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18 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Putin Came To The KGB As A 17-Year-Old Boy.
2. Izvestiya: Putin And His Children.
3. Anatol Lieven: RE: 4114-Baev/Putin's Honeymoon Coming to End.
4. New Statesman (UK): John Lloyd, Russia's implausible dictator.
5. APN: Glazyev considers the authors of Putin`s economic program
to be failed economists.
6. Washington Post editorial: Mr. Clinton Endorses.
7. Summary of polit.ru article about a document from the FSB's Directorate of Economic Counter-Intelligence.
8. smi.ru: HOW PUTIN MAY LOSE THE ELECTION. (Dmitry Olshansky)
9. The Onion: Russia To Consult With Wise Old Woman Of Woods. (Baba Mat)
10. Kommersant - Vlast: HOW TO AVOID THE CRISIS. (Views of Alexander
11. Dale Herspring: Political Commissars.
12. Moscow Times: Anna Badkhen, Linguistic Police Set To 'Save'
13. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, CHECHENS' CONFIDENCE SURVIVES
Russia Today press summaries
17 February 2000
Putin Came To The KGB As A 17-Year-Old Boy
New information Acting President Vladimir Putin’s Soviet KGB past has become
known. One of Putin’s former KGB bosses spoke to Komsomolka.
"Putin wanted to work in the KGB from his childhood. After he finished
school, he immediately came to our department in St. Petersburg with a
question: How can I join the service?” his former boss recalled.
This was a relatively rare case. The boy was advised to get a university
education in law first, which he did. After graduation, Putin came to the KGB
again, offering his service.
"The boy showed surprising insistence. I had working contact with him from
1976 through 1989. First here, in St. Petersburg, I was his immediate
supervisor, and then in Germany,” Putin’s boss said. “In four years of
service in Dresden, Putin got two promotions. He was a member of the
Communist party committee, as well, which meant he belonged to leadership of
Another one of Putin's former companions-in-arms, Igor Antonov – now employed
at a commercial bank like many former KGB servicemen- recalled their work
together in the Foreign Intelligence Department. Putin was in Germany from
1985, he said. "When he came home to St. Petersburg for vacations, he brought
a bottle of whiskey or cognac and a carton of cigarettes for me. At that
time, we had it rather tough, but in the German Democratic Republic, they had
a good life. And, of course, Putin brought schnapps and sausages from there.
Igor Antonov stated that the story that Putin went to work in the St.
Petersburg city administration, then headed by Mayor Sobchak, because Sobchak
knew him as a university student was definitely inaccurate. "Putin returned
to our department from Germany. He worked under the cover of the University
International Department and participated in meetings of the external
economic politics. Sobchak noticed him because Putin gave him advice several
times,” Antonov explained. “If Sobchak hadn’t needed him badly, how could he
take a person from the KGB to work as his closest aide at a time when all
special services were marred with criticism?”
Igor Antonov said that it was a certain risk on Putin’s part to work at the
city administration. "He had the promising career of a KGB Colonel ahead of
him," Antonov said. Instead, Putin pursued a career that led him to the
highest post in the state. "He was always lucky," Antonov concluded.
Russia Today press summaries
17 February 2000
Putin And His Children
THE FUTURE HEAD OF STATE WILL HAVE TO SOLVE THE SAME PROBLEMS AS PETER THE
Yesterday, the acting president made a remarkable statement which has
determined the content of his pre-election campaign. He said that the main
task in Russia is not one of economics, but the restoration of moral values.
Thus, he repeated the thought of Mikhail Bulgakov' character Professor
Preobrazhensky: "The devastation is not in the toilets, but in heads."
In Russian history, there were many personalities who cared about the moral
values of Russia and the modernization of its economy and life. One was Peter
the First. It seems that for Putin, Europe, and especially, Germany, is a
kind of model for moral values.
Putin is a moderate "Westernizer" (towards European, but not America). This
will become a major constituent of his pre-election program. At the same
time, the start of his campaign was characterized by actions that are
typically totalitarian. For example, the FSB has made every possible effort
to keep from the public any and all information about Putin's family.
This information includes the school that Putin’s daughters attended until
recently. It is the German school in Moscow, much like the many other German
schools in many other capitals of the world. Masha and Katya Putin were
enrolled in 1997. When their father was FSB director, the girls were brought
to school in a blue Mercedes with flashing lights on its roof. When Putin
became prime minister, the two schoolgirls were accompanied by four jeeps
with security guards. The family paid 14,256 DM annually for the tuition. The
elder girl, Masha,15 left school in September, when she began to study at
home. The younger girl, Katya,13, studied till Christmas.
Now both girls study at home – teachers from the German school come to their
house in Barvikha. The Putin family decided that it would be safer this way.
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000
From: Anatol Lieven <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: 4114-Baev/Putin's Honeymoon Coming to End
Just a word of praise for Pavel Baev's analysis of Putin - the most
sensible, balanced and sober I've yet seen.
New Statesman (UK)
14 February 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's implausible dictator
By John Lloyd
Vladimir Putin is the first Russian leader in a generation who is closer to
his own people than to the west. From John Lloyd in St Petersburg
As Vladimir Putin comes into the Russian presidency - for who can now stop
him? - he is experiencing astonishing luck. First, the Russian army has
chased the Chechen fighters out of Grozny - fighters who had defied Russian
forces in the first Chechen war (1994-96), and won, and who were reckoned by
many to be winning again. Second, he has signed an agreement with
neighbouring Belarus - set up under the Yeltsin presidency - for a federation
that could be represented as the first bricks in the rebuilding of the Soviet
Third, the Russian economy is growing for the first time since Mikhail
Gorbachev started reforming - by something up to three per cent. This is
explained partly by the rise in the oil price, but also partly by a spurt of
indigenous production, prompted by the forced devaluation of the rouble 18
months ago. Russian goods - especially foodstuffs - are in the shops,
well-packaged and often of good quality. Moskvich and Lada have new models,
which if not the latest in technological refinement are half the price of a
new foreign mass market car. In one of many "taxi driver" conversations -
richer in Russia because anyone can give you a ride, and so you may find
yourself talking to a professor, a plumber or a soldier - I heard (from a
manager) as much praise for the new freedom and availability of goods as I
heard curses for the destruction of the industry and society of his home
town, 40kms outside Moscow.
Each of these pieces of good fortune is largely domestic: they were made in
Russia. In each case, too, the west has disapproved. It gave vocal opposition
to the Chechen war (though, as the head of the domestic security service said
in a recent interview, "we understand from the tone that it is not serious"),
arguing for Ulster-style negotiation and international mediation. It tacitly
opposed devaluation, advising an out-and-out war on inflation with a
relatively strong currency. It tacitly opposed federation with Belarus,
insisting that the 15 states of the former Soviet Union, now all independent
sovereign countries, should remain so and that any effort to draw them
together again on Russia's part would play into the hands of the nationalists
and imperialists. In each of these areas, Putin has ignored western opinion.
As a US diplomat and political adviser - a long-time Russia hand in Moscow
with Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State - suggested to me over
breakfast the other day, Putin's sudden popularity lies in his capacity to
intuit what Russians most want and to make them feel as if they are their own
people again. Boris Yeltsin, and his rival and victim Mikhail Gorbachev, were
both Soviet men who fell in love with their ideas of the west. Gorbachev
increasingly saw it as a repository of civil and democratic wisdom, to which
Russia had to have access. Yeltsin saw it as a material cornucopia, from
which Russia had been self-exiled. Both grew closer to their western
interlocutors - Thatcher, Bush and Kohl in the case of Gorbachev, Kohl and
Clinton in the case of Yeltsin - than to their own senior colleagues (though
in his last few years in power, Yeltsin drew back into a little "family"
circle). In doing so, they lost touch with their own country: a constant
temptation for Russia's ruling class through the centuries.
Putin, for the moment, expresses Russia's nature. He is a statist. So are the
Russians, the more so when they have just lived through a sudden and terrible
weakening of the state. He has been for most of his adult life in the KGB:
yet what conjures up the gulag to many of us (if less than the initials SS
conjure up the concentration camp) is for many Russians a present comfort.
KGB members were an elite, successfully promoted in the post-Stalin years as
protectors of the fatherland rather than terrorists of the population. Now,
the memory of a time in which the KGB was a backbone of order is precious.
But Putin is also intelligent and worldly enough to command a foreign
language, and he is neither in awe of the West nor over- neuralgic about it.
Born in the fifties, he has no memory of Stalin; unlike both Gorbachev and
Yeltsin, his family - a proletarian one - had no repression visited on them.
He matured and worked in the late communist era, when adherence to
communism's formal beliefs was mandatory but real belief in its ideals almost
bad form. As a KGB officer working abroad, taking frequent trips to West
Germany, he could see clearly the superiority of the west as an economic
system; indeed, it was from the ranks of the KGB that the impulses for both
the Andropov and Gorbachev modernisation plans came. He is, as a score of
people have told me these past two weeks, "a modern man" - by which they mean
that though he is more at ease in the world, he is also more at ease at the
top of modern Russia.
Both Gorbachev and Yeltsin came to think that democracy and capitalism were a
cross between a system of civic virtue and a source of effortless wealth.
Putin does not believe they are necessarily either. He sees western
attributes and institutions with a measured pragmatism: if democracy and the
market work, consonant with rebuilding the state and some of its influence,
then fine. Since he spent much of his life spying on a democratic market
economy which rebuilt itself to be the most powerful state in Europe, he is
predisposed to believe in the efficacy of the western model; but only if it
can be tailored to Russian conditions, can increase the wealth and power of
Russia and underpin his own power base. Democracy as a fundamental principle,
and capitalism as an irreversible system of conducting economic life, still
have very small constituencies in Russia; yet it is not inconceivable that
Putin may expand these constituencies, without the belief in either which his
predecessors professed to have.
The last two leaders of Russia were leery of using force on anyone. Gorbachev
sanctioned force in the Baltics, and in Georgia; but the use of the special
forces against demonstrators was little worse in scale than in western states
in the sixties. Yeltsin agreed to the first Chechen war - but he had no heart
in it, did not support his corrupt and ineffective general staff and pulled
out of it as soon as he could, leaving boiling resentment in his military.
Putin appears to have done a relatively calm calculus on the use of force:
how much is needed to give him victory? In that, he may have been more
"humanitarian" than Yeltsin and "his" Chechen war (it was begun under
Yeltsin's largely absent leadership) has a much lower death rate than the
Gorbachev and Yeltsin thought they were in a new liberal and peaceful era,
and tried to act accordingly. Putin knows his country is still in a kind of
war, and thus reckons, as leaders do in a war, even on the "good" side, such
questions as: How many of theirs do we kill for how many of ours preserved?
What advantages do we gain? Since the summit of political power reasoned in
this fashion, the generals have felt able to pursue the war more successfully.
Thus we do not need to fear Putin - certainly not yet. He knows that Russia
is not a great state, even as he dedicates himself to telling his countrymen
that it is. He knows how little he can spend on the military, even as he
promises them rewards for Chechnya. He knows how backward Russia is: he
devoted his New Year's address to a speech on Russia's excision from
globalisation which would have not been out of place in a London School of
Economics lecture. Reading it, I found myself thinking that Putin could
probably understand and even get something from a discussion of the Third Way
- even if he is in no shape to march along it.
Putin is also a dark man, as well as an aficionado of masks. The KGB was a
particular kind of finishing school, cynical to the highest possible degree
in its estimation of situation and of character. If Putin makes a calculus of
death and power in Chechnya, he may do a similar exercise of repression and
power in Russia. Some Russians, and foreigners living in Russia, talk of an
edge of fear now, which was never there under Yeltsin. The appointments to
the state TV and the regime-friendly papers show master manipulators moving
in. The success of mobilising a popular mood against an enemy (more or less)
within may prove too tempting to leave alone.
But if Putin has little affection for democracy, he doesn't have much
predisposition for harsh authoritarianism either. As a good KGB man, his
analysis of society would lead him to conclude that Russia no longer has the
reflexes of a country waiting for the knout. He loves neither the west nor
his own liberals; but he would be a strange intelligence officer if he failed
to see that, under the near-anarchy of Yeltsin, the country became
ungovernable by anything approaching the system which raised and trained him.
He is no more pleasant than Jorg Haider - and, unlike Haider, his KGB
position put him a in direct, rather than a rhetorical, line of descent from
a horror. But, like Haider, he is an implausible dictator.
17 February, 2000
Glazyev considers the authors of Putin`s economic program to be failed
Chairman of State Duma Committee on economic politics and entrepreneurship
Sergei Glazyev, answering APN reporter`s question on what he knows about
specialists working at Russia`s economic program for presidential race`s
favourite Vladimir Putin said: «All of them are failed economists.»
To confirm his words Glazyev noted the team of Putin`s economy advisors is
headed by Yevgeny Yasin who was economy minister in unpopular Viktor
Chernomyrdin`s government and one of authors of the «500 days» program which
had been rejected by USSR`s and Russia`s management.
«First version of the document they prepared, CPRF Central Committee chairman
Gennady Zyuganov said, is even worse compared to Yegor Gaydar`s and Anatoly
Chubais`s: I mean it is more liberal and based on monetarism to more extent.»
17 February 2000
Mr. Clinton Endorses
HILLARY, AL, Vlad: President Clinton seems to have lined up his ticket for
the 2000 elections. Or perhaps you missed the third endorsement--of ex-KGBnik
Vladimir Putin for president of Russia. You may even doubt that it happened;
why, after all, would a U.S. president intervene in a Russian election
campaign to say nice things about a candidate whose government has just
leveled an entire city and kidnapped a journalist working for a U.S.
broadcast service. Why, indeed?
"Based on what I have seen so far, I think that the U.S. can do business with
this man," Mr. Clinton said in a Monday interview with CNN.com. The
unfortunate parroting of Margaret Thatcher's famous endorsement of Mikhail
Gorbachev early in his reformist tenure would have been bad enough, but Mr.
Clinton didn't stop there. Mr. Putin "is capable of being a very strong and
effective and straightforward leader," he went on to declare.
This kind of talk is misguided on so many levels it's hard to know where to
begin. It's incorrect, for starters. Mr. Putin may well be "highly
intelligent" and "highly motivated," as Mr. Clinton further gushed, but he is
certainly not "straightforward." He says one thing to Western audiences while
conveying a very different message to Russians. Trained for KGB work, he
conceals far more than he reveals. In his short tenure as prime minister and
acting president, he has spoken many untruths about Russia's war in Chechnya.
Even if Mr. Putin were evidently a committed democrat and champion of reform,
a wise U.S. leader would know better than to insult Russian voters by
appearing to intervene in their domestic political process. Mr. Putin is one
candidate among many who will vie for a five-year term next month. The others
run the gamut from proven reformer to avowed Communist. Mr. Putin is the
clear favorite; all the more reason for the White House to avoid taking part
in a premature coronation. How hard would it be to say: We admire Russia's
commitment to the democratic process; we hope the election will be fair; we
look forward to working with the winner?
And Mr. Putin, as it happens, is far from a clear and committed democrat. So
far his record is defined by the war in Chechnya and the obliteration of its
capital, Grozny; by the disappearance of Andrei Babitsky, a correspondent for
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who angered Mr. Putin's government with his
fearless war reporting; by his decrees reimposing political commissars in the
army and compulsory military education in schools. None of this means that
Russia under Mr. Putin is doomed to dictatorship. It merely means that
circumspection and a judicious withholding of judgment are in order.
What could explain Mr. Clinton's toadying, and Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright's slightly more restrained admiration in Moscow? Why would he fail
in the interview even to mention Mr. Babitsky, who is still unaccounted for
one month after his seizure by Russian soldiers, and why would he defend the
razing of Chechnya as a legitimate exercise marred by "excesses"? ("Mercy
Corps staff estimates 100,000 Chechen refugees have returned to their
homeland to find their houses destroyed and their communities burned to the
ground," that humanitarian organization reported yesterday.)
Perhaps seeing Mr. Putin as a reformer vindicates in Mr. Clinton's mind his
past Russia policy, since Mr. Putin is Boris Yeltsin's political heir.
Perhaps his flattery is a tactic to win approval of Start II and other arms
control pacts once Mr. Putin, as expected, wins a full term. It's hard to
know which interpretation is less appealing, which the greater betrayal of
those still fighting for democracy, human rights and a free press in Russia.
February 17, 2000
Accroding to an unsigned article appearing on Russian public
website POLIT.RU, a program of political and economic recommendations for
government has been recently issued by the Federal Security Service's
Directorate of Economic Counter-Intelligence (UEK). The document has not
been made entirely public, but it was posted on a limited-access website of
GUIR FAPSI (Chief Directorate for Information Resources of the Federal
Agency of Government Communication and Information), where it became
accessible to the reviewer. The following key points from the UEK document
are highlighted in the POLIT.RU critique:
1. The introduction of electoral democracy at the regional and local levels
has become a significant source of government corruption. Namely, financial
resources accumulated by criminal gangs heavily influence
legislative electoral campaigns, while incumbents in executive offices tend
to rely on budgetary funds for their reelection. Many of the
executive officials at sub-federal levels come directly from business
ventures, lobbies and criminal networks, and preserve these occupations and
ties while in public office. According to the FSB document, as quoted by
POLIT.RU, an abrupt increase in regional corruption and crime coincided with
the introduction of electoral democracy in most of Russia's regions in
1996-97. The authors are particularly unhappy with the desire of local and
municipal authorities to control local police and prosecutor's offices.
POLIT.RU alleges that the FSB people standing behind the document are
covertly planning to replace elective officials at the sub-federal level
with Moscow appointees.
2. The economic section of the UEK FSB report is focused upon the need to
strengthen government control over the financial sector. This should be done
primarily by concentrating the accounts of key exporters and strategic
enterprises in a limited number of commercial banks, by increasing control
over the Central Bank use of its gold and currency reserve, and by imposing
some control over hard currency flows. The FSB report reveals some of
the illegal schemes used by raw material exporters to conceal their hard
currency earnings, namely, the so-called "Kaliningrad transit system", in
which Russian crude oil is officially transported from the mainland to
fictitious processing companies in the Kaliningrad exclave, while in reality
it is being diverted to export routes on the Lithuanian territory.
3. The FSB document contains a proposal to establish a special bank for
investment in the real economy - "National Bank for Reconstruction and
Development". POLIT.RU comments that it is still unclear where to get money
for a similar-purpose Russian Development Bank, established under Yevgenii
4. The document is severely critical of Western assistance programs, in
particular, of the US A.I.D. Program of Assistance to the Reorganization of
Agricultural Enterprises, which was part of the Program of Assistance to the
Privatization and Economic Reform. As quoted by POLIT.RU, the document
asserts that, "based on expert analysis, the implementation of the program
has no positive effects on the situation in the agrarian sector, and in some
areas it is detrimental. The implementation is often accompanied with
disintegration of industrial units, with repartitioning of the capital and
inventory among successor companies, increased
theft and dismantling of agricultural machinery, growing disputes among
different agents...In addition, it has been established that the American
partners' chief aim was to collect comprehensive information about the
Russian agroindustrial complex and key agrarian regions, as well as to
contain Russian agrarian production at those levels which enable US
producers to expand into Russian domestic market.
According to the POLIT.RU anonymous commentator, the controversial and
semi-classified FSB memo was possibly designed as a trial balloon to gauge
the reaction of regional elites and Moscow media. Yet another guess is that
the FSB is waging an intramural campaign to ensure its preponderance over
liberals in the future presidential entourage.
HOW PUTIN MAY LOSE THE ELECTION
Dmitry Olshansky, head of Center for Strategic Prediction and Analysis, has
given a press conference at the National Institute of the Press. The
conference's subject is "How Putin May Fail to Become President of Russia".
Three scenarios were discussed, which, if any of them were to become reality,
would result in Vladimir Putin failing to become President. The scenarios
have been developed based on various opinion polls and using the techniques
of scenario prediction.
Scenario One. "Complacent demobilization" of Putin's supporters. In other
words, the supporters trust in Putin's success so implicitly that they do not
bother to attend the election and vote for him. In this scenario, the total
voter turnout is predicted at about 50 per cent, which is already hazardous.
The situation will be aggravated by the excessive zeal with which the bodies
of state power and the power elites are backing the Acting President.
Scenario Two. "Single-minded mobilization". Putin's rivals withdraw their
candidatures and make a joint appeal to the public not to take part in the
election (citing as a reason, e. g., the lack of alternatives to Putin in
it). The appeal is upheld by other public figures: Yevgeny Primakov, Yuri
Luhkov and Alexander Lebed, neither of whom was nominated as a presidential
candidate. Total turnout in this case is estimated at 35 to 40 per cent,
which automatically makes the election null and void.
Scenario Three. The factor of votes "against all candidates" comes into play
here. The said factor results in Putin failing to get 50 per cent of the
votes in the first round of the election, so a second round is appointed.
Comment: It is curious that, for some reason, Olshansky has failed to put
together the different factors in his analysis. E.g., he did not take into
account the circumstance that voting "against all candidates" and failure to
attend the election cancel each other out . In other words, if there are as
many "against all candidates" voters as Olshansky thinks, i. e. 10 to 15 per
cent, this is guaranteed to ensure a voter turnout that will make the
election legally valid.
As a matter of fact, Olshansky himself says that in this case his
organization was interested in pinpointing possible threats to Putin's
election as such. The reason for such an academic interest is that, in the
hypothetical case of the election being wrecked, the country will face an
undoubted political crisis, essentially consisting in that the situation will
be completely unprovided for by the law (Putin may legally remain Acting
President till April 1, while a new presidential election may be held no
sooner than four months after the failed one). Olshansky's general conclusion
is that all these scenarios have very little probability of becoming reality,
but, nevertheless ... (Andrei Levkin, SMI.RU).
February 16, 2000
Russia To Consult With Wise Old Woman Of Woods
MOSCOW--Reeling from economic chaos, political instability, and a bitter
conflict in Chechnya, Russian leaders announced plans Monday to seek the
aid and advice of "Baba Mat," the Wise Old Woman Who Lives In The Land Of
Many Tall Trees Beyond The Black Mountains.
"We seek the counsel of Baba Mat only as a last resort," Russian president
Vladimir Putin said. "As everyone in the land knows, Baba Mat can be both
benign and malevolent. She can make the lowliest peasant mightier than a
czar and crush a king like a mayfly. But this fearsome sorceress is our
only hope: The people have no bread on their trenchers, bandits run wild in
the streets, and our foreign debt exceeds $40 billion."
Putin said he hopes to acquire from Baba Mat the Legendary Enchanted Cod,
which can produce a roe of pure gold. He added that his economic advisers
recommended the plan, arguing that the gold would do much to reduce
Russia's hard-currency shortage and outstanding foreign debt, as well as
make Putin the most beloved hero in the land.
Putin's announcement was met with criticism from those familiar with the
wily old hag.
"[The move] shows the extent of Russia's desperation in this
post-Communist era," said Nadine Halberstadt, a professor of Russian
history at Stanford University. "Until now, only children lost in the
forest or exiled princes found an audience with Baba Mat, and it was
certainly not by choice. For all dread Baba Mat, with her hair of blazing
straw, her lanky limbs which she uses to cut the thickest timbers, her
teeth the color of brimstone, and her love of eating little blond-haired
Over the years, Russo-Wise Old Woman relations have been shaky at best. In
the summer of 1968, Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev asked Baba Mat to
supply him with a magic goose egg that would help Soviet troops invade
Czechoslovakia and put down its fledgling reform movement. Baba Mat would
only consent if the Soviet government stopped cutting timber in the Land
Of Many Tall Trees. Brezhnev agreed, the goose egg was transferred, and
Czechoslovakia was successfully invaded.
In the fall of the same year, however, Brezhnev ordered loggers back to
work in the area containing Baba Mat's forest home. An infuriated Baba Mat
avenged the broken deal by locking up the Mystical Rooster Who Beckons The
Rosy-Fingered Dawn in her root cellar for 12 months. The rooster's
imprisonment prevented the sun from rising in the Soviet Union, destroying
the harvest and bringing the nation to a virtual standstill.
Baba Mat has also been known to dispense punishment in a manner that can
only be seen as arbitrary. In 1985, for reasons that still elude many
Russian experts, she turned Soviet premier Konstantin Chernenko into a
decrepit yak and made him plow her turnip fields until he collapsed and
died. Ten days later, she drank the entire Caspian Sea, a vital body of
water prized for its fisheries and salt deposits and as a waterway for oil
tankers bound northward up the Volga River.
"Put bluntly, Baba Mat is not to be trusted," Halberstadt said. "It is
questionable whether she has ever had Russia's best interests in mind. And
even now, it is widely rumored that the reason Chechnya has been able to
hold off a ferocious Russian attack for months is because the old woman
permitted Chechen rebel leaders to touch the Sacred Talisman Of
Invincibility guarded by the Great Triple-Tusked Boar Of The Forest."
Particularly critical of Putin is Gennadiy Zyuganov, current leader of the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
"Given what has happened in the past, Putin is no less than a traitor for
seeking out the double-crossing Baba Mat," Zyuganov said. "It is beneath a
head of state's dignity to consort with a witch. When the great Lenin
formulated his New Economic Policy, he sought the advice and aid of no
less a personage than Jack Frost himself."
As befitting her status as a power broker, Baba Mat frequently exacts a
high price for her assistance. Yuri Suslov, a kindly old woodcutter who
lives at the edge of The Land Of Many Tall Trees, has long been familiar
with the sinister virago's ways.
"I do not envy the Russian president, for Baba Mat will demand of him a
great many things," Suslov said. "For use of the Enchanted Cod, she may
ask of him a feather of the awesome Fire Bird, the Golden Apron of the
Princess Of The Five Steppes, or, most daunting of all, the fabled
Matryoshka Doll Of No Known End. Perhaps all three. She often works in
When asked for comment by reporters gathered outside her woodland cottage,
Baba Mat said: "Russian, Russian, who dares approach my door; I'll make
your bones rattle to the core! Bring me ambrosia, bring me mead; then I
may give you what you need!"
She then turned the reporters into magpies and flew off into the sky in
her magical black cauldron.
Kommersant - Vlast No. 6
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
HOW TO AVOID THE CRISIS
If Vladimir Putin spends all the money on the elections, a
relapse of August 17 may be expected in early summer. How to
avoid the crisis? Below, Alexander TARANTSEV, a businessman and
president of the Russkoye Zoloto (Russian Gold) company, offers
his considerations on this issue.
On March 26, Russia will elect its new president. There
are so many contenders to the throne - from an unemployed bum
to someone resembling the Prosecutor-General - that a whole
Metro car could be filled with them. And though the elections
are close to non-alternative ones, Putin should think of some
safeguards: Russia is full of surprises.
The best safeguard is money. In Russia, it plays the role
of an infallible election technology. Promising to solve all
vital problems, the candidates conclude a sort of unvoiced pact
with their electorate: give us your votes now, and we shall
give you money - mostly later.
How much does the present government need to live through
the first quarter without economic losses and to show its
voters how reliable it is?
This year Russia will have to pay 10.2 billion dollars of
its external debt, with 3 billion dollars to be paid by April 1.
Where to get so much money? Surely, from taxes. The
minister for taxes and dues Alexander Pochinok has a tough
plan: to collect 390 billion roubles over the year, 86 billion
of them in the first quarter (by the election time).
The Russian Pension Fund, according to its chief Mikhail
Zurabov, expects yearly receipts of 309 billion roubles, which
means that in the first quarter it will collect about 77
billion roubles. Another 82 billion roubles for the treasury
will be collected over this period by the customs agencies. It
makes the total of 245 billion roubles.
The World Bank gave the government 100 million dollars,
and in December Moscow received that money.
The Japanese Eximbank gave 375 million dollars "to support
the Russian budget". If we assume that nothing has been spent
from the Western aid, the finance ministry should have 475
million dollars (13.5 billion roubles) in its accounts now.
The total amount is 258.5 billion roubles. This should be
enough for the first quarter, even without Western loans. For
emergency cases the government has the Central Bank's reserves.
However, life does not end with the presidential
elections. As a candidate, Vladimir Putin can afford to be
generous: to raise pensions and wages for public sector
workers, a seeming reduction in the refinancing rate and other
populist expenses. However, the first quarter will be followed
by the second. Public sector workers and pensioners will still
wait for timely payments, and the rouble - for support.
If the government lets itself spend all the reserves,
another August 17 may occur in early summer. Putin has
something to think about, too. If he is going to be the
president, not just to become one, he should not be indifferent
to his country's destiny.
What is to be done in this situation? I have some
"recipes" of my own. They do not concern some long-term
prospects, but the next few weeks.
Firstly, to determine priority economic sectors. They may
be the fuel and energy complex, aircraft and automobile
manufacture, power engineering and information-technology.
Judging by the acting president's last actions, he understands
this only too well.
Secondly, to urge State Duma deputies to pass 4 to 6 basic
economic laws, including the land and tax codes.
Thirdly, the people have dozens of billions of dollars
under the mattress. If Putin managed to inspire people's
confidence in the virtual Unity bloc, he is simply obliged to
persuade them to keep their hard currency savings in the
Savings Bank, giving them every possible state guarantee that
they will be safe there.
Fourthly, to complete the stock-taking of the Russian
assets abroad. What is not needed, could be sold, let,
exchanged for something else, etc.
I underline that all the above measures could be carried
out in the near future. And at the same time, investments could
be made in the economy.
Besides, it is high time to think about concessions and
the legislation on product sharing and profits from their sale.
And of course, Western banks should be allowed to conduct
full-scale activities in Russia on the basis of the same
product sharing contracts.
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000
From: Dale R Herspring <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Political Commissars
Guy Chazan's Wall Street article of 16 February ("Putin Orders Security
Agency to Monitor Army's Allegience") is very misleading. First
of all, he does not appear to understand -- as my colleague Jake Kipp
pointed out to me -- that the security organs are still in the Russian
military. Jake has evidence indicating that they were present at high
command level after October 1993.
Second, there appears to be some confusion in Chazan's mind over what a
political commissar does. It is worth noting that while few in the West
seem to understand it -- there was a signficant difference between a
political commissar and a political officer. The former's job was to
control the actions of the commander and was present during the
20s. Political commissars were reintroduced during the later part of the
thirties and during the earlier part of World War II, but in neither
case did they have "control" over line officers. As far as political
officers were concerned, they were clearly subordinate to commanders (as
the Deputy Commander for Political Work -- one of several such
deputies) and had no command authority. Indeed, they were almost always
considered staff officers -- the main reason they were somewhat impolitely
referred to as "staff rats" in the Soviet military. Indeed, one could
argue -- as I have in a new book to be entitled, "Soldiers, Commissars and
Chaplains; From Cromwell to the Present," that by the end of the Soviet
military they had been coopted by the regular military. Most of them saw
themselves first a military officers and only second as party
representatives -- one of the main reasons why Moiseyev argued so strongly
against removing the party's monopoly power from the constitution. This
meant the end of the Main Political Administration and with it the loss of
the one thing holding the army together -- the party and its
representatives in the armed forces.
This raises the question -- what is actually happening? I have not seen
the instruction so I cannot comment on specifics. I would not be
surprised to learn that what we are seeing are old political officers now
in the form of patriotic officers -- individuals whose task it is to try
and put the chaotic mess in the military back together again. If the past
is any guide to the present, they will carry out some of the same core
functions that American chaplains do -- motivation, political
socialization, and morale building. In addition, they will have some
Russian specific tasks -- but I seriously doubt that they will be used in
a "control" function. The latter presupposes a major value variance
between the political leadership and the officer corps. There may be some
differences of opinion, but value variance? I seriously doubt that.
Alternatively, Putin may be asking the Osobisties to watch more carefully
for misbehavior -- something that is currently a major problem with in the
Russian Army. Given how chaotic everything involving discipline (at all
levels is), his call may well be justified.
In closing, I suggest that Chazan and others be very careful in throwing
around the term political commissar. There is a lot more historical
baggage than he seems to realize. Once we see the instruction, we will be
in a better position to say something meaningful about it.
February 18, 2000
Linguistic Police Set To 'Save' Russian
By Anna Badkhen
Bureaucrats abuse it. Mass media manipulate it. And shop owners contaminate
it with foreign elements.
Any way you look at it, the Russian language is in jeopardy.
But lovers of the mother tongue, take heart. Russian authorities say they
have found a solution to the country's sagging linguistic standards: the
government-based Council for Russian Language, created by presidential decree
last month to "maintain the purity" and "increase the knowledge" of the great
According to Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko, who was tapped to
chair the council, the decree was issued in reaction to "the powerful wave of
common dissatisfaction over what is being done to our native language."
Nothing short of state policy will reverse the disastrous decline of the
country's native tongue, she added in a recent interview with the weekly
Kultura newspaper, describing the Russian language as "a matter of national
pride among Russian citizens."
Matviyenko's council features a formidable body of linguistic watchdogs,
including Education Minister Vladimir Filippov, writer Valentin Rasputin and
Yevgeny Chelyshev, head of the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of
Language and Literature.
Chelyshev said the council is scheduled to meet for the first time only in
March, so specific methods of linguistic salvation have yet to be discussed.
But Vasily Kiselyov, an Education Ministry official, said plans are already
in the works to penalize government officials and journalists, whom he
counted among the primary culprits. Punishments, he added, should be severe.
For example, bureaucrats who are "not aware of the basics of the native
language" should be fined for their abuse of the mother tongue, Kiselyov
"I can't listen to some politicians without laughing my head off," he said.
Itogi magazine, which dedicates a page in each issue to quoting
unintelligible blurbs from the country's authorities, in its latest issue
highlights remarks from Our Home Is Russia representative Vladimir Ryzhkov,
who describes his party's political alliance with the pro-government Unity
bloc as "a party which will rest in peace on a specific and colorful
Russians have long been entertained by the speech of officials.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the first Soviet president, was infamous for his wrong
stresses and incorrect word endings. In an interview this week, Chelyshev
blamed Gorbachev for "contributing to the pollution" of the Russian language.
"His wrong accents and misuse of words all blended into the spoken language,
but they deformed the language!" Chelyshev said. "I'm surprised Gorbachev's
imagemakers never pointed out to him that a politician can't speak like that.
And the same goes for the imagemakers of a lot of other political figures."
For example, the colorful speech of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
- whose vocabulary is full of words of his own invention - has turned him
into what political analyst Boris Kagarlitsky called "a champion" of language
"His Russian is not illiterate; it's just very particular. His speech is very
rich," Kagarlitsky said dryly, recalling a recent remark by the politician
that can be loosely translated as "It doesn't matter who wants to do what.
All the wantings should be stopped."
The decree's author, acting President Vladimir Putin, to the contrary speaks
proper Russian, Kagarlitsky said - although his curt and somewhat
unimaginative approach leaves something to be desired.
"Putin's speech is correct, but his entire vocabulary is only about 1,500
words - a fifth grader's vocabulary," he said.
In some cases, Kagarlitsky hastened to add, the problem with Russian
officialdom is one of substance rather than style. "It would be wrong to say
that they cannot correctly express their thoughts," he said. "It's just that
they don't have any particular thoughts to express."
But Kiselyov of the Education Ministry said officials are socially obligated
to promote good language skills.
"When an official goes to speak in public, he must be aware of the
responsibility he has before his audience, and before the language," he said.
Another major challenge facing the embattled language, specialists say, is
the abundance of anglicisms and foreign words transliterated into Russian.
Chelyshev said that ridding the language of "useless foreign words" is one of
the council's top priorities - although he added they have yet to figure out
"No language can exist without foreign words that are useful and meaningful,"
Chelyshev said. "But words like shop or khotel spelled in Cyrillic do nothing
but litter the language."
Regional authorities have repeatedly attempted to regulate the creeping
growth of transliterated Western words that have made their way into Russian.
In 1997, city governments in St. Petersburg and Moscow threatened to rid the
streets of signs reading seks shop, ais krim or dans-kholl, but the
regulation was never enforced.
"Bureaucrats who permit [shop owners] to put up signs saying sekond-hend ...
should be aware that these words have Russian translations," Kiselyov said.
He also suggested that linguistic censorship should be introduced in the mass
media, which "often use jargon and foreign words, when they should be a model
of proper Russian language."
"But most importantly, [linguistic] censure must exist inside of every
person," Kiselyov added.
Meanwhile, the well-respected St. Petersburg poet Viktor Krivulin said that
creating a state policy for preserving the Russian language will only harm it
in the end.
"I understand perfectly that the language is in bad shape, and is
experiencing pressure from English," Krivulin said in a telephone interview.
"It should be changed, but changes cannot take the form of a government
Any attempts to "artificially introduce language norms," the poet added,
"will split the Russian language in two - a real language and an official
According to Kagarlitsky, there is light at the end of the tunnel, language
council or not. "As soon as the social situation stabilizes," he said, the
language will be purified by "natural" means.
"The only good thing the council can do," Kagarlitsky said, "is hire a lot of
underpaid philologists and linguists and save them from starvation."
February 17, 2000
[for personal use only]
CHECHENS' CONFIDENCE SURVIVES WAR LOSSES
By Colin McMahon
Tribune Foreign Correspondent
SAMASHKI, Russia -- Hussein the Chechen rebel exuded confidence, even though
his fellow fighters are on the run or getting bombed without letup.
A unit commander and survivor of the fight for Grozny, Hussein scoffed at
Russian guarantees of victory in their 4 1/2-month war in Chechnya. He also
delivered some bold predictions of his own.
"We don't want to take all of Russia," he said, mixing irony with his
magnanimity. "We don't have enough Chechens to do that. We just want
Hussein is either sorely deluded or knows something most of the world does
not. His bravado, on full display during an interview at a safe house in the
Chechen town of Samashki, reflects the stated confidence of his higher-ups in
the ragtag but dedicated Chechen force.
The separatists insist that this war holds more parallels than differences to
the first Chechen war of 1994-96. That one ended in a Russian defeat.
"How can the Russians say that they control 90 percent of Chechnya?" Hussein
said. "Look at me. How did I get here? We can go where we need to."
Russia's so-called anti-terrorist operation has regained momentum. Having
claimed Grozny earlier this month, the Russians have closed the capital city
to all Chechen civilians in a bid to prevent any rebel revival. They have
moved troops and armor south to attack rebel strongholds in the mountains.
Yet the war was supposed to be over by now. And an estimated 7,000 rebel
fighters remain burrowed within Chechnya's mountains. They vow not only to
withstand a pending Russian assault. They vow, current circumstances
notwithstanding, to take back their land.
"In some ways this war is easier," said Hussein, 28, who commands about 30
fighters specializing in laying mines and other diversionary tactics. "We're
a lot more experienced this time."
Hussein's mission in Samashki is twofold, he said. One of the more than 2,000
fighters who held Grozny for weeks in the face of a heavy Russian assault,
Hussein said he needs a rest. But he also has been sent shopping.
The goal is to buy Russian army weapons. As in the last war, Hussein said,
Russian soldiers are selling their hardware to Chechen middlemen or known
"They won't sell their own Kalashnikov (automatic rifle) because it is
registered to them by number and can be traced," he said. "But they will sell
the Kalashnikovs of their dead comrades. And they sell other weapons
belonging to the units."
The prices, according to Hussein, are ridiculously low. Grenade launchers and
bazookas that can knock out tanks and armored-personnel carriers go for as
little as $8. Some items can be bought for bottles of vodka.
The best time to buy is before a soldier gets sent back from active duty.
"They all sell them--the soldiers, officers, all of them," Hussein said. Even
tanks are for sale, for the right price. "But tanks we really don't need," he
It would be easy to dismiss Hussein's claims as Chechen
disinformation--"bandit propaganda," in the words of Russian officials.
Hussein refused to give his last name. He lied or obscured the truth at times.
He denied, for example, that fighters from other regions of Russia and other
nations have joined the Chechens. They clearly have. He also denied that
Islamic fundamentalists, referred to in the region as "Wahhabists," make up
part of the fighting force. Chechen civilians across the breakaway province
say Wahhabists are prevalent.
Hussein is a poor liar, though. His face turns red in shame or anger when he
makes things up. Sometimes he even giggles, so it's easy to spot the whoppers.
Beyond that, history and economics are on Hussein's side. The sale of Russian
weapons was prevalent in the last war, and conditions for the average Russian
soldier have not improved much since then.
Most disturbing from the Russian point of view is the ability of Hussein and
his small group to move about Chechnya seemingly at will.
On a warm and sunny day last week, they appeared in Samashki after a long
hike from another town also supposed to be under Russian control. The roads
between the towns are littered with Russian checkpoints. Yet they arrived
"The soldiers don't want to catch us," Hussein said. "They're afraid of us."
During the rebel escape from Grozny and other towns southwest of the capital,
Hussein said, Russian troops would fire into the air to give away their
position if they heard rebel bands approaching, thereby avoiding a chance
encounter that would lead to a firefight. The rebels would then go around the
Rebel morale seems high, despite the loss of Grozny and the beating from
Russian artillery and aircraft that rebel troops have taken along their
"We did what we wanted in Grozny," Hussein said. "We showed that the Russians
could not do what they said. They said they could take Grozny in days. It
took them more than a month."
Yet the power of Russian warplanes and artillery, now bombarding rebel
positions in the hills, is fearsome. The rebels have lost at least 1,500
fighters since the land war began Oct. 2. They understand that in some ways
this is a more brutal war.
Hussein offered an example of that brutality. During the first Chechen war,
the rebels would execute Russian prisoners if they proved to be professional
soldiers. The conscripts they would often let go.
Now the Chechens kill all Russian prisoners. The rebels found out that a lot
of the conscripts from the last war ended up staying in the Russian army only
to face them again.
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