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CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List

Johnson's Russia List
 

 

August 7, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4443  4444    




Johnson's Russia List
#4443
7 August 2000
davidjohnson@erols.com


[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Putin plans to rewrite constitution 
to build a new centralised state dictatorship.

2. Financial Times (UK) letter: Financial time bomb ticks in Russia.
3. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Chechens look to Putin's 
man for justice.

4. The Poetry Corner: Go and catch a falling czar.
5. Ben Brodkin: Russia's external debt: facts and fiction.
6. BBC MONITORING: PAPER SAYS GOVERNORS REFUSE TO TAKE PUTIN'S REGIONAL 
REPS SERIOUSLY.
7. Financial Times (UK): Quentin Peel, Defining decade of the oligarchs.
8. Executive Intelligence Review: Konstantin Cheremnykh, Exhaustion: 
Russia's Precious Senior Intelligentsia Is Under Threat.]

********


#1
The Independent (UK)
7 August 2000
Putin plans to rewrite constitution to build a new centralised state
dictatorship 
By Helen Womack in Moscow 


President Vladimir Putin will tighten his grip on Russia in the autumn with
constitutional changes aimed at controlling politicians and pressure
tactics to secure the loyalty of businessmen and journalists, a leading
Russian newspaper has alleged. 


Analysts said that if the plan was brought to fruition, Russia would lose
the pluralism of the Yeltsin years and revert to totalitarian rule. Only
this time it would be a dictatorship aimed at building capitalism rather
than communism. 


Mr Putin, in interviews with Western media, has committed himself to the
principles of democracy. And Segodnya, the newspaper that wrote about the
alleged plan, belongs to the independent media mogul, Vladimir Gusinsky,
who is critical of the Kremlin. The paper has been accurate in the past. 


It says that the recent decision by Mr Putin to create a new State Council
has far-reaching implications. Most commentators had assumed that the
council would be a talking shop to compensate regional governors, who have
now lost their right to sit in the upper house of parliament. But last
week, Mr Putin suggested that the council might have constitutional status
which would mean rewriting of the 1993 constitution of the former
president, Boris Yeltsin. 


Segodnya said this was part of a plan to change the entire structure of
Russian government. The council of about 20, with the president at its
head, would decide when to declare war or a state of emergency, and endorse
the budget. How the 20 would be chosen was unclear, but the deputy head of
the council would in effect be vice-president, reducing the status of the
prime minister. "The government will lose considerable weight and will
become a technical division of the Kremlin," said the newspaper. 


The last of the new laws that tighten presidential control over the
regional governors and the parliament were signed by Mr Putin on Saturday.
The governors not only lose their upper house seats, to be replaced by
appointed legislators by 2002, they also lose immunity from criminal
prosecution and can be fired by Mr Putin for violations of the law. 


The Segodnya article stated that after emasculating the governors,
President Putin had plans to weaken the state Duma. The registration of
parties would become more difficult, so that small, opposition forces would
disappear and Russia would be left with only the Communists and the
pro-Kremlin Unity Party, artificially created last autumn. 


In addition, Segodnya said that further pressure would be put on businesses
and the media to make them loyal to the state. 


*******


#2
Financial Times (UK)
7 August 2000
Letter
Financial time bomb ticks in Russia


>From Mr David Habakkuk. 


Sir, Your leader writer is obviously right to be concerned about the
dangers of the giant Russian electricity utility UES being turned into a
"personal fiefdom" of Anatoly Chubais ("Power in Russia", August 3). But it
is difficult to suppress a certain mild sense of the surreal when one reads
that investors "initially welcomed" Mr Chubais's arrival at UES, on the
grounds that he was a "leader of Russia's liberal reformers in the
mid-1990s". 


What Mr Chubais was actually doing in the mid-1990s was masterminding the
notorious "loans for shares" deal which played a leading role in the
creation of the criminalised capitalism that now prevails in Russia. 


So oblivious were western governments to what was going on that when some
time later Mr Chubais was brought back into a leading economic role, Larry
Summers, the US Treasury Secretary, referred to "an economic dream team". 


The implications of what remains a widespread failure to reflect on the
scale of our misreading of events in Russia over the past decade are
actually not limited to the views taken by western investors or others
towards that country. What emerges is that "information" is not the kind of
hard and unambiguous material posited in theories of rational markets. 


Sometimes, it is no more than the application of general ideological
theories, as in the idealisation of figures such as Mr Chubais; at other
times, a projection of a generalised optimism, to which western financial
institutions are particularly prone, partly because of the immense pressure
on them to maximise short-term performance. 


And this same pressure, of course, also leads to the construction of
complicated financial instruments that can be guaranteed to yield superior
returns so long as the "information" about certain fundamental parameters
is accurate. 


The combination is a time bomb, which almost exploded devastatingly after
the Russian default two years ago - and will doubtless at some point
explode again. 


David Habakkuk, 22 Homefield Road, London W4 2LN 


******


#3
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
7 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechens look to Putin's man for justice
By Marcus Warren in Znamenskoye


THE search for thousands who have disappeared without trace in the conflict
raging in Chechnya usually leads to a nondescript bungalow in Znamenskoye
in the north-west of the rebel republic.


Some relatives looking for the missing have visited half the prisons of
southern Russia in the hunt for news. But if anyone can help them, it is
Vladimir Kalamanov, the official with the unenviable job of trying to
uphold human rights in the chaos of war.


His appointment as President Putin's special ombudsman in Chechnya in
February was dismissed at the time as a cynical gesture which would do
nothing to stop the Russian military murdering, torturing and looting at
will but would merely appease the West. However, after going "on the
attack", the former diplomat is beginning to persuade suspicious Chechens
that he can deliver something approaching justice.


In the one-storey cottage which is his office, Mr Kalamanov holds a form of
open house. Waiting to see him are a largely female crowd seeking news of
husbands, sons and brothers. Many have been missing for months.


He told a crowd in the corridor outside his office: "Stop all this pushing
and shoving or I will leave immediately and none of you will see me."He
said by way of comfort to Kheda Zhedayeva, who wept while clutching a
photograph of her 16-year-old son, Eskir: "Don't cry like that or you'll
get me bursting into tears as well."


Thanks to detective work of her own, Mrs Zhedayeva had established some of
his movements after he was wounded by a mine during the rebels' retreat
from Grozny in the winter. His leg had been amputated and he had been
sighted in two prisons. Then the trail went cold. Mr Kalamanov leafed
through his classified list of 1,200 Chechens still held in Russian custody
but no one answering her son's description was to be found.


There were other lists and he was optimistic, he told Mrs Zhedayeva. So
far, Mr Kalamanov's office has freed 264 Chechens detained in prison
although, as rank-and-file guerrillas arrested before May 15, they
qualified for an amnesty and should have been released. Almost alone among
senior Russian officials, Mr Kalamanov argues that Chechen guerrillas have
human rights like anyone else.


Mr Kalamanov said: "Such an approach is the only way to win people over to
our side and reclaim them for civilisation. Otherwise the authorities are
behaving no better than the bandits themselves." As evidence of progress,
he said 21 people, "including military personnel", were being prosecuted
for the atrocities committed against civilians in the village of
Alkhan-Yurt last December.


Massacres of civilians in the Grozny suburbs of Aldy and Staropromyslovsky
at the beginning of this year were now also being investigated, he added.
"Now I have answers for everything," he said. "Two months ago that was not
the case at all. But then we went on the attack."


"The extortion of bribes" and "beating people up" were rife at the dozens
of checkpoints across Chechnya, he admitted, common knowledge among local
people but still something most Russians prefer to ignore. 


For all his enlightened language, Mr Kalamanov cannot satisfy many of his
visitors. Even though it is far away from Chechnya's main towns and cities,
his office is besieged by callers.


Padam Khezraeva, whose sister, Yakcha Nuricheva, was arrested outside
Grozny on Jan 11 and has not been seen since, complained: "He said I should
wait a month but, if it is much longer, she will be just skin and bones. 


Leyla Rasayeva, looking for her husband, Said, one of 11 men stopped near
the village of Uluskert on March 6, said: "I approached everyone: the
police, the prosecutors, the prisons and the Red Cross. I don't know who to
believe any more."


*******


#4
From: "Richard Thomas" <map-rjt@vld.pma.ru>
Subject: brief note
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2000 


Dear David, In response to your Sunday inquiry: I'm reading the List in
Vladivostok on Monday morning. Best wishes, Richard Thomas 
PS - After returning from Khabarovsk this weekend, I spoke with Wm Bleak.
It seems that his concern for Messieurs Chubais and Putin compelled him to
comb the works of John Donne in search of an appropriate... framework. He
claims to have found it, so I am enclosing, for possible inclusion in "The
Poetry Corner": 


SONG 
Go and catch a falling czar - 


Energy's his strongest suit - 
Who privatized concerns that are 
In Russia quite substantial loot; 
Refined, 
Fair-haired; 
With subtle ways to steal you blind. 


If he overplays his hand, 
Picks the wrong tycoon to fight, 
Throw him in a Moscow can 
To contemplate things overnight. 
You'd say, 
>From France, 
I didn't know; I am away. 


When hunting this one, though, beware; 
His waving tentacles beguile, 
Mesmerize, confuse, ensnare: 
It could be someone elses trial. 
We'll see 
Who's made 
Of stronger stuff tycoons or thee. 


Wm Bleak Vladivostok, July 2000 


PPS - Being something of a formalist, Bleak asked that, if this "Song" is
placed on the List, the structure of the "verse on the page" be
maintained. When I explained that this might not be technically possible,
Bleak replied: "humbug!" 


******


#5
From: "Ben Brodkin" <benatny@hotmail.com>
Subject: Russia's external debt: facts and fiction
Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 


Russia's external debt: facts and fiction


Here are 10 arguments for forgiveness of Russia's debt and their rebuttals.


1. Fiction. The debts should be forgiven because most of the loaned money 
was wasted or embezzled. The Russian people did not benefit from the 
international loans, only a few individuals (known variously as oligarchs, 
tycoons or thieves) did. Some officials of the Western banks allegedly knew 
about the theft but did nothing to prevent it. And some of these 
officials possibly conspired with Russian thieves to enrich themselves 
personally.


Fact. It is a job of the Russian law enforcement agencies to safeguard 
Russian assets. Once the money was released to the borrower, it became a 
Russian asset. It does not matter whether the thieves were foreign or 
domestic, since the assets were under the jurisdiction of the Russian 
authorities. And the Russian law enforcement agencies are usually not shy 
when it comes to prosecuting foreigners who are under Russian jurisdiction.


2. Fiction. A large percentage of the loans were made before the 
dissolution of the USSR. Being only part of the USSR, Russia should not be 
responsible for the loans extended to the entire USSR.


Fact. Russia inherited most of the assets of the USSR. It also made a deal 
with the other Republics that covered the division of foreign debts, 
nuclear weapons and foreign embassies. Russia assumed the foreign debts as 
part of that deal.


3. Fiction. Russia has no resources to repay the loans.


Fact. Apparently, Russia has resources to help American foes in Cuba, 
Serbia and the Middle East.


4. The US economy has been doing so well that it can easily absorb the 
losses.


Fact. Everything is relative, of course. But for comparison, the entire 
budget of the US National Science Foundation for FY 2000 is under 4 billion 
dollars. I am sure NSF would be able to use some extra cash.


5. Fiction. Russian economy is too important for the world economies to 
let it collapse.


Fact. The Russian economy is not large enough to have much impact on the 
rest of the world. The GNP of Russia is lower than that of South Korea. 
What makes Russia different is its capacity to threaten the West through 
arms proliferation and the support of states like Iran, Iraq and Libya.


6. Fiction. Russia is a lucrative investment because it may potentially 
provide a huge market for foreign goods.


Fact. Most of the Russian people are too poor to afford Western goods.


7. Fiction. Russia has a good track record in repaying foreign loans.


Fact. Not exactly. Lenin repudiated the loans made by the Czar. So did 
Stalin with respect to the loans under the Lend-Lease Act. Seventy years 
later, the Russian government finally agreed to repay some part of the 
Czar's debts. That was done as a result of the pressure by the French 
holders of the Russian bonds. The deal was to compensate the unlucky 
holders (those who still kept the bonds) as a condition for giving new loans 
to Russia.


8. Fiction. Russia is under new management now. It needs new loans to 
rebuild its economy.


Fact. There is no reason to believe that the new loans will not go the same 
way as the old ones.


9. Fiction. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed 
many conditions that did more harm than good to Russia.


Fact. Any lender may attach any conditions to a loan. A borrower has two 
options: accept or reject them. Most of the IMF conditions are very simple 
- each country should live within its means, the budget deficits should be 
reduced to a manageable level, inflation is bad, industrial subsidies to 
inefficient state-owned enterprises are bad, tax collection should be 
improved. In reality, Russia has repeatedly failed to honor the conditions 
agreed for the IMF loans.


10. Fiction. Russia's misery is the fault of American advisers and their 
efforts to remake Russia in the American image.


Fact. The advisers' job is to dispense advice. Some advisers are better 
than others. Some are more familiar with the Russian historical and 
cultural background than others. Some advisers are motivated my their 
self-interest, others are not. But the ultimate responsibility for the 
economy rests with Russia itself and with its government.


******


#6
BBC MONITORING
PAPER SAYS GOVERNORS REFUSE TO TAKE PUTIN'S REGIONAL REPS SERIOUSLY
Source: 'Izvestiya', Moscow, in Russian 4 Aug 00


Russia is a country of political dances. Everyone dances. And everyone
thinks of himself as a "ballet master". The centre is trying to force the
regions to change, the regional authorities are setting the municipalities
dancing - and so on down the entire vertical axis of power, which is
sometimes strongly reminiscent of the pole in a strip joint. Politicians
dance before the people in order to remain in power. The people dance
before the authorities - just for the sake of it, so as not to receive a
sock on the jaw from them yet again. 


>From the general round dance of today's events we have chosen just two.
Each in its own way reflects our custom of transforming any idea into a
never-ending pandemonium, without ever getting down to business 


Aleksey Lebed, head of Khakassia, has organized "dances with wolves" - he
has decided to tease the federal authorities. Aleksandr Rutskoy, the Kursk
head, as a former "inmate" himself, has decided to dance with "jailbirds" -
he has publicly granted freedom to prisoners. All of Russia is dancing. It
is already utterly exhausted, but there is no end to this endless dance. 


I came to give you your freedom 


Kursk Regional Prosecutor Aleksandr Babichev, who was appointed to this
post recently, decided - as part of his duties - to make his first visit of
inspection to the local detention centre. Regional governor Aleksandr
Rutskoy invited himself on this "excursion" - he could not sit still in his
office... 


Dance of Lebed's little brother 


Aleksey Lebed, chairman of the Khakassia government, has stated that the
republic in his charge does not need the support or help of Leonid
Drachevskiy, the president's plenipotentiary representative in Siberian
District. For the first time in the period of almost three months that the
reform of power has been under way in the country, a governor openly says
that the institution of president's representatives is unnecessary (only
Ingush president Aushev has said this before, but his republic has a
special place in Russia). 


It was doubtless the traditionally wild celebration of Airborne Troops Day
that contributed to the head of Khakassia's determination - he was once a
colonel of the Airborne Troops. Having refused the help of the president's
plenipotentiary representative (but having expressed confidence that he
will "work" with him), Lebed stated that no-one had abolished the "Siberian
Agreement" interregional association and that it is entirely sufficient for
coordinating the work of the organs of power of the Siberian lands. The
apparatus of the president's representative in Khakassia will be abolished. 


Of course, it is possible to attribute the Khakassia governor's blunt
statement to a recent grievance, especially since Aleksey Lebed declined
the help of presidential viceroy Drachevskiy immediately following his
meeting with him the day before yesterday in Novosibirsk. But what is far
more important is that the regional "barons" are gradually beginning to
come round and to understand that Putin and his viceroys are not so terrible. 


Initially, pressure from Vladimir Putin and the reform of power that he
devised - dividing the country into seven districts, removing the governors
from the Federation Council and vesting the president with the right to
dismiss governors from office - threw regional leaders into a state of
panic. Governors surrendered the Federation Council virtually without a
fight and it seemed that even in "their" territories they would have to
play the role of "stewards", surrendering their political functions to the
president's plenipotentiary representatives. It was as though Putin, in
sending his viceroys to the governors, were saying to them: "Resistance is
useless, you are surrounded by ... the federal districts." But a month or
two has passed and the governors have realized that nothing is changing -
the president's plenipotentiary representatives are unhurriedly settling
into their residences, recruiting staff and travelling around the Regions
and republics that have been placed in their charge. Of course, the
governors do not like the fact that Moscow is increasing its control over
the local subdepartments of the power structures, but after all, the latter
were not subordinate to regional heads before either. However, there is no
longer any talk of any exemplary sackings of governors (which the Kremlin
hinted at the start of the summer) or still less, of jailing them. 


The entire work of the president's representatives boils down to seeing
that local legislation is brought into line with federal legislation.
Regional leaders are meeting this with alacrity - what are written laws to
them when life in "their" territories is based entirely on a regime of
personal power? Smashing these regimes and turning the governors from the
bosses of personal fiefdoms into leaders of Regions could indeed change
Russia, currently to all intents and purposes a confederation, into a
unified state. But the Kremlin and its plenipotentiary representatives are
not attempting anything that threatens the governors' personal power. And
this is clearly perceived in the regions. So far governors are continuing
to show the president's plenipotentiary representatives all the signs of
attention prescribed by protocol. But, as Aleksey Lebed's statement shows,
the governors no longer take Putin's viceroys seriously. 


******


#7
Financial Times (UK)
7 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Defining decade of the oligarchs
By Quentin Peel
Ten days ago, an extraordinary meeting took place in the Kremlin, that
fortress in the heart of Moscow that symbolises power in Russia and often
disguises its weakness. 


Hosted by Vladimir Putin, one-time KGB apparatchik and now president of
Russia, it brought together 21 leading businessmen with the stated
intention of "redefining the relationship between the state and big
business". 


The meeting assembled most - but not all - of the financial "oligarchs" and
industrial "red barons" who successfully seized control of the most
lucrative assets of the Soviet economy over the past decade. 


Following several weeks of high-profile criminal investigations, tax raids
and lawsuits launched against some of the biggest names in Russia's
post-communist corporate world, it looked like an attempt at a ceasefire in
what is undoubtedly an ongoing struggle for power. 


Some would say it was a defining moment in the reassertion of state power
by Mr Putin, who is determined to reverse the collapse of central authority
under Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor. 


Boris Nemtsov, the bright young economic reformer and former deputy premier
who convened the conference, sold it hard. "The era of the oligarchs is
over," he declared. "Today's meeting draws a line under 10 years of the
initial accumulation of capital." 


Others were more cautious. Kakha Bendukhidze, the wily Georgian general
director of the Uralmash engineering group in Yekaterinburg, said nothing
had changed. "There is no quick fix," he said. "Unless the state calls off
its tax inspectors, any businessman is a potential criminal." 


On the one hand, the very fact that the meeting took place underlines the
remarkable power wielded by a small number of businessmen in the
post-Soviet economy. On the other, the attendance went well beyond the
original group of just seven or eight leading "oligarchs" who dominated the
business scene before Mr Putin's arrival. It suggests that the Russian
corporate scene may be gradually becoming more "normal". 


Mr Putin has certainly moved fast to assert his authority since his
election victory in March. He has dared to take on not only the oligarchs,
but also the powerful regional governors, who had usurped much of the
Kremlin's power during the Yeltsin era. He has moved his closest
confidants, many of them former colleagues in the KGB, into key positions. 


Most of the signs suggest that Mr Putin is winning, so far. Two weeks ago,
the governors conceded defeat, voting in favour of a tax reform that would
centralise collection of revenues, and agreeing to abandon their effective
control of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. 


As for the oligarchs, they are clearly rattled. Boris Berezovsky, the
businessman most intimately linked to the Yeltsin "family", and one of the
notable absentees from the Kremlin conference on July 28, says he is going
to form a "constructive opposition". Vladimir Gusinsky, the media magnate
who owns NTV, the television station that has consistently been most openly
critical of the government, appears to have done a deal to tone down its
hostility. 


There is no doubt Mr Putin is winning the battle for public support, too.
He won the election thanks to his ruthless prosecution of the war against
the separatist movement in the Chechen republic. Turning up the heat on the
oligarchs is proving almost as popular. The latest opinion poll gave him an
approval rating of 73 per cent. 


According to the All-Russian Centre for Public Opinion and Market Research
(VCIOM), there is a lot of public support for reviving the power of state
security bodies such as the FSB, the successor to the KGB. In a survey
carried out last year, 37 per cent said their influence was "too small",
and 24 per cent said it was "just right", against only 16 per cent who said
it was "too big".* 


It is certainly hard to feel sorry for the oligarchs, and few Russians do.
They rank them not far behind "western industrial and financial circles",
the US and Nato as "enemies of Russia" - and 65 per cent of the population
remain convinced that Russia does have enemies, according to the same survey. 


At the height of their power, in 1996, when they threw their weight behind
Boris Yeltsin for the presidency, the oligarchs flaunted both their wealth
and influence. They drove around Moscow in armour-plated cars with special
number plates, trailed by ostentatious bodyguards. 


In spite of acquiring hugely profitable assets, including vast chunks of
the Siberian oil industry, they have signally failed to reinvest their
profits. Instead, they have contributed to the massive capital flight to
offshore financial centres. 


And yet most of them reveal a curious mixture of ruthlessness and naivety,
with a disarming frankness about their past misdemeanours, and their desire
for rehabilitation. 


"Anyone who hasn't just slept through the past decade has deliberately or
unwittingly broken the law," says Mr Berezovsky. "If an amnesty isn't
declared, the consequences for Russia will be grave, and society won't be
stable." 


Vladimir Potanin, who seized control of the Norilsk Nickel mining empire in
the mid-1990s, says "many oligarchs are tired of the lack of well-defined
rules, and are waiting for the Kremlin to define the guidelines". 


Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they? They have grabbed the
goodies, and now they want someone to set nice clear rules so they can hang
on to them and pass them on to their children. But the oligarchs are as
much a symptom as a cause of the chaotic state of the Russian economy. As
Chrystia Freeland argues in her very readable new book**, much of what they
did was instinctive capitalism. They simply inserted themselves as
intermediaries between the collapsing old state system, and the new market
economy. They are traders, making a (very) fast buck. 


The chances are that Mr Putin will make a big song and dance about clipping
their wings, and then learn to live with them. He will certainly want some
of his friends from the security services to share in the profits. But they
are all still most familiar with the old Soviet system, which depended on
contacts, on whom you knew, not what you did. We are still an awfully long
way from seeing a transparent market economy in Russia. 


*VCIOM survey published in Russia on Russia, June 2000, Moscow School of
Political Studies. 


**Sale of the Century, by Chrystia Freeland, published by Little, Brown 


******


#8
From: "Rachel Douglas" <cmgusa@intrepid.net>
Subject: EIR article
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 


Executive Intelligence Review
Vol. 27, No. 31
August 11, 2000


Exhaustion: Russia's Precious
Senior Intelligentsia Is Under Threat
by Konstantin Cheremnykh


Six years ago, the Leontieff Center, regarded as a
vanguard of liberal economic strategy, published research
which forecast a decline in the population of St.
Petersburg by 400,000 during the next decade. The tendency
might change after a ``positive social drift,'' wrote the
authors. From the context, it was clear that the ``positive
social drift'' meant the ``natural'' extinction of the aged
part of the population.
The economic program of Yegor Gaidar's Democratic
Choice Party, presented at its founding congress in 1994,
included a proposal to raise the pension age by five years
(above the age of 60 for men). By that time, the
life-expectancy of men in Russia had dropped to 59 years.
As I had an opportunity to talk directly to one of
the members of the research team, most of whom originated from
the St. Petersburg Institute of Economy and Finance, I
know precisely that the two above-cited examples are not
accidental. They reflect the common viewpoint and
intention of the masterminds of what was called the
Russian liberal reform.
``You see,'' this person told me, ``actually, these
[Gaidar's] guys are not resolute enough. To my mind,
people of so-called pension age should not be granted the
right to vote. Because they cling to the outdated
political system, and are unable to change themselves.
Actually, pensions could be eliminated--''
``?|?|?''
``Why, their relatives should take care of them.''
And what if the relatives are disabled or deceased,
or never existed? I was too shocked to argue. This young,
pleasant, and energetic person was talking about millions
of people, with a careless smile that reminded me of
something very relevant, though rather distant from
white-collar theorizing in a cozy St. Petersburg flat.
The white-collar theoretician would find perfect
mutual understanding with the practitioners, who appeared
on the scene in Russia's big cities in 1992-93, in the
period when the real estate market took shape--in the same
anarcho-criminal way as any other market in newly
transformed Russia, blessed by ``progressive mankind'' with
a radical market change.
A person named Aleksei M., who began his career as a
journalist for real estate magazines, was exposed in 1994
as a serial murderer, his victims being mostly old people
and alcoholics in the central districts of Moscow. He
would find a lonely person, seeking to exchange his flat
for a smaller one, then arrive at his place with a pile of
prepared documents, which the victim needed only to sign.
With a nice smile, he would offer to complete all the
bureaucratic work. After the victim signed the documents,
the young man would kill him and promptly resell the flat.
The affair was exposed only after several corpses were
dragged out of the garbage dumpster in a courtyard where
the young man had several clients.
``Actually, President Boris Yeltsin should praise my
work,'' Aleksei told the TV, with the same type of careless
smile. ``I've been carrying out sanitation work,
eliminating unfit individuals.''
The same ``sanitation'' was carried out by a number
of criminal groups in St. Petersburg. One of them, a kind
of ``joint venture'' between criminal types and policemen,
was officially registered as a real estate agency. It is
registered still today, although two of its founders are in
jail, and the last director was murdered by a group of
people, probably relatives of his former clients, who used
pieces of drainpipe as a murder weapon. These anonymous
Robin Hoods of the St. Petersburg real estate cesspool
were apparently quite sure that it was useless to appeal
to any law enforcement agencies.
If you enter any district court or almost any police
station in St. Petersburg, avoiding a piece of plaster
falling on your head, you will immediately get a sense of
the atmosphere reigning in the local body designed to look
after order and justice in the surrounding area. The scene
at a local clinic or emergency rescue station is no less
desperate.
I very seldom visit my local clinic, which was
lucky enough to acquire a new building shortly before the
reforms started. The entire lobby is packed with small
vendors who trade all kinds of small wares, like perfumes,
stockings, shoes, porno magazines, and frying pans. It
looks like a small market near a metro station, or
anything but a medical institution. The traders pay rent,
and the clinic thus manages to survive.
Most of the patients visiting the clinic are elderly,
because a minority of the younger generation can afford to
visit private physicians, while the absolute majority,
what is regarded as ``middle class,'' rushing between
three or four jobs, has practically no time or opportunity
to take care of their health. Many small private clinics,
designed for patients with average or below-average
incomes, have gone bankrupt during the last three or four
years, as the ``paying capability'' of their clients could
not keep up with their rent, not to mention the unofficial
fees, which any director of a clinic, or of any enterprise
or shop, is forced to pay to local racketeers.
In order to go on working under these humiliating
conditions, and not to become an element of the ever
farther penetrating criminal network, one needs specific
human qualities. Regardless of the self-justifying
complaints of those who failed to resist the pressure from
the criminal milieu, it is a challenge more to one's moral
integrity, than to physical security.
A resisting director, scholar, schoolteacher or
physician constantly faces compromises with evil, such as
being forced to rent a part of his building to a shady
trading company in order to keep his institution alive;
forced to use textbooks provided by the Soros Foundation,
while trying to compensate for their lies about culture
and history, with his own knowledge and authority. Still,
the most tragic choice faces a doctor who has no
possibility of treating his patients, due to the lack of
medicine or its exorbitant price, dictated by the
thoroughly criminalized pharmaceuticals market. For him,
the fact of ruthless and deliberate Darwinian selection is
most obvious, and very often all he can say is the words
of the old village woman from Solzhenitsyn's essay
``Matryona's Yard'': ``I am so tired of burying all of
you....''


- Engineers as Fruit Vendors -
Shortly before the 1996 elections, the Russian
``democratic'' leadership offered what should be regarded as
a political kickback to the vast Russian criminal class,
at the expense of other layers of society. According to
the amended pension legislation, years of labor in prison
were now included in the person's labor record, whereas
years of higher education were not. Periods of work in the
Far North and other areas with similar hard conditions,
previously registered as two years for one in the
personnel record, from which the amount of the pension is
calculated, was now to be regarded like any other work.
This gift to organized crime, taken together with the
humiliation of the intelligentsia, could be interpreted as
just a recognition of the fact that the criminal class had
become the ruling class in post-Soviet Russia, while
various unnecessary intellectuals and useless skilled
workers, were no longer regarded as an honored part of
society.
In a way, this amendment was another version of
Gaidar's proposal, noted above, for it forced millions of
intellectuals, in order to earn a larger pension, to seek
any job they could, after the age of 60. Often this was
possible only by selling their intellect and experience to
the new ruling class, which emerged (or, using the
terminology of the Mont Pelerin Society's Vitali Naishul,
was institutionalized) in the initial period of
privatization.
During that process, the population of the big cities
was divided by a red line, into a community of the filthy
rich, with their own system of schools, clinics, and
well-guarded clubs for a limited number of persons; the
category of disabled and ``hopelessly'' aged people; and
the majority, in between, filled with hostility and
alienation, and always at risk of finding themselves on
the bottom. This average working--or, rather,
surviving--class coincides with the non-voting class, as
most of them, despite hating the liberals profoundly, are
able to survive due to possibilities provided by the
petty, semi-anarchic and totally criminalized street
market. Therefore they are terrified of the idea of a
``society of order,'' ``dictatorship of law,'' or anything
like the former Soviet rule. The part of this majority
which participates in local elections, usually expresses a
preference for one racketeer or corrupt official over
another. Only arbitrary police actions, as was the case in
Nizhny Novgorod, prevent the election of purely criminal
figures to the posts of Mayor or Governor.
Striking up a conversation with a small-scale street
vendor in the Luzhniki market of Moscow or Haymarket
Square in St. Petersburg, you are startled at the academic
language, surfacing through the superficial layer of
street subculture. Soon you guess, although you're
embarrassed to ask, that this woman with swollen hands and
weather-beaten face is a former engineer, scientist,
scholar, librarian, or archivist, thrown out of her milieu
and left in the merciless wilderness of the street market,
the only place where she, or he, is able to earn enough to
support the family.
Those average former members of the intellectual
professions, who missed the opportunity to sell themselves
to George Soros, are hired by organized crime, with regard
for their professional knowledge: a writer as an
image-maker, an officer as a bodyguard, a chemist as a
producer of synthetic drugs. All of them are treated like
inferior beings, {Untermenschen}, or, if they're luckier,
like servants. Most of them, however, have not yet
forgotten that they once were more independent in their
mind and behavior, despite the well-documented limitations
of the Soviet system. Most of them realize that they have
found themselves in a worse cage than the old one, but the
everyday atmosphere of alienation, in which each is
supposed to survive by himself, leaves no window of hope
for some common purpose, which might suggest at least some
higher justification of their efforts to survive.
Nonetheless, most of them have not yet completely
degenerated as human beings, as is evident from their
desperate attempts to pull ends together for the sake of
their children or grandchildren. And most of them would be
happy, if some new political leadership were able to
invent a labor exchange based on morals, not only on
formal skills. The system of selection in the state
bureaucracy, however, remains based on formal criteria of
``professionalism,'' according to foreign teachers of
recruiting (this term has been recently adopted into
modern Russian), who worship at the Leontieff Center and
related ``strategic'' entities, as well as PR services
(``Don't {pi-ar} me!'' is a common Russian expression
these days), image-making companies, and so forth.


- Beyond the `Cadre Problem' -
The new Russian leadership is either too busy at the
heights of geopolitics, from which a single human being is
not quite discernible, or is blindly relying upon the
intelligence community's principles of personnel policy--a
combination of these same criteria of ``professionalism,''
with some record-based personal confidence. These
principles are relatively functional for purposes of
building up a small team for immediate tasks, including on
the level of state policy, not for the objective of
organizing the vitally necessary mobilization of the
nation, its most efficient generations and communities,
and their combined human potential. Instead of appealing
directly to the population, the majority of which
expressed support for the new leadership, this leadership
is bogged down in the linear logical calculations of a
chess game, moving figures back and forth, and seemingly
seeking some magic combination or mystical remedy for
setting scattered elements into motion.
Playboy politician Boris Nemtsov, who arouses public hatred
primarily with his permanent careless smile, is
energetically pushing a proposal for a relatively large
increase in salaries for the bureaucracy, although his
experience as a model democratic Governor should have made
him quite aware of the fact, that larger official incomes
do not suppress the appetite for still larger
off-the-books earnings. Even if the salaries of ministers
were increased a dozen times over, they would still be
remote from the incomes of the real elite, formed during
the process of ``liberal reform.''
This real elite is comprised not only of the
scandalously famous oligarchs, whose names are common in
our newspapers, from the respectable {Vedomosti} to a
yellow rag like {Moskovsky Komsomolets}. The business
figures, who assembled at the Kremlin to meet the
President on July 28, are not the richest people in
Russia. The most luxurious country house, really a country
castle, on the outskirts of Moscow is said to belong to
the director of a former state trading entity, transformed
into a foreign economic association (VEA), and then into a
private concern, with a monopoly on such a ``bottomless''
branch of exports as the timber trade. His name does not
appear in the mass media, nor does the name of the
president of the Diamond Exchange, nor do the names of a
lot of other former semi-state monopolies, founded in the
late Gorbachov period of ``the big sell-off.'' Names like
Roskontrakt, Mashinoeksport, Raznoimport,
Interprivatizatsiya, Rosvnesh-this, Rosvnesh-that, or the
recently founded Rosspirtprom, are not on the surface of
political struggle or media analysis. But, any Prime
Minister has to contend with the fact of their existence,
and his own complete inability to change anything in this
sphere--because each of these semi-official, semi-private
entities is needed for a potential occasion, especially in
the election period, when the state leadership urgently
needs to lay hands on easily accessible funds--even if he
understands quite well, that immense financial flows,
directed by the shadow ``gray'' and ``black'' oligarchs,
are siphoned out of the real economy. The country's real
economy remains underfinanced, undersupplied,
underdeveloped, and {exhausted} for years and years--while
the leadership fails to solve the notorious ``personnel''
issue in a way that would eliminate the unofficial
practice of a 40% or larger kickback to a fat, semi-state,
semi-official Ivan Ivanovich for each project, program, or
venture.


- The Salt of the Earth -
Sooner or later, the official authorities acquire
enough courage, if not to gather the scattered stones,
then at least to count them.
A recently published report in {Kommersant}, authored
by businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and based on reliable
data from still functioning academic institutions,
presented a horrible picture of the attrition of
industrial facilities, which creates a chronic and
increasing danger of all kinds of technogenous
catastrophes. Fully half of the industrial facilities are
out of service, and more than 10% of them are closed down
each year, being completely destroyed or just stripped.
The necessity of raising this issue has been evident for
years to any honest specialist, or former skilled worker,
turned bodyguard or a fruit vendor. A second horrible
chapter must be added, however, in order to complete the
realistic picture of today's Russia: about {human
exhaustion}.
Most of all, this syndrome affects those decent
persons who are strategically necessary for the existence
of the state and its future, but remain neglected and
overlooked. They are the people who don't need a thick
packet of hard currency or a police order to make them
work for the nation--those who take responsibility for the
cause to which they have dedicated their lives (that is
how they regard the results they achieved in the
pre-reductionist era), and for the personal problems of
their close colleagues and their families. This syndrome
affects aging directors and senior specialists, who spent
their whole lives in the real economy, for the sake of
their country and people. This syndrome affects the
veterans of war, who interpret the year 1991 as a second
1941, the year of the Nazi invasion. This syndrome affects
all those who haven't abandoned their work, despite being
underpaid or not paid for months, and forced to find
supplementary jobs, often boring and disgusting, in order
to preserve the results of their former work.
For such a person, the feeling of his own necessity
in his job, the personal responsibility for the health of
patients, or for the minds of pupils, works a powerful
anti-entropic impetus, enabling a person, even in a most
physically worn-out condition, to pull together and feel
much younger and stronger. As long as an older, devoted
physician or teacher still has a job, and, therefore, some
possibility for serving the good, his spirit and body
remain integrated. Sometimes you can witness a miraculous
transformation of a person, emerging from inside and
shining through his eyes.
One person of this type is often sufficient to keep a
whole laboratory, workshop, clinic or school alive,
attracting honest colleagues to himself and his cause by
his personal example. And more and more often, when such a
person passes on, a whole unit of scientific, educational,
or social work falls apart. The vacuum is filled by petty
younger persons, faceless lazybones or energetic
swindlers, who sooner or later destroy what had been left
by the predecessor and his generation.
Will Russian eye surgery survive after Svyatoslav
Fyodorov? Does the Russian cinema for children exist after
Rolan Bykov? Can Russian historical science recuperate
after the deaths of Lev Gumilyov and Igor Dyakonov? What
is the St. Petersburg theater after Georgi Tovstonogov and
Igor Vladimirov? Who can replace Yevgeni Mravinsky in
Classical music, and Mikhail Anikushin in sculpture? Are
there still figures of the scale of Yevgeni Yukhnin in
shipbuilding technology? Are there really prominent
figures in the St. Petersburg school of psychiatry after
Dmitri Ozeretskovsky, Fyodor Sluchevsky, and Boris
Lebedev? The teachers are leaving bleak shadows behind
them, and that is the best case. More often than not, the
careless heirs are capable sooner of distorting and
falsifying the original thought of the founding father of
their institution or the fundamentals of his contribution
in art or science.
In economic management, where the ``liberal reforms''
have ousted the most capable figures, the picture is even
more disastrous. Some of the experienced and highly moral
and responsible figures were dismissed on ideological
pretexts, others passed on from suicide or homicide. The
degeneration of St. Petersburg, from a major industrial
center to a capital of tourism and services, with the
foreign-owned Baltika Brewery as the champion in
production and incomes, is the result of an intentional
extinction of top management cadres: the discharge of
Baltic Shipyard's General Director Viktor Shershnyov, the
murder of the St. Petersburg Fuel Company's Dmitri
Filippov, the death of the Northern Machine-Building
Plant's General Director German Gardymov, the unlawful
incarceration of Baltic Shipping Company President Viktor
Kharchenko. There are no appropriate figures to replace
them. The new generation of managers cannot protect
themselves and each other from the vicious epidemic of
criminal violence, which is already carrying away the
lives of the few skillful younger managers. There is a
vacuum, left by the exhaustion of what had been the salt
of Russia's earth.


- A Vicious Circle -
The first months of the new leadership of Russia made
clear that the energy of youth cannot compensate for lack
of education, experience, and morality. The new leaders
will fail to live up to their capability, unless they make
an emergency effort to save the remaining part of the
older generation of specialists, before the merciless
conditions of everyday survival eliminate them, one after
another.
There is no more time left to wait, before addressing
the problem of human exhaustion, than there is for the
revival of exhausted industry.
The collapse of the physical economy, causing the
deterioration of budget revenues; the wear on industrial
facilities, resulting in accidents; the collapse of
morality and responsibility in law enforcement bodies,
making them an accessory of organized crime; the collapse
of quality in public services, multiplying the challenges
for physical survival--all this, taken together, disrupts
the tissue of society and separates the surviving islands
of thought and decent creativity from each other. It is a
vicious circle, which revolves like Kafka's penitentiary
machine in the desert of public medical and social care,
leaving the most precious and unique personalities, still
surviving and still fighting for the survival of their
institutions and their families, completely unprotected
from any kind of emergency, whether it might come from a
car driven by a drunk ``new Russian,'' from an incompetent
surgeon, from an unscrupulous business partner, from a
corrupt policeman, or from a careless paparazzo.
Sometimes, so little is needed to keep them safe: an
audience of interested students; a good old movie on TV,
at least once a week to provide an island of optimism and
spiritual health in the ocean of hard porno, soft soap
operas, and killer thrillers; a bus not packed like a can
of fish; a suburban train which arrives on time; a doctor
who is attentive enough to concentrate on his patient's
condition, despite his own hurry to get to a second job.|...
``The greatest danger is far from the most evident,''
it was sadly put by the author of {Kommersant'}s report on
industrial attrition. How many years of Darwinist
selection of the national human potential must pass,
before the issue of human exhaustion, and primarily the
exhaustion of the intellectual force, is raised on the
level of state policy?


- Sunstroke -
My grandfather died in the hot and weary summer of
1954, which was later called ``the year of the
academicians''; one summer wiped out a whole galaxy of
outstanding scientific minds. Popular explanations of this
wave of deaths pointed to peculiarities of the calendar,
or the weather, but there was apparently a more
significant underlying factor. When years of constant
psychological tension, with a brother-in-law in exile and
a lot of friends jailed, suddenly ceased, in what was
later called the thaw, this weakened the threads that had
been keeping the body and spirit on high alert, and
provided an entryway for the vicious rot of entropy.
Sunshine, hitting the separating seams, broke his heart,
which he did not suspect was exhausted.
The implicit belief that the year 2000 was a kind of
boundary which, in some miraculous way, would put an end
to the disaster, along with a simple superstition
associated with the turn of the millennium as a finish
line in a sports race, after which one might, finally,
have a little rest, was very common among the older
generation of intellectual Russians, for whom 1991 marked
the beginning of the new, ruthless era, in which knowledge
was neglected, morals undermined, and human life,
especially of an aged or disabled person, depreciated.
This year has carried away Professors Boris Zanegin
and Elmer Murtazin, two of the most decent specialists in
foreign relations, the founders of Russia's Anti-Colonial
League. One more of the League's founders, Nikolai
Korolyov, died last summer.
``I am so tired of burying all of you|...''
On the night of July 17-18, Russia and mankind lost
Prof. Taras V. Muranivsky, the President of the Schiller
Institute for Science and Culture in Moscow. A day later,
Prof. Sergei B. Lavrov, President of the Russian
Geographic Society, followed him to the Heavens. Both men
had taken little care of their hearts, and disliked
visiting doctors, and never had a physician on hand to
monitor their health.
Late that night in the Schiller Institute's Moscow
office, I woke up, hearing somebody turning the key,
walking along the lobby, coughing and opening doors.
``Taras Vasilyevich?'' I called out, forgetting in my sleep
that he had been taken to the hospital. It was silent,
still, and terribly hot.
I have never believed in anything mystical, and so I
am just sure of the fact that before leaving this world,
the soul of Taras entered the place of his creative work,
which had become his cause and had been keeping his body
and spirit alive and committed throughout these disastrous
years in Russia, despite exhaustion, and against the
entropy of despair. And I am still feeling giddy from this
stroke of discovery, of this tragic and powerful evidence
of the other world, where the heavenly Russia gathers its
best sons, leaving the results of their labor for those
who may once get up from their knees to raise the dropped
banner of national and public dignity.


******



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