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Johnson's Russia List


February 20, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4121


Johnson's Russia List
20 February 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, For whom Putin tolls?
2. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Moscow scandal sheet lives to razz Putin. (the eXile)
3. Reuters: Pro-Moscow Chechen says he will free Babitsky.
4. Reuters: Reformist ex-Petersburg mayor Sobchak dies.
5. Itar-Tass: Russia Politicians Express Deep Grief Over SOBCHAK'S Death. 
6. Declaration-2000. Statement of the "Nyet" Initiative.
7. VOA: Peter Heinlein, GROZNY PEOPLE.
8. AP: Russian Banks Deny Wrongdoing.
9. The Russia Journal: Oleg Nazarov, Could Putin become Russia's Napoleon?
10. Insight magazine: Jamie Dettmer, Russians Keep Eye on U.S. Election.
11. Washington Post: Yo'av Karny, Chechen Nightmare, Russian Amnesia. Memories of a Day No One Should Forget.]


The Russia Journal
February 21-27, 2000
For whom Putin tolls?
By Andrei Piontkovsky (

The moment of truth for things Russian at the Davos forum came with a 
question from Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Trudy Rubin put to the official 
Russian government delegation at the "Russia at the crossroads" panel.

TV screens round the world showed the ensuing scene. For almost an hour and a 
half, the important Russian officials had been speaking in dull, 
bureaucratic, but highly confident terms about the bright future that awaited 
Russia under the presidency of Vladimir Putin. That Putin would indeed be 
elected president was not under the slightest doubt in their minds. 

Trudy Rubin then interrupted them with a simple and perhaps even somewhat 
naive question: "But who is Putin? We don't know anything about him. Perhaps 
you could tell us something about him?" There followed a long, embarrassing 
silence greeted by laughter and applause from the audience. 

The distinguished gentlemen who in the corridors had been busy aggressively 
pushing their product under the brand name "Vladimir Putin, next Russian 
president" were at a loss - none of them wanted to speak out in public, or 
dared not speak out in public. Just like when referring to the deceased -"one 
either speaks well of them, or says nothing at all. Only Putin is still very 
much alive and politically kicking. 

When the silence from the podium dragged on so long as to become unbearable 
and quite scandalous, First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov finally 
mumbled a few platitudes, misinforming the audience while doing so.

Next day, I had my own panel "Russia and the West" with four other analysts, 
and we were confronted with the same question - who is Putin?

"Don't pretend you don't know who Putin is," was my answer. You are just not 
prepared to face the truth. I have no more knowledge about Putin than you 
have. But what I do know is enough for me to make my personal judgement as an 
ordinary Russian voter about this contender for the post of president - that 
this man is dangerous for my country and for the world. 

This is a man who has shown a complete disregard for human life, cynicism and 
hypocrisy, and a willingness to use war and the deaths of thousands of 
Russian soldiers and innocent civilians as a PR instrument in his election 

This is a man who raised a toast on the anniversary of Stalin's birth, had 
the plaque commemorating former KGB head Yury Andropov restored to its place 
on the wall of the Lubyanka - Federal Security Service headquarters - and 
dreams of seeing the statue of butcher Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the 
Soviet secret police, stand once again in the center of Moscow. 

Putin's St. Petersburg colleagues, as we now know, gave him the affectionate 
and respectful nickname Stasi. Putin, it seems, appreciates the honor and is 
doing his best to live up to the name. The Stasi was one of the most 
repulsive secret services in the world, operating a decades-long slave trade, 
selling off as hostages East German dissidents and even pensioners. Now, on 
the threshold of the 21st century, Mr Stasi has officially established the 
practice of trading his own slaves - Russian citizens. All the more so when 
the citizens in question are inconvenient journalists. 

With the whole world watching, Mr. Stasi is playing cat and mouse with 
journalist Andrei Babitsky's life. He derives some sadistic pleasure from 
this game, publicly saying that this "will teach Babitsky a good lesson and 
make him scared for real."

This game is also full of political significance. It is not only Babitsky who 
is being tortured in filtration camps. We are all being held in one huge 
filtration camp outside the gates to the Brave New Putin-Stasi World. They 
are testing our fitness for this world that awaits. How much can we swallow 
in silence? How quick and how easy is it to break us? Those who don't make 
the grade will be ruthlessly cast off as rejects. 

Don't ask me who Putin is. 
And don't ask me for whom Putin tolls.
He tolls for you. 

(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research in 


Toronto Sun
February 20, 2000 
Moscow scandal sheet lives to razz Putin
Sun's Columnist at Large

MOSCOW -- Ottawa's Frank magazine tries so hard to be salacious and nasty 
that it doesn't get nearly the credit it deserves for revealing how some of 
Canada's high and mighty are up to no good. 

The same is true of the eXile, an English-language bi-weekly given away free 
in Moscow by two self-styled American nihilists who mock everything and 
everyone in Russia including themselves. 

Russia is like Canada on speed and gallons of vodka. About all that Ottawa 
and Moscow have in common is snow. So the lads from the eXile skate on a lot 
larger ice surface than Frank. They use every last inch of it to produce a 
sheet that is, frankly, a lot more scandalous. 

Acting president Vladimir Putin is described as "silent but deadly" and 
"anal retentive." Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov supposedly has a "phallic 
conflict." A front page headline lampoons Boris Yeltsin as "the Bribefather." 

Such satirical screeds, an obsession with childish pranks and the 
mind-expanding pleasures allegedly derived from using narcotics, plus a 
regular feature known as Death Porn, which recounts and ranks the most gross 
or absurd criminal acts in Russia, are often clever and amusing. But they're 
ultimately tiresome and obscure the eXile's hard-nosed reporting. 

Kremlin shenanigans 

The rag, for that's what it always looks like, has often published the most 
thorough and plausible accounts of Russia's seemingly endless financial 
scandals, the shenanigans of such Kremlin fixtures as privatization champion 
Anatoli Chubais and the army of immoral foreigners who put on their 
pinstripes and came to Russia to line their pockets, all the while slagging 
the locals for being greedy crooks. 

Like Frank back home, few people here claim to read the eXile. But everyone 
I know here is always well informed about its latest garish outrage. In only 
three years the eXile has become such a fixture of Russian, or should I say 
expatriate life, that it is sometimes even available at the U.S. embassy. 

The eXile's bar and nightclub reviews are must reads for those seduced by 
Moscow's crazy nightlife. It offers Michelin Guide-style advice about food 
and booze and where those whom Frank would describe as "noted 
heterosexualists" can be sated. 

Far more important than that in a country where violent crime has become a 
national sport, the eXile measures "flathead" or gangster levels by 
publishing a ranking scheme using tiny faces with brush cuts like Michelin 

Emboldened by a rapturous feature in Rolling Stone extolling their writing 
and their raunchy, drug-friendly lifestyles, the eXile's editors, Mark Ames 
and Matt Taibbi, have published their first book, Sex, Drugs and Libel in the 
New Russia. I got a copy because they called me up and, with all the 
sycophancy they could muster, asked me to review it. 

The book, which is produced by Grove/Atlantic Inc., is certainly not for 
everyone. It uses the rawest language and is often pointlessly cruel. But it 
is a must for those who want insights into how post-Soviet Russia became such 
a decadent, sinister mess. 

Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia is an eclectic mixture of fact and 
fiction. Those eager to follow Russia's every criminal turn, find out about 
Afghani hashish or where the IMF and World Bank accountants go for a leg over 
when they're not trying to save the Russian economy, should buy this book. 

Criticizing journalists 

Where Ames and Taibbi are most interesting and often most accurate is in 
their unsparing criticisms of the foreign journalists, and especially the 
American journalists, dispatched to Moscow. During the last years of Mikhail 
Gorbachev's reign and the first years of Boris Yeltsin's, newspaper editors 
often sent their best and brightest hacks to cover this confused colossus. 

Now that the story is always the same - corruption, more corruption and even 
more corruption - editors have lost interest. As a consequence, many of those 
now reporting from Moscow are cheerleaders from the B team. Until far too 
late in Yeltsin's reign they misled their readers by repeatedly describing 
the former president and his regime as successful democrats. 

Given how they attack the Russian kleptocracy and the foreigners who have 
tried to ingratiate themselves with it, perhaps the biggest wonder about the 
eXile is that its editors are still alive and publishing. I asked Ames and 
Taibbi about that when they gave me their book and they both laughed liked 

Perhaps those who really count in Moscow don't read the eXile. Those of us 
who don't count certainly do. 


Pro-Moscow Chechen says he will free Babitsky

MOSCOW, Feb 20 (Reuters) - RIA news agency quoted a pro-Moscow Chechen leader 
as saying that missing Russian war reporter Andrei Babitsky was with rebels 
in a southern Chechen village and would soon be freed by his militia. 

``My militia will be honoured to free, to win Babitsky from the fighters,'' 
Bislan Gantamirov was quoted as saying, adding that he would be handed over 
to Russian troops once he had been freed. Babitsky was originally arrested by 
Russian forces, who said they had handed him over to Chechen rebels in 
exchange for Russian soldiers. 

His whereabouts have since been unknown, although Gantamirov said he was in 
Duba-Yurt, a village at the mouth of a gorge in southern Chechnya which the 
rebels say they have quit. 

Babitsky works for the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty. 

Gantamirov, the head of the Chechen militia fighting with Russia against 
separatists in the breakaway region, was quoted as denying his group had been 
involved in Babitsky's detention. 

``My militia did not arrest Babitsky. That's stupid. I have good relations 
with journalists, I give them advice and offer cooperation in their 
professional work,'' RIA quoted him as saying. 


Reformist ex-Petersburg mayor Sobchak dies
By Konstantin Trifonov

ST PETERSBURG, Russia, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Former St Petersburg mayor Anatoly 
Sobchak, a leading Soviet-era reformer who restored the city's Tsarist name, 
died on Sunday from a heart attack, officials said. 

Acting President Vladimir Putin was among the first to offer his condolences. 
Sobchak taught Putin law and was his boss when Putin was a deputy mayor of St 

A spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry of the North West region of Russia 
said Sobchak, 62, had died of a heart attack while staying in a sanatorium in 
the town of Svetlogorsk in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic 

``It is impossible to resign oneself to this loss. Anatoly Alexandrovich was 
a person who was close to me, a teacher,'' Putin said in an emotional 
telegram to Sobchak's widow. 

``He shared not only the elements of his profession with me but also served 
as a example of orderliness and firmness in the support of his convictions,'' 
Putin said. 

Sobchak seemed to be well after heart problems in 1997 and newspapers had 
speculated his career would get a new lease on life because of his ties with 
Putin. The spokesman said Sobchak had been in Kaliningrad as Putin's official 

``...Anatoly Sobchak will always remain in history as a clear representative 
of a generation of politicians who created a new Russian state and its 
constitution,'' Putin said. 

Sobchak, taking up opportunities offered by former Soviet leader Mikhail 
Gorbachev's perestroika reforms, sprang to national fame as an outspoken 
member of the Congress of People's Deputies in 1989. 

An ally of Boris Yeltsin, he was seen as a possible presidential candidate 
and became mayor of what was then Leningrad in 1991. 


One of his first changes was to restore the city's Tsarist-era name of St 
Petersburg before trying to rebuild the faded glory of Russia's 
second-largest city. 

During this time, Putin moved into the city administration after 17 years 
working for the KGB Soviet security police. 

Putin quit the St Petersburg government when Sobchak was narrowly voted out 
in 1996, losing to current St Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev. 

Sobchak left for self-imposed exile in France in November 1997, when he 
complained of heart problems and said he believed he was about to be arrested 
under corruption charges. 

He returned to Russia in July 1999 and always denied the allegations of 
corruption, saying they were politically motivated. The charges were dropped 
at the end of last year. 

Yakovlev told a news conference he had been shocked by the sudden death. 

``I was shaken when I heard of his death yesterday. He was a healthy man and 
suddenly he was no more,'' he said. 

Other leading figures also mourned Sobchak. 

Putin has drafted many former colleagues from St Petersburg onto his 
presidential team, leading one newspaper to joke about a ``Putinburg on the 
Moscow River.'' 


Russia Politicians Express Deep Grief Over SOBCHAK'S Death. .

ST.PETERSBURG, February 20 (Itar-Tass) - The Political Consultative Council 
of St. Petersburg (PKS) expressed deep sorrow over the death of Anatoly 
Sobchak who was recently elected PKS chairman. Leaders of the organisation 
sent condolences to the kith and kin of Sobchak -- "a real brilliant 
democratic leader and an author of the present Russian Constitution". 

ST.PETERSBURG, February 20. By Natalya Mikhalchenko. Representative of the 
State Duma lower house at the Constitutional Court Sergei Popov said in an 
interview with Itar-Tass that he regards the first St.Petersburg mayor an 
outstanding politician and statesman of the nation-wide scale. In Popov's 
opinion, "real division of powers" was one of the key services of Sobchak at 
the post of St.Petersburg mayor. 

MOSCOW, February 20 (Itar-Tass) -- "Ideal legislator, a man who inculcated us 
with parliamentary culture, brilliant speaker and lawyer," said about Sobchak 
one of "patriarchs" of Russian democratic movement and co-chairman of the 
Democratic Russia movement Lev Ponomarev. He stressed in an interview with 
Itar-Tass that Democratic Russia was formed under clear influence of ideas 
and speeches of Sobchak. The co-chairman of Democratic Russia expressed 
regret that Sobchak's life ended so tragically. He had "a great political 
potential", Ponomaryev emphasised. 

MOSCOW, February 20. By Lyudmila Alexandrova. "Following Andrei Sakharov, 
Anatoly Sobchak's death is the second serious loss for democrats. The epoch 
of the 1989-1990 passed with him. We cannot imagine this epoch without this 
personality." This is how leader of the Peasant Party of Russia (KPR) Yuri 
Chernichenko and Sobchak's colleague in the Inter-Regional deputy group 
commented on his death. 

"The very renaming of Leningrad into St.Petersburg is Sobchak and the return 
of the second Russian capital is also Sobchak," he noted. The first 
parliamentary investigation of blood-shedding -- events in Tbilisi in 1989 -- 
is also Sobchak, the KPR leader underlined. Jurisprudence and judiciary came 
to Russia with Sobchak, he added. 

In Chernichenko's opinion, Sobchak did not play an important role in Russia 
over the past few years because of "regretful and insulting emigration to 

MOSCOW, February 20. By Lyudmila Alexandrova. Sobckak's death is a result of 
a serious nervous breakdown. This opinion was expressed on Sunday to 
Itar-Tass by deputy chairwoman of the State Duma faction of the Union of 
Right-Wing Forces Irina Khakamada. According to the legislator, the defeat at 
the parliamentary elections was a serious stress and breakdown for him. "This 
is very serious and this is a great loss," she noted. 


Statement of the "Nyet" Initiative
[abridged translation]

Four years ago, we already witnessed a presidential election a la Russe,
where the program on each side could be reduced to the incantation: Either
you vote for us, or the world will collapse. Many voters cast their ballot
for one of the candidates not because they trusted him, but because the
other one was even worse. <...> Afterwards, many people regretted their
choice, when the winners, inspired by having nobody to take them to account
and to hold them responsible, revoked all concessions made to public
opinion - the end to the Chechnya war, the firing of discredited officials,
payment of wage arrears - and became even more unscrupulous in the ways of
achieving their goals.

These days, we still have the authorities that are not accountable to anyone
and that treat the people in an entirely autocratic manner.<...> In these
elections, a victory does not mean assuming obligations before citizenry,
but rather obtaining carte blanche for arbitrary actions.<...>

Alas, this is not a mere repetition of the past, because the situation has
become worse in many respects. If the previous presidential campaign
required a halt in the Chechnya war, for the purposes of the present
campaign the war was resumed; if four years ago the media had to be
purchased, now it was simply lined up; if in 1996 the use of executive
authority as a tool of the campaign was justified by the communist threat,
this time it has become such a routine that no one feels the need for any
justification. <...>

Given all this, the "Nyet" Movement, founded in 1996 as a voters'
association, announces the resumption of its activities. <...> As in 1996,
we propose a way out of the artificially created blind alley. <...>
According to the law, if the vote "Against All" is larger than the vote in
favor of any of the candidates, the new election is to be held within four
months. In these elections, new candidates can be put forward, and the
registration rules are more simple.

<...> Since the authorities are never as sensitive to the voters' interests
as during the election campaign, let us make them extend their efforts for a
longer period of time. And, most importantly, a successful campaign "Against
All" would destroy the well-entrenched myth that "nothing depends on us,
they [the authorities] will achieve what they need anyway."

In 1996, despite the fact that all opportunities for the "Against All"
campaign were undercut from above, despite the media insistence that such a
vote had no prospect of success, about 4 million voters cast their ballot
"Against All" in the second round (assuming these figures were not rigged).
<...> After the latest Duma election, the campaign will start all over in
eight single-member districts, because most of the voters in these districts
voted "Against All". <...>

As of today, it is clear that the position formulated four years ago by the
"Nyet" Movement will make sense in Russia for many years to come. Therefore,
we invite everyone who shares the following views and principles to join our
<...> Under no conditions it is acceptable to vote for those candidates who
- are responsible for acts of violence, either directly or indirectly;
- use dirty electoral techniques;
- use government resources and levers to win the election;
- are involved in corruption or connected to criminal activities <...>

The vote "Against All" gives a real chance to compel the authorities to
start thinking about a new type of relationship that would be based on the
subordination of the government to civil society. As a result, we would
eventually get a chance to vote for the candidates worthy of our support.
The developement of civil society is impossible without having experience of
resistance to pressures and manipulations. All those nations who live in the
conditions of real democracy obtained it not as a gift from the above, but
as a result of a protracted counteraction to the authorities.

Founding Members: Pavel Bashkirov, Vladimir Bukovsky (Cambridge, UK), Yurii
Vanzha (Cherepovets), Viktor Volodin, Sergei Grigoryants, Viktor Davidoff,
Gennady Zhavoronkov, Andrei Konstantinov, Malva Landa, Vsevolod Lukhovitsky,
Lyudmila Petranovskaya, Susanna Pechuro, Pavel Protsenko, Valerii Terekhov
(St.Petersburg), Yevgenii Frumkin, Gleb Edelev (Yekaterinburg)

Coordinators: Olga Lipovskaya (St.Petersburg), Director of the Center of
Gender Problems, (812)275-8722
Kirill Podrabinek (Elektrostal'), (257) 65-176
Vladimir Pribylovsky (Moscow) (095) 159-3933
Aleksandr Eliovich (Moscow) (095) 958-9459

E-mail: ("for Pribylovsky"),


Voice of America

INTRO: Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has 
moved into the Chechen capital, Grozny, to help 
survivors of the five-month military onslaught that 
destroyed the city and killed countless civilians. 
Authorities estimate as many as ten-thousand people 
may still be living amid the rubble. VOA's Peter 
Heinlein reports from the shattered city and the plight 
of what residents still.
TEXT: A drab gray overcast adds to the surreal 
atmosphere of Grozny this chilly February morning. 
Every square meter of this once-elegant regional 
capital is littered with the debris of war -- rocket 
parts, twisted pieces of metal. 
The only sounds are the occasional crack of rifle 
fire, and the distant roar of Russian military 
vehicles on patrol. The streets are mostly deserted.
But in what must be a triumph of sheer will power over 
adversity, 60-year old Viktor Yermolenko is out in his 
front yard on Tuchin Street inspecting his bomb-
damaged house. Standing on a ladder, he says the roof 
appears to be beyond repair.
///Yermolenko act in Russian, then gunfire erupts, 
and under to.///
He says "Everything is destroyed." But his sentence 
is interrupted by a long burst of gunfire. 
Mr. Yermolenko waits patiently for the rat-tat-tat of 
the rifle to subside, then calmly returns to inspecting his roof.
Grozny is officially closed. Russian authorities tell 
journalists and others wanting to see the ruins it is 
too dangerous. They say there are mines everywhere, 
and snipers perched in the remains of bombed out buildings.
But a walk through the streets tells a different 
story. At the temporary city administration office, 
Russian army colonel Evstafy Demesh says the level of danger 
is exaggerated. 
///Demesh act in Russian, then fade to.///
He says "Only one fresh mine has been found in the 
city". He adds "We haven't had any casualties (among 
Russian forces) in a month."Colonel Demesh says a surprisingly 
large number of 
civilians are still living in the city. About 500 have 
been located in this central district, 400 in a 
neighboring district, possibly as many as ten-thousand 
in all. Another 100-thousand or more are believed to 
be in outlying suburbs and villages. 
Survivors wandering the streets say life in Grozny 
remains difficult, even though the bombing has 
stopped. There is no food, fresh water, gas or 
electricity, except what the Emergencies Ministry supplies. 
A large percentage of those who endured the months of 
bombing are ethnic Russians who have lived in Chechnya 
all their lives. Many, like 50-year old Taia Petrenko 
say they were left behind when others fled because 
they are either too old or too poor.
///Petrenko act in Russian, then fade to.///
She says "Where can I go, my mother is 85 and I have no money, 
so I stayed". 
54-year old Galina Ivchenko endured four freezing 
months huddled in an eight meter by 10 meter room with 
120 others, the oldest of whom was 98 years old.
///Ivchenko act in Russian, then fade to.///
"It was a cold, concrete basement," she says. "We were 
hungry and the children were sick. It was miserable, 
and there was nobody to complain to."
Most say they would prefer to live out their lives in 
Grozny, but they realize there is little hope the city 
they called home can be resurrected. Vitaly Gemai, a 
retired electrical engineer, says it would probably be 
better to simply bulldoze the remains and close Grozny forever.
///Gemai act in russian, then fade to.///
He says "anything can be rebuilt, but it would just 
cause additional pain to the survivors. It's just not worth it".
But for some, these heaps of rubble are all they have 
to live for. Sixty-five-year old Tamara Vitayeva is 
one of those. Three months ago, at the height of the 
bombing, a group of men came to her basement and took 
away her only son. These days, she spends her time 
sitting in a central meeting place waiting for her boy to come back
"They told me they would move me", she says "but I 
told them I will sit here until my son returns." 


Russian Banks Deny Wrongdoing
February 19, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian bankers linked to a massive money laundering probe 
involving the Bank of New York denied any wrongdoing on Saturday. 

Two suspects pleaded guilty in U.S. court last week to aiding Russian bankers 
in a $7 billion money-laundering scheme: a former vice president at Bank of 
New York, Lucy Edwards, and her husband, Peter Berlin. 

An alleged accomplice, Alexei Volkov, said Saturday he had done nothing 

Volkov, speaking in Moscow, said on ORT television that he had helped Berlin 
process $6 billion in Russian money transfers, and that they were all above 

Prosecutors say Russian funds were illegally transferred abroad by two 
Russian banks, DKB and Flamingo, using correspondent bank accounts at The 
Bank of New York, to avoid Russian taxes and customs duties. 

Oleg Solovov, former deputy manager at DKB, also said his bank had done 
nothing wrong according to Russian law. 

``If someone wants to send money abroad ... if they submit all the proper 
papers, the bank has no right not to conduct the transfer,'' he told ORT. 

Investigators believe most of the money came from Russian importers trying to 
avoid taxes, though they are looking into whether some came from Russian 
mobsters or government coffers. 

Solovov admitted that corrupt officials could use such a transfer system to 
send embezzled government money overseas, but claimed that DKB avoided 
dealing with state funds. 

Most Russian banks don't exist for lending or protecting savings accounts, 
but for serving business - including those who want to hide income from the 
government. DKB and Flamingo, like other Russian banks, apparently were set 
up specifically for funneling money overseas. 

The DKB and Flamingo banks have gone out of business, but the prominent banks 
that established them, Sobinbank and MDM, are still on the scene. 


The Russia Journal
February 21-27, 2000
Could Putin become Russia's Napoleon?
By Oleg Nazarov
Oleg Nazarov is an historian at Moscow State University. He contributed this 
opinion piece to The Russia Journal. 

Historical analogies can always be questioned, but they sometimes give 
another angle on things and can prove both interesting and topical. Take the 
French Revolution, for example. It ended in the Jacobin dictatorship, a time 
of mass terror and an economic policy aimed at reducing social inequality. 

The fall of the Bourbon dynasty was followed by a process reminiscent of 
privatization "a la Chubais." This buying and selling frenzy led to the 
formation of a new business elite - French Berezovskys. The clever designer 
of all these grand schemes was a certain Barras, known among his 
contemporaries for his incredible cynicism and insatiable greed. 

July 1794 saw the Jacobins fall and the creation of a regime known as the 
Directorate, with Barras playing a key part. Like "Tsar Boris" Yeltsin's 
regime, life under the Directorate was characterized by rampant speculation, 
fraudulent schemes and plenty of entertainment. While the festivities went 
on, the people grew poor and the workers called for a regime which would put 
food on their tables - something like life in the Russian provinces today.

Politically, the Directorate was not the strongest regime; it was borne out 
of pro-monarchy uprisings in Paris in 1795. Things were made worse by the 
fact that the Directorate's supporters included members of the now abolished 
nobility who had gotten rich during the revolution. They could certainly 
expect no mercy from the royalist rebels.

The Directorate, it turned out, didn't even have any decent military 
commanders, and that was when a desperate Barras put his trust in the hands 
of a hitherto unknown general, Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon pulled off a 
miracle - with barely 6,000 men, he thrashed an opposing force of 24,000 men. 
He brought cannons out into the streets of Paris, though cannons had never 
been used in a city before, and left the French capital littered with 

Barras' "democracy" was saved and Napoleon's ratings rose spectacularly, 
despite the fact that no one really knew anything about him or his plans.

All rather like Russia today, where Putin's popularity is built on the 
Chechen war, and where little is known about him and even less about his 

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, commenting on Putin, said, "If he was 
so surprised when he was named head of the FSB (Federal Security Service), I 
don't understand why he wasn't surprised when he was named prime minister 
and then Yeltsin's successor."

But things weren't so straightforward. Putin became better informed as he 
rose in his career. Changes took place in the country and at the heights of 
power. Putin replaced the rather bland Sergei Stepashin as prime minister 
and, in August last year, at least didn't look any worse. 

Yeltsin had been looking for a successor for a long time, but the deadline 
was upon him and his entourage was getting nervous. The fact that the choice 
fell on Putin was a mixture of coincidence and planning.

The 1993 Russian Constitution gives the president broad powers. No one is 
going to revise that Constitution before elections, certainly not Putin 
himself. Once he wins the elections, Putin will also gain legitimacy and be 
able to free himself from the influence of the groups who brought him to 

After the elections, the real Putin will come out. That is when voters will 
finally find out in whose hands they've placed the fate of the country. As to 
who the real Putin is, a number of possibilities emerge.

One is the Napoleon scenario. By the end of 1799, it was clear that the 
Directorate's days were numbered. The people, sick of weak state authority 
and mass-scale corruption, yearned for a "strong hand." Academic E. Tarle 
described Barras' situation thus: "Barras had burned all his bridges, he knew 
how both the royalists and the Jacobins hated him. He went to Bonaparte, 
hoping to guarantee a cozy and high-up spot for himself in the new regime. 
But Napoleon soon realized he couldn't keep Barras. Not that there were many 
such clever, brave, subtle and nimble politicians, but Barras had become 
impossible, he was not only hated, he was held in contempt."

We could substitute Putin for Napoleon, Berezovsky for Barras, and replace 
the Royalists and Jacobins with the Communists and followers of Yegor Gaidar. 
The only thing is that our Russian Barras is still quite certain that Putin 
is the man "under whom I cannot only live in Russia, but be useful here."

Barras had bigger ambitions that weren't to be fulfilled. But he got out of 
politics in time and lived out the rest of his life in relative comfort. Will 
Berezovsky be so lucky?

Going back to Napoleon, by 1800, 60 out 73 newspapers published in France had 
been closed, another nine followed suit later. In 1802, Napoleon decreed an 
amnesty for emigre nobles; France's elite became a motley mixture of 
pre-revolutionary aristocrats and upstarts from the Directorate years. In 
1804, Napoleon was crowned emperor and, from then on, dictated all policy. 
The opposition was reduced to silence. 

Berezovsky imagines that like Napoleon, Putin won't allow any redivision of 
assets, understanding "that any redivision would mean bloodshed." But a 
survey carried out by the Agency for Regional Political Studies showed that 
only 11 percent of people are against a redivision of assets. 

Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for Problems of Globalization, 
wrote that "around half of all privatization involved direct breaches of the 
law." If Putin were to organize a few trials of those who "plundered the 
people's wealth," his ratings would probably shoot up again. It's probably 
no coincidence that Berezovsky has rushed to get himself parliamentary 

It's still not clear exactly which way Russia will go - toward an 
authoritarian regime with a Russian Napoleon, or toward genuine democracy 
with rule of law and separation of powers. Ultimately, much depends on the 
voters themselves, for in the end, you ride on whoever carries you.


Insight magazine
February 18, 2000
Russians Keep Eye on U.S. Election 
By Jamie Dettmer in Moscow (

Pundits in and out of the Kremlin have an interest in who succeeds Bill 
Clinton. Their favorite candidate is Al Gore, whose central role in 
U.S.-Russia policy is embarrassing. 

Vice President Al Gore hardly is likely to advertise the fact to primary 
voters or even during the general-election campaign — that is, if he
his party's presidential nomination, as now seems likely. But he has a 
substantial fan club here in Russia rooting for him to fend off Bill 
Bradley's challenge, vanquish the Republicans in November and succeed 
President Clinton. 

Across Russia's political spectrum - from Yevgeny Primakov's 
All-Fatherland Russia Party to Western-tilted economic reformers, grouped in 
coalitions such as the Union of Right-Wing Forces and the Yabloko Party -
is the U.S. presidential candidate of choice, the contestant most Muscovites 
believe would dovetail the best with Russian interests. Only the Communist 
Party is unsure, although its leaders hardly are delighted at the thought of 
a Republican president. 

At one time Gore - who liked to cite his Russia experience as a prime 
qualification for why he should be entrusted with the White House - would 
have boasted about his popularity among the Russian political class. But 
since last fall, amid mounting evidence of official Kremlin corruption and 
money-laundering, the vice president has been noticeably silent about his 
central role in Russia policy and his five years as cochairman (with 
then-Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin) of a commission that became 
Washington's main operational and coordinating link to Moscow. 

Last fall, prompted by the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal 
as well as circumstantial evidence that International Monetary Fund donations 
had been misused by Kremlin officials, Bradley beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush 
to the attack and tore into the vice president for the Clinton-Gore 
administration's close backing of President Boris Yeltsin. Bradley criticized 
Gore for continuing to support aid for Russia despite mounting evidence of 
official corruption and gross economic mismanagement by the Kremlin. 

Bradley's attack quickly was followed by Republican presidential 
candidates, with Elizabeth Dole remarking that Gore has failed in his only 
major foreign-policy effort and publishing magnate Steve Forbes dubbing Gore 
naive for believing that if you just threw money at people who called 
themselves "reformers," the thing would take care of itself. 

The U.S. presidential campaign is being followed closely here. Russian 
newspapers and television frequently report the latest twists and turns of 
the electoral struggle between Gore and Bradley on the Democratic side and 
Arizona Sen. John McCain and Bush on the Republican side. 

Most Russian politicians and analysts tend to interpret anything that 
happens between the two countries through the prism of the current U.S. 
elections, believing that this statement or that by Clinton about Russia is 
designed to boost Gore, for example. The recent seizure of a Russian tanker 
by the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf - the Americans say the vessel was 
carrying Iraqi oil, breaking the U.N. trade embargo against Iraq - was viewed 
by many here as part of Gore's election campaign, a bid to demonstrate to 
voters how firm the administration can be with Russia when occasion calls. 

Likewise, Republican criticism of Russian actions is interpreted more 
often than not as a bid to pander to a residual Cold War mentality among 
conservative American voters. Government officials make no secret that they 
hope Gore will be the next U.S. president. One reason, they say, is that Gore 
is a known quantity, someone they have dealt with closely for a number of 
years. That viewpoint is echoed openly by businessman and Russian 
presidential candidate Umar Jabrailov. 

Another more disguised reason for the Kremlin's preference for Gore is 
that it believes he is more likely to compromise and more aware of the 
difficulties Russia faces in implementing the economic and political reforms 
much of the West deems necessary. Gore critics, on the other hand, argue that 
means the Kremlin sees him as a pushover. 

Outside the confines of the Kremlin, politicians are less careful 
about their assessments of the U.S. presidential candidates. In reply to a 
question posed recently by the online political magazine about whom 
he would prefer to succeed Clinton, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov 
was highly critical of the Republicans for their "hawkish and highly 
negative" attitude toward Russia, singling out McCain. 

Zyuganov - who was the first of acting president Vladimir Putin's 13 
rivals to register as a candidate for the Russian presidential election in 
March - consoled himself with the idea that if a Republican does win the 
White House in November, then things might not be that bad. "History 
indicates that once in power the Republican advisers, being pragmatic and 
less ideological, usually establish calmer and smoother relations with our 
country," he said. 

But the Communist chief is not happy with Gore, either, because of the 
Clinton administration's firm backing of the Yeltsin regime. He added: "All 
the current pronouncements by [U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright, 
Gore and company on this issue are nothing more than attempts to save face. 
There are absolutely no fresh ideas in Washington's approach to relations 
with our country." 

Economist Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the pro-reform Yabloko Party and 
another of Putin's election rivals, hardly ever agrees with Zyuganov on 
anything, but he does concur that the Clinton/Gore administration made a huge 
blunder in banking so completely on Yeltsin while turning a blind eye toward 
Kremlin corruption. And, like his Communist opponent, he maintains that the 
White House is "determined to disguise much that has gone wrong with 
Russia," mocking the U.S. administration's tendency to describe Yeltsin's 
successor, Putin, as a reformer. 

In a recent interview with the Russia Journal, Yavlinsky remarked: 
"The U.S. faces elections this year, and it's a dangerous thing for them to 
have to admit that Yeltsin's legacy isn't all so good. Essentially, it's the 
single most significant assessment of the Yeltsin era. Not to call Putin a 
reformer today means undoing President Clinton's entire policy over the last 
eight years. And what about the elections? What about Gore? That'[s why they 
decided to call Putin a reformer." 

Russian politicians who aren't reform-minded are very clear where 
their preferences lie. Ironically, the party of rabid right-wing nationalist 
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is in the Gore camp. Zhirinovsky's son, Igor Lebedev, 
needed only a single laconic sentence to describe where his father's misnamed 
Liberal Democratic Party stood on the American election. "Gore would be a 
better U.S. president for Russia."

Did Gore Ignore Kremlin Corruption? 

The vice president used to make upbeat speeches about Russia, claiming 
that the Clinton administration's policy of engagement and of firm support 
for Boris Yeltsin's regime was a gamble, but one beginning to pay off. On the 
campaign trail he since has been mostly silent about developments in Russia. 

Al Gore's aides fear that he is vulnerable; hardly a peep has been 
heard out of them concerning his close work with Viktor Chernomyrdin, who had 
the longest tenure of Yeltsin's prime ministers. In Moscow, Chernomyrdin's 
name has become a byword for corruption, and questions remain about how much 
Gore knew about the Russian's graft - and, for that matter, the corruption 
among Russia's ruling class as a whole. 

Former CIA director James Woolsey, now a John McCain foreign-policy 
adviser, insists that during his two-year tenure at Langley "intelligence 
agencies produced a number of reports about the problem of organized crime in 
Russia and widespread graft. I saw no lack of attention or lack of interest 
in the National Security Council or the White House or the vice president or 
the president about this issue." 

But CIA officers who were involved in the drafting of those reports 
and in their distribution to the White House and the vice president's office 
say there was tremendous reluctance on the part of Gore and his staff to heed 
the warnings. "We were told the reports were not appreciated," says one 
former CIA staffer. "That was made clear to us by Langley's liaison in 
Gore's office and by the vice president's national-security adviser, who was 
a little firmer. They were particularly unhappy with us saying that 
Chernomyrdin was on the take."

Another CIA officer maintains that the result was that Langley 
"started to engage in self-censorship and to reduce both the frequency of its 
corruption updates and the details included. The attitude became, 'Why 
bother? No one is listening.'" He adds: "That kind of self-censorship is 
actually what we mean when we talk about the politicization of intelligence."

Wayne Merry, who served as the chief political officer in the U.S. 
Embassy in Moscow from 1991 to 1994, said in a recent newspaper interview 
that "as administration officials became progressively more invested in 
Yeltsin's government, they became progressively less interested in hearing 
bad news." Like some other Russia-watchers he believes the administration too 
easily bought the argument of economic reformers such as Chernomyrdin and 
Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia's privatization program, that a 
period of robber capitalism and cronyism would have to precede Russia's move 
to a functioning free market, otherwise a capitalist class could not be 
created. Economic determinism, you know. 


Washington Post
February 20, 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechen Nightmare, Russian Amnesia
Memories of a Day No One Should Forget
By Yo'av Karny
Yo'av Karny, an Israeli writer based in Washington, is the author of the 
forthcoming "Highlanders: A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory" 
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux). 

Last week, Russia announced that it was turning 
Grozny, the ruined Chechen capital, into a no-man's zone. A city where 
400,000 people used to live is to be sealed off for two weeks, a senior 
official announced. Russian leaflets now exhort the remaining inhabitants to 
leave at once because their city is likely to be attacked by the rebels on 
Feb. 23--Red Army Day.

If the rebels do launch a raid, it won't be to slight the honor of the 
Russian army. They will have a different anniversary in mind: Fifty-six years 
ago, on Feb. 23, 1944, the Soviet Union moved to do away with the Chechens by 
forcibly relocating the entire population to Central Asia. It was the depth 
of winter, and the frozen steppes offered little hospitality to the 
deportees. A conservative estimate puts the death toll at around one-third of 
the Chechen population. In all probability, the actual numbers were higher.

In 1994, the Chechens marked the 50th anniversary of their deportation from 
their homeland. Throughout the year, huge signs adorned downtown Grozny, 
depicting the number "50" against the background of raging flames and a 
howling wolf (the Chechen national symbol). Impatient to destroy the Chechen 
"bandits," the Russian generals could not wait for the 50th year to end 
before they unleashed their first attack against the capital, in December. 
The commemorative signs were among the first casualties of Russia's 

Disregard for the Chechen calendar arises not only from Russian 
insensitivity. Rather, it attests to the true nature of Russia's conflict 
with Chechnya. Contrary to the words emanating from Moscow these days, the 
problem is not exclusively one of law and order, nor one of "territorial 
integrity." It is a matter impregnated with profound cultural 
misunderstandings, psychological distortions and different concepts of memory 
and self-esteem. There will be no end to Russia's 220-year-long conflict with 
the Chechens until it pays greater attention to these factors.

I was struck by the symbolic importance of the anniversary the other day, 
when Lyoma Usmanov, Chechnya's representative in Washington, asked me to join 
a small delegation of Chechen parliamentarians on a tour of the U.S. 
Holocaust Memorial Museum. A member of the delegation, a chairman of the 
committee that normally oversees budget, said, "The Jews understand us best."

I'm not entirely sure they do, but I understood what the chairman was trying 
to say. What happened in February 1944 is the Chechen version of a holocaust. 
While I know some Jews frown on the use of the word "holocaust" in a context 
other than that of the Jewish experience during World War II, in doing so I 
mean no disrespect. No gas chambers awaited the Chechen deportees. But in 
February 1944, they were victims of a solution no less final than, say, that 
of Hungary's Jews just months later.

It was shortly before the liberating Red Army troops exposed the first Nazi 
death camp in Poland that troops of that same army packed the entire Chechen 
nation (and their ethnic kin, the Ingush) into sealed cattle cars and 
dispatched them on a three-week-long journey for "resettlement" in the east. 
No Chechen or Ingush--not even the Chechen soldiers serving with the Red Army 
at the German front--were spared the special treatment. The operation was run 
by Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's secret police chief, who proudly reported back:

The eviction of the Chechens and the Ingush is proceeding normally: 342,647 
people were loaded onto special trains on February 25 and by [February 29] 
the number had risen to 478,479 of whom 91,250 were Ingush and 387,229 were 
Chechens. . . . The operation proceeded in an organized fashion, with no 
serious instances of resistance, or other incidents. There were only isolated 
cases of attempted flights. 

There is little doubt what the architects of the eviction had in mind: 
Chechnya was to be divided among its neighboring provinces. Cartographers, 
historians and lexicographers were told subsequently to delete any reference 
to the Chechens from maps, textbooks and encyclopedias. Beginning in 1944, 
there was no longer a nation by that name: It had no past, no present, no 

The brief post-Stalin thaw made it possible for most of the survivors to 
reclaim their possessions, but to quote a North Caucasian historian, Svetlana 
Akiyeva, "the links between generations were destroyed. Many elders died 
before they had the opportunity to pass on oral traditions to the young," and 
much of the historical memory, and therefore the nation's identity, was lost 

The Chechen independence struggle, begun in increments in 1990, was born in 
the shadow of this partial amnesia, which is why it proved easy prey to 
foreign Islamic militants whose espousal of the Chechen cause is a mere 
subterfuge for the imposition of their own intolerant and aggressive 
theological dogma.

The Chechens and the Ingush were deported wholesale in 1944 alongside a host 
of small Muslim nations, which the Soviet government indicted, convicted and 
sentenced for the alleged sin of collective collaboration with Nazi Germany. 
To be sure, collaboration with the Germans did take place during the brief 
period of their occupation of the Northwest Caucasus (but not of Chechnya), 
from late 1942 to early 1943. But collaboration in the Caucasus never matched 
that which permeated Ukraine, Belorussia or the Baltic states. Yet it was the 
"traitorous nations" of the Caucasus who were subjected to collective 
punishment, suggesting a long-simmering intention to destroy the native 
populations of the mountains. In fact, Russian generals and politicians had 
been preparing blueprints for just that since the early 19th century.

The North Caucasian holocaust was as modern a genocide as any in its methods. 
Evicting a whole nation almost overnight was a technological and 
organizational feat on par with the best in Adolf Eichmann's repertoire. If 
there is a distinction, it lies in the astonishing fact that more than half a 
century after the event, the perpetrators' heirs engage in a total war 
against the survivors and their descendants, betraying no compunctions, no 
apparent sense of guilt, just the same old vindictiveness.

If anything, it is the Russians who feel sorry for themselves, imbued with 
the certainty that they are the victims, and that their victimhood provides 
them with the license to resort to another collective punishment. Despite 
official apologies, which former president Boris Yeltsin extended to most of 
the deportees six years ago, there is virtually no recognition of Russian 
culpability. In a standard Russian textbook for 10th-graders I found a single 
sentence referring to the plight of the North Caucasians under Stalin. I know 
of only one literary attempt to deal with 1944 (a tale by Anatoly Pristavkin 
titled, "A Golden Cloud Passed the Night"). 

A more introspective Russia, a less self-pitying Russia, a Russia more 
willing to confront the history and moral implications of its relations with 
its subject nations, would be a much better neighbor and partner. But for 
that to happen, Russia would have to experience nothing short of an epiphany. 
Perhaps, for now, all we can hope is that outsiders may recognize the crimes 
committed against the Chechens in 1944. It would be entirely consistent with 
its mission if the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum were to install a plaque 
honoring the memory of the victims of the Chechen genocide, placing on 
permanent display Beria's report to Stalin, and adding the cattle cars of 
Chechnya to its 1941-1945 time line. Who knows, perhaps Russian visitors 
would be sufficiently taken aback as to experience shame. And perhaps we 
would all begin to see today's conflict for what it is. 


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