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Johnson's Russia List
14 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Globe and Mail (UK): Geoffrey York, Russians opposed to Chechen
policy cowed into silence.
2. Interfax: Chubais says Putin best candidate for president.
3. Richard Paddock: Re: Kinuli and the Berdy letter/3679.
4. Segodnya: "COOLING" WITH WEST COULD SERVE KREMLIN INTERESTS.
5. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Russia: Political Activists Rarely Join
6. Robert Bruce Ware: Dagestan.
7. Andrei Liakhov: RE: Blasts in Moscow.
8. Atlantic Council: PRE-DUMA ELECTION SEMINAR ON RUSSIAN POLITICS in
9. The Russia Journal: Kristine Petrosian, Russia's new generation set for
10. Newsweek: Bill Powell, Espionage scandals, angry outbursts, nuclear
threats: the cold war is supposed to be over, but it's getting chilly out
11. Washington Post editorial: What Russia Is.]
The Globe and Mail (UK)
13 December 1999
Russians opposed to Chechen policy cowed into silence
Politicians fear public backlash for criticizing
the war during campaign for Dec. 19 election
St. Petersburg -- Mikhail Gorny, a campaign strategist for one of Russia's
biggest opposition parties, is trying to maintain a discreet silence on the
hottest issue in the country.
He opposes the war in Chechnya and dislikes its chief architect, Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin. But he knows it would be political suicide to admit
these things openly in the final days of a parliamentary election campaign.
Even in the most liberal city in Russia, voters are rallying behind Mr. Putin
and his war. The Putin phenomenon has transformed the Dec. 19 election,
inflicting heavy damage on opposition parties and boosting the chances of a
freshly minted pro-Kremlin party.
"Our view is that the Chechnya war is a bad thing," said Mr. Gorny, head of
the local campaign office of the liberal Yabloko party.
"Unfortunately, most of our voters support the war. So we are very careful in
how we criticize the war."
With less than a week left in the campaign, the opposition parties are
running scared. Nobody dares to criticize the former KGB spy who is now the
Prime Minister. With an approval rating as high as 75 per cent, Mr. Putin is
the most popular politician in the recorded history of opinion polling since
the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"He is something like a messiah," Mr. Gorny said. "People trust him and
believe in him. They want a strong leader who will destroy terrorists and
create order in Chechnya. They hope he will provide order in the streets and
sausage in the stores."
Mr. Gorny believes the Prime Minister is a dangerous man with dictatorial
tendencies. Yet he would be willing to make a deal with Mr. Putin if the
Prime Minister were to adopt Yabloko's economic policies or appoint its
members to his cabinet. "We are realistic. Mr. Putin has the highest chances
of becoming the next president."
On the streets of St. Petersburg, even opposition voters are united behind
the Chechnya war. Valentina Vasilyeva, a 66-year-old pensioner, says she will
vote for Yabloko because its leaders are smart young professionals. Yet she
also supports Mr. Putin and his crusade against the "terrorists" of Chechnya.
"Something had to be done in Chechnya. This wasp's nest should be abolished."
St. Petersburg, the second-biggest city in Russia, is a traditional
stronghold of the Russian intelligentsia -- the academic and cultural elite
who are generally liberal and Western-oriented in their outlook. But most of
the intelligentsia, too, approve the new regime.
"There is no alternative to Putin," said Alexander Shyolkin, a philosophy
professor at St. Petersburg State University who works as an adviser to a
liberal reform party.
"He is having a positive influence on the psychology of the masses. Even
though he was a KGB officer, I believe he understands the technology of
reform. You need to have professional strength. The necessary formula for
Russia is: 'Reforms, plus strong force.' "
Before the Chechen war, the Kremlin was worried by the growing threat of a
new opposition coalition headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former prime
minister Yevgeny Primakov. The coalition, known as OVR, quickly became one of
the leading opposition parties, and Mr. Primakov was the most popular
politician in the country.
But Mr. Putin's dramatic rise, combined with a ruthless campaign against OVR
by the Kremlin's television allies, has damaged the coalition's chances. It
has now tumbled to third place in opinion surveys.
Like other opposition parties, OVR has been intimidated by the Putin
phenomenon. Its leaders are relucant to criticize him or his war. "We support
Putin's government," says one OVR's founding members, St. Petersburg Governor
"Unlike others, Putin was not afraid to take responsibility for Chechnya,"
the Governor said in an interview. "He is a man who knows the goals and knows
the tasks, and he proves it by his actions."
The decline of OVR is linked to the rise of a new pro-government party,
Unity, created just a few weeks ago by Kremlin strategists. Unity is already
the best-financed party in the campaign, according to official campaign
declarations. After it was endorsed by Mr. Putin last month, it jumped to 18
per cent from 7 per cent in opinion polls, just a few percentage points
behind the front-running Communist Party.
Unity is led by emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu, a veteran cabinet member
who was awarded the title Hero of Russia for heading the government's
response to floods and earthquakes.
But Unity's biggest resource is the formidable power and money of the
Kremlin. Dozens of regional governors have been persuaded to support the
party, often by the lure of federal subsidies. In one case, the Kremlin
reportedly engineered the release of a governor's imprisoned allies to secure
his support for Unity.
The Communists remain the most popular party in the country. But they have
failed to build on their success in the 1995 election. Their support has
remained stagnant at about 25 per cent, similar to their total in the last
election. They also support Mr. Putin and his war.
The EastWest Institute, a think tank that has analyzed the latest election
surveys, predicts the Communists will end up with 140 seats in the Duma, the
lower house of parliament. This would give them the largest number of seats
in the 450-seat chamber, but would represent a slight decline from its
current 157 seats.
Such a result would be welcomed by the Kremlin, however, which has always
preferred to have the Communists as its chief enemy. (President Boris Yeltsin
had little trouble defeating the Communists in the 1996 presidential
election.) After the Dec. 19 vote, the Communists could try to forge an
informal alliance with OVR to put pressure on the Kremlin and perhaps even to
topple Mr. Putin's government.
But if Mr. Putin can keep up the momentum of military victories in Chechnya,
he will be almost unbeatable in next June's presidential election. In recent
opinion polls, more than 70 per cent of Russians say they want someone with
an "iron hand" to rule the country.
Ruslan Linkov, a member of the liberal Right Cause party, is one of the very
few election candidates who openly opposes the Chechnya war. He is deeply
worried by Mr. Putin's extraordinary popularity.
"Society is ready to accept military methods to solve political problems," he
said. "Society is ready to accept a military junta. By democratic methods, we
could have colonels coming to power."
Chubais says Putin best candidate for president
MOSCOW. Dec 11 (Interfax) - One of Russia's former top reformists,
Anatoly Chubais, in a newspaper interview called Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin the best candidate for Russian president and branded the Western
stance on Chechnya as "immoral" and "dishonest." "What I know about Putin
in the human sense and in the political sense tells me that he is not
only the best of the current candidates but also the right kind of
candidate," Chubais, head of national electricity company Unified Energy
Systems and one of the leaders of the Right-wing Forces Union, told the
Russian weekly Novoye Vremya.
"Everyone is accusing him these days of being a 'black box,' a cold man
with steel eyes and so on. But I know that ethical categories are
absolutely fundamental for Putin. And I know this not on the basis of
what he has told me but on the basis of what he did in a situation where
he didn't have to do it from the standpoint of his career or his
Chubais, who was at different times Kremlin chief of staff and first
deputy prime minister, also voiced anxiety over a current standoff between
Russia and the West over the Russian military campaign in Chechnya.
The West was taking an "immoral" and "dishonest" stance, he said. "The
point is that a right-left alliance has come into being, an alliance
that is very devious and unexpected for us. Let me put it more bluntly - an
anti-Russian right-left alliance in the West."
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999
From: "Richard Paddock" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Kinuli and the Berdy letter/3679
As the author of the Los Angeles Times article last year quoting Anatoly
Chubais saying Russia had ''conned'' international financial institutions
out of billions of dollars, I have followed the JRL debate on the subject
with great interest. Until now, I have not weighed in because it seemed to
me that the discussion was constructive and that everyone was entitled to
offer an interpretation of ''kinuli,'' the controversial word Chubais used.
However, I am compelled to respond to the Dec. 13 letter from Michele Ann
Berdy. For someone who says she is interested in ''just the facts, ma'am,''
she makes a surprising number of factual errors.
First of all, the Los Angeles Times has always stood by its translation of
''kinuli'' as used by Mr. Chubais in the interview with Yevgenia Albats in
Kommersant Sept. 8, 1998. We translated the word as ''conned,'' and we stand
by that translation. The Times has issued no retraction or apology to Mr.
Chubais, despite Ms. Berdy's assertion. For the record, Mr. Chubais has
never requested a retraction, correction or apology from The Times.
Secondly, she refers to a conversation I had on Sept. 16 1998 with Mr.
Alexander L. Burak, head of the Translations and Lexicography Department in
the Foreign Languages Department at Moscow State University. Ms. Berdy is
dead wrong in asserting that Mr. Burak contradicted our translation of
``kinuli.'' Here is a summary from my notes at the time:
''At my request, Mr. Burak reviewed the relevant passages of the Kommersant
article in which Mr. Chubais was originally quoted. He told me that 'kinuli'
(the perfective, past tense, plural form of the infinitive 'kinut') is a
slang word that originated with the criminal underworld. It is a colorful
word associated with people brought up in the gutter, he said. He likened
its emotional effect in Russian to American 4-letter words. He said that in
all forms (including verbs and nouns derived from the same root) the word's
'main element is a fraudulent action aimed at taking money from another
person by fraudulent means.' Like other slang, it is both more expressive
and more vague in meaning than ordinary words, he said. While there is no
exact English equivalent, he said, the words that come closest are 'to con'
or 'to cheat' or 'to trick.' Related meanings from the same root are
'confidence man, crook, crooked and fraudulent.' All incorporate the meaning
of intentional deceit, he said. These English words fall short, however,
because they do not have the emotional effect of the slang, he said. There
is no English word that combines the meaning of 'to cheat' with the
expressiveness of a 4-letter obscenity. 'In a way, you did a service to
Chubais by leaving out the emotional connotation of the word,' he said.''
I know that for some JRL readers this is becoming ancient history, but
please allow to me make a couple more points.
In the original article, I quoted Mr. Chubais' spokesman, Andrei P.
Trapeznikov on his boss' use of the word kinuli: ''I think Anatoly
Borisovich used a wrong word in this context and did not express himself
In an ''open letter'' to The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Chubais complained about
my article in some detail, saying it ''distorted'' his original comments by
not putting them in the proper framework. However Mr. Chubais, who is fluent
in English, did not challenge my use of the word ''conned.'' He offered this
translation of the key phrase: ''.and we cheated them out of $20 billion.''
Some might think that ''cheated'' is a harsher word than ''conned.'' If even
Mr. Chubais translates ''kinuli'' as ''cheated,'' what is this debate all
Mr. Chubais' open letter was sent to The Moscow Times and published in that
paper, but his office did not send a copy to The Los Angeles Times until
many weeks later-despite our repeated requests. It appeared that his office
never intended for the letter to be published in The Los Angeles Times and,
in fact, it never was.
The debate in JRL over Mr. Chubais' use of the word ''kinuli'' and his true
intentions when he negotiated billions of dollars in loans from the IMF has
been valuable in reassessing the motives of the people some journalists once
called ``the young reformers.'' Ms. Berdy, who is well respected in the
Moscow expatriate community for her knowledge of Russia, is of course free
to offer her thoughts on the meaning of ''kinuli'' and its implications, but
I encourage her to check her facts before writing another letter to JRL.
Richard C. Paddock
Los Angeles Times
Moscow Bureau Chief
BBC MONITORING INTERNATIONAL REPORTS: "COOLING" WITH WEST COULD SERVE KREMLIN
INTERESTS - RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER
Segodnya, December 11, 1999
A certain "cooling" in relations between Russia and the West is to Moscow's
advantage, according to an article in the Russian newspaper 'Segodnya'. It
said that such a deterioration in relations could promote the growth of
anti-Western sentiments in the country and cohesion in the face of an
external enemy - both of which would help the Kremlin's preferred candidate
in next June's presidential elections. The following are excerpts from the
article, published on 11th December:
The EU summit which began in Helsinki yesterday has turned out to be not as
terrible as expected for Russia. It is true that the European leaders again
stated that the granting of financial aid to Russia should be linked to the
ending of military operations in Chechnya and that "international pressure
should continue", but to all appearances that is as far as it goes...
In fact, the EU leaders have confined themselves to the threat to freeze
targeted aid programmes to Russia... The threat of these "sanctions" will not
halt the offensive in Chechnya. It has been decided to send to Moscow a
delegation consisting of EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana,
European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi and Paavo Lipponen, the prime
minister of Finland, which is chairing the EU. But neither the date of the
visit nor the EU leaders' specific proposals are yet known.
As a whole, the summit in Helsinki has simply demonstrated yet again the
West's attitude towards Russia today. This attitude was best expressed with a
soldier's directness by the American general, Wesley Clark, NATO's
commander-in-chief in Europe: Chechnya is Kosovo, Russia is Yugoslavia and
Boris Yeltsin is Slobodan Milosevic.
As for Moscow, a certain "cooling" in relations with the West is even to its
advantage. It promotes the growth of anti-Western sentiments in the country
and cohesion in the face of an external enemy. The task is to preserve this
state in society until the presidential elections, in case the operation
against the Chechen gunmen develops too rapidly. New "points of conflict" are
needed just in case. But it looks as though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
will be concerned with this after setting off for Uzbekistan. The republic's
president, Islam Karimov, has finally admitted he cannot cope with the local
Islamist extremists and has asked Moscow for military aid. Putin has gone to
discuss the terms for granting it. So, that the status of a besieged fortress
is guaranteed for Russia until 4th June [the date of the presidential
Russia: Political Activists Rarely Join Election Campaign
By Sophie Lambroschini
About 100 million voters are expected at the polling stations next Sunday in
nationwide elections for the State Duma. But only a few Russians actually
participate in pre-electoral meetings. RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent Sophie
Lambroschini looks into who some of these political activists are and why
they go against the generally passive flow.
Moscow, 13 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Handing out flyers and collecting
signatures in support of political parties are sources of extra revenue for
the poor -- the unemployed, students, and pensioners -- during pre-electoral
periods. For many, this mercenary contact with political parties will be
their only one, except for what they see through televised advertisements,
reports and debates.
Even the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which owing to decades of
disciplined tradition is supported by more active and disciplined people, has
only some 500,000 members. The Communist Party's press service tells RFE/RL
that these members also make up the majority of those participating in its
Meanwhile, for other parties, their few volunteers are seen as a curious
Last Friday, Anna Zaytseva was among the dozen or so people demonstrating
under Pushkin statue in central Moscow to protest against the war in
Chechnya. Zaytseva has been a member of a little-known Radical Party and as
she says "anti-militaristic associations" for the past five years.
She explains that when the democratic demonstrations during Perestroika
attracted millions, people "thought that going down into the street is what
democracy was all about." She says many democrats thought that they really
did bring down Mikhail Gorbachev and put an end to the Soviet Union. She says
that only later did it become clear that the people can't influence those who
hold political power all that easily.
Besides, Zaytseva says, with the economic problems besetting the country,
most people soon forgot about political activism and focused instead on
survival. For her, she says that the wars in Chechnya shook her out of
For some others, the turning point came in October 1993, when President Boris
Yeltsin allowed the shelling of the Supreme Soviet building to crush the
Soviet era deputies' resistance to the old parliaments dissolution.
That was true for Anton Alipov. The twenty-year-old worker in communications
services for a state company says he turned to "Stalinism" in reaction
against Yeltsin. Alipov teaches Marxism-Leninism to newcomers to Viktor
Anpilov's "Working Russia Party", which is represented in the Duma as part of
the communist faction and is running at the head of the "Stalinist bloc" this
Alipov says that his primary education in Soviet school played a key-role in
his interest in politics because at that time "even six-year olds were being
taught ideology." Alipov still wistfully remembers the red neck tie worn by
the Young Pioneers and the "moral certainty" of the times.
"I was young, there was still the Soviet Union, and I received an adequate
education in Soviet School. When we were taught all those ideals of Soviet
society, it wasn't as much instruction, as it was education. Now we have to
fight for those [same ideals]. That apparently left a mark. And then that
society was shattered. I reacted against this [change] in a simple childish
way. And that's when everything started."
Alipov rejects the official Communist Party as "part of the system."
Andrey Kosmenin, a teacher from Ryazan, is also politically active, but his
party of choice is Yabloko, headed by Grigory Yavlinsky. Kosmenin was one of
the few activists from the reformist party at a pre-electoral debate held in
a 300-seat auditorium in central Moscow last Wednesday. A candidate from
Yabloko was debating that night with a communist. As is often the case, the
room was filled with excited communists, mostly elderly. Drowning the Yabloko
candidate's speech under cries of "dirty capitalist" and "blood-sucker", the
communist supporters clearly dominated the evening.
Kosmenin, speaking with RFE/RL, said there is a need for Russians to become
more active in the political process.
"You can sit at home in front of your TV set. But then elections will come
along and the question is that [their results] will affect your life, and
[determine] how much you will still enjoy watching that same TV. In 1989
everyone was interested in politics. But they weren't interested in real
politics -- who to vote for. [They were interested] in the gray spots in
[Soviet] history, in debating the path Russia should follow. You can be
interested in politics in this way but a normal interest [actually] starts
with discussing who you're going to vote for. And I think that this interest
does exist [in Russia]."
Sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky is a researcher at the Institute for Social
Sciences with the Russian Academy of Science. He agrees with Anna Zaytseva
that political activism almost completely died out after 1991, after economic
hardship increased and people turned their attention to survival. He says
that most of the people now participating in rallies are getting paid and
that some companies even specialize in "renting out" participants.
But Kagarlitsky says that a renewal of civic engagement might surface soon in
Russia. He says the current rejection of politics observed in Russian society
may be more a reaction against the political establishment -- which is
perceived as cynical and corrupt -- than against politics itself. He predicts
that a renewal of civic activism might therefore lead to a revival of
participation in more informal organizations rather than in established
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999
From: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Robert Bruce Ware
Re: JRL #3679, Ira Sraus, "Are Dagestanis friendly to Russian
I am grateful to, if rather frustrated with, Ira Straus' entry in JRL #3679,
"Are Dagestanis friendly to Russian imperialism?" In response to the query
it poses: Yes, Nabi Abdullaev's article "Dagestan Turns Its Back on Chechnya"
entirely accurate, and in fact, is somewhat understated. As I have pointed
out in recent contributions to JRL, as well as in scholarly journals, and
commentaries, the vast, vast majority of Dagestanis are nostalgic for the
Soviet Union, which brought them pavement, plumbing, industry, healthcare,
and sexual equality. They are deeply grateful for Russian support in their
overwhelming resistance of aggression by Chechen-based militants. They are
highly supportive of the large numer of Russian troops presently in Dagestan,
commonly bringing Russian soldiers food and warm clothing, as well as
approving Russian policy in Chechnya .
This is not because the Yeltsin regime is particularly popular in Dagestan.
Indeed, the Communists draw upon an extensive grass roots organization and
traditionally receive strong support in the republic. Dagestanis support
Moscow, in part, because of economic ties. In the past, Dagestan has
75-80 percent of its budget from Moscow. However, last year's federal
for Dagestan is increased 2.7 times in the 2000 budget to 6.3 billion
Moreover, 95 percent of Dagestan's trade was with the Soviet Union, and it
imports large quantities of oil, natural gas, surgar, etc., from Russia.
However, the economic picture can be misleading. During the first Chechen
War, Dagestanis had much sympathy for their Chechen cousins, and repeatedly
when Moscow attacked Chechnya from Dagestani territory. They were somewhat
discouraged in this regard when a Rudayev and a group of Chechen raiders took
350 hostages in a hospital in the Dagestani city of Kizliyar.
The many Dagestanis who took Chechen refugees into their homes during that
conflict also typically came to see them as profoundly ungrateful.
Perceptions of their ingratitude were somewhat amplified by recent events.
Far more discouraging for the Dagestanis has been the hardships that they
endured as a consequence of lawlessness in Chechnya. While this problem
long history, it has dramatically intensified since 1996. Space does not
a full discussion of the problems that criminality in Chehcnya has posed
Dagestanis, so I will confine myself to a breif comment on the suffering that
they have endured as a result of Chechen kidnappers.
Hundreds of Dagestani men, women and children have been been kidnapped in
Dagestan and sold two or three times before ending up in Chechnya. Though
the initial kidnappers are Dagestanis as well as Chechens, the victims usually
are sold to Chechens, and the industry could not endure without its Chechen
Once in Chechnya Dagestanis are tortured, dismembered, and sometimes
on videotapes that are used for extorting exorbtitant ransoms from deeply
As a result of this, you will not find a deeper and more bitter
(for that is truly what it is) than exists in Dagestan today. Dagestanis
hate Chechens because Chechens are "dark-skinned" or Islamic, for Dagestanis
equally both of these. They hate Chechens, in no small part, because they
tired of being kidnapped and tortured. As Abdullaev's article states, they
not distinguish between good and bad Chechens, in part because the hundreds
kidnap victims who have been returned to Dagestan tell them that most
Chechens are complicit in crime.
Russian troops are presently liberating Dagestani hostages from Chechen
One of my Dagestani friends was liberated from captivity in Chechnya by
advancing Russian soldiers last month. He and his family are civilians too.
Russia has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens, and I for
one, wish that it had started protecting Dagestanis long, long ago.
If Dagestanis needed any further reason to hate Chechens, then Shamyl Basayev
and his supporters supplied it during 45 days from 2 August to 15 September,
1999, when they invaded Dagestan. They murdered Dagestani men as their wives
and children looked on and they displaced 32,000 Dagestani refugees. They
destoyed homes and villages and they threatened Dagestan's entire Andi
ethno-linguistic group with extermination.
There truly are vicious anti-Caucasian prejudices in Russia, but Russia is
fighting neither a racist, nor an anti-Islamic, war in Chechnya, as the
Dagestani case illustrates. Russia is fighting to protect its citizens from
aggression and lawlessness. A Russian defeat, or even a stalemate, will mean
business as usual along the Chechen border, buying, selling, and torturing
I am paticularly grateful to Mr. Straus for his remarks about the Russophobic
hysteria that has swept the West in a virtual vacuum of information and
as to what is really occurring in the northeast Caucasus, and for his
recognition of the personal attacks that have been waged (in these pages and
elsewhere, e.g. Ray Finch JRL 11/11/99) against those who have attempted to
present a more balanced picture. Indeed, the hysteria is so great that it is
sometimes difficult simply to gain a hearing of a more a more balanced view.
Most Dagestanis believe that the United States is behind Chechen aggression.
While this is false, it is certainly true that the West's lop-sided
a highly complex situation has done much to damage its relations with Russia
and its stature in Dagestan.
In addition to my previous publications on this topic, I would refer your
readers to my forthcoming publications with Enver Kisriev: "Why Dagestan
Didn't Follow Chechnya" (Analysis of Current Events), "The Islamic Factor in
(Central Asian Survey, January 2000), "Political Stability in Dagestan"
(Problems of Post-Communism, March/April 2000, 47, 2)
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999
From: "Andrei Liakhov" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Blasts in Moscow
Unfortunately I have not read any Friday (9.12.99) Russian newspapers.
However Saturday's Izvestija and Argumentu i Faktu carried a reference to
several blasts in Moscow shops the previous day. I have failed to find any
references to these in the Western press (or CNN/BBC/NBC broadcasts) over
the weekend - and all my friends in Moscow were out at dachas - it was a
long weekend in Moscow due to the Constitution Day.
Can any of JRL readers help to establish whether anything of the sort really
took place in Moscow last week? One article (I think the Izvestija one)
unequivocally linked these to Chechen war......
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999
From: Wayne Merry <firstname.lastname@example.org> (by way of David Johnson
Subject: PRE-DUMA ELECTION SEMINAR ON RUSSIAN POLITICS in Washington
PRE-DUMA ELECTION SEMINAR ON RUSSIAN POLITICS
The Program on European Societies in Transition of the Atlantic Council of
the United States invites you to a panel discussion on
RUSSIAN IDENTITY AND RUSSIAN POLITICS: The Russian National Psyche on the
Eve of Duma Elections
with John Colarusso of McMaster University, Ontario; Charles Fairbanks of
the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; and
Wayne Merry of the Atlantic Council's Program on European Societies in
The Russian identity crisis since the Soviet collapse underlies both this
month's legislative elections and next year's choice of a successor to Boris
Yeltsin. Three speakers will examine national themes emerging as rallying
points for the Russian polity in the coming months, which will also likely
be reflected in the politics of the new State Duma and new President of the
Thursday, December 16, 1999 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
The Atlantic Council Conference Room
11th Floor, 910 17th Street, N.W. , Washington, D.C.
Please respond to David Saltiel at 202-778-4968 or email to
The Russia Journal
December 13-19, 1999
Russia's new generation set for Duma vote
By KRISTINE PETROSIAN / The Russia Journal
The law in Russia allows anyone 18 or older to vote. But does that mean that
young people will actually exercise that right and shape their new
If a random, unscientific poll of 18- to 21-year-old students from throughout
the country is any indication, the new generation of young Russian adults
will indeed make its voice heard at next week's State Duma (lower house of
parliament) elections, which will be considered a crucial test on Russia's
path toward democracy.
"Of course, I am going to vote, because ... it is a form of expression of my
will, my participation in the formation of general policy in this country,
which influences my life as well as the lives of others," said Andrei
Boyarshinov, 18, a petroleum business management student from Izhevsk.
It was a view shared by others surveyed by The Russia Journal in the days
leading up to the election. Many said they still had not made up their minds
who to vote for, but they insisted they would go to the polls.
Statistics show that there are approximately 10 million Russian citizens
between the age of 18 and 21, or about 7 percent of the population.
Traditionally, this part of the population is believed to be somewhat
apolitical - as it is in many countries around the world.
During the 1996 Russian presidential election, a unique pre-election campaign
was designed, specially aimed at attracting youth to the ballot box. The
"Vote or You'll Lose" campaign included numerous pop and rock stars' tours
throughout Russia and heavy magazine advertising.
Now, Russia's young people have another chance to vote. Here is a sampling of
their responses when asked whether they would vote, whether voting was a real
expression of their will, whether national policy influences them and other
Õ Yuliana Kitayeva, 21, Ekaterinburg, public administration:
I'm 21, so it's not my first election. I voted in the presidential elections,
too. Sure, I'll take part in the coming elections because Russia is my
country, and I have to think about its future. It's also a great opportunity
to express my opinion on current processes in a democratic manner.
I do know who I'll vote for. It's hard to say what factors influenced my
choice more - probably my own observations plus mass media. I don't think one
can have a totally independent opinion on this issue.
Things will influence you - mass media, friends etc .
Õ Elena Voronina, 20, St. Petersburg, national economics:
I am 20, and it will be my first time taking part in the elections. I am
going to vote, and I think that it is both my obligation and a form of
expression of my will. I'm not sure that my opinion would change anything,
but if everyone would express their own will and participate in the
elections, then it might influence the result. I haven't made my choice yet
because the current political situation is changing very quickly. I am going
to do it soon and the major factors that would influence my choice are mass
media and my own observations.
Õ Marina Vavilova, 20, Yaroslavl, law:
I will take part in the elections. I think young people should be more
active. It is a form of expression of our desires. We all live in this
country and we must think about our future right now. We cannot force young
people to vote, but we can make them understand that it's more important than
sitting at home in front of TV and blaming our politicians for not doing
anything. Everything is in our hands.
I've made my choice. ... My decision-making was an independent process,
though I did listen to the opinions of different people - my parents and
Õ Kseniya Kornilova, 19, Saratov, accounting (international economics):
I am going to vote, because I think it is a form of expression of my will and
my participation in the formation of general policy in our country, which
influences my life as well. I have made my choice. I think my decision-making
was a rather independent process. However, it was influenced by the party
campaigns. But the decisive factor was the conference held by the leader of
the party when he was in our city.
Õ Andrei Boyarshinov, 18, Izhevsk, petroleum business management:
Of course, I am going to vote, because I do think it is a form of expression
of my will, my participation in the formation of general policy in this
country, which influences my life as well as the lives of others. I've made
my choice already. Factors that influenced my decisions were my own
observations and the opinion of my parents. It was an absolutely independent
Õ Stanislav Dzhavrunov, 19, Elista, law:
Yes, I'm going to vote. I'm a law student so, when I was studying Russian
Constitutional Law, we studied the Federal Law on Elections. Under this law,
if more than 50 percent of the population does not vote, the elections are
considered invalid. It's called "absenteeism." So, if we want to have the
lower house of the parliament (Duma), we should vote. Also, if I don't vote,
somebody will vote instead of me. I don't mean another person will go to vote
with my passport, of course. I mean the Duma would be formed without my
opinion. It will reflect the choice of people who voted.
I have already made my choice. The main factors were the pre-election program
of the candidates and the reputation of the party. I think my decision was
Õ Daniel Kordoubailo, 22, St. Petersburg, music (violin):
Although I am very indifferent to politics, I think I'll vote just to make it
more difficult for people I can't stand - communists, for instance. I know
for sure those who want the Soviet era back again will vote, so I must go,
too. I haven't been in Russia for the last four months [studying in The
Netherlands], and I am out of touch with the latest internal political news,
so I haven't decided what party I'll vote for. I'm going to rely on my
parents' opinion in this case. I think they won't advise the wrong thing.
Õ Irina Klenova, 19, Moscow, economics:
I will vote just to take part in the elections, in the policy-making in our
country. I don't want other people to decide in my place. I want to live
under the government that I choose. I know this sounds rather unbelievable,
but if we are so pessimistic then why go and vote? I made my choice long ago.
I must say I'm not affected by the onslaught of propaganda in the mass media.
They use rather primitive tricks. At least for me, it's not impressive.
Õ Sergei Timofeenko, 19, Moscow, economics:
I won't vote. It isn't worth wasting my time. Why should I vote? There is
virtually nothing that depends on the people's will in Russia. The only way
the government or Duma affect society is that they impose their regulations
and unreasonable decrees and people try to cope with them. I'm quite sure
nothing will be changed whether I vote or not.
December 20, 1999
[for personal use only]
Espionage scandals, angry outbursts, nuclear threats: the cold war is
supposed to be over, but it's getting chilly out there.
By Bill Powell
For months Stanislav Borisovich Gusev appeared to be a man whose main
obsession in life was getting a better parking place. A Russian "diplomat,"
he was always moving his car in Washington from one spot to another. What
triggered the curiosity of the counterintelligence unit of the FBI was where
he was always trying to park: just outside the U.S. State Department. Gusev's
ideal spot, it turned out, was wherever he could best receive a signal
transmitted from an ultrasophisticated bug planted months earlier on Foggy
Bottom's seventh floor—where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's office
is located. Gusev was a Russian spy, point man in an audacious—and for a time
highly successful—penetration of American diplomacy's inner sanctum. The FBI
arrested him on Wednesday, and by Dec. 19 Gusev will be on his way back to
Nations, friends and foes, spy on each other. They always have; they always
will. And if things had gone differently in the New Russia—the way everyone
assumed they would when Boris Yeltsin buried the communists in 1996—last
week's spy-versus-spy games in Washington could have been dismissed with
business-as-usual regret. But things haven't turned out that way. Russian
espionage in the United States is at cold-war levels—and so now are the
decibel levels. A day after the FBI nabbed Gusev, the Boris Yeltsin the
United States had come to know and love—the one who got up on a tank to stand
down a coup in 1991—was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a bloated and bellicose
Russian president had traveled to Beijing so the two countries could make a
crude point to Bill Clinton: you are not the only kid on the block with a
nuclear button in his pocket.
For the United States, the biggest dangers as the year 2000 arrives are
supposed to be homegrown—guns in schools, not nuclear-tipped missiles
thousands of miles away. The dangers from abroad are supposed to be different
now, diminished: "rogue" nations like Iraq or North Korea that must be
contained lest they do something crazy. Yeltsin's blunt outburst last week,
and the cuddling with China, a rising power with which Washington's relations
are perpetually tense, brought those assumptions into question.
Yeltsin had objected vehemently to Clinton's most pointed criticism yet of
Russia's bloody war in the breakaway region of Chechnya. The president, in
what White House officials insisted later was a slip of the tongue, had said
Russia "will pay a heavy price for its actions in Chechnya." In his response,
Yeltsin seemed to be channeling Nikita ("We will bury you") Khrushchev. "It
seems he has forgotten," Yeltsin said of his erstwhile friend "Bill," "that
Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons." Jiang Zemin, the communist
leader in Beijing, had thrown his arms around Yeltsin and backed the
Russian's ruthless stomping of Chechnya 100 percent. Coincidentally, the very
next day the United States indicted Los Alamos lab scientist Wen Ho Lee on 59
counts of illegally removing highly classified data. Lee was not charged with
espionage, but the indictment alleged he had stripped sensitive data from Los
Alamos computers "with the intent to secure an advantage for a foreign power."
The blast-from-the-past, tit-for-tat quality to the atmospherics last week
was unmistakable. The question for a flush, content America was: would they
last? The answer, as Clinton administration officials were quick to argue, is
probably no. If the government proves that Lee was somehow part of a broader
and damaging Chinese espionage campaign, relations with Beijing will suffer.
But for the moment Washington has just invited China into the World Trade
Organization, part of a quietly successful attempt to stabilize relations
after the disastrous bombing of Beijing's Belgrade embassy last spring. And
Russia, for all of Yeltsin's blustering, is a nation in increasingly
desperate straits, a "great power" only by dint of its (rapidly aging )
nuclear arsenal. "My idea of a cold-war mood," said one senior Clinton
administration official last week, "is a near-nuclear confrontation over
access to Berlin. The good old days had moments that really do not compare to
what we are experiencing now."
It was a fair point. But it was not entirely reassuring. The Boris Yeltsin
era, as the grim Russian operation in Chechnya demonstrates, is not ending
the way anyone in Washington had expected. Capitalism and democracy prevailed
in Russia's 1996 election, and back then anything seemed possible. Moscow's
newly privatized economy was poised for growth. Clinton habitually referred
to the United States and Russia as "partners." The administration wanted to
pursue an ambitious arms-control agenda—getting one pending treaty ratified,
then moving on to deeper cuts in each nation's arsenal.
That moment now seems very long ago. Clinton undercut his rhetorical
boosterism in Russia by insisting on the expansion of NATO, the West's
military alliance. No matter how much administration officials like Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott tried to soothe fears that the expansion
was aimed at Moscow, for many Russians the message was unmistakable: you say
we're your partners, but you're treating us like enemies. Russia's economic
collapse, though driven by mistakes and corruption at home, fueled still
further mistrust. To many Russians, Western-style economic reform had been no
different from what they'd seen in the past: well-connected Kremlin cronies
got rich, and everyone else got fleeced.
Moscow, like the United States, is now in the midst of a political year.
Elections for Parliament will be held Dec. 19, followed by a six-month sprint
to see who succeeds Yeltsin as president. Given the recent history between
the United States and Russia, it's no surprise that Moscow is now defiantly
deaf to Washington's Chechnya complaints. Three months ago it appeared that
Yeltsin's enemies were going to win the next presidential election. In the
Kremlin, the idea that Yeltsin and his inner circle might be held accountable
by a successor regime for any alleged corruption became a major concern.
Today Moscow cynics believe the war in Chechnya, coming just three years
after Russia's last engagement there ended in a defeat, was a desperate
measure to create a vehicle on which a pro-Yeltsin candidate could ride to
If that was the calculation, it has worked brilliantly. Three months into the
war, a frustrated population strongly backs Yeltsin's latest prime minister,
Vladimir Putin, and the ruthless campaign he has prosecuted. Last week Moscow
seemed on the brink of retaking the capital, Grozny. On Tuesday Russian
commandos and paratroopers stormed into the key rebel stronghold of
Urus-Martan after a 10-hour artillery assault. Witnesses described "trenches
full of dead Chechen fighters."
For the United States, how to deal with Russia's behavior in Chechnya is the
issue of the moment. Critics of the Clinton administration, including
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, have said all aid to Moscow
should be cut off if the barbarism doesn't end. But administration officials
are uneasy with that approach. For one thing, it would further enflame Moscow
at a time when other, arguably more important parts of the U.S.-Russian
agenda are already troubled—in particular, the arms-control deals that
Washington dearly wants enacted.
By the end of last week, both sides had lowered their voices. Putin said
Russia had no desire to be isolated, and Clinton officials privately
reiterated that they want another pending IMF loan to proceed. But the bigger
problem for the United States, and the world, is that Chechnya is a bloody
symptom of Moscow's deeper ills. Russia is a fiercely proud former empire in
the midst of a historic decline. If Boris Yeltsin's political heirs do not
somehow arrest that decline—with some creative assistance from the West—chaos
beckons. That's what may await Bill Clinton's successor. It won't be the cold
war. But it will be very, very dangerous.
With Owen Matthews in Mozdok, Chechnya, and Michael Hirsh and Debra Rosenberg
December 13, 1999
What Russia Is
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin's blustery invocation of Russia's nuclear
power has prompted various alarmed interpretations. "Clinton allowed himself
to pressure Russia yesterday," Mr. Yeltsin said in response to some moderate
criticism from the U.S. president of Russia's bloody war against Chechnya.
"He must have forgotten for a moment what Russia is. It has a full arsenal of
Some have seen in those words a plainly bellicose threat. Others saw the
comment as further evidence of Mr. Yeltsin's ill health and unpredictability.
There may be truth in both readings. But the comment is also something more
poignant and revealing. It is an acknowledgment that Russia's only claim to
the world's deference -- respect would not be the right word -- is through
the trouble it can cause.
For most of this decade, both the Russian and U.S. governments have pretended
otherwise. The Soviet Union and then Russia was invited to co-chair, with the
United States, the Mideast peace process that began with a conference in
Madrid. Later, NATO worked hard to persuade Russia to participate in
peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, although its troops were hardly
essential to the mission. And at the beseeching of Mr. Yeltsin, the G-7 group
of leading industrialized nations expanded itself into a G-8. Everyone acted
as though the Russian president was a leader, like the other seven, of a
prosperous and growing economy.
But he wasn't; the G-8 is a pretense. Russia's economy was shrinking steadily
throughout the decade. So was its population, as men died earlier and women
proved more reluctant to bear children. While some of Russia's neighbors have
begun to recover from decades of communism and the shock of transition, it's
not clear whether Russia has hit bottom yet. That it can "keep" the
independence-minded province of Chechnya only by destroying it reflects this
The result is that a self-involved Russia has, at this point, little to offer
in the way of positive global influence. It clamors for notice mostly in
negative ways: by overtly or covertly selling, or threatening to sell,
weapons or nuclear technology to troublemakers around the world; by
frightening the world with the parlous state of its atomic energy plants or
its millennium-unready computers; by brandishing its decaying but still
immense nuclear arsenal.
This state of affairs needn't last forever. It remains almost as true now as
a decade ago that Russia is a vast, resource-rich nation with an energetic
and highly educated population. The United States has been right to seek to
thicken ties with those people. A Russian government that promoted economic
reform and a rule of law could yet allow them to put their country back on
track. Mr. Yeltsin's latest growl is a sad admission of how far short of that
goal his regime has fallen.