This Date's Issues: 4093
Johnson's Russia ListReturn to CDI's Home Page I Return to CDI's Library
7 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Angela Charlton, War Not the Only Positive for Putin.
2. Reuters: Interfax - Putin says Chechnya operation is over.
3. BBC MONITORING: Russia TV: RUSSIAN BANKER SAYS PUTIN LOYAL TO
4. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti in Grozny, Empty victory
in fallen Grozny. Russians win Chechen battle but not the war.
5. Yale Richmond: Feeding Ancestor Spirits.
6. Reuters: Yeltsin reads, listens to music in retirement.
7. BBC MONITORING: NTV, PUTIN'S THINK-TANK PLANS AHEAD FOR TWO PRESIDENTIAL TERMS.
8. AP: US Urged To Closely Eye Russia Nukes.
9. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Albert Valentinov, "The Impossible Is Becoming
Possible: Academician Yevgeniy Velikhov, Well-Known Scientist and Public Figure, Says Russian Science Has
Accomplished Remarkable Achievements and Ranks Today Among the Best in the World"
10. Reuters: Sebastian Alison, East Siberian winter need not be
War Not the Only Positive for Putin
February 6, 2000
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - Moscow's popular war in Chechnya helped land Vladimir Putin
where he is today - leading Russia and dominating the race for presidential
elections. But his electoral chances don't hinge on the war alone.
Analysts and pollsters say voters are unlikely to dump Putin, even if he
doesn't declare victory in the conflict by election day or if Russian
casualties continue climbing.
Russians look set to vote for Putin, acting president and by far the
country's most popular politician, for many reasons besides the war. Some
Russians like Putin's tough image, or the way he has stood up to Western
criticism, or his recently announced pension increase.
Or else they don't see any other potential candidate worth voting for.
Although rebel forces pulled out of the Chechen capital Grozny this week, the
war is not likely to end soon. Yet there is little or no sign that the
Russian military's uneven performance has dented public support for the war.
Besides, observers say that voters won't necessarily hold Putin responsible
if the offensive sours.
``They have many reasons to like him, and his PR people can blame the
generals,'' said Yelena Petrenko, deputy director of the Public Opinion Fund
Russian polling agency.
Since Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency on Dec. 31, Putin has proven
he can do more than wage war. He has raised teachers' and doctors' wages. He
has boosted spending for the bedraggled military. He has faced down criticism
by international lenders, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and
Europe's leading human rights organization.
Yet many questions remain about what Putin, an ex-KGB agent with little
governing experience, would do as Russian president on March 26. He talks
vaguely of economic reforms, but his only clear policy goal is reviving
Russia as a great power. Critics fear he could crack down on freedoms
Russians won with the 1991 Soviet collapse.
But most Russians, wearied by years of economic decline and hungry for strong
and capable leadership, see hope in Putin's vigorous, problem-solving image.
Putin has shown he is not Yeltsin, whom most Russians revile or ridicule for
his temperamental governing style and repeated illnesses.
Even Albright seemed to warm to Putin during a recent Moscow visit. She
complimented him as a ``very good interlocutor'' and a Russian patriot with a
Putin's popularity has plateaued recently, with various polls showing about
55 percent of Russians say they would choose him for president.
``No Russian politician has been so popular in the past decade. It's almost
physically impossible for him to gain any more support,'' Petrenko said.
``Bringing Putin down would take a massive force. Even a considerable drop
would not hurt his (presidential) chances.''
His strongest challenger in the presidential race, Communist leader Gennady
Zyuganov, has just 14 percent to 20 percent support, according to polls. And
the man seen as Putin's only serious threat, former Premier Yevgeny Primakov,
said Friday he wouldn't run for president.
Still, the Kremlin seems keen to wrap up the Chechnya fighting by voting day,
fearing a public backlash if it drags on too long.
``There's always a fear that the public will tire of the war, but this
exhaustion won't have time to take root before the elections,'' said
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a former Kremlin aide who now heads the Politika think
After weeks of frustrated efforts to seize Grozny, Russian troops made swift
progress this past week in wresting the city from rebels.
But the advance came after about 3,000 rebels escaped the city, busting
through a Russian blockade. While many rebels were killed, many more made it
past the Russians to join fellow fighters in the mountains and keep the war
Growing piles of Russian soldiers' corpses would seem to pose the biggest
risk to Putin's popularity. Public opposition to the last war centered on the
high death toll and helped prompt the withdrawal of federal troops.
This time, Russians have rallied behind the offensive because they fear the
violence that blossomed in and around Chechnya since the last war. And
government control of media coverage of the war has helped sustain support.
Most Russians are watching the war ``through the prism of state television,
which tells them what they want to hear, about victories,'' said Nikonov.
Interfax - Putin says Chechnya operation is over
MOSCOW, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Interfax news agency quoted Acting President
Vladimir Putin on Sunday as saying the military operation in Chechnya had
ended, nearly five months after he sent troops into the rebel region to crush
Itar-Tass news agency carried the same report but neither agency immediately
made clear where Putin was speaking. Russian troops have taken control of
Grozny, the Chechen capital, over the past few days and most rebel fighters
have retreated into the mountains of southern Chechnya.
``Just a short time ago, the last stronghold of the terrorists' resistance
(in Grozny) was taken -- the Zavodsky district of the city -- and the Russian
flag has been hoisted over one of the administrative buildings,'' Interfax
quoted Putin as saying.
``So we can say that the operation for the freeing of Grozny has ended,'' he
added. Army commanders have said the focus of their military operation has
moved to the southern mountains.
Interfax said Putin's comments were part of an interview he gave to ORT
public television. ORT told Reuters the whole interview would be broadcast on
Putin has become Russia's most popular politician on the back of the Chechnya
campaign. He has vowed to wipe out the rebels and bring the province firmly
back into Moscow's fold. The campaign, which has turned more than 200,000
people into refugees, has drawn strong international criticism.
RUSSIAN BANKER SAYS PUTIN LOYAL TO MARKET REFORMS
Source: Russia TV channel, Moscow, in Russian 1500 gmt 06 Feb 00
[Presenter] Hello. The once so popular Davos forum is over. A representative
of the Russian business circles, Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrey Kostin
attended it. He has his own impressions of the forum...
An American woman journalist asked the question there [in Davos]: What is
[acting President] Vladimir Putin like and what can be expected of him?..
[A] I think that Putin stands for market economy not only in his thoughts. I
think that he has a number of personal qualities that will provide for the
political and volitional support for this. By volitional I don't mean the
command-and-administrative methods advocated by Primakov's team. I mean that
Putin will ensure the creation of all the necessary rules and regulations and
their strict execution.
[Q] I don't think that anyone doubts Putin's volitional qualities. As for his
market mentality you are talking about, don't you have a feeling that both
liberal politicians and economists are now trying to embrace Putin in a way
saying: "We are market advocates". Why are you so sure that he stands for
[A]... If a politician reflects society's interests and follows the world
development tendencies he can't actually turn off this road. I think that
Putin is such a politician. And the guarantees are the regular guarantees
that a democratic society can give...
I think than any other policy will just fail in Russia and Putin can't but
realize it. I don't think that there is any reason to believe that he is of a
The Sunday Times (UK)
7 February 2000
[for personal use only]
Empty victory in fallen Grozny
Russians win Chechen battle but not the war
Mark Franchetti, Grozny
MOVING slowly towards the blackened sky above Grozny, nothing could have
prepared me for the spectacle of complete devastation as we entered the
fallen Chechen capital aboard a Russian armoured personnel carrier.
After sustaining four months of the heaviest bombardment in Russia since the
second world war, the scene last week was apocalyptic. Thick plumes of black
smoke rose from the centre in a grey haze, rendering the city almost
During a four-hour drive through the outskirts and into the heart of the
city, we did not pass a single building left intact. Every house, apartment
block and shop bore the scars of air and artillery bombardment.
The last of the estimated 2,000 Chechen rebels who had been holed up in
Grozny finally left last week, abandoning the city to the Russian invaders.
The war has now moved to the mountains in the south, on the border with
Georgia, from which the rebels fought a successful guerrilla war against the
Kremlin's forces in the previous conflict from 1994-96.
Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the Russian general staff, confirmed
yesterday that his troops were being redeployed towards the south. "As the
task of freeing Grozny from bandit groups is carried out, it allows us to
complete their routing and liquidation in the mountainous regions," he said.
Russian forces continued their fierce air and artillery attacks on villages
in the west of the republic where scores of rebels, who had left the capital,
were believed to have sought refuge.
As the generals celebrated the fall of the Chechen capital by raising the
red, white and blue flag in front of camera crews, it was difficult to
disguise the fact that they had conquered a city that no longer exists.
The muddy side streets leading through to Minutka Square, a strategically
important junction on the outskirts of the city that the Russians took after
10 days of fierce fighting, were lined by the remains of what had once been
simple, but comfortable, single-storey houses.
Many had been reduced to rubble, their high metal gates riddled with holes.
"People live here" was the message painted on the remains of one gate. On the
square itself the high-rise apartment blocks, that had until recently been a
haven for Chechen snipers, had been gutted by a relentless barrage of heavy
Some had entire floors blown off; others were split down the middle to reveal
the inside of flats where radiators and bath tub were left dangling
precariously - the only reminder that they had once been a home.
Personal possessions lay scattered along the side of the roads, mingled with
empty artillery shells. Pitch-black tree trunks poked out of the ground like
sticks. Some houses were still burning. What remained of the streets was
peppered with bomb craters.
Russian soldiers, faces black with dirt, rested in the mud, huddled around
camp fires and leaning against dozens of launchers pointed towards Minutka.
Adding to the surreal air, some slouched on looted sofas in the middle of the
"The city is almost completely under our control," said Viktor Kazantsev, the
burly Russian general leading the war, as he strolled through the rubble
surrounded by his deputies and heavily armed guards. In the distance the
sound of automatic gunfire crackled across the city.
"There is still some fighting in two districts, but it is a matter of days
before we win it all. We are liberating the city and its people from years of
slavery. The Chechen bandits are now out of here and we are destroying them
on the outskirts.
"They are cornered. They are the ones who carried out much of the destruction
but the city will be rebuilt. At least now people here can walk around
As we moved towards the heart of Grozny, his words sounded increasingly
empty.The Chechen capital is in Russian hands, but it is difficult to see
what Moscow can do with it. Most of it will probably have to be bulldozed.
Privately, even Russian officers concede it will be much harder to rebuild
life there than it was to take it.
Prospekt Lenina, once a bustling central avenue lined with shops along its
three mile-length, was deserted. Several huge craters marked the spot where
the road had taken direct hits from Russian aviation.
Chechen graffiti urging the rebels to resist was sprayed inside a road tunnel
on the spot where a Russian general survived a bomb blast during the last
conflict. Open manholes marked the entrances to the city's sewage system,
used by Chechen fighters to carry out ambushes on Russian tank columns. Many
of the buildings were believed to have been mined by the Chechens before they
retreated en masse.
It had been estimated that as many as 40,000 civilians were trapped inside
Grozny at the height of the Russian assault. This now appears to have been
exaggerated; most appear to have long since fled, either to towns or villages
elsewhere in the republic or across the border of the neighbouring republic
Apart from thousands of Russian soldiers patrolling the streets aboard tanks
and armoured personnel carriers - some decorated with pirate flags and bull
horns - Grozny is now a ghost town.
Those few civilians who have stayed behind are still too scared to venture
out on the streets. At 70 Dragayev Street, the only sign of life was a dirty
white flag hanging from the entrance of a bombed-out apartment block. But as
we stumbled in the dark down to the cellar, guarded by a Russian sniper, a
faint voice came from the bowels of the building.
Hava Bakanayeva, 75, a gaunt and exhausted Chechen woman left partially deaf
from four months of heavy bombing, emerged from her hide-out crying with joy
at the sight of outsiders. "I haven't seen daylight for weeks," she said, as
she sat with her few possessions in a dingy cellar lit by oil lamps and
secured with sandbags.
"For three months my husband and I have moved from cellar to cellar. There is
no water, no electricity, hardly any food except for a few potatoes and some
"We live in terror, scared of Russian bombs and Chechen alike. We have
nowhere to go: no money, no car. Please let this be the end. I don't care
where, just let me out of this hell."
Hearing foreign voices her neighbours, too, began to emerge. Ghostly, pale
figures, their desperate expressions summing up their ordeal.
"My husband was executed by the Russians when they came," said Gabari,
sobbing and shivering hysterically as she held Muganev, her 20- month-old
baby, in her arms. "They put us against the wall, searched us and singled out
my husband, accused him of being a rebel and shot him."
There could not be a more potent symbol of the devastation of Grozny than the
sight of Dzhokar Square, named after Dzhokar Dudayev, the former Chechen
president and rebel leader who was killed by the Russians during the last
A grand presidential palace once stood here, although it was razed during the
fierce street battles of the previous war. Last week the square was a muddy
wasteland scarred by bomb craters and the shells that still poked out of the
Amid all this devastation, as the sound of gunfire echoed across the square
and smoke filled the air, the battle for Grozny seemed as pointless as ever -
a pyrrhic victory that cost thousands of lives.
"I am sad for the civilians who have suffered so much here but I am happy
about the city," said Zegei, 30, a Russian sniper who fought in Grozny during
the last Chechen war. "This is not their land. It is ours and now we have it
"It's the second time I am here and I have no doubt that in three years' time
all this will start again. It will never be the end. We will be back."
Date: Sun, 06 Feb 2000
From: Yale Richmond <email@example.com>
Subject: Feeding Ancestor Spirits
Jim Vail, in JRL 4092 February 5, denies that Orthodox Christians believe
that the spirits of the dead need to be fed. That may be true but how does
he explain why, at Easter time, Orthodox Russians bring their freshly baked
Easter bread, the kulich, to church to be blessed by the priest, and then
deposit morsels on the graves of their ancestors?
Ancestor veneration is common to many cultures. In Africa, for example,
family members may pour a few drops of drink for their ancestors and leave
bits of food on the ground before the family sits down to eat.
Closer to home for Americans, Hispanic residents of San Antonio, Texas, in
observing El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), honor their dearly
departed by placing their favorite snacks, smokes, and drinks on grave
sites, a custom that predates the arrival of Europeans in the Americas.
See how much we humans have in common.
Yeltsin reads, listens to music in retirement
MOSCOW, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Russia's former president Boris Yeltsin is enjoying
his retirement by listening to the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and reading
classical Russian authors Anton Chekhov and Lev Tolstoy, an aide said.
In an interview published on Saturday in Komsomolskaya Pravda daily,
Yeltsin's former chief of protocol Vladimir Shevchenko also said the
ex-president continued to rise at five every morning and to keep up an active
Yeltsin, who stunned Russia and the world with his sudden resignation on New
Year's Eve, regularly speaks by telephone with foreign heads of state and
receives and sends many letters and telegrams, Shevchenko said.
``In this respect, not much has changed,'' he said.
Yeltsin, who turned 69 last week, follows developments in Russian politics
very closely, Shevchenko added.
``(He is particularly interested) in Chechnya, parliamentary debates and
Putin's performance,'' he said. Acting President Vladimir Putin has Yeltsin's
backing in the presidential election on March 26, which he is the hot
favourite to win.
Yeltsin is also preparing his next volume of memoirs in cooperation with his
former chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev. Shevchenko said the book should be
published in the autumn.
Yeltsin, long dogged by ill health, was in good form at present and took
frequent walks, he added.
Yeltsin has said he wants to travel more in his retirement and has also
signalled that he wants to retain some kind of indirect role in Russian
PUTIN'S THINK-TANK PLANS AHEAD FOR TWO PRESIDENTIAL TERMS
Source: NTV, Moscow, in Russian 1600 gmt 06 Feb 00
A Moscow think-tank set up on the orders of acting President Vladimir Putin
is working on political, economic and ideological strategy for Russia 10
years into the future. An NTV report outlined the centre's purpose and
featured interviews with team members designing the programme. [Presenter]
A whole scientific centre is seriously working on acting President Vladimir
Putin's strategy and programme. Our correspondent Yevgeniy Revenko will
tell us about this "Kremlin research institute".
[Correspondent] Putin started to think about his election campaign a long
time ago. Even before Boris Yeltsin's retirement he ordered the creation of
a centre for strategic development. It is in this mansion in the centre of
Moscow on Ulitsa Yakimanka [Yakimanka Street], only 1 km away from Putin's
main residence. An ideological and economic programme will be designed here
by the coming spring. People here will draft a scenario for possible
development in Russia after the change at the top. This office building,
Aleksandr House, is called a Kremlin research institute now. SBS-AGRO
[bank] chief, tycoon Aleksandr Smolenskiy, invested time and money in this
building to use it as his bank HQ. However, the crisis changed his plans.
The new authorities' strategists have moved in here. Both the Kremlin and
the [Russian] White House can envy its security system. One can't get
further than the lobby without a special magnetic card. The guards closely
monitor all movements of people. Sometimes crossing from one floor to
another reminds one of going through security chambers [Russian: shlyuzy]
in a secret institute.
German Gref, the first deputy minister of state property, was entrusted to
head the institute. He is also a representative of Putin's team from St
Petersburg. He comes to the Kremlin to discuss intermediate results of the
work on an almost daily basis. The special governmental communication
phones on his table ring all the time. His working days are long, sometimes
going on past midnight because the [presidential] election will take place
in March now. Document number one should be ready by that time. About 40 of
Gref's subordinates, all doctors of science and academicians from all over
Moscow, have to reflect in this document the ideology of Russia's
development, to write down the reform of power, the transformation in the
economy and a new political system.
The task is close to impossible but they have to do it on time.
Document number two has to be ready by autumn 2000. It's a whole volume
containing the programme for action.
[German Gref, captioned as the first deputy minister of state property and
the head of the centre for strategic development] It's a boring
professional document and it will not be published. Only the corresponding
specialists and experts will be able to get acquainted with it.
[Correspondent] Will this document be classified?
[Gref] No. All our work, it's the first and foremost requirement by Putin,
is to be made public.
[Correspondent] However, the details of the document have not been made
public yet as the work on the strategy is in full swing now. All papers
with notes are immediately destroyed so that outsiders cannot see them.
The centre's staff modestly said that the country's future is being worked
on here. It has been secret up to date because it is not ready yet. As soon
as there are results they will leave the building to be judged by the
public. By the spring the people will know what type of society they are
going to have.
[Correspondent] Are there any dictatorship elements in it?
[Gref] If you are coming back to the state administrative system the answer
is no. Absolutely not.
[Correspondent] Elvira Nabiullina is in charge of all science in the
centre. She is Gref's deputy. Apart from other things, she is in charge of
organizing scientific seminars and reviewing scientific information. She
said that the main task is to make politics strategically sensible and not
slapdash as usually happens in Russia. She wants to draw up a picture of
the probable future and then move towards the set goal. Specialists from
many research institutes have been recruited for the purpose. Even she
can't give the exact number of professors and doctors of science involved.
[Elvira Nabiullina, captioned as vice-president of the centre for strategic
development] We have both professional economists and political analysts
[Correspondent] Where are the political analysts from? Does [head of the
effective policy foundation Gleb] Pavlovskiy show up here?
[Nabiullina] No, I have not seen him here.
[Correspondent] A seminar is taking place in a neighbouring room.
Sociologists, political psychologists and political analysts have gathered.
They are working on the main direction: determining the values of Russian
society. Later the economic reforms will be built up around these values in
such a way so that the population does not reject them. A revolutionary
turn. The basis and the superstructure have changed places here. Here they
have come to the conclusion that consciousness as a value determines the
objective reality not the other way round, as Marxism-Leninism had put it.
[Yelena Shestopal, captioned as Lomonosov Moscow State University
professor] I hope that this will work...I don't have any information saying
that our people are desperate for a firm hand. They want order and this
does not contradict the democratic institutions.
[Correspondent] That means that dictatorship does not threaten us as
society does not want this. But society misses order. Putin perceived these
moods last week...
[Correspondent] Liberal economist [and former Economics Minister] Yevgeniy
Yasin also works in this centre. Once a week he comes to Aleksandr House to
participate in the council meetings. Here he proposes his variant of an
economic model. He said that the whole programme would take 10 years, not
any less. It looks as if it is being designed for the main candidate for
[Yasin] I think that the 10-year period is important here. This programme
is designed to be announced by a presidential candidate for two
presidential terms at once.
[Correspondent] Another economist, Viktor Ivanter, is working on his
variant along with Yasin. It's a mystery how the centre will later merge
their two programmes. Ivanter said that neither his nor Yasin's drafts
contain any nonsense. Both are moderately liberal with elements of state
regulation. He said that there was no need to finish the programme by the
election. The centre still has time to think over various economic theories.
[Ivanter, captioned as the head of the economic prognosis institute] This
is solely my prognosis. I have a feeling that Putin does not need any
programme to become the president. It works the opposite way: one drafts a
programme and no-one is happy. He will need a programme when he becomes
president. Then the question of what to be done will be raised.
[Correspondent] Whether or not the president will follow the programme so
hastily prepared by the Kremlin research centre is another matter...
However, all of my interlocutors later admitted that they don't know Putin
at all and have no idea what is on his mind.
US Urged To Closely Eye Russia Nukes
February 6, 2000
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. efforts to keep Russia's nuclear weapons material away
from rogue nations or terrorists may fail without increased government money
and attention, a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts warns.
The report examined the worldwide threat posed by the potential theft of
nuclear materiel from Russia's haphazardly protected stockpiles. It urges
immediate action by the White House and Congress to expand the U.S.
assistance program - or face a possible catastrophe.
President Clinton, in his fiscal year 2001 budget being released Monday, will
seek sizable increases in money for the safeguard programs, according to
Ensuring the safety of hundreds of tons of Russian plutonium and highly
enriched uranium is among the most daunting post-Cold War challenges at a
time of political and economic turmoil in Russia.
The foreign policy experts urged that the United States buy $1 billion more
of highly enriched uranium from Russia.
Washington also should step up efforts to help consolidate the more than
1,000 tons of plutonium and uranium now scattered in 300 buildings and 50
sites across Russia, according to the 117-page report by the Center for
Strategic Studies, a leading Washington foreign policy think tank.
``The possibility that the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons could
fall into the hands of terrorists and proliferating states is all too real,''
the report warns.
The study was based on findings by leading foreign policy and nuclear weapons
proliferation experts, including former senior officials from past Democratic
and Republican administrations.
``We must take action to prevent a catastrophe,'' said former Sen. San Nunn,
D-Ga., the group's chairman who also heads the center's global nuclear
materials management program.
Since 1992, the Energy Department has spent about $1.2 billion on various
programs related to protecting Russian nuclear materiel. Among them: helping
Russian nuclear scientists find jobs, improving physical safeguards at
nuclear facilities and reducing the stockpile of weapons-grade uranium and
Still, one of the report's authors, Matthew Bunn, said the money set aside
for these programs is ``woefully insufficient,'' and more spending would be
``tiny in comparison to the cost and risks of failure to act.''
``For the cost of one B-2 bomber (about $2 billion), we might get all the
excess bomb uranium in Russia blended to a form that could never again be
used in weapons,'' said Bunn, a nuclear proliferation expert at Harvard's
John F. Kennedy School of Government.
He cautioned that ``the window for cooperation may be closing'' because of
increased hostility in Russia toward the West. ``It is clear already that the
atmosphere for sensitive nuclear cooperation is much worse today than it was
in 1992 and 1993,'' said Bunn in an interview.
The theft of just a few pounds of highly enriched Russian uranium or
plutonium ``could allow a rogue state or terrorists group to acquire a
nuclear capability, posing a severe threat to the international community,''
the study said.
The ``lack of sufficient funding and senior leadership attention on the U.S.
side are among the major factors preventing faster and more effective actions
to reduce these serious security threats,'' the report continued.
Rose Gottmoeller, the Energy Department's assistant secretary in charge of
the programs, said she hopes the report will increase attention on the issue.
``We've been chipping away at this problem steadily for eight years. But
there's a lot more work to do,'' Gottmoeller, a member of the expert panel,
said in an interview.
Russia's Leading Sciences Enumerated
15 January 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Albert Valentinov: "The Impossible Is Becoming Possible:
Academician Yevgeniy Velikhov, Well-Known Scientist and Public Figure,
Says Russian Science Has Accomplished Remarkable Achievements and Ranks
Today Among the Best in the World"
We have seen an unexpected turn
in the evolution of Russian science. Having been oriented
primarily towards meeting the needs of the country's defense missions
over decades, devoting a maximum of personnel and resources to these
ends, Russian science on the threshold of the new millennium has sharply
altered its reference points and moved towards meeting the civilian needs
of society. Now we actually see a flow of the newest
achievements and advanced technologies from the civilian sector to the
defense sector, marking a new spiral in the development of
civilization. But is this really so unexpected?
This is the subject of our conversation with Academician Yevgeniy
Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute, a Russian scientific
Even a cursory glance at the history of human
civilization forces us to acknowledge that military requirements were
originally the driving force behind scientific and technological
progress. The invention of the bow gave rise to the
elasticity testing of different varieties of wood, laying a foundation
for the empirical method of research. The emergence of
firearms led over centuries to development of the theory of
gases. The need for increased longevity and rates of fire of
artillery weapons prompted the brilliant Russian engineer Chernov to
study the structure of metals, laying the foundation for crystallography.
"The 20th century is particularly significant in
this regard," states Yevgeniy Velikhov. "It has
become fashionable today to assert that during the stagnation years, this
monstrous Moloch, the insatiable defense industry, ate up all resources,
leaving nothing available to meet other needs. In the
meantime, it is precisely from the defense industry that we have
inherited a great deal of what constitutes Russia's current
possessions. Let us begin with efforts related to computer
technology. The Elbrus device was developed to meet air
defense needs. Experience accumulated during the process of
its development led to production of the fastest microprocessor we have,
and later -- to the concept of a new microprocessor that significantly
surpasses Western versions. Today this microprocessor,
designated as the Ye2K, the smallest, fastest, and most powerful in the
world, has been manufactured. On the larger scale of things,
the Ministry of Defense is the one entity that is today advancing
developments in Russian electronics."
"We need not even mention aviation and space --
everything here is a derivative of the defense sector," Velikhov
continues. "But who today remembers the origins of
lasers, which have now come into such widespread use in the most diverse
areas? They originated, in fact, with the development of a
terrible weapon. The hyperboloid of engineer Garin, so
ingeniously predicted by Aleksey Tolstoy, found its embodiment in the
ideas of our Academicians Basov and Prokhorov, Nobel Prize laureates, in
the projects of the St. Petersburg State Optical Institute and Leningrad
Optical Engineering Association, and in the efforts of laser optics
experts of Moscow and Kazan. And although military lasers
have been set aside as a project for the future, a project we hope need
never be implemented, the powerful monochromatic laser beam is today
saving thousands of lives instead of taking them. Consider,
for example, the operations being performed by Professor
Bokeriya. They require a very powerful laser to perform a
complex operation: making openings in cardiac
muscle. Lev Bokeriya performs dozens of these operations --
swiftly, thoroughly, reliably. Our industry manufactures the
appropriate apparatuses for performing these unique
operations. The defense industry quite recently presented us
another gift for a different sphere of medicine. We have
begun to produce the C-13 isotope for diagnosing the intestinal tract,
replacing very difficult catheter diagnoses. Doctors can
analyze the gases released and ascertain the presence and gravity of a
disease. This procedure is painless for the patient. '
One of the most impressive examples cited by
Academician Velikhov is the building of the nuclear submarine
fleet. Efforts carried out in this sphere result in newer and
newer technological achievements, like the ripples that emanate from a
stone thrown into the water. First we acquired the nuclear
icebreaker fleet, which has proved a salvation for the North.
Nuclear icebreakers today provide year-round navigation along our
northern arctic routes. For Russia, which has lost access to
the seas, these routes are decisive in their significance.
Moreover, the technologies that have been developed for nuclear
submarines are becoming the basis for assimilation of the northern shelf,
primarily in the extraction of oil and gas.
"Following in the footsteps of nuclear
shipbuilding we have the construction of huge oil and gas
platforms," says Yevgeniy Velikhov. "Each one of
these extremely complex structures costs billions of dollars.
Today on the agenda we have the construction of this so-called
"standing" fleet -- platforms for the exploitation of extremely
rich gas deposits, our main export to Europe for the entire first half of
the 21st century. Then we will have to develop underwater
routes of the Arctic Ocean. This would be inconceivable
without nuclear power, without the experience accumulated in building the
power and propulsion units for the submarine fleet. It is
possible that at some point the platforms will disappear and all
equipment will be positioned on the sea floor. Indeed,
equipment is already being lowered to the bottom. In the very
same clothes you see me wearing now, I stood calmly on the floor of the
North Sea, 400 meters from the surface, inside one of the support columns
of the gigantic Norwegian gas platform Troll. The pressure
and air in this space is the same as on the surface. I was
therefore able to take a 10-minute ride on the elevator and reach the
surface without any consideration of decompression. I believe
that assimilation of the ocean floor in the 21st century will be no less
important than the assimilation of space. Our defense
technologies will be utilized in this regard. We need only
recall the varieties of steel, titanium and aluminum alloys, and welding
technologies developed at the Prometheus Institute. All this
was accomplished for the defense industry and is now moving over to the
Also shifting to the civilian sector are project
developments that elicited a great deal of interest at one time, but
because of their tremendous complexity or some other reason, they wound
up on the periphery of scientific exploration. Thus, at one
time, a collective of researchers under the direction of Academician
Velikhov developed energy sources based on solid-fuel magnetohydrodynamic
generators. The most powerful magnetohydrodynamic generator
in the world was built -- rated at 600 megawatts, 200
kilo-amperes. It never did make its way to the defense
industry, but the experience is entirely suited at present to the design
of electric power plants located on offshore platforms. In
fact, instead of sending gas through pipelines to the shore, which would
then undergo combustion in the furnaces of electric power facilities, it
is simpler and cheaper to generate electric power on the offshore
platform and send it to the shore along power lines.
Especially since our country has preserved the technology that produced
the magnetohydrodynamic generators, while to a certain degree, Japan,
America, and Europe have lost it. So Russia is virtually a
monopolist in this sphere, with all the economic consequences ensuing
"Just count them," Yevgeniy Velikhov says,
as he uses his fingers to count off. "The energy sphere,
study of materials, laser technology, medicine, space, the ocean floor,
advanced computer technologies, and microelectronics -- all these have
been introduced into the civilian sphere from the defense
industry. I have not even mentioned the Internet here."
The Internet merits special attention.
During the Cold War, American military specialists set the objective of
establishing a system for transmitting information that would be
impossible to intercept or block. Wire, radio, and satellite
communications -- all these means were unacceptable, since a potential
enemy could eavesdrop or distort the signals. At that time,
the idea arose of creating a global web, a network that would encompass
the entire world, where a signal from Point A to Point B could be
transmitted along the most diverse paths which would be impossible to
identify, much less block. This information network did in
fact emerge, turning the planet into a huge communal apartment building
where every resident can knock on the door of his neighbor, resolving
problems that concern him and facilitating a sharp surge in scientific
and technological progress in all spheres of civilization, without
exception. It emerged thanks to utilitarian military
"Historians calculate that throughout the
millenniums of human civilization, there have only been 356 years where
bloodshed has not been present on the Earth," Velikhov
states. "Every other year, in one or another region of
the planet, wars have raged. The need to become stronger than
one's neighbors forced us to apply all our mental faculties towards the
employment of everything discovered, learned, and achieved primarily to
support technologies of destruction. Especially significant
in this regard is the century that has just ended -- soaked with the
blood of two world wars and a great many local conflicts.
>From this proceeds the scientific and technological progress that has
given mankind more in the past hundred years than in every preceding
"Today, however, the flow of innovation has
changed direction. It is now moving from the civilian sector
to the military. This is only natural. New,
advanced technologies -- acquired, incidentally, from that same defense
sector -- when subjected to the influence of such a powerful factor as
fierce competition, have enabled civilian industry to make a qualitative,
headlong leap forward. We cite just one example.
The bearings used in a modern Japanese video camera are more
sophisticated than the bearings used in rockets. I am not
even talking about microelectronics, the development of which has become
virtually explosive. And we are not discussing the placement
of mere millions of thyristors and transistors on a single crystal, but
rather tens of billions of them. This means that we have
reached a new technological level. We are operating with
objects whose size is comparable to the dimensions of
molecules. This is a very promising orientation --
Jointly with the Siberian Nuclear Physics Institute
imeni Budker, Kurchatov scientists established the synchrotron emission
center, which produces a concentrated, narrow emission of
electrons. One of its main objectives is to study large
biological molecules -- and not only to meet the needs of genetic
engineering, one of the basic medical orientations of the coming
century. On tomorrow's agenda is the production of biological
microcomputers, unique "bodyguards" of the human body that will
control its condition and signal the need for
"repair." The micro-robots that carry out this
"repair" will also be manufactured.
"When we were building a thermonuclear reactor
with the Japanese," says Yevgeniy Velikhov, "we also produced a
repair robot. It moves along pipelines, using a laser beam to
examine them. When it discovers a defective pipeline segment,
it cuts it out and welds the location with a laser beam. It
repairs the pipeline from within. But human beings also
operate on 'pipelines' -- veins, arteries, and capillaries.
Already there are robotic devices used to 'repair' these
vessels. True, they are not yet miniaturized to the extent
that they can enter the body's narrow blood vessels. But they
have no trouble entering the aorta and 'repairing' it. They
cut out patches from the internal walls of this vessel which might
otherwise stop the flow of blood and result in death."
Life sometimes presents us amazing
coincidences. For example, one of the century's greatest
inventions -- the laser -- was predicted in popular fiction long prior to
its actual appearance. The repair robot that travels inside
human blood vessels was conceived by science fiction writer Gurevich over
30 years ago. But another achievement of scientists of the
Kurchatov Institute has turned out to be so amazing that no fiction
writer predicted its appearance before the fact.
"Using the technological capabilities of
synchrotron emission, we worked jointly with the Germans to develop a
miniature chemical plant," Academician Velikhov states.
"Although it is just 1 cubic centimeter in volume, it contains
everything -- reaction chambers, heat exchangers, pumps, miniature
motors." This plant is designed to produce small doses of
dangerous substances or rapidly decomposing medicines. Such
preparations are extremely valuable in that they quickly disintegrate in
the human body and cause no harmful consequences. This
chemical plant may be carried on one's person, in a coat
pocket.It can even be implanted in the body and kick into
operation when the need arises. Of course, the plant cannot
yet duplicate the functions of an artificial kidney, let us say,
fulfilling the entire range of functions it must accomplish.
But that is a task for the future. Today this chemical plant
may find its place not only in medicine, but also in the defense
industry. When the point discharge of a chemical agent is
required, for example, to generate a chemical reaction. And
indeed, in many other instances as well. This is how the
civilian sector, having assimilated advanced technologies and accumulated
experience, is paying back its debt to the defense industry -- and
leaping into the next millennium."
East Siberian winter need not be feared
By Sebastian Alison
NOVOKHAISKY, Russia, Feb 6 (Reuters) - This little village in eastern Siberia
is not easy to get to, and not much to look at in the weak light of an icy
But a brilliant sun struggling over the horizon, burning away the mist and
lighting up the forest of the surrounding taiga makes the journey worthwhile
as the full glory of the Siberian winter imposes itself.
To reach this remote railhead from Moscow, fly four time zones and five hours
east on an overnight flight to the regional capital, Krasnoyarsk.
Arrive exhausted and spend the day exploring the city, admiring perhaps the
magnificent children's playground in which slides, castles, climbing frames
and the like are all made of huge blocks of ice.
Note also Krasnoyarsk's characteristic grey snow and smog, a gift from the
region's main source of fuel, coal, which on a recent visit made it
impossible to see the great river Yenisei from 100 metres (yards) away.
Then board an evening train and travel northeast for 14 hours on the line to
Karabula, well inside the remote autonomous republic of Evenkiya.
This brings the traveller to the little junction of Novokhaisky, deep inside
eastern Siberia's frozen north and close to some of the coldest places in
The bright winter sunshine may have been dazzling, but the scintillating
clean, dry air freezes the hairs in one's nostrils and makes any exposed skin
On a late January visit, the temperature stood at minus 34 Celsius (-29
Fahrenheit) when the train arrived at dawn, though this soon warmed up to
minus 30 (-22 Fahrenheit) as the sun came out. Journalists must remember to
pack a pencil: ink is frozen at these temperatures.
Not that this is cold. The Russian newspaper Trud reported from the capital
of Evenkiya, Tura, in January that fuel for domestic heating was running out
as the temperature fell to minus 62 Celsius (-minus 80 Fahrenheit).
Novokhaisky itself is a bleak settlement of some 1,000 or 1,500 souls. The
village is built mostly of wood, for this is the heartland of Siberia's
logging industry. The village is little more than a centre for moving timber
out of the region.
It has a couple of shops, a small railway station and a primitive public
Vera, a smiling woman in her 40s with a mouthful of gold teeth, was
non-committal about life in such a remote spot as she served behind the
counter of one of the shops.
``It's normal,'' she said, using an all-encompassing Russian word which
manages to convey almost nothing. Her shop was well stocked with unexpected
items such as pomegranates, Western toothpaste and bottles of Martini -- rare
indeed in a land where vodka is king.
``I moved here from the Sverdlovsk region in the Urals in 1984 because there
was work here,'' she said, adding that she had no plans to move back.
But Novokhaisky may be about to change. An oilfield some 200 km (125 miles)
to the north is being developed, and a pipeline has been built as far as the
A small group of oil storage tanks has been built beside the railway line,
and crude oil can now be loaded on to rail tanks at Novokhaisky, potentially
allowing east Siberian crude to move around Russia and beyond for the first
``We hope that the arrival of the oilmen will be good for the village,'' Vera
Alexander Lebed, a reserve general and former Kremlin official who is now the
region's governor, was more upbeat as he opened the new oil storage site.
``We are now exporters of oil,'' he said, adding that his Siberian fastness
could become a ``new Kuwait.''
One day perhaps, but there is little sign of it yet -- although to judge by
some of the unlovely cities in Russia's oil heartland of western Siberia, oil
does not always bring signs of prosperity to the region of production.
In the meantime, this part of Evenkiya remains pristine, with the beautifully
white, hard packed snow proof of the lack of pollution.
The best way to deal with the cold and snow underfoot is with a pair of
valenki, or felt winter boots. Little more than a thick, stiff pair of long
socks, they are not waterproof and quite useless when there is a hint of
moisture under foot.
But in the east Siberian winter the snow is as dry as dust, and crunching
around in it in valenki as light as carpet slippers, with feet warm and
comfortable for hours on end, is an unearthly experience.
The best part of travelling in the region is the train itself.
Railways are among those essentials of Russian life which still work well
despite the economic ravages wrought by the political turmoil of the last
Trains are warm and comfortable, sleeping compartments spacious, and bedlinen
crisply starched and pressed. And on a good day the food can be outstanding.
To share a shot or two of vodka with friends, with smoked fish and caviar to
hand, as the train trundles slowly through the night and the frost forms
crazy patterns on the inside of the window is to experience Siberia at its
best and to realise winter there need not be feared.
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