This Date's Issues: 4313 • 4314
Johnson's Russia List
20 May 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Segodnya: Fit for Carrying out the "Family" Service. Aleksander
Voloshin Vetoed the Candidacy for the Prosecutor General that was
introduced by Vladimir Putin.
2. gazeta.ru: FSB Raid Internet Provider.
3. Interfax: CURRENT GOVT MORE MONOLITHIC THAN PREDECESSOR -SSIAN
DEPUTY PM. (Kudrin)
4. Moscow Times: Simon Saradzhyan, 'Family' Beats Out Rivals in
5. The Economist: Russia’s regions. Beyond the Kremlin’s walls.
6. Arthur McKee: What powers do the governors actually have?
7. Gordon Hahn: on Putin's Federation Policy.
8. Itogi: Sergey Parkhomenko, Frank Conversations: Vladimir Putin
Found Time For Contact With Two Media Moguls.
9. Itogi: Mikhail Starikov, Let Us Be Bored for Just a Little
10. Jacob Kipp: Putin's Seven Governor Generals.
11. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, Power Still a 'Family' Affair.
12. Interfax: Igor Denisov, FEDERATION PROBLEMS IN RUSSIA, OR HOW
TO PUT THE "ABSURDITY" RIGHT.]
Russia Today press summaries
May 18, 2000
Fit for Carrying out the "Family" Service
Aleksander Voloshin Vetoed the Candidacy for the Prosecutor General that was
Introduced by Vladimir Putin
It appeared that there were two presidents in Russia. Even though the people
elected just one, we got two Vladimir Putin and Aleksander Voloshin. The
latter seems to have the right to veto the decisions of the former, who was
elected by all people. Yesterday Aleksander Voloshin used this right by
rejecting the candidacy of Dmitry Kozak for the Prosecutor General, which
senators were ready to confirm.
During the whole day of Tuesday, the Council of the Federation was discussing
only one candidate for Prosecutor General a descendant from St.Petersburg,
who belongs to Putin's close entourage. Not only senators, but also the
President's representative at the Council of the Federation, Vyacheslav
Hizhnyakov, were positive that the President would have brought in Kozak's
candidacy. However, on Wednesday morning it appeared that the President
brought in another candidate the Acting Prosecutor General, Vladimir
According to Segodnya sources, Vladimir Putin supported the idea of
appointing Kozak. However, head of presidential administration Aleksander
Voloshin managed to dissuade him. Voloshin, whom Putin has inherited from
Yeltsin, was influenced by "Family" interests. The matter is that Ustinov's
predecessor to the post, Yury Skuratov, started investigations against
Yeltsin's entourage, which touched upon the interests of Yeltsin’s family.
Those were the famous Aeroflot and Mabetex cases. Voloshin was not that sure
that Kozak would not continue to dig into these cases.
Besides, the Kremlin has invested too much in Ustinov to change him for
someone else. In 1998, head of presidential property department Pavel
Borodin, who later became the main suspect in Mabetex case, bought an
apartment for Ustinov which cost almost half a million US dollars. Moreover,
the presidential property department provided luxurious housing in Moscow for
ten other high-profile prosecution officers. This was probably done in order
to guarantee the "Family's" inviolability against any possible persecution.
May 19, 2000
FSB Raid Internet Provider
On Thursday the FSB conducted a thorough search of the offices of a Moscow
Internet provider, Zenon NSP. Curiously, it coincides the open hearing on
Runet in the Duma Information Policy Committee. 600 Internet experts are
taking part in the session and all want their say
Parliamentary hearings on the “Legal Regulation of the Use of the
Internet in Russia” commenced on Thursday in the Conference Hall of the
Council of the Federation. Officials say that over 600 representatives of
companies dealing with the Internet have enrolled to take part, and most of
them want to address the Duma Committee.
Numerous draft bills on state regulation of the Internet in Russia are
to be discussed, including the one prepared by the Information Policy
Committee of the previous Duma, which is bitterly opposed by several
prominent lawyers. They pointed out the ambiguity of some clauses would give
the state too many powers to interfere. By contrast, Mikhail Yakushev, member
of the Internet Association of Documental Telecommunication has put forth his
own federal bill “On State Support of the Internet in Russia”.
There are also proposals by the communist Duma member Sergey Glazyev
to supplement the federal law “On Information, Informationization and
Protection of Information”, allegedly inspired by Russian
Internet-businessmen. His suggestion is terse: «Internet activities of
natural and juridical persons under Russian jurisdiction are exclusively and
directly regulated by federal laws and the norms of international law”. This
is aimed against any attempts to control Runet by means of bureaucratic
Hours before the Internet debate began, an incident took place which
could well complicate the situation. At around 7:30 a.m. FSB agents conducted
a search of the offices of a Moscow provider, Zenon NSP. This very company is
known to have registered the most URL’s in the «.ru» zone (2,636 by 5 p.m. on
17 May). It also leads the way in clients’ sites found on its servers (nearly
2,000). Zenon NSP representatives told “Gazeta.Ru” that the FSB search of
their office had nothing to do with the company’s business. «It had to do
with our clients”, one staff member said. The FSB press service has not
denied the action, but is refusing to comment.
It is not the first time that the Russian secret services are putting
pressure on site holders. For instance, in February, shortly before the
presidential elections, the Interior Ministry attempted to close
compromat.ru. Perhaps, this is an attempt to influence the Duma debate.
CURRENT GOVT MORE MONOLITHIC THAN PREDECESSOR - RUSSIAN DEPUTY PM
MOSCOW. May 13 (Interfax) - Today's government makeup is more
monolithic than its predecessor, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said.
The prime minister realizes that Russia should be a civilized
country and that its success will depend on how civilized its economy
>is, Kudrin said. "All of us agree on this," he said in an interview on
the Hero of the Day television program Friday.
Kudrin said he does not plan a major reshuffle of the Finance
"Within the coming days candidates for first deputy ministers will
be discussed. I have candidacies and I will submit them for the prime
minister's endorsement," he said.
Speaking of the preparation of a budget draft for 2001, the finance
minister said it is very important that part two of the Tax Code be
endorsed before parliamentary vacations.
"We all have the desire to advance the tax reform, ease the tax
burden and make taxes more transparent," Kudrin said.
Describing the situation with pensions, Kudrin said they "will not
be indexed lower than inflation."
"We have a feeling that pensions could be hiked still more, if we
manage to rationalize expenditures and taxes. It seems to me that we
could additionally help pensioners at the end of this year and next
year, too," he said.
The Finance Ministry plans no increase in defense spending on
Chechnya in 2001, he said.
"Now we have more funds to spend not on arms and fuel for the army,
but on the reconstruction effort in Chechnya and enabling troops to
settle down there for good," the finance minister said.
May 20, 2000
NEWS ANALYSIS: 'Family' Beats Out Rivals in Cabinet
By Simon Saradzhyan
Despite President Vladimir Putin's moves to strengthen state power, this
week's flurry of government appointments made it clear that the clique of
Kremlin insiders known as "the family" has triumphed over its rival
oligarchs, retaining its strong influence over both the White House and the
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and a majority of his key ministers have ties
to "the family" and are likely to service their interests, analysts said
"This is an absolute victory for ['the family']," said Andrei Ryabov,
domestic politics analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center.
"Their influence has never been stronger, even in Yeltsin's time."
"The family" - an amorphous and often-changing group nominally led by tycoon
Boris Berezovsky and including aluminum and oil magnate Roman Abramovich and
banker Alexander Mamut - came to dominate policy-making during the latter
years of President Boris Yeltsin's rule.
Their influence is set to become even stronger with the expected
reappointment of Alexander Voloshin as Kremlin chief of staff, said both
Ryabov and Yevgeny Volk, political analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
Berezovsky put forward Voloshin last year, after two previous Kremlin chiefs
of staff had made major blunders during vital political battles. Voloshin
reportedly helped found the All-Russia Automobile Alliance, or AVVA - along
with Berezovsky's LogoVAZ car dealership and carmaker AvtoVAZ - a consortium
that sold $50 million in shares but paid out almost nothing in return.
His ruthlessly efficient performance in the Kremlin post enabled Voloshin to
expand his influence to such an extent that he now ranks as a leading
"family" member, Volk and Ryabov both said.
A Twisted Arm
Voloshin reportedly played a crucial role in one of the most important
appointments this week, that of Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov,
confirmed Wednesday by the Federation Council.
The president submitted Ustinov's candidacy to the upper chamber of
parliament a day after it had been widely reported that he would appoint
Dmitry Kozak - a St. Petersburg ally tapped to head the government
administration when Putin was appointed prime minister last year. After
endorsing Ustinov, several Federation Council members said Kozak was actually
Putin's initial choice, but that "the oligarchs" had prevailed, Kommersant
Both Segodnya and web newspaper Gazeta.ru reported that Voloshin had
personally intervened to change the president's decision. According to
several reports in local media, Kremlin officials were so rushed drafting
Ustinov's nomination they forgot to properly fill out Putin's official
request to the upper chamber.
Kozak has already been sacked as government chief of staff to be replaced by
Kasyanov protÎgÎ Igor Shuvalov. He is reportedly set to become supervisor of
the president's seven regional representatives. The president announced
Wednesday the creation of seven "super-regions," for which he would appoint
Although that plan is aimed at strengthening the federal government's
capacity to deal with the regions, previous attempts to strengthen the
vertical power structure fell flat under Yeltsin.
Putin's losing battle shows that he "had his arm twisted by 'the family,'"
A Disturbing Pattern
Despite his image as a strong, decisive leader, Putin has "had his arm
twisted" in similarly embarrassing fashion several times since Yeltsin
plucked him from obscurity last August, naming him as prime minister and
designated presidential successor.
Within days of his triumphant win in the March 26 presidential vote, Putin
suddenly forced Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko to drop out of the
race for St. Petersburg governor. A month earlier, the president had
encouraged her to run against incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev.
Putin - who had publicly blamed the governor for driving former St.
Petersburg leader Anatoly Sobchak to a lethal heart attack - even held a
quasi-clandestine meeting with his alleged political enemy Yakovlev at St.
Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport after the presidential plane was "diverted"
there on a Moscow-Murmansk flight due to bad weather.
The presidential change of heart came a day after Yakovlev had flown to
Moscow to meet with Voloshin - a meeting from which the governor emerged
Meanwhile, for much of his time as prime minister Putin had great difficulty
reining in Nikolai Aksyonenko, another member of "the family" who held the
post of first deputy prime minister until being demoted back down to railways
minister late last year. Even after his demotion, Aksyonenko has continued to
run the extremely powerful government committee for operational questions, a
kitchen cabinet able to bypass the prime minister on key issues.
Aksyonenko last September took advantage of Putin's absence in New Zealand to
replace the head of Transneft - the lucrative monopoly operator of the
national oil pipeline network - with a man reportedly hand-picked by
Aksyonenko and Sibneft director Abramovich. When asked about the incident -
which involved chainsaw-wielding troops forcing their way in to Transneft
headquarters to evict the old boss - Putin just shrugged, saying
"Aksyonenko's always signing things."
Aksyonenko was reappointed as railways minister in the new Cabinet. Other
"family" allies who kept their seats this week included Interior Minister
Vladimir Rushailo, Justice Minister Yury Chaika and Atomic Energy Minister
Yevgeny Adamov, said Ryabov.
The only "family man" yet to officially retain his government post is acting
Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny. However, Putin reportedly told
Kasyanov earlier this week that Kalyuzhny - who accompanied the president
Thursday and Friday on his trip to Central Asia - will be appointed energy
Against the Tide
The flood of "family" appointees has been balanced by members of other
"clans," although analysts said Friday the balance of power remains with
Berezovsky and his allies.
The government includes some of Putin's own men, such as Federal Security
Service chief Nikolai Patrushev, also reappointed this week. Similarly,
deputy prime ministers Matviyenko, Viktor Khristenko and Ilya Klebanov
remain. This trio joined the government under Kasyanov's predecessors, but
have already pledged their loyalty to Putin.
Matviyenko, Klebanov and Putin protÎgÎ Leonid Reiman, retained as
telecommunications minister, hail from the president's home town, St.
New Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Economic Strategy Minister German Gref
also hail from the northern capital, but they are more solidly associated
with right-wing liberal Anatoly Chubais, chief executive of Unified Energy
Systems, said Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.
Paradoxically enough, Gref's appointment serves to illustrate how strong "the
family's" influence is on the White House and Kremlin, said Ryabov. Once
tipped to become deputy prime minister - personally tapped by Putin to shape
the nation's long-term economic development - Gref barely grabbed a
ministerial post after being publicly criticized by Berezovsky.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's decline as a power broker was underlined by the
fact that his clan received just one post in the new Cabinet - that of tax
minister, which went to city tax chief Gennady Bukayev.
The handful of appointments from rival groups is insufficient to
counter-balance "the family's" stranglehold on most of the key posts in the
government and the bureaucracy, said both Volk and Ryabov.
Vladimir Pribylovsky, an analyst at the Panorama think tank, said it is
unclear why Putin "is unable or unwilling to break away from 'the family'"
now that he has become full-fledged president.
n The Prosecutor General's Office resumed the criminal investigation into the
activities of the Atoll security service, Interfax reported Friday.
Detectives from the Interior Ministry first raided Atoll offices in 1998,
unearthing alleged evidence of eavesdropping on the retinue of Yeltsin,
including his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko. The probe on Atoll had been put on
ice earlier this year, but, according to Interfax, federal prosecutors now
say they have acquired new information on the company's activities.
The head of the security company, Sergei Sokolov, testified to investigators
that he had been acting on the orders of Berezovsky. Berezovsky has
repeatedly denied any links to Atoll.
May 20-26m 2000
[for personal use only]
Beyond the Kremlin’s walls
U F A , B A S H K O R T O S T A N
President Vladimir Putin is trying to bring Russia’s regions back into line
BUSINESS is what matters; democracy is for later, perhaps. There are
elections of a sort, but the president’s candidates always win. The media
do what they are told. Foreigners are welcome so long as they keep their
wallets open and their mouths shut. The place stays afloat thanks to oil
and the weak rouble.
A gloomy snapshot of President Vladimir Putin’s Russia? The description
certainly fits Bashkortostan, a family-run republic in mid-Russia that has
become the first target of Mr Putin’s attempt to tidy up his country’s
shambolic internal structure.
The immediate argument is about the republic’s constitution, which puts
Bashkortostan’s laws on an equal footing with Russia’s. That has allowed
the leadership to ignore federal privatisation programmes and keep the
press cowed and elections rigged. Last week, Mr Putin fired off a stiff
letter to the speaker of the local parliament, saying that the republic
must bring its constitution into line with Russia’s.
Mr Putin has launched a wider plan too. He is calling for more power to
sack regional bosses and wants to end their automatic right to seats in
Russia’s upper house of parliament. He also wants to parcel out Russia’s 89
component republics and regions into seven new districts, each overseen by
a presidential appointee. These governors-general, as the Russian media
call them, are to manage the local operations of the “power
ministries”—those for defence, the interior, security and justice. All this
would severely cramp the style of Bashkortostan and other
independent-minded bits of the federation, which have largely taken over
the central government’s outposts of power.
At stake is the future of Russia as a centrally governed country. Over the
past ten years, the centre’s hold has weakened sharply, and the differences
between regions have grown (see map). The local governments are not an
advertisement for federalism: most are by turns thuggish, crony-ridden and
plain incompetent, though a handful are now dimly aware of the benefits of
foreign trade and investment.
The leadership in Bashkortostan is puzzled rather than panicky. The
republic is far from being the worst-run place in Russia, and it loyally
supported Mr Putin in the presidential election. Next-door Tatarstan is
much more outspoken about political and economic sovereignty. Crime in
Bashkortostan is not conspicuous. President Murtaza Rakhimov is an
autocrat, but his rule is heavy-handed rather than bloody.
The argument, his friends insist, is really about money, and his government
is quite ready to talk about it. Bashkortostan is prosperous by Russian
standards, with one of the biggest oil companies in the country
(coincidentally run by the president’s son, Ural) and one of the strongest
banks. “Our republic’s status will not be a subject of negotiation,” says
the republic’s speaker. And if Mr Putin differs? “A threat would be
counter-productive,” he frowns intimidatingly.
The noncommittal welcome given by most regional leaders so far to Mr
Putin’s plans has worked well in the past. Previous attempts to bring order
to the provinces have quickly become bogged down. Under pressure, regional
leaders pay lip service to the federal leadership and wait until its
attention wanders. The 80-plus presidential representatives in the regions
appointed by Boris Yeltsin in an attempt to re-establish his authority have
usually become little more than figureheads. Mr Putin’s planned new
governors-general may well meet the same fate.
“This happens when new people are only just starting work,” says the head
of another republic in central Russia, in a revealingly patronising tone.
“The decree just creates one more bureaucracy with thousands more employees.”
All the same, Mr Putin could prove a more serious centraliser than Mr
Yeltsin. He worries publicly about separatism, and has strongly backed the
war against it in Chechnya. He may be able to muster some serious allies in
Moscow. He may, for example, be co-ordinating his plan with the barons of
the national oil and gas industries, who would also like to cut down
self-important regional leaders—with an eye for the spoils.
Even so, any serious attempt to recentralise Russia risks changing the
regions’ current apathy towards Moscow into hostility. And although
democrats in places like Bashkortostan rest their hopes, lightly, on Mr
Putin, getting rid of bad local leaders will improve things only if the
central government for its part starts working properly.
That could yet happen, but the opening weeks of Mr Putin’s presidency give
little reason for hope. Journalists are panicking about state harassment of
the company that owns NTV, the main independent television channel. And
there is no sign yet of government support for the increasingly dog-eared
economic-reform plans that have been floating around Moscow. Bashkortostan
is a useful target for Mr Putin; pessimists fear it could be a useful model
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000
From: "Arthur McKee" <email@example.com>
Subject: What powers do the governors actually have?
It is clear now that Putin will lead the charge on political restructuring,
while leaving the unpopular task of economic management to Kasyanov, Gref (and
On paper, the changes to the center/periphery relationship that Putin proposes
do appear revolutionary. Moreover, if one believes the western press and some
members of your list, Putin's rationale behind them is in fact valid -- that
is, many of the governors have actually carved out fiefdoms free of Moscow's
oversight and control in which federal law is routinely violated and
Jerry Hough has asserted, to the contrary, that Moscow has always retained
control and that the governors are powerless. In other words, Putin's
"revolution" has no clothes and is merely a ploy to distract attention from
ongoing social and economic collapse.
I am wondering if other members of the list could weigh in on a relatively
simple question: what powers do the governors actually have right now?
Concrete examples (rather than Putin's rather vague assessment that 1/5 of
federal laws are dead letters because of gubernatorial waywardness) would be
most helpful for the list.
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000
From: Gordon Hahn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Hahn's Follow-up to Hahn on Putin's Federation Policy
When I wrote the posting to you two days ago on the Putin's regional
decree, I still had not read Putin's decree on the creation of 7 federal
districts and federal district pleopotentiaries. Now that I have, it is
worth noting that niether the courts, nor the Justice Ministry are
mentioned in the ukaz. This may imply that Putin is opting for the old
Soviet-like approach to streamlining state functions and will attempt to
smooth out federal-regional relations by emphasizing monitoring and
inspection functions in the new structures upon which the presidential
district plenpotentiaries's work will be based, rather than through appeals
to the courts.
This is odd given the effort the Putin adminmistration made before his
election in getting the court decision that the Yeltsin administration
failed to secure regarding the power of the courts of general jurisdiction
to rule on the constitutionality and illegality of regional laws. It is
also odd given that in March, before this April court decision, Putin was
organizing a department and an institute in the Justice Ministry for
assessing regional law. Thus, it seems that he has opted for maintaining
more direct presidential control over this controversial state-building
issue by establishing structures inside the presidential administration
itself for these functions, rather than having the Control Department of
the administration go through the Justice Ministry (a 'presidential
ministry' granted). It may be left to not only to presidential regional
envoy/plenopotentiaries but also to local prosecutors' offices to submit
cases to local courts of general jurisdiction, since the prosecutors'
offices are also mentioned in the decree. On the other hand, all this may
simply speak once more to the Soviet-Russian penchant for creating numerous
and functionally overlapping bodies, none of which ever accomplishes much
other than providing new warm seats for apparatchiki.
The location of the capitols of two super-districts (Volga's in Nizhegorod
not Samara (locale of VO headquareters, and Siberia's in Novosibirsk not
Chita (locale of VO headquarters)] still suggests that this measure has
less to do with any 'militarization' that some might find in all this.
This is not to say that Putin is determined to build only a 'deyesposobnoe
gosudarstvo'. It appears he wants to build both a 'silnoe gosudarstvo' and
a 'deyesposobnoe gosudarstvo'. To the extent he uses the former approach to
weaken political enemies instead of violators of the law we will get soft
authoriatrianism and a still soft state penetrated by oligarchs he is
friendly with (Alfa & Aven, Berezovskii). To the extent he creates the
later, the state apparatus and economy may run a bit more efficiently.
May 12, 2000
Vladimir Putin Found Time For Contact With Two Media Moguls
[translation for personal use only]
Last week, on Thursday, many buildings belonging to the Media-Most
corporations, were suddenly attacked and taken over by armed people in
masks. As they claimed, this was done on a legal basis.
On Thursday, May 11, Vladimir Putin, the guarantor and guardian of
Russians' constitutional rights and freedoms, spent his second working day
as Russia's full-fledged head of state communicating with the media moguls.
The organizers of his first meeting - with Ted Turner, prominent media
mogul and U.S. public figure - made it clear to the Interfax correspondents
that the conversation will touch upon "many issues - from situation in the
world and the progress of reforms in Russia all the way to Russia's image in
the mirror of foreign media." According to the same agency, the informal
nature of the talk "was emphasized by the fact that it took place not in the
formal office of the chief of state ... but in the Kremlin's Blue Lobby."
Most of the meeting was conducted "without the presence of media".
On the contrary, the organizers of another encounter - with Vladimir
Gusinsky, prominent media mogul and Russian public figure - choose to enact
it in the presence of great many Russian and foreign journalists. Moreover,
they kindly allowed it to be observed by anyone who - deliberately or by
chance - happened to pass by the Bolshoi Palashevsky next to the Pushkin
Square, the location of the Media-Most administrative headquarters. In this
case, the informal nature of the meeting was emphasized by other means:
namely, by direct participation of a group of sturdy fellows in fatigues,
armed with paratroopers' machine guns and looking at the world through slits
in black cotton socks pulled over their heads. Yet, judging by subsequent
comments by Western media and Russian politicians, the problems on the
agenda were just the same as during the meeting with Turner: from the course
of reforms in Russia all the way to Russia's image in the mirror of foreign
Parties to the first conversation shared "their warm memories" of the
1994 events, when they met each other during joint work on the organization
of the "Good Will Games" in St.Petersburg.
Likewise, parties to the second informal happening were willy-nilly
absorbed by memories of events that occurred in the same year 1994. These,
however, were less warm, since it had been quite chilly for the Most
associates to "put their mugs in the snow", as demanded by similar
camouflaged fellows who played just the same act of intimidation in the main
office of the company (which was at the time located on Novy Arbat).
Of course, we will not allege that Vladimir Putin took a personal part
in this show, in this sordid demonstration of impudence, organized on
Thursday by the FSB and Tax Police associates to intimidate the leadership
of the media corporation which owns, among other, NTV, radio Ekho Moskvy,
Sevodnya newspaper, and Itogi magazine. Although Putin himself admits his
inclination to touch everything by himself, to take a close look, to get a
first-hand idea of everything. But we have fully reliable, well informed and
influential sources that cannot be any closer to the Presidency, that the
chief of state was informed of the action in advance and gave his
unequivocal approval. Although, even if we had no such information, we would
still be able assert with confidence that it couldn't have been otherwise.
The reason is that, as everyone knows, the Media-Most is the largest
private media holding in the country - even if one refers not to its
influence, but just to the geographic scope of broadcasting by its
electronic media and the distribution of its printed publications, that is,
to the breadth of its audience. There is just one information company of
this scale in Russia. And if, by the morning of his second working day in
office, Vladimir Putin were to lose his control over the country to such an
extent as not having any idea why his armed subordinates take over by
assault the headquarters of this unique company - this would mean that he is
a moron not a president. But we cannot think, of course, that almost 53
percent of Russian voters voted for a moron, can we? Not to speak of an idea
that a moron could have earned by his service the rank of a full FSB
colonel. No, we can't even think of it. So, we don't. Instead, we remain
convinced that the stupid exploit in the Palashevsky Street is just an act
of communication between the president and a media oligarch, just like his
decorous sitting with Te Turner in carved armchairs of the Kremlin Blue
Lobby. Just the form of this contact is different - more natural and simple.
To be sure, Gusinsky is not an imported oligarch, but a domestic one. No
need for ceremonials. Almost a family affair. <...>
Let me ask my reader a question: tell me please, do you believe for a
moment that the real intentions in this case were to conduct investigative
activities in order to uphold the law? Do you have a single doubt that this
is a political and purely political matter? A matter arising from the Most
media publications and broadcasts about the Chechnya war, and about the role
of this war in the meteoric career of president Putin. As well as about the
nature of political and economic creed of the present Russian authorities.
So, perhaps, I shouldn't start explaining this all over again, from
scratch? Well, I won't.
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000
From: Thomas Campbell <email@example.com>
Subject: Interesting Itogi Piece
Here is my translation of a recent column from the pages of Itogi. I have
written to Masha Lipman for permission to submit it to the list, and she
has given the okay. It's a bit "dated," I suppose, but I think that your
readers will still find it interesting.
[for personal use only]
Itogi #14 (200)
April 4, 2000
Let Us Be Bored for Just a Little While
In Kornei Chukovsky's diaries there is a passage about how he and Boris
Pasternak attended a Komsomol congress. Suddenly, Stalin appeared on the
podium, and Chukovsky describes the ecstasy that gripped both Pasternak and
himself. Just imagine it: the two men, already well into middle age and
hardly naive, sit there hanging on the Leader's every word. And not only
can't they control themselves, but they don't want to. They exchange
glances, they smile, they listen to Stalin's chopped and pregnant phrases.
Afterwards, Chukovsky writes, they strolled the streets of springtime
Moscow for a long time. In the hearts of the writers it felt like a holiday.
To figure out what was what in the nineteen-thirties didn't require a great
deal of insight. Everything was already in full swing-collectivization,
show trials, proletarian writers organizations. Could it be that Pasternak
and Chukovsky didn't know of these things? Of course they knew, but the
thrill of seeing Stalin clouded their eyes. To paraphrase Dostoevsky, they
let themselves be carried away in the most innocent fashion.
This enthusiasm, the passionate desire to be swept away by a wave of
incomprehensible but delectable excitement, is something everyone is
familiar with in his own life. We might call it the joy of submission. Is
it the emotion of a lackey? Of course. But who in life hasn't had the
experience of going into the boss's office and coming out feeling
recharged, as if one's wings had grown, so to speak, because the
conversation went well, because he praised you, because you sensed his
trust in you?
Time passes and you begin to understand that nothing has changed, that
you've been had, and so forth. Generally speaking, there's nothing shameful
in this. Without the primeval, slightly masochistic feeling of pleasure we
get when we submit to another, without the happiness that comes from doing
another's bidding, it wouldn't be possible for any sort of management to
I didn't vote for him, nor did I intend to. I grew up in the Soviet Union
and for me the abbreviations KGB and CPSU are among the most expressive
emblems of evil. I'm a proponent of lustration and the banning of Party
members from certain professions. I'm against the war in Chechnya. But what
of it? The heart has its own reasons. I see the vaguely ironic grin of this
tidy man on the television screen and I begin to smile. It's a terrible
thing to utter, but I like him.
Not as a politician, nor as a person-what do I know about him? Nor as a
leader with a capital "l"-to hell with all those Leaders! But what is it
then? He's neither fat nor skinny; he's not handsome, nor is he especially
ugly. There's nothing in him that gives me cause to rejoice, nothing to
like. But I have to make a particular effort to drive away the beginnings
of the thrill that Pasternak and Chukovsky felt.
Like Tatyana in Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin," our country has been waiting for
that special someone. Ten or so years ago Yeltsin elicited our rapture. In
the mid-nineties, the most incorrigible liberals contrived to get an
emotional uplift at the sight of Chubais or even Gaidar. But then a vacuum
formed, and now that this figure has so magically appeared in it, it's the
right time to engage in a little self-analysis.
One simple circumstance characterizes our new leader, determines how he's
perceived: he's a stranger. He's a stranger to the intelligentsia because
he's too sullied by the old regime. He's a stranger to the common folk
because he's a member of the intelligentsia. It's as if he's just the
slighest bit German (in Russian, the word for "German" is "nemets,"
suggesting both "nemoi"-"mute"-and "ne moi"-"not mine"), and the fact that
he's not quite so easy to read is his strongest suit. The incantations we
hear these days-"Who are you? Who are you?"-can in fact be interpreted as
an appeal: "Remain the riddle that you are. And come rule over us."
We're not talking hear about the natural, albeit banal, desire of every man
and nations as a whole to divest themselves of responsibility. Nor are we
dealing with the special trust reserved for foreigners. What we have here
is the fact that he's been able to create the impression of bureaucratic
nullity, the impersonality that is likewise required of a democratic
leader. The ideal of governance that has taken shape over the past ten
years is simple-and wholly European. The more invisible political power is,
Our hearts were longing for someone, anyone-unflashy. It's a given that any
smoothly functioning democratic system is splendid precisely because it
categorically refuses a flashy leader access to power. Leaders with big
ideas, the powerfully charismatic, are a disaster for stable, developed
countries. And we would very much like to be stable and developed. All of
us are tired of taking risks-both those who have something to lose and, it
would seem, those who have nothing to lose.
>From the notebook Ivan Bunin kept in Odessa during the autumn of 1920: "A
very stupid, very hearty, very honest and very leftist old man, in boots
and a blouse, his shoulders sprinkled with gray dandruff. He tells me
cheefully, 'But all the same, what wonderfully interesting times we're
It reminds me of how once, on Vasilevsky, I came upon a beggar woman from
the countryside. An old woman's straight stockings on withered legs, an old
woman's ragged clothing; timid, pleading eyes. I gave her fifty rubles and
tried to get her to talk. "Well, grandma, you get around-you probably see a
lot of interesting things, right?" She replied tearfully, "It can't be
helped, papa-of course you do."
The current situation is nice precisely because it interests no one. Of
course, you might say that Putin succeeded in silencing the voices of his
opponents. But there is a science called victimology, which studies who
falls victim to violence and why. If we apply its postulates to Russia in
the first quarter of 2000, we will find that it was possible to silence
only the voices of those who secretly wanted to be silenced. To put an end
to our "interesting times" at any price-this was the idea that seized the
minds of our people, whether they realized it or not. Chukovsky and
Pasternak were gripped by a rapture both involuntary and sincere. Gazing at
the lean and exceptionally uninteresting blond man as he strides across an
airfield or through the imperial tastelessness of his Kremlin offices, at
first I feel a liking for him. But then I catch myself: I must withhold my
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000
From: "Jacob Kipp" <KIPPJ@LEAVENWORTH.ARMY.MIL>
Subject: Putin's Seven Governor Generals
My good friend Dale Herspring has written an interesting piece on Putin's
decree to create seven Federal Districts and appoint seven
plenipotentiaries to oversee them. Dale argues that strengthening the
center will prevent chaos. But I do not see any effective mechanism in
place to provide coordination among the seven, the PM's administration,
and the agents of the power ministries in the Federal Districts. This is
an invocation of a special institution from the nineteenth century, the
system of "General-gubernatorstvo" with equal parts conservative
utopianism [seven honest men with access to the ruler will overcome
corruption -- a theme of conservative nationalists from Nicholas I to
Alexander III] and a cult of crisis leadership, in which the sovereign
turns to special agents who are to be more trusted with power than the law
or the constitution. Dale mentions the risk of chaos but I'd invoke
Mikhail Speransky and warn against the great dangers of proizvol to the
central state itself. Autocracy itself had an interest in the rule of law
as understood in the concept Rechtsstaat. In post-Soviet Russia it seems
to me that constitutional change is the only effective way to deal with
the mess that Yeltsin left regarding the oblasts and republics. This
would involve the passage to statutes to authorize the office and define
any legislative oversight. This reform, however, invokes Putin's
electoral legitimacy to attack the power of the governors but does so by
linking the issue to national security and military power.
There is a very popular theory in Russia, borrowed directly from
conservative nationalists in St. Petersburg and later Weimar, that the
liberal state and the rule of law do not provide sufficient will to power
to overcome crisis and chaos. This view invests extraordinary powers in a
leader to resolve national crises as the embodiment of the national will.
Given Russia's tradition of centralized power, the appeal is quite
understandable, but that doe not make it any less dangerous. Invoking a
"dictatorship of the law" [did any one else note the linkage to
Loris-Melikov's "dictatorship of the heart" in response to terrorism of
the late 1870s and early 1880s?], Putin has now fallen back on government
by decree to overcome a crisis of federalism. Rather than invoking the
source of legitimacy that resides in popular sovereignty to resolve the
issue of federal powers, he has invoked a tradition of the autocracy.
Looking at his seven appointees, I note a bias towards those from the
power ministries: two are ministers and a former prime minister. Four
are from the power ministries: a high-ranking official of the Federal
Security Service (FSB), a frontline commander from the recent war in
Chechnya, a former commander from the First Chechen War, and an MVD deputy
minister. This solution ignores constitutional issues and marks a firm
step toward administrative-bureaucratic measures.
Dale is quite right when he suggests that Westerners have no right to tell
Russians what to do about their problems. However, for our own purposes
we should analyze their policies and attempt to foresee the consequences
of their acts for international peace and stability. I firmly agree with
Dale that no Western interests are served by chaos and collapse in
Russia. Dale argues that there is no alternative. If that is so, then
the democratic experiment based on popular sovereignty in Russia has
failed and that has far-reaching implications for the world in the 21st
May 20, 2000
PARTY LINES: Power Still a 'Family' Affair
By Jonas Bernstein
A number of observers -- both local and Western, fans and foes of President
Vladimir Putin - have taken at face value his promises to drive the oligarchs
from the corridors of power and reassert the primacy of the state's interests
over those of the Yeltsin-era tycoons. After the May 11 raid on Media-MOST's
headquarters, some observers not only continued to believe Putin, but even
saw the raid as validating his pledge.
That view was put forward by Stratfor, a U.S.-based private analytical group.
It cast doubt on the assumption that the raid was carried out on behalf of
Media-MOST chief Vladimir Gusinsky's main rival, Boris Berezovsky.
"Observers who believe Putin is in some way allied with or indebted to
Berezovsky have already hinted that Putin is doing Berezovsky both a personal
and professional favor, as Berezovsky owns several competing media
companies," wrote Stratfor the day of the raid. "In order to prove he is
prepared to systematically remove all of the oligarchs from powerful
positions, Putin will next have to confront Berezovsky. Thus, in light of
Putin's plan to use the secret services and tax police to wipe out the
oligarchs, it becomes apparent that the raid on Gusinsky's companies was more
than just a Kremlin attack on its political opponents."
Putin may, indeed, have a plan "to use the secret services and tax police to
wipe out the oligarchs." But unless Stratfor has a Deep Throat in the
Kremlin, this is simply a supposition. What is more, this week's events lent
credence to the counter-supposition - that the raid was indeed both a
"Kremlin attack on its political opponents" and, more importantly, a "favor"
The week's biggest eyebrow raiser in this regard was Putin's abortive attempt
to appoint Dmitry Kozak, a long-time associate from St. Petersburg, as
prosecutor general. On Tuesday, members of the Federation Council, who must
approve such appointments, were so convinced Kozak was the choice, they
openly discussed it with reporters. The next day, Putin proposed Vladimir
Ustinov, the acting prosecutor general. According to several accounts,
Ustinov's nomination was such a last-minute affair that Kremlin staffers
failed properly to fill out Putin's official request to the Federation
What happened? Well, according to the Gazeta.ru web site, Putin had already
signed the documents for Kozak's appointment when he was visited by Kremlin
administration chief Alexander Voloshin and - according to "some" of the web
site's sources - Berezovsky. Putin was then "forced" to submit Ustinov's
One swallow does not make a spring, but there has already been a flock. Just
recall last September, when Nikolai Aksyonenko, then first deputy prime
minister and railways minister, fired Dmitry Savelyev, head of the state oil
pipeline company Transneft, while Putin, then prime minister, was abroad.
Savelyev later charged that Sibneft director Roman Abramovich - like
Berezovsky, Voloshin and Aksyonenko, part of the group of Kremlin insiders
dubbed "the family" - had told him to step down "voluntarily" or face dire
consequences. Putin has shrugged off questions regarding the Transneft
Aksyonenko, by the way, retained his railways minister post in the new
Cabinet. Sibneft, meanwhile, has announced plans to set up an Internet
oil-trading exchange in conjunction with, yes, Transneft and the Railways
Then, of course, there was the takeover of the aluminum industry by Sibneft
and Siberian Aluminum earlier this year - not exactly the actions of
disheartened oligarchs preparing themselves for history's ash heap.
True, the new Cabinet has a few St. Petersburg "liberals," like Alexei Kudrin
and German Gref. But look at the reputed "family" men in the new Cabinet -
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Justice
Minister Yury Chaika, Aksyonenko. Meanwhile, Voloshin keeps the vital post of
Kremlin chief of staff.
The biggest blunder made by Stratfor and others is their assumption that
there is a battle raging between oligarchs trying to protect their own
parochial interests and "statists," particularly from the special services.
But who, exactly, is fighting for the "state's interests" in the abstract?
Were there ever such people? What, for example, was the Soviet Communist
Party? While it nationalized private property in the name of socialism,
didn't it in reality privatize the state to pursue the interests of a
nomenklatura at everyone else's expense?
And how does that differ from what is happening now?
FEDERATION PROBLEMS IN RUSSIA, OR HOW TO PUT THE "ABSURDITY" RIGHT
By Igor Denisov, Interfax analyst
MOSCOW. May 19 (Interfax) - Forecasts in earlier Interfax
commentaries have come true - Russian President Vladimir Putin has
apparently set about drastically restructuring relations between the
central authority and regional administrations.
To use military language, the president has opted for an attack,
one may even say storming, rather than encirclement or a blockade. Early
this week, sources in Putin's entourage were claiming that "no decisions
have yet been made" and that reforming the Federation Council, the upper
house of parliament, was not on today's agenda.
But it has become clear that the president has made a different
decision. On Wednesday, immediately after the State Duma confirmed
Mikhail Kasyanov's nomination for prime minister, Putin invited
influential regional leaders who are members of the Federation Council
to the Kremlin. Sources said the meeting lasted three hours, going
beyond every protocol limit, and Kasyanov, who had arrived to meet with
Putin, had to wait for more than an hour.
But even after the Kremlin meeting the regional leaders, according
to what they said, did not know for sure what the president would do and
when he would do it. But Putin took what was in effect an unprecedented
step by arguing his point on Wednesday evening in a televised address to
In effect, the president announced an intention to carry through
revolutionary reforms in relations between central authority and
regional administrations. First of all, Putin proposed changing the
principle for forming the Federation Council, which today brings
together regional governors and the heads of regional legislatures.
Putin said governors were both issuing and enforcing their own
laws; a situation he described as "an absurdity." This, he said, was not
completely in line with the separation of powers principle. Hence his
proposal: the Federation Council, as the State Duma, should become a
standing body where every member is elected by the population of his or
her region and represents that region.
Another essential initiative is a proposal for a mechanism to
enable the central government to dissolve a regional legislature and
dismiss its head if they have departed from Russian legislation or the
But Putin unambiguously said he did not support proposals for
appointing rather than electing governors because in his view this would
be a step back from today's practice, where governors are elected by the
population of their regions.
In effect, Putin has embarked on a course for a constitutional
reform to organize government according to the vertical principle, bring
regional laws in line with the Russian Constitution and give equal
rights and duties to all regions.
Need it be said that the prospect of losing some of their powers
suits far from all governors, who have become used to action in recent
years that bypassed and at times contradicted the position of Moscow.
No wonder mixed opinion have been voiced. Some of the governors
agree with all the presidential innovations. For example, Federation
Council speaker Yegor Stroyev, governor of Oryol, said he believes the
legislation package proposed by the president "should be passed in the
interests of our own people."
It cannot be ruled out, however, that the firm supporters of the
presidential initiatives will find themselves in the minority. The
reform would affect the interests of too many members of regional
elites. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, for instance, has protested the
proposed innovations. "It seems to me we are making a mistake," he said.
He said in his opinion "it is an arbitrary decision and not one that has
been made under legislation or the Constitution."
However, Stroyev with his unconditional support for the initiatives
and Luzhkov with his equally unconditional rejection of them apparently
hold extreme opinions. The majority of Federation Council members take
an intermediary position. In other words, without rejecting the
initiative as a whole they are trying to minimize their possible losses
and, as it were, to smother the innovations in their own tight embraces.
According to their statements, it is the governors' greatest fear
that the new system will deprive them of their positions in Moscow and
their opportunities for personal meetings with President Putin, Premier
Kasyanov and other members of government who can solve key problems for
Apparently, the governors would like a form of guaranteed
compensation for losing their Federation Council seats.
Vologda governor Vyacheslav Pozgalyov put forward a counterproposal
for a "supreme state council that would gather at least once a quarter
and in which regional leaders would be able to exchange opinions with
the supreme leadership of the country."
Kremlin sources have hinted to Interfax that Putin wishes to
organize government according to the vertical principle and put draft
laws to that effect through the Duma and Federation Council as soon as
It is unlikely that there will be any problems with the Duma. Most
of the Duma factions, from the pro-government Unity to the Communists
and even Yabloko, have expressed support for the president's proposals.
Duma experts said there was a good chance that all the bills would be
passed at the first go, gathering 300 or more votes.
If that happens (which is quite likely: 326 deputies voted to
approve Kasyanov's nomination for premier), possible objections by
governors will be powerless to stop the bills becoming law.
The constitution allows a Duma majority to override a Federation
Council veto on a draft law and the bill has to be directly submitted
for presidential endorsement. Needless to say, there will be enough
votes in the Duma and Putin will sign the draft laws without hesitation.
The governors are well aware of this too.
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