This Date's Issues: 4218 • 4219
Johnson's Russia List
2 April 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Vita Bekker, Chechnya will leave deep scars on Russia.
2. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, KGB stirs in the shadow
3. Anthony D'Agostino: MIGRANYAN'S LATEST CALL FOR DICTATORSHIP/4214.
4. US News and World Report: Michael Barone, What kind of Russia?
President-elect Putin offers a basis for hopes - and for fears
5. The Russia Journal: Otto Latsis, Russia wants change.
6. Chicago Tribune: ROOMING WITH GHOSTS OF WAR. It's all smoke and
mirrors at the Assa Hotel as the charade of the Chechen conflict plays
out, the Tribune's Colin McMahon.
7. Carl Olson: Coffee-Russia-Vietnam.
8. Yuri Luryi: Optimist/Pessimist.
9. Vlad Ivanenko: On performance of Russian bureaucrats.
10. Albert Weeks: Re: Mendeloff on Russian textbooks.
11. The Guardian (UK): The real order of Lenin. Russia's new
ruler cannot avoid the shadow of his great predecessor. Robert
Service on the old revolutionary's true character.
12. Andrew Miller: Putin's Mentor.]
Chechnya will leave deep scars on Russia
By Vita Bekker
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, April 2 (Reuters) - Fresh from the Chechnya campaign
and now confined to a St Petersburg hospital bed, Nikolai will offer only a
grim glimpse of what happened in the battle-scorched rebel region.
He vows to never speak of his deepest secrets.
``I think about the war...the many people I saw die down there,'' the
20-year-old Russian soldier said. A single thin blanket covered his wounded
legs, leaving his thin and pale upper body exposed.
``Whatever happened, happened...I am not going to say a word about it to
anyone. Ever,'' he says, staring at the ceiling.
Nikolai's vow of silence was made weeks after he left the war zone, but it is
one maintained for years by tens of thousands of Russian veterans after they
return to civilian life.
As Russia takes stock of the damage the six-month Chechnya campaign has
caused its soldiers, psychologists fear a lack of any kind of rehabilitation
for veterans will mean that another generation of young men go along the road
``They don't just suffer themselves, they bring suffering to others,'' said
Albert Baranov, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Science Institute of
``They become psychologically disturbed people who are dangerous to Russia
and to themselves.''
LIVING WITH KILLING
The number of troops taking part in the campaign stands officially at 93,000
-- nearly twice that dispatched in the 1994-96 war there. About 2,000 troops
have been killed in Chechnya and in earlier fighting in the Russian region of
``The hardest thing for society to understand is that veterans' war syndrome
does not go away. In many countries, enormous resources are devoted to
rehabilitation, but Russia never had a plan to deal with the consequences of
war,'' Baranov said.
Russian veterans' organisations say they receive no state aid to overcome
challenges such as the lack of housing, medical treatment and rehabilitation
for war veterans. Many former soldiers also have difficulty finding jobs.
After war, many soldiers enter the criminal world, said Elana Vilenskaya,
co-chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Soldiers' Mothers Organisation. Many
commit suicide, she added.
Vilenskaya recently met a young wounded soldier during a routine hospital
visit. He said he had killed 14 Chechens, including a pregnant woman. ``The
woman had begged for her life...she was crawling on her stomach in front of
me,'' he said.
Vilenskaya said the killings had ``destroyed the young man's personality...no
one punished him and, in fact, he was made a hero. These young people now
cannot live without war.''
On another hospital visit Vilenskaya interviewed six more soldiers and only
one wanted to return to the war zone. ``I asked why, and one explained he
felt powerful, like he has the power to give life, or to take it away, and if
he takes it he won't be punished,'' she said.
CRIME, DRUGS AND SUICIDE
The attraction to violence and killing is one of two reactions experienced by
people in war situations, psychologists say. The second reaction is an
intense self-hatred and guilt, which can often lead to suicide.
Alexei, who became addicted to drugs and alcohol during the previous Chechen
war, tried twice to jump out of the window in his mother's fourth-floor St
Petersburg apartment, but was stopped by neighbours. His problems did not end
After one stay in Kresty prison, Alexei was again tried and found guilty of
``I look at him and know there is something wrong, but he never tells me
anything of what happened in Chechnya,'' said his mother Valentina, who asked
that her last name not be published.
Marina Borisova of the psychology department at Moscow State University said
that when a person encounters killing during a war, ``everything about him
changes, starting with his basic personal education, his sense of living, his
``In war, you have to kill or otherwise you will be killed. When a soldier
returns to civilian life, he keeps this experience. He feels the need to be
attentive, careful, and is attracted to extreme situations.''
PEACETIME QUIET NO SANCTUARY
Borisova said those soldiers who fought in war say they are used to sleeping
with the noise of artillery. ``In war, silence means danger...so when a
soldier returns, he cannot tolerate quiet. In order to sleep, he needs some
sort of noise.''
Many of the veterans experience the condition known in the past as ``shell
shock,'' diagnosed in the United States after the Vietnam War as
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the most serious psychological battles a soldier experiences is when
he tries to make sense of what he was doing, and does not come up with an
answer, psychologists say.
Sergei Zakharov, 23, who fought in Chechnya for 10 months in 1994, said the
Russian soldiers in that first war were deceived.
``Why did we fight the war? Who were we protecting -- ourselves or our
country?'' he said. ``When we returned from Chechnya, the guys we were
fighting became Chechnya's legitimate leaders...we fought them for nothing.''
For a year after the fighting, Zakharov said he often had nightmares about
the war. Six years on, a noise such as a car roaring down the street is
enough to set his pulse racing.
Vilenskaya says the sorry cycle will continue, unless someone takes steps to
help the soldiers returning from war.
``There will be more crime, the health effects will be harsher,'' she said.
``I can't imagine what kind of families these soldiers are going to have. And
everything will be repeated.''
The Sunday Times (UK)
2 April 2000
[for personal use only]
KGB stirs in the shadow of Putin
A FORMER KGB officer renowned for the zeal with which he persecuted
dissidents and intellectuals in Soviet times is being tipped to take over the
FSB, the domestic branch of the Russian security service.
The expected appointment of Viktor Cherkesov, 49, at present the FSB's deputy
director, has added to concern that President Vladimir Putin will steer
Russia towards a new era of authoritarian rule following his election last
Cherkesov would replace Nikolai Patrushev, the director, who is likely to
become the interior minister or to head the powerful security council.
The rise of Cherkesov, a shadowy figure who rarely appears in public, has
appalled liberals, who accuse him of playing a leading role during the 1980s
in the arrest and imprisonment of 20 dissidents in Leningrad, as St
Petersburg was then known.
Described by critics as being a hawkish reactionary, Cherkesov headed the
investigative department of the KGB's hated fifth directorate, which was
responsible for surveillance of the media, church, schools and trade unions.
It specialised in persecuting dissidents.
Such was Cherkesov's success that in 1992 he was promoted to director of the
agency's St Petersburg branch. Then, 18 months ago, he was called to Moscow
by Putin, who had just been appointed head of the FSB.
The Russian leader, who served in the KGB for 16 years, has known Cherkesov
since the early 1980s. Cherkesov was also a member of his presidential
election campaign team.
"God forbid that a man like Cherkesov should have even more power than he
already has," said Vyacheslav Dolinin, a former dissident arrested and
questioned by Cherkesov dozens of times in St Petersburg.
Dolinin spent nine months in prison and four years in labour camps in the far
east of the Soviet Union for writing and smuggling to the West articles
predicting the collapse of the Soviet economy. He was pardoned in 1987.
"I'll never forget Cherkesov's office - that's where his true nature came
out," said Dolinin. "It was number 13 and had been converted from an old
public lavatory. Cherkesov sat behind a large desk under a portrait of Lenin.
I was always made to sit on a chair in front of a small table. Both were
nailed to the floor. A heavy metal grate was fixed to the window.
"He questioned me for days, trying to make me squeal on friends and other
dissidents. He never showed any sympathy. He was no monster, but this was an
ambitious, small-minded man. His threats were always subtle."
Cherkesov is also remembered in St Petersburg as the last KGB officer to open
a case under a notorious clause in the Soviet criminal code - known as
article 70 - which dealt with political crimes. The target was Yuli Rybakov,
a former artist who is now a liberal member of parliament. Initiated in 1988,
when Gorbachev's reforms were already well advanced, the case was closed by
Moscow a few months later.
"Cherkesov is the man who appeared on television, presenting my fax machine
as clear evidence of my alleged spying and propaganda activities," Rybakov
said. "That tells you quite a bit about his mentality."
In one of his last actions before leaving for Moscow, Cherkesov also helped
to open the case against Alexander Nikitin, a naval captain turned
environmentalist who was arrested in 1996 and charged with treason after
accusing the Russian navy of dumping nuclear waste.
Far from regretting his fervour in tormenting intellectuals, Cherkesov, an
early advocate of schemes to monitor private e-mails and other internet
traffic, has repeatedly defended his methods, arguing that he never broke
Apprehension about how Cherkesov would lead the FSB coincides with
uncertainty over Putin's plans for Russia. Although the president has
promised to enforce a "dictatorship of the law", little is known of his
A blueprint for a five-year economic programme is not expected until May.
Putin has repeatedly refused to say when he will form a government. Mikhail
Kasyanov, a technocratic deputy prime minister respected in the West for his
negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, is widely tipped as prime
For Yelena Bonner, widow of the late Andrei Sakharov, one of the Soviet
Union's most celebrated dissidents, Putin's apparent intention to promote
Cherkesov is indicative enough of the likely direction of events.
"If in 1991 someone had said that the KGB would return
to power nine years later, I would have thought him mad," she said. "How can
this be happening?"
Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000 14:35:34 -0800
From: "Anthony D'Agostino" <email@example.com>
Subject: MIGRANYAN'S LATEST CALL FOR DICTATORSHIP/4214
Andranik Migranyan's Nezavisimaya Gazeta article, with its encouragement
for a Putin dictatorship, comes as no surprise.
In 1989, he wanted a Gorbachev dictatorship, to get free of the existing
power structures and at the same time to forestall the dangerous tendencies
of Boris Yeltsin's "neo-Bolshevism." Historical study showed, he
"explained," that civil society had to secure its own rights and privileges
prior to a later development of democracy and that this could only be done
in the meantime by dictatorship. Migranyan said that this was an important
lesson of the English revolution of the seventeenth century, apparently
thinking of Cromwell's Puritan dictatorship. Thus Gorbachev must find
himself in the position of being a revolutionary and a conservative at the
same time, "both Luther and the Pope."
After the failure of the coup of August 1991, when the "neo-Bolshevik"
Yeltsin looked like consolidating his power at the expense of Gorbachev,
Migranyan called, without any embarrassment, for a Yeltsin dictatorship,
urging that "Yeltsin should rule by decree."
Now he seems to feel the same way about Putin. The new Russian President
should restore the power of the state and take complete control over the
media. He supposes, I think erroneously, that Putin has already freed
himself from the influence of The Family. He applauds the apparent vote
fraud in Tataria and Ingushetia. He looks forward to the co-optation of
Luzhkov, Primakov, with whom he says, correctly, I think, that Putin has no
It is safe to say that Migranyan wants dictatorship in Russia irrespective
of the dictator or even his purposes. This puts me in mind of an
inebriated fellow I once met in a bar who stoutly asserted "there's no
cause I won't die for."
US News and World Report
April 10, 2000
[for personal use only]
What kind of Russia?
President-elect Putin offers a basis for hopes - and for fears
By Michael Barone
MOSCOW. In looking at foreign elections, Americans tend to believe there must
be a good alternative, an ideal candidate who will serve his country well and
get on well with the United States. Bill Clinton has hailed Vladimir Putin,
who won the Russian presidency with 53 percent of the vote March 26, as such
a figureâ€“someone who has said many of the right things about economic
the rule of law, and international relations. But in Russia, the picture
looks more mixed. Putin's Russia looks likely to be what Fareed Zakaria has
called an illiberal democracy: a nation that may move toward more economic
freedom and away from corruption, but that also seems headed toward a prickly
nationalism and away from freedom of expression, a Russia more hospitable to
foreign investment but more hostile to domestic critics.
As an electoral democracy, Russia has made great strides. The vote count was
mostly fair, and Putin seems in line with public opinion, a "mirror," as
Jamestown Foundation analyst Elizabeth Teague puts it. He has been careful to
avoid commitment on the issues. He set up a policy think tank in December,
eight days after Yeltsin resigned in his favor and four days after the Unity
Party set up by his backers won a second-place 23 percent in the elections
for the Duma, far ahead of the 13 percent for the Fatherland-All Russia slate
headed by former Premier Yevgeni Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov,
Yeltsin's major non-Communist rivals. But think tank economist Vladimir Mau
talks of little more than eliminating internal trade barriers and reducing
"controls which are equal to extortion" on small businesses - worthy goals,
falling short of the guarantees of property rights that Russia needs. Putin
owes much to oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whose ORT television network savaged
Primakov and Luzhkov and championed Putin from October to December, and has
few loyalists around him with any experience in national government. One can
be hopeful but only guardedly optimistic.
The Chechnya effect. That seems to be the mood of those who elected him.
Putin voters interviewed on Election Day in Klin, in the countryside outside
Moscow, were quick to hail him as "young and energetic" but had little to say
about what he would do, except to hope "he will make life better for my
grandchildren." Interestingly, none brought up Putin's role in the military
campaign in Chechnya, which was vital in raising his popularity last fall.
Last September, four buildings were blown up in Moscow and southern Russia;
Putin blamed the bombings on Chechen terrorists and launched the brutal
assault on Chechnya. His poll ratings soared, while those of Primakov, under
heavy assault from ORT, fell. Putin's Unity Party was launched, and as it
swept past Fatherland and the market-oriented Union of Right Forces (SPS),
both Primakov and SPS leaders Sergei Kiriyenko and Boris Nemtsov dropped
plans for a presidential candidacy. The key to his victory was the
elimination of those non-Communist rivals: Putin otherwise would certainly
not have won a majority in the first round and was far from assured of
getting into a runoff.
But were the bombings really the work of Chechens? Veteran Russia watcher
David Satter of the Hudson Institute argues that the bombings were so
professionally carried out, with explosives made in only one factory in
Russia, that they look like the work of the FSB - the successor of the
KGB - which Putin headed until August. Journalists who questioned the
version found themselves under attack. Computer hackers destroyed an issue of
Novaya Gazeta focusing on the subject a week before the election. Alexander
Khinshtein of Moskovsky Komsomolets was summoned by police to take a
psychiatric exam. Most notoriously, Andrei Babitsky of Radio Liberty was
traded by Russian soldiers to a Chechen group in January and, when released
in March, was attacked by Putin himself as disloyal. Critical treatment in
the Media-Most group's newspaper Segodnya and the NTV television puppet-show
satire, Kukly, has been followed by attacks charging that their owner,
oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, is a citizen of Israel and threatening that he
will lose control of Media-Most. "There will be some redistribution of its
property," said Gusinsky's rival Berezovsky in an interview in the Moscow
Times just before the election. While Russian reporters tend to shrug off
these events, American journalists here profess alarm at such intimidation
and argue that a hostile takeover of NTV could significantly reduce the flow
of information in a country where the few television networks sway public
Russians both pro- and anti-Putin suggest that he may be Russia's equivalent
of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, who reduced corruption and
revived the economy but at a considerable cost in civil liberties."The
stronger the state, the stronger the individual," Putin has said, and Russia
in some ways surely needs a stronger state. But against the backdrop of
Russian history, the words have a certain chill.
The Russia Journal
April 3-9, 2000
Russia wants change
By Otto Latsis
Shortly before the presidential elections, on March 23-25, the Agency for
Regional Political Studies (ARPI) carried out another routine sociological
survey. This gives us a chance to look at how reliable these types of surveys
are and ascertain what mood voters were in as they went to the polls.
Sixty-eight percent of voters said they would definitely go and vote. Actual
turnout was 68.88 percent. The forecasts, then, were highly accurate, though
many politicians had been worried about turnout, fearing that voters would
say they'd vote and then not do it when the day came.
The survey showed Putin poised to take 50.7 percent of the vote, but he ended
up with more than 52 percent. The difference falls within the acceptable
statistical margin of error, the result - a first round victory for Putin,
was predicted accurately.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was predicted to get 26.9 percent of the
vote and ended up with 29.3 percent - also a fairly accurate result. Yabloko
leader Grigory Yavlinsky wasn't so lucky, promised 9.6 percent by the surveys
and ending up with only 5.8 percent.
Something the sociologists didn't predict happened in the last days before
the elections - perhaps the last-minute attacks unleashed on Yavlinsky by
some media and presidential candidates took their toll. Or perhaps
Yavlinsky's potential voters are also those most likely to suddenly change
their minds right at the ballot box. Only 59 percent of voters polled had
already definitely made up their minds. Yavlinsky had been hoping to make it
into a second round, but sociologists gave him no hope of that.
Asked what they thought about Putin as a candidate, 20 percent said they
fully supported him and thought him the best candidate. Fourteen percent
hoped he would bring order to the country and 12 percent supported him
because they approved of his action in Chechnya. Ten percent said they
supported Putin only because they didn't like any of the other candidates.
Seventeen percent said they didn't really support him, and 12 percent did't
support him at all.
The fact that not so many of those surveyed supported Putin because of his
action in Chechnya throws doubt on the widespread theory that Putin's
popularity rests only his offensive in the rebel republic. More likely,
recent improvements in the economic situation and social sphere have had a
greater impact on voters than is commonly thought.
This is backed up by replies to a question on the results of operations in
Chechnya. Most voters were skeptical on this count. Fifty-two percent think
that even if the authorities say they've achieved a victory, some of the
rebels will escape and continue fighting a partisan war. Twenty percent think
the operations haven[t achieved their aims, and soldiers and civilians have
made sacrifices in vain, and only 12 percent think the rebels have been
crushed and victory achieved.
Another interesting question in the survey asks whether votes will be counted
correctly or whether results will be falsified. Forty percent thought results
would be falsified, 36 percent said votes would be counted correctly and 24
percent didn't know.
When asked whether Putin would continue Yelstin's policies if elected or
whether he would change direction, 39 percent expected change while 36
percent said he would continue Yeltsin's course. Twenty-five percent didn't
Voters' answers also give some indication as to what kind of direction or
style of government they'd like to see. When asked if there were situations
where the country needed a strong and authoritative leader, 42 percent said
the country always needed a "strong hand," 30 percent said it was necessary
to concentrate all power in one figure at the moment and 17 percent said one
person should not have all the power in his hands.
These answers somewhat contradict replies to an earlier survey carried out by
the same agency. That survey asked voters which quality they thought was most
important in a president. Most of those surveyed said the president should
be, above all, decent. After that, he should be intelligent and
knowledgeable, then honest; and only in sixth and seventh place were decisive
This suggests that public opinion on very general political issues can't
always be taken as an absolute truth. The public, like politicians, thinks
things over and has its doubts. But the majority of voters are hoping for and
expecting changes of whatever nature to take place in the country's life.
31 March 2000
[for personal use only]
ROOMING WITH GHOSTS OF WAR
It's all smoke and mirrors at the Assa Hotel as the charade of the Chechen
conflict plays out, the Tribune's Colin McMahon
NAZRAN, Russia -- There are places like the Assa Hotel for most every war.
They can be old or new, dingy or elegant, though old and dingy usually works
best. They can be bars, restaurants, hotels. They can be all three.
To qualify as a genuine wartime haunt, though, they must draw a crowd. A
crowd of people you wouldn't want over for dinner but who make the war go
The Assa qualifies.
It is strategically located in Nazran, in the southern Russian republic of
Ingushetia, about a half-hour's drive from Chechnya's western border. It
brings to mind, if on a more modest scale, the Key Largo in Costa Rica or the
Hotel Intercontinental in Nicaragua during the Central American wars.
As a building, the Assa is forgettable. Its architecture is strictly
functional, its interior design motel-quality.
By provincial Russia standards, the Assa is a nice place. Unlike most
Soviet-era hotels, the Assa was built to allow in natural light. The staff is
civil, often even pleasant. The toilets run all night, but at least they work.
Luckily, what the Assa lacks in character it makes up for in characters.
All manner of interesting people--soldiers and spies, diplomats and
do-gooders, merchants and mercenaries--float through the Assa lobby. They
sink into overly soft chairs or hunker down on hard stools at the short bar.
They gather around long tables in the restaurant upstairs, where it's better
to choose the soups over the boot-leather beef.
A frequent dinner guest is an affable man representing Chechen President
Aslan Maskhadov. He gives updates on how the rebels are getting on and tries
to set up interviews with Maskhadov.
Human-rights activists stay at the Assa. Their diligence in documenting
wartime abuses helps inform journalists who are otherwise busy trying to
cover the fighting. It also infuriates Moscow.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch brings a perfect mix of idealism and
cynicism to his job. His outrage at crimes committed by both sides is
genuine. But he is not blind to the sometimes comical absurdity of war. Nor
is he blind to the extremely limited influence that his reports and those of
the Western media have on Russia's conduct in Chechnya.
One night Bouckaert pounded on a journalist's door with an irresistible
offer: a trip to the Nazran morgue to see the body of a Grozny resident,
tortured and riddled with bullets, allegedly by Russian forces.
Other Assa guests and visitors knock too.
Sometimes it is agents from the Interior Ministry or from the Federal
Security Bureau, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB. They might bring a
word of advice or just appear "by mistake," looking for "someone else."
Not that it is necessary, but the agents want you to know that they know you
This is a drawback of the Assa. Another is the tapped telephones, done so
obviously that they sound like a party line. Another is the government's
occasional urge to force "bodyguards" on journalists when they leave the
Sometimes Federal Security Bureau agents or Russian soldiers moonlight as
"guides" into Chechnya. Journalists are not supposed to go into Chechnya
except on official military tours, which the government provides regularly to
a chosen few. So some correspondents find alternate means of travel.
One such guide identified himself as Magomed. In the Caucasus, the name
"Magomed" is about as common as "John" in the U.S. Men often give it to you
as if they are trying the name on for size.
(One gets used to going by different names, by the way. The name "Colin"
sounds so unfamiliar to many Russian speakers that they just convert it to
something they know. So I answer to Kolya, to Kol, to Nikolai. In Ingushetia,
and only in Ingushetia, I am often called "Mack." This is some odd adaptation
of my family name. My driver in Nazran calls me Mack, though he has a friend
who speaks some English and tried to correct him. The friend insisted my name
must be "Matt.")
Magomed appeared at the Assa one day in the full battle fatigues of a Russian
special forces unit. Over a beer at the bar, he and a buddy talked of FSB
connections and of a private ride into Grozny, the Chechen capital. That
night, Magomed returned to the Assa in a sharp black leather jacket, black
slacks, black turtleneck, black boots and slicked-back black hair.
His news was bleak. The trip was possible, he said, but probably not soon and
definitely not cheap.
Others with ties to the Chechen side or to Ingush Interior Ministry troops
offer similar services.
These various guides work the lobby like salesmen with watches up their
sleeves. They go out of their way to avoid one another. They talk in whispers
or through cupped hands.
It's hard to believe anyone is fooling anyone else. But the charade, in a war
full of charades, is crucial to the system.
One correspondent compared the Assa to the most famous, if fictional, wartime
haunt: Rick's American Cafe from the movie "Casablanca."
There is no good champagne at the Assa. There is no live band. There is no
Sam, though one drunk Russian did pound the piano one night and wasn't half
There are crooked police to spare, yes, and plenty of shifting loyalties. But
there is no sense of good and evil at the Assa. There is no battle over
There is no Rick. No Laszlo. There are just a bunch of Ugartes running around
trying to sell letters of transit.
There is no one to root for at the Assa. As naive and as sentimental as it
sounds, there is no one to root for in this mess of a war.
From: "Carl Olson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000
The increasing consumption of coffee in Russia was highlighted
in a recent JRL story.
Perhaps Russia may want to revive its ties with Vietnam for
coffee. Vietnam in the last couple years had edged out Indonesia
as the third largest coffee producing country in the world (behind
Brazil and Colombia) by producing almost 1 billion pounds of coffee
annually. The U. S. buys over 150 million pounds of coffee from
Both Russia and Vietnam could probably use this situation to
Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000
From: Professor Yuri Luryi <email@example.com>
There is another, maybe 50 years old, definition of the Pessimist. It is
well informed Optimist.
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000
From: Vlad Ivanenko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: On performance of Russian bureaucrats
I would like to request the readers of JRL to comment on the following
statement: the Russian bureaucracy is "degenerating and decaying". The
last time I see that phrase being told by Lilia Shevtsova in JRL 4215-5 A
NEW ERA IN RUSSIAN POLITICS?
Leaving aside general frustration that one usually develops dealing with
bureaucrats everywhere, my impression is to the contrary: Russian
bureaucracy performs better. They learn new technologies: there are plenty
of governmental websites and they provide better information. For example,
comparing the webpages of the Russian and Canadian Ministries of Finance I
would in general prefer the latter but in some respects the Russians
outperform. Russian bureaucrats impose less of red tape than before: my
experience with the Russian Consulate in Ottawa, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs in Moscow, and Greater Moscow regional officials from the
Ministries of Interior and Education are more positive than I expected.
Could anyone tell an example of a department on the federal or regional
level, which performance has become worse in the last few years? Is my
University of Western Ontario
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000
From: Albert Weeks <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: Mendeloff on Russian textbooks.
In response to David Mendeloff's pessimistic assessment
of current Russian textbooks, I would like to inform JRL
readers of two new textbooks being used by Russian
high school students that do reflect new thinking and profound
revision from Communist-era textbooks. How representative these two
books may be for all Russian schools is, of course, debatable.
However, two of them, recommended by the Ministry of General and
Professional Education of the Russian Federation, titled
"The World in the 20th Century" and "A History of Russia," are extremely
revisionist, even overtly anti-Communist. They are accompanied by
"apparatus" (e.g., "Questions for Discussion") that is designed, so state
the authors, to stimulate free discussion in the classroom. Quite a
from the Soviet era! Indeed, the questions are mostly thought-provoking
and well-intentioned. Each chapter includes fragments of primary source
material, some of which would be edifying even for some students of Soviet
affairs in the West; tables of governmental organization under the tsars
and Soviets, and the post-1991 political structure.
One of the pair of books includes a glossary. The glossary
is noteworthy for its non-ideological definitions in contrast to those
found in analogous texts in the Soviet period right up to 1991.
The latter provided only "correct" definitions designed for
uncritical student consumption. These definitions were additionally
the well-known "Political Dictionaries" that provided strict, party-line
definitions for civilians and soldiers. (One of these in the 1980's, by
the way, was edited by Yevgeny M. Primakov.)
Domestic events in Russia are covered in both books with reasonable
objectivity: the fall of Tsar Nicholas II and the short, nine-month of rule
the Provisional Government under Lvov, then Kerensky; the seizure of power
by Lenin's handful of Bolsheviks; "Red Terror" and the Soviet-inspired
civil war and
"War Communism"; the advent of Stalin's harsh rule following Lenin's
death; the Five Year Plans and collectivization; the Gulag and Soviet
consolidation of totalitarian rule (so described) under both Lenin and
and their successors through Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, and
Chernenko; the ambiguous Gorbachev period after 1985
and the abortive coup of August 1991. Covered, finally, are the events
marking the Yeltsin presidency through 1996. All periods are treated with
relative candor and laced with primary-source documents.
In international relations, the topics are also predictable,
including as they
do: Lenin's, Stalin's, and their successors' plans for subversive world
revolution (frankly so characterized); the interwar period; the Nazi-Soviet
Pact and consequent Soviet territorial expansion; World War II and
the "Great Fatherland War"; the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis;
not-so-peaceful peaceful coexistence (so depicted) ;the U.S.-USSR
arms buildup and nuclear stand-off; the Soviet-led invasion and occupation
of Czechoslovakia in 1968; "detente"; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,
and so on. All of these topics--with few exceptions--are treated no less
objectively than they are in many contemporary Western history texts. As
a matter of fact, as a Westerner pores over the pages of these Russian
texts, he is struck by the contrasts in content and cogency in some cases
between the Russian books and those used at equivalent educational levels
in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere.
That is, the Russian books in many cases are much more candid and
incisive. As for example, in their presentations of the minority-coup
aspect of the "October Revolution"; Lenin's and his colleagues'
anti-democratic, conspiratorial methods; Soviet genocide (the term is used
in the above textbook); the Soviet-led, global "ideological struggle"
is intimated, helped unleash the Cold War; Soviet "offencist" diplomacy and
military strategy, and so on.
The Russian student draws, certainly, sharp conclusions from his
and discussion of the topics-inferences totally different from those that
the two preceding generations in Soviet Russia were obliged to draw.
I suggest that in order to balance his assessment of current
Russian textbooks that Mr. Mendeloff examine such books as the above two.
The Guardian (UK)
1 April 2000
[for personal use only]
The real order of Lenin
Russia's new ruler cannot avoid the shadow of his great predecessor. Robert
Service on the old revolutionary's true character
Vladimir Putin, the first Russian leader of the 21st century, combines the
old and the modern in his political style. His presidential campaign was
fought with western opinion polls and TV advertising, yet he also acted as
both a tsar and a commissar - when Chechnya refused to come to heel, he sent
in the army to raze Grozny. Like the communist leaders, he burnishes his
image as a man of action without concern for democracy, telling regional
politicians to produce a majority for him or face dire consequences, and
surrounding himself with friends from his KGB days. And like Lenin in 1917,
Putin achieved supremacy while just beginning to learn to make a public
speech with confidence.
So the Lenin question has not left the Russian political agenda. Among
Putin's few statements in his campaign was the promise to remove Lenin's body
from the mausoleum on Red Square and bury it properly. Nine years of
de-communisation have lowered Lenin's prestige - he now comes only third,
after Jesus Christ and Peter the Great, as the historical figure most admired
by Russian people. Yet even many who dislike communism are still in his
grasp. Charismatic Lenin founded the Communist party. He created the October
Revolution and invented a new state - one party, one ideology - which became
the model for states in eastern Europe, China and elsewhere. Lenin's works of
Marxist theory were extremely influential. After his death, his ideas were
codified as Marxism-Leninism, and his corpse was displayed in the mausoleum,
where it is still given a monthly bath in formaldehyde.
He has been a god to some, a devil to others. In the Soviet period, the Lenin
papers were locked in an inaccessible vault constructed to withstand an
American nuclear attack on Moscow. The nature of Lenin's personality remained
a mystery. Only since 1991 has it been permitted to poke around in these
papers, and the picture they disclose is remarkably different from his image
both in the west and in Russia. He used to be portrayed as a political
machine without a personality, supposedly so absorbed in the theory and
politics of Marxism that nothing-family, intellectual diversion or even
leisure - existed for him.
The Lenin papers tell a more complicated story. Although he did suppress
aspects of his personality, he never got rid of basic emotions, and these,
compacted at the core of his personality, reinforced the extraordinary power
of his outward behaviour. His passionate nature made him difficult to live
with. His family had to make him promise not to talk about politics on
holiday. In his years of power, he threatened to put colleagues "on bread and
water in prison" for failing to implement the economic policy. He was
probably being rhetorical, but nobody could be quite sure.
Lenin was also a revolutionary romantic. He carried photographs of Karl Marx,
and bought a postcard of Emile Zola when the French writer took up the cause
of Alfred Dreyfus in 1898. He was desperate to conserve himself for the
inevitable great dawn of revolution, and felt meant for a special destiny.
His recurrent fear was that his health would not last long enough to do the
job. He was always troubled by insomnia and ulcers and had heart attacks long
before his final illness. His nerves played him up. Around 1900, a Swiss
doctor gave him the terrible diagnosis: "It's the brain." Already impatient,
Lenin lived the rest of his life as if his personal clock were ticking
quickly towards midnight.
As his wife Nadya and his sisters, Anna and Maria, make clear in previously
censored parts of their memoirs, he depended on their willingness to cosset
him when he was depressed. He was cunning in playing them off against each
other so that they would carry out his errands uncomplainingly. Nadya even
put up with his dalliance with the Marxist activist and feminist Inessa
Armand, who was captivated by him. When he broke with her before the first
world war, she pleaded: "At the moment I could manage without the kisses:
just to see you and talk with you sometimes would be a pleasure - and this
could do no one any harm."
Lenin's family also explains much. His ancestry included Jewish, Swedish and
German forebears. He may also have had a Kalmyk grandfather. This is a
different descent from that claimed for him by Russian nationalists (who
argue that his background explains why he was, allegedly, so anti-Russian).
His family had come in from the social and ethnic margins of the Russian
empire. His school-inspector father and his pianist mother wanted to
integrate in the professional elite of the new Russia. As he grew up, Lenin
had no time for the old Russia of villages and Christianity. In 1891, when
famine and disease plagued his native Volga region, his sister Anna did
relief work. Lenin shocked her by saying this was a waste of energy. The
peasantry's plight resulted from capitalism and Anna's charitable work simply
alleviated the symptoms without curing the disease.
Lenin believed passionately in modernity: industry, urbanism, education and
science. When his family was ostracised after his elder brother was executed
in 1887 for trying to assassinate the tsar, Lenin concentrated the whole
force of his being into the cause of revolution.
Marxism was his preferred doctrine and he owned up to being "in love" with
Karl Marx. Ideology meant more to him than women. But privately, he drew on
other influences. Machiavelli and Darwin had hugely impressed him. So, too,
had the ideas of the Orthodox Church priest Father Gapon, who led the
procession to the Winter Palace on Bloody Sunday in January 1905. He closeted
himself for days with Gapon, and from him developed the idea of expropriating
the entire property of the landed gentry. Lenin sincerely believed in
Marxism, but he adjusted it much more audaciously than he pretended.
When I first started writing about Lenin in the early 80s, the trickiest task
was to explain how Lenin's ideas were connected with his political activity.
Some writers contended that his ideas predetermined the activity, others that
the ideas were a disguise for a cynical desire for power. My own position was
that neither of these contentions was true, but that Lenin was a man of
ideological commitment who nevertheless altered his ideas to suit changing
circumstances and new opportunities and threats - and not always for the
reasons he gave in public. He had to manage opinion among his associates, his
party and society. Sometimes he spoke straight and sometimes he fudged.
He genuinely believed humanity's future lay with communism and the creation
of a world without political or economic oppression. But he also thought this
required a most ruthless temporary class dic tatorship. He needed to get
power before he could explain his strategy to supporters among the workers
and even inside his party.
But Lenin's ideas and activity are just two corners of a triangle. The third
is his emotional life, and now that the archives are available, we can work
out the nature of the triangular relationship. Lenin was not the robotic
politician of legend. He was a flesh-and-blood, over-confident, impatient,
brilliant, charming and often troubled revolutionary. His story is incomplete
until we take the entire triangle into account. Lenin was 47 before he gained
power. For most of his adulthood, he had been an Ã©migrÃ©. He might easily
given up and become the provincial lawyer he had trained to be in the 1890s,
before he turned to revolutionary activism. But he was sustained by internal
drives, and although he did not talk about them, they were constant and
What also emerges from the archives is a sense of the oneness of Lenin. It is
sometimes claimed that, as he lay dying, he moderated his dictatorial
doctrines. This is supposed to be proved by his call for the removal of
Stalin from the party general secretaryship. But the evidence suggests
instead that Lenin died a Leninist. Which is to say that he remained an
idealist, but this meant to him staying true to the need for revolutionary
persecution. Lenin's deathbed disagreements with Stalin were about
bureaucratic matters that did not touch on the fundamentals of the one-party
We can now also see that Lenin's final illness caused him to behave bizarrely
in the two years before his death in 1924. When Lenin spoke to his doctor,
Liveri Darkevich, he admitted to thinking that he might be going clinically
mad. A series of "obsessions" were unhinging him. Darkevich heard him pour
his heart out: "A night doomed to insomnia is a truly terrible thing when you
have to be ready in the morning for work, work, work without end." This tiny
episode, which happened when Lenin swung between anger and despair, makes it
easier to understand why Stalin managed to survive the criticisms made by
Lenin. The other central party leaders had reason to think that Lenin's
judgment was no longer to be trusted.
Lenin had an enormous impact but he had needed equally enormous luck to make
that impact. Without the first world war, Russia would not have plunged into
military defeat, economic collapse and administrative disintegration in 1917.
Without a radicalised intelligentsia and working class, Lenin would have had
few followers and would never have been able to gain power. He made the most
of these extraordinary opportunities. Once he had power, he let nothing stand
in the way of his keeping it. His successors maintained the basic system of
communist rule until Gorbachev dismantled it in the late 80s.
Lenin's influence has declined since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Marxism-Leninism is ignored even by the Russian Communist party. But many of
the social and institutional arrangements of Lenin's regime have yet to be
eliminated; the thinking of the Russian people was not changed overnight by
the abolition of the USSR; and in China and Cuba he remains a secular saint.
The world still lives in his shadow.
Robert Service's Lenin: A Political Biography is published by Macmillan
From: "andrew miller" <email@example.com>
Subject: Putin's Mentor
Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000 17:03:26 +0400
Topic: Putin's Mentor
Title: A Brief History of Time (in St. Petersburg, Russia), or
Rootin, Tootin Putin
The city of St. Petersburg, Russia, was founded by King Peter I on the
banks of the River Neva at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland in 1703. Peter
wasn't a saint (over 100,000 of his slaves died building the city and its
attendant web of palaces, one of the largest in the world; their bodies
are now lying in unmarked graves beneath the city's avenues), but he killed
two serfs with one stone by naming the city after the person he himself was
named after and, conveniently, nobody was confused.
In 1914, the city was renamed Petrograd because St. Petersburg sounded
German (the Russian for burg is grad and the Russian for Peter is Pyotr)
and the Germans were at that time busying themselves with the task of
killing as many Russians as time allowed. This renaming was doubly
convenient because in 1892 a city of the same name had been erected in the
American state of Florida and two isn't company where geography is concerned.
Ten years later, the city was once again renamed - this time to honor the
founder of Soviet communism, Vladimir Ulyanov, who founded it in the city
and then found the city not to his liking, whereupon he hastily moved the
capital to Moscow. Yet Ulyanov, it seems, was ashamed to some extent of
his feat and accomplished it under a nom de revolution, which was
poetically considered appropriate for the city as well: hence, Leningrad.
Ten years ago, after 300 years of waiting patiently, the city received its
first freely elected mayor, Anatoly Sobchak (whose name sounds just like
dog in Russian), and his first official act was to bestow upon the city yet
a fourth moniker. No, I know what you're thinking, but not Ulyanovville.
Somebody had whispered into Sobchak's ear that actually that fellow,
whatever you might want to call him, wasn't actually the bee's knees, or
even the mosquito's elbows. No, it'd be St. Petersburg once again.
What's that, you say? In the intervening period the Germans had attacked
Russia a second time and laid waste to most of its original architectural
glory as well as most of its innocent citizens in a brutal three-year
blockade? So that should make a German name even less palatable? And plus
there was already that place in Florida? Piffle, foreigner.
Sobchak had risen to prominence, he would say James-Madison-like, for his
role in drafting Russia's first real constitution. This is a document that
almost nobody in Russia understands, least of all the lawyers or the
politicians, and even fewer people belive in. This is because Sobchak, one
of the haughtiest personages ever to walk the earth, didn't deign to ask
anybody for their opinions before drafting it. When the Russian Duma,
quite logically, had some questions about what it actually did say and
whether it should say that, Sobchak and his George Washington, Boris
Yeltsin, responded by disbanding the Duma and then, when they declined to
be disbanded, bombing the hell out of the capitol building until they saw
the light, or stars, or the pearly gates, whichever came first. Then the
Russian people were told bluntly that if they didn't ratify the document ex
poste haste something really bad would happen, and therefore they
unsurprisingly did so.
After four years in office, Sobchak was ridden out of St. Petersburg on an
indictment, and fled the country to avoid prosecution. Being a law
professor, Sobchak knew that the best defense was a good escape followed by
a good log-rolling, so he set up housekeeping in Paris whilst his wife,
federal legislatress Lyudmilia Narusova, kept the homefires, and the
telephone wires, burning in Moscow.
Cut to the 1999 elevation of former Sobchak law student Vladimir Putin to
the esteemed office of Prime Minister, the same Putin who had served
Sobchak faithfully as deputy mayor in the fruit salad days of democracy in
Piter. It goes without saying that while Sobchak may or may not have been
corrupt, Putin was meanwhile as pure as the driven snow and, if he failed
to hold Sobchak in check, that would only be because the task was too
Herculean for a mere man of the people.
Cut to 2000, when Sobchak suddenly drops dead. In doing so, he
conveniently gives credence to the claim he made up upon fleeing, viz, that
he wasn't guilty, really he wasn't, but, and you'll excuse the tasteless
pun, he was sick as a dog and needed foreign medical treatment. The
question of why after four years in office he hadn't improved the quality
of medical care in Piter sufficiently so that he, for example, would dare
to be treated by it, smacked of anti-liberalism and wasn't asked. Plus, it
would've been rude.
Furthermore, he could now be eulogized without the annoying inconsistency
of his existence to deal with, thus making it clear that not only didn't
Putin do anything wrong in Piter, but neither did Sobchak.
Cut, thus, to last Friday evening, March 29, 2000, when state-owned,
Boris-Berezovsky-controlled ORT (the only station that can be seen
everywhere in Russia) television ran a 7 pm ode to the noble poetry and
holy martyrism that was Sobchak, allowing Ms. Narusova to go on and on and
endlessly on about the way in which her husband had laid down his life for
his city and his country and would have saved them both if only he'd been
given half a chance. Thank God in heaven above there's Putin to follow in
his footsteps! Haughty? He was a teddy bear. Corrupt? He was a monk.
Failed constitution? No, brilliant successful democracy. No hint of a KGB
Reality - thy name is Putin.
St. Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad-St. Petersburg, Russia
PS: Between them state-owned ORT and RTR televsion account for every one
of the top 50 shows in Russia in terms of ratings.
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