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Johnson's Russia List
15 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Interfax: Poll: Russians assess negatively Yeltsin role.
2. AFP: Eleven Journalists Killed In Russia In 1999.
3. Trud: EVERY THIRD RUSSIAN SAYS: IT'S MY TIME. (Poll on Russians' political views)
4. Reuters: Russia sees increased grain harvest in 2000.
5. Interfax: RUSSIA'S RELIANCE ON NUCLEAR ARMS LOGICAL - EXPERT.
6. St. Petersburg Times: Anna Shcherbakova, Despite Reforms, Much Stays The Same.
7. Moscow Tribune: Stanislav Menshikov, THE ROUBLE SHOULD NOT COLLAPSE. Putin's First Economic Priority.
8. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Roy Mevedev, The New Duma -- New And Old Features.
9. Andrew Miller: Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Putin.]
Poll: Russians assess negatively Yeltsin role
MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax) - As many as 67% of Russians believe that
Boris Yeltsin's stunt as president did Russia more harm than good, 15% are
of the opposite opinion and 18% do not have an answer. The poll was held
among 1,600 adults by the VTsIOM all-Russia polling organization on
January 10, and its results were presented to Interfax on Friday. The
margin of error is 4%. The respondents were offered a list of possible
answers to what good Russia had received from Yeltsin's presidency, and
23% named democracy, political rights and liberties including free
elections, the freedom of speech, worship and going abroad.
In the opinion of 16%, Yeltsin's rule eliminated food shortages and
queues, 13% mentioned the appearance of private property, the
possibility to start a business and achieve wellbeing. A total of 12%
said it was due to him that the energetic and talented had received
space for activity, 10% praised the ousting of the Communists from power,
7% the breaching of Russia's isolation and an improvement in relations
with the West, and as many the collapse of the totalitarian system and an
end to the state's interference with people's private lives.
A hope for Russia's revival was cited by 5%, an increase in the quality
of goods and services by 4% and the elimination of the threat of a new world
war by 3%. Nothing good was said by 46%, and 8% did not give an answer.
Asked about the negative aspects of the Yeltsin era, 40% named the economic
crisis and the production slump, 36% the closure of factories and mass
unemployment, 34% the 19946 war in Chechnya, 34% a deterioration in the
living conditions and purchasing power of most Russians, and 32% inflation
and the devaluation of savings. As many as 31% blamed him for the break-up
of the Soviet Union, 28% the penetration of criminals into the power
structure, as many for the embezzlement of government property, 26% for pay
delays and 19% for the downfall of public education, health and welfare
systems. Lack of political stability and conflicts in the upper echelons
of power are viewed as negative features of Yeltsin's presidency by 16%,
more space for swindlers and embezzlers by 15%, an uncertain future by
15%, Russia's loss of great-power status by 11%, and increased foreign
influence by 7%. Nothing bad was said by 2%, and 4% did not have an answer.
Eleven Journalists Killed In Russia In 1999
MOSCOW, Jan 14, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Eleven journalists were killed
last year in Russia, and independent reporters are increasingly at risk
covering election campaigns, a media watchdog said Thursday.
Three of those killed in 1999 died in Chechnya, said a report from the
Glasnost Defense Foundation. The 1999 death toll was down from 14 killed in
Russia in 1998.
"The figures are relatively stable from one year to the next, but the work of
a journalist is getting more dangerous, especially during election
campaigns," said foundation spokesman Oleg Panfilov.
Fourteen journalists had been attacked in the run-up to legislative elections
on December 19, he added.
"Independent journalists that authorities cannot tame are beaten up," said
January 14, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
EVERY THIRD RUSSIAN SAYS: IT'S MY TIME
By Vitaly GOLOVACHEV
The VTsIOM national public opinion research
institution conducted a regular representative poll on
December 31, 1999 through January 4, 2000.
The results of the poll are summarised, in
percent, and compared with the results of previous
Question: What political system do you think is the best?
1997 1998 2000
Pre-1990s' Soviet system 38 43 45
Today's system 11 5 13
Western-style democracy 28 32 29
Others 8 7 5
Don't know 15 13 8
Question: Which of the following statements would you
Now is my time 17 33
My time is past 38 34
My time is yet to come 21 23
Don't know 24 10
Question: What is democracy as you see it? (The sum of
answers exceeds 100%, because respondents could
give several replies.)
Freedom of speech, the press and conscience 37
The country's economic prosperity 33
Electivity of all top state officials 15
Freedom to do what one likes to 10
Subordination of a minority to the majority 6
Guaranteed rights of minorities 5
Strict legality 29
Order and stability 28
A lot of 'hot air' 10
Don't know 8
The results of the latest polls are indicative of a deep
ideological rift in society. The bad mistakes of the eight reform
years that have led to scaled and persistent poverty are the
reason why the number of the disillusioned, who see the former
'Soviet' system better than today's against, the background of
their misfortunes, has grown.
At the same time, one cannot fail to note that the number of
those who like today's system has grown 150% in the past two
years. This steep rise is explained, in particular, by the fact
that more and more people get adapted and find the means of
firmly standing on their two feet even in the current complicated
Positive visions of today's system were expressed by 13% of
the polled. As many as 29% of respondents believe that the
'Western-style democracy' is the best. In all, 42% of Russians
favour democratic transformations. This is a lot for a bad
crisis. Now if and when positive trends become more visible in
the economy and the social sphere, their number would naturally
Table 2 is no less graphic. The number of Russians who say:
"Now is my time!" has nearly doubled in a year. Every third
respondent gave this answer ten days ago. A quarter of the polled
believe their time is yet to come, and 34% fear that their time
is past. It seems that the majority of the latter are pensioners.
Last but not least, it is important that many Russians
understand democracy as freedom of speech, the press and
conscience; as the country's economic prosperity; as legality,
order and stability... and only 6%-10% hold that democracy is
anarchy and a lot of 'hot air'.
Russia sees increased grain harvest in 2000
By Douglas Busvine
BERLIN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Russian First Deputy Agriculture Minister Anatoly
Mikhalyov said on Friday he expected the Russian grain harvest to rise this
year to between 60 and 65 million tonnes from last year's 54.7 million.
Mikhalyov, speaking to Reuters at a farm fair in Berlin, said the area sown
to grain would be unchanged on last year.
"We do not plan to increase the planted area but rather make better use of
the land available," he said in an interview.
Leading Russian agricultural analyst Andrei Sizov said in Moscow that the
forecast seemed reasonable.
"The estimate is very early, of course, but it's an absolutely reasonable
figure," he said.
Russia has had exceptionally poor harvests in the last two years, collecting
just 47.8 million tonnes in 1998, the lowest in over 40 years. This followed
a healthy 88.5 million tonnes in 1997.
"Statistically in Russia two bad years are followed by one good year," Sizov
"For example 1995 and 1996 were poor, but 1997 saw a good harvest. 1998 and
1999 were bad, so 2000 may be a good year."
There were other reasons for optimism that the cash-strapped farm sector
would enjoy better fortunes this year, he said.
Winter grains were in a far better state now than at this time a year ago,
with snow cover across European Russia and a lack of extreme cold so far this
winter providing ideal growing conditions.
Sizov added that on January 27, Acting President Vladimir Putin would host a
meeting to discuss ways of improving conditions in the farming sector.
He is expected to discuss writing off debts, compensating farmers for 30
percent of the cost of seeds, and extending a measure to compensate farmers
for 40 percent of the cost of fertiliser, pesticides and other inputs.
Mikhalyov confirmed that this rebate on inputs, in force for the past two
years, would remain in place this year.
He also told a news conference earlier that Russia would attain
self-sufficiency in grain for human consumption this year but would seek to
import feed grain from both the European Union and the United States.
Asked whether Russia would require further Western food aid, Mikhalyov was
dismissive of the quality of earlier assistance: "What do we need
dioxin-tainted beef for?" he said.
Despite optimism that this year's harvest will improve, official forecasts
have proved woefully wrong in the past.
This time last year the ministry said Russia would collect at least 70
million tonnes, but a catalogue of misfortunes including drought, locust
attacks and, above all, a lack of cash for fuel and inputs, saw this slide
inexorably as the year wore on.
(Additional reporting by Sebastian Alison in Moscow)
RUSSIA'S RELIANCE ON NUCLEAR ARMS LOGICAL - EXPERT
MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax) - Deputy Director of the Russian
Strategic Analysis Center Konstantin Makiyenko considers it quite
logical that Russia allow itself to use nuclear weapons, even in
response to a non-nuclear attack.
"Today, probably for the first time since the 18th century, Russia
is surrounded along the entire perimeter of its border by countries that
are developing ever more dynamically, in the military sphere as well,"
Makiyenko said in a Friday interview with Interfax on the new version of
the national security concept.
"For the first time since the 18th century, China has military
superiority over Russia, to say nothing of the West," Makiyenko said.
"Very few people in Russia have realized that even Turkey today has
in fact a military potential comparable and probably even superior to
Russia's," he said.
"So, nuclear arms are really our last resort on the whole," he
said, and the "general purpose troops in Russia are in a rather poor
"Evidently, out of the 1.2 million people that are nominally in the
armed forces only 70-80 thousand are combat-ready. Such a grouping is
insufficient even to effectively oppose the separatist rebellion in
Chechnya," Makiyenko said.
Russia's reliance on nuclear arms in guaranteeing its defense is
therefore quite natural and logical.
He said he disagrees with Western media reports claiming the new
concept's provisions are a sign of a return to Cold War times.
"The Russian people, and I think the Russian political elite as
well, are simply psychologically unprepared for confrontation with the
West," he said, adding that Russia had completely depleted its reserves
of confrontation in the 20th century.
In reality, "Western countries do not regard Russia as an equal
partner," Makiyenko said.
"This became especially evident during the events in Kosovo," he
After the NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia, "it is not possible to
speak of any partnership" between Russia and the West, he opined.
"Who can now guarantee that in 20 years Russia will not find itself
in the same position as Yugoslavia [was]?" he said.
"Twenty years ago, in 1979, nobody would have probably believed it
if told that NATO air forces would be bombing Yugoslavia. Why shouldn't
we be thinking now of what will happen to us in 20 years? So it is not
Russia that is refusing partnership with the West, but the West itself,"
St. Petersburg Times
January 14, 2000
Despite Reforms, Much Stays The Same
By Anna Shcherbakova
THERE are optimists who say that market reforms in Russia have brought only
positive changes to the entire economy and to the life of each and every
person. To justify this argument for the liberalization of the economy,
they point out that shops, for the first time ever, are full to bursting
Recently I discovered the depth to which I also agreed with these extremely
liberal views, something which took me by surprise one day. It hit me on
the last day of 1999, when I was standing in line waiting to pay my mobile
telephone bill at the only local cash office open during the holiday
season. All the others were closed for vacations, so this one was flooded
with handling customers from all over the city.
During my wait, I tried to remember how long it had been since I had not
had to stand in line to purchase something and I could not think of one
recent instance. Although 10 years have passed since the old Communist days
when people mobbed food stores, awaiting the arrival of milk or sausages,
some things have still not changed even with the advent of a new economy. I
remember one evening in particular in the dark winter of 1991, when I had
to keep going back and forth between two lines in a bakery and dairy store.
There was no hunger in St. Petersburg at that time, it was just that
shopping was a very time-consuming practice.
And this didn't just pertain to comestibles, it extended to other goods as
well, such as new stylish Italian or Austrian leather boots, which if my
memory serves me right were only available at Gostiny Dvor department store
on Mondays and Thursdays.
Now this scarcity of goods remains only a distant memory, today's teenagers
can't even imagine or relate to there being a dearth of Nabokov's books or
chewing gum in the city. I hope I don't sound like a pensioner with these
10-year-old recollections - a time that I am sure will not return under any
I was reminded about scarcity, known in Russian as defitsit, when I failed
to find a new calendar to fit into my reliable old organizer in any of the
city stores. It was early 1999, and I had suffered all year long without a
proper calendar and had promised myself that this year would be different.
This year, I started my search earlier and found an excellent
Russian-language one that fitted perfectly into my German-made organizer. I
couldn't help but be pleased with my purchase and the fact that a local
Russian company had been able to fill this market niche.
However, nothing is really ever new. For various reasons, I found myself
looking through our family archive, where I found an old leather-bound
notebook with the faint outline of the number 1900 on its cover. It
probably belonged to my great grandfather, who was a merchant in St.
Petersburg, since it was filled with a calendar - similar to the one I had
been looking for - and financial data such as a ruble exchange rate of 1.3
to the U.S. dollar and loan interest of three to six percent a year. At
times like these, I find myself wishing to be back in the past despite my
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000
From: Stanislav Menshikov <SMenchikov@compuserve.com>
Subject: THE ROUBLE SHOULD NOT COLLAPSE
Following is my new column printed in "Moscow Tribune" of today, January
THE ROUBLE SHOULD NOT COLLAPSE
Putin's First Economic Priority
Whatever Vladimir Putin's long-term economic strategy might be, his
immediate priorities are more important. They are quite simple: in the few
weeks remaining before presidential elections he needs prices to remain
relatively stable and production to keep from falling. To put it shortly,
he wants to safeguard against a sudden crisis that would be a bad omen for
the new presidency
It is therefore not surprising that the first economic official Mr. Putin
saw after setting office in the Kremlin was Viktor Geraschenko, chairman of
Russia's Central Bank. The Bank, more directly than any other federal
agency, determines the current rate of inflation. Emerging from the
meeting, the veteran banker bluntly stated that the rouble would remain
stable. This is not an easy task to accomplish.
The rouble-dollar exchange rate is a crucial variable in the current
economic mechanism. It directly affects domestic prices of imported goods
and indirectly, the overall rate of inflation. In the last three months of
1999, according to our calculations, the fall in the rouble against the
dollar accounted for half of the rise in the consumer price index (CPI).
The Central Bank has been following a restrictive monetary policy and
limiting increases in money supply to the needs of growing sales of goods
and services. But the Bank was less successful in restraining external
devaluation of the rouble which fell nearly twice as fast as the rise in
the CPI. If this trend continues, and if the rouble comes under further
speculative attack, chances are that relative price stability will be
destroyed. The ensuing fall in real incomes would be blamed on the acting
president, "his" Chechen war, etc.
Apart from destabilising domestic factors of a seasonal nature there are
also strong longer-term external pressures on the rouble that are coming
from two principal sources. First, the IMF has refused to provide the
second tranche of its promised new stand-by credit. In 1999, Russia
received only $640 million from the Fund while paying back $4.4 billion on
its debts, or nearly seven times as much. All told, Russia's foreign debt
service last year totalled $10 billion, and nearly half of it went to the
Fund. For all practical purposes, it is not the IMF that is helping Russia,
but vice versa - Russia is subsidising the Fund. Whatever the motivations,
the Fund is adding to Russia's inflationary pressures.
The second major source of rouble instability is the continuing capital
flight. Estimated at $15-20 billion per annum, it now amounts to anywhere
between 10 and 14 per cent of the country's GDP. This leakage eats up close
to half of the large export surplus that Russia earned last year due to
high world oil prices. The Bank has trouble keeping official currency
reserves above the critically low level of $11 billion. It is a miracle
that it has prevented the rouble from falling even further.
Mr. Geraschenko has promised to keep his balance on the high rope he is
treading. To succeed, the Bank and the government are planning to impose
stricter currency controls and introduce a 100 per cent conversion rule for
all hard currency earned from exports. It is a risky path. While there is
probably no alternative, such measures could lead to more, not less de
facto devaluation. In the past, currency controls have not been too
effective for many reasons. Capital flight can be drastically reduced only
when conditions for investment inside Russia change to the better, i.e.
when there is a clear perspective for stable macroeconomic growth. Right
now banks are awash with extra money but are not investing in the domestic
economy even though output is rising. To change this adverse psychological
climate needs more time than three months to happen.
The other side of the medal is that Mr. Geraschenko cannot keep the rouble
stable without harming the competitive power of Russian-made goods. In the
last half year, domestic producer prices have been rising much faster than
the CPI and twice as fast as the rouble-dollar exchange rate. The big 30
per cent margin in competitive prices that Russian goods enjoyed in the
middle of 1999, has now been reduced. by more than a half. If this trend
continues it could put an end to growth in the industrial sector.
But if Mr. Geraschenko manages a further slow devaluation of the rouble, he
might be able to delay this depressive effect while keeping consumer prices
from exploding too soon. The rule of the thumb (based on careful
calculations) is that for every one rouble rise in the dollar exchange rate
there will be a one per cent additional rise in consumer prices. But the
good news is that there would also be a twofold slowdown in the loss of
competitive power and that this would help prolong current growth in
output. It is the only reasonable course to take before more serious
reforms are introduced. The old fox surely knows the old tricks, and it is
high time for the young boss to learn them, too.
Roy Medvedev Views New Duma, Presidential Elections
10 January 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Roy Mevedev: "The New Duma -- New And Old Features"
The results of the elections for the third session of the State Duma
were one of the motives mentioned by Boris Yeltsin to explain his
premature and voluntary departure from the post of president of the
Russian Federation. The new Duma begins its work in Moscow in a few days,
and there is a strong basis to presume that this Duma will substantially
differ from the former one in many regards. The election of deputies to
the third State Duma presented the composers of sociological predictions
with many surprises. As a whole they testify to growing political
experience, common sense, and the absence of serious radical inclinations
among Russia's population. But they also testify to the growing influence
of executive authorities on the political situation in the country, and
also to the considerable possibilities of modern electoral technologies.
What did the second Duma constitute? It had a large left wing in the
form of the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] faction and
the factions and groups allied with it. This Duma had a numerically
large, but fractious, often discordant right wing composed of the Russia
is Our Home [NDR], Yabloko, and LDPR [liberal democrat] factions; here
the government had firm support only from the first of these factions.
But the Duma had no center of influence. Only part of the deputies from
the Russian Regions group tried -- and not very successfully -- to play
the role of a political center. On the other hand, the Duma had a not
very large, but noisy group of leftist radicals which was opposed by an
equally noisy group of rightist radicals. In 1995, only four parties
representing 50.5 percent of the voters overcame the 5-percent barrier.
Not one government, except Ye. Primakov's cabinet, had political support
in the Duma. The relationship of President Yeltsin and his administration
with the Duma was characterized by open opposition, which at times turned
The 19 December elections substantially changed the former disposition
of forces in the Duma. Now six political associations representing 80
percent of the voters have already overcome the 5-percent barrier. The
large KPRF faction has been preserved in the new Duma, but on the whole
the left wing has been weakened here, since many of the KPRF's allies,
both moderates and radicals, did not make it into the Duma. The most
radical among the communists will be Yegor Ligachev, who as the most
senior should lead the State Duma's first sitting. There will be a
significant right wing in it, in which the former party of power -- the
NDR -- having suffered a defeat, will be replaced by the new party of
power, the Unity bloc, which everyone today calls Premier Vladimir
Putin's party. The Union of Right Forces has come to the Duma, headed by
ex-Premier Sergey Kiriyenko. To the right should be added Grigoriy
Yavlinskiy's Yabloko and Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's liberal-democrats, who
overcame the passage barrier only with difficulty, having suffered great
Neither the left nor right parts of the Duma have a blocking package
of mandates nor will they be able to force through decisions as they
wish. Under such conditions, the influential center which has appeared in
the Duma represented by the Fatherland-All Russia bloc will have great
significance. Several well-known and experienced political figures headed
by Yevgeniy Primakov have turned up in this bloc. Among the other
remarkable results of the Duma elections, one should note the heavy
defeat of Victor Chernomyrdin's party, which received only 1.2 percent of
the votes. Although the ex-premier was elected to the Duma himself with a
mandate from Yamal-Nenets Okrug, where he at one time built natural-gas
sector enterprises, for Chernomyrdin the deputy mandate will most likely
be an honorable substitute for a retirement certificate. Such figures
have come to the State Duma as the well-known oligarch Boris Berezovskiy
and the lesser known oligarch Roman Abramovich. But these people will
hardly bring patient legislative work to the Duma. The success of
Abramovich in Chukotka and Berezovskiy in Karachayevo-Cherkesia for now
serves to a great extent as an occasion for ridicule rather than as an
argument for their matured political influence.
It is presumed that the new Duma will be more stable, more
predictable, and more authoritative that the previous, but the final
disposition of forces will be determined only after the elections for the
speaker and Duma committee heads. If we view the elections to the Duma as
"primaries," that is, as a trial run before the presidential
elections, then it would be better for Yavlinskiy and Zhirinovskiy to
follow the example of Aleksandr Lebed and temporarily step aside, thus
not uselessly expending their strength and other people's money. It is
fairly obvious that in the spring of 2000, we will have only three strong
candidates -- V. Putin, Ye. Primakov, and G. Zyuganov. Although Putin's
chances look the most favorable for today, a possible agreement between
Zyuganov and Primakov after the first round or earlier will balance the
odds between the premier and ex-premier. Not only the Chechnya war
factor might turn out to be substantial, but the influence of the West as
well. Whatever the outcome of the elections, it is almost unquestionable
that for the next several years Putin and Primakov will remain Russia's
most influential political figures.
The "Putin phenomenon" as well as the "Primakov
phenomenon" do not seem to me to be particularly mysterious. The
countless number of pretenders for political roles who have flashed
before us in recent years have not understood that serious politics is
not only a profession, but an art. Therefore, for success in big
politics, a combination of good, professional training and political
ambition with considerable intellectual ability, experience and the
talents of a natural leader are essential. The combination of these
qualities, although in various proportions, were demonstrated in 1999
only by Putin, Primakov, and partially by Yuriy Luzhkov. Among the
majority of other pretenders, ambition predominates.
We should examine individual episodes in the elections for the Duma in
Changes in the Left Wing
The 19 December elections cannot be evaluated as a victory or as a
defeat for the KPRF. But one cannot say that "the left flank is
without changes." The communists took first place in the elections,
having received 24.3 percent of the votes, which is 2 percent more than
they had in 1995. However, their total representation in the Duma was
decreased by approximately 20 percent, since six blocs rather than four
made it into the Duma. The communists were able to mobilize all the
political, ideological, material, and administrative resources accessible
to them, and many of them were counting on great success. But one must
note that in the fall not one political association outside of the KPRF
conducted active polemics against the communists, supposing, apparently,
that the electorate of this party already had a strong immunity against
anti-communist propaganda. Thus, as was expected, the radicals from
communist and pro-communist groups lost the elections -- the Stalin bloc,
Communists for the Soviet Union, and the movement "In Support of the
Army" received all together only 3.5 percent of the votes.
"Revisionists" from the Spiritual Legacy failed, having
received only 0.1 percent of the votes. As a whole the KPRF confirmed its
status as the main political party on the left flank. But at the same
time, we see a slow movement within the KPRF itself toward more moderate
parliamentary methods of struggle, although this process could take more
than another year.
The election bloc Fatherland-All Russia [OVR] was the favorite of the
prognosticators from the end of August through the beginning of October,
and they foresaw for it one third of all votes and Duma mandates. These
predictions aroused strong fears within the Kremlin and forced the
administration to mobilize all of its, it seemed, still very strong
capabilities against the Primakov-Luzhkov-Yakovlev coalition. The massive
information war unleashed against the OVR on two all-Russian television
channels and in many newspapers undoubtedly weakened support by OVR
voters, although it did not impede the complete and undisputed victory of
Yuriy Luzhkov in the Moscow mayoral elections. Ultimately, the OVR had
considerable information resources and tried to use them maximally. OVR
leaders took a very careful and not very consistent position on the war
in Chechnya, speaking out against the massive military operations
undertaken by the government with the goal of complete and unconditional
control over all Chechnya territory. In the opinion of the OVR, a firm,
sanitary cordon around Chechnya or, in the extreme, along the north bank
of the Terek River, was essential and would have been sufficient. But
this position substantially departed not only from the position of the
government and military leadership, but from the predominant part of
public opinion, which supported the more decisive actions. Therefore, the
growing popularity of Premier Putin, who took on himself the
responsibility for the military operation in Chechnya, and mainly, for
the effective conduct of this operation, worked against the OVR.
Nevertheless, the final sum of 13.3 percent cannot be counted as a defeat
of a political association, which only appeared in August 1999 and which
was not represented at all in the previous Duma.
The second place and 23.3 percent of the votes for Unity was the main
sensation in the 19 December elections. In October, only 10 percent of
the votes were predicted for this bloc, and by the beginning of December
these estimates were raised to 15 percent, which already would have been
a great success for a party which was unable to present a clear program
to the public, which did not have a structure, only appeared toward end
of September in Russia's political space as if out of nowhere, and which
was densely packed with other political formations. Yes, of course,
Unity's three leaders are well-known and popular in Russia, and only not
as political figures. Sergey Shoygu has proved himself splendidly in the
difficult business of eliminating the consequences of natural disasters
and emergency situations. The legend of Russian sport, the knight and
many-times champion of peace, Alexander Karelin did not know defeat on
the wrestling mat. Militia Maj-Gen Aleksandr Gurov has been long known as
an irreconcilable opponent of the mafia. But what kind of a party do they
have? What kind of people are on the list below these three? The voters
simply did not know.
Unity's success ensured the phenomenal growth in the popularity of
Premier Putin, who openly stated that he would vote for Sergey Shoygu's
bloc. In turn, Putin's popularity was connected with the Chechnya factor.
The successful military operation in Chechnya was connected in the minds
of the country's population with Putin's name.
In 1995 the Russian voter was ready to vote for those politicians who
promised to stop the unpopular and unsuccessful war.
In 1999 the same voter was ready to vote for those politicians who
promised to bring the war in Chechnya to a victorious conclusion and who
energetically conducted their business toward that goal.
"The Old Right"
Everyone notes how successful the Union of Right Forces [SPS] was with
8.5 percent of the votes. Back in September and October, predictions
promised this bloc only 4 percent, and even in November they were saying
5 percent. SPS leaders constantly experienced fear of defeat, and it was
that fear that motivated them to throw aside their earlier excuses and
loudly declare their full support for the military operation in Chechnya,
for the restoration of the Russian army, and their admiration for the
firm policy of V. Putin and the government. In this regard, Grigoriy
Yavlinskiy was actively attacked with his supposedly pro-Western and even
traitorous position on the war in Chechnya. A. Chubays led this public
attack brilliantly. It was largely this that gave to the SPS in December
a saving 2-3 percent of voter sympathies. One can also discuss the
personal success of Sergey Kiriyenko whom few blame directly for the
financial crisis of 17 August 1998. If Yegor Gaydar remained at the head
of the bloc of rightists, as he did in 1993 and 1995, the election
results for the SPS would have been different. Boris Nemtsov and Irina
Khakamada made only a not very large contribution to the SPS victory. In
fact, Anatoliy Chubays, who took on himself a significant number of
television debates, became number two on the SPS list.
In the 1995 elections Yabloko received a little less than 7 percent of
the votes, which did not meet the ambitions of Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, who
now counted on substantially increasing his representation in the Duma.
This goal was not achieved, although ex-Premier Sergey Stepashin was
"attached" to Yabloko's list as number two. On 19 December only
5.9 percent of the voters voted for Yabloko. This, it goes without
saying, is a defeat. And it has cost Yavlinskiy great effort to conceal
his disappointment. There are several reasons for Yabloko's failure.
These include appeals to stop the military operations in Chechnya for a
month, Yavlinskiy's excessive political ambitions along with a complete
shirking from any specific work or responsibility, his disparaging
critical attitude toward Premier Putin, and, frankly, his not always
correct patronage from the part of the media-holding oligarch, V.
Gusinskiy. But it will be very difficult for Yavlinskiy to change his
image and style, although the price will be the gradual dissolution of
Support of Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's LDPR was reduced by the voters to
one-fourth compared with 1993 and to one half compared with 1995. This
decline by the right-wing radical and political scandalmonger, whom
everyone is fed up with, in my opinion, is not only natural, but
irreversible. The preponderant majority of Russian voters place no hopes
on Zhirinovskiy and his party.
On The Roadside
The 19 December 1999 elections threw so many well-known people off the
road of political life that we cannot even mention them all here. Such
first- and second-wave democrats as Anatoliy Sobchak, Gennadiy Burbulis,
Vladimir Shumeyko, Andrey Kozyrev, Sergey Shakhray, Yuriy Boldyrev,
Konstantin Borovoy, Stepan Sulakshin, Telman Gdlyan, and others will not
be joining the new Duma. Candidates from the former Duma such as Pavel
Bunich, Aleksandr Nevzorov, Sergey Baburin, Vladimir Semago, and others
lost their elections. The voters refused to support the political
pretensions of Aleksey Podberezkin and Fedor Burlatskiy. In last place on
the list with 0.1 percent of the vote was the socialist party of Ivan
Rybkin and Vladimir Bryntsalov, and also anonymous
"social-democrats." The political activity of Gen Andrey
Nikolayev and Academician Svyatoslav Fedorov, who, having headed a bloc
of seven political parties and giving it their own names, ended with
failure. This bloc, the Andrey Nikolayev-Svyatoslav Fedorov bloc received
only 0.6 percent of the vote. Neither the Russian Party for the Defense
of Women, nor the Women of Russia Party headed by Alevtina Fedulova, nor
the Party of Peace and Unity headed by Sazha Umalatova, nor the
association For Civil Virtue headed by Ella Pamfilova will be joining the
Duma. Success did not accompany such poorly understood associations as
Russian Cause, the Russian Conservative Movement, Party of the People,
Peace-Labor-May, and others. The voters did not even support such
well-known radical leaders as Viktor Anpilov and Viktor Tyulkin. This
list could be continued. One could regret the failure of some of the
above-mentioned candidates, and the reasons for their failures are
numerous. But there is, however, a general reason -- the Russian
Federation political scene has ceased to be a comfortable place for
The State Duma And State Power In Russia
The lessons from the recent Duma elections are numerous, but I would
like to single out only one. In the days and months of the election
campaign we could be convinced how the bureaucracy, which was the
conductor of administrative pressure on the country's citizens, continues
to remain such a great force in Russia. All observers recognized the
significance of this pressure, although they also note that this pressure
did not always go in one direction. Political parties and their leaders
which were struggling for mandates in the Duma and who would then conduct
polemics in the Duma itself possess a considerable part of the influence
and power in Russia. But this is not the biggest piece of the pie of
The oligarchs, business elite, and the "new" Russians have
undisputed political influence in the country. But the Russian
bourgeoisie has not yet developed as a class, various groups in it battle
with one another, and its overall influence on state power is not
Who rules Russia today? To a large extent, the bureaucracy, whose
numbers and influence have increased over the last eight years, continues
to rule the country. The Russian Federation president is not the
"lone tsar in the Kremlin" as several commentators assert.
Although the President as a public political figure relies on specific
political movements and parties, which supported him in the elections, in
recent years his strongest pillar has become the army of officials --
from the highest to the lowest. Thus, the obedience and loyalty of the
Russian bureaucracy gives much great power in the country to the Russian
President. With our Russian attitude toward laws, the Constitution would
not be enough here.
I am not speaking negatively nor in praise of the bureaucracy, but
simply stating a fact. Yes, of course, officials did not and do not
determine the general political direction of the nation. Bureaucrats did
not point out the course along which the enormous ship of our great state
has been moving in the last ten years. But it is the actions of these
officials which keep the ship afloat, which the politicians and
businessmen, oligarchs and media magnates, and also various types of
ambitious adventurists could have long ago sent to the bottom. For it is
the bureaucracy which creates that inertial mass which does not allow the
captain of the ship to turn it too sharply to the left or right or run it
at an excessively high or dangerous speed. Of course, the Russian
official is most often limited and mercenary, but then we have no basis
for which to be proud of Russian politicians and oligarchs.
In the countries of Western democracy, the army of officials is also
great and influential, but its actions are successfully controlled by the
ruling classes and political elite. In the Soviet Union the work of the
bureaucracy was controlled by the party-state top or the nomenklatura.
But in the new Russia a new ruling elite or commanding class has not yet
developed, and therefore after the collapse of the CPSU, it was the
bureaucracy which became the dominating force in the country at the time.
The upper circles of this bureaucracy are not particularly good and, of
course, not unselfish, but neither do they defend both their own and
state interests so badly. A contemporary society and state cannot exist
without an army of qualified and disciplined officials. But this army in
turn needs clear, firm, and qualified political leadership, which we all
face creating in the new Russia.
The Russian Federation Central Election Commission [TsIK] on 6 January
approved the plan for preparing the presidential elections. In
particular, registration of documents of candidates for the post of
President of Russia will be conducted in the TsIK from 18 January through
At that time the political associations will name their candidates for
the post of head of state. The political council of the All Russia
movement has expressed its support for the candidacy of Vladimir Putin
for the post of Russian Federation President. A congress of the
Fatherland movement will name its candidate in the first days of
Gennadiy Zyuganov was brought forward as the candidate for president
at a session of the initiative group of the Peoples Patriotic Forces. A
congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia named its candidate --
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovksiy. Yabloko leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy
announced his intentions to participate in the presidential elections.
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000
From: "andrew miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Putin
Topic: Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Putin
Title: That Was Then, This is Now
One of the most interesting facts about pro-market, pro-democracy Russia
today is that it has three major TV networks, ORT, RTR and NTV, and that
two (ORT and RTR) are still owned/controlled by the Kremlin. But what is
most fascinating of all is that, according to a survey by the European
Institute for Media in Moscow (see The Moscow Times, December 29, 1999),
every single one of the top 50 programs in Russia are broadcast by either
ORT or RTR (that is, not one by NTV, the so-called private alternative).
Vladimir V. Putin now controls those stations. Who is he?
Just now, many in the West are saying that Vladimir Putin is a good guy,
that we can deal with him, that the fact he's a former KGB agent doesn't
matter because he didn't really do spy stuff and besides, the agency's
been reformed, hasn't it? After all, it's not like he's allowing the KGB
to make wiretaps of all Russian e-mail and Internet sites pay giant
licensing fees under a secret regulation like SORM, now is it? Besides, at
least the Communists aren t gaining ground (actually they are, but they re
losing seats in the Duma because of Putin).
That is now. What will be then?
For example, this is now:
William Safire had an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times a
short while ago, all about the evils of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
For fear of receiving fire from Safire I won't reprint the entire column
(though maybe it has already appeared on the JRL), but here is the
"Two New York Times columnists acted as moderators at a session of Russian
and Western investors in Davos a couple of years ago. When Tom Friedman
asked George Soros what was holding up investment in Russia, the
billionaire trader pointed to Boris Berezovsky across the table and said:
'Him. He's a crook.'
Amid the gasps, I stuck a microphone in front of the amused Russian
oligarch, long whispered to be the money man behind Boris Yeltsin's corrupt
"family," and asked: "Are you going to let him get away with that?"
Berezovsky shurgged and smiled. He was not about to rise to the bait."
The column goes on to detail the Berezovsky-Chechnya-Elections nexus, and
ends with this:
Do you wonder why well-connected Boris Berezovsky is smiling as Chechens
die at holiday time? Much business remains to be done."
Well, well, well. Sounds like a nasty business, and few are they, and
reckless, who would argue with Safire.
But then there was the CNN broadcast, just about the same time (or perhaps
a bit earlier) as the insightful pronouncements of Savros, called "The Wild
Wild East," a full-hour "special presentation" on Russia, the relevant part
of which went something (exactly) like this:
Standing in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, CNN
reporter Eileen O'Connor introduced the program. After the first
commercial break, before which the titanic burgeoning struggle between
organized crime forces and the law was outlined, the program continued this
way (I'm quoting word for word):
"Meet Boris Berezovsky, one of the so-called 'good guys' in the battle.
[That would be the battle against crime in Russian business; a
mild-mannered Mr. B. is shown answering (own) his phone in a most
professional and businesslike manner] Six years ago he signed deals with
the biggest state auto manufacturer and the best western companies. He
emerged as the largest car dealer in Russia. [Cut to a cool LOGOVAZ ad]
His success drew the attention of Moscow's criminal elite. 'Use this
bank,' they urged, 'or that security firm.' Berezovsky didn't bite.
[Cut to Berzovsky, speaking English, over the banner id "Boris Berezovksy,
President LOGOVAZ"] "From the very beginning, uh, we were very strong, and
they afraided to do direct influension [sic] to our business."
[Cut to Berezovky in his limo; Eileen on voice over] In time, Berezovsky
became one of Russia's richest men, involved also in real estate, banking
and advertising. But as his legitimate businesses flourished, so did
those of Russia's criminal groups.
[Back to Boris] "Step by step, they became more and more strong. Today
they are stronger than we, we who did a legal business!"
[Back to Eileen, over a nice shot of B.B.'s gleaming dealership on the
main drag in Moscow] By legal means, Boris Berezovsky had extended his
empire until it had encroached on other, illegal, ones. On July 10, 1994,
at 5:07 pm, the enemy struck . . . without warning!
Berezovsky was just pulling away from his office when his Mercedez [fill
with reinactment] passed a car parked at the curb. The bomb inside
exploded! Berezovsky was the target, a name to be added to a long list of
murdered Russian businessmen. His driver? Decapitated. His bodyguard?
Seriously injured. Berezovksy suffered cuts and burns, and spent months in
hiding, considering what had gone wrong.
[Back to Borya] "I realized that there was, were, reason why it happened
so, because it's the simplest way today, in Russia, to stop competition."
[More voice over, the invalid is ambling spryly now it seems, despite the
odds stacked against him] Despite a huge reward, there is still no
information on Berezovsky's would-be assassins. Now he, like other rich
businessmen, has a security force. They say the police are too weak to
"For simple businessman, it's absolutely unnormal that you had to have a
bodyguard, and it's ridiculous."
Cut to 1999.
On December 16, the Russian weekly New Gazette (Novaya Gazetta) published
the transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Berezovsky and ORT news
anchor Sergei Dorenko (the Russian Ted Koppel, if Koppel were paid by Al
Gore, had a show in prime time and every one was about that rat bastard
George W. Bush ) in which the two plot how to use Dorenko s program to link
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov with the murder of an American businessman (Paul
Tatum) in Moscow four years ago (the purpose being to deflate Luzhkov s OVR
party in favor of pro-Kremlin, and pro-Berezovsky Edinstvo, which was
achieved when Edinstvo took 76 seats to OVRs 62, though Luzhkov was
reelected in a landslide). Whether or not, of course, Luzhkov actually did
anything like that.
A week later, on December 22, Berezovsky publicly admitted (you might say
bragged), in a press conference he called, that the tape was real and
called Dorenko the best journalist in Russ at this time.
Boris Berezovsky. Good guy? Bad guy?
* * *
Cut to 2000.
Last weekend during the course of a sit-down interview with ORT, Putin was
asked what he d done with his New Year s eve. Putin said he d spent it in
Chechnya, visiting the troops. Alone? came the question. No, he replied,
his wife had accompanied him.
Ona uvyazalas menya, he said exactly. On national TV in prime time.
The use of the verb uvyazatsya is telling, according to the Russian lady I
was watching with after she hauled her jaw up off the floor. Perhaps we
could translate Putin s reply something like this (I m open to better
options from experts): Yeah, the old bat dogs my footsteps. I just can t
shake the annoying old hag. She never lets me out of her sight. ) A
knowing wink, I believe, was exchanged between interviewer and interviewee.
Earlier, Putin had famously declared that if need be, Russian military
forces would chase the Chechen bandits into their own outhouses and wipe
them out there while they are still sitting on their toilets ( Miy budem
mochit banditov v ikh sortire he boldly declared). Subsequently, he was
photographed performing various killer judo moves, as if to emphasize the
* * *
Good guy? Bad guy? You be the judge.
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