This Date's Issues: 4182 • 4183
Johnson's Russia List
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
20 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Interfax: RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ACCUSES TV CHANNEL OF
2. BBC MONITORING: CHECHEN WAR PROTESTERS IN MOSCOW CALL FOR RUSSIA'S PUTIN TO GO ON
3. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchettik, Agent reveals young
Putin's spy disaster.
4. The Russia Journal editorial: An officer and a gentleman.
5. Peter Mahoney: Re: 4179-Wedel/Tainted Transactions.
6. NTV Hero of the Day with Svetlana Sorokina: Interview with Mikhail
7. Andrew Miller: Dear Mr. Soros.]
RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ACCUSES TV CHANNEL OF CENSORSHIP
Moscow, 19th March: Yabloko party leader and presidential candidate
Grigoriy Yavlinskiy has asked Central Electoral Commission Chairman
Aleksandr Veshnyakov to urgently look into the situation related to
commercial on the Russian Public TV channel.
In his message to Veshnyakov, Yavlinskiy recalled that "this commercial
must be broadcast on 20th March in keeping with an agreement on drawing up
and allocating paid air time slots". However, Russian Public TV director
for administrative and legal issues (?M. Martirosova) considered the
commercial "unfeasible", the message reads.
The feature "warns about the danger that the possible establishment of
totalitarian rule poses to Russia", he wrote. Russian Public TV maintains
"that the commercial associates the Russian electorate with prison inmates
while this group represents just a small part of the voters". Moreover,
Russian Public TV asserted that "a phrase about law-enforcement servicemen
falls under the Criminal Code article prosecuting disrespect for state
Yavlinskiy wrote that "the Criminal Code does not contain such an article.
The phrase in question does not violate the law." The rejection of the
commercial represents "censorship" and breaches the right to campaign, he
said, urging the Central Electoral Commission to debate the issue.
The Russian Public TV press service has not commented on Yavlinskiy's
CHECHEN WAR PROTESTERS IN MOSCOW CALL FOR RUSSIA'S PUTIN TO GO ON TRIAL
Text of report by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 19th March
[Presenter] At this very moment a rally against the war in Chechnya is under
way on Pushkinskaya Ploshchad [Square] in Moscow. The committee for antiwar
actions organized the rally. Our correspondent Natalya Bannova reports from
Hello, Natasha. How many people are on Pushkinskaya Ploshchad today?
[Correspondent] There is no official data available, but I don't think the
number exceeds 1,000. This rally is being held in the framework of an
international day against the war in Chechnya. That means that similar kinds
of actions are being held in other Russian cities, and in Europe as well.
At the very beginning of the rally, a statement by the committee for antiwar
actions called Victory for the Generals, Defeat for Russia, was read out. The
statement, signed by this nongovernmental human rights organization, lists
the main demands being made on the Russian authorities. It demands the
immediate termination of the Chechen war and the start of negotiations with
legitimate Chechen authorities, as well as putting an end to torture and
humiliation in filtration camps, and a complete investigation of all
[alleged] war crimes.
I would like to mention that the rally participants see acting President
Vladimir Putin as an enemy of Russia who is pursuing the war. The protesters
suggest an alternative leader for the country. This is [Yabloko leader]
Grigoriy Yavlinskiy. One of the slogans of today's rally says: Yavlinskiy for
president, Putin for trial, peace for Chechnya.
[Presenter] Have there been any acts of provocation at the rally? Moreover,
the organizers of the rally planned to collect humanitarian aid for Chechen
[Correspondent] As for acts of provocation, everything has been quiet. There
are a lot of police here. As for humanitarian aid, they are collecting
signatures here against the war in Chechnya. However, I have not noticed any
collection points for humanitarian aid.
The Sunday Times (UK)
20 March 2000
[for personal use only]
Agent reveals young Putin's spy disaster
Mark Franchetti, Frankfurt
A GERMAN spy recruited to the KGB by Vladimir Putin, the acting Russian
president, during his years in communist East Germany, defected to the West
less than a year later and exposed a ring of 15 agents working for Moscow.
The affair appears to have dealt a blow to Russian intelligence operations in
several German cities after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It also
calls into question the professional record of Putin, who has been portrayed
by Kremlin spin doctors as a successful intelligence officer.
Putin, almost certain to be confirmed as president in elections next Sunday,
claimed in an interview for a book published last week that he had been so
keen to become a spy that he had tried to join the KGB at the age of 16. He
described his work in Germany as political intelligence - "receiving
information from political figures about political plans of the future
Klaus Zuchold, the first agent recruited by the future Russian leader to
speak publicly, said in an interview with The Sunday Times last week that he
and Putin had met secretly several times between 1985 and 1990, when both
were posted in Dresden.
Zuchold was working for the Stasi, the former East German intelligence
agency, but formally joined the KGB in January 1990 - two months after the
fall of the Wall.
In a serious embarrassment for Putin, Zuchold turned himself over to German
intelligence 11 months later - weeks after the country was reunified. He
apparently feared he was about to be exposed.
Zuchold not only supplied the Germans with a detailed description of Putin;
most damagingly, he revealed the names of four former East German policemen
who had spied for the KGB for years.
Their arrest in 1993 led to the break-up of a network of 15 officers who had
worked for Moscow in Dresden, Leipzig, Erfurt and the former East Berlin. The
most senior among them was an inspector in the Dresden criminal police known
as "Schorch", whom Putin ran personally.
The inspector, regarded as one of Putin's best agents, was still working for
the KGB when he was arrested in April 1993 following a surveillance
operation. By then Putin had left Germany and the KGB, and had become deputy
mayor of St Petersburg.
Zuchold, 43, who now works as a security guard, claims to have met Putin for
the first time in autumn 1985.
"Every Thursday, between 7am and 9am, some of us Stasi officers gathered on a
sports field behind our headquarters," he recalled. "Usually we played
football. One morning, Putin's predecessor turned up with him and introduced
him simply as "Volodya". He hasn't changed since then. The same walk, the
At the end of the game the agents exchanged a few words, in Russian and
German. They agreed to meet again socially and Putin accepted an offer from
Zuchold to be shown the surrounding countryside a few weeks later.
"Putin turned up in a grey Lada, wearing a large fur hat," Zuchold said. "His
wife was still in Russia. Together with my wife we drove out of town and
spent most of the day together. That was the first time we spoke freely. I
always found him an interesting character.
"He cracked a couple of police jokes and one about Jews, which took me and
Martina [his wife] a little by surprise. We talked about history, literature
and philosophy. He had a great admiration for German culture and discipline.
"He was clearly proud of belonging to the KGB. That was his life. He showed
me his wristwatch, which had an inscription from some KGB bigwig. He loved
patriotic stories of Russia's great past and popular heroes."
Over the next five years the two men met several times, mostly in Putin's
two-bedroom flat in Dresden's Radeberger Strasse, where the Russian once
showed off a new stereo bought during a trip to KaDeWe, an upmarket
department store in West Berlin.
Zuchold said Putin had questioned him several times on the workings of the
Stasi. He was particularly interested in Werner Naumann, the local head of
the Stasi's foreign intelligence department.
Zuchold obliged. Even though unofficial contacts with the KGB were strictly
forbidden, he was becoming increasingly disillusioned with his work for the
"I went to his house, met his wife Lyudmila and Putin also came to visit me,"
he said. "To my children he was known simply as 'Uncle Volodya'.
"Once he came to a summer picnic in my small garden, which faced the Russian
army's barracks. I cracked a joke about how Russian soldiers were always
stealing my vegetables. That was the first time I saw Putin really laugh,
almost two years after first meeting him.
"Putin is a man of few words. He is impenetrable and he mostly lets other
people speak. He gives very little away but is clearly very driven and
determined to get what he wants: friendly and seemingly very open, luring
people into opening up but always in control.
"Whenever we drank together he always made sure he was at least three glasses
behind everyone else. Except for the embarrassment over my defection, he was
a good agent."
Putin appears never to have doubted Zuchold's loyalty. He also seems to have
underestimated how much Zuchold knew about "Schorch", despite the fact that
the two were friends.
Putin obtained a copy of Zuchold's Stasi file and sent it to Moscow with the
aim of formally recruiting him. He completed the process on January 16, 1990,
in the German's flat by dictating Zuchold's letter of allegiance to the KGB
after giving his 12-year-old daughter Cindy a book of Russian fairy tales.
Zuchold told German intelligence after his defection that one of the main
tasks of Putin and his colleagues was to run the network of agents, including
"Schorch", who had been recruited from the ranks of the police.
Putin used "Schorch" to help develop sources in politics and business. Some
passed on information, believing it was destined for the East German police
rather than the KGB. "Schorch" also provided intelligence on neo-Nazi groups
and the criminal underworld.
Another policeman working for the KGB in Leipzig was said to have recruited a
prominent politician from the East German Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
who had contacts with counterparts in West Germany and with religious groups
in America. This man has since left politics.
In a separate case, Zuchold was asked by "Schorch" if he could provide some
child pornography. It was to be supplied to a specialist at a medical
research institute investigating the effects of chemical weapons on the human
nervous system and skin.
The KGB wanted to lure the scientist into feeding misinformation to the West
by entering false data in his computer. He agreed. Zuchold said both the
Stasi and the KGB often targeted western businessmen visiting Dresden with
prostitutes, secretly filming them in their hotel room so that they could be
blackmailed. However, he said he did not recall Putin ever having taken part
in such operations.
"For the KGB and for Putin, ideology was not the issue," he said. "What
mattered was the result. Their attitude was that in the end everything has a
price." Little is known of the consequences Zuchold's defection had on Putin.
His KGB career seems to have been thrown off course already.
After returning home from Germany, apparently early in 1990, Putin was not
promoted as was usually the case with foreign intelligence officers, but
instead joined the reserves.
He said in last week's book he had done so because he saw no future in the
KGB as communism began to crumble. He did not finally leave until August
1991, however - waiting until after an abortive coup by communist hardliners
that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of that year.
The Russia Journal
March 20-26, 2000
An officer and a gentleman
No matter what Vladimir Putin says or does before the March 26 elections,
his past has sown seeds for enough cynicism.
For a man thrust into the barrel of a cannon, he has not done badly. But to
a great extent, the question that was repeatedly asked, "Who is Vladimir
Putin?" has been answered.
To answer what Vladmir Putin is, one must understand first what he is not.
He is no economist with the mettle of Yegor Gaidar or Gregory Yavlinsky, no
pseudo-academic like Yevgeny Primakov, no dissident like Anatoly Sobchak
and no shining torch of democratic values like Andrei Sakharov. He is no
Yury Andropov, the man who rose through the ranks to head the KGB, no
Vladimir Kruchkov either, who ganged up to silence democracy.
He certainly isn’t Boris Yeltsin. He never stuck his head out of a tram,
let alone stood atop a tank to go against a whole regime.
Even Mikhail Gorbachev and his perestroika must have seemed painful to
Putin during his cozy years in East Germany while he was living a life that
most ordinary Russians could only dream of.
But he is no Ivan Ivanov either. Despite having been born in a Kommunalka
to ordinary parents, he was smart enough to know that a better life awaited
him in the ranks of the secret police, and that’s the career he chose and
He is no Pavel Borodin or politician of that ilk. Despite having been at
the helm of economic affairs in St. Petersburg under a tainted mayor and
then having served one of the most corrupt administrations in the world, he
maintained a spotless personal image.
If he is a radical reformer, he isn’t telling. If he intends to purge the
corrupt bureaucracy, cut its ranks and imprison the worst white-collar
criminals, he isn't giving any hints. The optimists think it is because he
cannot ruffle feathers before the presidential elections, the pessimists
have a feeling of ominous foreboding.
It is more likely that Putin is something of a pragmatist and that
everything he does is driven by a deeply ingratiated sense of finding
practical solutions without hurting many. Like cordoning off a square and
staging a mock wreath-laying ceremony by party officials so that dissidents
cannot demonstrate and do not need to get hurt either.
True, there isn’t much left to describe a man who is none of the above.
And that is precisely what Putin is. A career secret services man, an
ordinary officer, deeply patriotic, proud, self-confident and a believer in
the power of state. There were thousands of such men, in his own words, and
there are thousands still.
He does not pretend to be great. He asks simple and straight questions and
insists on equally straight answers. He is unlikely to get any because the
system he comes from forbids candidness and puts personal careers ahead of
people at large, national interests and good governance.
He commands respect and loyalty through fear of his position and an aura of
secretiveness around him. He does not owe it to his intellect or his
devotion to any values.
Putin cannot change the system. He was the finest investment in free Russia
made by the "firm" nine years ago. He went his own way, most probably
resigning from it twice. But having resigned from the KGB ranks does not
mean he gave up on its nationalistic pride, its sense of superiority and
its warped definition of democracy and a free market.
He subscribes to democracy, a free market, a lawful state, a civil society
and an extroverted and friendly Russia. But his subscription to these
values is derived from journals and books written for a different academy
and a different school than the ones usually read and understood in the
Putin, at the same time, is growing up as we watch him. He is a quick
learner. He is keen and careful. Subtle, yet decisive. He has respect for
authority, when wielded well. He will listen to his peers, Western leaders
and statesmen. He has little regard for most Russian reformers or democrats.
He is, quintessentially, a Soviet man. An upstanding and self-righteous man
of Soviet values that is a model of some of the best of the system that was
and under which almost three generations grew up.
And therein lies his appeal to Russian people. Russians, it seems, are
about to elect one of their own. And their choice must be respected.
From: email@example.com (Peter Mahoney)
Subject: Re: 4179-Wedel/Tainted Transactions: Harvard, the Chubais Clan
and Russia's Ruin
Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000
Many thanks for providing us with Janine Wedel's latest well-argued and
minutely-detailed analysis of western aid effort in Russia. As a
non-academic and former bit player in some of the early USAID efforts here,
there is little I can add to Wedel's basic thesis, but I would like to
comment on a couple of her specific points.
1. Wedel states that "the flex organizations have likely facilitated the
development of what I have called elsewhere the 'clan-state', a state
captured by unauthorized groups and characterized by pervasive corruption.
In such a state, individual clans, each of which controls property and
resources, are so closely identified with particular ministries or
institutional segments of government that the respective agendas of the
state and the clan become indistinguishable."
My only argument with this statement is that I would change "facilitated the
development of" to "contributed to the continuation of." As Wedel points
out in another section "The transactorship mode of organizing relations is
reminiscent of precisely those features of communism that the international
community should be concerned not to reinforce. The informal, but
influential, parallel executive established by the Harvard-Chubais
transactors recalls the powerful patronage networks that virtually ran the
Soviet Union. Political aid disguised as economic aid is only too familiar
to Russians raised under a system of political control over economic
decisions." In short, the simultaneous control of the Russian government
apparatus and a sizeable portion of Russian economic resources by a corrupt
elite is by no means a new "market economy" phenomenon. It was an essential
element of communist rule, and, one might argue, it had been an essential
element of the Russian system of government for many hundreds of years
preceding the communist revolution.
2. Wedel makes brief reference to the fact that some (I would say many)
Russians "believe that the United States set out deliberately to destroy
their economy." Although Wedel systematically and effectively demonstrates
that, indeed, the effect of western aid efforts has done precisely that, an
underlying assumption in her arguments is that this was a "failure" of
western aid efforts rather than a deliberate consequence. The "failure"
scenario is based primarily on measuring the results against the rhetoric --
on measuring what actually was accomplished against what the United States
says it was trying to accomplish. If one eliminates the rhetoric as a
yardstick and bases judgement purely on the concrete actions taken and the
concrete results of those actions -- particularly when examined in
conjunction with NATO expansion, the treatment of Russia during Kosovo, and
the ongoing attempt to reduce or eliminate Russian participation in the
economic benefits of Caucasus oil -- then the only rational conclusion, it
would seem, is the one that those Russians Wedel refers to have reached.
3. Some may argue that this is a rather harsh judgement, but from my
perspective, it is utterly consistent with historical US performance. The
rhetoric of the US aid effort to Russia was "to foster economic development
and democratization and to nurture friendly bilateral relations."
Historically, democratization has always been, at best, a secondary concern,
a rhetorical device primarily aimed at appeasing a domestic political
audience. During the Cold War, the United States actively supported some of
the most corrupt and oppressive non-communist dictators of the latter half
of the twentieth century, dictators whose only claim to fame was their
"anti-communism". Democracy was not relevant in the fight against communism.
>From an American perspective, the preferred form of third world government
was dictatorship, a local ruling elite who kept the natives in line and
cooperated with American business interests in the rape of their own
country. The examples are too numerous to deny. In fact, democracy was
potentially dangerous, because the people might actually choose a government
alien to American business interests, as happened when Allende was
democratically elected in Chile. The resultant overthrow of Allende in a
US-backed military coup, and the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship is a prime
example of the US government's commitment to democracy when business
interests are threatened.
Since the end of the Cold War, the continued support for out-and-out
dictators has been more difficult to sustain. Hence, we now have a
world-wide outbreak of "democracy", although, on close inspection, we see in
many cases that what we really have is a decided lack of democratic
substance, and merely a veneer of democratic form used to cover the
business-as-usual corruption of the local elite. This is perfectly
acceptable to the United States government; the elections-equals-democracy
veneer satisfies the home front, and the local corrupt elite stay in power
and continue their cooperation with American business.
One must also take the American commitment to economic development with a
rather large grain of salt. The historical American aid model emphasizes
the use of extensive credit to create a perennial dependency -- not to
mention giving the United States significant political and economic leverage
-- in which the undeveloped country must continually apply for additional
credits in order to pay off old debts, and the focus on raw material
extraction rather than industrial development. Such industrial development
as does exist is primarily designed to give American business interests
access to cheap labor markets for their own production, and to raise the
local standards of living enough in order to create a market for American
In short, American aid for economic development is, and always has been, a
one-way street. The fact that a number of formerly third-world countries
have managed to develope their own industrial capacity has happened, in my
opinion, in spite of, rather than because of, US "assistance".
The friendly bilateral relations aspect is interesting. There is, of
course, an American foreign policy model -- first established with a number
of Arab states, now extended to China -- where the government-to-government
relations are cool and even antagonistic at times, but where the busines
relations remain warm and cooperative. In other words, friendly bilateral
relations are not so important as long as business relations remain close.
4. When viewed in this historical context, the American aid program to
Russia makes absolute sense. Russia, once the back-bone of the the Soviet
Union which vyed with the United States for world domination -- although one
may legitimately question how much of its "superpower" status was real and
how much merely a nuclear-missile facade -- has been reduced to a
third-world country, poor, debt-ridden, economically dependent, totally
lacking in world-class industrial capacity, sustaining itself by peddling
its raw materials abroad, ruled by a corrupt political/economic elite who
use a few democratic fig-leaves to cover their autocratic gonads and who
operate hand-in-glove with western business interests for mutual enrichment
at the expense of the majority of the people. It is absolutely true that
the Russians were perfectly capable of creating such a situation by
themselves without any western assistance, but the fact that the concrete
actions of American assistance not only failed to counter these developments
but actively supported them, and the concrete results of American
asssistance in Russia are utterly consistent with historical patterns would
tend to suggest that this has not been a failure at all, but rather a huge
Hero of the Day with Svetlana Sorokina
13 March, 2000
Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev
(Translation by Olga Kryazheva <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Research assistant, Center for Defense Information)
SS: Hello, Hero of the Day is on air. In 1990, on the the post of
president of the USSR was established. Unlike the Soviet Union, the post of
the president still exists, and soon we are going to elect another
president. And the very first president Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is
here in my studio. Hello, Mikhail Sergeyevich! Generally speaking, March
is a special month for you. To remind, fifteen years ago on March 11 you
became a General Secretary; you became a president also in March; this year
you became a leader of the Social Democratic Party in March.
MG: Everything began from the time when I was born in March…
SS: Yes, and you birthday is in March.
MG: I entered the party in March being a 10th grader. And also, my youngest
grand daughter Nastya was born in March.
SS: Maybe you calculate the events for March, your lucky month?
MG: No, of course not. You know, as for today’s council, we started to
organize it in October and suddenly Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] surprised
us. We were going to hold it on March 18.
SS: But still in March?
MG: In March, in March. We had to work on it, but then it happened that the
elections are scheduled on March 26, it was not convenient to have it a
week before, that is why we moved it to 11th, and it happened to be that 15
years ago I became a General Secretary, and this year the head of the
Social Democratic United Party.
SS: Yes, there is a coincidence of the dates. But tell me, Mikhail
Sergeyevich, what do you think, after ten years did the presidential system
justify itself in our country?
MG: Of course, it did. It has always existed in one or another form in our
country. Who is a General Secretary? Who is a tzar? They all are… I think
that those who raise the question of getting rid of the presidency are
wrong. On the other hand, the Constitution happened to expand the rights
of the president to absurd lengths. It gave the rights to be a head of the
state, a head of executive branch of power, a judge, and so on… and censor.
This is wrong. That is why we discussed this question at our council of
social democracy, we talked about the powerful state. Powerful not because
of strengthening it, but because of well-organized and well-prepared power.
It can’t be done without changes in the Constitution. The president has
to be a head of the state, but not a head of an executive power; because if
he is a head of the executive power, the administration works beside him.
This is a second parallel government; but there are also a government,
prime minister and so on. This only produces fights, and there is not much
sense in this. Therefore, we have put everything in order. The parliament
has to influence the president and control him.
SS: Ten years have passed. You started with some democratic plans ten years
ago. But today there is a president, but…
MG: Well, to speak about plans, we had them since 1985, it means fifteen
years has passed. As for these ten years, I did not participate in these
SS: But you were the USSR president for some time at the very beginning.
Let’s see, for ten years there is presidential rule in Russia. And, to be
honest, today we are approaching the elections without an alternative. How
did this happen?
MG: Well, if you get freedom, if you get the Constitution, even if it is
low quality, it does not mean you become citizens, that you understand
your role. And I think that the most important thing is regime. But if we
are to speak about perestroika, the most important goal was that people
feel that they are citizens, feel that the forming of power on municipal,
regional, and country levels depends on them, that they can control it.
Beside them, the free press would have operated. You know, we worked hard
on this, and one of the most fundamental for democracy laws was ratified.
All these have been disavowed on a large scale. And since the authorities
do not report to the people, people don’t know what the authorities are and
what they do. The purpose is to break though to one or another institution
of democracy, but the opinions and lives of the voters do not matter. That
is why what we have these games… and technologies today… What kind of
democracy is it? Democracy means the power of demos, people. But
technologies decide everything here.
SS: But the authorities were always cynical. Do you think it is more
cynical now then before in the times of general secretaries?
MG: Well, if you go in that direction, it is a long story.
SS: Let’s face it, there were the same cynical authorities…
MG: I would say, Svetlana, that every period needs a precise analysis.
Back then there certainly was a totalitarian system, dictatorship, and
control of one party monopoly. There were purges, and there are still
consequences. Perestroika was a very complicated stage to get rid of them.
But in comparison with Perestroika, everything that happened...with
democracy, and the functioning of these young and inexperienced
institutions, that they were open, coherent, and responsible… Look at the
reactions in the press, its declarations, and newspapers. Assignments were
given to them, and they were controlled. Now, you can write, speak,
announce. The question is why does this happen? We lost something;
nevertheless, I can’t call this system democratic, because people need not
only political rights, but also social. And if two thirds or three fifth
are struggling to exist what kind of democracy is it?
SS: I’ve heard that you... well... are thinking not really positively, but
thinking about whether it is fair to extend the presidential term to seven
years, aren’t you? Look, in seven years it is possible to build a stable,
profound, bureaucratic scheme. And then re-election will be automatic.
Again, we will have a general secretary for life, tzar or somebody else,
and this unbreakable system. Don’t you think it is dangerous?
MG: I connect this with the following, Svetlana. If in these future four
years we have a lot of changes in the Constitution, dividing the
responsibilities among the president, parliament, government, and regions;
the courts will start effectively working; we’ll start bringing everything
to law and order, protecting the individual, property, and so on; with this
experience we can decide about seven years, but I think we have not reached
this point yet.
SS: Mikhail Sergeyevich, you have just said that there are two thirds or
three fifth who live in really terrible conditions. In this sense, the soil
is very favorable for this very social democracy, the party that you head,
because it is considered the party of the well-to-do workers, the party
that exists in the conditions of the developed capitalism, that can allow
to be absorbed by liberal values.
MG: Well, when these parties started to strengthen in the Western
countries, do you think everything was good there? Not at all. I will tell
you everything that we learned, our experience is large. For the past few
month I have been going around Russia and talking to people. There are a
lot of promises. I answered the question of Russian people for two-three
hours on air. I have visited in Siberia, Ivanovo, Tver, and in St.
Petersburg a couple of times, and here in Central Russia I met with the
representatives. I spent a lot of time. I have to say that people have
figured out a lot, and the right moment is chosen to begin the formation of
such a party. People saw that there is no way back to the Communist past,
where we were not taken into the account. But I can’t help but mention
these ten years of figuring out. They promised us that in three-four years
everything would be perfect. It did not happen; in the contrary, we
approached the edge. Let’s not go into the depths. It means that people
learned, that they understand, they don’t want to reject democracy, freedom
because an individual free in economy and in politics is a final
destination. Otherwise, anything will be done; we will not get out of these
conditions. We need it. But people also understand that the state and
system would work not for oligarchs or other narrow classes of people,
clans, families, and so on, but in the national interests.
SS: There is confusion. One or another party or movement affiliate itself
with one or another specter, right?
MG: That is correct.
SS: Right now there is a huge confusion. I, for one, look at some program
documents of this very Communist party and can’t understand whether this is
social democracy, because it does not reject liberal values, and different
kinds of property can be found there. Then what is the difference between
different documents of KPRF?
MG: You know, you are right, when people read or watch TV…
SS: Well, read newspapers…
MG: Yes, they get confused.
SS: Everybody seems to stand for the same.
MG: All of them are social democrats. And this is speculation. They know
that to get people’s support they have to say these things, things that are
the essence of the social democracy, in reality just to win the elections.
It does not mean that they are going to act like social democrats later on.
SS: So, you don’t believe that such announcements will be fulfilled in the
MG: Absolutely not. More so, I need to say that when we took programs,
analyzed, and compared them we realized that it is what you are talking
about. Everybody takes a social democratic stance, because it is real
politics addressed to the non-bureaucratic majority of the people.
Everything starts here. This is a game and a speculation. We want to create
a big and serious party.
SS: Look, you really base on some clear ideology. You take the main social
democratic values and preach them. In different parties they are taken
apart, some are called this, others are called that, but the division is
relatively conditional. In your opinion, are there parties or movements
with relatively clear ideology that could belong, for example, to liberals?
SS: You think, there are no?
MG: No, no.
SS: They prove wrong.
MG: And I say no. That is why I in my report for the council… We debated
over the topic on how to address the elections. On their council, social
democrats (representatives of 70 regions) expressed the following position:
in order for the elections to take place, it is crucial for everybody to
attend them, because…
SS: But we don’t agitate.
MG: There were elections of masses. I will finish this idea, because it is
very important. This is not my personal position; this is a position of the
council. I particularly noticed that people are against disrupting the
elections, because political consequences of crisis could be worse if we
leave a constitutional framework. It is a dangerous situation.
SS: The most dangerous candidate is “for nobody,” as some say.
MG: Well, when you come to the polls, you’ll decide who are you with. Maybe
before the elections we’ll find out… I have just read an article in
“Kommersant,” others say, Yavlinsky says… I hear Zyuganov less, but some
say that he had established contacts with “women”, which is very important,
SS: And what political specter would you refer Putin to?
MG: For now none of them. It is not clear. I can say that…
SS: According to the senses of experienced politician…
MG: I think that he wants to break with the past, move away from the system
that counts on him. I think he inclines to social-democratic principles, he
inclines. But I believe he understands his position as a state official
wrong. A powerful state is almost a dictatorship or authoritarianism. No. A
powerful state is powerful because all institutions of power are active.
But if again he tries to make us happy, I think there will be confusion. So
we have to clarify his position.
SS: And why were there not many famous people who joined your new old
business (on one hand, social democracy is new, on the other, old, right?),
except you and Popov. Who else?
MG: Oh no. On the contrary, I would say, (good question) we, I set the
following purpose: we, old and retired people, should help the youth to
unite. I met so many active youth, especially students. They wanted to
dicuss this topic at the council. I met with a large group of young
council delegates who say that we should create the youth wing of social
SS: Then they’ll become Bolsheviks.
MG: We set a goal that this party should include young and middle age
generations. They are excluded from politics.
SS: And finally, I cannot help but pay attention to the Chechen topic,
because recently, I think on Saturday or Friday, you said that the question
of establishing a state of emergency in Chechnya should be discussed. But
it has not been set.
MG: I think this will open the problem to the political, not military
resolution. But now when we have entered this bloody business, I can’t help
but say that we have to stop and finish fighting. But to speak about the
political future of this problem, we have to settle it considering both
Chechnya’s and Russia’s interests. I am talking about contacts with
Chechens, too. If you are thinking of neglecting Russia’s interests, you
will not succeed. I participated in several negotiations; therefore I think
that there is understanding of this problem among people and among those
who think about Chechnya and Russia’s future. We have to help. People are
not only confused, but also they have lived in the hardest conditions for
decades. It goes back more then a hundred years. Therefore these people
need to understand, need help in understanding Russia’s role. But Russia is
mostly interested in peaceful resolution. What is to be done now? And
today I say: one or the other form of government should be established.
They heard me and the reaction was to establish the presidency.
SS: It is possible only with setting of extreme measures or military
MG: Yes, yesterday during the council we wanted to form our position. But
the lawyers that follow the formalities said that in order that resolutions
are not only politically, but also judicially correct, said that there is a
right of supreme authorities to establish a state of emergency, but the law
about what it is, how it functions, and what institutes should be there,
has not been ratified yet. I am asking why? I think, nevertheless, we
should follow this path, because the time for political solutions has come.
SS: Mihail Sergeyevich, to conclude our conversation, since we began with
the anniversary, with the 10th year of presidency in our country, tell us
about your feeling about what the president should be like in Russia, not
in the Soviet Union.
SS: I understand that he should be a social democrat…
MG: No-no. I raise this question differently. Whether you want it or not,
but the one who happens to be the president has to be a guarantor for the
whole society, for the whole country.
SS: So, father tzar, right?
MG: Not only, let me finish my thought, not only a guarantor, but a
lobbyist, the main lobbyist of those forces that elected him and of the
whole country. It is the main thing. And a head of the state and
executive power functions have to be necessarily divided. Only then the
president would have possibilities to take care of primary questions. It
is an individual with the state mentality, democrat without a doubt,
devoted to freedom, with moral characteristics. It is as important post
and it has serious requirements. When I see how a hundred or something
people compete, I think: here is Russia. I think they are exercising.
SS: Thank you, Mikhail Sergeyevich. To remind you, we talked to Mikhail
Gorbachev, a person who has a lot of events connected with March, starting
with his date of birth and finishing with the fact that last Saturday he
became the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Russia. Today is the
ten years anniversary since the presidency was established back then in the
Soviet Union, but later in Russia, the presidency that still exists in our
country, and will probably continue to exists for a long time. Thank you
once again. All the best. Good bye.
From: "andrew miller" <email@example.com>
Subject: Dear Mr. Soros
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000
Title: Dear Mr. Soros
Topic: George Soros' New Book
Dear Mr. Soros,
Yevegenia Albats, the Russian who assists Newsweek's Bill Powell in his
reporting from Moscow, writes a column for my local newspaper The St.
Petersburg (Russia) Times. On January 14 her column was headlined A KGB
PAST DOES NOT SAY IT ALL ABOUT PUTIN and it pleaded with Westerners to stop
judging Putin reflexively so as to QUOTE leave Russia some hope UNQUOTE.
She said Putin was QUOTE an exceptionally honest, modest and deeply
religious man UNQUOTE who might, she implied, be the one to lead Russia out
of the darkness, though of course nobody could be too sure since nobody
really knew who the hell he was. Newsweek itself, for its part, gave Putin
an UP arrow in the Conventional Wisdom department, saying he was far from
the worst Russia could do.
Now, I would have thought that someone like you, sir, if you had read
Albats, would have said things like (1) Hope? What Russia needs now is
truth and hard work, not hope; and (2) Honest, religious, modest? Isn't
that what they said about Hitler?; and finally (3) BUT HE'S SPENT HIS
ENTIRE LIFE IN THE DAMN KGB!! (probably you would've used only one
A month later, possibly on the sage advice of someone like you, Albats
decided to actually find out something about Putin, read his new book FIRST
PERSON and reviewed it in her March 17 installment. She concluded that the
book, intended to sell Putin to the Russian masses (and doing a fine job of
it), QUOTE presents a man of the Soviet ideological type only stripped of
the communist camoflage UNQUOTE who rationalizes the KGB (Putin recently
said publicly that there is not one single person in the entire KGB who
would be capable of planting the bombs that exploded in Moscow as a
political ploy, as some suspect they may have done) and loves judo because
it's a violent blood sport. The last words in the poignant column were
QUOTE Oh well. UNQUOTE Not quite QUOTE I'm sorry, I was wrong UNQUOTE but
pretty darn good for a Russian.
One presumes that Newsweek's CA arrow will now likewise reverse itself.
In between, though, Albats proved herself a 100% Russian by doing something
truly brilliant simultaneously with her benighted self-destruction. On
February 18, she penned the best single column on Russia I've ever seen,
something genuinely thrilling to read headlined FACING UP TO THE PAST WILL
GIVE US A FUTURE. This should be required reading for every Russian and
committed Russian watcher, and said in part QUOTE We allowed them to kill
us in the 1930s and 1940s, we helped them by informing on neighbors and
encouraging them with our support. We allowed them to have us fired from
our jobs, to forbid us to travel abroad, to send us to psychiatric prisons,
to treat us like animals. UNQUOTE Wow. She then quoted Putin saying QUOTE
any program should start from the revival of people's morals UNQUOTE and
then opined QUOTE Well said, but poorly thought out. If Putin believes in
what he proclaims his next step should be to denounce his own past UNQUOTE.
Wow cubed. Too bad the column could only be published in English (indeed,
under some readings of Russian law Albats could be arrested for saying that
about Putin in an election cycle even in a forum hardly any Russian sees).
The reason I'm writing, I apologize for coming to it belatedly, is that The
SPT recently excerpted some text from your forthcoming book on Russia, and
this excerpt perplexed me far more than the Albats situation. Therefore,
I am writing in hopes of clarification or, in lieu thereof, several hundred
million dollars if any just happen to be going spare.
As I understand it, you took it upon yourself some years ago to lead/lend
Russia out of 850 years of authoritarian darkness and into the light of
liberalism (boy, wouldn't that sure've looked keen in the history books!
gives you goosepimples just to think of it) in lieu of Putin, but failed to
achieve this and are now writing Russia off. Three possible causes of your
failure can be imagined: yourself, the Russians and the Western
Democracies. Choosing yourself, of course, is beyond the question - very
far beyond, indeed I'm embarrassed to have mentioned it. To choose the
Russians would mean saying you were a complete fool who mislead the West
for years concerning its Russia policy, while, choosing the West would
mean that you were a hero tragically betrayed by his noble trust in his own
people. As I understand it, you opted most rationally for the latter
alternative (as I must say I myself would have done in similar circumstances).
But what I can't seem to get my (admittedly puny) mind around is how your
book makes your case. For example, you say that you QUOTE could not rule
out UNQUOTE that the Russian administration placed the bombs which exploded
recently in Moscow as a way of gaining military and political advantages.
Then you say that the Western Democracies ought to have ponied up a
Marshall Plan to that administration in order to keep it afloat whilst you
were busy leading it to the light.
Now I'm no Fyodor Dostoevsky sir, or even a Theodore Merit, but wouldn't
such a Marshall Plan have meant they could buy a whole lot more bombs which
might then have started going off in a whole lot more places some of which
might even have been, you'll excuse my bluntness, a whole lot nearer to,
well, you sir for example. And how, I'm wondering, could you have gone
about your light-leading-to business after you had been blown to
smithereens (putting aside that silly Poltergeist movie, I mean).
You also say that Boris Yeltsin QUOTE put his faith in the West but the
West did not live up to his admittedly exaggerated expectations UNQUOTE.
Now I just can't manage to follow you here, sir, and I hope you'll excuse
me for saying so. But when Boris wanted to abolish the parliament and then
bomb it, didn't the West do everything it could to help out?
You write that you urged Boris Berezovsky to support Grigori Yavlinsky for
president in 1996. You write that you urged Berezovksy to give up his life
of crime and follow you to the light. You write that Berezovsky didn't do
either of these things, and that disappointed you and made you think
perhaps you had been QUOTE naive UNQUOTE.
You challenge your reader to wonder QUOTE how differently Russians would
feel about the West today if the IMF had paid their pensions when they were
starving UNQUOTE. Well, I live here in Russia and have done for nearly
four years, so I don't have to imagine. They'd expect the IMF to pay their
pensions forever, and as soon as they stopped they'd start hating it, and
if they mentioned anything about interest there would be various kinds of
erutptions. But I don't see your point.
You write that you personally saved the lives of 40,000 of Russia's best
scientists who would not have survived without the $500 you gave each one
in 1992 which QUOTE allowed these scientists to survive for a year UNQUOTE.
So, did these 40,000 then die when you didn't give them another $500 the
next year? Did you pay their burial expenses? That was sure nice of you,
if you did.
You mention a plan you had to replace textbooks in Russia with non-Marxist
ones, you held some kind of a competition to find some. Assuming that had
all gone to plan, I can't help wondering, what were you going to do with
all the Marxist-Leninist teachers? Give them all passage to Mars and
promote the best students to the rank of teacher? But then, who would
clean the blackboards?
You conclude by saying that QUOTE Russia could have become a true
democracy and friend of the United States UNQUOTE. But then you say QUOTE
by electing Putin President the entire Russian population will become
implicated in the bloodshed in Chechnya UNQUOTE. So, if we'd only bribed
them on time, they wouldn't have turned into bloodthirsty killers but
rather friendly democrats. Boy oh boy. Just think of all the trouble we
would have saved by just bribing them eight hundred years ago!
I'm curious, Mr. Soros: have you ever lived in a Russian obshezitiye? Did
you ever eat a babushka's akroshka more than 100 kilometers from any city
you've ever heard of? Do you speak Russian? Have you ever sat in the
middle of a forest drinking vodka and smelly eating dried fish with some
still smellier Russian fishermen and asking them about Americans? Have you
ever talked to a Russian person who earned less than a thousand dollars a
year and had no idea who you were for more than ten minutes?
Now, just to recap, for eight centuries Russian people have lived under
brutal authoritarian dictatorship and never once in all that time given a
single hint of anything remotely like civic responsiblity or liberal
inclination (see Albats, supra), but deep down inside they're just a bunch
of sweet ol' Pooh Bears yearning to breath free and waiting for a hero like
you to come along and liberate them, and you tried to do it too but you
could't quite manage it because places like America, which has been
republican for two consecutive centuries, an ongoing world record, messed
it all up for you. I can only say, I sure hope you're packaging your full
publication with plenty of Kleenex, 'cause somebody like me'd never get
through it otherwise.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Web page for CDI Russia Weekly: