|CDI Library > Johnson's
Johnson's Russia List
23 June 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
2. Reuters: Schoolgirl loses medal after writing to Putin.
5. APN: Chubais fears be arrested.
6. Moscow Times: Yevgenia Borisova, Charges Against Gusinsky Still Murky.
7. Segodnya: Mikhail GORBACHEV: "WE'LL DO IT THE RUSSIAN WAY"
First and Only Soviet President Has Questions to Ask of Vladimir Putin,
Believes He Can Be Taught.
8. Dale Herspring: Predicting the end of Russia.
9. Stephen Blank: re Hahn on Knight.
10. Archie Brown: REPLY TO KNIGHT AND WILHELM.
11. Andrei Liakhov: On Hahn/Knight debate.
12. Moscow Times: Robert Coalson, Media Crackdown Is Here.
(summary of Vitaly Tretyakov)]
Russians Running Into Visa Hassles
June 22, 2000
By NICK WADHAMS
MOSCOW (AP) - For decades, Russians looking to go abroad were stuck at home
by state-enforced travel bans.
Now, their travel yearnings are being clipped by destination countries that
are afraid Russians will overstay their welcome.
With the economy in shambles and the perception in the West that poorer
Russians will use any chance they can to abandon their country, applicants
are faced with arbitrary, sometimes unexplained interpretations of visa
regulations that require proof they won't emigrate, critics say.
Police were called to the Italian Embassy on Wednesday after a group of
exasperated tour agents demanded an explanation for delays in visas that were
ruining their clients' vacation plans.
The sudden flash of anger contrasted with Russians' usual forbearance in
dealing with bureaucratic hassles and made national news.
By Thursday, applicants were still elbowing each other out of the way near
the embassy's front gate, some after waiting overnight. Others paced
nervously outside, complaining about Russians' need for a visa to go almost
For decades, Russians needed permission from the Soviet government to leave
the country - permission that was often denied.
Today's visa hassles have been a particular disappointment for Russia's
middle class, which has taken advantage of the lifting of state restrictions
to go on vacations despite meager salaries.
``Just imagine if I have a client going on a world cruise that visits 30 or
40 countries over four months, and every country needs a visa,'' said Adriana
Voronova, a visa expert with the Neptune travel agency in Moscow. ``There
aren't enough pages in a passport to get all the necessary visa information
The wait outside embassies of most popular destinations can be several hours
long. The long lines have created a service culture catering to applicants:
hawkers offer travel insurance, tour packages, food, or a place to stay to
visa applicants from throughout Russia.
``They problem is the misconduct of the consular officers themselves,'' said
Marina Kriliouk, a lawyer and vocal critic of Western governments' treatment
of Russian visa applicants. ``They have too wide discretion in deciding who
qualifies for a visa.''
The United States consular office is the subject of some of the harshest
complaints. Applicants say there's often nothing they can do to prove they
``They said there was no proof that I wouldn't stay there,'' said 20-year-old
Lilia Lipovaya, emerging from an interview at the U.S. Embassy after she
learned her visa application had been rejected for the second time in three
``I gathered so many documents that I don't know what other papers there are
American officials say they accept three-fourths of the applications, proof
that it isn't that hard to get a visa to the United States.
Just as offensive for many Russians are the strict visa requirements recently
introduced by two former Soviet satellites, the Czech Republic and Slovakia,
in bids to gain entry into the European Union. The rules have fostered a
belief that Russians aren't welcome in the new Europe.
``All these barriers that have to be gotten around make me, as a person who
considers himself dignified, want to stay home,'' said architect Alexei
Lokhov, waiting for a visa outside the Czech Embassy in Moscow.
Schoolgirl loses medal after writing to Putin
MOSCOW, June 22 (Reuters) - A school girl in central Russia paid heavily for
doing something that students often do -- writing a letter to her country's
president, Vladimir Putin.
A month later, 16-year-old Anna Provorova has left school without the silver
medal she was awarded because she made two mistakes in the missive, which
asked Putin to give her school a video camera to film a graduation party.
``It was a joke. We were talking about our final evening party during the
break. We wanted to film it, but we did not have the camera and decided to
write a letter. We did not even think it would get further than Vologda,''
Provorova told NTV private television on Thursday.
The letter made its way from the village of Vorobyovo to the office of the
head of Vologda's education department, where the mistakes were spotted.
Provorova was penalised for failing to capitalise the first letter of one
word and missing an exclamation mark.
The letter prompted the education department to double-check her work and
reduce her grade from a five -- the top mark in Russian schools -- to a
three, which disqualified her for the silver medal.
``Maybe it's unpleasant and not very good for the girl and the school
director, but we had to double check,'' said Nikolai Sych, head of the
regional education department.
``If you want a silver medal, you should not write to the head of the country
on such a piece of paper and with mistakes.''
In response, the Kremlin sent a letter saying that the regional authorities
had violated students' rights.
And though she is unlikely to get her medal, Provorova will receive the video
camera, which, according to an order form Putin, will be sent to her village.
RUSSIAN POLLSTERS SEE RISE IN SUPPORT FOR SETTLEMENT IN CHECHNYA
Moscow, 22nd June: Nearly half of Russian citizens, 48 per cent, think that
Russia should continue the military campaign to rid Chechnya of rebels, 29
per cent favour initiating peace negotiations and 23 per cent are undecided
whether the federal authorities should start negotiations with the
Maskhadov administration or continue military action.
Interfax obtained this information on Thursday [22nd June] from the Agency
for Regional Political Surveys (ARPI), whose specialists conducted a poll
of 1,600 people in 49 regions in all of Russia's federal districts last week.
The sociologists note that the share of people favouring peace negotiations
in Chechnya has significantly grown over the past two months, while the
number of those who want the combat actions to continue went down.
RUSSIAN POWER GRID CHIEF SEES THREAT TO PRIVATIZATION, URGES VIGILANCE
Moscow, 22nd June: The attempt by the Moscow prosecutors to cast a cloud
over the Norilsk Nickel auction "is actually an attempt to turn the country
back", the chief executive officer of Russia's power grid, Unified Energy
Systems, Anatoliy Chubays, has said.
"The internal powers have always harboured unyielding opponents of the
transformations that have taken place in Russia over the past decade. It
looks like some of them have decided to (test the situation) with actions,"
Chubays said in reply to an Interfax question on Thursday [22nd June].
The revision and annulment of the results of privatization "is the
favourite topic of the communists", he went on. "The action by the Moscow
prosecutors is an attempt to do this, it is not a joke, they are serious
and hence the reaction must proportionate."
"It is actually a try to turn the country back, and it must be opposed in
every way possible," Chubays said. "I do not know if this is the last
attempt, we have to remain vigilant."
21 Jun, 2000, 20:31
Chubais fears be arrested
A strong propaganda campaign may be initiated against Anatoly Chubais, RAO
EES head, a leader of Union of Right Forces, or SPS, an APN source within SPS
said. The campaign may result in Chubais be arrested and charged with many
violations during RAO Norilsky Nickel being incorporated and sold.
Moscow City Prosecutor`s Office has filed a suit to Moscow Arbitrage Court to
revise RAO Norilsky Nickel`s privatisation. As is well known RAO was sold by
auction in 1997 with then first vice-premier Chubais to control the issue.
If the court takes a decision to abolish the results of privatisation of RAO
Norilsky Nickel Anatoly Chubais may be accused of legal and financial
violations resulting in his possible dismissal from a post of the chairman of
the board of RAO EES of Russia.
June 23, 2000
Charges Against Gusinsky Still Murky
By Yevgenia Borisova
Media heavyweight Vladimir Gusinsky spent three days in jail last week on
accusations of having swindled the state out of at least $10 million worth of
property, but it is still unclear what property the investigators have in
mind and where the figure comes from.
Investigators with the Prosecutor General's Office said in televised comments
last week that Gusinsky had embezzled the property of Russkoye Video-Channel
11, a St. Petersburg television station that was spun off of the
state-controlled television production company Russkoye Video in January
Media-MOST has denied the allegations, saying not a single nut or bolt could
have been misappropriated from Channel 11 because it had no assets when
Media-MOST put in some capital and became the majority shareholder in May
A statement issued by investigator Valery Nikolayev last Friday, the day
Gusinsky was released from prison, did not clarify the allegations.
Media-MOST posted the statement on its web site (www.mediamost.ru).
It said Gusinsky and two other former Channel 11 officials, including its now
imprisoned director, Dmitry Rozhdestvensky, "unlawfully and without any
payment acquired the rights to someone else's property f the property complex
of Russkoye Video-Channel 11, worth not less than $10 million, which
subsequently was used by them for personal commercial purposes." No concrete
properties were identified.
Media-MOST put up 25.5 million rubles ($4.4 million) in charter capital for
Channel 11, which gave it 75 percent of the shares of the formerly
In a cynical tone, the statement said Gusinsky had launched "a row of
companies to create the impression of active entrepreneurship and the
impression of attracting investments."
"I say for the second time that in using this case, Russkoye Video,
representatives of the authorities are trying to discredit me, Media-MOST and
journalists who are conducting investigations into the affairs of top
officials," Gusinsky said in a statement also posted on the web site.
Pavel Astakhov, one of Gusinsky's lawyers, said in a statement also posted on
the web site that investigators are obligated to define the property in
question. He said the investigators' "abstract formula" of at least $10
million is not sufficient under criminal law.
Nikolayev was not available to clarify the property issues of the charges
against Gusinsky. A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office, Natalya
Vishnyakova, said the details will only be available at the trial. No trial
date has been set.
Rozhdestvensky has been in prison for 21 months, and this week, the
prosecutor's office put off his case for another six months, implying
investigators are still sorting out the evidence against him. He has been
accused of misappropriation of state property and tax evasion.
The Audit Chamber published an extensive report on Russkoye Video in
September but even it contains no information about any property Media-MOST
may have received from Channel 11. The report makes clear that when Channel
11 was founded in January 1997, its parent company was in financial trouble.
Russkoye Video's losses had reached 289,400 rubles ($85,000) and it "did not
possess any cash to pay into the charter capital of Russkoye Video-Channel
11," the audit report said.
Alexei Kedrin, the new executive director of Channel 11, said in a telephone
interview Wednesday that there was "almost nothing" in the company when
Media-MOST joined it in May 1997.
"I got the balance sheet of 1997," said Dmitry Ostalsky, Media-MOST
spokesman. "There were only three cars, a Panasonic mobile phone and a TV
transmitter f all on lease.
"We effectively bought a brand called Russkoye Video-Channel 11," Ostalsky
The Audit Chamber report, however, details dozens of violations of laws and
decrees during the registration and operation of Russkoye Video and its
subsidiaries, including Channel 11. The report also says the television
channel provided wrong, out-of-date documentation when obtaining its
broadcast license; the documents described state-controlled Russkoye Video as
the majority owner instead of Media-MOST.
The violations included Russkoye Video's creation of 18 private affiliates
without the agreement of the State Property Committee. The Audit Chamber
alleged the embezzlement of 5 million rubles ($900,000) of state funding and
objected to 490,000 rubles in state money that was put into the equity of
Russkoye Video affiliates. The report said 3.7 million Finnish marks
($585,000) and $88,600 was lost by the company in an advertising campaign in
In addition to the $10 million Gusinsky is accused of embezzling , tax police
have accused Channel 11 and Russkoye Video of violations totaling about $10
Two months before Media-MOST entered Channel 11, in March 1997, the local
branch of the federal Tax Police raided the offices of Channel 11 and
Russkoye Video. They said they found about 57 million rubles (then about
$10.3 million) in alleged violations in both companies.
It is not clear how this $10 million fits in with the $10 million Gusinsky is
accused of embezzling from Channel 11.
Meanwhile, Channel 11 continues to operate. "Nothing has happened to the
channel and it is still 75 percent owned by Media-MOST," said Kedrin of
Channel 11 on Wednesday.
Although the Audit Chamber recommended canceling Channel 11's registration
and withdrawing its license, Kedrin said neither has been done.
According to Gallup Media, last month 5.7 percent of St. Petersburg viewers
watched Channel 11, which put it at No. 7 among the 19 channels received in
Anna Kachkayeva, who teaches in the journalism department of Moscow State
University, said the market price of Channel 11 is estimated at $4 million to
"The property issues at this channel are really very complicated and the
history of the creation of Russkoye Video is dark and confused. It inherited
about $11 million worth of property from the federal filmmaker Videofilm back
in 1993-94 through a series of court cases," she said in a telephone
"I believe that Media-MOST started in St. Petersburg from a blank page,"
Kachkayeva said. "And as for licensing, the procedures at that time were so
foggy and confused that probably everyone who was obtaining licenses then
could be imprisoned. And I could assume that Gusinsky, when he joined 11
Channel and afterward, might have been misinformed by the Russkoye Video
management. NTV was so popular that they just did not pay much attention to
all those legal tricks or believe that anything could happen to them," she
June 22, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
"WE'LL DO IT THE RUSSIAN WAY"
First and Only Soviet President Has Questions to Ask of
Vladimir Putin, Believes He Can Be Taught
Chairman of the Russian United Social-Democratic Party
Mikhail Gorbachev believes that Russia is long 'pregnant with
Social Democracy', but until now could not give birth to it due
to the Russian Communist Party's extreme Left inclination. The
'Gorbachev party' now claims the niche to the Left of the
In between the party's meetings, Gorbachev shared, below,
his visions of the current developments with Segodnya's Sergei
Question: You have backed Putin in his desire to buttress
the state authority. Do you think Russia has gone too far and
is pregnant with a presidential dictatorship, rather than with
Answer: Nothing has been done yet! Everything is still
being debated. When it comes to getting more personal power,
the president has asked for more from the parliament than he
can get... For example, the president should have the right to
recall a governor. We can discern a new feudalism of sorts in
the provinces - the governors have everything in hand. But
their fate, in the final count, should be decided by a court.
Moreover, the governors should continue to be elected so that
their mandate is in the hands of the people and there is
competition at elections, rather than appointment from Moscow.
The situation would be more balanced.
I am closely following the developments. My stance - and
it was supported after a series of debates by the party's
political committee in late May - is that we will support the
president in all his short- and long-term moves if they accord
with the interests set forth by the people at the election. If
his moves are aimed to service the interests of this or that
group, we will protest. We stand for more authority of power,
but if it turns to an authoritarian regime, we will decisively
Today, I have many questions to ask of Vladimir Putin the
president, but I do not refuse to support his efforts. The
stance in favor of more efficiency for the state bodies is
commendable, for thus far they are inefficient. Building a more
lively and consolidated Federation is one of the key objectives.
Question: Do you discern threats to democracy in this
Answer: Since all media have been privatized and are
expressing certain interests, any discussion resembles an
attempt to exert pressure on the authorities. But I am not
questioning the level of democracy in the country: for as long
as we can lash out at the president and his lieutenants on all
programs and channels, the freedom of speech lives.
I cannot question Putin's intention to rely on democracy.
He is a man of the new generation and his ambition to do
something for Russia is only natural. The man has been given a
perfect chance! I do not think that the president will stoop to
dictatorial methods. And there is no threat of fascism, as some
people claim. I think this talk is silly and designed to
undermine the president's stance for the sake of their own
Question: Do you think the secret services might try and
establish a dictatorship?
Answer: Absolutely not. They would fail. I do not think
the president is so primitive as to allow this. He has little
experience, but he is a serious, clever and educated man, and
can be taught.
Question: The talk of the day is the adoption of a Latin
American model in Russia - a combination of a dictatorship and
a liberal economy. You have been advocating state regulation of
the market and democracy in politics. Your forecast?
Answer: Don't worry: we'll do it the Russian way...
From: email@example.com (Dale Herspring)
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
Subject: Predicting the end of Russia
Permit me to say a few words about the debate between Abe
Bumberg and Mr. Wilhelm.
First, I did not publish in PofC when Mr. Brumberg was the editor,
but I never experienced any effort to censor any of my opinions by
his successors. Indeed, the atmosphere was one of give us views
that differ from the norm, something that sometimes got me in
trouble with the Department of State for which I worked.
Second, I tend to get a bit tired of the debate over why didn't we
predict the downfall of Russia? It reminds me of the who lost China
debates. The fact is that with the exception of a few ideologues
who believed that the USSR would collapse, few predicted it. And
as far as the ideologues are concerned, they remind me of the AFP
reporter in Moscow when I was in the Embassy. He predicted
Brezhnev's death at least 6 times (in print) if I remember right.
When we brought this up, he replied "OK, but one of these times I
will be right."
As both a political scientist and a policy maker, we were in the
busines of trying to understand what was going on in the country.
Sometimes we (and that includes a number of friends I had in the
CIA and STate's INR) did a pretty good job. In other instances, we
did not. Did we believe the USSR would collapse? I, for one, must
admit that I did not. I can still remember watching the Berlin Wall
come down. I must have passed through it a thousand times while
doing research in East Berlin. I got to know most of the border
guards and was often used as a translator. I wrote books on the
GDR and I think I knew it about as well as anyone in the West. I
now know what happened and why, but I must admit, none of us
understood how bad the problems were. I interviewed almost 80
former East German officers for a book I published on the collapse
of the NVA several years ago and guess what? They were even
more surprised at what happend that I was.
I could say the same thing about the USSR. Most of the
Soviets/Russians I spoke with (and this included a number of non-
officials) did not see it coming. I certainly doubt that Mr.
Gorbachev knew it was coming.
Finally, I would like to publiclly thank Abe Brumberg for publishing
Problems of Communism. I doubt that he, or his successors,
really understood just how important it was. It was sent to almost
every government office around, and -- even read on occasion! It
did an excellent job of getting those of us in the bureaucracy to
look at different points of view. The other journals mentioned were
almost never read by those who were making the key decisions.
What is even more remarkable is that PofC also had an audience
among academics! This is not an easy bridge to build. The same
could be said for its successor, Problems of Post-Communism. I
can't say to what degree it is being read in the bureaucracy, but I
suspect that those who are in the business of intelligence follow it
In closing, why not be honest? No one really predicted the fall of
the USSR -- except for those who had the answer to the question
before it was asked. All of us were looking through a glass darkly.
From: "Stephen Blank" <BlankS@awc.carlisle.army.mil>
Subject: Hahn on Knight
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
I do not have conclusive evidence one way or another about the Georgian
episode but readers should know that a great deal about Gorbachev's handling
of the armed forces in 1989-91 has been deliberately mystified and such
competent scholars like Odom and Dunlop, as well as Knight have raised
serious questions about the August coup. Moreover as Shaposhnikov tells us
Gorbachev was trying to organize a coup in November-December, 1991,
something which goes to explaining the firing of General Lobov and other
maneuvers, and perhaps even the dissolution of the USSR. In fact since 1989
the main mission of the multiple armed forces in the USSR and Russia has
been the suppression of domestic unrest and during 1989-91 a host of new
formations and units were created by Gorbachev and the KGB, Army, MVD, etc.
for such purposes and many of these were carried on in one way or another
under Yeltsin. Knight may be wrong about Tbilisi, but the events in Baku
in 1990 and Vilnius were almost certainly instigated by Gorbachev, who in
Vilnius, lost his nerve and hung the military out to blame. While we should
acknowledge his ultimate reluctance to use force en masse against the
Lithuanians, much of the military resentment against Gorbachev was precisely
for giving he armed forces "dirty" missions and then washing his hands of
his responsibility. Moreover is it credible that Yazov called out troops on
his own in 1989 and if it is credible what does this say about control over
the armed forces?
From: "Archie Brown" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: REPLY TO KNIGHT AND WILHELM
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
Gordon Hahn's response to Amy Knight of 21 June is very much to the point.
Even Amy Knight, in her reply to me, did not try to maintain that the
Sobchak Commission produced a trail of evidence on the Tbilisi killings of
April 1989 which 'pointed straight to Mr Gorbachev'. In other words, she is
implicitly accepting that fifty per cent of what I was objecting to in her
original article was, indeed, a 'travesty of the truth'.
More generally, Knight fails to appreciate that while Gorbachev had to
operate within an institutional framework in which the KGB was a major
player, he strung them along pretty effectively. Vladimir Kryuchkov, who
(as Hahn points out), Knight likes to use as a source, actually regards
Gorbachev as a 'traitor' who destroyed the Soviet system and who, with his
Union Treaty, was on the verge of destroying the Soviet state. There is
nothing new in the information, to which Knight refers, that Gorbachev took
part in discussions of instituting 'states of emergency'. The essential
point is that he did not resort to them - to the dismay of those who
mounted the putsch against him.
There is a world of difference between what happened one night in Tbilisi
and one night in Vilnius and the sustained onslaught on Chechnya between
1994 and 1996, for which Yeltsin was quite obviously politically
responsible. It is curious that the former Russian President got less
criticism in the West for the deaths of 80,000 people (according to
Alexander Lebed's estimate) than Gorbachev got for the deaths of fewer than
fifty people, even though, for the Tbilisi killings in particular, the
evidence is overwhelming that Gorbachev sought a peaceful resolution of the
crisis. Knight cites Shevardnadze on the events of April 1989, but the
latter, who was in no way to blame for the decision to use violence,
deliberately obscured in his memoirs the fact that Gorbachev wanted him to
fly to Tbilisi on 8 April, the day after his return from a long trip abroad
and shortly before he was due to go abroad again. What Gorbachev asked
Shevardnadze to do was NOT to make a telephone call but to go to Tbilisi.
He said this in front of enough people who were meeting Gorbachev and
Shevardnadze at the airport in Moscow on 7 April for there to be no doubt
about it. As Gordon Hahn has noted, the evidence is overwhelming and has
recently been expanded with the documents made available by Sobchak's widow.
On the real issue, whether the confrontation in Tbilisi should be brought
to a peaceful resolution or ended by brute force, Gorbachev and
Shevardnadze were of one mind, but Shevardnadze was dilatory in going to
Tbilisi, and the consequences on the night of 9 April were tragic.
In the same JRL in which Gordon Hahn supports my criticism of Amy Knight's
position there is an article by John Wilhelm in which he takes a sideswipe
at me without having a shred of evidence to support his assertion. Wilhelm
tells us that he found contact 'with people in the churches [in the Soviet
Union] particularly valuable in getting a feel for the situation in the
country though too many of our Western specialists, Archie Brown is one
that comes to mind, regarded such sources as biased and unreliable'. I defy
Wilhelm to find a single sentence in any of my writings, whether academic
or journalistic, which say that church-people in the former Soviet Union
were biased and unreliable sources. As the son of a Church of Scotland
minister, I would be unlikely to take such a line. What can, of course, be
said (and what I may well have said) is that there many priests within the
Orthodox Church, from the Patriarch downwards, who had links with the KGB,
but that would not appear to be what Wilhelm has in mind. The honourable
thing for him to do would be to withdraw a totally unwarranted assertion.
More generally, he is barking up the wrong tree. A great deal of attention
was paid to dissidents within the Soviet system, and that was right. Too
little, rather than too much, attention, however, was paid to innovative
thought going on within official institutions, including the numerous
research institutes. The dissident movement was at an extremely low ebb in
Russia in 1985, and reform, which before long became transformative change,
was launched from above. Much work still needs to be done on the evolution
of ideas within the Soviet Establishment - what the late Alex Shtromas
called 'intra-structural dissent' as distinct from 'extra-structural
dissent'. A forthcoming book by Robert English, to be published by Columbia
University Press, will provide the fullest account thus far of the origins
and development of that new thinking.
Finally, it may just be worth mentioning that while there was, indeed,
widespread dissatisfaction within the Soviet Union (as there certainly
should have been), the situation both then and now is a good deal more
complicated than Wilhelm implies. The leading survey research organization
in Russia, VTsIOM, has produced data which show that the proportion of the
population who agreed with the statement that 'it would have been better if
the country had remained as it was before 1985' rose from 44 per cent in
1994 to 58 per cent in 1999. Their increasing support for the unreformed
Soviet Union, needless to say, has more to do with their post-Communist
experience than with the appearance of new information on Russia prior to
1985. Similarly, the Brezhnev era was by 1999 viewed more positively than
any other period of twentieth-century Russian history. The least popular of
all periods in the century was the Yeltsin era. By 1999 only 5 per cent of
the population viewed the Yeltsin years positively and 72 per cent had a
negative attitude to them.
Of course, a number of the former dissidents from Soviet times - notable
among them Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Elena Bonner - have been severe
critics of what has happened in recent years. But whereas in the days of
the Soviet Union, their denunciations of Communist corruption and violence
occupied many column inches of Western newspapers, their attacks on
post-Communist corruption and violence go largely unreported. Moral beacons
when they attack Communism, they become out-of-touch cranks when they
criticise kleptocratic capitalism. Perhaps Wilhelm, instead of foisting
views on me which I have never held, will begin to devote much-needed
attention to such double standards.
From: "Andrei Liakhov" <email@example.com>
Subject: On Hahn/Knight debate.
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
As I stated in my private comments to Mrs.Knight, Shevarnadze was with
Gorbachev on the state visit to London when the Tbilisi events started to
unfold with the increasing pace. As I stated in my previous remarks in the
JRL on the subject, the order (it would be more correct to refer to it as
"authorisation") approved (not necessarily signed in person, but he as any
other PB member was aware of it) by MSG at the time was "to use all
necessary measures to restore peace and protect the public" (it's a very
loose translation from memory). In Russian bureacratic language it meant
that use of force was permissable and MSG (being a seasoned Soviet
apparatchik) clearly understood what it actually meant.
Although I never was at the level to which the PB materials were circulated,
I cannot exclude that the Yazov episode actually happened, but it does not
prove that at the time the action was authorised PB was not aware or could
not prevent it - it just proves that MSG and Yazov were at odds at MSG
selected him as a scapegoat.
I do not want to repeat here all the arguments and facts, but it would be
naive at best to think that MSG and other PB mambas are totally innocent in
respect of Tbilisi events.
Generally, MSG's place in history will be rather controversial - it is
beyond argument that freedom of press and everything which went with
Glasnost was his greatest achievement probably unrivalled in Russian
history, however he will always be blamed for the economic and political
mismanagement on the grandest of scales which led to the collapse of the
USSR, loss of national identity, national humiliation at the scale unseen
since W.W.II, loss of national idea and place in the World. He will also be
remembered for indecisiveness, backtracking, weak leadership and failure to
control the events.
It is unlikely that all this will be counterbalanced by his glasnot
However it's too early to have an objective analysis of that period - too
many personal egos could be hurt in the process and only our children or
grandchildren will be able to objectively dissect that wonderful and
controversial time in Russian history called the Perestroika.
June 23, 2000
MEDIA WATCH: Media Crackdown Is Here
By Robert Coalson
I have to confess that I am frustrated. Not only because I have been witness
to the unrelenting erosion of press freedom across the country for nearly a
year now, but because so few people seem to see what is happening as a
clearly defined process, rather than as a series of isolated events that may
or may not indicate a trend. If I had a dollar for every time I have been
asked the question, "Does this event signify the beginning of a crackdown on
press freedom in Russia?" then I could afford to hire a lawyer for a
newspaper in Ivanovo that is fighting off a dozen libel suits.
This question arose last summer when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
created the new Press Ministry and named Mikhail Lesin to head it. Lesin
never hid his intention to dramatically increase control over the media by
the central government. The next time the crackdown "began" was when the
Kremlin took complete control over the flow of information from Chechnya,
introducing restrictions on journalists that were widely decried by media and
law experts as blatantly unconstitutional.
The crackdown began again during last year's parliamentary elections, during
the Andrei Babitsky affair, during the presidential elections, during the
controversy over licensing for TV Center and ORT and f most recently f during
the Media-MOST/Gusinsky scandal. Lesin has already announced that his
ministry intends to require newspaper publishers to obtain licenses in the
near future, and there can be little doubt that these new restrictions will
be heralded widely as "the beginning of a crackdown on the media in Russia."
Enough already. It's time to stop speculating about whether there is going to
be a crackdown and to start acting as if there is one. What is happening now
is a fundamental test of democracy here, one that this country cannot afford
to fail. In recent months, the journalistic and human rights communities have
tried virtually all means of expressing their concern. They have not once but
twice banded together to produce special editions of Obshchaya Gazeta devoted
to the subject of press freedom. They have issued innumerable letters of
protest, held demonstrations, published outraged articles from Kaliningrad to
Vladivostok and appealed to every international organization that would
In short, they have taken every symbolic measure that could be taken, and
there is no indication that they have achieved anything. It is time to do
something more concrete and to make a more serious effort to win public
support. After all, the present struggle is not really between the state and
the independent media, but between the state and society itself. The real
question is whether the media will be reduced, as they were in Soviet times,
to mere instruments of state control over public opinion or will they become,
as they should be in an open society, tools of public control over abuses of
I would therefore urge the Union of Journalists and other organizations to
call for a total nationwide boycott of the state-controlled media, from
national television like ORT and RTR to local subsidized newspapers and
broadcast media. We should urge the people to force the government to work
exclusively with nonstate journalists to convey its policies to the nation.
We should urge advertisers to publicly withdraw their ads from
state-subsidized media. Such measures would convince the Kremlin that the
public intends to defend its rights. They would convince the Kremlin that the
democratic transition here has proceeded far enough that public opinion can
no longer be so contemptuously ignored.
Moreover, activists should assist the nonstate media to inform the public
about the dangerous role that the state-controlled media is playing at
present. The public should know exactly how much of its tax money is spent to
bring Kremlin PR hacks like Sergei Dorenko and Mikhail Leontiev into their
living rooms every night to tell them how to think. The public should know
how many health clinics or trolleybuses could be purchased in provincial
towns across the country with the money that is being used to subsidized
state-controlled local newspapers.
Let's rally around a simple slogan: No Ads and No Audience for State Media.
It is time the public started telling the Kremlin what to think.
Robert Coalson is a program director for the National Press Institute. The
views expressed here are not necessarily those of NPI.
June 22, 2000
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" discusses Gusinsky's arrest
Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Vitaly Tretyakov. The uprising lessons ) gives a
detailed coverage of the consequences following the arrest of Vladimir
The newspaper's editor-in-chief is citing three reasons, that have forced the
authorities to retreat: their action was not openly supported by any
prominent public or political force; the authorities understood that the
public image of oligarch Gusinsky was quickly evolving , by means of
propaganda, into a dissident image of Academician Sakharov-2000; "the hot
phase" of the operation had not been completed before Putin's return from his
A few "lessons" of the abortive operation are analyzed below:
Lesson 1. Despite the assertion that the state (power) in Russia has enormous
informational might, our authorities do not have the might or even an
information army. The informational might of any power (even in a relatively
democratic society) means the aggregate support of most national media (or
the people in general).
Lesson 2. Public policy experts are stronger than the "power" ministries even
if both are professional - in fact, professionalism was not observed in the
recent collision over Gusinsky's case. A lawyer and a journalist are public
professions, while an investigator (in Russia) is nothing more than just an
investigator. In terms of propaganda, the prosecutor's office suffered a
defeat. Our "power-wielding" agencies are like kids in public politics.
Lesson 3. Putin does not have a qualified team (this , perhaps, is a state
problem rather than his own fault), which Gusinsky certainly has.
Lesson 4. Propaganda is at least as important as the gist of the matter. Even
before Gusinsky's detention this universal truth had been known to all,
except for the bureaucrats who are used to playing behind the scenes.
Lesson 5. The mass media has long ago become the fourth and may be the third
power in Russia, taking account of the country's weak and down-trodden
Lesson 6. The media business in Russia is pure politics, while the oil and
other industries are a mixture of business and politics. Any oil tycoon could
have been imprisoned without a faction of the problems, which emerged with
regards to Gusinsky.
Lesson 7. Like in the West, the freedom of speech in Russia has turned into
"the sacred cow" in many ways, even if double billing has to be used. It is
not accidental that in his comments on Gusinsky's case U.S President Bill
Clinton actually called Gusinsky "a member of the journalistic community".
Lesson 8. The Kremlin's collision with Gusinsky and Igor Malashenko disclosed
their deep ideological incompatibility. Kremlin sees the world in the format
of national states while the NTV television owners -in the format of
transnational corporations. Therefore, the conduct and words of both sides
were in many ways sincere: Putin and the Kremlin believe that Russia has
interests outside and apart from the West, while Gusinsky and Malashenko do
not have such interests.
Lesson 9. How did it happen that broad masses of people, not the lower
classes but the most active part, were not openly jubilant over the
oligarch's imprisonment? First, because by human measurements sinning in
present life is more sweet than being sinless in the past (even if one was
sinless). Second, because for hundreds of people the imprisoned Gusinsky has
turned into a symbol of dashed hopes to become rich.
Lesson 10. Why did the intellectuals who have been as harsh in criticizing
the oligarchs as ordinary people nearly went into hysteria and launched a
propaganda campaign against Gusinsky's arrest?
Partly, because the people does not get anything from the oligarchs while
entire groups of intellectuals are getting a lot from individual tycoons.
There is not a more egoistic social strata than the intellectuals.
The second category of intellectuals is constantly pondering over virtue in
the world of evil. It is capable of getting out of this paradox only by means
of dividing (for life convenience and psychological and philosophical
comfort) the evil (the oligarchic system) into individual bearers of vice and
The third part of intellectuals has always mistrusted the officialdom,
especially the one that has refused to feed them like in the former Soviet
The most active, if not the biggest, group of Russian intellectuals known as
"westernizers" defended their "fellow-westerners", because they are afraid
-and often have a good reason for their fears - of all Russian (not in an
ethnic but historical sense). Finally, our intellectuals, who are often
incapable of quality work , like quality things. The Oblomovs stood out for
The quality product offered by NTV propaganda looked more attractive than the
low-quality product of the prosecutor's office.
Lesson 11. The Kremlin's insincerity has undermined its positions. The
Kremlin exposed the methods but hid the ends. Media-Most was actually open
about its goals - to survive with an implication of carrying truth to society
which, despite a certain lack of sincerity, seemed to be noble and clear in
Therefore, no one paid attention to the methods (that was the case with the
federal troops in Chechnya for which they were criticized by the Media-Most
media. But everybody thinks that what is permitted to him is tabooed to
Since the Kremlin did not articulate its goal, Media-Most formulated it
instead: repression for the truth. But that might have seemed too egoistic
and, therefore, insignificant. Consequently, the threat was expanded from
Media-Most to society as a whole, i.e the abolition of the freedom of speech
As a counterbalance to "Gusinsky's case" Media-Most has opened a "case"
against Putin. Unlike the prosecutor's office, it is doing it scrupulously
every day without sparing effort or airtime. And what is the prosecutor's
office with the miserable millions of dollars. Society already knows that
billions of these dollars have gone away on the side.
Besides: The Kremlin thought that it had thrown only one man in jail. It is
hardly extraordinary for Russia (or for nearly any large state). The NTV
television interpreted it as if at least thousands of Media-Most employees
were going to be arrested (or even imprisoned). Such scopes are scaring.
It is not accidental that for three days running NTV has been talking about a
possible arrest or detention of Igor Malashenko on the border. The prospect
of the chain of arrests being continued is fearsome. Professional defense is
more effective than a clumsy attack.
Lesson 12. I firmly stick to the opinion that Gusinsky's arrest was a
political repression (something what the Kremlin was afraid to admit), which
had not been prompted by the content of Media-Most broadcasts or publications
(the same stuff was written by other media as well). The true reason - which
the Media-Most bosses have refused to recognize - is that the Kremlin regards
Gusinsky's media empire as an opposition and even an anti-government (in some
of its manifestations) political force, which is splitting off from the
Russian jurisdiction but is operating on the Russian political field.
Frankly speaking, the Kremlin qualifies Media-Most as a prototype of a
radical opposition political party disguised as a media holding. Many things
prove that such a qualification is true: the iron ideological discipline in
Gusinsky's empire, which cooperates primarily with political rather than
business circles in Russia and abroad.
But, punishing "for politics", even if it is an opposition politics, is
illegal in a democratic society. Proving the anti-government nature of this
politics is extremely difficult -if no one is throwing bombs at government
A political analysis, even the least qualified, cannot serve as material
proof for criminal prosecution. Let alone, that it may be erroneous or based
on different ideologies (see lesson 8).
Searching for a purely criminal, and even real, pretext as a peg to hang on
is a losing battle. A political motive will surface automatically. The
immediate result will be "the prosecution of dissidents".
Lesson 13. Media-Most is certainly not the pivot of democracy in Russia. Nor
it is its essential element. The vital component of Russian democracy is the
entire system of contemporary media, in which Media-Most, precisely the NTV,
is occupying a prominent place. The Kremlin (and even the prosecutor's
office) are not the main threats to Russian democracy. The Kremlin and a
reformed and qualitatively perfected prosecutor's office are the key elements
of any state polity, including a democratic one.
Besides, entities like the Kremlin, the prosecutor's office and NTV are
filled with Russian citizens or residents, if Putin is to be quoted.
Therefore, it is within our interests if the two encounter revolts suppress
each other. How will it be done is another question.
To use a modern word, this is a matter of political technology. But the fact
that this country does not need revolts or rebellions is the main lesson of
this uprising (uprisings). Responsible people (citizens) are not going to set
one man against another (which unfortunately is taking place).
There should be no losers, or public losers at least. The only exception is
the court. Losing in a courtroom is the only kind of defeat that will not
humiliate the losing party in a democratic society.- even if justice is not
done in full, and old affronts remain.
P.S. Yes, I have forgotten to answer the main question of the past few days:
whom do you support -the "bolsheviks" or the communists, i.e the Kremlin or
Gusinskiy. Russian civil war commander Vasiliy Chapayev, nicknamed Chapai,
would have replied: "I am for the International". In a modern language it is
relevant to supporting democracy and the freedom of speech. No, I am more
specific and pragmatic than Vasily Chapayev. I am for the Kremlin without
foolishness, and for NTV without propaganda. Is it possible? It will be
possible gradually and certainly not in full measure.
P.P.S I have finished my article, and I have watched Yevgeny Kiselev in his
"Itogi" programme (which is not a spontaneous broadcast but a serious and
detailed programme), in which NTV ascribed to me "the acquittal" or "defence"
of either the Kremlin's position or actions related to "Gusinsky's case". I
have already explained them.
Why is NTV telling lies on such a small occasion? Claiming that Gusinsky's
business has the only aim of maintaining "the mouthpiece of public openness"
is not just propaganda but an open lie. I think I know at least one reason.
This is revenge. NTV is known to be extremely vindictive. Aware of that, many
in Moscow are afraid of making unflattering remarks about NTV or Vladimir
Gusinsky whom I know rather well and who has sometimes been kind will never
forgive an affont. His favourite child is as keen and disciplined in tuning
up to the moods of the boss as the vampires, which by Dorenko's metaphor, are
picking up Putin's covert music. The manner in which Nezavisimaya Gazeta and
me personally spoke and wrote about "Gusinsky's case" did not suit NTV.
This television channel - so proud of being disloyal to Putin - cannot
tolerate the slightest disloyalty to itself. The NTV staff carefully reads
and keeps track of all the remarks about NTV, Gusinskiy and other Media-Most
leaders. NTV calculates everything. It never forgets a slight. Many Moscow
journalists and political scientists are afraid of being blacklisted by NTV.
Those who do not join us are against us is a hidden motive of many NTV
political passages and shots. One person with vast experience in Moscow
politics told me after my latest appearance in the Vremya programme where I
spoke on "Gusinsky;s case" : you said too much, be careful -they will try to
avenge on you. I never doubted that. NTV has not stopped short of lies to
send its first "black mark". In fact, this is my private matter. However, the
question of whether NTV always reports the truth if it is telling lies on
such a small occasion is significant for all.
Comment: Vitaly Tretyakov is among the few journalists in Russia today who
can afford an independent and propaganda-free opinion on Gusinsky case.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" ("Independent paper"), where he has been the
editor-in-chief since its foundation in 1990, has "sine ira et studio" as its
motto and it is more than evident in this editorial, written "without fury