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Johnson's Russia List


March 2, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4142 4143 4144


Johnson's Russia List
2 March 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Kennan Institute: Paul Christensen, After Communism, What's Left: Analyzing Radical Politics in Post-Soviet Russia.
2. Reuters: Official crime and corruption on rise in Russia.
4. AP: Democrats Join Helms on Chechnya.
5. Kommersant: Vladimir Putin’s Terrible Secret.] 


Presentation at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies
Washington DC
February 28, 2000

"After Communism, What's Left: Analyzing Radical Politics in Post-Soviet

Paul Christensen (ptchrist@Princeton.EDU)
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Syracuse University
Visiting Lecturer, Princeton University

The question “After Communism, What’s Left?” as it pertains to Russia is
really two separate but related questions. That are the political
organizations, social forces, and ideas that make up the left? And what
socioeconomic structures and attitudes originating in the communist period
remain politically important, and how do they relate to left politics in
the post-communist period? 

Before responding to these questions, I want to make three broad claims
about the Russian left that will help frame our discussion. First, the
political actor that most people in the West consider the main force on the
leftthe Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)is much less
leftist than it claims to be and than it is perceived to be in the West.
Second, the much more interesting and potentially important currents on the
left are to be found among a number of social groups and societal
organizations. And thirdalthough this may sound counterintuitive given the
seemingly wide-spread support for Putin’s war in Chechnya among Russia’s
citizensRussian society taken as a whole is much more leftist in outlook
than is generally recognized. After examining the evidence that gives rise
to these claims, I want to end by briefly discussing the implications of
the left’s continued salience in Russia, particularly for the future of
democracy and the economy. I would also mention here that although my
choice of empirical subject and the origin of many of the claims I make
here are derived from a wide-ranging engagement with and critique of
democratization theory, I will not focus on that today. I would be happy
to address the subject during our discussion.

For purposes of this argument, I define left politics as those that put a
high value on democracy in the economic as well as the political realm, on
economic egalitarianism, and that at least traditionally view an expansive
role for the state and/or organized social interests in the operation of
society as necessary and positive. This understanding is generally shared
in Russia, although there is less agreement among Russians on which
political forces there actually hold to these principles. 

To answer the first version of the question “What’s Left,” I want to look
briefly at political parties and in more detail at three sets of political
and social groups: labor organizations, women’s organizations, and
“national”/regional groupings. 

The recent Duma elections told us some interesting things about the
organized political left. Like parties on the rest of the political
spectrum, parties on the left in Russia remain highly
under-institutionalized and fragmented. Of the 26 parties on the ballot,
eight or nine were somewhere on the left, but of these only two existed at
the time of the 1995 election. With the exception of the KPRF, all of
these parties on the left are relatively small and unstable, and up to now
have not succeeded in developing broad-based social constituencies. The
Communist party has both a relatively loyal constituency (which is not
entirely limited to the older generation) and a large amount of money, but
many people whose political sentiments lie on the left do not trust the
KPRF. There are two reasons for this. First, there is the issue of its
old associations with the CPSU. Most of the party’s members (as opposed to
those who simply vote communist) were functionaries in the old CPSU
apparat; this is particularly true of the party’s upper leadership. What
seems to bother most people about these past associations has more to do
with an implied authoritarian political style than with policy. Second,
many Russians see the KPRF as representing a more or less loyal opposition
section of the elite rather than as representing an alternative to the
dominant political program of that elite. 

There is I think a good deal of justice in this latter view. There is
little in behavior of the KPRF to suggest that the party means to challenge
either the outcomes of such polices as privatization or to change the basic
direction of existing policy were it to come to power. In fact, many of
the party’s elite have done extremely well out of Yeltsin’s transition
policies, politically and financially, and have little incentive to
radically change course. The communists’ recent cooperative agreements with
Putin quite telling in this connection. In addition, the KPRF under
Zyuganov’s leadership has become a highly nationalistic party, taking what
Aleksandr Buzgalin terms a “Communist Great Power” position on issues
ranging from the treatment of nationalities in Russia to relations with the
CIS states to relations with the West. There is very little talk of
communist or any other type of internationalism in Zyuganov’s KPRF.

When the left in Russia is discussed at all in the West, it is mainly the
Communist Party and other quasi-leftist political parties 
like Fatherland/All Russia on which analysis focuses. This is
understandable since the formal political institutions, procedures, and
elections are the most visible and accessible part of Russian politics, and
since academic “democratization theory” tends to concentrate on precisely
those elements as being crucial to evaluating how far democracy has
progressed. It is also rather unfortunate, because these parties
(excluding the KPRF) are certainly smaller and (not excluding the KPRF)
less important at the grassroots level than the other groupslabor, women’s
organizations, and some national/regional movementsthat occupy this
political space. 

As in other countries around the world, these groups are not unified or
uniformly and consistently “on the left,” and I place them there advisedly
and with an eye to the context in which they are operating. In addition,
the particular forms that their leftist politics take is visibly marked by
their location in a post-communist context. Let me discuss each of them in

The contemporary labor movement in Russia began in response to and with the
encouragement of the Gorbachev leadership, which initially made workplace
democratization a cornerstone of perestroika. As Gorbachev’s reforms
slowly became paralyzed due to structural contradictions and rising
opposition from a number of quarters, and further as the Gorbachev
leadership abandoned workplace democratization as a constituent element of
perestroika, workers’ organizations began to turn on Gorbachev. First,
they increasingly supported Yelstin and other anti-Union oppositionists in
Russia as the best hope of breaking the impasse of the late perestroika
period. Second, they too abandoned workplace democratization and
increasingly turned to more traditional “trade-union” politics to advance
their aims. This second direction was the logical concomitant of the
first, since Yeltsin openly advocated a capitalist strategy as opposed to
Gorbachev’s socialist one. These two strategies remained dominant until
the mid-1990s, when the dual effects of Yeltsin’s socially exclusionary,
center-driven political program and his shock therapy, privatization-based
economic program began to erode organized labor’s support for Yeltsin’s
version of transition.

Since about 1996, two important trends have emerged within the labor
movement that are crucial to our understanding of the future of left
politics in Russia. The first is the reemergence among many of the more
established labor unions of demands for labor’s direct involvement in
economic decision-making at the level of the state and the firm. By way of
example, Mikhail Shmakov, president of the Federation of Independent Trade
Unions of Russia, said the following about “economic democracy” at the 1996
trade union congress: “Economic democracy is not a synonym for freedom of
ownership, as the term is understood by some, but rather is a method
through which labor’s right to participate in the management of production
and to receive its share of the profits is realized.” As the economic
crisis for workers has deepened in Russia, even many of those unions that
resolutely rejected this kind of language until a few years ago have
abandoned the notion that this position is a cover for Bolshevik revanchism. 

The second trend involves a shift among workers and their local labor
organizations away from nationally-based to more locally-based initiatives
to take control of their situations. There are an increasing number of
cases in which workers in factories which have been privatizedand
particularly those that have been threatened with closureare setting up
councils of workers’ control or self-management, or are attempting to set
up collectives to take them over outright. There is also growing pressure,
especially on local and regional governments, to renationalize property in
order to keep enterprises in operation. I will return to this latter
issue later. 

Even more than labor organizations, women’s rights groups in Russia have
found politics at national level generally unavailing. In part, they are
affected by the same structural biases that other socially progressive
groups face: limited resources and a centralized government that is
ideologically unfriendly. There are two other obstacles, however, that
women’s groups have to deal with that others do not. The first is a
society where gender has not been accepted as a legitimate means of
organizing political demands. The second concerns the treatment and role
of women in the Soviet period that makes many of the primary issues around
which feminist politics in the West have been articulated less compelling

Organizing politically around gender issues in post-communist Russia
continues to be difficult because during the Soviet period there were only
two forms of expressing political demands that were accepted as legitimate,
and these only within the confines of the Party’s interpretation: class
and nationality. Class because of the ideological pretensions of the
regime, and nationality because the Bolsheviks had made national
self-determination based on territory a key component of their program well
before the revolution. The “woman question” was simply declared solved by
Stalin and that was that. Class and nationality were represented
institutionally and became embedded culturally, and still are. Women’s
rights groups had to start from scratch on both counts.

Attempts to organize politically around gender have also been undercut by
the specific ways in which the sexism of Russian society has been
manifested in the post-Soviet period. In the post-communist era, women
have been defined either as mothers or as sexual objects. While this is
not a peculiarly Russian or post-communist way of trying to deny women
autonomy and equality, it does have a particularly post-communist form
which makes it extremely difficult for women’s rights groups to establish a
progressive discourse of gender politics. Women as mothers or sexual
objects are opposed to the “woman comrade” of the Soviet period, who was
neither maternal nor sexual. When women’s rights groups argue for equal
rights in the workplace and equal access to jobs and education, they are
accused of trying to undermine the family. When they attempt to argue
against the sexual exploitation of women and increasing violence against
women in society and popular culture, they are accused of opposing women’s
sexual liberation from the repressive mores of the communist system. So
they end up being tagged as too liberal and too conservative
simultaneously, and in both cases are accused of having a Soviet mentality.

At the level of institutional structures, in the post-Soviet period as
during the Soviet era, the formal rights of women to equal participation in
the system are guaranteed. In some cases, the structure of the Soviet
system made some of these rights into grist for anti-feminist politics.
The right to work was the classic case in this regard. The Soviet Union
had one of the highest rates of female employment in the world, and
combined with the fact that Soviet women did virtually all the work at home
as well, work outside the home meant that women were often putting in 16
hour days. But rather than trying to improve childcare facilities, adopt
more flexible work rules, refocus production to provide more labor-saving
devices, or encouraging a restructuring of domestic responsibility, the
Gorbachev and Yeltsin governments, businesses, and the media have either
encouraged or forced women to quit the workforce. This has become all the
more prevalent as Russia’s economic crisis has deepened. 

In response, women’s rights organizations have adopted a number of
different strategies in an attempt to overcome the structural and cultural
barriers to the realization of women’s rights. One of the recurrent
themes in the writings of Russian feminists and in interviews that I have
done is the need for a “feminist education.” A central problem from their
perspective is the lack of information and a forum, particularly for
younger women, in which they can discuss what feminism and women’s rights
are. So one strategy has been to provide the information and the forum,
the first by writing was much as possible and translating Western feminist
texts, and the second by setting up special classes and curricula in
women’s studies. There remain significant obstacles, institutional,
attitudinal, and financial, to developing these curricula, but since 1994
women’s studies courses have been established in approximately 200
universities and institutes across Russia.

Another important trend over the past five years has been the
establishment of crisis and counseling centers and shelters for women and
children who are the victims of domestic and sexual violence. For the most
part, these centers and shelters are not funded by the state, but rather
are volunteer organizations that receive most of their funding from private
donors in Russia and international non-profit organizations. From their
founding, these organizations have met with a significant amount of
hostility and misunderstanding. At a benefit for the first women’s center
in Moscow, I was told by the director of the center that during the first
month after they opened, a majority of the calls were either from people
denouncing what they were doing as anti-family or from people thinking that
the center was one of the many escort services then opening in Moscow.
While these centers have succeeded in helping a large number of women and
children across the country, bringing the issue of domestic and sexual
violence against women to the attention of the general population is an
ongoing struggle.

Finally, many progressive women in Russia are trying to combine women’s
rights groups with other progressive organizations. For example,
alliances are emerging with the labor movement, where women’s organizations
are forming to address the particular interests of women in the industrial
workforce. The Independent Women’s Democratic Initiative, for example,
joined the Union of Kuzbass Workers to represent the interests of women in
the mining and metallurgy center of Kemerovo, whether those women worked in
those particular industries or not.

What links virtually all of these strategies of the women’s movement in
Russia is that they are focused on concrete issues in specific areas. All
of them are grass-roots initiatives that while not localist in outlook have
decided to concentrate their time and resources in localities and regions
in response to limited interest and access at the level of the central
state. While some of the goals and strategies adopted by these groups
appear very mainstream and centrist when viewed from the West, in the
context of a persistently and in some ways increasingly sexist
post-communist Russia these organizations are an important progressive
force. The key issue here is that these groups see further genuine
democratization and social empowerment as crucial to their specific agendas.

If women’s rights and labor organizations are for the most part clearly on
the left as I understand it in the post-communist context, national and
regional movements are more difficult to categorize. Viewed analytically,
for many of the ethnic groups that make up the Russian Federation, the end
of the Soviet Union marked the beginning of a changed colonial situation.

As theories of nationalism would suggest, this changed political context
demands new discourses that enable the construction of “identities of
interest” beyond anti-communism. The legacy of Soviet nationality policy,
which equated self-determination with ethno-territorial structures,
provides the context in which this construction is taking place. As the
historian Yuri Slezkine put it, quoting an early Soviet official, the USSR
was a “communal apartment, in which national state units, various republics
and autonomous provinces represented separate rooms.” When the Soviet
Union was abolished, he went on, “the tenants of various rooms barricaded
their doors and started using the windows, while the befuddled residents of
the enormous hall and kitchen stood in the center scratching the backs of
their heads. Should they try to recover their belongings? Should they
knock down the walls? Should they cut off the gas? Should they convert
their living area into a proper apartment?” Like the often arbitrary
borders of post-colonial states in Africa and elsewhere, post-communist
territorial divisions open possibilities for various strands of nationalism
that have very different political implications.

In most cases up to this point, the aim of national and regional movements
has been to devolve authority from the central Russian state apparatus to
the localities. In part, this is a struggle between two sets of elites,
and the articulation of national or regional differencein culture,
language, ethnicityis a tool in this struggle. But if one looks at the
work of Hroch, Hobsbawm, Gellner, and many others, it is apparent that
these types of movements have always been embedded in such struggles; so
they cannot be dismissed on these grounds. The pattern has been for these
movements to try to gain the political authority to control the economic
resources of the regions, often with the goal of changing the economic,
social, and cultural priorities of the center. In areas such as Sakha,
this has meant reviving educational programs in the history, culture, and
language of indigenous populations. In the Maritime province of Russia’s
Far East, local populations have rallied around environmental concerns as a
means of asserting their rights. And in some of the “Red Belt” areas,
governors have appealed to regional sentiments to support attempts to
institute more socialist or social-democratic policies, particularly on
social welfare issues. We also need to distinguish these types of
political maneuverings from the struggles of indigenous populations in many
parts of Russia, so well described by Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer in her
book The Tenacity of Ethnicity, which add yet another layer of complexity
to the issue of nationalisms’ role in post-Soviet Russia.

I include these movements in my analysis of left politics not because they
are generally viewed as progressive, but precisely because they are not.
While many strains of post-communist nationalism have earned a deservedly
bad name, in the Russian case, given the current political trends, there
are ways in which these movements might factor in important ways into left

First, Russia under its current leadership has adopted an increasingly
aggressive Russian nationalist position of which its actions in Chechnya
are only the most obvious example. This is in my view just a part of an
increasingly authoritarian response to the socioeconomic crisis that the
regime has itself produced. Leaving aside the question of whether
self-determination is a good in itself, national and regional groups that
demand greater autonomy and control from the center may serve as a check on
the Russian central state, particularly since a large share of Russia’s
resources lie in these regions. 

Second, as I have noted in reference to both labor and women’s rights
groups, and I would add to this environmental groups, much of the
concentrated activity of progressive forces takes place in Russia’s
regions. Greater decision making power in the regions, at least in the
short and medium term, would serve to strengthen those forces by bringing
them closer to institutional structures through which they might advance
their agendas. The labor movement in southwestern Siberia is a case in point.

I would like now to shift focus from the organized left to the society in
which it operates. I contend that Russian society taken as a whole
retains a “socialist value culture” derived from its communist past and
reinforced by its post-communist present. Two sets of examples will
illustrate the nature of this culture. The first involves attitudes toward
social rights and economic differentiation; the second reactions to
privatization, which was the clearest policy that directly raised the issue
of the relation between property and power.

The provision of social guarantees was one of the bedrock principles of the
Soviet state, however badly those guarantees were realized in practice.
Available evidence indicates that Russians have adopted the belief that
these social guarantees are theirs by right. In the view of most Russian
citizens, the state has an obligation to provide free or subsidized medical
care, education, and housing, and also to guarantee a job to whoever wants
to work. In surveys conducted at the end of 1996, over 90% of Russians
believed that there should be free medical care, and the vast majority
favored only free care (that is, not a public/private system). Similarly,
over 90% believed that primary education should be free and not accompanied
by a private option. An equally high percentage agreed that there should
be free higher education, although there was more division as to whether
there should be a free/tuition option. On the question of housing, again
over 90% agreed that there should be free housing available, but here
alongside the right to own houses and apartments. Overwhelming majorities
persisted in the belief that society had an obligation to guarantee work
for whoever wants it, and this was true regardless of age, education,
gender, occupation, sector of the economy in which a person was employed,
income level, or place of residence.

On the question of economic differentiation, surveys and interviews
indicate that Russians continue to support economic egalitarianism in large
majorities. In spite of, or perhaps in part because of, the fact that
price liberalization was a centerpiece of shock therapy, over seventy
percent of the population continue to support some level of price controls,
particularly on goods deemed of basic necessity. In terms of income
differentiation, most social groups prefer controls on income to limit the
difference between the highest and lowest groups to either 3 to 4 times, or
so that “there will not be people who are too rich.” 

Reactions to privatization reflect the same attitudes. Virtually no group
in Russia objected to people owning small enterprises or small plots of
agricultural land. At the same time, no group in Russian society in any
category approved in their majorities of the private ownership of large
factories or quantities of agricultural land. Negative attitudes toward
such ownership were highest where you would expect them to be: among the
older generation, among workers, the less skilled, and agricultural
laborers. However, even managers and specialists, who one might surmise
would benefit most from private ownership, evinced negative views of such
ownership in their majorities.

And the story does not end there. In the last two years, more and more
people in Russia are talking openly of “a review of the results of
privatization,”which is the current code for some form of
re-nationalization. Both Yeltsin and acting President Putin have stated
that a review of privatization is unacceptable, but many Russians now
argue that instituting some form of collective control over Russia’s
economic assets is the only way to reverse Russia’s economic implosion. The
most popular term seems to be “deprivatization,”which embraces both
re-nationalization and the more radical notion of collective social
ownership as options. 

The increasing popularity of “deprivatization” among Russians is the
result of two central factors. First, the vast majority of Russians view
the privatization process as deeply unjust. In the words of Oleg
Pchelintsev, a member of the forecasting laboratory of the Russian Academy
of Sciences, “it is impossible to believe that the privatization process
that has been carried out has once and for all resolved the question of the
rights of 150 million Russian citizens to what was once the property of the
whole people. The victims of three generations of every Russian family
stand for these rights.” Among workers and trade-unionists I have
interviewed, the most common printable word used to describe the
privatization process is “betrayal,” and surveys indicate that most
Russians share this feeling. 

Second, the collapse of the industrial economy and the financial system,
domestic capital flight, poor contract enforcement and asset stripping,
have made private economic activity in Russia an almost unsupportable risk
for domestic and foreign entrepreneurs. Vladimir Mau, the leader of the
Russian Government’s Working Center for Economic Reform, stated last year
that “there will be no investment in the next few years, because the
strategic decisions of investors will be put off until after the 2000
presidential election.” As a result, Russians increasingly see either
state or social control as a potential key to economic survival.

Evidence of “deprivatization” initiated by local and regional governments
or by social groups is increasingly visible. I have already mentioned the
attempts by some labor groups to establish workers’ councils. Richard
Ericson, quoted by Raj Desai and Itzhak Goldberg in their recent paper The
Vicious Circles of Control (World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2287),
mentions the Belgorod Iron Works, Krasnoyarsky Metalurgichesky Zavod,
Mikhailovsky Iron Works, Tatneft, Avtovaz, Alkar Aluminium, and Kamaz, Zil,
and Moskvitch as well as cases in Sverdlovsk, Ulyanovsk, Voronezh,
Primorye, and Chelyabinsk, and Moscow. In the Saratov region, a regional
economic council is pushing the “deprivatization” of the Volga-Kama
Hydroelectric Complex. A paper mill in Vyborg, privatized in 1992 and
later declared bankrupt by a Russian court in a case brought by its foreign
owners, was recently taken over by its workers. They elected a regional
deputy as a “people’s director” and issued new shares that were completely
owned by the labor collective. The Vyborg case was finally resolved by
sending in the police and arresting the workers involved, but similar
incidents continue to occur. 

The debate over and recent moves toward deprivatization are only the latest
evidence of a profound dissonance between the policies and ideology of the
central Russian state and the society over which it rules. Whether the
issue is property, prices, incomes, the nature of state involvement in the
provision of social guarantees, or what comes under the definition of basic
rights, the peoples of Russia remain uncomfortable with the non-egalitarian
implications of liberal market economics. They also seem unconvinced by
the political arguments in favor of capitalism as the condition of
democracy which have been made since 1992 by the Russian leadership and
Western governments and financial institutions.

The proliferation of leftist organizations, disorganized and volatile as
they are, and the strength of the socialist value culture that remains in
place in Russia, raise crucial questions. What accounts for the
continuing disconnect between the existing left parties and the broad
sectors of society that seem to share many of their beliefs and goals?
Why, as a recent article in Znamia put it, have the “numerous attempts to
create in our country some kind of mass, influential socialist or
social-democratic movement so far ended in failure?” And what does all
this mean for the future of democracy and the economy in Russia?

To account for the distance between the organized left and a society that
shares its goals, and for the failure for a broad social-democratic
movement to develop, I would first point out that the governments of
post-communist Russia have systematically excluded most citizens from the
political process and impoverished the vast majority of society. The
Yeltsin regime wrote a constitution in 1993 that concentrated power in the
presidency, and Yeltsin’s liberal use of extra-constitutional decrees
undercut the controlling functions of this already unbalanced document. It
is, fundamentally, the executive branch, its bureaucracy, and the allied
financial oligarchy that matters institutionally in Russia, not the system
as a whole. The interesting thing about the “Party of Power” that people
talk about is that there is no real party at all (the recently formed
“Unity” organization notwithstanding) and the reason is that those in power
have not seen the need for one. The closed nature of this power structure
leaves no room for organized societal involvement, and there is therefore
little incentive to organize and engage politically at this level. 

Even if there were such an incentive, the economic implosion of Russia
since 1992 has in large part stripped society of what resources in had
prior to the introduction of shock therapy. The GDP has fallen by almost
half, as has industrial production; the free provision of many social
services has either been reduced or eliminated, effectively reducing income
and requiring people to work more. Non-payment of wages is endemic, often
extending for six months or longer. As one example of the results of this
from the labor side, when wages are not paid, union dues are not paid
either, and therefore resources for political organization or strike funds
are also unavailable. 

We also have to recognize that political parties and groups in Russia tend
to be under-institutionalized and highly personalistic. In part, this
phenomena is linked to the first, insofar as ordinary folk do not have the
wherewithal to support or bring their agendas to these groups. A related
problem, particularly on the left, is the tendency toward factionalism
built around often minute programmatic differences articulated by various
leaders. This diverts these groups from the task of building
constituencies at the same time that it alienates people who might
otherwise be sympathetic. Finally, we have to acknowledge that the left in
Russia has a problem in finding a political discourse that embraces the
values it wants to articulate without recalling to people’s minds the
political structures of state-socialism.

So, what does this mean for the future of the left in Russia, and for
Russia’s future more generally? 

At the level of day-to-day politics, the organizations on the left
described above have little choice but to expend their energies and what
resources they have in attempts to defend jobs, social supports, basic
rights, and their organizational existence in a country where the dominant
economic and political forces work against them. As indicated above, these
attempts take many, often very inventive, forms. There is some evidence to
suggest that many of these groups are beginning to recognize a common
interest in further genuine democratization as a necessary condition for
achieving their particular goals, but as yet political activism in this
direction remains sporadic at best.

Let me turn to the question of what Russia is systemically at the moment
and might become in the longer term. My view is that democracy is not yet
institutionalized by any measure, that democratization as I understand the
term has progressed little since 1991, and that a “final settlement” of the
economic transition has yet to be achieved. Taking my analysis of the left
as currently constituted and of the underlying social basis for a leftist
program broadly defined into account, I’d like to end by remarking on three
scenarios for Russia’s future.

The first, which I would argue is the model that serves as the basis of US
policy and as the ostensible goal of the current Russian leadership, is
that Russia continues with the current project of neo-liberal reform. The
argument runs that over time, the economy will stabilize and grow, that a
respectable middle class will emerge, that the existing socialist value
culture will erode, that democratic political institutions will become
“embedded,” and that this will create a stable structural and social base
for a capitalist and democratic Russia that will join the rest of the
reasonable world in a peaceful and globalized international system.

The second is that Russia, in an effort to gain some control over its
crippled economy and rebuild the power of the center, will adopt an
increasingly authoritarian form of state-corporatism. This will involve
more state control over certain strategically central parts of the economy,
enough social welfare and co-optation of societal groups to contain
discontent, and an sufficiently aggressive Great Russian nationalist
posture at home and abroad to rally people to the state without causing a
total breach in Russia’s relations with the West. This would be done in
the context of maintaining Russia’s connection to the global economy,
developing a controlled but stable market and investment climate, and
allowing enough formal democracy to placate the US and Europe. I would dub
this the “China Lite” scenario.

The third is that Russia might adopt a form of societal corporatism, that
would be fundamentally social-democratic or socialist in character. In the
economic realm, this would combine a certain level of “deprivatization” to
reduce the highly skewed distribution of property that the original
privatization program resulted in, to rein in the financial oligarchies,
and control capital flight. It would also involve a serious attempt to
construct a system based on what was originally called in 1991 “social
partnership.” That is, joint consultation between representatives of the
state, managers, and labor. I see no contradiction between this approach
and some of the suggestions for economic restructuring currently being
advanced. Elements of societal corporatism could be incorporated even in
the context of bankruptcy proceedings or Investment-based Ownership
Transfer, as a way of defusing the potentially socially explosive effects
of such policies. In politics and society, it would mean revamping the
balance of power between branches of government, the center and periphery,
and redirecting resources toward social welfare and towards societal
organizations to assist them in building organizations that could function
as the foundation of a civil society to support genuinely democratic politics.

In my estimation, it is only the third of these scenarios that provides a
decent chance for Russia to become a stable, prosperous, and democratic
state. In is only by relying on inclusive democratic methods, and more
important by embracing rather than ignoring the underlying values of
society, that the Russian state can hope to garner social support for what
will undoubtedly be a continued difficult and painful period of change.
Western governments may not like the implications of this scenario from
certain, particularly economic, points of view, but the long-term security
implications of an unstable and authoritarian Russiaeven one that does have
open marketshave to be disturbing for the US and its allies. I also think
that this scenario is unlikely to emerge, or at the very least would be
difficult to construct, given the power of those who have done well out of
the current transition and what they would stand to lose.

At this point, the first scenario, based on the continuation of existing
policy patterns, seems to me to be based on an immense act of faith.
Almost ten years of neo-liberal reform have given Russia a sputtering
economy, a corrupt political system, wide-spread crime of all varieties,
and two brutal wars against Chechnya, just to hit the high points. It
could be that in the long term this scenario might still work out. If we
compare Russia’s transition from communism to the West’s transition from
feudalism, say, with a “la longue duree” perspective a la Fernand Braudel,
we might be more sanguine about the swings and roundabouts. 
But at the very least, it would involve continued wide-spread suffering for
the Russian people, probably for decades, and a trust in current Russian
leaders’ commitment to ultimate democracy that might strain some peoples’

I think that the second scenario is the most likely, not only based on the
current evidence of Chechnya, but also the upcoming Potemkin presidential
election and the casual relation of Russia’s post-Soviet bureaucracies to
the rule of law and citizens’ concerns. It seems to me that Russia can not
just continue to muddle through, hoping that some combination of haphazard
economic reform, international assistance, and sporadic brutality will
solve existing problems. Unfortunately, the authoritarian option seems to
be the path of least resistance and comports with the political culture of
Russia’s elites. The admiration of most ordinary Russians for a strong
hand, at least based on my experience in the field among Russia’s
industrial working class, is based largely on desperation for normalcy
rather than conviction. But a policy that satisfied most Russians’
socio-economic demands even partially, even at the expense of democracy,
might drain off the actual and potential power of the left described above.

While argument by historical analogy is always problematic, I often think
of the experience of the left in Weimar Germany in this context. And
finally, if the current US administration’s reaction to actions in Chechnya
is any indication, Russia’s leaders need not worry that authoritarianism at
home will materially effect their relations with West.

I’m sure that there are other imaginable scenarios, and in one sense I hope
I’m wrong about the likely outcome. Not least because the US has few good
options for dealing with Russia if I’m correct. Having tried to answer the
question, “After Communism, What’s Left,” I’m thinking about what I might
talk about if given the opportunity to address you again in a few years
time. I can imagine at that point giving a talk entitled, “After
Communism, What’s Right?” And I find the implications of that topic highly


Official crime and corruption on rise in Russia

MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Acts of crime and corruption by Russian 
government officials rose by more than 35 percent in 1999, the Interior 
Ministry said on Wednesday. 

The Itar-Tass news agency quoted First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir 
Kozlov as telling reporters at a government briefing that there were 53,700 
crimes committed by or involving officials last year. 

He said this was a rise of 35.6 percent on the previous year. 

Charges have been brought against more than 21,000 officials, including 
high-ranking figures such as the social security minister in the southern 
republic of Bashkiria and deputy governors in several other regions, Kozlov 

Russian politicians and businessmen have mentioned rampant corruption as one 
of the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of economic development and 
foreign investment. 

Kozlov said the direct damage to Russia from crime in the economic sphere 
stood at 29.2 billion roubles ($1 billion) in 1999, a rise of 45 percent on 
the previous year. 


Source: Centre TV, Moscow, in Russian 2105 gmt 29 Feb 00 

[Presenter] [Acting President] Vladimir Putin yesterday [29th February] 
defined his future attitude to our Russian oligarchs. This is what he said - 
I quote: we have to exclude the possibility of anybody sucking up to the 
authorities and using this to their ends. No clan or oligarch should be 
allowed to get close to the regional or federal authorities. They should be 
equally distanced from the authorities and enjoy equal opportunities... 

If we imagine the Kremlin as the centre of solar system, then our leading 
oligarchs can be compared with planets spinning around the sun. The first is 
Mercury, no other than Boris Berezovskiy of course. Mercury has one side 
perpetually turned toward the sun, so it's white hot. On the other side, 
eternal cold reigns. Berezovskiy has been most active among the oligarchs in 
supporting Putin and continues to do so. For his part, Putin is constantly 
distancing himself from the magnate and [State Duma] deputy. However, 
Berezovskiy has no choice: without a special relationship with the sun, he 
will simply fall from orbit. 

The second planet from the sun, ie, the Kremlin, is [the head of the Unified 
Energy System of Russia] Anatoliy Chubays, who revolves in Venus' orbit. 
According to rumours, he would really like to be prime minister. He managed 
to get several of his people into the team writing Putin's economic 
programme. Recently the acting president has criticized Chubays several times 
for the state of affairs at the Russian Unified Energy System. But there are 
no signs that Putin is trying to get rid of Chubays. 

The third planet from the sun is the Earth. Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev, who 
draws his riches from the bowels of the Earth, appears to have overcome the 
recent crisis in his relations with the Kremlin. After a meeting with Putin, 
Vyakhirev made it known that plans to split Gazprom in two will remain just 
plans for the moment. This means that other oligarchs are unlikely to feast 
on pieces of Gazprom. 

Taking the place of Mars, ie, fairly close to the sun, we have the cautious 
and far-sighted Alfa Group, headed by Petr Avin and Mikhail Fridman. These 
two bankers are just about the only members of the famous family of seven 
bankers who hardly suffered in the August collapse. Now, they are increasing 
their influence in the Kremlin via a number of their people in the 
presidential administration. 

Jupiter is Vladimir Gusinskiy, head of NTV and the Most group. He is the only 
oligarch who is now throwing down a direct political challenge to Putin in 
the form of criticism of Moscow's policy in Chechnya and even personal 
attacks on Putin. Gusinskiy's influence is secured by powerful international 
ties and NTV's popularity in Russia. It is said that Gusinskiy plans to 
exchange relative loyalty to the Kremlin in the future for Kremlin support of 
his undertakings. 

Our Saturn is the fairly young and sharp oligarch, the owner of Sibneft and 
the co-owner of Russia's biggest aluminium plants, Roman Abramovich. For a 
long time he was a Berezovskiy prot\eg\e, until he became his full partner. 
He has also been especially close to the family of Tsar Boris [Yeltsin] for a 
long time. He retains significant influence in the presidential 

Uranus is the mysterious head of LukOil, Vagit Alekperov. He has shown no 
special desire to tread the Kremlin's corridors, but throughout recent years 
has always received the authorities' support when he needed it. Alekperov's 
main ace, one of Russia's biggest oil companies, makes him a key player in 
any move in our solar system. 

Neptune is Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, one of the seven bankers. After August he 
went into the shadows. He was reorganizing his concern. He seems far from the 
sun, but is holding on to his orbit. 

Finally, Pluto, the furthest planet from the sun, but still a planet - 
Vladimir Potanin, at one time Berezovskiy's main rival in the fight for 
influence. Now he is mainly busy reviving his almost destroyed empire, with 
Uneximbank at its head. However, it is believed to be still early to write 
him off... 

[Presenter] I will permit myself to give you our own forecast. After 26th 
March [the presidential election], some oligarchs will behave more carefully, 
satisfying themselves with the fact that the authorities will be loyal to 
them and will not torment them too much. These are the ones who are linked to 
real manufacturing to some degree. The others, whose might and influence 
depends entirely on their ability to leech off the state, are unlikely to 
forget about such a highly profitable business. However, everything will 
actually depend on how willing the state is to let them leech off it... 

[Irina Khakamada, captioned as Duma deputy] The role of major companies, of 
the so-called oligarchs, will be decided only by how competitive they are. 
The concept of oligarchs should disappear, and the concept of competitive big 
business should appear. If Putin makes this reality, it will be a revolution. 
If he lets them remain oligarchs, it will mean the union of the authorities 
and big business on the basis of corruption, and he will lose. If he replaces 
one set of oligarchs with another one that is more loyal to him, he will fall 
into the trap as the previous president... 


Democrats Join Helms on Chechnya
March 1, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee joined 
chairman Jesse Helms in pressing the Clinton administration Wednesday for a 
stronger stand against Russia's war in Chechnya. 

``I am ashamed of our government in this regard,'' said Helms, R-N.C., 
accusing Clinton and other Western leaders of ignoring the conflict or 
``trying to pretend it is legitimate'' in order not to upset relations with 
Russia's new leader, Vladimir Putin. 

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the committee, said the 
State Department needs more ``frankness'' in its dealings with Russia. He 
predicted that Russia would be cooperative with other nations on major issues 
but continue to allow internal abuses, following the Chinese pattern. 

Biden said this is likely to be a major problem for the next U.S. president. 

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., while not directly condemning the 
administration, said U.S. elected leaders must speak out on Russian abuses. 

``We must remind the Russian leadership that the world is watching,'' he 

Human rights workers also criticized the mild U.S. response at a committee 

``Instead of using its relationship with Russia to bring an end to the abuses 
in Chechnya, the Clinton administration has focused on cementing its 
relationship with acting President Putin, the prime architect of the abusive 
campaign in Chechnya,'' said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch. 

After watching a video highlighting Russian brutality in Chechnya and 
listening to testimony from human rights advocates and the director of Radio 
Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Helms said he plans to take the case against 
Russia before the whole Senate for further action. 

The Senate passed a resolution written by Wellstone last week calling on 
Russia to cease military operations in Chechnya, investigate alleged 
atrocities and allow international human rights monitors. Helms said he wants 
an even tougher stance, and Democrats agreed to work with him on a new 

Helms said he plans to work with Democrats to push a resolution targeting 
Moscow and called for testimony from newly freed Radio Liberty correspondent 
Andrei Babitsky, who said Wednesday he believes he was held by Russian agents 
despite Russian claims he had been turned over to Chechen rebels. 

Thomas Dine, Radio Free Europe president, credited Senate action, including a 
letter from Helms, as instrumental in ``Moscow's decision'' to release 
Babitsky. He said he would work on bringing the correspondent for the U.S. 
government broadcasting entity to Washington, but he was not now being 
allowed to leave Moscow. 

Dine says Babitsky's capture highlights the need for the U.S. broadcasts, 
which include 900 hours of radio a week beamed into Eastern Europe, the 
former Soviet Union, Iran and Iraq. The broadcasts go to 24 countries in 26 

``The last few years and especially the last few months have demonstrated to 
everyone's satisfaction that our reinvented communications company will have 
a role to play well into the 21st century,'' Dine said. 

Bouckaert, who has been monitoring Chechnya for Human Rights Watch from 
neighboring Ingushetia, told the committee that although rights monitors are 
barred from Chechnya, they have interviewed more than 500 witnesses of abuses 
on both sides. More than 200,000 Chechens have fled to Ingushetia, he said. 

By far the most abuses have been committed by Russian forces, he said. 

He said the United States and its Western allies need to do more to stop what 
he said should be termed ``war crimes'' rather than abuses. Bouckaert also 
called upon the United States to push the World Bank and the International 
Monetary Fund to suspend pending loan disbursements until Russia reins in its 
troops, holds them accountable for abuses and allows international monitoring 
in Chechnya. 


Russia Today press summaries
March 1, 2000
Vladimir Putin’s Terrible Secret
While the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (MVD RF) is 
checking the income and property declarations submitted by the presidential 
candidates, a Kommersant journalist was able to find a house not declared by 
Vladimir Putin’s wife. Although Putin’s election headquarters doesn’t find 
this to be a serious violation of the election law.

The “estate” of the Putin family was discovered on the scenic shores of 
Chudskoe Lake, 150 kilometers from St. Petersburg. In the beginning of 1990’s 
Vladimir and Ludmila Putin bought a 600-sq. meter lot and a small house 
there. The official owner of the house is Mrs. Putin.

The neighbors say that the Putins were very modest summer residents. Their 
house is made of simple boards, between which slag has been placed. The shed 
and the toilet are very badly built and are about to fall apart.

The Putins are not very successful gardeners. All they have is a few currant 
bushes, young plum trees, an apple tree, lilacs and raspberries. There is no 
vegetable garden.

As for her income and property declaration, Ludmila Putina declared only the 
land lot, and not the house. A member of Vladimir Putin’s headquarters, Xenia 
Ponomareva, sent an official response to Kommersant. According to the 
headquarters information, the house is still under construction and is not 
officially registered as property, which is why it was not included in the 
declaration. “An unfinished construction is not considered to be an immovable 
and doesn’t have to be included in an income and property declaration,” said 
the statement sent from the acting president’s election headquarters.


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