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26 July 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Jack Kollmann: Alex Dallin passes away.
2. Moscow Times: Gregory Feifer, President To Meet With 18 Oligarchs.
3. Wall Street Journal: George Melloan, Putin's Law: Press and State
Are Natural Adversaries.
4. AFP: Russian military, Kremlin at odds over Chechen casualty
5. Inter Press Service: Siberia-Environment: Plans to Build More
Nuclear Plants Assailed.
6. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN PRISONS STRETCHED BY NEEDLESS DETENTIONS,
REFORM RESISTED BY POLICE.
7. St. Petersburg Times EDITORIAL: Law Enforces Ignorance of AIDS
8. Moscow Times: Yulia Latynina, Chubais and Putin 'Reform' in
9. Reuters: Russia's Putin may face trouble on key tax bill.
10. Newsday: Michael Slackman, Displaced Peoples Of The Former
Soviet Union. The Last of the Tofalar. A people's identity lost
to Soviet rule.]
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000
From: Jack Kollmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Alex Dallin passes away
Alexander Dallin, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and History at
Stanford University, passed away suddenly on Saturday, July 22, 2000.
Professor Dallin -- one of America's most distinguished scholars of
Russian/Soviet history and politics -- will be sorely missed by friends,
colleagues, and the countless students who studied under him over the
years. Those wishing to extend sympathy to his family may contact his
widow, Professor Gail Lapidus, at 607 Cabrillo Ave., Stanford, CA 94305;
Lecturer in Russian and East European Studies
July 26, 2000
President To Meet With 18 Oligarchs
By Gregory Feifer
President Vladimir Putin will meet Friday in the Kremlin with 18 of the
nation's most influential businessmen and is expected to discuss with them
tense relations between his government and the private sector.
The meeting is the initiative of Boris Nemtsov, head of the State Duma's
Union of Right Forces faction.
Nemtsov said he hoped the meeting would result in the signing of a charter in
which Putin would declare his independence from all oligarchs and promise not
to use the government's so-called "power structures" to do battle with
Leading oligarchs ranging from NTV television's Vladimir Gusinsky to LUKoil
chief Vagit Alekperov have been targeted by prosecutors or other law
enforcers in recent weeks.
Some say the attentions of prosecutors or tax officials are evidence Putin is
attempting to create a police state; others say the president is helping some
loyal oligarchs by attacking their rivals; still others say he is simply
trying to restore order after a decade of grab-as-grab-can chaos.
In statements published in the Financial Times on Tuesday, Nemtsov also said
business leaders would propose a three-point declaration in which the Kremlin
would agree to stop investigations into privatization deals signed last
In return, the oligarchs would agree to "play by the rules" f paying all
their taxes and obeying the law. The government, in its turn, would also
promise to rid itself of corrupt bureaucrats, "beginning with the Prosecutor
General's Office," Nemtsov said.
But Interfax cited Kremlin sources on Monday as saying the president had no
intention of signing any agreements. Nor is it clear what signing such a
vague and sweeping pledge would even mean.
"Only actions count," said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at the Moscow
Carnegie Center. "With the privatizations of companies such as Onako and
Slavneft [oil companies] this year, for example, we will see how the
government and businesses really act."
Yury Korgunyuk of the INDEM research group said he expected Putin would more
likely be putting forward demands than accepting them from the oligarchs.
"The president has already dictated his conditions," Korgunyuk said. "Putin
will be talking from a position of strength, telling businessmen what he
wants them to do."
The Vedomosti newspaper on Tuesday published a list of 16 of the 18 people it
says are slated to take part in the meeting.
They include a number of oligarchs under the gun, including gas monopoly
Gazprom's Rem Vyakhirev, oil major LUKoil's Alekperov and Interros president
Vladimir Potanin. Notable exceptions are Media-MOST's Gusinsky and Sibneft
oil tycoons Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.
Interfax quoted a Kremlin source as saying Gusinsky, Berezovsky and
Abramovich had been excluded from the meeting for being "politicized."
Berezovsky f a sometime Kremlin strategist credited with helping bring Putin
to power f has recently criticized the president for threatening democracy.
His resignation from the Duma last week was seen by some analysts as proof
his ties to the Kremlin had been cut.
But Berezovsky has long been seen as a Kremlin insider, and others have
pointed to the fact that, while the government set its bloodhounds on a
number of oligarchs, Berezovsky not only escaped the crackdowns but has even
seen his fortunes grow.
It was Berezovsky, who, in an infamous 1997 interview with the Financial
Times, brought the term "oligarch" into the mainstream of Russian
politics-watching, saying he and six others controlled 50 percent of the
country's gross domestic product.
Many, including a number of oligarchs themselves, say the country's business
leaders f led by Berezovsky f felt they had "bought" the Kremlin during the
1996 presidential elections by contributing funds and media influence.
Speaking after his arrest last month, Gusinsky said it had been a mistake for
him to support Yeltsin in the 1996 campaign and blamed the crackdown against
his company on a turf war that he said had its origins during that time.
Gusinsky was arrested and imprisoned for three days last month, and last week
his suburban Moscow home was searched and its contents inventoried. His
Media-MOST holding runs the country's only independent television channel,
Although he will be absent from Friday's meeting, Berezovsky's interests will
be represented by Sibneft chief Yevgeny Shvidler and Russian Aluminum head
Oleg Deripaska. Berezovsky partially controls both enterprises.
Anatoly Chubais, who heads the national power grid Unified Energy Systems f
which is under investigation by the Audit Chamber f will most likely not
attend, ostensibly because he is scheduled to meet the Finnish president in
Finland on Friday.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of Yukos oil company, will attend and hopes to use
the meeting to discuss the need for investment in Russian industry, Yukos
spokesman Andrei Krasnov said.
Yukos has been absent from the list of companies recently targeted by
law-enforcement agencies. Of the targeted companies, few chose to comment on
the upcoming meeting.
"We expect constructive talks," said Interros spokesman Valentin Shapka. "One
always expects constructive talks."
This is not the first sit-down between the Kremlin and the oligarchs that
Nemtsov has brokered. In September 1997, when he was first deputy prime
minister, Nemtsov helped arrange a meeting between the business leaders and
then-President Boris Yeltsin.
"Nemtsov has the experience and the connections to be able to play a
significant role as mediator," Ryabov said.
The 1997 meeting aimed to smooth relations between oligarchs and the
so-called "young reformers" headed by then-privatization tsar Chubais. It
followed a controversial privatization of the Svyazinvest telecom holding in
which Potanin's Uneximbank's bought a stake, which was soon followed by
allegations that Chubais and other members of his' team had accepted bribes
from Uneximbank disguised as book royalties.
A second meeting in June 1998 followed the onset of the Asian economic crisis
and featured Yeltsin's dictate to the oligarchs to show Western investors an
example by putting money into their businesses instead of into Switzerland.
Wall Street Journal
July 25, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin's Law: Press and State Are Natural Adversaries
By GEORGE MELLOAN
In his state of the nation speech early this month, Russian President
Vladimir Putin declared that, "Without truly free media, Russian democracy
will simply not survive." No doubt the president was expressing a genuine
belief that springs from the intellectual processes of his mind. But it is
not clear that his emotional commitment is as strong as his words imply.
Otherwise how can you explain some of the nasty tactics his government has
been employing lately against his critics, for example the harassment of
Media-Most tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky and environmental whistle-blower
Now maybe Russian prosecutors simply have become over-zealous under the new
presidency, going all out to defend it against critics without consulting the
free press champion in the Kremlin. Or maybe Mr. Putin, trained in the arts
of duplicity at the KGB -- one of the best schools available -- reflexively
says one thing while doing quite another. Or perhaps the politics of Russia
are only slightly less Byzantine than they were in the days of the Communist
apparatchiks and, before them, the Imperial Court. Given the fact that
Russia's press lords are themselves political players, the last explanation
perhaps serves best.
Mr. Putin no doubt understands, as have countless national leaders before
him, that while a free press might serve the cause of democracy, it often
does not serve the interests of a head of government. Some American
presidents of recent history, most notably Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard
Nixon, were never comfortable with the press and were often visibly
frustrated by their inability, under the constraints of constitutional law
and popular tradition, to do anything to shut up those pesky writers and
President Putin noted in his speech that "censorship and interference in the
activities of the media are prohibited by law." In that sense, the new Russia
is not much different from the U.S. But governments do not always obey their
own laws, another area where certain similarities exist between the two
nations. Russia's defect is that it has yet to build a popular tradition in
support of press freedom and it is not likely to do so until an overwhelming
number of Russian voters come to trust the press more than they trust the
government. Or in other words, more than not at all. One would think that
should not be so difficult, given the lying and cover-ups the Communist Party
used for so many years to protect its hold on power. But when the press
itself is tendentious, with some of its dominant members forsaking truth and
objectivity in the pursuit of political ends, public trust is not easily
That was one of the points made by the 11-member Russian Press Freedom
Support Group that went to Russia earlier this month at the invitation of the
Russian Union of Journalists and the Glasnost Defense Foundation. The
delegates, representing six leading international free-press organizations,
concluded that one threat to press freedom was "the lack of high standards of
ethics and professionalism in the news media." Their statement was presented
at the House of Journalists in Moscow by James H. Ottaway Jr., a Dow Jones
senior vice president and chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee. It
added: "If the media are to claim their vital place in building a free and
democratic society, they must be worthy of that standing."
This challenge to the press itself is often missing from the arguments of its
defenders. That's because so many of those defenders fail to see, or at least
acknowledge, that as they scrutinize the behavior of politicians, their
audiences are scrutinizing them. There is no natural law that says that
politicians are always wrong and the press is always right. As Jim Ottaway's
group reminded the Russian journalists, the press has to earn the public
support they will need if they are to cross swords with powerful politicians.
Indeed, a reputation for honesty and integrity is the only weapon the press
has in this struggle.
In some parts of the world it is an uneven struggle. Journalists can have
influence if they are persuasive but they don't have power, in the strictest
sense of the word. They control no armies or police forces. They are
incapable of corrupting a judicial system to do their bidding, as national
leaders in some countries have succeeded in doing. They have no way to stop a
state bureaucracy from using its powers to regulate and tax in order to
punish enemies of a powerful politician. All those levers are within the
reach of political leaders, who too often justify their use on the grounds
that they, and only they, know what's best for the nation they govern.
The only counterbalance is the corporate will of those governed. That counts
for a great deal in states where the democratic tradition has been firmly
established, as in the U.S. and Western Europe. It counts for very little in
states where no functioning democratic system of at least two parties exists,
but the number of such states is shrinking as rising income and educational
levels in such places as Asia and Latin America reduce public tolerance for
authoritarian rule. As the people in such places demand better performance
from their political leaders, they also demand it from the press.
Even in the advanced democracies, the relationship between the press and the
state is not likely to maintain its dynamic balance in the absence of press
vigilance. As an article in the Asian and U.S. Wall Street Journals noted
last week, that once great citadel of freedom, Hong Kong, is experiencing
subtle pressures on the media under the three-year-old rule of mainland
China. The government of chief executive Tung Chee Hwa has allegedly urged
local real estate tycoons not to advertise in the Chinese language
publications of China critic Jimmy Lai.
Even in the U.S., with its strong and diverse media voices, subtle abuses of
individual rights by the state are not uncommon. Stephen Labaton, writing in
Sunday's New York Times, cites the FBI's new computer program, called
Carnivore, designed to capture private exchanges of messages on the Internet.
The FBI, of course, always justifies such privacy invasions on grounds that
they are needed to fight terrorism, drug traffic or whatever happens to be
the threat of the moment. But after a taste of Janet Reno's politicization of
the Justice Department, who is to say that this weapon won't some day be used
So it's useful, for journalists everywhere, to consider recent events in
Russia. They need every reminder that their duty is to the electorate,
because without the electorate's support, no legal press freedom guarantee is
Russian military, Kremlin at odds over Chechen casualty claims
MOSCOW, July 25 (AFP) -
Russia's military unexpectedly contradicted the Kremlin on Tuesday and
confirmed that a battle in which Chechen rebels claimed to have killed dozens
of federal troops indeed took place.
But the commanders, while refusing to disclose any specific casualty figures,
dismissed reports of heavy Russian casualties as flat-out lies.
"Reports in some Western media that federal troops suffered huge losses near
Serzhen-Yurt are completely absurd," military spokesman Sergei Artyomov told
the ITAR-TASS news agency from Russian headquarters in Chechnya.
The agency cited him as saying that Russian losses in the Serzhen-Yurt battle
were not heavy.
But his comments displayed a rare lack of coordination in Russia's bid to
play down toll reports from the nine-month "anti-terrorist" operation.
Only hours earlier in Moscow, the top Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya denied
there had been any recent fighting near the southeastern Chechen settlement
"There was no fighting in Chechnya," Sergei Yastrzhembsky told ITAR-TASS.
He was commenting on claims by Chechen rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov that
several dozen Russian soldiers had been killed during a four-hour battle.
Udugov said a Russian military column composed of armored vehicles and trucks
was attacked by some 100 rebels. He said only three Chechens were killed in
Both sides have regularly exaggerated their opponent's losses in the course
of the nine-month war.
Yastrzhembsky has called Udugov an "information terrorist" and cautions the
Russian media against reporting Chechen claims of Russian losses.
These are nearly impossible to independently confirm because journalists'
access to the war zone is strictly monitored by federal troops.
However at least one television station -- the privately-run NTV network of
Vladimir Gusinsky -- has regularly been breaking conventional rules and
airing footage of Russian casualties in Chechnya.
It aired another such tape on Tuesday showing the remains of four soldiers
killed in a bomb blast near the settlement Noviye-Atagi several days ago.
The report pointed out that the Kremlin has kept mum about that incident.
The Russian military has said that more than 2,200 soldiers have been killed
and another 6,400 wounded since troops and tanks rolled into the republic on
A committee of soldiers' mothers and some defense analysts suggest the true
toll is several times higher.
Yet the war remains largely popular at home and President Vladimir Putin in
Moscow on Tuesday re-affirmed his commitment to the offensive.
"The Chechen people are part of the Russian people," the RIA-Novosti news
agency quoted Putin as telling an awards ceremony of federal servicemen in
The new Kremlin chief's popularity has been helped largely by his hard-line
approach to the rebels.
He has also struck a cord in Russia's poorly financed military -- demoralized
since the 1994-96 fiasco in Chechnya -- by reaffirming his strong commitment
to helping the country's armed forces.
Putin returned to that theme again Tuesday.
"Today, military force is the most important factor in preserving stability
in Russia, and keeping its integrity and sovereignty," ITAR-TASS quoted Putin
"That is especially apparent when attempts are made to re-draw the map of the
world and there is a new threat of international terrorism," he said.
Siberia-Environment: Plans to Build More Nuclear Plants Assailed
Inter Press Service
IRKUTSK, Russia, (Jul. 23) IPS - Young environmentalist Alexei Toropov says
he is dedicating his life to fighting for the safe clean-up of radioactive
waste in one of the world's largest nuclear -- and arguably the most
contaminated -- complexes, near his hometown of Tomsk, in Western Siberia.
So when he discovered that the government was planning to build yet another
nuclear reactor nearby, for the sole purpose of heating water in his city and
surrounding towns, he quickly fought back, arguing that Russia should instead
make use of the country's abundant natural gas reserves.
But when he found out that a neighboring Russian state of Altay was planning
to sell most of its supply of clean-burning natural gas to China, instead of
for use domestically, he said he could only shake his head in disbelief.
"We already have the largest nuclear waste storage site in the world," he
said in a recent interview. "Russia should use this gas in Russia as an
alternative to building more unsafe nuclear plants."
Toropov lives just 16 kilometers south of the gated city of Seversk, formerly
called Tomsk 7, which was part of the nuclear archipelago of ten secret
weapons research and production centers of the former Soviet Union.
The nuclear complex, now called the Siberian Chemical Complex, includes two
working reactors (and several rusting relics), a uranium-enrichment plant and
a reprocessing facility.
It also contains the world's biggest underground storage site for nuclear
waste, into which highly radioactive waste from the reprocessing facility is
still being pumped. A chemical plant at which warhead components were once
made, using plutonium, also operates on the premises.
According to Toropov, the 40-year-old plutonium-producing reactors are the
most immediate problem. The two reactors are graphite-moderated and
water-cooled, precursors of the design used at Chernobyl. Enormous stacks of
graphite blocks surround vertical rods containing fuel. There are no
containment vessels, no emergency core-cooling systems, he says.
"It was the design from which the Russians learned the lessons they
subsequently incorporated in Chernobyl," notes Matthew Bunn of Harvard
University, as quoted in the Economist magazine.
The graphite is now swelling and cracking as a result of years of irradiation
which creates the risk of another Chernobyl, says Toropov. If the rods or
tubes in the core begin to buckle, engineers cannot control the speed of the
reaction by withdrawing the fuel rods, he argues.
In 1993, there was an accident at the reprocessing plant in Seversk which
contaminated three villages to the northeast. A cloud of about 400 micro
roentgens per hour of gamma radiation was released into the air. To put t his
amount in perspective, the plant, by law, is supposed to alert the public if
there is a constant release of 60 micro roentgens per hour.
Fortunately, says Toropov, the wind that day was blowing away from Tomsk
where about half a million people live.
While officials deny that any harm was caused, villagers continue to complain
of high levels of illness. New cases of thyroid cancer in the Tomsk region
have risen sharply. In the early 1980s, there were three or four new cases
each year; in the second half of the 1990s, more than 50.
A recent study by scientists in Moscow found that men living near the plant
had drastically low sperm counts.
Since 1993, there have been four other smaller accidents, says Toropov who
said he learned of these toxic releases through scientists working in the
plant who leaked the information to him.
Toropov, 22, like about 40 other young environmentalists throughout Siberia,
travelled here this month to Irkutsk to participate in a two-week
environmental monitoring training program. While here, he has shared his
nuclear monitoring project of the Tomsk Ecological Student Inspection (TESI),
an environmental organization.
On a recent radiation inspection near the plant, TESI found that a migratory
duck swimming in nearby Black Lake, contained 2,100 micro roentgens per hour.
"If a person ate this duck, it would be pretty likely that they would die of
cancer in a few years," he said, adding that the bird has been known to
migrate as far as India to avoid the icy Siberian winters.
TESI has also reported mutations in the vegetation surrounding the "buffer
zone" around the complex.
"People from Seversk continue to fish in Black Lake and pick berries and
mushrooms near the plant even though there are signs saying not to do so in
the area," says Toropov.
In 1994, Vice-President Al Gore signed an agreement with Viktor Chernomyrdin,
then Russia's prime minister, to eventually close down the old reactors in
In order to provide needed heat to the cities and towns in the cold Siberian
region, the government, in 1996, proposed building a new nuclear power plant,
known as AST 500. The enabling law required a public hearing on the project,
but Toropov says that people in Tomsk only found out about the event a few
days before they had to register for the hearing, which was held this past
Dozens of present and former workers at the nuclear complex, who live in
Seversk, came out to support the project. While members of TESI spoke out
against the plant, saying they favored exploiting Russia's gas reserves
instead, local media reported that the public strongly supported AST 500.
"We didn't have any time to prepare, (for the hearing)," Toropov says. He is
now calling for a new public hearing to be held in Tomsk about the proposal.
But he worries that the authorities will approve the plant before a new
hearing is conducted.
Besides robbing the Tomsk region of an alternative to nuclear energy, Toropov
argues that the plan to ship natural gas to China also threatens wildlife
since it will require the construction of a pipeline through the Ukok Plateau
in the Altay Mountains, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Home to the few remaining snow leopards in Siberia, the plateau is known for
its rich biodiversity and ancient archaeological sites.
"Right now there are no pipelines, major roads or train lines that traverse
the region like the proposed pipeline would," he says.
Toropov says Tomsk would have less need for new energy if authorities
concentrated more on improving the energy efficiency in the region.
In 1994 a study found that 55 percent of the heat produced in frosty Tomsk
was wasted. Russian buildings leak energy like sieves: they use 425
kilowatt-hours per square meter a year, compared with 135 in Sweden and 120
in the Unite d States.
In Tomsk, the potential for heat loss is even worse, argues Toropov. The
pipes that currently carry fuel around the district's heating network from
the nuclear plants to Seversk and Tomsk are completely un-insulated.
RUSSIAN PRISONS STRETCHED BY NEEDLESS DETENTIONS, REFORM RESISTED BY POLICE
Source: Ren TV, Moscow, in Russian 1030 gmt 25 Jul 00
[Presenter] A year ago, the Justice Ministry prepared and sent to the State
Duma 59 changes and amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian
Federation. Specialists believe that the proposals can result in substantial
improvements in the catastrophic state of Russia's penal system.
[Correspondent] The Council of Europe has compared imprisonment in Russia to
torture. Since 1998, the Justice Ministry has, so far in vain, tried to
remedy the dismal situation in the country's remand facilities. Our pretrial
detention centres are now overcrowded to the extent that people there sleep
in shifts, while some of them are forced to endure these conditions for up to
five or six years.
[Video shows filthy, overcrowded cells]
Conditions in prisons are not much better.
The Justice Ministry has sought improvements and proposed shorter prison
terms in cases of insignificant crimes and, in some cases, the replacement of
imprisonment with exile without confinement, conditional sentences,
undertakings not to leave the country and fines. Specialists estimate that,
if the recommendations are implemented, the prison population would fall at
least by 40 per cent and savings of up to R500m per annum could be made.
However, the people's deputies in the previous State Duma thought there were
more urgent issues to deal with: The law passed only the first reading...
All indications are that the approval of the Justice Ministry proposals may
be delayed even further. After all, most of the deputies in this State Duma
are new, with only a handful in possession of law degrees.
More important, the concerns of the Justice Ministry and the interests of the
security ministries and departments are diametrically opposed.
[Oleg Filimonov, chief of Justice Ministry legal directorate] The
law-enforcement agencies that work on the basis of preliminary investigation
do not like our draft law. Quite obviously, it suits the investigators to
remand someone in custody, as in many respects it is thought to help their
work. They know that those under investigation will thus not be able to
abscond. So, when investigators are free, they question them. While, however,
the former are busy, the latter continue to be remanded in custody. That's
how it is, to make things simple for the investigators.
Now, however, it will be much more difficult for them to work.
[Correspondent] The amendments will cause disruption in the habitual routine
of some of the most influential institutions, such as the Interior Ministry,
the Federal Security Service, the State Customs Committee and the tax police.
It is the interests of these organizations that some of the people's deputies
St. Petersburg Times
July 25, 2000
Law Enforces Ignorance of AIDS Risks
LAST week The St. Petersburg Times featured an article that was technically
illegal. We apologize for any mayhem this may have caused on city streets
this weekend. We were unaware of the illegality of our actions under Article
1 of the Press Law. The Law "forbids the dissemination throughout the mass
media ... of information about the means, methods of production, preparation
and use of narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, and their
components, any kind propaganda about where or how you can use narcotics, or
psychotropics ... " - in other words, the less you know the less likely you
are to try it.
This is typical of Russia's attitude towards drugs, especially towards those
that may in fact contribute to the spread of diseases such as AIDS. For fear
of contributing to the proliferation of the practice in question, which is
actually responsible for 90 percent of the 50,000 new cases of HIV in Russia,
the strong arm of the law forbids us to inject ideas and information into the
minds of our readers.
Isn't this the very information people need as a deterrent? It is a shame
that sufficient educational programs about the dangers of drug use are not
widely available, but it is a greater shame that those media, which have the
power to provide that education, are forbidden from doing so by lawmakers
embarrassed about the problems their laws are written to cover up.
Open your eyes! Take a look at Kaliningrad, at the Moskovsky Oblast, at the
Leningrad Oblast, or at Tolyatti, where the blooming problem is treated like
inclement weather. With 10 to 20 new cases per day in some of these places,
can people possibly understand the risks of what they are doing?
In Chelyabinsk, City Hall and several NGOs have made an effort to disseminate
information on AIDS and drug use. It is graphic, but the mayor will hardly be
hauled off to jail if his own son is, as he is reported to be, an addict.
Whether it takes a worried mayor sitting on pins and those things we can't
mention, or a line of bereaved mothers, there must be a dialog, and ideas
must be spread instead of stifled by paranoid bureaucrats.
>From Vladivostok to Moscow, stifling information about this budding epidemic
is what bureaucrats do best. Remember how indifferent the government acted
when its first AIDS case was registered in 1987? How about St. Petersburg's
policy of treating for free only those infected during hospital stays? Or the
reaction to Kaliningrad's explosion when it began in the late 1990s?
Describing the cause of most of these people's sufferings is a crime, but
isn't the real crime not letting children who haven't yet been infected know
what to look out for?
July 26, 2000
INSIDE RUSSIA: Chubais and Putin 'Reform' in Tandem
By Yulia Latynina
On July 15, the national power company Unified Energy Systems started to
disconnect all who had not paid their bills in real money. But the
disconnecting of those in arrears could become yet another property
The efforts of Anatoly Chubais, the UES chief, to increase the amount of real
money coming in for electricity payments are well-known. Less well-known is
that so far those efforts have brought about a worsening of the financial
situation at UES: Arrears owed to power companies have risen to 147 billion
rubles ($5.3 billion), up from 132 billion rubles five months ago.
Chubais has been fighting against veksels, or company IOUs, and
vzyaimozachyoty, or mutual debt settlements f for example, when you owe the
power company, the power company owes the government and the government owes
you f and everyone writes off each other's debts.
The mutual debt settlements have turned into a system of private money, and
that money is worth more the closer one is to those in power.
One deputy governor in Siberia has a wonderful business: He buys up all
energy system veksels on the financial markets, where they are priced at
about 15 percent of their face value. He then forces the energy system to
honor the veksels at face value. The profits from this would make a George
Soros burst. True, about 18 months ago the deputy governor had a little
trouble: His driver was machine-gunned to death with a Kalashnikov, and the
deputy governor took a bullet in the leg.
As this example shows, when Chubais refuses to deal in mutual debt
settlements, he pulls the chair out from under the governors. In doing this,
he is doing exactly what President Vladimir Putin has done.
And again, when Chubais suggests replacing the existing regional energos with
inter-regional energy-producing companies, it very much reminds one of
replacing the nation's 89 regions with seven federal districts.
Last fall, Chubais and Oleg Deripaska, head of Siberian Aluminum, put forward
the boldest move yet in property distribution.
The object of their attack was two aluminum works, NkAZ in Novokuznetsk and
KrAZ in Krasnoyarsk.
For years, NkAZ and KrAZ have paid for their energy under a special, separate
contract f in real money, but at rates lower than the official tariffs (which
no one pays anyway). Deripaska's lawyers argued those contracts were illegal
and calculated the factories owed tens of millions of dollars to UES. In
essence, they created the debts of those factories to Chubais f after which
Chubais bankrupted the factories and gave them to Deripaska to manage.
The past two weeks have seen two new efforts at property redistribution.
The first began with the state's attacks on LUKoil, AvtoVAZ and Norilsk
Nickel, arguably to service the interests of what we could call the Roman
The second was that of the Chubais group, which has seized enterprises by
their power switches. The UES drive has been far more successful: While
everyone runs from the tax raids and criminal cases like cockroaches from a
fire, the public barely noticed Chubais' activities.
Did Putin give the Abramovich group permission to start redistributing
property? Obviously, yes f but not before he had become convinced that there
is a perfect counterbalance. After all, even if Norilsk Nickel will be sold
to Sibneft, one can always turn off Norilsk Nickel's lights.
Yulia Latynina writes for Sovershenno Sekretno.
Russia's Putin may face trouble on key tax bill
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, July 25 (Reuters) - Russia's regional bosses, whose perks and power
President Vladimir Putin has vowed to cut, signalled on Tuesday they would
fight back by placing hurdles in the path of tax reforms at the heart of
Putin's economic plans.
The budget committee of the Federation Council, parliament's upper house
where regional chiefs sit, voted to recommend the entire chamber reject part
of the tax legislation when it meets on Wednesday for the last time before
The move, the latest in a parliamentary cat-and-mouse game played out over
the past month, suggests the bill, which would overhaul and simplify the
entire tax structure, will provide Putin with his toughest political fight
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Ekho Moskvy radio the government intended
to fight for the bills and had not given up hope they would pass on
"We hope to convince the governors tomorrow. I see arguments which could
convince them in direct conversations. I will meet them again today," he
"No one has strong feelings against the tax code, as a serious step towards
improving the situation in the country and reducing the tax burden for the
real sector. But I am still cautious as each governor answers to his region."
INVESTORS FAVOUR TAX REFORM
Western investors, international lenders and Russian businessmen have all
maintained for years that radical tax reform is needed to jumpstart Russia's
But unlike Putin's political reform bills, which directly aimed to strip the
regional governors of powers, the tax reform bill has not enjoyed enough of a
majority in the State Duma lower house to override a possible governors'
One of the effects of the tax overhaul would be to centralise collection and
distribution of tax revenues that previously were left to the regional
governors to control.
The upper house budget committee asked regional bosses to vote to accept the
main tax laws, but reject the "implementation bill," a separate piece of
legislation that must be passed for the changes to take effect.
The implementation bill contains some of the most contentious measures --
including the eventual scrapping of a four percent tax on companies'
turnover, much of which is now collected and spent in the regions.
The turnover tax is perhaps Russia's most notorious levy, scorned by
businessmen because they are obliged to pay it on their revenues whether they
make a profit or not.
The tax bill fight follows weeks in which Putin hammered home his political
reforms with barely a hitch despite the rancourous objection of the
The Duma has already overridden the regional bosses' veto of a bill allowing
Putin to sack governors who break laws, and made clear it will push through a
bill stripping governors of upper house seats if the governors do not accept
it on Wednesday.
Eric Krauss, chief strategist at the NIKoil investment company, said the
decision to recommend changes to the tax bill was a sign the governors were
trying to gain a tactical advantage in their broader fight with the Kremlin.
"The governors are desperately trying to retain political leverage when they
are faced with imminent political extinction," he said.
July 23, 2000
[for personal use only]
Displaced Peoples Of The Former Soviet Union
The Last of the Tofalar
A people's identity lost to Soviet rule
By Michael Slackman (email@example.com). RUSSIA CORRESPONDENT
Nerkha, Russia-Luba Shibkeyeva quickly wrapped a scarf around her head, threw
on a blue dress decorated with fake white fur, plastic beads and medals cut
from a tin can and bolted out the door, barefoot through the mud and manure.
She met her older sister, Zena, wearing a similar costume as she bent over,
winded and wheezing by the dash from her house hundreds of yards away.
"We want to dance," Luba Shibkeyeva hollered as she struggled to keep her
footing. "Can we dance? Please, we want to dance!" The sisters had heard a
visitor had arrived in their village deep in the Siberian taiga and they were
eager to perform a native dance, one their ancestors might have performed to
welcome guests hundreds of years ago. They were joined by two other women in
similar attire and the quartet stood in the muddy grass, arms at their sides,
staring at each other. Finally, a man arrived with a handmade drum, and began
pounding, bang, bang, bang, constant and monotonous.
The women started to twirl and shuffle, and for a brief moment their radiant
smiles lit up their faces. Then one woman bumped into Luba, before wandering
off in the wrong direction. Zena's hands went up over her head, while
everyone else's stayed by their sides. One woman went left, another went
right and soon the group looked like a wind-up toy with a broken spring. They
were out of step, out of sync, out of sorts.
Embarrassed, Luba finally stopped and tried to explain.
"You see, we are Russified, we do not even know our own language," she said.
"We want to sing traditional songs, but we don't even know how. Our clothes,"
she paused, looking at the filthy costumes, "we cannot find the embroidery so
we use plastic beads." Then in a non sequitur that served to underscore their
dual loss, to their material as well as their inner lives, Luba leaned
forward and said: "We want to know, can you send a dentist? I am only 42 but
my teeth are already gone.
Doctors don't come here. I have not seen a doctor in 10 years. The children
are not checked. We just stay here and we die." For thousands of years, a
people called the Tofalar roamed this region in southern Siberia, living a
nomadic life, hunting elk, trapping sable, herding reindeer. Legend has it
that thousands of Tofalar fought in the armies of Mongol warlord Genghis Khan
before falling out of favor and taking refuge in the isolated Siberian Sayan
Mountains until 1927 when Josef Stalin forced them into crude, makeshift
Today, there is virtually nothing left of their heritage, or the people,
nothing but a few hundred souls like Luba and Zena, genetically linked to the
past, but in all other ways blind to what was. They exist in a twilight zone
of uncertainty, literally on the edge of extinction, their desperate lives
the by-product of one of the boldest and ultimately treacherous experiments
in modern history -the effort of the Soviet Union to wipe away the cultural
identity of hundreds of millions of people and replace it with a new, modern,
With the Soviet Union relegated to the pages of history, and the Tofalar's
cultural practices found nowhere but on a library shelf, they have no means
to support themselves. They receive little aid from the impoverished state;
their collectives were shuttered long ago and, even if they knew how to
extract a living from the wild, their access to ancestral lands is limited by
The only commodity they receive in abundance is cheap vodka.
As a result, their life expectancy is 47 years-at least 13 years less than
the already low average for Russian men-their monthly income is $4, about
one-tenth of that of the rest of the local region and their homes, ramshackle
huts built of timbers and planks 73 years ago, which hardly offer protection
from the unforgiving Siberian winters. Further, no one under the age of 40
speaks the native language, a guarantee of the speedy demise of what is
regarded as the bedrock of every nationality.
"The Tofalar are doomed for extinction," was the bleak assessment of the
Irkutsk Charity Foundation for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms in a
recent report. "The internal system of the national community has lost any
tradition of self-regulation. From the social memory of this national
minority any experience of administrative rule is completely wiped out." The
failure of the Soviet attempt at remaking its people was one of the
fundamental weaknesses of the once powerful empire, ultimately leading to
resurgent nationalism and cries for independence within many of its
constituent ethnic parts. But where the Soviets failed in larger regions,
like Ukraine and Georgia, the Baltics and Central Asia, they proved more
successful in Siberia.
For many years, the Tofalar were taught that their ancestral lifestyle was
primitive and that, thanks to the Soviet Union, they would leap across 1,000
years of development into civilization. They were given schools, and health
care and jobs and the chance to travel. While the truth was far murkier, with
many Tofalar unable to make the cultural adjustment, virtually all members of
the community deferentially cast aside their heritage in order to be accepted
as "Soviet" at least in name. When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of
perestroika, and with that the right of ethnic people to once again pursue
their ancestral ways, the Tofalar did not hear words of emancipation.
They heard words of doom.
"In Soviet times we didn't think of ourselves as Tofalar-it just didn't come
to mind," said Prokopiy Ungushtaev, 62, who studied agriculture and traveled
all over the Soviet Union to work. "We lived as everybody else. Now they [the
authorities] tell us we should learn more about our culture but it is
difficult. No one remembers. The old generation has died and all of our
culture was lost. It went with them." The Tofalar are among at least 30
so-called "small nations," totalling about 200,000 people, whose culture and
existence were nearly wiped out by the Soviets. Some of those groups, such as
the Evenks in northeastern Siberia, have economically miserable lives but do
not face imminent extinction. The government says, however, at least 10
Siberian groups face the same peril as the Tofalar and perhaps sooner.
Pavel Sulyandziga, deputy president of the Russian Association of the
Indigenous Peoples of the North, a Moscow-based advocacy group, said the
situation facing the Tofalar is dire, but not unique. "In fact," he said,
"what is happening to the Tofalar is happening to all our people." Newsday
recently visited two of the three Tofalar villages in the Sayan Mountains,
the first trip ever made there by a Western journalist, according to local
officials. There is only one way to get to the region informally known as
Tofalari; a six-hour flight from Moscow to the regional capital of Irkutsk,
then 12 hours by train to the Siberian city of Nizhnyudinsk. From there, a
20-year-old biplane or a rickety helicopter is on stand-by for the hourlong
flight. During Soviet times, this plane made daily trips, dropping off food
and other essentials. But today, the state has little money to cover the cost
of the flight, which can be as much as $2,000, so the plane travels at most
once a week. When it does bring in goods, the added cost of transportation
pushes the price up beyond the ability of most people to pay. Food prices,
for example, are 10 times higher in Tofalari than in the closest neighboring
In the winter, the Tofalari villages can be reached by driving along frozen
rivers but in the summer this relic of an aircraft is the only link that the
approximately 1,000 people have to the outside world. Maybe one in five is
Tofalar, the rest the result of mixed Russian-Tofalar marriages. When the
plane lifts off the runway it makes a loud clank, as though something fell
Within an hour, the mountains part, exposing a valley, its sharp stone cliffs
and jutting hills walling off the village below. Tall, slender cedar trees
soften the landscape.
This is Alygdzher, the nominal capital of the region, a hostile place
selected by Soviet engineers only because it was possible to land a plane
The runway is a marshy grass field. From above, the village is like a camping
site in the Adirondacks. Small wood structures dot green fields, curls of
black smoke rise from the chimneys.
But on the ground, the roads, or paths, are rutted and flooded. The houses
collapsing. It is impossible even to purchase glass here, so most windows are
boarded over. Rusted and abandoned machinery is tossed here and there.
Children wander around, their faces smudged with dirt, their clothing
mismatched and threadbare, their feet often bare or covered in rubber
slippers. Adults wander aimlessly, many appearing drunk, hungover, ill. The
whole place has an otherworldly feel.
A man in thin black socks, his words thick and his balance wobbly, wanders
through the mud and rain, approaching everyone in the road. "Smoke, smoke,"
he says over and over, his fingers motioning toward his mouth. "Smoke,
smoke," he said, wandering off in the mud and rain.
Yuri Antsiferov, 61, was born and raised in this village, and returned after
20 years as an officer in the Soviet army. He is Russian and he serves as the
local administrator. He explains how during Soviet times, the government
tried to turn the Tofalar traditional practice of herding reindeer into a
communist-style enterprise. They created a cooperative, paid the shepherds a
salary, and produced a herd of about 1,000 reindeer. Meat and skins were sold
all over the country. But when the Soviet Union dissolved, so did the
cooperative. Today there are only 250 reindeer in the herd and the few people
tending it have not been paid in years. Nothing has taken its place.
Fifty-year-old Anatoly Adamov lives in a filthy shack with his two elderly
aunts. They sit on a thin mattress black with dirt. A bare bulb hangs from
the ceiling and stale pieces of bread litter the small table. He has not had
a job in 10 years and survives mostly on humanitarian aid and the few
squirrels he shoots.
"I am unemployed now," he said. "I was a shepherd looking after the calves 10
years ago. There is no other work here." Up the road, Sergei Amastaeev, 53,
lives in a similarly rundown shack with his wife and two children. He is one
of the few people here who still works with the reindeer. In the winter
months, he straps a saddle on one of the four he keeps tied to a post and
rides it into the forest, where he hunts and tries to guard the herds. He has
not received any salary for four years, and only survives by bartering furs
he catches with the few traders who make the winter journey along frozen
rivers to the region.
"Our life is like this," Amastaeev said, his 10-year-old daughter Katya by
his side. "What else can I do? What would I do without the deer? To live
without deer would be to live without legs." With his focus on basic
survival, Amastaeev does not have the time, or inclination, to worry that his
children don't speak the native language, which has some Turkic roots, or
that he doesn't know traditional customs. And even if he cared, his
18-year-old son, Dmitry does not.
"We don't want to speak Tofalar," Dmitry said, "Only Russian. Everyone speaks
Russian." Pavel Unguchtaev is Dmitry's grandfather. He lives on the other end
of the village in a shack barren, but for a metal bed, crusty blanket and
stove built into the wall. He sat on a stool hunched in the corner of his
shack, his forehead resting in his hands, a wood fire crackling in the stove
a few inches away.
"We had a good life in the former Union," the 80-year-old lamented, as he
gently rocked on his elbows, his soot-stained sleeves draped over frail arms.
"They gave us everything. Taught us how to live. Brought us electricity. Food
supplies were good. We liked the former Union. They gave us everything." He
slowly lifted his chin, exposing narrow, sunken cheeks, lips that folded over
empty gums and a right eyelid that jumped and flickered on its own. But as
much as he mourns the loss of his Soviet life, he is upset over the price he
too willingly paid to achieve that life. He is troubled that his
grandchildren do not-and will not-bother learning their native tongue.
"We abandoned our language," he said, a distinct bitterness hanging on the
end of each word. "We had our own traditions. None of it is anymore. No
No traditions." Antsiferov, the administrator, is sympathetic to the plight
of the Tofalar.
His wife, Natalia, a lifelong resident of the village, has set up a small
"ethnographic center" where she hopes the few remaining seniors will teach
what they do know of the culture to the children-though she concedes mostly
they make native-looking crafts, costumes, bowls, decorations, that have no
solid connection to the Tofalar.
But despite their sympathy, Antsiferov and his wife are frustrated by what
they say is the population's affinity for alcohol, a thirst that is so strong
they say people will trade away what little they have-even food and
"The main reason for their bad lives is themselves," he said. "They get all
this aid, warm blankets, clothing, and I see none of it anywhere. They used
it all to buy vodka. I work hard to get them to bring the aid. Then in a week
it is all gone. Traded for vodka." Just 10 minutes away by air is another
village, Nerkha, where vodka is a big problem as well. Unlike Alygdzher,
though, Nerkha does not even appear picturesque from the sky. It is a jumble
of sheds, strewn along either side of a mud- and dung-covered path. Animals
wander aimlessly. Children and adults walk around barefoot in the filth.
There are 230 residents of the village, half are Russian and an estimated 10
percent Tofalar by both parents, the rest the product of mixed marriages. In
the winter, the children are shipped out to boarding school in the nearby
city of Nizhnyudinsk. In the summer, there is nothing for anyone to do here.
Nothing but drink.
"People only spend money on salt, sugar, cereals and the rest goes to vodka,"
said Prokopiy Ungushtaev, a Tofalar and lifelong resident of the village.
"That's why Tofalar life is miserable here." In government offices in Irkutsk
and Moscow, officials say they are all too aware of the problems with
aboriginal people of the north, including the Tofalar. But those in charge
have never even visited the region. They also admit that given the dire needs
of the Russian population at large, and the nation's poor economic status,
there is little likelihood they will be able to stave off the Tofalar slide
into extinction. The only hope, they said, is to require firms interested in
mining the natural resources in Tofalari, which include gold, to turn over
some profit to the local community-though so far that has not worked.
President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated the low priority he attends to the
problem, officials said, when as one of his first acts in office he dissolved
the Committee on the Affairs of the North, the organization responsible for
dealing with these issues. More than three months later, officials are still
unsure who will assume the committee's responsibilities The only chance the
Tofalar or other endangered people have of longevity is in an encyclopedia of
indigenous people being put together by the Ministry of Nationalities, more
than 2,000 miles from Moscow.
"It will be quite dramatic if they disappear; each of these minorities over
thousands of years have developed a unique cultural voice," said Lidija
Nimajeva, an official with the Ministry of Nationalities. "These problems of
these people, their history, their culture will not just disappear. At least
they will be registered in a book."