States after 28 months of electronic
spying on the Soviet Union from, of all places, Africa.
Although I vowed never again to engage in espionage, spying on the Russians
wasn't the irritant. The object of my outrage was the new assignment, which
required me to be part of an effort to spy on Americans overseas by
intercepting and recording telecommunications to and from abroad.
A year later, another Cold War pawn, KGB agent Vasili Mitrokhin, was assigned
to inventory the approximately 300,000 files in the Russian agency's First
Chief Directorate (the division of the KGB responsible for foreign
intelligence). Unknown to his superiors, Mitrokhin was outraged over the
neo-Stalinist harassment of Boris Pasternak in 1958 and the Soviet invasion
of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and used his assignment to create a private
archive on the KGB's foreign operations.
>From 1972 until his retirement in 1984, Mitrokhin wrote notes about these
files - enough to fill a milk churn, a tin clothes-boiler, two tin trunks and
two aluminum cases hidden below the floorboards of his dacha outside of
In 1992 Mitrokhin, his family and his private archive were "exfiltrated,"
spirited out of Russia to Britain, thereby completing his transition from
potential Russian dissident reformer to actual traitor.
In 1995, Mitrokhin began working on The Sword and the Shield with Christopher
Andrew, of Cambridge University, a world-renowned expert on intelligence.
Andrew has used Mitrokhin's material to revise substantially the history of
the KGB. Its publication has created a sensation throughout the Western world.
The revelations include previously unknown information about a secret Russian
arms dump in Austria, to be used by Russian infiltrators in case of war;
espionage by an English woman who is now an 87-year-old grandmother; spying
by politicians, bureaucrats and journalists; and Mitrokhin's role in securing
an admission of guilt by a former NSA employee, Robert Lipka, in U.S.
District Court in Philadelphia in 1997.
The archive has also been used to bolster counterintelligence efforts by
security services "from Scandinavia to Japan . . . to resolve unresolved
cases and neutralize SVR [Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki, or Russian foreign
intelligence service] operations begun in the KGB era."
The book contains much new information that further sullies the KGB's record.
For example, in 1967 it stooped to attempting to plant stories in the African
press suggesting that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an "Uncle Tom"
in the service of President Lyndon B. Johnson, in order to undermine
indirectly his nonviolent protests in America. Were Dr. King to be
discredited (ironically the objective of the FBI as well), the potential for
inciting a race war in America was thought to improve.
Similarly, much new information about Soviet PROGRESS operations in Eastern
Europe, which involved the penetration of groups and institutions to control
them, and KGB successes in industrial espionage against America must color
our interpretation of Soviet control and military power during the Cold War.
Finally, one cannot read this and not be disgusted by Soviet leader Yuri V.
Andropov's obsession with rooting out dissent.
Notwithstanding the book's assertions that historians, writing in the 21st
century, must pay greater attention to the impact of "intelligence
communities in the international relations and political history of the
twentieth century," much of the new evidence about operations and
intelligence leads this reader to ask: "To what effect?"
Stalin possessed a wealth of intelligence indicating an impending Nazi
invasion, but he refused to believe it. In another instance, reliable
evidence provided by the British turncoats known as the Cambridge Five was
ignored out of fear that it was too good to be true.
Later, paranoia about diabolical capitalist imperialism caused the Soviet
leadership to believe that America was preparing a nuclear attack, both in
the early 1960s and during the Reagan years. Contrary intelligence was seldom
offered and less frequently accepted. Thus, it is quite revealing that one of
Mikhail S. Gorbachev's early acts as general secretary was to insist that
Soviet intelligence be factual and not knee-jerk anti-American.
Having inadvertently raised doubts about the value of intelligence operations
in the political realm, the book then proceeds - again inadvertently - to
cast doubt on the value of scientific and technological intelligence. The
"economic rigidity and resistance to innovation" that characterized the
command economy of the Soviet Union made it impossible to absorb such
The book's view that the Soviet Union put much effort into intelligence but
was unable to realize much advantage from it appears to originate from a low
regard either for the Russian people or for their ability to do much under
Stalinist repression. A word of advice: Whenever you hear anyone give
credence to the doubly slanderous characterization of either the Soviet Union
or contemporary Russia as "Upper Volta with missiles," a phrase coming into
currency among scholars and journalists and used in this book, you have
before you a serious misunderstanding of the enormously talented Russian
In Andrew's case, there is little evidence that he is very familiar with the
workings of the Soviet defense industry or the work by scholars, such as
Loren Graham, on Soviet science and technology. Further, one might question
whether he took to heart David Holloway's work on the great achievements of
Soviet scientists in Stalin and the Bomb.
Notwithstanding the book's exceptional accomplishment of distilling
Mitrokhin's information into a revised history of the KGB, his narrow focus
on intelligence creates a trap from which he cannot escape. The result is yet
one more book that concludes that the Soviet Union failed because its system
was not like ours and implies that Russia will fail if it does not adopt our
Such claims merit a specific pejorative designation: "Post-Cold War
November 13, 1999
The Truth About Polls
By Yevgenia Borisova
Every weekend, the political analysis shows on television serve up bits and
pieces from public opinion surveys. Sometimes, they offer jarringly
conflicting views of Russian political reality; and almost always the results
are meaningless anyway because important information - who was polled, for
example, or what was asked - gets left out.
On Moscow's TV6, Stanislav Kucher's program, "Obozrevatel," offers poll data
without a word about how the data was collected. TV6 was purchased in June by
famous businessman and now State Duma deputy candidate Boris Berezovsky, who
made clear upon purchasing it that he wanted politically loyal news coverage.
On ORT - the nation's most-watched television station - anchorman Pavel
Sheremet on Nov. 6 cited a poll by the Fund for Public Opinion that he said
covers "every region in the Russian Federation." The poll itself actually
surveyed people in 29 of the nation's 89 regions.
The next evening, Sheremet's colleague, ORT anchorman Sergei Dorenko, offered
up a set of polls he said had a statistical margin of error of no more than
2.5 percent; actually, according to the Fund for Public Opinion, which
conducted the poll, it had an error margin of 3.6 percent.
Either way, the margin of error rendered even more meaningless a dubious
argument Dorenko offered: Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who
has been hastily put at the head of the pro-Kremlin Duma bloc Unity, is
suddenly "the only person who has still not fully realized himself as a
politician." (See sidebar for details.)
Sheremet and Dorenko have both been on record frankly stating they serve the
interests of ORT shareholder Berezovsky. Unity was initially set up by
Berezovsky, though he now says he has nothing to do with it.
And then there is NTV television, an independent station set up by
Berezovsky's foe, Vladimir Gusinsky, the oligarch who founded MOST-Bank.
Until about three weeks ago, "Itogi" - the station's signature news program,
under anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov - was enthusiastically pushing polls by the
Fund for Public Opinion showing a meteoric popularity rise for Vladimir
Putin, Russia's war-time prime minister, and musing over other ups and downs
of the week - even though sociologists insist many of the changes seized upon
are too slight to be meaningful.
"When Yevgeny Kiselyov said with excitement that the rating of one politician
rose by 1 percent, while that of another dropped by 1 percent, this is
manipulation of the public - because those changes lie within the statistical
margins of error and Kiselyov knows this perfectly well," said Sergei
Tumanov, head of the Center for Political Opinion Studies at Moscow State
Recently, "Itogi" has switched to call-in surveys. Kiselyov frequently notes
that these polls cannot be considered scientific - but he rarely explains how
thoroughly one-sided they are, as they only represent the views of those
educated, politically active Muscovites willing to watch a two-hour politics
show like "Itogi," and then be bothered to pick up the telephone and
At least the phone-in polls on "Itogi" are honest on one point: Since they
happen live, the date the poll is conducted is clear. In nearly all cases,
television anchors citing polls neglect to mention that the results are a
Opinions for Sale
Under Josef Stalin, sociology was derided as a pseudoscience. With Soviet
leader Nikita Khrushchev's thaw, it made tentative gains, only to be rolled
back when Leonid Brezhnev sent tanks into Czechoslovakia in 1968. Until the
perestroika era, public opinion polls usually amounted to announcements that
the entire Soviet nation supported, say, the war in Afghanistan.
Such ham-handed manufacturing of data is rarer now, but Tumanov recalled that
it was still around as late as 1992, when the government issued every citizen
a privatization voucher - a check for use in mass privatization auctions. The
face value of the voucher was 10,000 rubles, but its real value was to be
dictated by market action.
"Once in 1992, we got a call from one client who said they were prepared to
pay well for the results of the coming Sunday's public opinion poll," Tumanov
"The condition was that for the answer to the question, 'What will be the
price of a voucher by the end of the year?' we must say '20,000 rubles.' We
"But that Sunday, we heard on several television channels that, according to
the results of a poll conducted by some other company, the price of a voucher
will reach 22,000 rubles by year's end. In fact, they stayed at the level of
10,000 rubles. But the immediate results of trading with vouchers that Monday
and Tuesday were great for those who ordered the poll - prices rose for a
couple of days, and then dramatically dropped. Someone made a lot of money on
Do those sorts of things happen with national political polls? Tumanov said
he can't "completely rule that out."
"For instance, I can't quite understand how it is that Fatherland's rating by
the Fund for Public Opinion fell at the beginning of October in just two
weeks from 29 to 18 percent - when there was apparently no grounds for such a
change," he said.
That poll was cited on "Itogi," but other polling agencies tracked no such
dramatic drop. Polls from the VTsIOM public research center, conducted
monthly, indicated a fall from 22 percent in mid-September to just 21 percent
in mid-October. According to polls done by ROMIR public opinion research
center, also conducted monthly, Fatherland's rating fell from 20 percent in
mid-September to 18.2 percent in mid-October.
In other words, two national polls found no change of statistical
significance - over an entire month, Fatherland-All Russia pretty much held
stable in the public eye. Yet a third national poll recorded the party
plummeting, losing nearly half of its public support in just two weeks' time.
Alexander Oslon, head of the Fund for Public Opinion, said that the polls on
Fatherland-All Russia were jumping all over the place then because of the
decision of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov to link up and form the bloc.
Some polls suffer at their fringes from laziness or low-level corruption
among underpaid interviewers gathering the hard data.
"There are cases of scandalous unscrupulousness among interviewers, even of
those who are working for the well-known sociological services, which are not
paying enough attention to the control for their activities," said Yelena
Bashkirova, general director of ROMIR.
"Some of them fill in the question lists themselves without asking the
respondent, or ask only a part of the questions."
Reputable public opinion companies check up on their interviewers. The Fund
for Public Opinion double-checks about 10 percent of its questionnaires
through controllers, who phone or visit respondents to check the validity of
"Recently, we stopped cooperation with three regional offices that were found
to fake results," said Olga Menshchikova, the head of one of the fund's
research departments. The fund pays 27 rubles (about $1) per completed
interview - and fines a researcher 50 rubles for a forged one. Menshchikova
said some students in need of money forge interviews despite the potential
for a fine.
Apt. 433, Babushka, Rich
Different polling agencies take the national pulse in different ways. Most
interview at least 1,500 people - or about one person for every 100,000 in
Russia. To be representative of Russia, these 1,500 must have the same
demographic breakdown - by age, sex, education level and geographic location
- as the nation itself. Yet, they must also be identified at random.
The approach of the Fund for Public Opinion is typical of the major polling
companies: Interviewers poll respondents at 160 points across Russia - among
them Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities and villages. Chechnya has been
judged inaccessible and so taken off the fund's studied regions, as have some
of the more remote regions of the Far North.
"The biggest task here is to provide a random list of respondents and to
arrange the poll in a way that any Russian citizen may participate in it,"
In Moscow, for example, the fund must poll 93 people - about 10 people from
each of the city's nine districts. A computer generates street names in a
district at random, and interviewers are told to start on a street at, say,
building No. 2. If there is no apartment building at No. 2, they move down
the same side of the street to No. 4, No. 6 and so on.
Say they have identified building No. 10 as an apartment building - but there
is a security code at the front door. The interviewer does not know the code
- but the rules require that he or she wait, however long it takes, until
someone coming into or out of the building permits them to enter.
Once inside, the interviewer's next stop is an apartment. The number of that
apartment is also randomly selected by a computer.
What happens if the computer has chosen, say, apartment 928 - but the
building only has 450 apartments? Interviewers are instructed to subtract by
units of 100 - so 828, 728, 628, 528 and so on - until they reach an existing
apartment - in this case 428.
What if no one is home at apartment 428, or if they don't want to be
interviewed? The interviewer climbs steadily up, to apartment 429, 430 and so
Say a resident in apartment 433 agrees to be interviewed. Success? Far from
it: Researchers working for the fund are also handed demographic quotas. It's
not just enough to find 10 people in a Moscow district; those 10 people must
be demographically specific. Each interviewer will have different quotas, and
in the end, the 1,500 polled must reflect a mini-portrait - in age,
education, sex and location - of the electorate.
So a researcher may be told that three of those 10 people must have higher
education, and the 10 must also include: one woman aged 18 to 24, three men
and three women all aged from 25 to 54 and one man and two women older than
"Once, when I needed to get an interview from a woman older than 55, I ended
up in a family dormitory," recounted Yulia, one of the fund's footsoldiers.
"I had to go through more than 200 apartments looking for a person [fitting
this mold] whom I might interview, but only young families were there. I was
hoping someone's mother would be living with a young couple, but there
weren't any. It took a while."
Yulia said she is sometimes afraid for her safety when entering an unfamiliar
apartment for an interview.
"Thank God, nothing has ever happened so far. But once, the questions were
being answered by a drug addict. I understood this after about 10 minutes,
when I realized he was forgetting questions immediately after they had been
Did she leave?
"No, I didn't leave him. He is a citizen, just like all the others," she
A Babel of Opinions
Here was the political portrait of Russia offered Nov. 7 by TV6's Kucher.
Citing a poll by the Agency for Regional Political Research, or ARPI, Kucher
reported that the Communist Party was enjoying a dominating lead of 33
percent in public opinion. Turning then to Fatherland-All Russia - the bloc
headed by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov - Kucher said it had sunk to 22 percent, a showing he said "should
He did not say who should be concerned, or why. Nor did he say by how much
Fatherland-All Russia had dropped in the polls - there's was a drop of 4
percent from the previous week's poll, but given the margin of error of 3.6
percent, that is barely significant. What's more, according to ARPI, that
bloc's ratings have gone like this in the past four weeks: 24 , 26 , 22 (the
drop Kucher found concerning) to 24 percent in polling conducted from Nov. 5
to Nov. 7. In other words, there is no pattern whatsoever, and on the day
Kucher was speaking, the polls were actually tracking an insignificant rise.
Kucher left out other key information. He did not say the poll considered
only those people who say they intend to vote in Duma elections - a
population sample that sociologists said usually ranges from 55 to 59 percent
of eligible voters.
When assembling political ratings, the MGU center, ROMIR and the Fund for
Public Opinion track the entire electorate; VTsIOM and ARPI usually track
only those who intend to vote.
"[Looking just at those who say they'll vote] reveals a truer picture of the
potential results of the elections," said Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy head of
VTsIOM. But Oslon, of the Fund for Public Opinion, said that many people who
say they won't vote now will change their mind, while many others who insist
they will vote won't.
ARPI and the MGU sociology center usually ask open-ended questions. VTsIOM,
ROMIR and the Fund for Public Opinion all pose multiple choice questions.
Each approach provides its own insights and advantages.
"If a person who is not involved with politics is asked an open question, he
or she feels a bit of a problem," Tumanov said. "But when a list is given, a
name in the back of one's mind is easy to recall. Actually, this way of
presenting questions - which mirrors the situation of filling in a ballot -
is the most appropriate for finding out electoral ratings."
Such nuances are never discussed in media here, and pollsters complain that
even when journalists are well-meaning and honest, they leave out or
misunderstand so many key details that they usually get it wrong anyway.
"It is a big problem that every journalist - this is their professional duty
- wants to find some sensation. They draw conclusions out of what actually
means nothing," said Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy head of VTsIOM. "One should
watch over a fairly long period, and compare results found by several
[polling] companies, in order to talk about trends."
"In our view, there is only a slim chance that mass media will soon become a
reliable partner [of sociologists]," Tumanov wrote in one of his scholarly
When Polls Skew Opinions
A given medium is, however, usually a reliable partner for the political
intrigues pursued by its parent oligarch. And polls can be a powerful weapon
for winning new votes in such intrigues.
According to MGU's Tumanov, about 12 to 15 percent of the Russian population
are "conformists" - people who try to answer poll questions (and cast
ballots) the way they believe most people would do.
"This is not a small group and its votes are worth fighting for. And this
group consumes poll results avidly," he said.
Indeed, many people seem to decide who to vote for based on what polls say
others are doing. VTsIOM's Grazhdankin ticked off some of the different voter
profiles: those who see their party sinking in the polls, thus bringing its
in doubt, and so desert it, unwilling to waste a vote; those who planned not
to vote, but change their minds to come to the aid of a sinking party they
like; those who see a party soaring and want to jump on the winning train;
and those who see their favored party safely in the Duma and so desert it to
vote for a second favorite in more need of help.
Those interested in seeing raw polls can find VTsIOM polls at www.wciom.ru or
at www.polit.ru; ROMIR polls at www.romir.ru; ARPI polls at
www.monitoring.ru; and Fund for Public Opinion polls at www.fom.ru.
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