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Johnson's Russia List
13 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: The State of the (Former Soviet) Union. (Discussion with Michael
McFaul, Anders Åslund, and Thomas Graham)
2. Bloomberg: Anatol Lieven on Russia and the Chechen War.
3. Novaya Gazeta: Liliya Shevtsova, PUTIN'S ADVANTAGE IS ALSO HIS
4. Reuters: Paul Taylor, Chechnya war costing Moscow little cash.
5. RFE/RL: Tuck Wesolowsky, Trade Unions Face Skeptical Public.
6. Los Angeles Times: Richard Paddock, The KGB Rises Again in Russia.
Putin's spy past raises fears of return to repression. To some, he typifies leadership qualities agency instills.
7. AP: Russia Media Question Chechen War.
8. AFP: Maimed Civilians Pay The Price Of Bloody Chechen War.]
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Washington, DC 20036
Russian and Eurasian Program
Vol. 2, No. 1, January 6, 2000
The State of the (Former Soviet) Union
American perceptions of Russia's political and economic condition differ
greatly from Russian realities. This was a central theme in the
presentations of Carnegie Senior Associates Michael McFaul, Anders Åslund,
and Thomas Graham, yet each displayed strikingly different views of what a
realistic assessment of Russia should look like.
McFaul argued that while Americans tend to demonize or valorize Russian
leaders, neither view is fully correct. He emphasized that a model of
polarized politics -- i.e., hardliners versus reformers, communists versus
democrats -- ceased to be applicable to Russia after the 1996 presidential
elections. However, most American pundits have failed to grasp this. "The
glass is half empty or half full" perspective is simply bad analysis,
argued McFaul. When analyzing contemporary Russian political developments,
it is possible to "actually have good and bad things happen at the same
time." Complex is the only ample description of the Russian transition.
To prove his point, McFaul discussed the political campaigns leading up to
the December 19, 1999 State Duma elections. Rather than a polarized clash,
numerous political battles occurred. Out of these struggles, two different
types of political associations emerged.
First, there were several major parliamentary parties which had been
mainstays, under one name or another, of the Russian political scene for
most of the 1990s. These included the Communist Party (CPRF), the Union of
Rightist Forces (CPC), Yabloko, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).
Well-defined ideologies and electorates, static levels of voter support,
and leaders with little chance of becoming president characterized these
parties. McFaul predicted that these parties have become longstanding
political organizations. They will likely compete in the next State Duma
Second, there were political associations formed to promote aspiring
presidential candidates, namely Fatherland-All Russia and Unity (MEDVED).
These coalitions exhibited the opposite characteristics of the parties
mentioned above. They lacked an ideology and a well-defined electorate.
Voter support for these parties was extremely dynamic, dropping
dramatically for Fatherland as the pre-election period progressed and
skyrocketing for Unity. A serious presidential candidate was associated
with each party. Considering these parties mere vehicles for presidential
politics, McFaul doubted that either will last until the next State Duma
McFaul further elaborated on his theme of simultaneous positive and
negative trends as he contemplated the condition of democracy in Russia.
The consolidation of at least four major political parties is a positive
sign, for example. However, the sophistication of the electorate displays
reason for both hope and worry. While demographic segments of the
population with strong attachments to a party showed little susceptibility
to media manipulation, voters in poor and rural regions proved very
McFaul also worried that proportional representation in parliament combined
with a strong presidency allows the executive branch's power to remain
unchecked. Either the strength of the presidency should be reduced or
proportional representation in the Duma should be abolished.
In terms of presidential politics, McFaul argued that Boris Yeltsin would
have set a better democratic precedent by serving his term out and holding
elections in June 2000 as scheduled. But, he admitted, judgment of
Yeltsin's actions is relative; Nelson Mandela, the father of democracy in
South Africa, also hand picked his successor.
Finally, Putin himself epitomizes the complexity which McFaul finds in
contemporary Russia. Some see in him a dangerous autocrat; some, a
democratic reformer. Recalling the similar predications made about Yeltsin
when he took office in 1991, McFaul predicted that Putin is likely to
exhibit both tendenceis over the course of his time in office.
Åslund argued that the American perception of Russia as a hopelessly
corrupt, economically-failing country is blatantly false. He sought to
debunk five myths about Russia.
First, he addressed the belief that Russia's economy is "down and out." In
actuality, Russia's GDP grew at approximately two percent in 1999 despite
IMF predictions that it would fall nine percent. Industrial growth topped
eight percent. Åslund further pointed out that pro-government parties
could not have done so well in the recent parliamentary elections if not
for a "feel good" attitude among the Russian populace.
Second, he challenged the argument that these economic gains are only due
to increased oil prices and the August 1998 devaluation of the ruble, which
boosted import-substituting industries. On the contrary, substantial
structural economic changes have occurred. Between August 1998 and August
1999, barter dropped by one-third. Arrears of most kinds have fallen by
at least one-half. For Åslund, the August 1998 crash turned out to be the
"beating over the head which Russian businessmen actually needed."
Business relations are dramatically being restructured as businessmen
recognize that they now face true hard-budget constraints.
Third, he disputed the claim that Russia does not collect enough taxes and
that the federal government is losing power to the regions. Russia's total
state revenue was 31 percent of GDP in 1999, nearly equal to revenue
collected in the United States. Russia has a primary government surplus of
two percent of GDP. If anything, Russia collects too much in taxes he
said. The only major problem is Russia's Soviet era debt, part of which,
according to Åslund, the West should write off. Moreover, the federal
government is not losing power vis-ā-vis the regions. In 1998 federal
government revenues were 9 percent of GDP; in 1999, over 13 percent. This
increase came at the expense of the regions' share of revenue.
Fourth, he found no evidence to support recent comparisons of Putin to
Milosevic. Putin's speeches are about market economies. He came to Moscow
in 1996 at the behest of the reformer Anatoly Chubais, and his current
confidants on economic policy are also Chubais allies. While Putin often
talks about a strong state, Åslund argued that this only reflects a desire
for a functioning state, not authoritarianism.
Fifth, he objected to the claim that the new Duma will not be able to carry
out substantive reforms. The old Duma featured a Communist majority
whereas Communists will probably have around 32 percent of the seats in the
new Duma. Without the Communists, Åslund predicted substantive tax reform
and land reform this year.
Graham countered Åslund's optimism about an economic upturn and a
democratic Putin regime. He argued that the central issue in Russia is not
reform, but power. Graham emphasized that Putin is well aware of the
socioeconomic collapse of the 1990s and the consequent weakening of the
Russian state. Putin wants to recentralize Russian power, as has
repeatedly occurred in Russian history after a period of chaos. According
to Graham, this is cause for concern. In the past, such recentralization
has led to authoritarianism, xenophobia, and state interference in the
These fears are already becoming apparent. Yeltsin's resignation, though
constitutional, was hardly democratic, Graham noted. Putin has based his
power on anti-Western rhetoric and the war campaign in Chechnya -- in other
words, on xenophobia. And Putin speaks of a state which "guides and
directs" society, insinuating a greater role for the state in the economy.
Graham further questioned Putin's reformist credentials in light of his
past. He warned that while St. Petersburg, Putin's domicile in the early
1990s, was a hotbed of reform activity, it was also highly corrupt. Once
in Moscow, Putin worked under Pavel Borodin, the Kremlin's property
manager, who recently has been associated with the Mabatex scandal. Then,
before becoming prime minister, Putin was head of the FSB, the successor to
the KGB. Despite his association with reformers, Graham concluded, none of
his actions distinguish him as an anti-corruption fighter. Consequently,
Graham cautioned that the Clinton administration and other Western
onlookers should not be so quick to embrace him as Yeltsin's successor or
to view his ascension as a turning point in Russian reform.
Even aside from Putin's personal characteristics, Graham sees little reason
to believe that Russian democracy is flourishing. Once elections are over,
people in Russia have very little control. Civil society is extremely
weak. There are no more civic associations in Russia today than ten years
ago under Mikhail Gorbachev.
Finally, even if Putin is a reformer, he will face opposition from regional
and economic elites. In order to succeed, he will have to carefully pick
his fights, pit the "oligarchs" against one another, and hope to create
some maneuvering room for himself. Graham continued his wary tone as he
concluded, stating that "Russia's journey away from its Soviet past is
going to be long, its going to be messy, and its going to be uncertain."
Summary by Jordan Gans-Morse,
Junior Fellow with the Russian and Eurasian Program
Anatol Lieven on Russia and the Chechen War: Comment
Moscow, Jan. 12 (Bloomberg)
-- Following are comments by Anatol Lieven, a specialist with the
International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, on the war in
Chechnya, Russia's motives for the war and Russian strategy.
On Islamic terrorists in Chechnya:
``There is a group of international Islamists in Chechenya, led by a Saudi
Arabian, Khattab, who fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama Bin Laden. They
have a few hundred volunteers at the most from the Arab world, Turkey and
Afghanistan. But it is difficult to see how many more can get into Chechnya
given the way the Russians have blocked Chechnya off.
``I get the impression that the Russians are exaggerating the degree of
international Islamist presence.
``Khattab is there, his people are there. He is out of the same stable as
Osama Bin Laden. Whether his men carried out these bombings in Moscow, that
of course is very unclear. But there is not much doubt that they carried out
a considerable number of attacks in the North Caucasus over the past couple
On financing the war:
``Certainly a good deal of money has come into Chechnya or at least has come
to Khattab. The money comes from the same sources as the funds of Osama Bin
Laden: wealthy radical Islamists in the Arab world, especially the Gulf and
Sudia Arabia. People like Osama Bin Laden himself, who is a very rich man.
Previously these people funded the Mujahudeen in Afghanistan to fight against
the Soviet occupation, and as a natural extension of this they are now
funding the Chechens to fight against the Russians.
``There is a lot of perfectly peaceful Arab money that has gone into the
former soviet republics to build mosques, and scholls and hospitals. But
there is a radical minority
A battle for oil interests?
``Oil interests are not the case here.''
All Islamic terrorists?
``There are many different groups.
``There are the internationalists led by Khatabb.
``Then there are those Chechen commanders, notably Shamil Basayev, who allied
with the international Islamists in this movement to launch a jihad against
``Then there is Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who represents the Chechen
government, what there is of it, who was bitterly opposed by Shamil Basayev
and the Islamists. Also he had great problems with many of the commanders.
But in so far as anyone does, Maskhadov represents the Chechen state and the
Chechen people. He was afterall elected with two thirds of the vote in Jan
``Then there is the mass of the Chechen people, who, to judge by my
interviews with Chechen refugees on the Ingushetia, hate the Russians and are
furious with the Russian invasion. And in quite a lot of cases have taken up
arms to fight against that invasion. But they are also profoundly fed up with
the Whaabies and with many of the Chechen commanders who they blame for the
anarchy of the last couple of years and they also blame them, in the case of
Basayev, for the attack on Dagestan, which brought about this disaster.
``The Russians are obviously in trouble.
``The key fighting in recent days has not been in the mountains, but in the
plains. What has happened is that all the elite troops, the good troops, of
whom there are not many, got bogged down in the fighting for Grozny.
``But in the long run, if the Russians go on slogging away, and especially
when the spring comes, when the Russians will be able to use their air power
again, they still do have such a weight of fire power and numbers over the
Chechens, that if they are prepared to go on slogging away for a year or two
years then it will be very difficult for the Chechens to hold on even in the
mountains bacause this is such a small area. This isn't Afghanistan or
Vietnam; The mountainous areas of Chechnya are only about 2000 square
On the Russian army:
``Most of the Russian troops are the same demoralized, half starved
conscripts that they were last time. Basically when the Chechens attack them,
a lot of these people just run away. The Chechens seem to have been therefore
able to carve very deep into the Russian rear area.
What is Russia fighting for?
``One reason is political advantage for Putin. Another reason is to wipe out
the disgrace of having been beaten by the Chechens the last time.
``The Russians effectively gave independence to Chechenya in 1996, What
happened? This international islamist group, and explosion of kidnapping and
banditry. Maskhadov totally failed to control the situation; not just because
Russia didn't give him any money but also because members of his own regime
were involved deeply in the kidnapping. The Russians then felt what the hell
are we supposed to do? If you give these people independence they won't
simply stay in their own borders, but will use their independence to attack
us and drive us out of the north Caucasus.''
Novaya Gazeta, No. 1
(translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
PUTIN'S ADVANTAGE IS ALSO HIS TRAP
By Liliya Shevtsova
On the eve of the New Year, politologist Liliya Shevtsova,
leading researcher at the Carnegie Centre and professor of the
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, gave an
interview to our paper's correspondent. (See The Daily Review for
January 11, part II, article 1.) After the December 31 events we
asked Shevtsova to deal with the same subject again.
Boris Yeltsin had to subjugate his thirst for power to the
logic of the ruling corporation's reproduction, that is, the
interests of the self-preservation of the Kremlin clan and the
sections servicing it. The reproduction of the corporation
required not only the nomination of the "heir" but also the
timely organisation of his election, as the political context, in
particular, getting bogged down in Chechnya, prompted the need to
be in a hurry. However, this can also prove to be a trap for the
ruling team. There is already a logic to the existence of the
regime of presidential autocracy, which Yeltsin has created. The
price for its survival can be the fall of Yeltsin's corporation
and the end to continuity. This would mean that Yeltsin's
sacrifice in the form of his resignation could be not enough.
At this point, it is unclear how long the new ruler will
have to pay his debts. It goes without saying that Putin will try
not to cut off all the ends before the election. But he cannot
but realise that having inherited the throne, he has forced
himself into Yeltsin's shadow and into the embrace of his inner
circle. He is now to decide how to get free from the
strangulating obligations and create his own political base. It
is not his ambitions and striving but the heavy walk of the
regime that will make him create his own ruling corporation in
the name of consolidation. The present regime can only survive by
occasional blood-letting and shaking off of responsibility for
the past. By the way, Putin himself mentioned the inevitability
of blood-letting with regard to the regime.
The main problem with which he will come across is the
problem of conditional, deficient legitimacy which he gets as a
result of the elections organised by him, at which he has vast
advantage, compared with other contenders. All will remember
elections without the alternative (what if the other hopefuls
fall out of the race?!). This will be remembered in Russia and in
the West for which it is particularly important to keep the
principles of democracy clean. In 1996, the West "swallowed" with
difficulty Yeltsin's re-election not only because it let itself
to be persuaded of the continued threat of communist comeback. It
will be much more difficult for the Kremlin's puppeteers to
repeat the trick this time. The advisers of the new leader must
not entertain the delusion that Russia does not need the
legitimacy of power. It does need this very much. In the absence
of party-ideological and power methods to strengthen power clean
elections are of special importance.
Chechnya is another of Putin's nightmares. The accelerated
variant of power transfer to Putin is the admission of the fact
that the Kremlin realises pretty well that the Chechen situation
is a long shot from being favourable, and Putin's rise thanks to
Chechnya may soon lead to his fall. What is more, the new
Russian leader will soon have to become convinced that stern
mimics and resolute gestures are not enough to continue having
public support. The premier is expected to make concrete
decisions fraught with quick results. The broader today's
expectations, the stronger will be tomorrow's disillusionment in
the new leader. Public sentiments are very unstable. It may very
well happen that in a very short while the public will want not
an "iron Felix" but a peaceable and clever leader capable of
building bridges, including in Chechnya.
It is true that Putin still has a chance to demonstrate his
political honesty and radically change the Kremlin's policy. For
this he needs to guarantee with deeds, and not merely by words,
fair and equal rules of the game for all the political forces and
all the contenders to the presidency, thereby giving up his
present advantage. It should be more than the "we will guarantee"
phrase at a meeting with the leaders of the Duma factions, but a
serious address to the nation. His giving up the post of prime
minister, which would ease control over national resources could
be one of such guarantees. This would be a courageous move,
though even in that case Putin would still have a privileged
position in the presidential race. If he does not make it, if he
does not break out of presidential autocracy, this will be a sign
for all of us that he intends to continue the "tradition" and
build up his own regime under the strengthening the state sign,
ensuring freedom for himself and his supporters and the
"dictatorship of order" for the rest.
ANALYSIS-Chechnya war costing Moscow little cash
By Paul Taylor, Diplomatic Editor
LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The Chechnya war may be costing Russia mounting
political and diplomatic capital, but Western and Russian experts say it is
draining little cash from the Kremlin's coffers.
The military crackdown against Islamic rebels launched in September has cost
Moscow a modest $100-150 million a month in extra military spending, defence
economists say, much of it in troops' pay which has been promised but not
That compares with an overall Russian defence budget for 2000 of about 146
billion roubles ($5.6 billion).
"There is little reliable information but it's probably not costing them a
lot," said Paul Beaver, spokesman for the authoritative Jane's Defence
"The main cost is that they are mortgaging their future military force
structure by running down equipment which is not being replaced," he said.
For example, Beaver said Russia had introduced no new combat helicopters in
the last four years but had lost about 30 in the Chechnya campaign.
Human rights campaigners have accused Western governments of indirectly
funding the war they profess to abhor by maintaining financial aid to Moscow.
The International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Export-Import Bank have not made
loan payments to Russia during the war, but the World Bank came under fire
last month for making a $100 million payment as part of an $800 million
package approved in 1997 to help Russia modernise its coal sector.
Financial analysts say the cost of the Chechnya operation, even if it dragged
on for a year, would be more than offset by a budget windfall from higher oil
prices. Russia is the world's third biggest oil and gas exporter.
SOLDIERS' PAY IS MAIN WAR COST
Digby Waller, defence economist at the International Institute for Strategic
Studies, which produces the respected annual survey The Military Balance,
said a reasonable rough estimate of the cost of the war was about $110
million a month.
That was based on the assumption that a maximum of 50,000 soldiers were being
paid on the same, relatively advantageous terms as Russian troops serving
abroad on U.N. missions at about $1,000 a month, Waller said.
Russian media have reported that soldiers in Chechnya, promised between 800
and 1,000 roubles ($31-38) a day, are being paid two or three months in
The Russian government has said little about the price-tag but Waller's
back-of-an-envelope calculation was close to unofficial Russian estimates of
Aleksei Ulyukayev, a deputy director of Moscow's Institute of Economy in
Transition, was quoted last month as estimating the monthly cost at about
four billion roubles ($148 million), most of it already carried by the 1999
"The war in Chechnya is a cheap war in most aspects," he was quoted as saying
on the RosBusinessConsulting website.
Waller estimated support and logistics costs at about $50 million a month and
the cost of flying an average of 70 to 80 aircraft combat missions at $10
million a month, given low costs for home-produced fuel and no ordnance
Analysts said the Russian armed forces had used only stockpiled ordnance,
most of which was unlikely to be replaced, in the four-month-old offensive.
However, Beaver said the Russians appeared to be expending long-range
ammunition far more rapidly than the military would have liked.
The Chechnya campaign would buttress acting President Vladimir Putin's
declared intention of building up the Russian armed forces in the longer
term, he said.
Beaver said he did not believe Russia would seek to garrison Chechnya in the
longer term. Moscow's strategy was to wipe out the guerrillas, pacify the
breakaway territory and then control it with troops stationed in neighbouring
Ingushetia, Dagestan and southern Russia.
But even if the campaign ends quickly, billions of roubles will have to be
spent next year to restore Chechnya's shattered towns, villages and
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman said last month the cabinet had been
told it would cost seven billion roubles ($219 million at a projected 32
roubles per dollar rate) to restore Chechnya's economy, but "there is no such
money in the budget."
Koshman, the government's main envoy to Chechnya, said that figure did not
include the cost of rebuilding the regional capital, Grozny, which was ruined
in the first Chechen War in 1994-96 and has been further damaged in the
Russia: Trade Unions Face Skeptical Public
By Tuck Wesolowsky
While Russia faces daunting economic problems, many Russians don't see trade
unions as part of the solution. RFE/RL correspondent Tuck Wesolowsky, in
Moscow recently, writes that for union leaders, the task remains to convince
the general public that unions still have an important role to play.
Moscow, 12 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Tanya's face draws a blank when she is
asked her opinion of trade unions. The 20-year-old receptionist at a posh
hotel in Moscow mulls the question a few moments during one of the breaks in
her hectic work.
"Unions? I really haven't given them much thought. But I guess they could do
Volodya, a 47-year-old driver in the Russian capital, is convinced unions
mean just one thing -- paying dues.
As such comments suggest, for many Russians trade unions are a curiosity at
best and an irritant at worst. With membership down, trade unions in Russia
are struggling to regain the faith of the rank and file (ordinary workers). A
1996 poll showed only 7 percent of Russians trusted labor unions.
Much of the Russian public has grown weary and lost hope following 10 years
of mostly unsuccessful economic reforms. Millions of people go without pay
for months on end. Millions more are unemployed. Just how many is unclear
because tens of thousands have been ordered to take unpaid administrative
leave, swelling the ranks of the "hidden unemployed." Others work part-time
at crumbling industries.
Many Russians interviewed on the streets of Moscow say they feel a sense of
utter hopelessness, and few put any faith in organizations, such as unions,
that promise to make things better.
That sense of hopelessness extends to many union members themselves. Workers
are leaving unions in growing numbers. Russia's Federation of Independent
Trade Unions (FNPR) boasted of representing 60 of the 73 million Russian
workers in 1992. Credible figures put the number now at below 40 million, and
independent studies confirm a decline of some 25 percent.
Russia is not alone in seeing a decline in union membership. Membership
figures are down worldwide as the economy moves away from the industrial
sector -- a traditional union stronghold -- to the service sector.
Some of the biggest declines have taken place in Eastern Europe, where unions
are still tainted by their association to the former Communist regimes.
The number of workers in labor unions in Eastern Europe has fallen by around
36 percent in recent years. A report by the International Labor Organization
(ILO) says much of the decline can be attributed to the fact that union
membership in many countries is no longer seen as practically obligatory.
But even if more employees wanted to join unions, it's not clear that
employers would be keen to allow them.
According to a 1998 report on worldwide labor rights by the Brussels-based
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), employers typically
obstruct unionization, especially in newly created commercial organizations.
In Yekaterinburg, Russia, the 250 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant
voted last June to form a union. But their victory was fleeting. Just months
after creating the union, the same employees withdrew their support. The
workers say they backed down after the multinational soft-drink manufacturer
made it clear they must quit the union or lose their jobs.
The company even barred their elected shop steward from the shop floor,
according to the Moscow bureau of the Geneva-based International Union of
Food and Allied Workers' Association (IUF), with which the Coca-Cola bottlers
The workers complained to the local prosecutor's office, which, following an
investigation, backed their charges that Coca-Cola management had violated
their rights by pressuring them to abandon the union. The case took on
international scope when the IUF's Geneva leadership sent an official
complaint to Coca-Cola. Despite these efforts, the union has not been
Workers are not the only ones being intimidated. Union activists trying to
organize their colleagues routinely face being sacked, demoted, or even
killed, according to the ICFTU report.
Last January, Gennady Borisov, the leader of Moscow's Vnukovo Airlines
Technical and Ground Personnel Union, was found murdered in the entrance to
his apartment. He was the second union leader at Vnukovo to be killed in less
than five years.
To many Russian labor specialists, the country's current labor woes are
rooted in the Soviet past.
Back then, unions, under the all-encompassing All-Union Central Council of
Trade Unions (TVsSPS), formed a "troika" with management and party
apparatchiks to ensure fulfillment of the five-year economic plan. As
American academic Linda Cook of Brown University notes in her book "Labor and
Liberalization: Trade Unions in the New Russia," the major responsibility of
trade unions in Soviet times was to mobilize workers for production, not to
defend their interests against management.
But even in the old days, trade unions had relatively few levers to motivate
workers to produce better or more, according to Frank Hoffer, the ILO workers
activities senior specialist in Moscow. Hoffer says in his paper,
"Traditional Trade Unions During Transition and Economic Reform in Russia,"
that working harder and better rarely meant higher wages, which were tightly
controlled by plan requirements.
On the other hand, poor work performance, with few exceptions, did not result
in an employee's being sacked. And the death of Stalin in 1953 meant plant
managers could no longer threaten workers with exile to the gulag for failing
to fulfill production quotas. Hoffer says that as a result, payment in kind
and paternalism became a plant manager's "carrots" to encourage better labor
The unions' main role was to oversee and dispense the carrots -- valued goods
and services -- to employees at the workplace. Unions determined and paid
pensions, controlled benefits from social insurance funds (for sickness,
disability, maternity, etc.), and established eligibility for state welfare
benefits. Unions dispensed passes to union-managed health facilities,
vacation resorts, and children's summer camps. In 1975, unions oversaw 11,000
Pioneer camps. They also had a hand in managing company-owned housing, child
care, and the distribution of scarce consumer goods and even food. Moreover,
unions looked to management for cooperation, not for conflict. Strikes were
Brown University's Cook says the image of a cozy union-management
relationship lingers till this day.
But, she says, some newly created independent unions (not tied to the main
federation of trade unions) have succeeded in attracting some new members.
Cook notes independents have done well among workers who have demonstrated
solidarity and militancy in the past -- like the coal miners. The
independents have also had some success in industries that employ
well-educated workers or which produce goods that are vitally necessary for
In the end, the unions' fortunes may mirror those of the Russian economy if
and when it rebounds. It is difficult to define and defend workers' rights in
an overstaffed, inefficient and collapsing economy.
Los Angeles Times
January 12, 2000
[for personal use only]
The KGB Rises Again in Russia
Putin's spy past raises fears of return to repression. To some, he typifies
leadership qualities agency instills.
By RICHARD C. PADDOCK, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--Top officials of Russia's secret police, known these days as the
FSB, gathered last month to celebrate the founding of their agency in 1917 by
Communist leader V.I. Lenin.
Vladimir V. Putin, an ex-KGB colonel who had become prime minister only
months earlier, spoke to his compatriots and reported with a smile: "A group
of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has
successfully completed its first mission."
Putin, referring to his own rapid rise within Russia's power structure,
meant to be funny. But less than two weeks later, when he unexpectedly became
the nation's acting president, there were many who didn't take it as a joke.
"The KGB has risen from the ashes and come to power in Russia," said
Sergei I. Grigoryants, a human rights activist arrested twice in the 1970s
and '80s by the KGB and imprisoned for nine years for publishing anti-Soviet
literature. "It is the logical outcome of the process that has been unfolding
for the past decade."
Putin's appointment as acting president upon the resignation Dec. 31 of
President Boris N. Yeltsin symbolizes the resurgence of the secret police
agency long feared for its role in killing millions of people during the
reign of dictator Josef Stalin. Known in that era as the NKVD and renamed the
KGB in 1954, its activities included repressing dissidents, assassinating
enemies and controlling the thoughts of ordinary citizens.
During the Yeltsin era, the KGB was broken up into smaller agencies and
its main department was recast as the FSB, short for Federal Security
Service. Biding its time, the FSB played a more subtle role, gathering
strength and information while infiltrating businesses, government agencies
and other institutions of the changing society. In 1998, Yeltsin named Putin
to head the FSB, then appointed him prime minister in August.
Now, instead of the democratic transfer of power that many had
envisioned would take place this summer, the former FSB chief has stepped
into the vacuum of power in the Kremlin and taken charge of the country. With
the backing of wealthy power brokers who control most of Russia's media, he
is expected to win the presidency in a special election March 26.
Putin, whose popularity stems from his nationalist message and his war
in the separatist republic of Chechnya, embodies the KGB spirit, but he
doesn't publicly embrace Communist ideology. He has promised not to seize the
property of Yeltsin cronies, known as "The Family," who profited immensely
from the corrupt privatization of the 1990s. The Communist Party plans to run
its own candidate, Gennady A. Zyuganov, against him in the March election.
Ex-Colleagues in KGB Gain Key Posts
Since becoming acting president, Putin has moved former KGB colleagues
into top posts in his administration. "Putin's appointment is the culmination
of the KGB's crusade for power," said Konstantin N. Borovoi, an outgoing
independent deputy in the Duma, the lower house of parliament. "This is its
finale. Now the KGB runs the country."
Many Russians wonder what link remains between Putin and the agency
where he spent most of his professional life. Some worry that the country
will return to the repressive methods used to control the public in Soviet
times. Others hail him as a skilled operative whose training and experience
as a KGB agent mark him as the creme de la creme of Russian society.
Putin has said he resigned from the KGB in 1991, about the time he took
a job in the city government of Leningrad, since renamed St. Petersburg. But
some who know the KGB--loyal former officers as well as victims of its
persecution--question whether Putin retired. They suggest that his role was
to infiltrate local government in a city with a budding pro-capitalist
"It is quite possible that he continued to work unofficially for the
service," said retired Col. Igor N. Prelin, a 30-year KGB veteran who now
writes novels. "One can change a job, but it is impossible to change one's
Retired navy Capt. Alexander Nikitin, acquitted Dec. 29 of espionage
charges pursued by the FSB, put it this way: "There are no ex-KGB officers,
just as there are no ex-German shepherds."
Putin joined the KGB in 1975, the year the agency began a campaign to
discredit Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei D. Sakharov before sending the
dissident into exile in Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, about 250 miles east of
Moscow. A year earlier, the KGB had forced author and winner of the 1970
Nobel Prize in literature Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn into exile abroad.
Putin had just received a law degree and, like others recruited by the
KGB, was among the best and the brightest of Soviet society. As an agent, he
received the highest level of training as well as perks reserved for the
Communist elite--housing, food and travel opportunities unavailable to
Putin's activities over the next 15 years remain murky. He was stationed
at least some of the time in East Germany, the front line of confrontation
with the West. Various accounts say he recruited agents, monitored East
German contact with Westerners, oversaw the East German Stasi secret police
and fraternized with West German politicians.
According to Stratfor--an Internet service based in Austin, Texas, that
provides intelligence reports to corporate customers and offers a Web site,
http://www.stratfor.com--Putin's most important mission was to help steal
technology from the West and prevent the Soviet Union from losing the Cold
By the mid-1980s, Soviet leaders knew that they were falling behind the
West. Stratfor and author Yevgenia Albats, in her 1994 book, "KGB: State
Within a State," contend that perestroika--the opening up of society under
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev--was part of a KGB plan to catch up
with Western technology by expanding trade relations. The KGB, preparing for
a new era of business, began shipping Soviet wealth abroad, foreshadowing the
widespread corruption of the Yeltsin years.
By 1986, "KGB operatives began to funnel state and party resources out
of the Soviet Union through KGB residencies in foreign countries, with the
initial intent of cycling this cash back through the new banks and joint
ventures," according to a report on the Stratfor Web site. "Putin's position
with the KGB placed him at the heart of these theft-for-hard-currency
Around 1989, Putin returned to Leningrad, where he had attended
university. According to Stratfor, the evidence strongly suggests that Putin
remained a KGB agent and monitored the city's active pro-capitalist movement
that later would help drive much of Yeltsin's economic program.
Putin rose to become Leningrad's deputy mayor and is often credited with
running the city, earning the nickname "Stasi," after the East German police.
In a 1998 newspaper interview, Putin explained his decision to resign
from the KGB in 1991: "It was the time of confrontation between the Russian
and federal authorities, and I was aware that nobody was interested in me,"
he said. Nevertheless, "I was surprised by the ease with which I was allowed
to leave," he said.
Leonid V. Shebarshin, who was vice chairman of the KGB from 1989 to '91,
said it is entirely possible that the agency had "sanctioned" Putin's
entrance into Leningrad's city government.
"What Putin was doing in his work in the Leningrad administration
naturally was of some interest to the service," he said in an interview. "The
service was interested in having its own man in the administration. This is
quite obvious, although the service had never set out to watch how the reform
movement was developing."
With the breakup of the KGB into smaller organizations after the 1991
collapse of the Soviet Union, its agents burrowed into the new system. Many
took advantage of a new reserve status offered to agents, allowing them to
officially retire while maintaining ties with the organization.
Because of their high level of training, discipline and knowledge, they
were very marketable. Many received top jobs in banks, private enterprises,
government agencies and, in a few cases, organized crime groups. Some could
offer protection from the authorities as well as dirt on rivals culled from
the KGB's vast archives.
"Like cockroaches spreading from a squalid apartment to the rest of the
building, they have eventually gained a firm foothold everywhere," said
Grigoryants, president of the Glasnost human rights foundation. "They meet
their ex-colleagues at every turn: in parliament, in the Kremlin
administration, in the government."
Putin came full circle when Yeltsin appointed him to head the FSB in the
summer of 1998. He purged some agents but did not change the agency's course.
He continued, for example, the FSB's persecution of two environmental
activists, Nikitin and navy Capt. Grigory Pasko, who had been charged with
espionage in separate cases for exposing nuclear pollution by the navy. Both
were subsequently acquitted of treason, though Pasko was convicted on a
Putin also moved to monitor e-mail and other Internet communications by
requiring providers to install equipment linking their computers with FSB
headquarters. Putin said the FSB was not "going to establish control over the
Internet" but wanted to "prevent the potential enemy from freely accessing
classified information." Critics say the technology could allow the FSB to
read, block or alter private communications without the knowledge of the
sender or recipient.
The emergence of a onetime KGB colonel as acting president strikes fear
in the hearts of many, in part because the agency has never renounced its
brutal past. There have been no Nuremberg trials, as were held in postwar
Nazi Germany; no Truth Commission, like the panel that reviewed the sins of
the apartheid era in South Africa. Former KGB agents have not been prosecuted
in Russia for their part in mass deportations, as they have in the
now-independent Baltic nations. Except in unusual instances, KGB archives
housing evidence of the agency's crimes remain closed to outsiders.
Training Is Said to Produce Loyal Agents
There are some, however, who say the choice of Putin is an
acknowledgment of the exemplary kind of person the KGB produced.
The high level of training turned out agents who "have always been the
most reliable, trustworthy and loyal people in the country," said Prelin, the
KGB colonel-turned-novelist. They know how to execute orders quickly and
efficiently and do not need to be told what to do twice, he said.
"The accession of the KGB to power will mean that, finally, some honest
and responsible people will take over the country," Prelin said. "These
people have a sense of responsibility. They are as good as their word. They
will always serve their motherland first."
Borovoi, who lost his Duma seat in Dec. 19 elections, takes a much
darker view. He contends that ideology is irrelevant to Putin and his close
circle of former KGB advisors; they are motivated solely by their desire to
control society in the tradition of Russian czars and Soviet dictators, he
"The final aim of this community is to gain maximum power and
influence," Borovoi said. "They will never get enough. Their ultimate goal is
to separate Russia from the rest of the world with an Iron Curtain and rule
undividedly in every sphere of public life. It is only through the isolation
of Russia that they can gain absolute power."
Russia Media Question Chechen War
12 January 2000
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) - After a string of military setbacks in Chechnya, the Russian
news media are starting to question the handling of the war as casualties
mount and the promises of swift victory look increasingly empty.
Suddenly, newspapers are challenging the military's claims that the war is
going well and are portraying the war as a replay of the botched 1994-96
campaign in Chechnya.
``Triumphal march in Chechnya - stepping on a rake'' read a headline in the
daily Moskovsky Komsomolets. ``Chechnya turns into minefield for Russian
politicians,'' said the daily Segodnya.
``The period of great victories and claims of success is over,'' the daily
Izvestia wrote this week. ``The federal troops suffered a serious defeat,
which immediately brought to light military commanders' errors.''
But while the military is under fire, there is little sign that the blame is
rubbing off on acting President Vladimir Putin, despite warnings that it
could damage his chances in March 26 presidential elections.
When the war started in September, the media mirrored the view of many
Russians that the campaign was justified by Chechen attacks on Dagestan, a
neighboring region, and a string of apartment bombings in Russia.
The media started to question the war after rebels attacked several towns
this week that ostensibly were under Russian control. Russian forces suffered
heavy losses in the 1994-96 Chechen war and some observers say the latest
conflict is sinking into a familiar quagmire that will erode public support.
``Sooner or later, society may decide that the price of the little victorious
war is becoming unacceptable,'' Izvestia columnist Georgy Bovt wrote in a
Despite the military setbacks, opinion polls show Putin's popularity has not
been damaged, even though many people now realize the war is in trouble,
In a nationwide poll by the respected ROMIR polling agency, 55 percent of
respondents said they would vote for Putin. The acting president's closest
rival, Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, had the support of just 13 percent.
The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Putin's popularity does not depend on his handling of the war, as has been
suggested by some analysts, said Natalia Laidinen, a researcher with ROMIR.
Many Russians like Putin because they believe he is a tough leader who can
tackle the country's problems, she said.
``Public opinion doesn't link the military setbacks in Chechnya with Putin,''
Laidinen said. ``People view Putin as an embodiment of their dream of a
strong and tough leader. His charisma of a heroic winner will continue to
make him immune from any talk of defeat.''
The same poll found that 50 percent of respondents said they expect the war
to drag on for a ``very long time,'' while 19 percent expected a quick
``Strong support for Putin will last until the election even if the situation
in Chechnya grows worse,'' Laidinen said.
Some journalists say the media criticism of the war may not last. The
government may appeal to the media to support national interests and the army
will make it tough for critical news organizations to cover the war, they
``At some point, Putin will simply meet with newspapers editors and remind
them about the need to stand up for Russia's interests, and it will be quiet
again,'' Yulia Kalinina, military editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets, said in a
The Russian military, with the help of state-run television, has tried to
control media coverage to sustain public support for the war. Extensive
coverage of the last war helped turn public opinion against it as people saw
horrific scenes on their television screens.
Foreign journalists have mostly been barred from Chechnya, and Russian
journalists generally travel under military supervision. Russian reporters
who have covered the war say the military press service bans journalists who
write even mildly critical stories.
``Reporters entirely depend on the military officials and know far too well
that they would never be allowed to visit troops again if they make a
negative report,'' Kalinina said.
January 11, 2000
Maimed Civilians Pay The Price Of Bloody Chechen War
By Henry Meyer
Deathly silent, her eyes stare out blankly: Liana, aged 5, has gangrene in
one of her legs after a Russian tank blasted her house a week ago, killing
her mother, aunt and two siblings.
This small girl from Chechnya, now lying shaven-headed in a hospital in
Ingushetia, her body crumpled up in pain, escaped with her life.
But she may need to have her leg amputated because she and a relative were
held up for four days by Russian soldiers before being allowed to cross the
border into this neighboring republic in Russia's North Caucasus.
Nearly five months since Moscow launched its latest drive to crush separatist
Chechnya, the toll of civilian casualties continues to mount as Russian
warplanes, artillery and tanks blitz population centers.
"I don't know what happened. One moment I was standing in the street and
suddenly a missile landed and exploded," said Uddi Dikayev, 63, in a dazed
On the 7th of November, a Grad rocket slammed into a street in the
Oktyabrysky district of the capital Grozny where he lives, killing a friend
standing next to him and inflicting terrible wounds on Dikayev.
A deep scar across his skull, his left arm flops helplessly while a bandage
is wound tightly around the stump where one of his feet once used to be.
Usman Akhtayev, 52, lies awkwardly on his front, propped up on his elbows, in
the bleak white-washed surroundings of the same ward in the main hospital of
the Ingush city of Nazran.
He was hit in the back by mortar fire around midday on December 17th in the
same Oktyabrysky district as he smoked a cigarette outside with his wife's
When the bombardment suddenly began, the two men ran back to their
underground shelter but "he got back in time, and I didn't. I crumpled to the
ground, they got me," said Akhtayev with a bitter laugh.
Rushed to a makeshift hospital for treatment, he spent 10 days there with
hard-pressed local doctors in the besieged city unable to operate on him or
dispense any drugs.
"A Russian soldier was in the bed next to me," he recalls. "The Chechen
doctors gave treatment to the Russian prisoners just the same as us."
A few weeks earlier, in the southwestern village of Gekhi, Lioma Umategerev,
47, fell wounded to the ground as aircraft fire rattled from the skies above.
"There were many of us outside. Five of us were wounded, including relatives
of mine," he explained sighing.
As the aerial onslaught raged on, Umategerev waited for two days without
receiving any medical attention before at last making it out to Ingushetia.
"I don't know if I'll ever walk again," he said, a large metal contraption
strapped onto his shattered right leg, laid out on a trolley in a hospital
In a nearby room in the ward, black-haired Shumesha Khaiburova, 50, lay in
comatose condition, her eyes heavily lidded.
"Her mind is gone," explained her son Kiura, who said she had been run over
three weeks ago by a Russian army truck driven by drunken soldiers.
The incident occurred in the same village of Gekhi, by this time in the hands
of the Russians after weeks of punishing bombardment.
As Chechen rebels mount increasing counter-attacks to seize back towns and
villages, civilians who have returned home hoping the nightmare of the last
few months is over have been cruelly disappointed.
Some fighters were reported to have slipped into Martan-Chu, a small village
in the southwest, the night when Liana's 28-year-old mother, her brother 3,
sister 7, and 19-year-old aunt lost their lives.
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