This Date's Issues: 4191 • 4192
Johnson's Russia ListReturn
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
23 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
IMPORTANT WARNING!!!: JRL is on the verge of going off the air.
An errant computer server in Australia is bombarding my email
address with thousands of bounced messages from
firstname.lastname@example.org Efforts to find and correct
the problem have so far failed. This will likely swamp the
email@example.com address. Alternatively, you can contact
me at firstname.lastname@example.org but I will not be able to continue JRL
from that address. Keep your fingers crossed.
1. Reuters: POLL-Russia's Putin has clear lead before Sunday vote.
2. Reuters: Putin Heading for Election Win, Astrologer Says.
3. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, Pondering President Putin's
First 100 Days.
4. Nezavisimaya Gazeta - Stsenarii: Sergei Korolev, THE OUTSIDERS'
AMBITIONS. Yhe Last Who Would Never Become the First.
5. gazeta.ru: Leonid Sborov, The New 4-Year Plan. German Gref)
6. Moscow Times: Boris Kagarlitsky, Propaganda Gives Military
Pyrrhic Victory in Chechnya.
7. Reuters: Leading Russian liberal says Putin is no democrat.
8. Itar-Tass: Observers to Be Briefed Before Going to
9. Kitty Dolan: re: Russian constitutional reform.]
POLL-Russia's Putin has clear lead before Sunday vote
MOSCOW, March 22 (Reuters) - Final opinion polls ahead of Russia's
presidential election predicted an outright win for Acting President Vladimir
Putin on Wednesday.
Two leading pollsters forecast that Putin, who has led the race throughout,
would gain more than 50 percent of the vote in Sunday's election with a
turnout of around 65 percent.
VTsIOM and ROMIR said their final surveys were based on fresh opinion polls
and historical voting data, providing their best guess of the actual result.
Following is a summary of the surveys, showing change on the previous poll in
brackets. Where VTsIOM gives a range the percent change is on the median
ROMIR shows a jump of seven percent in Putin's rating, an apparent correction
on an anomalous 10 percent fall in the previous poll.
March 17-20 March 18-19
Acting President Vladimir Putin....... 53-55 (-4) 57 (+7)
Gennady Zyuganov, communist........... 22-24 (+2) 25 (+3)
Grigory Yavlinsky, Yabloko............ 5-6 (+0.5) 6 (+1)
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, LPDR............ 3-4 (+0.5) 3 (-2)
Aman Tuleyev, Governor of Kemerevo.... 3-4 (+1.5) 3 (+1)
Ella Pamfilova, For Civic Dignity bloc around 1 (0) 1 (0)
Konstantin Titov, Governor of Samara.. 2 (+1) 1 (0)
Stanislav Govorukhin, parliamentarian. around 1 (0) under 1 (0)
Yuri Skuratov, Prosecutor General..... around 1 (0) under 1 (0)
Alexei Podberyozkin................... under 0.5(0) under 1 (0)
Yevgeny Savostyanov+.................. not given under 1 (0)
Umar Dzhabrailov...................... under 0.5(0) under 1 (0)
'None of the above' on ballot paper... 2 3 (+1)
Spoilt ballot papers.................. 2 not given
Predicted turnout on March 26......... 64-65 pct 65 pct
Savostyanov said on Tuesday he would drop out of the race in favour of
Yavlinsky. The Central Election Commission said on Wednesday he had been
Polls conducted by VTsIOM canvass 1,600 people across Russia and those by
ROMIR canvass 1,500. Both pollsters publish their surveys on websites.
VTsIOM's can be found at www.wcsiom.ru/HOME-R.HTM while ROMIR's is
Putin Heading for Election Win, Astrologer Says
MOSCOW, March 22 (Reuters) - Even the planets are with him.
If one of Russia's leading astrologers is to be believed, Acting President
Vladimir Putin is heading for victory in the first round in Sunday's
presidential election, ushering in a lengthy period of stronger, centralised
That was the conclusion of an analysis of the position of the planets
announced on Wednesday by Georgy Rogozin, former official astrologer to the
Kremlin under Boris Yeltsin and former deputy chief of Yeltsin's security
"There is such thing as political astrology, which allows us to see how the
situation will develop in a week, a month, three months and several years'
time," he told a news briefing.
"The elections will be held in a good atmosphere, will be settled in one
round and won by Vladimir Putin."
Rogozin, said to have wielded considerable power at the highest level, joins
opinion pollsters, political pundits and local media in backing the runaway
But he broke the mould of received wisdom in his forecast of who would be
runner-up, saying it would be veteran liberal Grigory Yavlinsky rather than
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who has been placed second in the
Rogozin produced detailed graphs outlining hour-to-hour astrological
developments during the day of the ballot.
One illustration showed how Putin would face a steadily rising trend of
negative forces countered by two "splashes" of positive energy which would be
enough to pull him through.
Reflecting the view of many commentators, the astrologer said Putin's victory
would lead to a more authoritative style of leadership.
"We expect that as a result of such an outcome in the vote, a fairly strict,
centralised power will be established."
Rogozin said Putin and his team would focus on controlling Russia's big
business as a source of budget revenue, after Mercury fell into line with the
movement of other planets on March 13, encouraging greater economic clarity.
Again his star gazing produced conclusions similar to those of more
conventional forms of analysis -- that the country's industrial leaders could
face an uncomfortable time under Putin.
Rogozin was prepared to stick his neck out on a number of points. Firstly,
Putin would probably rule for 12 years.
Second, there would be two possibly successful attempts on the lives of
leading Russian political figures -- the first in Russia in May and the
second overseas in November.
March 22, 2000
Pondering President Putin's First 100 Days
By Jonas Bernstein
Special to The Moscow Times
While there is little mystery about the identity of the next head of state,
officialdom is still being coy. Asked this week whether any foreign trips
have been scheduled for the new head of state - whoever he might be - a
Foreign Ministry spokesman deadpanned: "None so far."
Despite the ministry spokesman's diplomatic answer, it is unlikely that
acting President Vladimir Putin has been waiting for the results of the March
26 vote in order to start filling in his travel itinerary. The Times of
London reported Tuesday that Putin plans to visit London before the end of
March. He and British Prime Minister Tony Blair apparently hit it off during
Blair's visit to St. Petersburg earlier this month.
Other observers predict that soon after his all-but certain victory at the
polls, Putin will visit a number of key capitals in both the West and the
Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika research institute, said he
expects Belarus, Ukraine and China to be among Putin's destinations, along
with Okinawa, the Japanese island prefecture which will host the G-8 summit
conference in July.
"He might visit Japan a littler earlier, for bilateral meetings," said
Nikonov. "As far as I know, they are planning around 12 foreign policy trips
Assembling a Cabinet
Foreign trips aside, Putin, once elected, will immediately face some very
important administrative tasks - including the crucially important one of
choosing a Cabinet.
The betting among Moscow's political observers is that Putin, who now holds
the positions of both acting president and prime minister, will choose First
Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to head the new government.
Kasyanov is a Finance Ministry veteran who has long served as a foreign debt
negotiator and is thus a known quantity in the West. On the other hand, he is
widely viewed as being close to some of the key Yeltsin-era "oligarchs,"
including Sibneft oil company chief Roman Abramovich and Moscow banker
This may explain why some media have been throwing around the names of other
possible candidates for prime minister. The newspaper Izvestia wrote last
week that Anti-Monopoly Minister Ilya Yuzhanov is the front-runner to head
the government. Like Putin, Yuzhanov is a St. Petersburg native who was in
the past associated with the "team" put together by another transplant from
Russia's second city, Anatoly Chubais. Chubais today heads Unified Energy
Systems, the electricity grid - making him an "oligarch" in his own right -
and Yuzhanov's elevation would be a sign that he continues to wield
Other observers, however, say that the days of oligarch-watching may be
coming to an end - and that Russian politics could be in for a big change, in
both style and substance.
Oligarchs as a Class
As practiced by Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, politics consisted of
balancing and playing off the interests of competing financial and regional
elites. One argument is that this is about to give way to a more centralized,
disciplined method of administration.
In his policy statements and interviews - including the recently released
book, "In the First Person: Conversations With Vladimir Putin" - the acting
president's main message has been the need to "strengthen the state" and
create a "level playing field" for all economic actors. And in an interview
last week with Mayak state radio he vowed that, as part of his overall drive
against crime and corruption, the "oligarchs" will cease to exist "as a
Putin has been vague about how he plans to accomplish this. But he has hinted
at radical steps.
There have also been rumors - denied by sources in Putin's team - that he
plans to impose strict central control over Russia's 89 regions. Now the
regions are run by elected governors, who often control everything in their
fiefdoms (including elections). Putin, who says he won't scrap elections, has
said there needs to be a way for the Kremlin to remove governors.
And some of the changes being discussed might include turning the governors
into Kremlin-appointees and herding the regions into several larger bodies,
How radically Putin moves could depend in part whether he wins outright on
March 26 or garners less than 50 percent of the popular vote and is thus
forced into a runoff election on April 16.
Some analysts believe that some within the powerful financial and regional
elites, who have both the financial and administrative resources to deliver
votes for a given candidate, are trying to engineer a second around. This
could force Putin into asking them for help to ensure a second round victory
- and make him less likely to challenge their power and privileges once he is
"If he wins in the first round, there is a small chance that he will take
unexpected steps, like changing the governors, criminally prosecuting some
members of the current State Duma, or even [seeking criminal] convictions
against some of the oligarchs," said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at
the Moscow Carnegie Center. "If he wins in a second round, I think it will
mean a continuation of Yeltsin-era politics for another three or four months
- meaning the continuing battles between the main political-financial groups,
and scandals around the government and prime minister that he names."
Ryabov said that it remains an open question whether Putin will move in
earnest to overturn the Yeltsin-era "divide-and-rule" method of governance.
But other analysts were more convinced that such changes are in the offing.
A New, Faceless Era?
"In my view, Putin doesn't like independent centers of power," said Nikonov.
"He wants to control the whole thing. And, of course, he will not like
competition inside the branches of power or between them, and he will do his
best to eliminate that competition."
Nikonov was among a group of experts asked this week by Vlast magazine what
awaits the oligarchs.
He predicted that they would not appear again as a class for the next 50
Others said that they would continue to exist, albeit with limited power;
still others predicted that Putin would "appoint" new oligarchs.
As for Putin's likely policy toward the regions, Nikolai Petrov, a specialist
on the regions with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said that it is unlikely he
will quickly push through radical institutional changes - for example,
attacking the governors' popularly elected status.
However, he added, "It is possible to change the system, to introduce a kind
of semi-police state, without changing the constitution."
Overall, Putin's new government will be very different from its predecessors,
"It will look more like a machine in which you cannot distinguish between
different elements, which will all work together as small pieces of this
whole entity, this machine," he said.
"There will not be independent politicians with well-known faces. ... What we
are seeing now is the final stage of more-or-less public politics, with
public conflicts between different elite clans. It will be hidden, an
under-the-carpet game, and it will be closed for the general public."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta - Stsenarii No. 3
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
THE OUTSIDERS' AMBITIONS
Yhe Last Who Would Never Become the First
By Sergei KOROLEV
Putin, Zyuganov, Yavlinsky... It is this troika, and in
exactly this order, albeit with large gaps between the first
and the second candidates and between the second and the third
candidates, that features in most election forecasts. But the
leisurely race towards the Kremlin involves also nine other
politicians. Sociologists say that seven of these can hope to
get no more than 0.5-1.5% of the vote (2% at the best, and less
than 0.5% at the worst). Since these figures are not a shock
for the participants, the logical question is: Why are they
running at all? Are they driven by petty political ambitions,
banal vanity, or unsatisfied appetite for fame?
Hang the Authorities
Film director and deputy member Stanislav Govorukhin is a
bright and inordinate person. He has had a difficult life (his
father was persecuted in 1936, when Stanislav was born). He
made many films, including the shocking "This Is No Way to
Live." It is said that its demonstration during the 1st
Congress of the People's Deputies in 1990 convinced vacillating
people and helped Yeltsin to win the post of chairman of the
RSFSR Supreme Soviet, with a tiny margin of four votes.
Govorukhin defended the Russian White House and welcomed
the ban on the Communist Party in August 1991, but subsequently
grew cool towards Yeltsin and his team and scathingly
criticised the authorities.
As a politician, Govorukhin has worked in many political
structures, including the Russian National Assembly, Nikolai
Travkin's Democratic Party of Russia, the Congress of Russian
Communities, and the People's Patriotic Union of Russia. In
1995, he created the Election Bloc of Stanislav Govorukhin
(0.99% of the vote), was a member of the Power by the People
Duma faction of Nikolai Ryzhkov and Sergei Baburin, and
supported Alexander Lebed -- only to denounce him later. Now he
walks together with Luzhkov's Fatherland. An eventful political
biography, filled with dramatic U-turns...
I don't think this is a coincidence, for Govorukhin is a
born opponent, pessimist and reasoner, denouncer and exposer.
In other words, he is a classical representative of that part
of the protest electorate, which votes "against all." A man
like this can hardly become established in any political camp
or find his own political niche.
Everything seems to be clear with Govorukhin's involvement
in the presidential race: he has joined it to openly tell the
authorities what he thinks of them. Tell it, and feel better.
And if possible, spit in the unpleasant face of the Kremlin and
the White House residents.
His chances? No more than 1%.
Ella and the Electorate
Ella Pamfilova took part in virtually all elections that
were held in Russia. She has a nearly perfect democratic
biography: trade union committee, party committee, people's
deputy of the Soviet Union, the Inter-Regional Deputies' Group,
the Supreme Soviet commission on privileges, and voting for the
cancellation of the notorious Article 6 of the constitution on
the guiding role of the Communist Party at the congress of
people's deputies... Next she worked for the Ministry of Social
Protection. Ella fell out of Gaidar's nest in 1994, soon after
Yegor Gaidar left the Chernomyrdin government, and began an
independent political career amidst the rough seas of Russian
politics. Regrettably, she is moving ever closer to the
The latter is partially a result of a sceptical attitude
to women in politics, traditional for Russia. On the other
hand, this is logical for a country that is still largely
traditionalist. But this marginal status is due largely to
Ella's activities. Or rather, to the emanation of her ego,
which makes her act in this, and only this, way.
By her speeches, Pamfilova stresses her political
soundness and independence, but her tone bespeaks her weakness
and feminine hunger for a male defender. One can hear touching
traditionalist tones in her addresses. She implies that women
are softer and more peaceful. "Male politics has discredited
itself," she says, "and we must do something about this." A
weak but ambitious woman provoking men's compassion. This type
has only a limited appeal in ruthless Russian politics.
On the other hand, Ella says the right things, yet they
sound as an imitation.
She lacks political individuality. However, she has a
small electorate (1-1.5% of the total), who regards her -- let
this not strike you as strange -- as well-nigh a charismatic
leader, or simply as an upright person.
The Inertia of Delusions
The situation of Samara governor Konstantin Titov is very
strange (strange in terms of world politics, but quite ordinary
in terms of Russia). The bloc which he joined for the Duma
elections, SPS, did not support him unequivocally or directly.
Indeed, why quarrel with Putin over 2-3% of the vote, which the
Samara governor could earn? In that situation, the
self-nomination of Titov looked amateurish from the political
viewpoint, and shifted him as a politician to the level of Ella
Pamfilova or Yuri Skuratov, ideologically-minded but non-party
It appears that Titov took part in the presidential race
by virtue of inertia. This act could have had a serious
political meaning a year or half a year ago, "before Putin."
But today the personal decision of Governor Titov looks as an
act of inertia, as inability to review one's stand and possibly
The methods of his election campaign are depressing and
disappointing. Titov's repeated calls to Yavlinsky to withdraw
from the elections and hand over his votes to him, remind one
of traditional gubernatorial cries for financial assistance
from the federal budget.
Before asking someone to give you his votes, one should
first prove that he has an electoral potential of his own.
Titov has not provided any proof, and opinion polls promise him
a bitter disillusionment at the elections.
It is clear that Titov is a perfect case of unsatisfied
ambitions. We saw the outbursts of these ambitions in the past
On the other hand, the situation with Titov cannot be
explained only by excessive and pathological ambitions of a
provincial leader. His participation in the current
presidential elections spotlighted an element that Russia and
Russian politics need -- an alternative to Putin on the right
flank, a more liberal set of policy principles than the one
which we can expect the acting president to carry out (provided
he honours liberal values at all).
No matter what U-turns the Russian political history made
in the past decade, liberalism remains a basic global ideology,
because it embodies the deep-going trends of world development.
I am truly sorry that we have virtually lost the liberal
alternative owing to constant wrangles and loss of morale by
Russian liberals. For it is only with major reservations that
the phenomenon of Titov can be regarded as a liberal
alternative to the Kremlin party of power, which upholds the
conglomerate of bureaucratic and oligarchic interests.
Besides, the country is not ready to support such an
alternative. In today's parlance, there is no demand for it --
and this is the historical, if you want it, tragedy of the
Samara governor. On the other hand, if society showed even a
feeble sign of readiness to regard such an alternative, and if
the SPS risked nominating a candidate, it would not have been
Titov at all.
Monarchist, Prosecutor, Et All
The participation of Aleksei Podberezkin in the
presidential elections could be regarded as a symbolic act.
Judging by all appearances, Podberezkin is the only candidate
advocating the monarchial idea, which was an archetype of
national awareness and the cornerstone of the "national idea"
in Russia for many long ages. It rests on centuries of the rise
and development of the Russian statehood and a powerful
tradition of power. It is a symbolic ideological and political
pole, although hardly visible today through the thick crowd of
Russian communist and post-communist cataclysms.
However, of late Podberezkin has been putting forth his
monarchial views with certain timidity. He more willingly
speaks about "the imperial idea," the Russian Way, and even
aristocratic democracy. But we know that monarchists, like
officers, never retire.
The participation of a monarchist candidate in the
presidential elections is a somewhat disconcerting fact. It is
even stranger that the monarchial idea is advocated by a
yesteryear member of the communist faction in the Duma. This
does not affect the virtues of Aleksei Podberezkin as a person.
But damn it all, why is he doing this?
The answer to this question is especially interesting
because Podberezkin's Spiritual Heritage, which cut its
umbilical cord with the Communist Party, got only 0.1% of the
vote at the latest Duma elections...
As for Yuri Skuratov, politics in general and the current
campaign in particular have become to him a natural way of
survival -- political, moral, and possibly, physical. Because
the prosecutor general faces not just political oblivion, like
many other candidates, but the notorious house of corrections.
The authorities mulled over the problem and decided to expose
not just Skuratov's fondness of prohibited sexual comforts
(which is not illegal), but also his love of expensive suits
paid for by somebody else.
The recent history of Russia shows that only mass
political support, the voice and the will of the people can
protect one from prison, if not poverty. However, Skuratov's
rating shows that the voters, most of whom hate corruption, do
not regard him as an irreconcilable fighter with this evil.
For Yevgeny Savostyanov, the forthcoming elections are his
last resort, the last attempt to resurface from political
oblivion. The previous attempt, made with Fatherland, did not
Savostyanov decided to resurface as a first-wave democrat.
But society is not prepared to go back and begin a new
democratic revolution, and hence many democratically-minded
voters regard Savostyanov only as a chekist, Putin's colleague
and former head of the Moscow directorate of the KGB, the
Security Ministry and the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service.
Savostyanov can be regarded only a parody of Putin today:
a man from the services on his way to the Kremlin. But a
different man with a different life...
And then there is Umar Dzhabrailov, a very rich Chechen
businessman with the looks of a DJ. Unlike some other runners
in the race, he knows very well why he is running and how to
convert the privileges granted him by the presidential campaign
into something more palpable...
Thus the primitive picture of petty individual ambitions,
cravings and hungers is partially destroyed or concretized.
Candidates have different goals, some very noble, and different
truths. Most of the so-called outsiders are bright and original
figures, while others are upright people, or at least
attention-worthy. But tell me, please, what does this have to
do with genuine, big-time, and not toy politics?!
Rather, it is the non-participation of such political
heavy-weights as Yevgeny Primakov, Yuri Luzhkov and once very
popular premier Sergei Stepashin in the race that has a
connection with big-time politics. This is a genuine political
fact, while all the rest are funny and often symptomatic
(nothing more) grimaces of plurality in a country with as yet
unstable party system and an all-powerful political elite,
which has a hand everywhere.
March 22, 2000
The New 4-Year Plan
By Leonid Sborov
German Gref, the Chairman of the Center for Strategic Developments, on
Tuesday announced that in May, Vladimir Putin would deliver a speech on the
new budget policy. The Government is planning a four-year economic plan.
German Gref made the announcement at the conference ‘The Russian economy
on the eve of the presidential elections’, organized by the European
Business Club and held in Moscow. He claimed that the four-year plan budgets
would be the best way to encourage foreign investors.
So it looks like the Government is forming a clear concept of its new
economic policy. Deputy head of RF Ministry for State Property German Gref
has published the guidelines of the new policy. He heads a group of several
dozens experts, including ministers, economists and analysts working on the
Firstly, the Government is proceeding from the assumption that the
current economic growth in Russia will continue in the near future. According
to forecasts made by Evgeniy Yasin, the head of the Expert Institute and
member of the parliamentary economic policy group, the rate of economic
growth will be approximately 4-6% per annum. However, the state cannot do
without foreign investment.
“It will be impossible to secure the essential rate of growth even if
we managed to concentrate domestic capital and sharply decrease the tax
burden,” said Gref. He added that attempts to attract investors by using
administrative measures are doomed to fail.
The four-year budget plan will be adopted in one to one and a half
months and is designed to attract foreign investors. We must give businesses
a signal, says Gref, and inform them of what we expect to happen in the near
future so that companies can plan their strategy not for one, but for four
years. If potential investors have a clear idea of what the situation will be
like in 4 years and have faith in the government, they are sure to invest. As
soon as the first budget plan is approved, the future president will deliver
a statement and determine the economic priorities of his first term of
Secondly, Gref’s center is working on amendment of certain economic
legislation, including the Law on Realty Rights and Transactions
Registration, to improve protection of small shareholders’ rights, further
guarantees for direct investments and the implementation introduction of
municipal land allotments.
Thirdly, the Government intends to essentially decrease the rate of
income tax. Putin has instructed the Finance Ministry to prepare several
variants for prospective tax reform, said Gref. Work on the projects will be
completed at the same time as the budget and published in May. Investors have
already responded to the Government’s new initiative. The deputy head
Chairman of the RAO United Energy Systems of Russia board Yakov Urinson, told
Gazeta.Ru that if the plans reported by Gref are implemented, RAO UES, and
all western investors would benefit.
Kirill Lebedev, head of Emerson Electric’s Russian office also hopes
it will be easier to do business in Russia if Gref’s plans are implemented.
We greatly want to invest. Many projects have been prepared. We are glad to
hear that the Russian Government is willing to promote them. Now everything
will depend on successful cooperation with the Duma, Lebedev said.
We dare add that everything will also depend on the outcome of the
presidential elections and whether or not the one who is planning to deliver
the revolutionary budget concept will be elected.
22 March 2000
Propaganda Gives Military Pyrrhic Victory in Chechnya
By Boris Kagarlitsky
Boris Kagarlitsky is a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences
Institute of Comparative Politics. He contributed this comment to The Moscow
Remember the old Soviet joke about Waterloo? While watching a parade on Red
Square, Napoleon sighs and says, "If I had tanks like that, I wouldn't have
lost the battle at Waterloo." Brezhnev, standing beside him, answers, "And if
you had newspapers like we have, no one would have known you lost the battle
Our political and military leaders are convinced you can win a war on
television. Every day, the television broadcasts the confident faces of the
generals, telling about grand victories. The majority of enthusiastic reports
about the war are written either in Moscow, thousands of kilometers from the
line of fire, or under the control of military censors in Mozdok. There is
evidence that TV "war" footage is often filmed dozens of kilometers from the
line of fire. Only occasionally do you see flashes of the actual face of war
in the background: wrecked machinery by the side of the road, tormented
soldiers wandering in the mud.
The sameness of newspapers and television is striking. The very journalists
who five years ago were digging up stories, are today, with a serious
expression, repeating any nonsense thought up by military propagandists —
such as the Chechens themselves are releasing poisonous gases over their own
positions. Various journalists, having suddenly lost their individual style,
have started writing in the official jargon of army political workers. One
gets the impression that all these articles are written somewhere in the same
place. But there are exceptions. General Shamanov, who on television speaks
in telegraphic commander-style, suddenly starts speaking in the language of
the Chekhovian intelligentsia on the pages of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, showing a
deep understanding of history, culture and morality.
Newspaper editors, induced by "patriotic" motives, refuse to print anything
other than enthusiastic reports about victories and flattering panegyrics to
the generals or acting President Vladimir Putin. The general rule formulated
by cynical journalists is this: When writing about Putin, write as you would
about someone who is dead — either something good, or nothing at all. This is
redolent of the Brezhnev period: News is confined to reports about official
business and incomprehensible reports on victories. Pre-election scandals
spice things up a bit, but even those will soon end.
After losing the first Chechen war, the generals have decided that the
journalists are to blame. The Chechen fighters won the information war of
1994-96, and the army leadership lost; that's an obvious fact. But the
generals have forgotten this: If the fighters were beaten in the mountains,
the sympathy of the Moscow intelligentsia wouldn't help the Chechens.
Our military and political leaders think a victory like the one in Kosovo
will justify everything. But will there be victory? While the media writes
about the Chechens gassing themselves, symptoms of self-poisoning propaganda
are becoming more noticeable in the Russian camp.
But the generals' protestations that during the 1994-96 war all the press was
against them do not jibe with reality. First, anti-military reports began to
appear only after the failure of the New Year's storming of Grozny in 1994.
Who hindered the generals from quickly finishing off the enemy and "closing
the topic" before anti-military attitudes developed in the rear? Second,
Channel 2, NTV, Moskovsky Komsomolets and Izvestia took up an anti-war (and
not "pro-Chechen") position only when Channel 1 tried, through titanic
efforts, to change public perceptions. They brought Alexander Nevzorov on
board (no matter what you think of him, he is one of the most talented people
in Russian television). He was given the best time slot and a sizable budget.
But in the final analysis, this was a complete information defeat, for the
simple reason that there was more truth in the programs of NTV than on
Having watched television reports from Kosovo, our generals and ministries
understood at long last what they didn't have: Although the Americans didn't
have high-class PR, the State Department and Pentagon were able to stem the
flow of negative information from the zone of conflict. From our generals'
point of view, this was the main reason for NATO's success. And now, for a
few months our army has been conducting a war in Chechnya with one goal: to
present material for a powerful propaganda campaign. Alas, not a single war
has ever been won in this fashion.
The story of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky has shown what will
happen to journalists who don't play the Kremlin's game. But in this case,
the authorities clearly didn't get the reaction they counted on. More than a
dozen major publications — from the liberal Segodnya to the radical communist
Sovetskaya Rossia — united in protest against Babitsky's treatment in a
special, jointly produced edition of Obshchaya Gazeta.
It is said that the Russian people support the war in Chechnya. But after you
talk to the man in the street, it becomes clear that this popular support is
a bluff. Putin's rating is dubious. And the few surveys of public opinion
that seep through the pages of our newspapers show that 42 to 46 percent of
Russians are in favor of instituting talks with the Chechens.
Our military and political leaders think a victory like the one in Kosovo
will justify everything. But will there be victory? While the media writes
about the Chechens gassing themselves, symptoms of self-poisoning propaganda
are becoming more noticeable in the Russian camp.
How long can this continue? Optimists believe that propaganda is
all-powerful. No matter how bad things are in reality, the leadership can,
with the support of TV, successfully fool people ad infinitum. The
pessimists, on the other hand, insist that sooner or later the truth will
out. Then there will be an enormous scandal that will make the military and
information defeats of the first Chechen war seem like child's play. After
all, from 1994 to 1996 the press enjoyed a certain authority, earned in
covering the war in Chechnya for the support of the leadership during the
presidential elections — support for the very leadership that started the war.
The Kremlin played that game successfully. Now it's another story. How long
the people can be fooled depends not only on events in Chechnya. If the war
were the only problem the leadership had, all would work out fine. But the
war is just a side effect of a general crisis in the regime. And the crisis
will grow for objective reasons. The 1993 model of government and society we
had in 1993 has run its course, so explosions are inevitable.
In this situation, it is becoming very hard to maintain the "information
positions." Every propaganda machine has its limits. Pushing false
information now is having an opposite effect. Military censorship isn't
helping. Today the "Ministry of Truth" is working at maximum capacity. Sooner
or later the money will run out — both for the war and for propaganda (lies
are more expensive than cannons). When the winter fog lifts in the mountains
of Chechnya and the snow melts from Moscow political circles, they'll find
that virtual victory can't hide real defeat. But a military failure will turn
into a propaganda catastrophe. Say what you will, the sword is more powerful
than the pen — even the most poisonous.
Leading Russian liberal says Putin is no democrat
MOSCOW, March 22 (Reuters) - Grigory Yavlinsky, the leading liberal candidate
in Russia's upcoming presidential election, said on Wednesday that
front-runner Acting President Vladimir Putin was a ``secret Communist'' and a
danger to democracy.
Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, lags way behind Putin in a
new opinion poll, which indicated a possible first-round victory in Sunday's
election for the former KGB spy. Yavlinsky was predicted to get around 5
percent of the vote.
``Yes, I think Putin is dangerous for Russia's democracy. That's why I'm a
candidate,'' Yavlinsky told a news conference, adding he welcomed the
decision of outsider Yevgeny Savostyanov to drop out of the race in his
Yavlinsky said Savostyanov's decision, announced on Tuesday, was the first
significant step towards building a ``broad social democratic right-wing
coalition'' which could act as Russia's democratic voice.
He said Putin was indistinguishable from the number two in the race for
president, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who polls indicate could win
about 25 percent of the vote.
``There's no difference between Zyuganov and Putin. Zyuganov simply likes a
red flag and Putin doesn't care about that,'' Yavlinsky said.
Yavlinsky pointed at Putin's past as a KGB spy and his prosecution of the
bloody war in Chechnya to support his point of view. But Putin has shrugged
off similar criticism and has pledged to uphold democracy if elected.
Observers to Be Briefed Before Going to Constituencies.
MOSCOW, March 22 (Itar-Tass) - Foreign observers to the forthcoming
presidential elections in Russia on March 26 will be thoroughly briefed at a
special closed-door meeting before they get their assignments, the head of
the mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,
Eduard Brunner, said.
He told Itar-Tass on Wednesday that organisational issues will be discussed
among other things at this meeting. Observers should know what to do, where
to go and what to check. Since they arrive from different parts of the world,
they need to have a full picture of events in Russia, he said.
Parliamentarians who will also monitor elections in Russia will be briefed
separately. They are experienced politicians and when they arrive several
days before elections, they are interested more in the political mood in the
country rather than in the every-day work of observers, Brunner explained.
Informed sources told Itar-Tass that observers will be briefed on the rules
of behavior and methodology of monitoring on election day, on the political
and social climate in the country before elections by using information
collected by long-term observers.
In addition, observers will be told about the possibilities provided by
Russian legislation and its application, the voting and vote-counting
procedures. They will get plans of deployment and assignments, and will be
briefed on security issues and on how to respond to press reports.
Observers will get booklets with general information about the country,
including emergency telephone numbers and a map of all constituencies.
From: "Kitty Dolan" <email@example.com>
Subject: re:Russian constitutional reform
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
The question of revising Russia's constitution is an interesting one, as are
Donald Jensen's comments (JRL # 4186 ). However, one has to question
whether amending the constitution in and of itself is sufficient to bring
about the results Jensen and others hope for. After all, as Judge Learned
Hand once said, for a constitution to be effective it must be written in the
hearts of the people as well. Can some readers of JRL point to any
initiatives that have been taken to bring that part of the equation into
play? I have in mind basically civic education in the schools. What, if
anything, is happening in that area, and with what results? As to the
general feasibility of reforming a constitution of a corrupt state, I offer
a rather lengthy quotation by Machiavelli (from The Discourses, Ch. 18)
whose analysis of the feasibility of changing a state's constitution and
attaining or maintaining a democracy seems in many ways applicable to
"I believe it will not be amiss to consider whether in a state that has
become corrupt a free government that has existed there can be maintained;
or if there has been none before, whether one could be established there.
Upon this subject I must say that either one of them would be exceedingly
difficult. And although it is impossible to give any definite rules for such
a case, (as it will be necessary to proceed according to the different
degrees of corruption,) yet, as it is well to reason upon all subjects, I
will not leave this problem without discussing it. I will suppose a state to
be corrupt to the last degree, so as to present the subject in its most
difficult aspect, there being no laws nor institutions that suffice to check
a general corruption. For as good habits of the people require good laws to
support them, so laws, to be observed, need good habits on the part of the
people. Besides, the constitution and laws established in a republic at its
very origin, when men were still pure, no longer suit when men have become
corrupt and bad. And although the laws may be changed according to
circumstances and events, yet is it seldom or never that the constitution
itself is changed; and for this reason the new laws do not suffice, for they
are not in harmony with the constitution, that has remained intact. To make
this matter better understood, I will explain how the government of Rome was
constituted and what the nature of the laws was.
"And the truth that the original institutions were no longer suitable to a
corrupt state is clearly seen in these two main points -- the creation of
the magistrates, and the forms used in making the laws. As regards the
first, the Roman people bestowed the consulate and the other principal
offices only on such as asked for them. This system was very good in the
beginning, because only such citizens asked for these places as deemed
themselves worthy of them, and a refusal was regarded as ignominious; so
that every one strove to make himself esteemed worthy of the honor. But when
the city had become corrupt, this system became the most pernicious; for it
was no longer the most virtuous and deserving, but the most powerful, that
asked for the magistratures; and the less powerful, often the most
meritorious, abstained from being candidates from fear.
"Now as to the mode of making the laws. At first a Tribune or any other
citizen had the right to propose any law, and every citizen could speak in
favor of against it before its final adoption. This system was very good so
long as the citizens were uncorrupted, for it is always well in a state that
every one may propose what he deems for the public good; and it was equally
well that every one should be allowed to express his opinion in relation to
it, so that the people, having heard both sides, may decide in favor of the
best. But when the citizens had become corrupt, this system became the worst
for then only the powerful proposed laws, not for the common good and the
liberty of all, but for the increase of their own power, and fear restrained
all the others from speaking against such laws; and thus the people were by
force and fraud make to resolve upon their own ruin.
"It was necessary therefore, if Rome wished to preserve her liberty in the
midst of this corruption, that she should have modified her constitution, in
like manner as in the progress of her existence she had made new laws; for
institutions and forms should be adapted to the subject, whether it be good
or evil, inasmuch as the same form cannot suit two subjects that are
essentially different. But as the constitution of a state, when once it has
been discovered to be no longer suitable, should be amended, either all at
once, or by degrees as each defect becomes known, I say that both of these
courses are equally impossible. For a gradual modification requires to be
the work of some wise man, who has seen the evil from afar in its very
beginning; but it is very likely that such a man may never rise up in the
state, and even if he did he will hardly be able to persuade the others to
what he proposes; for men accustomed to live after one fashion do not like
to change, and the less so as they do not see the evil staring them in the
face, but presented to them as a mere conjecture.
"As to reforming these institutions all at once, when their defects have
become manifest to everybody, that also is most difficult; for to do this
ordinary means will not suffice; they may even be injurious under such
circumstances, and therefore it becomes necessary to resort to extraordinary
measures, such as violence and arms, and above all things to make one's self
absolute master of the state, so as to be able to dispose of it at will. And
as the reformation of the political condition of a state presupposes a good
man, whilst the making of himself prince of a republic by violence naturally
presupposes a bad one, it will consequently be exceedingly rare that a good
man should be found willing to employ wicked means to become prince, even
though his final object be good; or that a bad man, after having become
prince, should be willing to labor for good ends, and that it should enter
his mind to use for good purposes that authority which he has acquired by
evil means. From these combined causes arises the difficulty or
impossibility of maintaining liberty in a republic that has become corrupt,
or to establish it there anew. And if it has to be introduced and
maintained, then it will be necessary to reduce the state to a monarchical,
rather than a republican from of government; for men whose turbulence could
not be controlled by the simple force of law can be controlled in a measure
only by an almost regal power. And to attempt to restore men to good conduct
by any other means would be either a most cruel or an impossible
Submitted by Kitty Dolan
American Institute of Business and Economics
ANALYSIS-Putin talks up industry but depends on oil
By Sebastian Alison
MOSCOW, March 22 (Reuters) - Russian Acting President Vladimir Putin has kept
busy ahead of Sunday's presidential election, reviewing the crown jewels of
He has flown to war-torn Chechnya in a Sukhoi-27 jet fighter which he
described as ``beautiful.'' He has ridden a shiny new suburban electric train
On Tuesday he dropped in on weapons plants in Nizhny Novgorod east of Moscow,
and was present later in the day when Russian carmaker GAZ GAZA.RTS signed a
deal with Italy's Fiat to produce cars jointly in the town.
He has talked up Russian industry and said the country needs annual economic
growth of ``seven to eight, or better 10 percent'' to prevent it from lagging
further behind the West.
His message, aired at length on pro-Putin news channels, is simple: Russia is
a great industrial power which can get back on its feet through its own
INDUSTRY COUNTS FOR LITTLE
The problem for Putin and for Russia is that, although the country produces a
handful of internationally sought-after manufactured goods, most of its
revenues owe nothing at all to industry or to the skills and talents of the
On the contrary, Russia's wealth comes from nature. It is rich in oil, gas,
minerals, metals and timber -- the source of 75 percent of the country's hard
currency export earnings.
While Putin may talk of boosting growth, Russia's economic status, as with
all countries so heavily dependent on globally traded commodities, is, at
least for now, determined elsewhere.
As if the Acting President needed reminding of this, the price of oil,
Russia's most important hard currency earner, has tumbled by $6.50 per barrel
in just a few days.
After hitting a nine-year high of $31.95 per barrel, benchmark Brent crude
futures, against which Russia's export blend crude is priced, were trading at
$25.40 per barrel on Wednesday -- a 20 percent fall in two weeks.
The reason? The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries -- by
chance holding its next summit the day after Russia's presidential election
-- is expected to raise output.
Prices may fall further and Russia can do nothing about it.
Russia exports around 850 million barrels of crude per year, so a dollar off
the price means $850 million in lost revenues. This year's high prices have
provided a welcome windfall but the price slide in the last two weeks alone
works out at a notional $5.5 billion lost over a year.
True, Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny said recently that Russia
would cut its own oil exports to counter the effect of any OPEC increase and
help keep prices up.
But Russian energy ministers have made similar noises before. By and large
the market ignores them, knowing full well that Russia simply cannot afford
to do anything except export to the maximum. Russia is a price taker, not a
ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION SEEN FEASIBLE
Analyst Ruslan Nickolov of Nomura International in London thinks Putin is
serious about restructuring the economy by developing other selected sectors,
and this could cut dependence on raw materials -- if he can tackle
bureaucracy and corruption.
``The essential question is the corruptibility of the government and its
institutions. If Putin does not address that issue if and when he is elected,
the chances of Russia becoming just a raw materials appendix to the world
economy will proportionately increase.''
If Putin can reform bureaucracy, the legal system and the structure of the
economy, Nickolov sees Russia's intellectual potential, experience and
know-how allowing the economy to diversify and industry to grow relatively
But even so he expects any president to depend on raw materials for years
before Russia can be considered a fully industrialised country rather than a
``If the most optimistic ideas are realised then perhaps within the next 10
years Russia will move away from its overdependence on the energy sector.
Otherwise it may never really happen.''