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Johnson's Russia List


December 21, 1999    
This Date's Issues: 3698   3699  3700

Johnson's Russia List
21 December 1999

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Shadow of Stalin purges haunts Chechen refugees.
2. New York Times: Thomas Graham, Who Really Won in Russia?
3. Reuters: Russian bloc's rise alarms some analysts.
4. Izvestia: Svetlana BABAYEVA and Andrei KOLESNIKOV, DISCREET CHARMS 

5. Boston Globe: Graham Allison, The 'democratic presumption' is taking 
hold in Russia.

6. Dmitri Glinski Vassiliev: More observations on the election.
7. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Yeltsin back from the dead, again.
8. Itar-Tass: Russian Press on Returns, Lessons of the Sunday Elections. 
9. Xinhua: Preliminary Results of Russian Parliamentary Election 

10. Washington Post editorial: Russia's Vote.
11. New York Times editorial: Russia's New Parliament.
12. Moscow Tribune: Stanislav Menshikov, ELECTIONS DO NOT BRING 

DJ: For more consistently upbeat coverage I recommend the work of David 
Hoffman of the Washington Post. He remains on message with the Berezovsky-
Chubais happy-talk theme of "the return of reform." This generates most 
helpful frontpage headlines in Washington. Did you see the extended
interview with Berezovsky on Russian television carried by C-SPAN last


Shadow of Stalin purges haunts Chechen refugees
By Lawrence Sheets

SLEPTSOVSK, Russia (Reuters) - Sultan Topgayev was 6 years old when Soviet 
dictator Josef Stalin deported his family and the entire Chechen nation in 
freight trains to Kazakhstan on a snowy February morning in 1944. 

By the time the little boy and other survivors were dumped into the empty 
Kazakh steppe after a week-long trip, his mother, father and brother had died 
from disease, cold and hunger, along with as many as a third of the 750,000 
or so deportees. 

``We weren't allowed to bury the dead. I remember how they threw the bodies 
out of the cars, right along the rails,'' he said. 

Stalin ordered the deportations fearing that the Chechens, always hostile to 
Russia's rule, would aid invading German troops in World War II. 

Those who survived were allowed to return in 1957. 

Now, 55 years later, Topgayev and thousands of other Chechens are again in 
the trains, this time as refugees living in abandoned compartments in the 
neighboring region of Ingushetia, as Russia wages war against the rebel 


In a bitter irony, some of the train dwellers are being sent back to Chechnya 
against their will by Russian officials who say it is safe to return. Many 
refugees, however, have nothing left to go back to, their homes reduced to 
rubble by Russian bombing. 

``Where my house was in Grozny, there is nothing but dust and garbage left. 
There is no guarantee of safety in the villages they want to send us back to. 
We know there will be more fighting there and people are afraid,'' said 

On Saturday, Russia sent 37 of the train carriages carrying approximately 500 
people to Sernovodsk, just inside Chechnya. The transport was witnessed by 
journalists and workers from an international human rights group. 

Many of those who had been living in the trains refused to go back, and have 
had to stay in the open or squeeze into already crowded, squalid refugee tent 

``They didn't ask anyone, they just brought a locomotive and pulled people 
away to Sernovodsk. They just want to say that people are going back, so that 
no one sees the refugees,'' said Raya Kagirova, who left one of the wagons 
just before it was sent back. 


Officials attempted to send back another, longer train of 130 cars over the 
weekend but had to relent when refugees lay down on the tracks and blocked 
the way with debris. 

Human rights workers slammed the forced repatriation. 

``These poor people have the brutal choice of either returning to a war zone 
or ending up in the cold. Russia is trying to remove the evidence of its 
abusive campaign in Chechnya,'' Peter Bouckaert of the New York-based Human 
Rights Watch told Reuters. 

Bouckaert said roughly 10,000 of the 200,000 or so refugees who have sought 
shelter in Ingushetia are living in train cars. 

Conditions are difficult but the refugees consider it safer than 
Russian-occupied Chechen villages, where human rights groups say there has 
been looting, abuse and killings by Russian soldiers. Russian officials deny 

``We get two grams of tea, 12 grams of sugar, half a loaf of bread, and one 
bowl of pea soup a day. There is no medicine and many of the children are 
sick,'' said Ali Kakiyev, one train resident. ``But we have nothing to go 
back to in Chechnya but the ruins of our homes, and more war.'' 


New York Times
December 21, 1999
[for personal use only]
Who Really Won in Russia?
Thomas Graham, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International 
Peace, was the chief political analyst at the United States Embassy in Moscow 
from 1994 to 1997. 

If the West believes that Russia's parliamentary elections were a strong vote 
for democracy and market reform, it is deluding itself. 

The elections on Sunday were indeed a remarkable victory for Prime Minister 
Vladimir Putin, who revealed he has long political coattails. His endorsement 
late last month of the Unity bloc, a diverse coalition concocted by the 
Kremlin in the last three months of the campaign, propelled it from 
single-digit poll ratings to a second-place finish, behind the Communists, 
with nearly a quarter of the vote. 

Mr. Putin and his Kremlin allies showed great skill in destroying political 
opponents. The anti-Kremlin bloc, led by former Prime Minister Yevgeny 
Primakov and Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow, was widely expected just four 
months ago to lead at the polls, but, under withering attack, won only third 
place, with 12 to 13 percent of the vote. 

But Mr. Putin's victory was won at great cost to democratic norms. The 
Kremlin used its control of the two leading national television stations to 
smear Mr. Luzhkov and his allies relentlessly with charges of corruption and 
murder, based on half-truths and outright fabrications. The government's tax 
authorities harassed media outlets that refused to hew to the line. To be 
sure, Mr. Luzhkov responded in kind, but it was an unfair battle. His media 
and financial resources pale in comparison to the Kremlin's. 

In the process, the great issues facing Russia -- in particular, how to 
extricate the country from its prolonged depression and social decline -- 
were not even debated. 

With this victory, Mr. Putin has become the odds-on favorite to win the 
presidential elections next June. But who is Vladimir Putin, and what does he 
believe in? 

His phenomenal rise is a direct consequence of the brutal military operation 
in Chechnya, which remains widely popular with the Russian public. With the 
election behind him, Mr. Putin now appears ready to step up the final assault 
on Grozny, the capital of the breakaway republic. He has won solid support 
from the military brass and the security services, both of which have been 
promised additional resources, though neither has undertaken any serious 
reform. And he has pushed for greater investment in the military-industrial 
complex, which he sees as a pillar of economic recovery. 

This is hardly the portrait of a Russian democrat, but the Kremlin has tried 
to convince Western leaders that Mr. Putin is a devoted market reformer with 
close ties to Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia's now derailed radical 
reform program. Mr. Putin made a point of personally dropping in on Mr. 
Chubais and his allies on election night to congratulate them on their 
unexpectedly strong fourth-place finish. 

Even if Mr. Putin is a reformer at heart, he will have a hard time pushing 
the brand of reform favored by the West and Mr. Chubais through the 
supposedly more centrist parliament. 

The large pro-government coalition in the new Duma, which is being portrayed 
as good for reform, looks curiouser and curiouser on closer inspection. It 
includes Mr. Chubais's allies; the ultranationalists led by Vladimir 
Zhirinovsky; and the Unity bloc, an amalgam of statist, nationalist, liberal 
and even Communist politicians. Unity's leadership even includes Aleksandr 
Rutskoi, who led an armed rebellion against Boris Yeltsin in October 1993, 
and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the republic of Kalmykia, who once 
threatened to secede from Russia. Pro-government forces will also include 
Boris Berezovsky, the media magnate and Kremlin insider who stands at the 
center of swirling corruption allegations and who is said to have sought 
election partly because deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. 

Finally, this clashing coalition will not even enjoy a majority in the new 
Duma. Indeed, the Communists and Mr. Luzhkov's forces could end up with more 
deputies, and, in the run-up to the presidential elections, they will not be 
inclined to give the government an easy ride. Mr. Putin will have to cobble 
together a majority for every vote on his economic program, with all the 
compromises that entails. 

Rather than rapidly moving to market and democratic reforms, the new Duma 
promises to demonstrate the difficulties of making progress in both areas. 
And expect the politics to become dirtier as Russia moves to select Mr. 
Yeltsin's successor in June, when we'll find out who really holds power in 


ANALYSIS-Russian bloc's rise alarms some analysts
By Ron Popeski

MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin are 
delighted with a new big bloc that will back them in parliament, but analysts 
say its election success belies post-Soviet authoritarianism and manipulation 
of public opinion. 

The Unity bloc, whose almost only campaign plank since its was set up in 
October has been to support Putin, was second in Sunday's ballot, less than 
one percentage point behind the veteran Communist Party. 

Joining them in the State Duma lower house will be the Union of Right-Wing 
Forces, made up of reformers previously thought to have been discredited in 
last year's financial collapse. It finished a respectable fourth after 
forging an alliance of sorts with the prime minister in the latter stages of 
the campaign. 

The success of the parties was largely linked to their endorsement by Putin, 
who has become Russia's most popular politician since launching a military 
drive in Chechnya. 

President Boris Yeltsin's fifth prime minister in a year and a half, he is 
the Kremlin leader's preferred successor in next June's presidential election 
and commentators agreed the parliamentary election had boosted his chances. 

Putin, who met leaders of the new Duma factions on Tuesday, described the 
outcome as ``the beginning of a new important stage in Russia's development, 
the stage of political stabilisation.'' 


But opposition politicians and some commentators expressed concern that Unity 
had scored better than more established parties despite its unabashed failure 
to present a programme. 

It was helped by pro-Kremlin television airing programmes denigrating its 
rivals, mainly ex-prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri 
Luzhkov of Fatherland-All Russia, a centrist bloc from which Unity was 
supposed to siphon votes. 

``Russian voters opted for a party about which they know very little with 
candidates about whom they also know very little,'' said Nikolai Petrov of 
the Carnegie Endowment think-tank. 

``After such a dirty campaign, I think Russia is in danger of becoming more 
authoritarian than at any time in recent years.'' 

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov agreed that media bias and a failure to 
discuss the issues were bad for Russian politics. 

``It is impossible to carry on constructive work when hysteria persists on 
state television,'' Zyuganov said before the meeting with Putin. ``It's 
impossible when you don't know Unity's positions on key issues. We have to 
clear this up.'' 

Grigory Yavlinsky, whose liberal Yabloko party lost ground and just cleared 
the minimum five-percent minimum barrier to enter parliament, complained that 
some parties had used the prime minister ``as an advertising agent.'' 

He said the army's advance through Chechnya had created ``periods of outright 
military hysteria'' which had hurt Yabloko, the single major party to call 
for negotiations to resolve the Chechnya conflict. 


Foreign capitals also expressed reservations, while praising the outcome of 
an election with a high turnout as evidence that democracy was taking root in 
post-Soviet Russia. 

A White House spokesman hoped the new parties would foster market reforms, 
while he regretted differences with Russian authorities -- and public opinion 
-- over the Chechnya war. 

``We don't have a breakdown of the Duma, although it appears that it will be 
more centrist, more moderate than the last Duma,'' National Security adviser 
Sandy Berger said separately. 

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's foreign policy adviser lamented that 
``the war and a dirty campaign offensive paid off in the election.'' 

Unity leader Sergei Shoigu pointedly steered clear of policy issues during a 
campaign spent mostly helping refugees in Chechnya in his capacity as 
emergencies minister. He seemed to relish not discussing them, even after the 

``Thank goodness we have come through that 'wonderful' period when people's 
ideological and political convictions meant everything,'' he said after 
Tuesday's meeting. 

``Today we believe the main accent should be on professionalism, morals and, 
above all, patriotism.'' 

Putin unquestionably exploited the ``feel-good'' factor generated by military 
successes against Chechens generally unloved by voters in Russian cities. 
Reports of setbacks are routinely dismissed as disinformation by military 

But some commentators said his presidential chances and the fate of his 
allies in the Duma remained linked to continued success in Chechnya. And they 
left open the possibility that he could go the way of four predecessors 
sacked by Yeltsin. 

``Unity says it opposes politics. That's a bit like forming a tennis club and 
then refusing to play tennis,'' analyst Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie 
Endowment told a television debate. 

``What is their programme, what will they propose to Putin? This 
consolidation takes us in an unpredictable direction. What will happen in 
five, six or seven months -- especially if Putin is no longer at the wheel?'' 


December 21, 1999
[translation for personal use only from RIA Novosti]

One single political result of the December 19 elections to
the Duma, Russian parliament's lower chamber, is: it looks as if
there is a certain single, well oiled and rather efficient
political mechanism in the making. The mechanism should deliver
Russia to the presidential election, slated for the summer of
2000, and further on beyond that point in time. 
In the past few years, the political Russia has not been
unlike a giant ant hill living under the threat of unending
peril, for which reason each and every occupant of the hill was
for him- or herself and erratically wandering on his or her own. 
The past elections have introduced a degree of order to make
the hill livable premises. The generation of politicians
currently in power have opted for the current authorities. Many
people in the street have chosen to back them up. 
To date, the authorities have managed to come up with few
ideas and make few deeds. Chechnya and the effort to exterminate
militants have united effectively all politicians and common
citizens around the authorities. The high oil prices, high
inflation and expensive imports have reminded people living in
the provinces that they have wages and pensions.
It has turned out that PM Vladimir Putin and the authorities
associated with him have no opposition to speak of. The executive
authorities' "correct" moves have brought them an award: a rather
manageable Duma. 
Both victors and losers agree that over a half of the Duma
members will be loyal to the government, if only to a degree. It
is up to the government to use the "award" for a good purpose.
There are at least two purposes. The first and principal one is
to prod the lower house into making laws the country needs. The
other is to do everything to preserve the nascent stability at
least until next summer--and manage it, if possible. 
Although the Duma may start behaving more responsibly, one
can hardly discern a single strategy. A strategy would be
adjusted to fit a certain "personality," which may become the
basis for a new political consensus. The Duma's new lineup would
hardly ever carry a vote of no confidence to the government. Any
proposal to the effect would be automatically blocked, and the
Left are well aware of this. 
The Red and the "Pink" would have to devise alternative
methods of making the government heed their opinion--and prepare
for the presidential election in parallel. 
Over the past few months, Chechnya has overshadowed all
other obstacles in the way of attaining a consensus. It is the
point all more or less noticeable politicians can agree on. This
factor would be instrumental for the next Duma's efficient
There are two other factors. Today, they are hardly visible,
yet are no less important tactically and strategically: the
economy and the relationship with the rest of the world. 
Forecasts of the global oil prices say that Russia can pay
no heed to serious economic problems at least until the
forthcoming presidential election--financiers know it all! On the
other hand, the availability of sufficient resources and the
forthcoming election may tempt Duma members to make a lot of
populist decisions. 
The government would naturally try to avoid straining
relations with the Duma before voting Putin into the presidency.
The first tentative results of the populist decisions may
therefore become felt in late 2000 or early 2001. This is when
the Duma would hear some harsh words. 
As to Russia's relations with the rest of the world, both
advocates of the nation's "special course" and pro-Western
members would be duly represented on the lower house. The former
would highlight the need to develop Russia's defense-oriented
industries, and the latter would focus on the ratification of all
sorts of humanitarian conventions, on the "negotiating process,"
The government would have to manoeuvre, but these and other
problems would not come to a head before the presidential
In short, everything depends on vacillations of Putin's
rating. Since each and everyone is for him these days, he must
act in a way as not to disappoint each and everyone.


Boston Globe
21 December 1999
[for personal use only]
The 'democratic presumption' is taking hold in Russia 
By Graham Allison
Graham Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and 
International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard 
University and supervises publication of the monthly Russian Election Watch 

Sunday's stunning victory for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his 
supporters in the new Unity Party surprised most observers. Just three months 
ago when Russian President Boris Yeltsin made Putin prime minister, 
knowledgeable Muscovites dismissed the Kremlin entourage as politically 
spent. It was judged too corrupt and too incompetent to matter. 

Kremlin campaign strategists demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in 
managing Russian perceptions of the war in Chechnya and in undermining 
political opponents. In the campaign for president, Putin now appears 
unbeatable. But having ridden the Chechnyan horse to victory in the 
parliamentary election, he remains vulnerable to a major reversal of Russia's 
fortune in that war.

Among the many remarkable features of Russia's parliamentary election, what 
is most significant? 

First, pause to reflect on Czech President Vaclav Havel's insight: ''things 
have changed so fast we have not yet taken time to be astonished.''

After 70 years of communism, the truly extraordinary fact is that Russians 
are choosing their leaders in competitive democratic elections. Despite 
dramatic election abuses, most Russian citizens were able to vote for the 
candidate of their choice without fear of consequences. 

Second, democratic processes are taking root in Russia. Despite history, 
culture, and recent national experience that make Russia rocky soil for 
democratic seeds, Russia's fledgling democratic experiment survives. With the 
election of members of the Duma and the campaign for June's presidential 
transfer of power, the ''democratic presumption'' is taking hold across 
Russia's political spectrum. By ''democratic presumption,'' I mean the belief 
that the ''normal'' or ''civilized'' way to answer the question ''who 
rules?'' is to count votes in an open, competitive election. 

Consequences of democracy for Russia's government, as elsewhere, include 
greater attentiveness to what Russian citizens think; greater responsiveness 
to those who can supply ingredients essential for electoral victory, 
including voters, funders, opinion makers, and regional leaders; and greater 

Third, counter to the prognosis of many doomsayers, election results 
demonstrate that extremists have been marginalized. Elections put ideas and 
slogans to a market test. In the past decade, Russians have experienced 
prolonged economic depression. An emerging middle class was devastated in 
August 1998 by the double devaluation and default. These conditions resemble 
those of Europe during the 1930s when fascism arose. Nonetheless, fascists, 
anti-Semites, and other extreme groups have attracted little support in 
Sunday's election. 

Russia's most prominent extremist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, not only moderated 
his statements and positions during the Duma campaign, but declared that his 
party will join Unity and Union of Right Forces in supporting the Putin 

Finally, amid the good news, it is also important to note that Russians are 
practicing democracy in what they call a ''Russian way.'' 

The brazen, no-holds-barred verve with which they have absorbed and extended 
the worst practices of campaign manipulators, media scandalmongers, and 
moneybags is as far from textbook democracy as Russia's economy is from 
Western practice. Their success in transforming voters preferences exceeded 
even their expectations. 

Yeltsin's core strategy for the upcoming presidential election, as a Yeltsin 
adviser explained to me, is to ''do '96 again.'' That means polarizing 
voters' choice between their candidate and the Communists. 

One campaign manipulator's hubris in imagining that the ''Family,'' Russia's 
nickname for Yeltsin and his advisers, could find a candidate (their third 
try after having hired and fired former prime ministers Sergei Kiriyenko and 
Sergei Stepashin) and push him to victory brings to mind the punch-line from 
Wag the Dog: ''Oh, that's nothing.''

But at this point in the game they are better positioned than at an 
equivalent point in 1996 to divide and discredit a Communist-led Duma and 
then move on to a presidential campaign in which voters are forced to choose 
between Putin and the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

In sum, as a result of Sunday's election, a more centrist, more progressive, 
more professional Duma will convene in January. The vote for Yeltsin's 
successor is scheduled for June 4, six months and several lifetimes in 
Russian politics ahead. Abuses abound. But in assessing Russia's imperfect 
democracy, as in other areas of Russian practice, it is useful to remember 
the alternative.


From: "Dmitri Glinski Vassiliev" <>
Subject: More observations on the election
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 

Some of the Western comments upon the outcome of the elections show not
only more or less overt disappointment but also considerable misundestanding
of Russian realities. It is particularly regrettable when it comes from
Western progressives and genuine sympathizers of Russia. Some of them, like
authors in the Moscow Times, seem to imply that all those voters who
supported Unity and the Right-Wingers, especially the poor and the young,
were somehow irrational or manipulated by the media and that they basically
were shooting themselves in the foot.

Well, some probably were. Over the past decade, millions of people in
Russia have been thrown into poverty and despair, many of them stopped
buying or subscribing to newspapers years ago, and all they could rely upon
was RTR and ORT. But, aside from this and the effect of Chechnya war, there
is also at least one other plausible explanation to what happened.

The experience of the present generation in Russia is that political
protest is simply counterproductive, in the absence of a well-organized and
self-confident political force that would be able and willing to defend its
followers. The ruling elite has formidable economic resources of retaliation
against millions of people who vote and act the wrong way. In 1992-93, the
intelligentsia and the masses behind it were severely punished for their
attempts to "destabilize" the nomenklatura - savings were destroyed, state
was dismembered and privatized, parliament was shelled, and the
establishment's grip was strengthened. The "democrats", that is, the
beneficiaries of the protest, were neither able nor willing to go to the
streets, to rally Western opinion, to risk anything to protect their
electorate. In August 1998, another group of disgruntled citizens, the
so-called middle class, was again punished for its misbehavior vis-a-vis
Yeltsin and Chubais: savings from financial speculation were devalued,
domestic market for its services drastically reduced, Western funding and
contacts much diminished. Albeit on a much smaller scale than in 1992, but
quite a heavy blow for this strata. Again, no force was out there to defend
them - Primakov and his team were not terrible fighters, they quit the
government obediently and without resistance, impeachment flopped, and
"democratic opposition" in the parliament swallowed every other prime
minister that Msrs. Chubais and Berezovsky were pulling out of their hats.
As recently remarked by Vitaly Tretyakov on a different occasion,
"academics proved to be academics, and neurasthenics proved to be
neurasthenics". Soft-speaking gentlemen in clean gloves calling themselves
"opposition" are good for foreign investment, but in Russia, their
electorate will die out faster than reap any benefits from their activity.

The message from the authorities in this electoral campaign was plain and
simple: give us legitimacy, and we will protect you - from unregulated
criminals, from Chechens, and from the West. If you don't give us legitimacy
and vote the wrong way, we will just stay in power - but without any
obligations to you. Primakovs, Yavlinskys and others will not protect you,
because they don't have the chutzpah. By voting for the opposition, you will
not change anything, you will only harm yourself.

And this was true. Ordinary Russians are smart enough, and they didn't
vote for liberals or for a "civilized" left, because there were no liberals
and no "civilized" left ready to go to very serious risks to protect their
voters from another financial destruction or something even worse that the
Kremlin may come up with when the power struggle gets real hot. The only
party that looks at least remotely capable of giving such a protection is
the "not-so-civilized" CPRF, and its first place in the polls was quite
logical. Also, CPRF was the only one that at least defined itself more or
less confidently as the left-wing party, whereas the rest of the opposition
was ashamed or embarrassed by this association. Result: there is a total of
three brave parties in the Duma (Unity, SPS, and Zhirinovsky) that say
proudly - we are on the right! We will protect our property, stability,
territorial integrity, and we will give the people whatever remains after
that. Then, there are also the Communists. Plus, there are OVR and Yabloko
who just don't know how to define themselves, because all the slots on the
right have been occupied and being on the left is not cool, not modern, not
conducive to business relations with the Westerners.

The Duma vote seems to have confirmed the lesson drawn by many Russians
from their first decade of democratic politics: the power gap between the
ruling elite and the citizens is very large indeed. And it has grown larger
over the past decade, when the elite has more or less successfully
integrated itself with Western establishment while the rest of the nation
rolled back into the Third World. In this position, it is just not sensible
for Russians to infuriate the beast of Vlast by trying to unseat it. More
sound strategy is to make it feel good and feed its better instincts. Stay
quiet and vote right - until someone appears who will call the beast its
name and show how the weak may suddenly become strong.


Toronto Sun
December 21, 1999 
Yeltsin back from the dead, again
Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- There are two surefire ways to win an election in Russia. 

Control the most popular television networks and use them to ruthlessly 
denounce your opponents. 

At the same time, start a war the West is disgusted by and make it look as 
if that war is being won although most of the worst fighting has almost 
certainly not yet begun. 

That's how the Yeltsinites used Russia's two most-watched television 
networks during this fall's parliamentary election campaign and how these 
networks and their candidates presented the new war in Chechnya, which has 
been popular with the Russian masses mostly because they have had nothing 
else to cheer about during Boris Yeltsin's sclerotic rule. 

President Yeltsin must quit next June but his family and his large retinue, 
who have done well during his erratic reign, got a grand millennium gift when 
four Yeltsinite parties scored about half the votes in Sunday's Duma or 
parliamentary elections. If these results can be repeated in the presidential 
election next June, and there is a very good chance they can be, a trusted 
member of their own circle, Vladimir Putin will be the next czar of Russia. 

From every aspect, it is an incredible, incredibly Russian story. Where else 
but Russia, where one-third of the population now lives below the poverty 
line, which is set at $46 a month, could the leader, who presided over such a 
disaster, gain a much stronger mandate from the public? 

Yeltsin, who has been counted out often politically and dead more than once, 
had perhaps his greatest triumph since muscling Mikhail Gorbachev aside at 
the end of 1991. The former Communist party boss for Sverdlovsk managed this 
despite presiding over a government which is rated right down there with 
Nigeria for corruption and an economy that is a shambles and a fraction of 
what it was when he entered the Kremlin. 

It may not be all clear sailing. Like Yeltsin, the Communists have been 
declared dead in Russia many times in the past few years. But they actually 
increased their vote slightly to 24.2% with 84% of the votes counted and may 
have slightly more seats in the Duma than the 140 (of 450) seats that they 
had last time. 


While the Communists more than held their own, Unity, which was created by 
the Kremlin only 11 weeks ago, surged from nowhere when support for more than 
a dozen little parties collapsed. Unity is a marvel of the media age. It has 
no political or economic ideas to speak of and is led by a former wrestling 
champion (shades of Minnesota's Jesse Ventura) with little high-level 

Unity, which appropriated the Russian bear as its mascot, won 23% of the 
vote. Another Kremlin party, the Union of Right Forces, which was hatched and 
advised by many of the same men who brought Russia to economic ruin during 
the Yeltsin years, also came from zero to score 9% of the vote. It's only a 
guess, but a lot of its support probably came from young Russians who liked 
the wild rock concerts which passed for the Union's election campaign. 

Where there are big winners, there are big losers. The Fatherland-All Russia 
Bloc, which had hoped to control the balance of power in the Duma with the 
Communists, only managed 12% of the vote. Its leaders, former prime minister 
Egveni Luzhkov and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov must now decide whether it's 
worth seriously contesting the presidential elections or whether it might be 
more prudent to quietly make a deal with the Kremlin, where both used to have 
cordial relations with Yeltsin. 

Still, the way ahead may not be as easy for Yeltsin and Putin as it looks 
today. As has happened repeatedly in Yeltsin's Kremlin, there is every chance 
the Unity and Union blocs will fall out with each other or the president 
because of competing ambitions or jealousy or who gets what money. 

There could also be big trouble if the war in Chechnya starts to go sour. 


Russian Press on Returns, Lessons of the Sunday Elections.

MOSCOW, December 21 (Itar-Tass) -- All Russian national newspapers on Tuesday 
concentrate on the returns and lessons of the Sunday elections. 

KOMMERSANT notes that "the preliminary results of the voting do not permit 
drawing a conclusion about the indisputable victory of any of the political 
forces. It is possible, however, to say with certainty that the communists 
and their allies will have to put off for at least another four years the 
realisation of their dream about ''300 patriots in the Duma''. As concerns 
the lower house's loyalty to the president and the government, it will depend 
on the position of the independent candidates." The newspaper notes that 
Edinstvo, the Union of Right-Wing Forces have enjoyed the greatest success. 
But in order to create a counterbalance to the left-wing forces represented 
in the State Duma by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and, 
possibly, by a part of the Fatherland-All Russia movement, the bears (as 
Edinstvo is commonly referred to) will have not only to team up with the 
Union of Right-Wing Forces but also to attract Yabloko, the Zhirinovsky Bloc 
and at least 80 independent MPs to their side. 

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA (NG) opines that "the elections were unconditionally won 
only by the right-wingers and the pro- government Edinstvo (Unity) movement. 
Their success was due mainly to the fact that in the minds of the voters they 
were closely associated with the image of the currently most popular 
politician, Vladimir Putin." NG believes nonetheless that on December 19, 
"Russia received a clear rift in the government" instead of the desired 
consolidation of power. The newspaper sounds confident that the unavoidable 
confrontation of the right- wing and left-wing groups, none of which will be 
capable of establishing full control over the Duma, "can eventually paralyse 
the lower house." The only force capable of forestalling this effect is 
Yabloko and then only if decides to team up with the pro-governmental bloc 
made up of Edinstvo and the union of Right- Wing Forces. 

SEGODNYA deliberates as to who will become the Duma speaker. Having 
considered a range of potential contenders of the office - from Sergei 
Stepashin to Vladimir Ryzhkov - the newspaper fails to come up with an 
answer. It notes however that "the quadri- partite system of power which at 
long last collapsed on December 19 crumbled into a pile of fragments just 
right of centre." It is clear that the Kremlin will certainly hold on to the 
victory which was so difficult to win. The newspaper also interviewed Yabloko 
leader Grigory Yavlinsky who is sure that in the new Duma the weight of his 
bloc will grow at the expense of independent candidates and those who were 
"the first past the post." He sounds confident that Yabloko will find its 
niche quite soon and "will continue on its own path, retaining its 

NOVYE IZVESTIA notes that "the first and most important thing to note is that 
over the past four years the Russian voters have turned a cold shoulder to 
the left-wingers. Secondly, a powerful right-wing centre has emerged in the 
face of the Bear and the Union of Right-Wing Forces, backed by which the 
government will have opportunities for its playing in parliament the like of 
which it has not had even once in all the years of reform." Noting the 
successful debut of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, the newspaper points out 
that the success of the is important not only from the viewpoint of the 
line-up of forces in the new Duma but "it is still more important from the 
point of view of strategic perspective." The fact that the Union of 
Right-Wing Forces has attracted to its side a new mass of voters who did not 
take any notable part in the elections in 1995 gives the bloc "a chance to 
have a future." 

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA thinks that the results of these elections are the main 
achievement of Boris Yeltsin's. Over the years of his presidency "a new 
generation has emerged in Russia, the generation which chose for itself the 
values of a market economy, democracy, free society, which was evidenced in 
the elections for the State Duma." The newspaper notes that it has now become 
feasible to create a pro-governmental majority in the State Duma and makes an 
attempt at forecasting what problems are likely to arise in the course of the 
presidential elections in the year 2000. "It is evident today that it will 
not be possible to run them as they were in 1996. Yeltsin's victory then had 
been predetermined by the "devastating" success of the communists in the DUma 
elections. That was why Zyuganov looked like a serious rival of Yeltsin's. 
Today, there is no alternative to Putin. And it can be dangerous." 

KOMMERSANT looks at the mayoral elections in the capital and states that Yuri 
Luzhkov owes his victory not to the freshers, Yastrzhembsky and Boos, but to 
the old, time-tested team comprising Shantsev, Muzikantsky, Tsoi. "Luzhkov's 
reputation was saved by the resolute rejection of the presidential ambitions. 
The mayor's comrades-in-arms - whose well-being directly depends on the 
firmness of the patron's position in the city - managed at the eleventh hour 
to convince Luzhkov that the mayoral bird in the bush is much more reliable 
than the presidential bird in the sky." 


Preliminary Results of Russian Parliamentary Election Announced

MOSCOW (Dec. 21) XINHUA - The Russian Central Electoral Commission on Tuesday 
announced the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections held on 

With over 90 percent of votes counted as of 9 a.m. (0600 GMT), six electoral 
blocs and movements consolidated their leading positions and successfully 
entered the new State Duma (lower house of parliament). 

The Communist Party led by Gennady Zyuganov won 24.55 percent of the ballots, 
keeping its number one status in parliament. It was followed closely by the 
pro-Kremlin Unity movement headed by Sergey Shoigu with supporting rate of 
23.88 percent. 

Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) led by former premier Yevgeny Primakov collected 
11.98 percent of the votes, while the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) led by 
former prime minister Sergey Kiriyenko got 8.63 percent, Vladimir 
Zhirinovsky's Bloc 6.18 percent and Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko bloc 5.94 

The other twenty blocs and movements, which were legally registered for the 
State Duma election, failed to reach the five- percent level required by law. 

Our Home Is Russia movement (NDR) led by former prime minister Viktor 
Chernomyrdin, the second biggest party in the last Duma, was supplanted out 
of parliament with a disappointing 1.21 percent. 

The following parties and movements, which failed to get through to the Duma, 
won more than two percent of the votes: the Communist and Working People of 
Russia for the Soviet Union (2.28 percent), Women of Russia (2.07 percent), 
and the Party of Pensioners (2.02 percent). The rest of the election 
coalitions, except Our Home Is Russia, mustered less than one percent of the 

So far the turnout rate of the elections was 61.60 percent, said the Central 
Electoral Commission. 

The final results of the poll are expected in about 10 days. 


Washington Post
21 December 1999
Russia's Vote

THE MOST remarkable feature of Russia's parliamentary election, political 
scientists Michael McFaul and Nikolai Petrov noted before it took place 
Sunday, "is that the vote is not a remarkable event." Russia has now staged 
three such elections in succession--in 1993, 1995 and 1999--all according to 
the same rules and all reasonably fair (with a glaring exception, discussed 
below). "No other democratically elected legislative body has lasted so long 
in Russia's history," Mr. McFaul and Mr. Petrov point out. Democracy is 
becoming normal; the ballot box, rather than violent revolt, is widely 
accepted as the way to promote change. That wasn't true a few years ago; it 
still isn't in more than half the republics that emerged from the Soviet 

In their ballot choices, Russians showed that they do not want a return to 
the Soviet era. The Communist Party remains stuck at about one-quarter of the 
electorate, despite all the troubles of recent years. And even the Communists 
don't really, for the most part, believe in communism.

Still, it doesn't follow that most Russians were voting for liberal, 
market-oriented reforms. On the contrary, the single strongest current 
apparent in Sunday's vote was a desire for a "strong hand"--for a leader and 
a political system that can restore some order to the chaos of post-Communist 
transition. It's a testament to the political skill of Prime Minister 
Vladimir Putin that he was able to portray himself as the outsider who could 
impose some order, even though he is an incumbent and the appointee of the 
unpopular President Boris Yeltsin.

In the land of Lenin and Stalin, the desire for a strong hand inevitably has 
disquieting undertones. But those Russians supporting Mr. Putin and his Unity 
Party aren't necessarily pining for dictatorship. They've seen that a weak 
state can be fatally debilitating, injurious most of all to society's 
weakest. Unpaid salaries and pensions, unchecked corruption, undelivered 
services--these hurt the poor most of all.

What is disquieting is that Mr. Putin and his allies rode to victory chiefly 
by hitching themselves to a brutal war in Chechnya. They spoke of their 
Chechen victims in the most dehumanizing terms. They whipped voters into a 
war frenzy with the most slanted propaganda. And they hearkened back to 
Russian "greatness" with an indiscriminate attack against a largely 
defenseless civilian population.

In the 1996 presidential election, the Russian press made a pact with the 
devil; to beat back a serious Communist challenge, it stopped covering Mr. 
Yeltsin honestly. It was an understandable bargain at the time, but Russia 
has not yet stopped paying; the press found itself corrupted for good. In 
this fall's campaign, almost no one provided objective coverage, while Mr. 
Putin's allies manipulated the media to savage their opponents.

Now, in this election, Russia's reformers made a similar pact, suppressing 
any doubts about war crimes to surf a patriotic wave into power. As a tactic, 
it worked. In the long term, it's likely Russian democracy and society will 
again pay a high price. 


New York Times
December 21, 1999
Russia's New Parliament
Several distinct messages can be drawn from Sunday's parliamentary elections 
in Russia, some more encouraging than others. Most hearteningly, voters 
showed a clear preference for centrists, selecting what may turn out to be 
the first reform-minded Duma majority since the Soviet collapse. But the main 
centrist party, Unity, allied with President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister 
Vladimir Putin, built its success on jingoistic exploitation of the brutal 
Russian military campaign in Chechnya. The results were also skewed by the 
unequal enforcement of election rules, dirty campaign tricks and the crude 
bias of television stations allied with the Kremlin. These outlets fed 
Russians a stream of unproven criminal accusations against the two leaders of 
a rival party, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Mayor Yuri Luzhkov 
of Moscow. 

The allocation of parliamentary seats is still incomplete. But it appears 
that the Communists just barely remained the largest party. Challenging them 
closely is Mr. Putin's Unity Party. An allied party of economic reformers did 
well enough to bring Mr. Putin close to a working majority. When members 
elected from the liberal Yabloko Party and the Fatherland-All Russia alliance 
of Mr. Primakov and Mr. Luzhkov are added in, moderates could end up with 
more than half the total seats. 

Those gains could help bring economic reform back to life and revive hopes of 
ratifying nuclear arms control treaties with the United States. But that will 
require the centrist parties to cooperate on legislative goals even as they 
prepare to line up behind competing candidates in next summer's presidential 

Achieving substantive results from the new parliamentary alignment will 
largely depend on Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer who has built his 
popularity mainly on Russian military successes in Chechnya. Mr. Putin's own 
ideological and political instincts are unclear. Russia's economy has revived 
somewhat in recent months, but those gains flowed mainly from last year's 
ruble devaluation and the recent doubling of world oil prices. Continued 
growth depends on pushing through reforms long stymied by the Communists and 
their parliamentary allies. The most urgently needed measures are a 
simplified and enforceable tax system, strengthened legal protections for 
Russian and foreign investors and a crackdown on corruption. 

One of Mr. Putin's strongest opponents for the presidency is likely to be Mr. 
Primakov, an experienced politician who has coupled promises of strong 
leadership with a pledge to avoid wrenching economic change. Although Mr. 
Primakov's party got only about half as many votes as Mr. Putin's this week, 
the presidential race could be closer. Russia's party system is weak, and 
sentiment can change swiftly in response to unforeseen events, including 
possible reverses in Chechnya. What the voters surely deserve is a cleaner 
campaign than they got this time, with honest media coverage for all sides. 
Mr. Putin should use his new political strength to assure a fairer 
presidential race. 


From: "stanislav menshikov" <>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 

Moscow Tribune
December 20, 1999
By Stanislav Menshikov

Preliminary election results seem to indicate unexpectedly poor returns for
the Primakov-Luzhkov bloc (particularly outside of Moscow) and a much
better vote for the pro-Putin "Unity" and the "Alliance of Right Forces
(SPS)". The contrast with the pre-election polls is in fact so large that
it has created doubts as to whether the counting procedures were not
tampered with at some point. But that will probably remain another well
kept secret.

The big question is whether the right-wing bloc can muster a clear majority
in the new Duma. Despite Mr. Kiriyenko's optimism, this may not be the
case. The results of the one-district contests paint a somewhat different
picture and it could well turn out that the elections have produced a
stalemate rather than an outright victory for the Kremlin alliance.

The major loser is, of course, Mr. Primakov whose hopes for the presidency
are now all but lost. As to the Communists, they will probably have to
yield their speakership even if they manage to remain the largest single
faction in the new Duma. To retain that position, they would have to gain
the support not only of the OVR, which is likely, but also of the Yabloko
and the Zhirinovsky bloc, which is unlikely. Breaking the Communist control
over the Duma is one issue on which they see eye to eye with the right wing
parties. But neither would these smaller factions want to yield the
speakership to "Unity" since that would give the Kremlin control of both
the government and the parliament. Nothing like that happened even after
the 1993 elections when Yeltsin's power was at its peak. 

The real test will come in January, after the new factions in the Duma work
our their relations with each other. It is only then that the exact
correlation of forces will become evident. A lot depends on whether the OVR
can stand the shock of defeat and keep from being demoralised and split
apart. There will be strong pressure brought to bear on the OVR to prevent
it from associating with the Communists. On the other hand, it is hard to
see how the OVR can keep playing a significant role without siding with the
Left. The outcome of these manoeuvres will determine the kind of political
ball game that is in store for Russia in the months ahead.

Despite the success of "Unity" and SPS, Mr. Putin may still have a hard
time being confirmed in his present post. Not only Zyuganov and Primakov
(if he does not choose to drop out at this point), but also Yavlinsky are
declared contenders for the presidency and will not be interested in
permitting Putin to stay in his present job which gives him too much
leverage. A possible compromise could be reached if Putin agrees to reduce
the powers of the presidency and promises, if elected, to appoint Mr.
Luzhkov or Mr. Yavlinsky as his new prime minister. Such a compromise would
not suit the current Kremlin crowd and Mr. Kiriyenko whose aspiration to
return to his old job is more than obvious. But Mr. Putin has now become a
force of his own making, and chances are that his friends on the right will
have to accept that deal hoping perhaps that he will refuse to make good
on his promises when he comes to power.

It would be a shaky compromise and add to political uncertainty in the
months to come. To maintain his popularity which puts him above the Kremlin
and the Duma, Putin will have to bring the war in Chechnya to an early and
victorious conclusion. If he succeeds, no Duma opposition will dare to fire
him even if they think they have the votes to do so. If, however, the war
drags on and casualties on the Russian side are high, his popularity may
well disappear as quickly as it has accumulated. 

Political uncertainty will be aggravated by other problems. Economic
recovery from the 1998 crisis is real enough. But industrial production has
reached its peak last July - before Putin was appointed - and has since
oscillated on a slightly lower plateau. This new stagnation, if it
continues, will not create new jobs and will make it hard to close wage
arrears - something that Mr. Putin has been promising all along.

In a different situation, the government could use some money printing to
alleviate the situation. But the new Duma would hardly permit it.
Reactivating the IMF tranche could help but, so far, the Clinton
administration is in no hurry to support Putin who, after his Chechnya
performance, has first to convincingly demonstrate his loyalty to the West.
Would Washington really believe in the loyalty of a former KGB man? Even if
it would, the Russian voters might not want a second edition of Mr.

It looks like all parties involved in this roulette are facing a Catch-22
problem. Which means that prospects for political and economic stability in
Russia, at least in the near term, are dim.



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