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Johnson's Russia List


September 8, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4498  4499  

Johnson's Russia List
8 September 2000

[Note from David Johnson:

2. Izvestia: Andrei Kolesnikov, KREMLIN ANALYSTS SWING INTO 
ACTION. Presidential Administration Experts Reject the Laurels of 
National Ideology Creators.

4. TIME EUROPE: Yuri Zarakhovich, Happy Days Are Here Again!
Muscovites find ways to amuse themselves in a world without TV.

5. The Economist (UK): Russia's cooked books.
6. Itar-Tass: Ex-Soviet President Establishes New Foundation.
7. AFP: Russia prolongs Chechen siege conditions amid fears of 
new strikes.

8. The New Republic: Masha Gessen reports from Moscow on why the
Kursk disaster didn't hurt Putin.

9. Los Angeles Times: Nina Khrushsheva, A Watch, a Shoe and a 
Cold War Tale.

10. Vladimir Shlapentokh: The Soviet Leaders Analyze Putin.]



MOSCOW. Sept 7 (Interfax) - Russia is planning to radically reduce
the armed forces and other power structures of the country which have
military formations.
The reduction of troops will start in 2001 and the main measures
are to be completed by 2003, sources in Moscow told Interfax on
Thursday. It is planned that Russia's armed forces will have been
reduced by 350,000 servicemen by that time and will total 850,000
It is planned to reduce the Land Forces by almost 180,000
servicemen, the Navy by over 50,000 servicemen and the Air Force by
roughly 40,000 servicemen, the sources said. Serious reorganization will
also be carried out in the administration of the Defense Ministry and
rear structures, including military medicine.
"Radical reduction is also expected in the Strategic Missile
Force," the sources told Interfax. According to their information, the
Strategic Missile Force (RVSN) will see a reduction of some 10 missile
divisions by 2006. The space missile defense troops and the space
military forces will be taken out of this branch of service in 2001 and
will be put under the control of the Russian General Staff, they said.
The Strategic Missile Force is expected to be transformed into an
independent arm of service in 2002, and later, approximately in 2006, to
be included in the Russian Air Force, they said.
Other power structures will also be greatly reduced, the sources
said. The internal troops of the Russian Interior Ministry are expected
to be reduced by over 20,000 servicemen. The number of railway troops
will be reduced by 10,000 and the Federal Border Guard Service will be
reduced by 5,000, they said.
Other ministries and agencies that have military formations will be
reduced by a total of over 25,000 people, the sources said.
Thus, it is planned to reduce the Russian armed forces and other
power structures by over 400,000 servicemen.
The Defense Ministry, the General Staff, the Finance Ministry and
the Ministry for Industry, Science and Technologies (which is in charge
of issues relating to state defense orders) are currently calculating
how much funding will be required for the planned reforms, the sources
Such a radical reduction is being planned because the state cannot
adequately finance the structures, they said.
"Next year, funding for defense expenditures will mainly be spent
on planned reforms and research and design work, as well as on upgrading
and repairs of military technology. It is not planned to purchase large
batches of new samples of weapons and military technology," the sources
The final decision has not yet been made "at the highest political
level," where the final parameters of reduction will be determined, they
Official representatives of the Defense Ministry would not comment
on the information reported to Interfax by the sources.


September 7, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
Presidential Administration Experts Reject the Laurels of 
National Ideology Creators

Now that some time has passed since two prominent analysts 
-- Simon Kordonsky and Maxim Meyer were appointed to the high 
posts in the presidential administration, the structure of the 
entire analytical network of the Kremlin and Staraya Ploshchad 
has become clear. The system is just beginning to work, 
however, it is now at least clear who is charge of what.

First of all, one should distinguish between analytical 
divisions in the main departments of the administration and the 
expert department. The divisions function in the main 
department of internal policy (the president's deputy chief of 
staff Vladislav Surkov is charge of it; head - Andrei Popov) 
and in the main territorial department (Alexander Abramov, 
Sergei Samoilov), respectively. The expert department, headed 
by Simon Kordonsky, exists autonomously and prepares materials 
for presidential speechwriters. Dzhakhan Pollyeva is in charge 
of it, just as of presidential advisers.
Former general director of the effective policy foundation 
Maxim Meyer heads the analytical division of the main 
political department. This structure acts in close cooperation 
with yet another newly-created division - one of information 
policy, led by Alexei Sitnin. 
The division in charge of analytical work consists of just 
five staffers yet and apparently its work will mainly be built 
on attracting experts from the outside, mainly lawyers, because 
the specifics of state analytical work lies in Staraya 
Ploshchad experts preparing practically all the variants of 
replies to current political challenges.
Say, in the near future, the administration will have to 
bother itself about the problem of the expiry of Mintimer 
Shaimiyev's second presidential term. 
Understandably, there is a host of legal questions and 
political circumstances that require the administration's 
assessment. At least, the Kremlin should have its own position 
on the political future of such a prominent figure. And it is 
the analytical division of the main department of internal 
policy that will provide proposals.
The analytical division of the territorial department has 
the same pragmatic approach. "These two divisions are engaged 
in fieldwork," a source in the administration told Izvestia. 
"The expert department has a more office style of work and 
different tasks, this is why the divisions' and the 
department's ways practically do not intersect."
Analysts of the main political department, who work in the 
nostalgically ascetic interior of the former building of the 
secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee, do not deal with 
state ideology - it is worked out practically spontaneously 
during the top leaders' meetings. 
Experts deal with purely applied political tasks - they 
suggest their ideas to the chiefs, who decide which of them to 
use. Analytical divisions practically do not interfere in the 
solution of economic issues, leaving decision-making of these 
problems to the government.
Staraya Ploshchad believes that the self-same Strategic 
Studies Center should service the cabinet of ministers, not the 
presidential administration. Nor is there any strict 
orientation to a public analytical center, although no-one has 
denounced the agreement between the administration and the 
effective policy foundation yet. 



MOSCOW. Sept 7 (Interfax) - Prominent businessman Boris
Berezovsky named the journalists and representatives of the Russian
intelligentsia to whose management he intends to hand over his ORT
television channel stock at a Thursday press conference at the
Interfax main office.
The list includes writer Vasily Aksyonov, journalists Natalya
Gevorkian (Kommersant), Igor Golembiovsky (Noviye Izvestia), Georgy
Gulia, Sergei Dorenko (ORT), Anna Kachkayeva (Radio Liberty), Kirill
Kleimyonov (ORT), Otto Latsis (Noviye Izvestia), Vladimir Pozner
(ORT/ATV), lawyer Genry Reznik, journalist Vitaly Tretyakov
(Nezavisimaya Gazeta), former ORT general director Igor Shabdurasulov,
journalist Yegor Yakovlev (Obshchaya Gazeta) and Leonid Yakubovich
Berezovsky also asked members of the Media-MOST holding Alexei
Venediktov, Yevgeny Kiselyov, Sergei Parkhomenko and Mikhail Berger to
share responsibility for ORT's future.
TV Center journalist Igor Flyarkovsky, theater director Yuri
Lyubimov and writers Viktor Pelevin, Rustam Khamdamov and Fazil
Iskander are among those who have already agreed to his proposal,
Berezovsky said.
The list has not been completed yet, and "everything cannot be
finished today," Berezovsky said.
"I think it would be wise if the people I named in the second
part joined this," the businessman said. These people "are in a
position to carry out the very important function that ORT has been
carrying out until today," he said.
"I largely agree with the just criticism leveled at me and ORT. I
am sure this collective mind will undoubtedly do better than I was
doing as a private stockholder," Berezovsky said.
The businessman said he is certain the handing of the shares
over to the intelligentsia will contribute to the establishment of
institutions of civil society in Russia, among which freedom of the
press is a most important one.
"I made this decision not by my own, but together with other
shareholders," which include the LogoVAZ car dealer company and a
commercial bank, he said.
In making the decision, Berezovsky said he consulted with Badri
Patrkatsishvili and "ORT journalists" such as Sergei Dorenko,
Konstantin Ernst and former ORT general director Igor Shabdurasulov.


September 6, 2000
Happy Days Are Here Again!
Muscovites find ways to amuse themselves in a world without TV

The fire that gutted Moscow's Ostankino television tower on Aug. 27 has left 
many parts of the Moscow region without television despite makeshift 
replacement transmitters. And a storm this week has also wiped out much radio 
broadcasting. The combination has sent Muscovites back through a 25-year time 
warp. In those days, a familiar scene was a family huddling around their 
antiquated transistor radio, trying to tune in to the Voice of America, or 
Radio Liberty, or Deutsche Welle, and swapping the latest political jokes. "I 
have forgotten how entertaining and informative these programs are," says 
Nadezhda Martynova, 67, a retired manager. "It's just as well that TV went 
off the air." 

One difference between now and then is that Soviet-era jamming equipment is 
no longer used to block foreign stations. The jammers have all been converted 
to commercial broadcast use over the last decade, or collapsed through 
neglect and theft. 

Nor do the Russians have to hide the fact that they listen to foreign 
stations, or fear a midnight knock on the door. Well, not yet anyway — a
of such an eventuality hangs in the smoky Russian air. And the new wave of 
political jokes that suddenly hit Moscow after the Ostankino fire exposes 
popular premonitions. In the old Soviet days, so vividly brought back by the 
Ostankino disaster, biting political jokes made up for suppressed freedom of 
speech and thought. They were the only way to express all that could not be 
said otherwise. No art ever elucidated the vagaries of life in the Soviet 
Union better than that. "Who is your family?" a Communist Party inspector 
asks a teenager. "Our great father is Comrade Stalin, our great mother is our 
Soviet country," answers the boy. "Good," beams the inspector. "And what 
would you like to become?" "An orphan," says the boy. 

No wonder the regime was harsh on joke tellers. A judge asks his colleague, 
"What are you laughing at?" The friend replies: "I heard such a great joke!" 
"Do tell." "I can't. I just sentenced a guy to 10 years in the labor camps 
for telling it." 

The collapse of communism and the advent of free speech buried the genre: who 
needs acid jokes when you can put all your sarcasm in print and get away with 
it? There always was an occasional political joke, of course: a man parks his 
battered Zhiguli sedan right by the Kremlin gate. An enraged cop shouts at 
him: "Do you realize where you're parking? Do you know who is walking by 
here? It's Chubais, it's Chernomyrdin, it's Yeltsin himself!" "That's all 
right," says the driver, "I locked the doors." 

However, the Russian joke basically acquired a social rather than political 
dimension in the post-Soviet age. Instead of a crude, corrupt and cynical 
party boss as the butt of jokes, the target is a rich crude, corrupt and 
cynical "new Russian." A new Russian runs into his broke classmate. "You 
know, our caviar is still better than all those imported oysters." "I 
wouldn't know, I haven't eaten for three days," says the broke guy. "That's a 
shame, old man, you've got to force yourself to eat." 

But now, in the brave new Putin world, the Russians are seriously concerned 
that free speech — their only tangible achievement — may cease to
exist. And 
while scholars and pundits are debating heatedly over whether Russia stands 
to lose it, the vox populi seems to have pronounced its own verdict: the 
political joke is back again. The Ostankino fire worked as the watershed as 
it produced a barrage of jokes as brilliant, and as cynical, as they were 
under the Soviets: "The Ostankino tower had to burn because the FSB (the heir 
to the KGB) lost their tape of 'Swan Lake'," says one. (During the hard-line 
Communist putsch of 1991, they kept playing the "Swan Lake" on all TV 
channels. It became the symbol of a coup d'etat ever since.) 

"The FSB is authorized to state that all the planned catastrophes and 
disasters will be on hold until television broadcasts are fully restored," 
says another. "Washington officially confirms that no American TV tower ever 
came close to Ostankino," runs a joke in a mocking reference to the official 
Russian line that the Kursk submarine was rammed and sunk by a foreign 

"That the people feel the need of the political joke again is sad," says 
Professor Dmitry Furman, a respected Moscow-based analyst. "But it also shows 
that the people are not going to buy the high-handed Putin regime all that 

As if to prove Furman's point, yet another joke hit Moscow this week, mocking 
the famous Putin promise of the last fall to rub out terrorists in latrines: 
"Land to the peasants! Factories to the workers! Latrines to the Terrorists!" 

Putin is welcome to dream of his strong state, but it will never work as long 
as the Russians keep swapping new jokes over their old transistor radios. 


The Economist (UK)
September 9-15, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's cooked books 

EVEN by Russian standards, it shows impressive ingenuity. Norilsk Nickel, 
which owns one of the world's richest mineral deposits, hopes to turn three 
nuclear submarines (minus their intercontinental ballistic missiles) into 
freighters, each capable of carrying 12,000 tons of cargo from Russia's icy 
far north, faster and more reliably than allowed by the current means of 
transport--clapped-out nuclear ice-breakers. 

But the market is digesting something else. Norilsk's financial management is 
distinctly tinny. In May the board said, alarmingly, that it was pledging a 
38% share in its core production subsidiary to secure a $200m loan from an 
unknown source. Now it has failed to publish western-style accounts for 1999, 
which analysts were promised by August. United Financial Group (UFG), a 
Moscow investment bank, estimates that these will show 1999 earnings of 
$590m, compared with nearly $1 billion declared under Russia's murky and 
eccentric accounting rules. 

Norilsk says it plans to release the results by the beginning of October. 
Most analysts in Moscow are still touting the shares as a "buy". Norilsk is 
far from the worst, they argue. Sberbank, for example, the country's biggest 
financial institution, released 1998 and 1999 western-style accounts only 
this summer and only to one outside director, who has yet to share them with 
the public. 

Other companies are even further behind. "In the first report I wrote on a 
Russian company, in early 1997, one of my key investment points was the 
imminent release of its IAS [International Accounting Standards] results," 
recalls Kim Iskyan, a Moscow financial veteran. He and the world are still 

Not that investors should pay too much attention to any kind of accounts in a 
country in which evading rules is a national pastime. Indeed, some of the 
earliest firms to publish IAS accounts have been among the dodgiest. "Some 
past corporate-governance nightmares, such as the oil majors Sibneft and 
Yukos, have been very quick to adopt western accountancy standards, as a 
quick way of polishing their image," says James Fenkner, of Troika Dialog, an 
investment bank. 

The truth is that investors, however greedy and amnesiac, still have very 
little hope of working out what Russian companies are really worth. Optimists 
see this as an opportunity. "If you assume that transparency can only 
improve, the discount assigned to the assets can only go down," argues Mr 
Iskyan--also assuming, of course, that the shares have not already been 
snapped up by equally rosy-minded punters. 

Ex-Soviet President Establishes New Foundation. .

NEW YORK, September 7 (Itar-Tass) - Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev 
announced on Thursday he has set up a new international foundation to promote 
understanding between Russia and the United States. 

Its activities will cover a broad range of issues, from anti-missile defences 
to enviromental protection and ways of combating the spread of disease. 

The foundation has formed a board of directors comprising US and Russian 
political experts. Its most prominent member is former US Secretary of State 
James Baker. 

Its consultative council has no Russian members yet but top American 
businessmen Donald Kendall and Ted Turner, General Colin Powell and 
vice-presidential candidate Richard Cheney have been appointed. 


Russia prolongs Chechen siege conditions amid fears of new strikes

MOSCOW, Sept 7 (AFP) - 
Russian authorities in Chechnya vowed Thursday to maintain an emergency 
stranglehold on the breakaway republic, claiming a security clampdown had 
prevented a wave of terror attacks on a key rebel anniversary.

But Russian military governor Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev told Interfax 
said the near curfew conditions and blanket ban on vehicles across the 
republic would not be lifted until the threat of suicide car bombings had 

"I think it is too early to cancel the standby regime yet, as we can expect 
any provocation from the fighters, including against civilians," he said, 
adding: "We cannot sacrifice people."

Babichev hailed the success of the extra security measures, saying the 
crackdown had foiled rebel plans to launch up to 20 kamikaze bombings on 
Wednesday's ninth anniversary of Chechnya's self-proclaimed independence.

"These measures have yielded a positive result: they (the rebels) have failed 
to capture populated areas and undertake large-scale terrorist acts, 
everything is in our hands, everything is under control," he said.

Babichev added that Russian forces remained on high alert across Chechnya 
where the situation was "still complicated" Thursday.

Grozny and the second city Gudermes were effectively under a state of siege, 
with special units of elite interior ministry troops deployed on key roads to 
stymie rebel movements.

Forty-six Chechen rebels were killed by Russian troops during a wave of 
operations across the republic in the past 24 hours, Interfax cited Russian 
forces saying Thursday.

Twelve remote-control mines had been defused by Russian sappers and 41 
Chechens had been arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the separatist 
rebels, the Russian interior ministry was cited saying by the RIA Novosti 

But the ministry said Chechen rebels had opened fire on federal soldiers in 
three separate incidents in the capital Grozny over the same period of time 
over the past 24 hours.

One of the rebels attacks had targeted a control post in the capital's 
Oktyabrsky district but no Russian troops had died in the shoot-out, the 
federal chief of staff told Interfax.

A Russian soldier was killed and three others injured Wednesday when their 
armoured vehicle hit a landmine in Gudermes, ITAR-TASS cited the interior 
ministry saying Thursday.

Russian forces had earlier conceded that four federal troops had been killed 
in a string of isolated attacks on the eve of the anniversary, agencies 

Mayarbek Vachagayev, a spokesman for separatist Chechen President Aslan 
Maskhadov, told AFP that a rebel unit had taken video footage of an attack 
early Thursday on a Russian checkpoint in Grozny which showed that 11 federal 
troops had been killed.

He added that 70 Chechens had been arrested overnight in the eastern city of 
Gudermes and in the villages of Tsatsan-Yurt and Kurchaloi as part of the 
Russian forces' sweeping-up operations.

The self-proclaimed Chechen independence day commemorated a rebel uprising on 
September 6, 1991, which triggered a chain of events that led to a bloody 
21-month conflict with Moscow and ended with Chechnya's de facto independence 
in August 1996.

Russian forces conceded Wednesday that five federal troops had been killed in 
a string of isolated attacks on the eve of the anniversary, agencies reported.


The New Republic
Septemer 11, 2000
[for personal use only]
New Depths
Masha Gessen reports from Moscow on why the Kursk disaster didn't hurt Putin.
MASHA GESSEN is chief correspondent at Itogi, the Russian partner to 

August is a dangerous month for Russia. It has given the country the coup of 
1991, the financial crash of 1998, the start of the second Chechen war in 
1999, and this year, on August 12, the Kursk submarine disaster. When news of 
the government's outrageous mishandling of the catastrophe leaked out--the 
four days before Russia accepted international help, the six days before 
President Vladimir Putin interrupted his Black Sea vacation, the waves of 
official misinformation--many observers in Russia and abroad predicted the 
incident would end Putin's political honeymoon. "THE BARENTS SEA WILL HAVE A 
POLITICAL FALLOUT," read a headline in one major Russian newspaper; "WE ARE 
ALL IN A SINKING SUB CALLED RUSSIA," opined another. On nongovernment 
channels, TV and radio personalities berated the president and his men almost 

And then something funny happened. A day or two after rescue efforts were 
abandoned, Russian talk-show callers began to express their support for Putin 
once again, arguing that he'd done his best with the lousy navy he'd 
inherited. Russian Orthodox clergy also took to the airwaves, taking the 
media to task for criticizing Putin so harshly at a painful time. 

In fact, it now appears likely that Putin's fumbling of the Kursk accident 
will not damage him politically at all. The iron fist that he has brought to 
politics, while dismaying to elites and foreigners, still appeals to ordinary 
Russians. Since taking power, Putin's approval rating has held steady at 
around 70 percent, unaffected by the endless war in Chechnya, terrorist 
bombings in the heart of Moscow, or even the liberal economic platform he 
ostensibly backs. After more than a decade in which centralized political 
power had been dispersed among a variety of Russian institutions, the public 
seems to approve of Putin's whirlwind efforts to reverse the trend. Even the 
widows and mothers of the Kursk sailors were, at least in the words of the 
government minister dispatched to meet with them, "less concerned with money 
or compensation than with restoring the might of the military and the 

To some degree, this desire for a strongman is understandable. Under Boris 
Yeltsin, Russia was a continuing experiment in barely controlled chaos. Its 
89 regions, each with its own governor, largely went their own way: many 
remained in political and economic stasis, while others chased private 
visions of post-communism. And if Yeltsin enjoyed little leverage over the 
regional governors, he exercised little more over Russia's two other 
post-Soviet elites: big business and the political parties represented in the 
Duma, the parliament's lower chamber. 

But, in his yearlong tenure as prime minister and then president, Putin has 
dramatically curtailed all three alternative power centers. Unable to 
completely abolish the elected governorships, Putin instead re-carved the 
nation into seven districts, each with a presidentially appointed 
governor-general (five of them are, in fact, generals) with broad authority 
over the region's finances. Putin has further emasculated the governors by 
pushing through parliament a bill enabling the president to remove elected 
governors from office for offenses identified by the prosecutor's office--no 
court decision or local impeachment procedure required. A second bill changes 
the composition and purpose of the upper house of parliament, which had been 
made up of elected governors and the speakers of local legislatures. Now it 
will comprise appointed representatives of the local leaders, and its role in 
federal lawmaking will become purely symbolic. 

With these changes, Putin has deprived one of the country's major political 
elites of a national pulpit, stripped it of most of its prestige and power, 
and moved Russia a giant step closer to becoming a unitary state rather than 
the loose, federal structure it was under Yeltsin. So profound has been the 
change in the governors' status that the national media has virtually ignored 
the gubernatorial election campaigns now under way in 40 percent of the 
regions. They barely matter anymore. 

So, too, with the political parties of the Duma. Under Yeltsin, the Duma was 
a hotbed of anti-Kremlin sentiment, housing everyone from the Communists, who 
opposed Yeltsin on economic reform, to the extreme right, which opposed him 
on rapprochement with the United States, to the left-liberal Yabloko, which 
opposed him on Chechnya. But Putin dealt the multiple-party system a 
near-mortal blow last fall, when, as prime minister, he engineered the speedy 
formation of a party called Unity, with no political agenda aside from 
devotion to the Kremlin. Generous support from the Kremlin combined with a 
ruthless media campaign secured, for the first time in post-Soviet history, a 
reliably pro-presidential majority in the Duma. The Kremlin's next step may 
well be election-reform plans to render parties irrelevant by abolishing 
party-list seats, which currently account for half of the Duma. 

Similarly, Putin has waged a high-profile battle against any business tycoon 
he viewed as a competitor. First there was the May raid on the offices of 
Media-Most, owner of Russia's only independent TV network, and the three-day 
jailing of its main shareholder, Vladimir Gusinsky. The Kremlin followed that 
with a slew of tax inspections, criminal investigations, and civil 
proceedings against other leading businessmen. Within weeks, frightened 
moguls were lining up for invitations to a meeting with Putin, where, they 
hoped, new rules of the game would be set forth and their immunity from 
prosecution secured. The meeting took place at the end of July. Little is 
known about what transpired, but at a post-meeting press conference the 
entrepreneurs seemed cowed, offering effusive--if somewhat 
implausible--praise of the president. (After two participants lauded Putin's 
openness and his pledge to leave the results of privatization unchallenged, 
another grumbled into his microphone, "I must have been at a different 

Meanwhile, two days before the meeting, the government abruptly shelved its 
case against Gusinsky. Gusinsky immediately flew to Spain, without a word to 
the media (including his own employees, of whom I am one). Circumstantial 
evidence suggests he has agreed to forfeit his media holdings, which 
represent much of Russia's independent press, in exchange for the state's 
dropping its charges. 

By making an example of one important opponent (a tactic frequently employed 
by the KGB in the 1970s, where the young Vladimir Putin was trained), Putin 
has profoundly altered the behavior of media tycoons generally. In May, the 
oil giant LUKoil abruptly pulled back its investments in the television 
network REN-TV, according to a source within the network, which in turn 
forced REN-TV to pull out of a contest for a nationwide broadcasting license. 
Now that media ownership has turned from an asset into a liability, other 
business leaders are expected to follow suit. And, if persistent leaks are to 
be believed, the Kremlin intends to make this process irreversible by 
instituting strict new licensing controls for all media. 

And Putin's initiatives against competing elites aren't his only efforts to 
create what the Kremlin has termed "a strict vertical governing structure" 
that rules out dissent, disagreement, or discussion within the country's 
ruling bodies. Domestic agencies intended to protect natural resources and 
disenfranchised minorities--the environmental protection ministry, the 
federal forestry service, the ministry on youth politics, and the federal 
migration service--have been abolished. The closing of the latter two 
agencies will almost certainly exacerbate the already grave social problems 
in Russia, which has more than a million refugees and internally displaced 
persons (about half of whom were displaced by the war in Chechnya) and an 
estimated one million street children. 

As for the environmental agencies, their functions have been handed over to 
the maniacally pro-business Natural Resources Ministry, which oversees all 
the mining, drilling, and clear-cutting from which it is now expected to 
protect the country. One likely consequence will be the construction of a 
high-speed railway between Moscow and Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg, a 
plan that had been blocked by the environmental agency because construction 
would damage a precious wildlife reserve. 

Given all these changes, Putin's response to the Kursk disaster was not a 
surprise. He has developed an unmistakable political style characterized by 
secrecy, misinformation, centralization of power, and ruthless attacks on 
opponents large and small. That this is the kind of leader Russia has 
produced, ten years after the Soviet Union's fall, is depressing. That the 
Russian people seem so happy with him is more depressing still. 


Los Angeles Times
September 7, 2000
A Watch, a Shoe and a Cold War Tale 
Nina Khrushcheva Is Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York

"Khrushchev? The one who banged a shoe?" 
Not again! I wish it had never happened, I thought for the thousandth 
time when I was asked for the thousandth time if I had seen pictures of the 
U.N. shoe incident. 
I hadn't and didn't want to. For all these years, I was slightly 
embarrassed by my grandfather's uncivilized behavior, exposed the world over. 
In fact, my whole family was, so we never talked about it. Besides, 
Nikita S. Khrushchev's name was not officially mentioned in the Soviet Union 
for 20 years after he was dismissed as premier in 1964; as far as the 
authorities were concerned, the incident had never happened, nor had 
Khrushchev. But after 40 years, during the U.N. Millennium Summit, I decided 
it was time to face the truth. 
Surprisingly, however, the books I found on international and Soviet 
politics were inconsistent about the causes and timing of the event. This 
made me suspicious. Why are the versions so different? Were there pictures? 
What if it had never happened? What if it was just an anecdote created by 
public demand, consistent with political needs of the socialist-capitalist 
A scandalous shoe-banging so conveniently fit the general mode of 
Khrushchev's behavior. He was well known for interrupting speakers, banging 
his fists on the table in protest, pounding his feet, even whistling in 
disagreement. None of this, however, was enough to be transformed into a 
physical symbol of the Cold War. The shoe, on the other hand, fit right in: 
Its lowly place had boldly been moved up to the table (tough revolutionaries 
and manners don't go together) in order to "stamp its foot," signifying the 
oppressive character of socialism. The sound of a shoe pounding the table was 
a distinctive Cold War feature, as much as the sound of a gun firing denotes 
a "hot" war. 
The shoe-banging incident conveyed, for the West, a convenient 
ideological message: Our enemy is ridiculous and uncivilized, therefore he is 
capable of everything. We too then have to be prepared for anything. 
Studying old newspapers as the best record of contemporary events, I 
felt as if I was in New York that fall of 1960. Fifteen years had elapsed 
since the end of World War II. Humanity had survived, and East and West were 
now fighting another war of words and ideologies. Cuba's Fidel Castro was 
making a big stir. "Hurricane Nikita" used every opportunity to be difficult. 
President Eisenhower did not try to defuse tensions. 
On Oct. 12, 1960, there it was on the front page of all national 
newspapers: the picture I was looking for so persistently and yet so dreaded 
seeing. The head of the Philippine delegation to the U.N., Lorenzo Sumulong, 
was surprised at the Soviet Union's concerns over Western imperialism, since 
the Soviets had swallowed the whole of Eastern Europe. Khrushchev's reply was 
angry. He called Sumulong "a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism," put 
his shoe on the desk and banged it. 
When Khrushchev left the U.S. the next day, he was done with the 
incident. And when I read about it, I was done with feeling ashamed. In 
trying unsuccessfully to rehabilitate my grandfather in the world's eyes, I 
rehabilitated him in my own eyes by understanding his behavior. He felt that 
the Soviet Union was mistreated by the Western powers: Spy planes flew over 
Russia; the U.S. imposed an embargo on Cuba; the West rejected the Soviet 
Union's new disarmament plan. 
Capitalists thought of him as a vaudeville character. Fine, he would use 
the United Nations' stage to show them that he should be taken seriously as a 
worthy opponent. But he would do it in a manner different from the polite 
hypocrites of the West with their appropriate words, false niceties and 
calculated deeds. A provokingly dramatic (or tragi-comic) act of shoe-banging 
was supposed to separate two worlds, not only in terms of their titles and 
their politics but also in their means of making diplomacy. 
As a good performer, Khrushchev needed a strong, convincing exit from 
the U.N. and the U.S. In the excitement of fist-banging at the Filipino's 
words, his watch fell off. Meanwhile his shoes, made of durable Soviet 
leather, were too new and too tight, and he removed them. He bent down to 
pick up the watch and saw an empty shoe. These insights I learned from my 
family. Since the 40-year spell of embarrassment was broken, we were finally 
ready to talk about those times. 
I still think that, had the shoe-banging not happened, it would have 
been invented. The best anecdote is always the one that truly reflects the 
morality and character of certain times. The shoe incident became a real 
symbol of the Cold War, probably the only war in which fear and humor 
peacefully coexisted. 
Today it is old hat--or old shoe. The old U.N. stage has new leaders and 
new wars and fears. But I find it comforting to know that at times, history 
gives us a chance to replace a horrifying reality with a funny anecdote. 


Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2000 
From: Vladimir Shlapentokh <> 
Subject: The Soviet Leaders Analyze Putin

The Soviet Leaders Analyze Putin
By Vladimir Shlapentokh

Regardless of his future mistakes, Vladimir Putin will remain the president
of Russia for the next four or more years. Even such tragic events as the
sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine along with its 118-man crew, and the
fire in the Ostankino television tower, which killed three people and
blacked out most Russian television stations in Moscow, do not jeopardize
Putin's regime Today, the president's power goes unchecked by the
parliament and judicial system. In some respects, Putin has more authority
than the general secretaries of the Soviet Communist Party whose strategic
decisions were influenced by the Politburo, or at least by its leading
members. Those individuals close to the decision making process in the
Kremlin act only as advisers. Putin's individual characteristics will
influence Russian developments to no lesser degree than the general
secretaries of the Soviet past.

In the eyes of the post-Stalin Soviet leaders, from Nikita Khrushchev to
Konstantin Chernenko, the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin was a
renegade, a wrecker of the Soviet Union and a man obsessed with personal
enrichment and the interests of "the family." In contrast, President
Vladimir Putin looks to them like one of their own, although he does not
have the same predilection for cognac, nor for beautiful female nurses and
secretaries. Bring the Soviet leaders back to life, place them in the
Kremlin in the year 2000, and show them a picture of Putin. This is what
they see: a leader who focuses on bolstering state power as a major
strategy for solving the country's problems, particularly that of restoring
its status in the world. They regard Putin's admiration of Stalin, who made
the Soviet Union a superpower, as a sign of his real dedication to restoring
Great Russia. Trusting in Putin's sober mind, they suppose that he will
move the country gradually toward this goal. Like Stalin, Putin will first
try to consolidate the country's resources before claiming its leading role
in the world.

Separating themselves from Russian liberals, the Soviet leaders accept
Putin's close connection with the KGB. Having serious concerns about his
job experiences, all of which were centered around this organization, the
Soviet leaders, with the exception of Khrushchev, praise Putin for his
veneration of the political police, an admiration which stems from his youth
when the KGB persecuted dissidents on full scale in the 1970s. Among other
things, they share his life long respect for the KGB's founder, Felix
Dzerzhinsky. Indeed, watching the events unravel in Russia after 1985, they
saw how KGB personnel remained loyal to the Soviet past, to the might of the
state, and to the geopolitical interests of Russia. The champions of
anti-Communism came from the highest echelon of the party, the state
apparatus, and the army, and not from the KGB (with the exception of General
Oleg Kalugin, who Putin named as a traitor). It is only natural for Putin
to fill his bureaucracy with his colleagues from the KGB.

The general secretaries, including Khrushchev (the most liberal),
completely endorse Putin's determination to reclaim the country's military
might, unity and order. They support his increase of the military budget,
which has already shown positive signs in the military industrial complex,
the pet sector for all Soviet leaders. All the more, they understand
Putin's plan to curtail state expenditures on medicine, education and
housing in order to develop the military industry after its ruinous years
under Yeltsin.

They fully endorse Putin's willingness to crack the autonomy of local
barons, governors and the presidents of non Russian republics. With their
own "credentials" (i.e., Khrushchev's smothering of the 1956 riot in
Hungary, and the Afghan war started by Brezhnev in 1979), they approve of
the war against Chechnia. They do not criticize his cruel policy apropos of
the civilian population in this republic. They reject the West's criticism
of the war as directed only by its hatred of Russia.

With pleasure they note Putin's hostility toward the Russian oligarchs and
his tendency to curtail their role in the economy and particularly in
politics. The Soviet leaders ascribe the worst of Russia's evils to the
oligarchs. They readily agreed with Putin when he denounced them as the
creators of the corrupt state during his meeting with the country's leading
businessmen in July. With their deeply rooted antisemitism, the Soviet
leaders are especially critical of Jewish Russian tycoons. They are
confident that Putin believes, along with his KGB colleagues, that most
Jews, and all Jewish oligarchs, are hostile toward Russia. At the same
time, with all the weaknesses of the current regime, they understand why
Putin must conceal his real attitudes, and even demonstrate his loyalty to
this group in order to draw their financial support, as well as that of the
West. In their view, Western aid is controlled by Zionists. The Soviet
leaders remember how Stalin evolved from a supporter of harsh measures
against antisemitism to the leader who introduced antisemitism as an
important element of the state's foreign and domestic policy.

The ideological differences between Putin and the Soviet leaders are not
significant. For them, the Communist ideology was mostly the cover for
their major goal of maintaining Russia as a superpower and justifying their
totalitarian control over the country. Naturally, Putin needed a new
ideological structure to meet the requirements of a very different world.
They see Putin's democratic phraseology as a new disguise for an old
strategy. Putin claims that he is devoted to the division of power and
honest elections just as the Soviet leaders talked about the leading role of
the working class in society and internationalism as the motivation for the
invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. They are happy to find that
the separation between the open and closed ideologies has been reborn, that
is, two types of ideology operate in Russia, one addressed to the masses and
foreigners, the other distributed to the ruling elite.

Putin shows more warmth toward the people than the old masters of the
Kremlin. However, the Soviet leaders realize that Putin is putting on an
act, that he actually shares their contempt for ordinary citizens, who are
generally prone to laziness, drunkenness, and theft. They see that Putin's
disgust for the masses has a stronger justification than their own: never
in their time were ordinary people so atomized and indifferent toward public
issues; never were educated people so greedy and unprincipled. They approve
of Putin's scorn for populism and "flirtation with the masses" as well as
his belief that the mob cannot be trusted to govern the country. The Soviet
leaders applaud his ability to prearrange the outcome of almost any
election. They are envious of Putin's ability to rise from obscurity to the
apex of power and achieve the legitimacy of being elected by the population.
Had the Soviet leaders obtained the same legitimacy, they could have
alleviated their inferiority complex in the face of their American and
French counterparts.

The Soviet leaders do not blame Putin for his deep disdain for the
democratic institutions which he extols publicly. In fact, they support
many of his latest endeavors. He turned the Russian parliament into a
compliant body which now looks similar to the Supreme Soviet of the past.
Today, he calls upon the heads of the constitutional and supreme courts as
ordinary subordinates. Putin destroyed the Federal Council as an
independent political body able to challenge the Kremlin. The general
secretaries also support his goal of implanting his own candidates in the
gubernatorial election campaigns of the future, as well as his drive to
curtail the free media, which endangers the prestige of the state and army,
as clearly demonstrated during and after the Kursk submarine disaster.

Accepting the existence of two ideological truthsone for the public, and
another for the Kremlinthe Soviet leaders regard Putin's habitual lies as a
"normal" procedure. They believe in the necessity of lying to foreign
leaders and the Russian population in order to protect military secrets,
spying operations, and the prestige of the army. However, they are somewhat
dismayed by Putin's fabrications on minor issues, particularly his most
obvious lies. They do not understand why he lied during his June 2000 trip
to Spain about his inability to contact the attorney general in order to
explain the grounds for the arrest of media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky. In
view of the tightening of the global community, they shake their heads at
Putin's distortion of the information about the Kursk submarine tragedy.
The information was easily checked by the public, which has access to a
relatively free Russian media. The incongruities were all too obtrusive
when he asserted that the Kremlin never rejected foreign assistance and that
they had always been ready to accept help from the West. Even more blatant
were his lies during the parliamentary election in December 1999, and during
the presidential election in March 2000 when he denied any intervention of
the Kremlin in the election process.

The Soviet leaders smirked at Putin's government appointment of Pavel
Borodin, who had been a deeply corrupt manager of Yeltsin's team. Putin
seemingly ignored Borodin's shady reputation, not to mention the Swiss
warrant for his arrest. Putin pointed out that the court had not found him
guilty, though it was obvious to the Russian people that the Kremlin was
protecting this crook from Russian and Swiss judiciaries. Watching Putin,
the Soviet leaders are concerned that he is a compulsive liar, who cannot
overcome his instinct for deception born from his KGB past. They are
worried that his lack of credibility will hurt his ability to negotiate with
foreign politicians.

The Soviet leaders have mixed feelings about Putin's economic program. To
some it looks exceedingly liberal. Others, however, remind their colleagues
of Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP), which led to the centralization of the
economy as the basis for Russia's stormy industrialization and the
development of the military industry. Putin's defenders argue that with the
country in shambles and the state coffers empty, Putin has no alternative
but to use the tactics of the NEP to restore the economy. This policy is
especially important for luring foreign investments and expertises, a
crucial strategy for Stalin's industrialization and the creation of a
powerful military industrial complex. Outperforming Stalin, Putin may even
obtain foreign money for this purpose, while Stalin had to confiscate grain
from starving peasants in order to pay for foreign equipment. The Soviet
leaders are confident that Putin will move toward economic re-centralization
in the future without eliminating small and mid-size businesses, as Stalin
did in the late 1920s. They agree with the sentiments of Alexander
Prokhanov, a nationalist journalist and troubadour of Great Russia, who
recently visited the Kremlin as the president's guest. In a recent article,
Prokhanov said that he hoped that behind Putin's official liberal economic
program there "is a well elaborated mobilization project already developed
by the Russian Security Council and the General Staff."

While they share many of Putin's values, they can hardly hide their
consternation for some of his personal traits. Always concerned about the
appearance of the state, the general secretaries are dismayed by Putin's use
of criminal slang in his public speeches. Putin spoke with this sort of
language in one of his first public talks, dumbfounding the entire country.
According to one American translator, Putin said: "If need be, Russian
military forces will chase the Chechen bandits into their own outhouses and
wipe them out while they are still sitting on their toilets." In the next
months, Putin continued to intermingle criminal jargon in his most important
public statements. Some of the Soviet leaders attribute his word choices to
his work in the KGB, which had always overlapped with the criminal milieu.
Other leaders emphasize the criminalization of the mentality of the entire
post-Communist Russian population. Not only Putin, but most politicians in
the country use the same type of gang jargon, including such Westernized and
highly educated officials as Boris Nemtsov and Anatolii Chubais.

However, the Soviet leaders are less concerned about his language than his
meager job experience prior to his elevation to the highest position in the
country. Unlike Putin, all of the general secretaries developed their
leadership skills through long careers as regional, republican and Central
Committee secretaries. Such a background is necessary for a leader, who
makes important decisions on a regular basis, particularly in the selection
of cadres. The extent of Putin's leadership experience consists of a one
year stint as the Head of the Federal Service of Security. How, they
wonder, can an individual with such scant training run the country?

As strong support for their doubts about Putin's capabilities, the Soviet
leaders cite several episodes in the first one hundred days of his
presidency when he tried to skirt responsibility for the actions of his
subordinates. This happened during the famous Gusinsky case, and during the
hot argument between Minister of Defense Igor Sergeev and the Chief of the
General Staff Anatolii Kwashnin over the future of the Russian army. The
most alarming case was Putin's conduct during and after the Kursk disaster
in August 2000. He refused to take a leading role in the efforts to save
the submarine and its crew. He defended himself, claiming that he had done
the right thing, "because the arrival of nonspecialists from any field, the
presence of high-placed officials in the disaster area would not help and
more often would hamper work." Soviet leaders could only agree with the
furious Russians, who saw Putin's defense as incomprehensible coming from a
commander in chief. With Putin's lack of serious leadership experience, the
Soviet leaders treat his relatively young age not as a virtue, but a flaw.
Their critical judgement cannot be swayed by Putin's much touted physical
health and athletic ability.

One of the Soviet leaders' biggest concerns is Putin's relationship with
the Yeltsin family. No general secretary of the past trusted the personal
staff of his predecessor. In all cases, he replaced the old staff with his
own people as soon as he took control of the Kremlin. The Soviet leaders
are rather surprised by Putin's decision to keep Alexander Voloshin, a
former head of Yeltsin's staff, in the same position in his administration.
They are equally amazed to see that Yeltsin's daughter, Tatiana Diachenko,
is among the most visible politicians in the country, according to recent
surveys. The Soviet leaders ascribe Putin's sympathetic behavior toward
"the family" to his weak will as a leader and his fear of taking risks.
They reject the rumor that "the family" is blackmailing the president with
his involvement in the Moscow explosions in September 1999, which helped him
win the presidency.

Overall, there is a somber mood in the room as the general secretaries sip
their cognac and discuss the future of Russia. They like the new president,
his vision of the world, his ideology, and his goals for Russia. However,
from the long term perspective they are unconfident in his ability, or even
their own, to cope with the country's major problems. Russia's economy is
faltering. Its industrial equipment is rapidly moving toward obsolescence
and its technological gap with the West is growing. On August 28, Putin
announced to the Russian public that the latest crisesthe sinking of the
Kursk submarine and the blaze in the Ostankino Towerwere clear signs of the
critical situation in Russia.

The Soviet leaders see the greatest impediment to Putin's noble plan in the
almost total demoralization of the population. The people's formal support
for Putin does not translate into real involvement in the advancement of his
program. In the final analysis, the Soviet leaders look to the new
president's lack of charisma, meager job experience, and fear of brusque
decisions. To their dismay, they do not believe that Putin can overcome his
many obstacles and achieve the historical goal of rejuvenating Great Russia.

Acknowledgment: The author wishes to thank Joshua Woods for his editorial
contribution to this article.


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