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19 July 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Oldest written document in Russia discovered.
2. APN: 449 State Duma Deputies are willing to follow
3. smi.ru: Oligarchs to Be Left Without Property by Law.
4. Reuters: Chubais says top businessmen meet Putin next week.
5. Dale Herspring: The Russian Defense Debate.
6. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: The Main Battles for Military Reforms Are
7. Voice of America: Interview with Igor Khripunov on Putin'
trip to North Korea.
8. Wall Street Journal: Michael McFaul, Russian Rationalism,
At Home and Abroad.
9. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Reading the new Russia. In the first
of a series on the literary life in post-Communist Russia, Books
Reporter Sandra Martin and Moscow Bureau Chief Geoffrey York find
writers and publishers surviving in a radically different book scene.
10. The Independent (UK): Sergei Karaganov, RUSSIA NEEDS
UNDERSTANDING, NOT AID.
11. World Socialist Web Site: Vladimir Volkov, The Gusinsky affair:
where are the dangers to democracy in Russia coming from?]
Oldest written document in Russia discovered
MOSCOW, July 18 (AFP) -
Archeologists have unearthed psalms of David written in the early 11th
century on four wax-covered tablets, the oldest known written document in
Russia, one of the authors of the find told AFP Tuesday.
"This is the oldest written document in Russia," said Professor Alexander
Khorochev, a history expert from Moscow University and the head of
archeological digs in the region, of the tablets found in Veliky Novgorod,
The texts, written in Cyrillic, date from the 1020s, just decades following
the birth of the Russian Orthodox Church in 988.
The wooden tablets, a hundred lines each, are more ancient than those of the
Gospel of Ostromirovo (1056-1057), considered until now to be the first known
written document in Russia.
These unique finds were unearthed during archeological digs around the
ancient settlement of Veliki Novgorod, where the clay soil helped
conservation, enabling David's psalms 75 and 76 to be deciphered, Khorochev
The archeologists had already discovered several 11th century artefacts,
including an icon of Saint-Barbara, and a dozen other written documents in
the same region.
July 18, 2000
449 State Duma Deputies are willing to follow Berezovsky
One of the reasons Boris Berezovsky gave up his seat in the State Duma is his
awareness: the lower house in the parliament will not exist any longer in 6-7
months with its composition and appearance as it has now, a presidential
source told APN.
Following the Federation Council, according to the source, the Duma will be
expected to be reformed also: within the program of reorganization of the
political system of the country the deputies will approve a new procedure to
form the houses according to which not more than one third of its members
will be elected through party lists and not less than 2/3 â€“ through
districts. In addition, the deputies will be deprived of immunity that will
bring no sense to influential businessmen to continue to be members of the
That`s why, the source thinks, Berezovsky chose a destiny which will befall
all the deputies in six months, with making cause for a powerful
informational campaign. Thus, one can suggest, that the tycoon leaving the
parliament, was guided just by pragmatic considerations.
July 18, 2000
Oligarchs to Be Left Without Property by Law
"Moskovskiy Komsomolets" in its "Rumor Rating" section, reports that a bill
"On Legislative Settlement of All Post-privatization Proceedings". The bill
has been elaborated by State Duma experts and "MK" believes it is devised to
set the legal ground for the revision of the privatization. The bill is
scheduled to be submitted to the legislators in the fall. Therefore, the
oligarchs will not be able to appease the Kremlin by paying their unpaid
Comment: The idea clearly contradicts Putin's repeated statements that "no
revision of the privatization will occur". However, the President's
declaration do leave room for maneuver as he has always remarked that this
tenet is not related to the cases when privatization acts were executed with
legal abuses. Yet, even in these cases, all revisions must be conducted in a
courtroom. The bill in question, though, cannot be applied to these instances
as, first, it may not be retroactive and, second, it cannot embrace in
principle all the abuses occurred during the privatization era. Perhaps, the
key purpose of the said bill (if its preparation in fact is underway) is the
so-called zero option: all that has been must be forgotten, and let's start
from scratch. The idea has been repeatedly set forth by various spokesmen,
including those of the Kremlin. Perhaps, this is because the Prosecutor
General's office and the Tax Police are in such a hurry as this is their last
chance to get hold of the oligarchs.
Chubais says top businessmen meet Putin next week
MOSCOW, July 18 (Reuters) - Leading businessman Anatoly Chubais was quoted as
saying on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet business
leaders next week to help defuse rising tensions between them.
The move comes amid investigations into several Russian businessmen, or
so-called ``oligarchs,'' whom Putin has accused of exploiting their political
connections over the past decade to amass huge fortunes.
Interfax news agency quoted Chubais, whose electricity monopoly Unified
Energy System (UES) is under investigation, as saying the meeting with Putin
could take place next Tuesday or Wednesday.
``As far as I know, such a meeting will happen very soon,'' Interfax quoted
Chubais as saying in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Russia's Audit Chamber watchdog is looking into whether more than 15 percent
of shares in UES were sold illegally to foreigners in the early 1990s.
Chubais, creator of Russia's privatisation programme and the main architect
of economic reforms throughout the reign of ex-President Boris Yeltsin, has
denied the allegations and said the investigation was an attempt at a
Russia's tax police have also opened criminal cases against the head of
Russia's biggest oil firm, LUKOIL, and against the biggest carmaker, AvtoVAZ.
State prosecutors are investigating the independent media group of Vladimir
Gusinsky, Media-Most, including its ties with natural gas monopoly Gazprom.
All companies under investigation deny any wrongdoing.
Another magnate, Boris Berezovsky, said on Monday he would resign as a member
of the lower house of parliament in protest against a ``totally destructive''
attack on big business by Putin.
Putin, elected in March, has vowed to create a level playing field and
eliminate the cosy ties forged between some businessmen and government
officials over the past decade.
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dale Herspring)
Subject: The Russian Defense Debate
Ref: Stratfor.com of 17 July 2000
The Straftor analysis of the current struggle between Sergeyev and
Kvashnin did an execllent job of outlining what is really at stake.
What I found most interesting was the emphasis on equipment.
This stands in stark contrast to much of the discussion we have
seen with regard to Moscow's new, old or current military doctrine.
Doctrine is interesting, but I would argue that it is not where the
action is -- at present. It has played a major role, and it will
probably play a significant role again in the future, but for now, it
really is not key, primarily because as the Stratfor analysis pointed
out, there is a major difference of opinion with regard to which
direction Moscow should go in the defense sector.
The Stratfor commentary was also right on by bringing up
economics. I would take exception on one point, however.
Nuclear weapons are a lot cheaper than conventional arms.
Consequently, one could make the argument that up-grading the
former is a lot cheaper than starting from scratch (which is where
they are in many conventional areas) and building a meaingful
A key question raised in this piece is the suggestion that Putin is
caught in a quandry -- if he goes with Kvashnin he risks alienating
the nationalists. While some of this may happen, I am not
convinced. It would take an idiot not to realize just how bad off
Moscow's conventional forces are at present. Their performance in
Chechnya was horrible. Equipment, weapons, creature comforts,
fuel, morale, discipline, etc. are at an all time low. Money will not
solve all of the problems, but it will certainly help. Just paying
soldiers and officers on time would make a big difference.
So what will Putin do? Up to this point, Putin has shown himself to
be a compromiser -- as we are beginning to see on the question of
Moscow's relationship to the provinces. He does not want to
publicly embarass Sergeyev, so he will probably come up with a
plan that appears to satisfy both. Will that actually happen?
Probably not, but in politics form is often as important if not more
important than substance. Moscow's nuclear forces will continue
to shrink, while money is diverted to help in the conventional
sphere. Meanwhile, Putin will continue to heap praise on both the
conventional and nuclear forces.
Russia Today press summaries
July 18, 2000
The Main Battles for Military Reforms Are Coming
During the past weekend, President Putin conducted two meetings with Defense
Minister Marshal Sergeyev, General Headquarters Chief Anatoly Kvashnin and
Security Council Secretary Ivanov. They discussed future ways of reforming
the Army, around which a serious controversy took place between Sergeyev and
Kvashnin. The traditional position of the Defense Ministry is to make the
nuclear-missile weapons the main part of the Armed Forces, while the General
Headquarters proposed to reduce the number of Strategic Missiles (RVSN)
divisions and to boost the ground troops at the expense of strategic nuclear
Igor Sergeyev built his arguments on the presupposition that the reduction of
RVSN will frustrate the strategic balance between Russia and the US and will
make the position of Russia at the SOW-3 talks more vulnerable. Anatoly
Kvashnin's position also has its logic. He calculated that, by 2006, real
potentiality of RVSN cannot exceed 1500 warheads. Thus, he proposed to
achieve this level of reduction already in 2003. He also stated that the real
state of Russian nuclear forces is an open secret for the West. It is more
practical to think about real defense interests of Russia, and in particular,
about strengthening the general ground forces, which have revealed their
sickness at the Chechen campaign.
Moreover, the conception of General Kvashnin made obvious that the position
of Russia at the talks about strategic weapons reduction is unsound. The
nuclear weapons policy line of the Soviet Union that Moscow is still trying
to follow is not valid. In other words, the General proposed to be honest
with us. Nevertheless, Marshal Sergeyev perceives this position as a personal
offense of the General Headquarters' chief, Who is aiming at the Defense
The President wants to go into details of the problem and to reconcile the
highest military officials. He proposed that the two prepare a package of
documents on military reform together that would be considered by the
Security Council in late July.
Voice of America
TITLE=PUTIN / NOKOR Q & A
INTRO: Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled
to fly from Beijing to the North Korean capital,
Pyongyang, Wednesday for the second leg of his Asian
tour. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu recently spoke to Igor
Khripunov, (pronounced cree-pu-nov) a former Russian
diplomat who now teaches political science at the
University of Georgia in the United States. She asked
Mr. Khripunov about the purpose of Mr. Putin's visit
RYU: This is the first visit to North Korea ever by a
Russian leader. Why is Mr. Putin going to North
KHRIPUNOV: I really can identify two major reasons.
They are both related to Russia's grand strategies
Putin has been developing. The first is a purely
national security reason. Putin recognizes that this
national anti-ballistic defense, which is to be
developed in the United States, is against the so-
called rogue states, or "countries of concern," as his
government prefers to talk about these countries. But
in addition to the recognition of this need, Putin
keeps talking about whether its timely, if this threat
is realistic. So going over there (to North Korea), he
wants to bring back evidence that North Koreans do not
pose an immediate threat and there is no need to
deploy this system for the United States. The second
reason is a mixture of national security and economic
considerations. Russia had the very bitter experience
when eastern European countries became liberated and
they started to completely ignore Russia's interests.
So as North Korea is opening up to the West, at least
there are signs of that Russia would like to jump on
the bandwagon and be there and be a very important
player in the process.
RYU: What would be the result of a meeting between
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Il?
KHRIPUNOV: Well I can only speculate, maybe a
declaration saying that that North Korea has no
intentions to develop long-range missiles. There may
be an agreement to get North Korea involved in
Russia's space program. Because if North Korea wants
to become visible in this high-tech area, there is a
chance to work together with Russia. Putin can claim
that Russia, cooperating with North Korea, may be an
important player in controlling North Korea's
progress. At least that's what Putin may need as an
argument in negotiating with Clinton during the G-8
meeting (in Japan later this week). There may be some
industrial projects. There may be a revival of
RYU: Do you think the timing of Mr. Putin's visit has
any connection to the inter-Korean summit between
South and North Korea in June?
KHRIPUNOV: You know, when Russia warmed up its
relationship with South Korea it didn't feel quite
comfortable because of the hostility that existed at
that time between North and South Korea. So, it's
quite natural that Russia and Putin are interested in
better relations between both Koreas so that it can
develop very far-reaching high-tech operation with
South Korea. And because Russia keeps selling weapons
and high-tech products to South Korea and after each
transaction, it receives reprimand from North Korea.
So, with better relations between both Koreas, Russia
would feel comfortable improving further its
relationship with South Korea.
RYU: Should the United States be concerned about
warming of ties between North Korea and Russia in
terms of North Korea possibly receiving military
assistance from Russia?
KHRIPUNOV: I doubt very much that Mr. Putin will
commit himself to really vast military assistance to
North Korea. That may be something in the future
depending on the rapprochement between North Korea and
South Korea. There may be some symbolic gestures
really to have this foothold in the North Korean
market. I doubt very much there may be some far-
reaching agreements in terms of military hardware
Wall Street Journal
July 17, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russian Rationalism, At Home and Abroad
By Michael McFaul. Mr. McFaul is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace and an assistant professor of political science and
Hoover fellow at Stanford University.
Another piece to the Who Is Vladimir Putin puzzle seemed to fall in place
last week. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov unveiled a new foreign policy
doctrine for Russia. Two themes stand out. First, Russian policymakers plan
to follow a rational and realistic foreign policy that will serve Russian
economic and political interests. Such a strategy includes active engagement
with the West. Second, Russian leaders see an intimate relationship between
domestic and foreign policy. The document stresses the need to use foreign
policy to help solve Russia's domestic problems, including first and foremost
Russia's economic woes.
On closer look, however, the policy is less revealing than it seems. Policy
statements and policy actions should never be confused with each other. To
date, whether by design or misunderstanding, President Putin's foreign-policy
initiatives have only partially reflected the ideas outlined in this new
doctrine. In particular, Mr. Putin does not seem to grasp the intimate
relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy. Eventually,
failure to recognize the international consequences of domestic actions will
lead to greater isolation of Russia from the West -- an outcome that would be
neither rational nor realistic for Russia.
Since becoming president in March, Mr. Putin has worn one hat while traveling
abroad and another while working at home. When visiting European capitals,
President Putin has stressed the importance of building market institutions
in Russia and integrating Russia into the West. His new foreign policy
doctrine stresses that "Russia shall actively work to attract foreign
investments," and will work "to ensure favorable external conditions for
forming a market-oriented economy in our country." He has gone out of his way
to emphasize that he sees Russia as a European country that has many mutual
interests with other European nations. Occasionally, he has even called for
deepening of Russian democracy.
Balance of Power
To be sure, he believes that a multipolar system should replace the current
unipolar world dominated by the United States. Yet, Mr. Putin rarely invokes
the tired language of 19th Century balance of power politics and has yet to
adopt the rhetoric of Russian Eurasianists who believe that Russia must
follow its unique, third path somewhere between Europe and Asia. Mr. Putin
wants more, not less, cooperation with the West and Europe in particular.
At home, however, several of the President's initiatives have a distinctly
authoritarian flavor. While Mr. Putin does not aspire to become a dictator,
he has displayed no passion for defending democracy. Instead, he has
demonstrated that he is willing to use the power of the state and ignore the
democratic rights of society in the pursuit of "more important" objectives,
such as state-building and economic reform.
Most gruesome has been Mr. Putin's indifference to human rights in Chechnya.
Abundant and consistent testimony gathered by international organizations
points to systematic and indiscriminate use of force against both civilians
and those who care for the wounded. The State Security Service (the former
KGB) under Mr. Putin's leadership also has harassed civil society leaders,
including investigative journalists, environmental activists and even Western
non-governmental organizations. Journalists, such as Andrei Babitsky from
Radio Liberty and academics such as arms control researcher, Igor Sutyagin,
are two of many to experience the indiscriminate use of power by the Russian
state under Putin.
The Russian president's latest targets -- by far the least sympathetic in the
eyes of many Russians -- are Russia's financial tycoons. Mr. Putin's
government arrested Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinsky, threatened to arrest
Interros head (the owner of the giant Norilsk Nickel plant) Vladimir Potanin,
and announced the opening of a criminal investigation against Lukoil,
Russia's largest oil company.
In principle, these state actions against some of Russia's richest
businessmen could be interpreted as progress. Oligarchic capitalism in
Russian needs to end; the rule of law needs to begin. However, the selective
process of deciding who is prosecuted and who is not has undermined the
integrity of these law enforcement acts.
Mr. Gusinsky's media outlets have criticized Mr. Putin and supported
opponents of the president. He is arrested. Boris Berezovsky -- one of
Russia's most notorious oligarchs who is unlikely to have been more law
abiding than Russia's other business leaders -- has used his media empire to
support Mr. Putin. He has avoided arrest.
What does Mr. Gusinsky's arrest, Lukoil's harassment, and the war in Chechnya
have to do with Mr. Putin's foreign policy agenda? So far, not much. In the
short-term, Mr. Putin must believe that he can get away with his strategy of
compartmentalizing foreign and domestic policy. Western leaders -- and
especially British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhad
Schroeder -- have been willing to give Mr. Putin the benefit of the doubt
during the honeymoon phase of his presidency. Likewise, Western investors
want to return to Russia. They applaud President Putin's rhetoric about
restoring law and order and lose little sleep over the arrest of oligarchs or
the harassment of corrupt regional leaders both who have done much to impede
the development of markets in Russia.
In the long run, however, Mr. Putin will fail to achieve his newly penned
foreign policy objectives if he refuses to recognize the direct relationship
between democracy and markets on the one hand and foreign policy on the
other. For instance, Mr. Gusinsky's arrest occurred on the same day that Mr.
Putin was speaking to foreign investors in Spain. Concern about the "Gusinsky
affair" that day eclipsed any positive message he might have had about the
potential returns on investment in Russia. A few days later, in response to
the Gusinsky ordeal, Robert Strauss, the Chairman of the U.S.-Russian
Business Council, cancelled a trip that would have brought to Russia several
CEOs from some of America's largest companies. The causal relationship
between the domestic and the international could not be more obvious.
On the day that criminal investigations were announced against Lukoil, one of
Russia's most respected companies among international investors, millions of
dollars bolted from Lukoil stocks and the Russian stock market as a whole.
Again, the relationship between political actions at home and foreign policy
objectives could not be more direct.
Sense of Deterioration
Months ago, Clinton Administration officials had hoped to make real progress
regarding the rescheduling of Russian debt as well as Russian membership into
the World Trade Organization (WTO). Clinton officials recognize that the new
Russian government has crafted a sound economic reform program, which
deserves support. However, the war in Chechnya, the series of attacks against
the press, and the general sense of deterioration of democratic practices in
Russia, has made advocates of engagement with Russia much more cautious. The
prospects of a major debt rescheduling or WTO membership are less likely.
Even if Russia could afford to ignore the outside world, further erosion of
democracy in Russia is likely to produce more obstacles to economic
development. Some around Mr. Putin believe that dictatorship might be a
necessary, interim evil to crack down on corruption, restore the rule of law,
and thereby achieve economic growth. In dreaming about becoming the next
Chile of the 1970s, South Korea in the 1980s, or China in the 1990s, however,
these advocates of authoritarian rule conveniently forget the experiences of
many other dictatorships -- Nigeria in the 1970s, the Soviet Union in the
1980s, and Uzbekistan in the 1990s -- that did not achieve economic growth.
Recent research on the post-communist world has revealed a very positive
correlation between democracy and economic growth. The fastest democratizers
in the region are also the countries with the highest growth rates. The
positive correlation between high levels of democracy and low levels of
corruption in the post-communist world is also striking.
Political developments in Russia already have begun to impede the
"development of the of the national economy," which, according to the new
foreign policy doctrine, should be the "main priority in the foreign policy
of the Russian Federation in international economic relations." Before more
damage is done, Mr. Putin and his new team should begin to actually implement
the ideas expressed in their new foreign policy doctrine and recognize that a
rational policy abroad requires a rational policy at home.
-- From The Wall Street Journal Europe
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
July 15, 2000
Reading the new Russia
In the first of a series on the literary life
in post-Communist Russia, Books Reporter
Sandra Martin and Moscow Bureau Chief Geoffrey York
find writers and publishers surviving in a radically
different book scene.
SANDRA MARTIN and GEOFFREY YORK
Moscow -- The Soviet Union always boasted that it had the highest number of
book readers in the world, and it was probably true. Millions of Russians
were addicted to serious literature. They yearned for uncensored books on
real life, but it was an unrequited love: Few Soviet writers were able to
Today, ironically, the problem has reversed itself. Thousands of Russian
writers are publishing freely -- but a shrinking number of readers are
willing or able to buy serious literature. Faced with a life of hardship
after the economic crash in 1998, many Russians take refuge in tabloid
newspapers, glossy celebrity magazines, television or pulp fiction.
With average salaries equivalent to less than $200 a month, books are a
luxury for the Russian worker. A survey last year found that one-third of
Russians, especially those under the age of 24 and over the age of 55, don't
read books at all. And of those who do read, 41 per cent prefer crime novels
and 25 per cent prefer romances.
There are a lot of writers today, but not enough "serious" readers, says
Natasha Perova, editor-in-chief of the literary press Glas New Russian
Writing. "You can't blame them," she says. "They can't afford it; life is so
stressful. And the audience for good literary fiction is smaller than in
Soviet times when we didn't have so many distractions," she explains.
The threat today comes not from oppressive state control, but from the
omnivorous and feckless appetite for mass consumer culture. Russian
publishers have been badly wounded by the flood of Western pop culture,
widespread corruption and piracy, and economic hardships that cripple the
distribution of books in the provinces outside the biggest cities.
Most Russian books sell for $2 or $3 each, which means that even the
top-selling authors cannot scrounge an advance of more than $20,000, while
the vast majority of middle-ranking authors are paid almost nothing.
Publishers, too, exist on the margins: Because of inflation, editions have to
sell out within six months, otherwise books can't cover their production
The former writers' colony in the village of Peredelkino, on the outskirts of
Moscow, where Boris Pasternak and others had large, comfortable country
houses called dachas, has been invaded by vulgar New Russians with their
four-wheel-drive vehicles and bodyguards. Only a few dozen dachas are still
leased to writers.
The Writers Union, which controlled literature in Soviet times and handed out
privileges to writers who conformed, has split into feuding groups,
squabbling for control of the union's lucrative property holdings.
Russia's most famous literary journal, Novy Mir, celebrated its 75th
anniversary this year, but its significance is an echo of the political and
social role it played under Communist rule. Back in November, 1962, during
the Khrushchev thaw, Novy Mir published One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's exposé of life in a Stalin labour camp.
At its peak, in the perestroika era of the 1980s, when it was publishing The
Gulag Archipelago and other formerly banned works, Novy Mir's circulation
reached 2.75 million copies a month. That figure has fallen to just 15,000
Now, even Solzhenitsyn himself, despite his celebrated return from exile six
years ago, seems a grumpy icon from an unlamented era. The initial print run
for his last book, Russia in the Abyss, was a lowly 5,000 copies. And no
wonder. Abyss is a broadside against contemporary Russian values that
denounces Western concepts of democracy and individual liberty -- the very
ideals that offered him a refuge and allowed him to write freely in Vermont
when he was expelled from Russia after Gulag was published in the West in the
A religious recluse who refuses interviews, Solzhenitsyn issues periodic
encyclicals from his home outside Moscow, advocating a "benign dictatorship"
and a return to the teachings of the Russian Orthodox church.
Such ideas don't hold much currency in the rambunctious literary culture of
the New Russia. Indeed, some writers argue that Russian literature is
healthier today than at any time since the days of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.
Censorship has ended -- at least for fiction writers. There is no artificial
glorification of mediocre official writers, and no underground hero status
for dissident writers who were sometimes equally commonplace.
Instead of the monolithic Writers Union, there are literary clubs that put on
readings, discussion groups and nearly a dozen independent bookstores in
Moscow. One of them is Shakespeare and Company. Named after the famous Left
Bank bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare was opened in 1993 by Alexander Ivanov,
a philosopher and former editor in the Soviet Ministry of Culture.
Ivanov operates a publishing house -- which specializes in translations of
new philosophical works from the West -- a literary salon and a bookstore
offering English, Russian and used books in a basement suite of rooms that
attracts intelligentsia, literati and foreigners. "Lots of Russians are
catching up on their educations," he says, sipping a Starbucks coffee.
In the early 1990s, when Western books were still a novelty, the Russian book
industry was filled with hasty Russian translations of foreign bestsellers.
Now the field has widened to include rediscovered and unexpurgated early
Soviet classics and homegrown pulp fiction in the crime and romance genres.
Even the most experimental writers can find a niche in journals and small
literary presses like Perova's Glas, which publishes new and rediscovered
Russian writers in English translation. Nowadays writers won't be rich, but
they will be published.
"I think Russian writing is experiencing a boom," Perova says. "In Soviet
times we had only socialist realism or anti-socialist realism. Now we have
every kind of realism -- magic realism, surrealism, symbolism, dirty realism
-- and every other kind of writing too."
As a promotional boost for new fiction, the late Sir Michael Caine, founder
of the Booker Prize, introduced a Russian Booker in 1991. The Booker, now
called the Smirnoff-Booker after the vodka company, picked up the sponsorship
last year, gives $12,500 (U.S.) to the winner and $1,000 (U.S.) to each of
the runners-up. Today there is a flurry of prizes, including an
anti-establishment prize called the Little Booker.
One of the biggest literary success stories is Viktor Pelevin, a 38-year-old
postmodern Moscow writer who writes complex tales crammed with ironic
allusions to philosophy, Eastern religions, politics, history and classic
literature. With sales of more than 250,000 for his latest novel, he is one
of the biggest selling authors in Russia.
Pelevin, a former heavy drug-user, is shaven-headed, wears dark glasses,
shuns the media and spends months meditating with Buddhist monks in Korea. He
is often seen as a spokesman for his generation -- an image bolstered by the
title of his latest book, Generation P.
But Pelevin disavows any social responsibility or moral role. His books mock
everyone equally. He has said he is disgusted by his own country -- an
admission that provoked some critics to attack him for his lack of patriotism.
In one of his novels, Life of Insects, he compares human life to the
existence of a dung beetle, rolling a ball of dung over the earth with
"Pelevin expresses the mood of today better than anyone else," says Perova,
who helped propel Pelevin to fame. "He has the same attitude of irony that is
so widespread among young people today. Something that was held so sacred
[the Soviet system] just crumbled in front of their eyes, so of course they
regard the past with irony."
Next week, Sandra Martin profiles Alexandra Marinina and Geoffrey York
interviews Mikhail Butov.
The Independent (UK)
July 18, 2000
PODIUM: RUSSIA NEEDS UNDERSTANDING, NOT AID: PODIUM: SERGEI
KARAGANOV; TAKEN FROM THE WORLD SERVICE LECTURE GIVEN BY THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR
OF THE INSTITUTE OF EUROPE'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
THE PICTURE of Russia that prevails in the Western press is bleak. Russia is
portrayed as a totally corrupt state dominated once again by security
services, a country almost culturally alien to the West. The privatisation is
now nearly universally condemned as unfair. But the disillusionment is
largely misplaced, born by inadequate expectations, by the belief that a
country as large and as complex as Russia could with one jump rejoin the
civilisation it had parted from.
The West needs more realism in understanding that, as a result of 75 years of
Communist rule and 10 years of unsuccessful reforms, Russia is living through
a political period that most other European nations experienced more or less
a century ago. It is relatively poor, has an underdeveloped democracy, strong
autocratic tendencies and a weak civic society. Its population is exhausted
by years of excruciating Communist experience and a decade of painful
Russia has developed quickly over the last decade, but not instantaneously.
It has to acquire its own experience through its own victories and defeats.
But even when and if it becomes a successful economy and a developed
democracy, it will never become exactly a Western economy or a Western
democracy. Russia should be able to choose its own mix of policies that suits
its weaknesses and strengths, its history and culture.
The West should acknowledge with some humility that even if it won the Cold
War - with the great help of Russians and other citizens of the former USSR -
it has achieved very mixed results in terms of the post- Cold War
reconstruction, especially in terms of the creation of the new international
system and its dealings with Russia. If, of course, the aim was not to make
things worse. But I do not believe in the anti-Russian conspiracy theory.
Probably the West could not and should not help much. But at least the policy
should be: do not hinder. Do not hinder by sucking all the juices from the
Russian economy by insisting on quick repayment of Soviet debts. Do not
hinder by providing new aid, other than restructuring old debts. The past has
shown unequivocally that aid only postponed necessary reforms, providing
fertile ground for stagnation and the corruption of the regime.
Do not hinder by increasing the feeling of humiliation and insecurity through
further expansion of Nato, by repeating this past mistake. Nato has been, and
would have continued to be, a legitimate organisation even without expansion.
The slogan "expand or die" was a wrong one.
And do not hinder by turning a deaf ear to possible violations of personal
freedoms, of freedoms of the press. In the past, the West has supported
policies that most Russians, even Russian Westernisers, rejected or detested
- such as bad reforms, the 1993 bombardment of parliament, or the first
Chechen war. This time the West should try to support values that most
Russians support too.
History has shown that there is no reasonable third way for Russia. If it
wants to be an affluent country where citizens live decently and are proud of
their homeland, it has to go the first way - liberal economics, a strong but
democratic state, and integration in the new global economy and informational
space. However, the same history, as well as simple common sense, shows that
there are many paths to travel that one and only way. There are success
stories outside the traditional West.
Ten years ago Russia, and those whose advice it took, decided to travel a
wrong path. That happens. But Russia cannot afford to make a second mistake.
It has already lost almost hundred years. Now it should not hurry and it
should not be pushed.
Russia is a country living through a very difficult but fascinating period.
Most countries, we know, have lived through such periods. Many have survived
World Socialist Web Site
The Gusinsky affair: where are the dangers to democracy in Russia coming from?
By Vladimir Volkov
The arrest on June 13 of Russia's biggest media tycoon, the “oligarch”
Vladimir Gusinsky, caused a stir both in Russia and internationally. For
the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a member of the
“caste of untouchables” was arrested. In the course of the stormy events of
the past 10 years governors, ministers and even the chief state prosecutor
have been imprisoned, but never one of the handful of super-rich Russian
The circumstances under which Gusinsky was arrested seem like something out
of a police thriller. He had been subpoenaed as a witness by the chief
state prosecutor's office to testify about companies belonging to his
Media-Most holding group, the offices of which had been raided and searched
by a special unit of the secret service on May 11, just after Putin assumed
office. After questioning, he was charged and detained in Butyrka Prison,
which is run by the chief prosecutor's office. His detention pending trial
was set at 10 days. At the time of the arrest President Vladimir Putin was
abroad, in Spain.
Gusinsky was arrested on suspicion of committing a crime pursuant to
Section 179 of the Russian Criminal Code which makes “theft of property by
large groups through embezzlement or abuse of confidence” punishable by
law. According to the state prosecutor's office, Gusinsky and several board
members of the Russian Video state enterprise “removed not less than 10
million US dollars from state property without returning it”.
Most Russian politicians and media criticised the arrest. Grigory
Yavlinsky, the parliamentary leader of the Yabloko party in the Duma, who
has close ties to the Media-Most group, denounced the arrest as an “action
taken to intimidate society and the media”. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of
the Communist Party of Russia (CPR), said there had been “no particular
need” for such draconian action against Gusinsky.
Mikhael Gorbachev, the former president of the USSR, said Gusinsky's arrest
was not only a calculated move against the Media-Most group, but was also
directed against Putin himself. Irina Khakamada, the vice-spokesperson of
the Forces of the Right grouping, voiced a similar opinion: “At a time when
Putin is carrying out state reforms, the arrest of Gusinsky could lead to a
split in society and the loss of some of the support Putin has in the
A typical reaction by the press was a headline in the newspaper Vedomosti,
which is jointly published in Russia with the Wall Street Journal and the
Financial Times. The headline read: “Dictatorship of the Law?”
Countless Western politicians denounced Gusinsky's arrest. US President
Bill Clinton said nobody should be arrested because of the views he or she
expressed in the media. A representative of the US State Department warned
that Russia's international reputation would be damaged if the government
took action to intimidate the media. And the chairman of the Organisation
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Freimut Duwe, requested in a
letter to the Russian Ministry of the Interior that the circumstances of
Gusinsky's arrest be clarified.
Putin's behaviour indicates that he was informed in advance. Although he
referred to the arrest as a “questionable gift”, he stressed that he has
confidence in Russia's judiciary. Striking an ironic note, he said,
“Gusinsky is a very talented person. He succeeded in gaining control of an
enterprise worth 1.3 billion dollars, and has hardly paid back any of it.”
Putin also mentioned the money owed to the semi-state-run natural gas
corporation Gazprom by the Media-Most group. A short while later, however,
he called the arrest a “mistake”.
Due to public pressure, Gusinsky was unexpectedly released from jail on
June 16. He had to agree not to leave the country while charges are being
pressed against him. His request to visit his family in Spain was refused.
Was there a crime?
Gusinsky's attorneys argue that the action taken against him was completely
arbitrary and lacked any factual basis. It is therefore necessary to look
more closely at the reason given for taking this action against the
Media-Most group and Gusinsky: the legal proceedings against the
Petersburg-based Russian Video company, which were initiated in 1998.
This company directed by Dimitry Roshjestvensky, was established in
December 1996. Some 70 percent of its shares were owned by a state company
of the same name. The newly established company's articles of association
forbade the sale of these shares to private persons.
The company was granted a license to broadcast television programs in
February 1997. As opposed to the customary time-consuming procedure, this
license was granted in a matter of hours. Immediately afterwards, the
company's articles of association were altered to permit the unrestricted
sale of shares. In late May, Media-Most purchased 75 percent of the shares
for $5,000, thus virtually becoming the owner of the company.
In late 1998 court proceedings were initiated due to irregularities in the
purchase of these shares. According to the newspaper Izvestia, the
investigation uncovered the fact that about $1 million had been transferred
to Roshjestvensky's bank account two weeks before the change in ownership.
Roshjestvensky was charged with gross theft of property and arrested. He
remains in jail to this day.
The $10 million Gusinsky is accused of having embezzled is allegedly the
difference between the actual market value of the Russian Video shares and
the very small amount of money his group paid for them.
Judging by the methods with which state-run enterprises were privatised in
the 1990s, this is not an exceptional case. For instance, 10 times that
amount of money was involved in the proceedings last year against Boris
Beresovsky, who was accused of concealing revenue from the Aeroflot
airline. It can be assumed that, according to the laws of that time, the
take-over of Russian Video for a symbolic price was perfectly legal, as was
the purchase of hundreds of formerly state-owned enterprises.
In view of the fact that swindles of this type could be carried out
absolutely legally and on such a large scale, the question that arises is:
to what extent were these laws themselves legitimate? From the perspective
of society, it is not a matter of indifference how these large segments of
property passed into the hands of a few people. This is the core of the
problem, and this is where the legal case becomes a political issue.
The attorneys of the Media-Most group recognised this context, and are
trying to put it to use for the benefit of their client. The case they are
making is that Gusinsky is not being persecuted because he purchased shares
in Russian Video, but rather as a result of the general transformation of
state property into joint-stock companies. Consequently they argue that, if
the Russian Video case is branded as a crime, the entire process of
privatisation in Russia over the past 10 years would have to be declared a
According to an old saying, “There is a crime at the bottom of every great
fortune.” This couldn't be more pertinent than in today's Russia. Boris
Beresovsky made a characteristic admission in this regard: “There isn't one
businessman who didn't in some way break the law over the past 10 years.
Obviously, the judiciary has the means to bring any one of them to court.
But I am completely against this sort of thing”.
The “clan wars” escalate
Gusinsky himself warned that further arrests are being prepared. He claims
to possess confidential information substantiating this. Gusinsky named as
possible victims: Vagit Alekperov, the president of Russia's biggest oil
company Lukoil, and board members of the Yukos oil company.
The Kremlin also gave indications that it would take action against other
oligarchs. The new Minister of Industrial and Commercial Development German
Gref stated at a press conference: “If there are oligarchs—meaning people
who use their contacts to the government for the purpose of increasing
their capital—we must combat this phenomenon in all areas.”
But in actual fact, something quite different is involved here, namely the
elimination of the competitors of those finance and industry magnates who
currently have the closest links to the Kremlin. Gusinsky named five
persons he claims are responsible for his arrest. They all belong to the
former entourage of Boris Yeltsin, and are the people who “made” Putin
Russia's new president: the chief of presidential office administration
Alexander Voloshin, former Yeltsin adviser V. Yumashev, the Duma members
and oligarchs Boris Beresovsky and Roman Abramovich, and the banker A. Mamut.
The Gusinsky affair thus reflects the escalating struggle for power and
influence among the major groups within the Russian ruling class. The same
groups are involved as a year ago, when Yevgeny Primakov was prime
minister. But the relative strength of these groups has changed
dramatically since then.
A year ago, a campaign was waged against the so-called
“Beresovsky-Abramovich group” which had close ties to Yeltsin. Beresovsky
was on the wanted list with an international arrest warrant, and his
companies were being investigated by the intelligence service and the
revenue service police.
The core of the anti-Kremlin coalition of that time was formed by the
“Fatherland—All Russia” movement led by Primakov and Yuri Lushkov, the
mayor of Moscow. Gusinsky's Media-Most company supported this group with
propaganda. Yavlinsky's Liberal “Yabloko” party also supported the
campaign. The objective of this coalition was a radical change of personnel
in the uppermost echelons, while retaining Yeltsin as the “guarantor of the
constitution” and symbol of the continuity of “democratic reforms”.
Reacting to this, the Kremlin “family” undertook desperate efforts to keep
their grip on the levers of power. To this end, they established the new
political movement “Unity” which became the second largest parliamentary
group in the Duma in the December 1999 elections. An hysterical campaign
aimed at discrediting the Kremlin's opponents was launched in the mass
media. Against the backdrop of the emerging armed conflict in the Northern
Caucasus, Vladimir Putin was systematically built up in the media as the
incarnation of imperial Russian power. Finally, Yeltsin's voluntary
resignation made possible Putin's ascension to the pinnacle of Kremlin
power. The net result was that the “family” not only remained in power, but
even strengthened its position.
Even Viktor Tretyakov, the editor-in-chief of the Nyezavissimaya Gazeta
newspaper, which is controlled by Beresovsky, sees the action taken against
Gusinsky as the result of a fight between two groups of oligarchs. In an
editorial he wrote that all of these events are “part of the history of the
struggle ... between the Kremlin oligarchs and the Most oligarchs”. He then
pointed out that, because Gusinsky had sought support from international
organisations, the Kremlin regards him and his entire holding company “as a
source of oppositionist and even anti-state politics. The diagnosis was
made, and therapeutic measures failed. They have now opted for surgical
The Nyezavissimaya Gazeta editor's references to the “anti-state” and
“political” nature of Gusinsky's activities are an indication that the
Kremlin is relying more and more openly on nationalistic traditions and the
“defence of state rights” that once served the Stalin regime as a
justification for brutally suppressing dissidents.
Gusinsky's attorneys argue that the diminuation of this oligarch's rights
will have far-reaching consequences for society as a whole. Defending his
rights, they say, is the way in which society can uphold its own rights and
There is an element of truth in this. If an all-powerful oligarch stands
defenceless before the state apparatus and its officials, what does this
mean for the situation of a normal citizen? It is therefore undoubtedly
necessary to oppose despotic and violent acts by the state.
But there is more than this to the Gusinsky affair, which becomes clear
once one switches from the immediate sphere of political rights and
freedoms to the level of fundamental social and economic relations.
Looking at the origins of Vladimir Gusinsky's personal wealth, the media
empire built up by him or the political positions of his holding company,
it becomes clear that this affair only involves the defence of democratic
rights and freedoms to a very, very limited degree.
Gusinsky and his media empire are the result of a redistribution of social
wealth into the hands of a minuscule group of private persons that is
unprecedented in its extent and rapidity. This process is of a profoundly
undemocratic nature. It was paid for with the suffering and poverty of
millions of people who were pushed down into hunger and misery.
It is worth noting how Russian society reacted to Gusinsky's arrest.
According to an opinion poll carried out by the All-Russian Centre for
Social Opinion Research in Moscow on June 20, about 17 percent of the
respondents reacted to the media tycoon's arrest with fear and indignation.
Some 25 percent expressed satisfaction, and 32 percent felt no emotion at
all. When asked whether Gusinsky had been involved in financial
manipulations, 83 percent of the respondents answered “yes” and only 6
percent considered him innocent.
The social abyss between the thin layer of rich upstarts and the rest of
the population is so deep that many Russians regard the “punishment” of
someone from the “caste of the untouchables” as being a kind of
compensation for the poverty they themselves have to suffer.
Both the Kremlin “family” and the Gusinsky supporters in the financial and
political elite are aware of this. They fear that the population's mood may
turn against all of them due to these scandalous revelations. Consequently,
they are attempting to stop the conflict before it boils over.
The newspaper Sevodnya, which belongs to the Media-Most holding company,
even invoked the threat of revolution and urged the powers-that-be not to
“shatter” the country. “If you start playing the ‘justice game',” the
newspaper warned Russia's rulers, “then you will have to be prepared to
play by the rules of 1937 [the year of Stalin's Great Terror] to preserve
your power. Or you will let go of the initiative, ‘the process will
develop', and you will end up in 1917.”
At all of the decisive turning points in post-Soviet history, Gusinsky's
media empire faithfully served the interests of the new ruling class. It
provided the propaganda to justify the economic, social, criminal and
intellectual excesses of capitalist restoration. It supported the
dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gaidar's “shock therapy” and Yeltsin's
bombardment of parliament in 1993. It was actively involved in Yeltsin's
1996 re-election campaign and now supports Putin's economic and political
Looking at all of this in context, it becomes clear that the main danger to
the population's democratic rights and liberties does not originate from
individual representatives of the state at a national or regional level. It
originates from the inner requirements of the development of Russian
capitalism, which feels inconvenienced by all formal attributes of
democracy and wishes to get rid of them.
The increased tendency of the government to rely on repressive police-state
methods cannot be brought to a halt by abstract appeals to the “eternal
values” of democracy. Only an independent and conscious political movement
of the working population that stands in opposition to the whole basis of
the profit system can bring about a truly democratic change in the
interests of the majority of society's members.