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14 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Kremlin friends insist "Iron Man" Putin is a bleeding heart liberal.
2. Trud: NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FUTURE. (poll)
3. allnews.ru: Communist Leader May Refuse To Accept Election
4. Segodnya: Yulia Ulyanova, PUTIN FOR EXPORT (A Consultative Council session on foreign investment)
5. David Filipov: "freedom fighters"
6. Paul Rusman: B.Howley's question re chemical weapons.
7. Dan Bases: Reuters Forum on The Real Risks of Lending to Russia.
8. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, STANDING BY PUTIN AS THEY BURY THEIR DEAD.
9. The Daily Yomiuri: Georgy Kunadze, RUSSIA PURSUES NEW FOREIGN
10. AFP: Ex-Soviet countries pin hopes on "dark horse" Putin.
11. Vladimir Raskin: Re Piontkovsky/Putin's Papal Bull.
12. Moscow Times: Theodore W. Karasik and Nicolai N. Petro, A Novgorod Model.
13. APN: We Must Net the West. (Views of Mikhail Khodorkovsky)
14. Moskovsky Komsomolets: Who To Vote For? STALIN IS DEAD. PRIMAKOV ISN’T RUNNING.
15. AFP: Last resort of mothers in search of soldier sons.
16. Washington Times: Jamie Dettmer, Putin's economic policy called good-bad mix.
17. Itar-Tass: In US and Russia Confidence that Putin Be President.
(DJ: This report on a Harvard conference in Washington captures the
bland pro-Putin flavor of the event. Lucky for the organizers
that Matt Taibbi was not in the audience. Very disappointing,
at least in the C-SPAN coverage I saw.)]
Kremlin friends insist "Iron Man" Putin is a bleeding heart liberal
MOSCOW, March 14 (AFP) -
Mysterious Putin. Russia's acting and likely new president does not shy away
from the image, instead relishing an aura of invincibility that has
electrified an electorate fed up with stagnation.
Asked in a newspaper interview if Russia's politics will turn upside down if
he gets elected, Vladimir Putin responded: "I won't tell!"
But people close to the Kremlin's new administrator insist that Putin does
indeed have strong -- and many say liberal -- views.
Such sentiments however have been largely drowned out of late by the roar of
heavy guns now blasting Chechnya in a war that has helped transform Putin
into a hero at home, in time for the March 26 vote.
"He has not presented a detailed program," said Dmitry Vasiliyev, former
chief of the Russian securities commission and one of the most trusted
consultants used by Western investors.
"Yet Putin has touched on the two most important points hurting Russia. He
says he wants to reform the government and wants to make taxes logical.
"Western investors are mainly very positive and are looking for political
stability and predictability," Vasiliyev said.
And then there is Putin's overture to NATO, which he said Russia might one
day join before changing his mind when the US-led military alliance said it
rather would keep Moscow on the other side of the fence.
"Most major Russian politicians start their careers with a western, liberal
romance," said a popular Sevodnya daily political columnist, Leonid
"Then, after all that fails, they return back to their caves."
Putin's policies are difficult to spell out. Most concede that besides the
war in Chechnya, for which Russia is on the verge of being ostracized from
the Council of Europe, there is just not much that he has done.
But listening to his advisors, the ex-KGB spy is a 21st century kind of guy.
"I think that he is a person of the new generation, well educated and
profoundly interested in the problems which face him," said German Gref, head
of an institute helping draft Putin's economic strategy.
"Liberal economics are a key component of our program," Gref said.
In stark contrast to many of his predecessors, Gref insisted that Putin
understands Russia does not have a 'third way' out of its economic malaise, a
mixture of western economics twisted to incorporate Russia's 'soul.'
"God forbid that Russia should endure any more experiments," Gref said.
"Russia is a western, European country."
His reform-minded allies insist that Putin has barely touched on economics
because he still depends on support from Russia's major but often corrupt
Putin relies on their support to win the elections, but intends to cut their
links with the Kremlin once installed in office, his friends insist.
"To accomplish many of the reforms he will need to encroach on others'
interests," Vasiliyev said. "For the moment, he does not have a team to
accomplish such a task -- his team is only just being formed."
However some of the most experienced Russian liberals insist that Putin's
record to date only shows that he has dictatorial instincts, a leader who has
dominated the media for his own needs and who has little sympathy for
They further point to his recent declarations about clipping the powers of
Russia's regional governors, even suggesting the president should have the
right to throw them out of office.
"I think that Russia is facing the threat of totalitarianism," said Lev
Ponomaryov, co-chairman of reform icon Yegor Gaidar's Democratic Russia party.
"There is no reason to believe that Putin is an enlightened monarch. Our
biggest problem is that Putin is a populist. That is how most people who
bring a country to a dictatorship start."
March 4, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FUTURE
By Vitaly GOLOVACHEV
Among the topics of the sociological survey that the
VTsIOM, or the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre,
conducted on February 25-28, 2000, were questions related to
the financial position of Russia's residents (in the table
below, the results are shown in per cent of the total number of
Surveys show that for many people, life wasn't improving
over the last decade. In 1995, around 60% of Russians (as
compared to 1990) stated that their financial position had
worsened. In the five years that followed, life got even worse
for practically the same number of Russians. Who knows what it
will be like in another five years?-- About half of the pollees
say their financial position is likely to be the same as today,
while 20 percent of the pollees predict a decline and 30
percent say it will improve. At the same time, the results of
another survey show that two thirds of Russians have no
confidence in the future. Though this number is sufficiently
less than in 1997, it is still very high.
Therefore, giving people confidence in the future is a top
priority for the authorities.
you evaluate the financial position of your family as compared
with that five years ago?
Much better than before 8 5
Somewhat better than before 13 14
About the same 18 23
Somewhat worse than before 30 28
Much worse than before 31 30
March 13, 2000
Communist Leader May Refuse To Accept Election Results
There is a chance that the leftist opposition may not accept the final
results of the upcoming election. According to ITAR-TASS, this was announced
on Monday by the head of the Communist Party, Gennadii Ziuganov, in a meeting
with the chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), Alexander
The communist leader mentioned "blatant violations" of the electoral law and
"social-psychological pressures on voters" which, according to him, were made
to influence their choice to elect one of the candidates.
He also stated that these "violations" do not evoke any concern from the CEC.
"The situation at hand demands that some measures be taken by the government
to control and oversee the pre-election campaign, the voting, and the voting
results themselves", Ziuganov emphasized.
He warned Veshnyakov that if the Communist Party is not allowed to examine
copies of the protocol with the voting results, it will not accept the
elections as legitimate.
March 14, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
PUTIN FOR EXPORT (A Consultative Council session on foreign investment)
By Yulia ULYANOVA
Vladimir Putin scored a few serious points with regard to
his "export" image yesterday. First, it was announced that the
World Bank had joined the economic council - Bank vice
president Johannes Linn represented the World Bank. Second, the
government announced that as of April 1, part of business
expenditures will be tax exempt - the rates of representative,
advertising and insurance expenditures, one which income tax is
levied now, will increase several-fold. The relevant documents
have been drawn up in the government and are lacking only a
Justice Ministry visa, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov
explained to Segodnya.
Third, representatives of major foreign companies actively
working in Moscow could study the long-awaited second part of
the Tax Code, in the form of a synopsis compiled by his author
Sergei Shatalov, though.
For our country, a meeting with investors is "a test for
the Russian economy's compatibility with the world one,"
"something that is called 'adjustment'," said Vladimir Putin.
Foreigners were trying "to adjust" themselves to the Russian
economy politely. They said that their capital was waiting for
an economic growth in Russia but direct foreign investments
were only possible provided... and then followed an impressive
and commonly known list of the problems facing foreign
companies in Russia. Meanwhile, during a closed part of the
meeting, Vladimir Putin got a good dozen appeals against
discriminatory actions and decisions with regard to foreign
investors. The acting president replied to those appeals as
follows: "Yesterday World Bank president James Wolfensohn and I
examined tables and did not find a single country where
investors' rights are fully observed." Apparently, the
Consultative Council on foreign investment will have to console
itself with this fact until elections.
From: "David Filipov" <email@example.com>
Subject: "freedom fighters"
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
Sometimes I wonder why I keep all of your JRL and CDI bulletins. I think it
is because I have nothing else to fill the 150 gigabytes on my laptop.
Anyway, I finally put my archive - every JRL from May, 1997 on -- to use
after reading Nicolai Petro's comment to the Providence Journal, "Sharing
the blame in Chechnya" (JRL 4158).
Petro states that "WESTERN MEDIA portrayals of the Chechen war suffer from
some remarkable lapses. The rebels are usually described as freedom
I found that odd, because I couldn't remember the rebels being described as
freedom fighters, at least not during this conflict by English-language
journalists who actually go to Chechnya. So I did a quick search.
If we assume that JRL provides a pretty representative sample of
English-language media coverage of Chechnya, then readers might be
interested to learn that out of hundreds of stories on the subject, my
search revealed only 9 mentions of the phrase "freedom fighters" in stories
on Chechnya from the last two years (including Petro's).
Furthermore, only two of them were found in news stories written by Western
reporters who had been to Chechnya in the past 6 months. Both of those
mentions were not the writers' own characterizations of the rebels, but
references to other people's speech.
Curiously, four of the other six uses of the word were found in commentaries
critical of the supposed preference in the West of such a loaded term to
describe the Chechen militants. Aside to Mssrs. Kozin, Kraus, Liakhov and
Averchev: ne budem govorit' kto, khotya eto byl slonyonok.
The Boston Globe
PS: If I wanted to, I could use my archive to shoot a boat-load of holes
into the commentaries of Kozin (CDI 88) and Kraus (JRL 4111), who state,
contrary to the overwhelming evidence, that the Western media have ignored
the hostage-taking and violence rampant in Chechnya before the war.
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
From: Paul Rusman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: B.Howley's question re CW
re Brendan Howley's No.2 question: the most comprehensive work done on
former Soviet CW which can be read in English is Lev Fedorov's 'Chemical
Weapons in Russia: History, Ecology, Politics', an FBIS translation of
'Khimicheskoye oruzhiye v Rossii: istoriya, ekologiya, politika (Moscow:
Center fo Ecological Policy of Russia), 1994 (FBIS-JPRS-TAC-94-008-L),
later expanded in the Russian-only Neob'vlennaya khimicheskaya voina v
Rossii: politika protiv ekologii (Moskva 1995). Many snippets of
information can be gleaned from SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare
Studies No.17, entitled Chemical Weapon Destruction in Russia: Poliical,
Legal and Technical Aspects, ed. John Hart and Cynthia Miller, a joint
SIPRI/BICC project (Oxford UP, 1998).
Paul Rusman, Un.of Groningen, Netherlands (email@example.com)
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
From: dan bases <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reuters Forum - March 8 - good discussion
On March 8, Columbia University's Graduate School
of Journalism hosted its bi-weekly Reuters Forum where
the topic was:
"The Real Risks of Lending to Russia:
Should the G7 Continue to Bail It Out?"
It was a good discussion that I thought readers might
be interested in watching.
President, New York Financial Writers' Association
The Independent (UK)
14 March 2000
RUSSIAN ELECTION: STANDING BY PUTIN AS THEY BURY THEIR DEAD
By Patrick Cockburn
ON INTERNATIONAL Women's Day, the people of Sergiev Posad went for a mass
stroll in the streets, as is the Russian way on public holidays. The sun
glinted on the golden domes of the town's ancient monastery and the golden
arches of its new hamburger restaurant while, in Soviet style, loudspeakers
blasted out patriotic tunes.
Last Wednesday, all outward evidence was gone that Sergiev Posad had just
buried 20 of its sons, members of a special police unit killed in a
guerrilla ambush in Chechnya. "That's life in Russia," said Vladimir
Zakharovich, an engineer, out walking with his wife, Irina. "Feast day and
funeral, funeral and feast."
The ambush showed the Chechen conflict was far from over and could become
as much of a drain for Moscow as the war in Afghanistan. But on the eve of
Russia's presidential elections, far from sowing doubts among the people of
Sergiev Posad, formerly known as Zagorsk, the loss had made many of them
even more determined than before, to punish the Chechens and pursue the war
to the bitter end.
"Only the physical liquidation of every last bandit will be enough," Mr
Zakharovich said. "We have tried every way to deal with them reasonably.
But they have taken our people hostage, they have cut off the fingers of
our children. We need to finish this once and for all or Chechnya will
trouble us endlessly." Did that mean that when he went to the polling booth
to help choose the next president on 26 March, he would vote for the man
who has punished Chechnya, Vladimir Putin, the acting president?
"Oh no," he said. "I agree with Putin on Chechnya, of course, but we have
to think about the economy as well. I shall vote for Yavlinsky [Grigory,
the liberal reformer]. I have been voting for him for several years."
What about Irina? "She won't vote for any politician. She believes that the
individual makes his own destiny," Mr Zakharovich said. Did Irina not wish
to speak for herself? "Oh, he's always right," said the ginger- haired
Irina, eyes twinkling with laughter. She obviously knew how to deal with
her pompous husband.
No votes for Putin, then, in the Zakharovich household. Since Boris Yeltsin
retired early, naming the ex-KGB agent his chosen successor, Mr Putin has
had such a built-in advantage over the other 11 candidates that his victory
has seemed a foregone conclusion.
But opinion in Sergiev Posad, at least, suggested that the election would
be no mere plebiscite to confirm Mr Putin's appointment.
True, he had some ardent supporters. "I like him," said Valentina
Mikhailovna, 89, who was sunning herself on a bench. As a poor pensioner,
she had borne the brunt of Mr Yeltsin's market reforms. "It is hard for
Putin because Yeltsin has left him with a pile of problems, including
Chechnya. But I think Putin is his own man. He won't make the same mess as
"We all love Putin," said Katya, an ice cream seller.
"Who are you talking to?" chipped in Lyudmila, an older woman, slightly
"A dangerous British spy," joked Katya.
"She's no spy," said Lyudmila. "Spies don't smile like that. Now you go
back to London, my dear, and tell everyone in the West we love Putin
because he is bashing the bandits. But we love you too. You don't have any
reason to be afraid of Russia."
Galina Yevgenievna was in a more sombre mood. She had just been to the
Trinity Monastery of St Sergiy to light a candle for the town's dead
policemen. "We only buried them two days ago," she said. "Russians cry
easily but they are too quick to forget.
"There is another opinion about this war. I'm suspicious of Putin. Yeltsin
was accused of corruption, so they started the war in Chechnya, then
Yeltsin's man became instantly popular. It's like in this book," she said,
taking from her bag a thriller by Alexandra Marinina, the
policewoman-turned- novelist. "It may make a good plot for a cheap novel
but it's no way to do things in real life."
Outside the monastery, the souvenir sellers were also critical of Mr Putin.
Viktor Blagochev, a pensioner, and his daughter, who make an uncertain
living selling shawls, plan to vote for the Communist candidate, Gennady
Zyuganov. They think he offers the best chance of Soviet-style social
Konstantin and Sergei, icon sellers, intend to vote for a liberal democrat.
They fear the worst about Mr Putin, saying he could become a "modern
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/DAILY YOMIURI
March 14, 2000
RUSSIA PURSUES NEW FOREIGN POLICY
By Georgy Kunadze
Special to The Daily Yomiuri
As a part of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's controversial
heritage, acting President Vladimir Putin has inherited a remarkably
inefficient foreign policy. It was vain and worthless at its best, while
blatantly counterproductive at its worst. In fact it was hardly a foreign
policy per se, rather it was a simple reflection of the frustration,
phobias and domestic problems accumulated in the course of distorted reforms.
This foreign policy was dominated by the concept of multipolarity, based on
the idea that there should be multiple centers of power in international
relations. Obviously there was nothing wrong with the idea itself. But its
application by the Yeltsin administration proved to be a disaster. Claiming
in the name of multipolarity a sort of hereditary superpower status, Russia
tried to challenge the established world order by means of an anti-Western
crusade. It is no wonder that the whole world has gradually become wary of
Russia's motives and intentions. By a grim irony, this wariness reached its
peak just at the time when Russia, having started the second Chechen
campaign that it could no longer afford to lose, needed international
understanding or at least the benefit of the doubt as never before. For all
practical purposes Russia was drifting into virtual isolation and
estrangement from the outside world.
Under the circumstances, Putin must have found himself in a less than
enviable situation. As someone who had been trained to professionally
evaluate foreign policy, he could not fail to understand what was coming.
As an acting president with just a three-month term, he lacked the popular
mandate to drastically redirect the foreign policy of his predecessor. And
finally, as a presidential hopeful he had to do what was apparently
popular, that is to continue the West-bashing campaign, to uphold
multipolarity and so forth.
Initially he did just that, saying for the record that the main goal of
Russian foreign policy was to build a multipolar world and even going as
far as identifying as Russia's potential allies all countries who shared
the concept of multipolarity. We will never know what possessed the acting
president to make such statements, because he apparently recovered from
this error in judgment before anyone could really notice. In the following
weeks, Putin pointedly refrained from addressing foreign policy issues and
from emphasizing foreign policy in general. He excused himself from foreign
visits. He also met a number of foreign dignitaries behind closed doors,
never attempting to use these meetings for public relations purposes.
At the same time, acting in a quite unobtrusive way, Putin moved fast to
restore relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to
restrain from fanatical NATO-bashing. Perhaps by a strange coincidence, no
one in the Russian government suggests any more that the West is out to
destroy Russia by encouraging Chechen secessionists. Those in the know
cannot miss these signals, however small and unimportant they may look to
Finally came Putin's open letter to Russian voters. Published on Feb. 25,
it spelled out an entirely new foreign policy direction. If (or when) Putin
is elected president, Russia will vigorously assert its national interests,
but will define them with great care and prudence, strictly on the basis of
what is realistically possible. Russia's place in the world ultimately will
depend on the outcome of its domestic reforms rather than on the hereditary
rights of its predecessor, the former Soviet Union. Superpower ambitions
are just not practical in a country as poor and disorganized as present-day
Russia. True patriotism derives from hard work at home, not from adventures
abroad. In all fairness, this extraordinary message marks a drastic departure.
Ex-Soviet countries pin hopes on "dark horse" Putin
BAKU, March 14 (AFP) -
While Moscow braces for imminent presidential elections, its former Soviet
republic satellites are already preparing to do business with likely victor
Vladimir Putin with a mixture of enthusiasm and caution.
Leaders throughout the 11 republics that join Russia in the Commonwealth of
Independent States grouping are betting heavily on a Putin victory in the
March 26 polls, though some are still nervous as to how Kremlin policy will
change in the new era.
Central Asian chiefs in particular have warmed to Putin's no-nonsense style
of leadership, while leaders in Caucasus republics are also guardedly
optimistic about future relations.
But Russia's most populous neighbour Ukraine is much more cautious in
"I wish him success," President Leonid Kuchma said recently, warning
nonetheless that: "Moscow must understand that the more pressure it puts on
Ukraine, the further we will distance ourselves from Russia."
Since claiming independence during the death throes of the Soviet Union, most
former Soviet republics have endured uneasy ties with Moscow, with many
blaming Russia for meddling in their internal affairs while failing to turn
the CIS into a meaningful organisation.
In the Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan say Russia fomented the destabilizing
and bloody ethnic conflicts which characterized the period immediately
But Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev summed up the new cautious mood of
enthusiasm when he waxed optimistic about the prospects for relations under a
"I sensed a positive change and am very satisfied," Aliyev said recently in
response to Putin's declared intention to revive the largely moribund CIS and
improve ties between its members.
The mood in Armenia, a closer ally of the old Kremlin team, was more
ambiguous. "Vladimir Putin's victory in presidential elections is preferable
as he is a politician who thinks along state lines," said Armenian Prime
Minister Aram Sarkissian somewhat cryptically.
Georgia meanwhile sees Putin's main attribute as his realism. "Realism is
always better than idealism -- you can predict it," said Georgian foreign
policy expert Alexander Rondeli.
Realism and a firm hand at the tiller also appeal to Central Asia's coterie
of authoritarian rulers, who believe they see in Putin an ally in their own
efforts to keep the Islamic fundamentalist genie in the bottle.
Uzbek president Islam Karimov gave Putin a vote of confidence in January, and
said his country could turn to Moscow for help in cracking down on Moslem
extremists in Central Asia.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan face similar problems with fundamentalists, and the
republics have interpreted Putin's own brutal crackdown on Islamic militants
in Chechnya as a sign that they have an ally.
But Central Asian republics also want Putin to live up to his promises on
reviving the CIS.
"We hope that this will indeed be a new step and that the Russian leadership
is now moving from words to deeds," said Kyrgyz official Askar Aitmatov of
Putin's plans to boost the CIS. "A lot depends directly on Russia as the main
link in the chain," he added.
Further west, the promise of a more authoritarian Kremlin rule has the
opposite effect in its neighbours, particularly Ukraine which for years has
fallen foul of Russia over territorial disputes and unpaid energy debts.
Putin's victory "will be followed by a strengthening of authoritarian
tendencies and a toughening of Russia's position towards Ukrainian gas
debts," said Kiev-based political analyst Mikhailo Pogrebinsky.
This "will push Ukraine further and further away from Russia."
Observers and political leaders warn that the enthusiastic reception for
Putin thus far has been based on promises of improving ties with the 'near
abroad' rather than his track record.
Many still fear that Russia will be more aggressive and nationalistic under
his leadership, based on the force with which he has directed foreign policy
and pursued the war in Chechnya.
"Russia under Putin will continue its strategy of trying to recreate the
Soviet Union," said former Azeri presidential advisor Vafa Goulizade. "All
the CIS leaders are afraid of him, but they don't want to give their true
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
From: Vladimir Raskin <email@example.com>
Subject: Piontkovsky/Putin's Papal Bull,
In his last piece (The Russia Journal, March 13-19) published by JRL,
Andrey Pionkovsky labels Chubays and
Gaidar as "Putin's sales agents" and maintains that their "trips
to read lectures in the U.S. have achieved their aim. The West is seduced
by the prospect of a Russian Pinochet..." ans so on and so forth.
I do not know much about Chubays's trip to the U.S., but I was involved
in the West Coast part of Yegor Gaidar's visit. For Piontkovsky's
information, Yegor Gaidar came to the U.S. in January, 2000 by invitation
of the University of Washington Press, which has just published his book
of memoirs, "The days of Defeat and Victory". I was present at at least
five public speeches given by Gaidar during his stay in Seattle and can
testify that neither of them contained any "pro-Putin propaganda." When
asked by the audience about Putin, Gaidar always gave a very
balanced and reserved view of Putin as a future Russia's president. His
main point on the subject was always "let's wait and see."
I hope that in the future Andrey Pionkovsky will double-check his sources
of information before coming up with allegations like those he made in his
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington
March 14, 2000
A Novgorod Model
By Theodore W. Karasik and Nicolai N. Petro
Theodore W. Karasik is editor of the journal Russia and Eurasia Armed Forces
Review Annual. Nicolai N. Petro teaches political science atthe University of
Rhode Island and is completing a book about the Novgorod region. They
contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
Those who complain about the vagueness of acting President Vladimir Putin's
political program are missing some rather obvious clues. Just after he was
appointed prime minister in 1999, Vladimir Putin made his first official
visit, to the Novgorod Oblast. When asked why he had chosen Novgorod, Putin
replied that this trip had been planned by his predecessor, but then added,
"I think that every prime minister would like to see Mikhail Prusak in his
Cabinet, but as far as I know, he does not plan to leave Novgorod." Even
without leaving Novgorod, however, the young governor of this resource-poor
region has had a visible impact on Putin's agenda.
Take the issue of land ownership, a key source of political and economic
stability. While the notion may be alien to most of Russia, in Novgorod it
dates back to the Middle Ages and is closely interwoven with local commerce
and self-government. These traditions of "northern self-government"
resurfaced after 1991, bringing the issue of local property rights back to
For many local activists, the problems facing Novgorod today seem similar to
those it faced in the past. Then, as now, the city must expand trade to
survive, introduce local self-government and keep a safe distance from Moscow
to preserve its freedom. These are precisely the issues that Novgorodians had
to grapple with in the 12th to 15th centuries.
The solution, embraced by the local elite and the governor alike, has been to
make self-government meaningful where it counts: at the grassroots level.
Local historians like to point out that republican Novgorod had a far more
decentralized federal structure than the current Russian Federation, with
local assemblies that extended down to the street level. Governor Prusak, who
has long advocated this kind of grassroots federalism, contrasts "the starkly
centralized model [of] Muscovite Rus [to] the Novgorod model characterized by
greater openness and democracy" in his latest book "Reform in the Provinces"
In 1997, Novgorod city officials passed innovative legislation on
neighborhood associations in a conscious imitation of the property-based
democracy of their ancestors. The idea, according to Novgorod city councilman
Sergei Bessonov, was to show that "everybody can be a property owner because
the city is giving each tenant his or her apartment, so they will have a vote
in the neighborhood self-government councils that are being set up."
Since becoming prime minister, Putin has focused special attention on the
need for regulating land and property relations. Without clear rules in this
realm, he argues, the country cannot expect to achieve better economic
results, or attract major foreign investors.
Last November, he announced that property owners must be protected from "the
tyranny of officials, racketeering and protektsiya." In January, the Security
Council's Interdepartmental Commission of Economic Security argued that
greater supervision of property management was needed to restore public
confidence in market reforms and democracy. Then, last month Putin made
international headlines by calling for a referendum on private ownership of
land. "Farmers," he said, "should not have any fears that someone could take
away their land.''
Again, the coincidences with Novgorod are striking. Instead of waiting for
approval of the federal land code, Novgorod modified its own legislation to
allow for investors, including foreigners, to own the land on which they
build production facilities. But changes in land ownership have not just
affected large-scale enterprises; 95 percent of agricultural land has been
transferred to the mutual funds of agricultural enterprises, leading to
nearly 40,000 newly recorded land deals.
Putin's publicly thanking Prusak for "his conscientious work and consistent
pursuit of economic reform" fueled speculation that Prusak may now be ready
to make that move to Moscow. The appearance in Nezavisimaya Gazeta of a
reform platform authored by Prusak and two other governors has only
encouraged such speculation.
Prusak's approach has done wonders for Novgorod. In the Asian Wall Street
Journal on Nov. 5, 1999, William Lewis, director of the McKinsey Global
Institute, wrote that Novgorod's gross domestic product per capita increased
3.8 percent per year from 1995 to 1998, while in the rest of Russia GDP per
capita declined by 2.7 percent annually. Moreover, Prusak has stabilized the
economic situation without sacrificing the needy or suppressing political
opposition. The secret to his success: massive amounts of foreign direct
investment in local industry. With a population of just over 750,000, the
region attracts about five times as much foreign direct investment per capita
as does the rest of Russia. Doing the same for the rest of Russia, by the
way, is a central part of Putin's agenda.
In short, those looking to fill Putin's agenda with substantive content need
look no further than Novgorod.
Of course, we shall have to await the outcome of the presidential elections
to see whether the Putin-Prusak model will be implemented for Russia as a
whole, but there is historical precedent for it. Investment, agricultural
reform, protectionism and foreign investment were the watchwords of Count
Sergei Witte, the most successful prime minister during the reign of Tsar
Nicholas II, and Mikhail Prusak's favorite statesman. Since the dramatic
economic success of the "Asian Tigers," it has been known as the Asian model,
but, as Duke University political scientist Jerry Hough points out, it was
first the Russian model.
We Must Net the West
Aleksandr Maliutin, staff writer
March 10th the journal Vedomosti published an article by Mikhail
Khodorkovsky, head of the corporation IuKOS, entitled “Last Start on Equal
Terms”. Mr Khodorkovsky believes that in some regards the internet outstrips
the previous achievements of the major industrial powers, meaning Russia has
a chance to catch up.
We continually try to imagine how Russia could catch up with the
developed nations. According to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia should entertain
no hopes of catching up with the West in traditional industries. Even if
secured, no billion-dollar loans would help; while we put them to work, the
world would gain ground again. Given our climate and distances, which
inevitably push up production costs, traditional Russian industries can
hardly be competitive.
The internet is another matter. Traditional businessmen, (of whom, on
the face of it, Mr Khodorkovsky, who runs a big oil company, is one) are
fascinated by the incredible boom of American Internet companies. Despite
predictions of a sharp drop, ‘web-shares’ are continuing to rise steadily,
while oil shares, at best, are making no headway. American Internet ventures
have already been described as the “new economy”. They do not really depend
on bank loans, since money comes in through new shares. Nor is anyone worried
by the very low margin between profits and market capital of .com companies,
which would normally cover investments (unlike oil and car companies) after
many decades or even centuries. Investments are being repaid by the frantic
rise in quotations.
Americans are hoping that the major breakthrough in productivity
promised by internet technology materializes, and thus a crash of “.com”
ventures will be avoided. The bulk of surplus capital will be created in
high-tech industries. Quite soon oil production (losing its profitability,
but still necessary) could well be supported by the “.com” industry, just
like the former currently supports agriculture in Russia and elsewhere.
In fact, mankind is facing a bigger change than the transition from
plant collecting to agriculture, or from medieval guilds to manufactures. The
internet virtually breaks down borders between nations, economies and
cultures. The world, i.e. the part of it connected to the web, is becoming
one. Mikhail Khodorkovsky concludes that all countries advanced or otherwise,
now have the chance of a new start, on almost equal terms. Who cares if Ford
produces better cars than the Russians, it is all in the past. But with the
internet, Russia stands as good a chance as the US, since intellect and
knowledge are coming to the fore, and here our potential is comparable. Even
if we do lag behind, we can easily catch up thanks to the internet itself. It
follows that Russia should invest in internet technologies, in order to
secure a real opportunity to catch up.
But as usual, the problems arise when it comes to implementing a
project. Even the simple task of improving computer and English language
classes in Russian schools is no easy matter. Even if regional authorities
agreed to provide material assistance, for example, on condition that their
sites were made schools’ home pages, one can guess that the average
schoolchild would opt either for games or a porno sites.
Moral questions apart, computer training in schools would only be a
small step in bridging the gap between Russia and the West. When
schoolchildren grow up and get interested in other web resources, it could
prove difficult to make them use Russian sites, lest Russia become a mere
consumer of Western information.
For sure the internet offers Russians, both Muscovites and Siberians,
a unique opportunity to join an American Internet company without ever
leaving home. At first sight, then, it is not really necessary to create or
develop genuine Russian web sites, especially since so many people can speak
English. But in this case Russia is certain to be swallowed by the West’s
web. All intellectual property developed by our young graduates will flow
away to the States, and Russia will never shake off her “old economy”.
Catching up with the West depends not so much nationwide computer classes,
teaching English or even training web experts, but on the ability of Russian
businessmen to establish their own competitive internet companies. They have
to be profitable to stimulate a share boom as the Americans have done.
We could go on mocking our fledgling ‘Russian Internet’ but it is not
even funny. Its heroic promoters are not to blame if their compatriots are
penniless and communication lines are awful. But if the internet can attract
real investment by serious Russian businessmen, signs of which we can already
see, then there is nothing to stop Russian internet companies from becoming
globally competitive. It could be a direct rival of Yahoo! or AOL, or just a
site supplying pizza to New York, Kathmandu or wherever one has access to
Internet and can make some money. It is up to governments, not businessmen,
to make it more attractive to pay taxes in their country. Governments must
strive to manage, or else, as Mr Khodorkovsky predicts, in the internet age,
they will lose their present functions. The Russian government still has a
time advantage, but only as long as a megabyte of Russian information costs
less on the world market than a barrel of Russian oil.
Russia Today press summaries
March 13, 2000
Who To Vote For?
STALIN IS DEAD. PRIMAKOV ISN’T RUNNING
Moskovsky Komsomolets conducted a telephone poll. The question asked was “Who
would you vote for if the election took place tomorrow?” There were many
calls, and this is what people said about the different candidates:
“Yavlinsky is the only candidate who has a detailed program for overcoming
the crisis. He is the politician of my generation.”
“A democratic country must have a democratic president. None of the
candidates but Yavlinsky have a clear orientation.”
“Yavlinsky is the smartest of all candidates, the smartest of all
politicians, the most decent, the most honest, the most handsome.”
“Yavlinsky has a program and knows how to negotiate.”
“I have been through a lot; I have been through war. I want to vote for the
young energetic Putin. Maybe my children and grandchildren will have a normal
“Putin knows what to say to all groups of people – to oil industry workers,
to weavers. His manners and ways of speaking show that he is not an arrogant
man, but a very determined man.”
“Putin is a young, determined and a charming man.”
“Putin loves Russia, and Europe loves Putin.”
“I will vote only for the Communists. They are smart and honest patriots.
Only when the Communists come to power will there be order, stability and
peace in the country.”
“The Communists are the only alternative for getting out of the crisis.”
“It’s time to end the 10-year experiment and return to the Communists.”
“Zyuganov can be trusted. There is no discrediting material against him; he
has a positive program. He is for the normal life of the people.”
“Ella Pamfilova is the symbol of a human face.”
“Skuratov will put all the criminals like Berezovsky in prison, and I want
justice to be done.”
“I am for Govorukhin. By the way, about 70% of students are not planning to
vote, and 30% are going to vote against all.”
“Only Zhirinovsky will be able to shake up the country.”
“Tuleev will not pass any decrees that give privileges to him or his family.”
“Titov is the only one of all the governors who has done anything useful.”
“I will vote against all [candidates]. I don’t see a single candidate to whom
I could entrust the future of my grandchildren.
“We need Stalin. And we don’t have one now, which is why I’ll vote against
Over all, 349 people took part in the poll. Their votes were distributed as
follows: Yavlinsky – 149, Putin – 75, Zyuganov – 57. Pamfilova and Skuratov –
12 each. Govorukhin – 10, Zhirinovsky – 5, Tuleev – 4, Titov – 3. Jabrailov,
Podberezkin and Savostyanov – 0 votes each. Against all – 22 people.
Last resort of mothers in search of soldier sons
ROSTOV ON DON, Russia, March 14 (AFP) -
The scene is Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, some way north of Chechnya.
Russian mothers, desperate for news of missing soldier sons, have finally
resorted to this address...
All else has failed. Obsessed with the need to find out finally whether their
son is alive or dead, they have come knowing that if they find him in this
place with its menacing red-brick walls, its smell of ether, its icy
atmosphere, it will never yield him up alive.
For the Defence Ministry Forensic Identification Laboratory contains the
remains of some 260 slain soldiers whose bodies cannot be identified because
they are without dog tags and papers.
Some have been there for years, since the previous Chechnya war between 1994
and 1996. The Russian defence ministry has been thinking of setting up a war
grave near Rostov on Don, itself the scene of epic battle between Germans and
Soviet troops in World War II.
The grave would be rather like Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC, and would
honour Russia's unknown soldiers.
Officials at the military morgue here are particularly cagey towards
journalists ever since a Russian television crew secretly filmed the interior
with a hidden camera earlier this year.
Officials were seen on the film candidly admitting that some 50 bodies were
arriving here daily. The figure was in stark contrast to the official line in
January that only two to three Russian soldiers died each day.
Yet the local inhabitants of Rostov are not dismayed by the arrival of death
from Chechnya. Here, as elsewhere in Russia, the military campaign to subdue
rebels in the southern republic of Chechnya receives the support of the
"It was a mistake to let them back," said Sergei Zyabrev in a reference to
Josef Stalin's deportation of the Chechens in 1944.
"I never like Stalin, but you've gotta admit he settled their hash," added
Zyabrev, who is director of the local circus here.
In 1944, accusing the Chechens of collaborating with the invading German
Nazis, Stalin ordered some 600,000 Chechen and Ingush citizens deported to
central Asia. A third died before reaching their destination. Those remaining
were allowed to return home by Nikita Khrushchev in 1957.
Zyabrev's solution to the current Chechnya problem? "Put an iron curtain
round that bandit republic," he suggested.
Yakov is a taxi driver from Dagestan, another minority ethnic republic, which
borders on Chechnya. He doesn't like the Chechens much either: "Because of
them, everybody like me with black hair and a dark skin is hated."
What about the losses among Russian soldiers? "It's the price we've got to
pay to restore peace," said Yakov.
Meanwhile the mothers, shivering from cold and fear, silently comb the
refrigerators of the "laboratory."
"He was only 20...just 20...he was fighting in Chechnya," murmured one. She
declined to give her name. "I have no name any more since my son left his own
name behind in Chechnya," she said coldly, expressionlessly.
March 14, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin's economic policy called good-bad mix
By Jamie Dettmer
MOSCOW. Vladimir Putin's economic program, which he has promised to
reveal by the March 26 election, will please Western lenders with
deregulation proposals but alarm them by strengthening the states' role in
Experts drafting the program say it will include economic liberalization
as demanded by the West. But they said while Mr. Putin, who is acting
president and considered a shoo-in in the coming polls, is eager to sweep
away some of the Soviet-era bureaucracy that bedevils private commerce, he
also wants to boost state intervention in the economy.
"We must end an omnipresent state control of businesses," said German
Gref, the head of the Center of Strategic Research, the Moscow-based think
tank developing Mr. Putin's program. But the "state's role must be increased"
as well, he said in a radio interview.
Mr. Putin has promised to release his economic blueprint before Russians
go to the polls, but has not said exactly when that will happen.
Mr. Putin insists that he will continue with market reforms, but there
is no alternative but to expand the state's economic oversight to ensure
everyone gets a fair break and that laws are enforced.
But pro-reform critics maintain that Mr. Putin is at heart a statist and
not interested in throwing the economy open to genuine competition.
They also argue he is surrounding himself in the Kremlin with mediocre
bureaucrats and former KGB agents who lack understanding of modern economics.
Mr. Putin has received some support from pro-reform quarters.
Andrei Ryabov, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, has argued that
state assertiveness will be necessary to overcome the stranglehold on the
economy by the small group of superrich "oligarchs" that was enriched in the
years under former President Boris Yeltsin through sweetheart deals and
"It will be necessary to build a strong executive political apparatus of
vertical governance, relieving the president from the oligarchs' pressure,"
he wrote in a recent analysis.
But Mr. Ryabov also notes a major worry: that Mr. Putin is not
well-versed in capitalist economics.
"Unfortunately for Russia, nothing in Putin's KGB-trained mind shows an
understanding of the fact that the fluidity of capital markets in the West is
the product of financial institutions that are independent of government."
There have also been few signs so far that Mr. Putin will reduce the
political influence of the oligarchs. Since he became acting president when
Mr. Yeltsin stepped down on New Year's Eve, Mr. Putin has been ambiguous on
keeping the oligarchs at "an equal distance" from power.
Asked recently what economic policy Mr. Putin would follow â€”one of
state intervention or a hands-off free-market approach, Alexander Zhukov,
chairman of the Duma's banking committee, said: "I don't know."
"Bringing some order to some sectors of the economy would be no bad
thing, but not a return to the command economy of the past," he said.
Above all, Mr. Zhukov said that for foreign investors to be lured back
to Russia, Mr. Putin must introduce "laws protecting investors' rights and
new tax laws."
The vagueness of Mr. Putin's economic thinking coincides with a major
debate among international economists about the efficacy of Western lending
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have pumped tens of
billions of dollars into the Russian economy in the eight years since the
Soviet Union fell apart. Economic output has only just begun to revive from a
long slump that has left millions of Russians living below the poverty line.
In the summer of 1998 Russia defaulted on some debt and devalued its
ruble currency only weeks after winning a multibillion-dollar IMF rescue
deal. IMF lending has resumed to Russia since then but the loans are to
settle old Russian debt to the Fund. Payments were halted again last year
because Russia was not meeting the program's structural conditions.
In US and Russia Confidence that Putin Be President.
WASHINGTON, March 14 (Itar-Tass) - Vladimir Putin is expected to win the
presidential election in Russia scheduled for March 26, probably in the first
round. The confidence in this was expressed by all participants in an
international seminar held in Washington at the National Press Club by
specialists of Harvard University on Monday.
Most of them are also convinced that Putin's victory will create favourable
conditions for the development of Russian reform, the flow of investment
capital to Russia and broadening of Moscow cooperation with the West,
including the United States.
People who are acquainted with Vladimir Putin and worked with him in
St.Petersburg and in Moscow were invited to the seminar to speak about the
acting Russian president.
Among them were Duma deputy Sergei Stepashin, deputy of St.Petersburg
legislative assembly Vatanyar Yagya and two US entrepreneurs maintaining
business relations with St.Petersburg authorities -- Richard Torrens and
Commentaries were made by political scientists from Harvard University --
Graham Ellisson, Timothy Colton and Vladimir Boxer, as well as political
scientists from Russia -- Sergei Karaganov, Sergei Markov and Vyacheslav
The attempt to solve "the enigma of Putin" attracted much attention of the US
press. One of the meetings in the framework of the seminar was broadcast by
public cable television network C-SPAN.
The meeting, incidentally, was conducted by chief foreign policy observer of
the Washington Post newspaper, Jim Hoagland. The host of the popular
Nightline informational analytical program of the ABC television Ted Coppel
It was announced that Ted Coppel and his colleague and rival from CBS Dan
Rather are going to travel to Moscow to give the coverage for the Russian
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