This Date's Issues: 4586 • 4587
Johnson's Russia List
18 October 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Roadblocks slow effort to
make Russia a tourist mecca.
2. Moscow Times: Igor Semenenko, State Debates Poverty As Wealth
3. Interfax: NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GORE'S, BUSH'S POLICY TOWARDS
RUSSIA - EXPERT. (Sergei Karaganov)
4. Esther Dyson: Chechnya - short meta-observation!
5. Andrei Sitov: Re: 4585-Chechnya.
6. Miriam Lanskoy: Lieven.
7. Moshe Lewin at the Harriman Institute.
8. Robert Bruce Ware: Reply to Wadhams JRL 4583.
9. Transregional Center for Democratic Studies in New York symposium on
Civil Society Revisited.
10. Transitions Online: Elena Chinyaeva, Tackling corruption isn't
as exciting as in the movies.
11. gazeta.ru: Widow Pleads Not Guilty in General Murder Case.
12. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Berezovsky, Bush Twist The Truth.
13. Moscow Times: Cabinet Mulls Spending Of $9.3Bln Oil Windfall.
14. Interfax: Number of registered HIV-infected rockets in Russia.
15. Reuters: U.S. businessman's spying trial to open in Moscow.
16. Vedomosti: Semen Novoprudsky, DISUNITED NATIONS.
17. Moscow Times: Suzanne Thompson, There's a Time For Everything
Under Heaven. (leaving Russia)]
Christian Science Monitor
October 18, 2000
Roadblocks slow effort to make Russia a tourist mecca
By Fred Weir Special to The Christian Science Monitor
With bomb explosions, mafia killings , and other mayhem, Russia is not
exactly an alluring travel destination.
But Russia's new independent travel agents are out to change that.
"Serious travel agencies have only appeared in Russia in the past five
years, and already the competition is getting fierce," says Svetlana
Zamekhovskaya of the independent First Travel Group. "People are realizing
that it can be a profitable business if you develop routes, build
infrastructure, and find ways to advertise."
The World Tourism Organization predicted last month that Russia could be
among the Top 10 global tourist destinations by 2020, if it can solve some
of its basic problems.
A trip to the enigmatic Soviet Union used to be the ultimate Cold War
thrill. But the number of visitors is down from a peak of 5 million in
1990, to fewer than 2 million annually, and most of those never venture
beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg.
"The Communists used to spend a lot of resources putting out a good image
of this country, but nowadays nothing is being done to counter all the
negative propaganda about us," says Sergei Shengen of Intourist, the
state-owned Soviet-era giant that continues to handle more than half of all
Last year 66,000 visitors from the US visited Russia, making the US second
among Western nations to Germany, which sent 107,000 tourists in 1999.
"These are tiny numbers. Any small town in Western Europe receives more
guests than that," says Alexander Chistakhodov, director of the Friendship
Independent tour operators say one obstacle to modern tourism is Intourist
itself, which continues to run lock-step herd tours to a few showcase sites.
"Intourist owns most of the tourist infrastructure that was ever built in
this country, and keeps it under tight control," says Oleg Bondarenko,
co-director of Siberian Adventures." But what many foreign tourists want is
individual, customized travel."
Mr. Chistakhodov also notes that outside Moscow and St. Petersburg there
are few modern hotels, restaurants, and other conveniences. Transportation
is awful. The Russian government subjects visitors to strict visa
requirements, humiliating customs checks, and other bureaucratic hurdles
incompatible with modern notions of travel. And private travel agencies are
starved for investment, strangled by high taxes, and don't know how to
promote their services in the sophisticated West. Friendship Roads is one
of the few agencies with a Web site.
Zamekhovksaya lists the additional problem that in many areas security
can't be guaranteed.
Last month the State Department issued an advisory cautioning Americans
against travel to Russia, citing the arrest and imprisonment in Moscow of
US businessman Edmond Pope on spying charges.
Despite the obstacles, private operators say that even though numbers of
visitors have fallen dramatically from previous highs, foreign tourism is,
according to tentative estimates, up 20 percent this year over last year.
In July, Mr. Bondarenko led nine Americans on a bicycle tour of the Golden
Ring, an arc of ancient, fortified monastery towns near Moscow and in
August took two Westerners to ski on Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest peak.
Other small tour agencies offer camping and fishing treks in Russia's vast
northern forests, lazy boat cruises down the Volga River, and climbing
expeditions to the Altai Mountains. An increasingly popular destination for
the intrepid few is Lake Baikal, a pristine seven-mile-deep lake in Siberia
that is home to dozens of unique animal species.
For those who still want cold war kicks, Friendship Roads will fulfill
once-forbidden fantasies. For $2,750 you can fly - under supervision of a
military test pilot - a supersonic MiG-21 fighter of 1960s vintage. For
just $150, you can spend a day at a Russian Army firing range, ride in a
T-80 tank, and shoot a Kalashnikov rifle, a grenade-launcher, or an
October 18, 2000
State Debates Poverty As Wealth Gap Grows
By Igor Semenenko
Responding to a UN request that member states use Tuesday's International Day
for the Eradication of Poverty to escalate a war on poverty, Russian
officials unloaded reams of statistics but offered few solutions.
During a White House roundtable with experts from both the government and the
private sector, officials announced that 36.7 percent of the population, or
about 52 million people, now live below subsistence level f the equivalent of
less than $1 a day.
And an even larger number, 54 percent, consider themselves poor, according to
a poll conducted by VTsIOM, the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion.
"The way we classify poverty does not match most people's view of
themselves," said Natalya Klimashevskaya, head of Moscow's Social Economics
President Vladimir Putin's government has vowed to make wage reform a top
priority, but results are hard to come by. The official minimum wage this
year was only raised by 50 rubles ($1.79) to 132 rubles ($4.74) a month, and
isn't scheduled to rise above the ruble equivalent of $10 until July 2001.
But even when the minimum wage does break the $10-a-month threshold, it will
still be some 75 percent lower than the official subsistence level. The
government can do very little about it.
In the meantime, the rich are getting richer: Salaries for the 10 percent of
households with the highest income are 32 times those for the lowest 10
percent, and their total income is 44 times higher.
"The lowest 10 percent are just degrading," said Deputy Labor Minister Galina
Having children also becomes an additional burden on households. About half
of all families with one child live below the subsistence level. With three
children in the family, chances are three out of four that each family member
will have less than a dollar a day to live on.
Only 14 of the country's 89 regions actually pay benefits to families that
are entitled, while the rest run debts of 26 billion rubles ($935 million).
"Categories of poor people are getting broader every year," said Karelova.
"Those on the government's payroll gradually join the ranks of the poor."
Six years ago, the costs of housing, medical care and education lagged behind
inflation, but now they are growing at an accelerating pace, leaving the poor
with even less of a chance to climb the social ladder.
Having identified the problem, the government now has to decide how to tackle
it, which is an even tougher job, officials said.
During Tuesday's roundtable, which was broadcast on the Internet and open to
questions from around the country, users asked representatives of the
government, the Duma and various research institutes why Duma deputies kept
paying themselves monthly pensions worth some 8,000 rubles, a sum nine times
the national average.
"Personally, I think it's a shame," said Anatoly Aksakov, deputy head of the
Duma's committee on economic policies. "Since parliamentarians are most
inclined to pass populist laws before the elections, chances are high that
more than half of the Duma members will vote for the law if is submitted just
before their term expires."
Each Duma member earns a salary of about 206,700 rubles ($7,400) a year.
Also, the Duma has earmarked 1.5 billion rubles in next year's budget to
build an apartment house for its members f about 15 percent of the amount
earmarked for scientific research. Such numbers are one of the biggest
complaints of Duma Deputy Zhores Alfyorov, Russia's newest Nobel laureate.
Alfyorov met with Putin this month to ask for more funding for science.
NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GORE'S, BUSH'S POLICY TOWARDS RUSSIA -
MOSCOW. Oct 17 (Interfax) - Whoever wins the upcoming presidential
elections in the United States will pursue a more cautious policy
towards Russia than current U.S. President Bill Clinton and will try to
involve Russia in resolving global problems, Sergei Karaganov, assistant
director of the Institute of Europe and head of the Foreign and Defense
Policy Council, said in an Ekho Moskvy radio broadcast on Tuesday.
Karaganov said he believes George W. Bush, Jr. would be guided by
U.S. interests in evaluating Russia's foreign policy.
No matter who wins the November elections, "the Americans will be
tougher on corruption in Russia and will not allow unreasonable capital
drain," he said.
From: email@example.com (Esther Dyson)
Subject: Chechnya - short meta-observation!
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
If you'll permit one generic quip on such topics:
"Much has already been said, but not everyone has yet had a chance to say it!"
From: WashTASS@aol.com (Andrei Sitov)
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
Subject: Re: 4585-Chechnya
I've now seen several accounts of the Chechnya event at Dirksen on October 11
(as for instance #3 in 4585). None of them mentions an interesting exchange
on how the war is covered.
A reporter asked Mr. Akhmadov to comment on Shamil Basayev's threats to send
fighters to Jerusalem as reported by Movladi Udugov's website and more
generally to recommend reliable news sources on Chechnya.
In response Akhmadov suggested turning to Chechen government sites. He also
said that Jerusalem is safe since Udugov is completely untrustworthy. In his
words Udugov at present has nothing to do with Chechnya, does not know the
real situation there and creates "virtual reality', including "virtual
fighters", out of thin air.
This admission was ironic since Udugov, despite clear evidense of his lying,
has been repeatedly used as a regular news source and commentator on Chechnya
by Radio Free Europe - an organizer of Mr. Akhmadov's appearance on Capitol
Both Paul Goble of RFE and Tom Graham of Carnegie at the press event stressed
the necessity of opposing "Russian propaganda" on Chechnya. Akhmadov's words
serve as a useful reminder that the Western position in the dispute is based
on propaganda probably as much as the Russian one.
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 00
From: Miriam Lanskoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The majority of respondents who disagreed with Lieven, did so on details
but found his argument, on the whole, praiseworthy. I disagree
vehemently with the crux of his argument: that there is something
"Russophobic" about the criticism of Russia's war in Chechnya that has
appeared in the western press. I object to the use of the term
Russophobic when describing reporting that criticizes government policy.
There has to be an analytical difference drawn between criticizing (even
hating) a government or a policy and harboring a prejudice against
members of a nation. Is it anti-American to say that Clinton is a
murderer of Serbian civilians and that NATO's actions there were in
violation of international laws? Does a person who writes such views in
the press open himself up to the charge of hating the American people?
In the particular case of the war in Chechnya, which has been an
unmitigated disaster for all concerned, it might be pro-Russian to
criticize the government that conducts it. The repeated use of the highly
emotional label "Russophobe" to brand some analysts (who by the way are
only rarely identified by name or publication) carries the veiled threat
that those academics and journalists who write criticaly about the Putin
government may be regarded as bigots by their peers.
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
From: Gordon N Bardos <email@example.com>
Subject: Moshe Lewin at the Harriman Institute
The Harriman Institute at Columbia University is pleased to announce the
2000 Harriman Lectures, which will be given by Professor Moshe Lewin.
October 19th: The Harriman Lecture I. "The 1930s: A System and a
October 24. The Harriman Lecture II. "The USSR's 1960s: In
Quest of Modernization," 5:00pm.
October 26. The Harriman Lecture III. "Russia's Twentieth
Century: The Burdens of History," 5:00pm.
All of the lectures will be held at Casa Italiana, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue
(located between 116 and 118th Streets, on the Morningside Heights Campus
of Columbia University. The Lectures are free and open to public. For more
information, please call 212.854.8487.
From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reply to Wadhams JRL 4583
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000
Nick Wadhams recognizes that the Chechnya-based hostage industry rendered
the Northeast Caucasus a dangerous place from 1996 to 1999. Mr. Wadhams
agrees that the dangers of the hostage industry are the reasons that few
Western reporters ventured into the region before the Russian military
moved in. t's also the reason why most of the reports that he mentions
were written at a distance. Indeed, one of the Western reporters that he
mentions admitted to me that he was grateful for Russian military
protection even as he criticized the Russian military campaign.
But if Mr. Wadhams thinks that the Northeast Caucasus was a scary place to
visit, what does he think it was like for the local families who had to
live there? Who told their story? There's is an important story because
it provides a moral foundation for a Russian military campaign in
Chechnya. It doesn't legitimize Russian military excesses, and it
certainly doesn't legitimize torture. But it is the crucial story that
Western journalists were not telling all the while they were rewriting
each other's reports on the devastation of Grozny and other points along
the Russian guided tour.
Because the story of the local families was not reported, the war in
Chechnya has been misunderstood by most people in the West. That
misunderstanding is not only an injustice, but a factor contributing to
the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia. Moreover,
if Westerners had been informed of the full complexities of the situation
in the region, and if their response had reflected balanced insight, then
they might have been more successful at persuading the Russians to avoid
excesses in Chechnya.
Because the West understood little of the situation its response was
obtuse; and because its response was obtuse it could not hope to be
persuasive. Half-informed self-righteousness was substituted for policy.
It was easy for us to be self-complacent, but it did nothing to help the
people of the region.
Mr. Wadhams is correct in his assumption that my conclusions are based
upon first hand field research, but otherwise his ludicrously ignorant
personal attacks are neither an excuse for self-complacency nor a
substitute for a crucial story left unwritten.
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000
From: "Timo Lyyra" <LYYRA@newschool.edu>
Subject: symposium on "Civil Society Revisited"
On behalf of Elzbieta Matynia, Director of the Transregional Center for
Democratic Studies here at the New School University, I would ask
whether you could kindly include the following item in the next issue of
your famous "Johnson List."
Many thanks already in advance,
Transregional Center for Democratic Studies
New School University
65 Fifth Avenue, Room 422
New York, NY 10003
On November 2-4, 2000, the Graduate Faculty and the Transregional
Center for Democratic Studies will be co-hosting a major international
symposium entitled "Civil Society Revisited."
The term civil society is not only a ubiquitous part of current
democratic vocabulary; it provides a framework for democratic action
throughout the world. The symposium will consider the context in which
the current interest in civil society was revived in 1970s, how the
phenomenon itself began to take hold, and the role it plays today in a
variety of contexts. It will offer a critical analysis of the uses and
abuses of the concept.
The symposium will bring together many of the scholars and writers who
were seminal in both originating contemporary debates on civil society
and participating in the processes of reinventing it in '7Os and '80s in
Central Europe. Among the panelists speaking at the symposium are Agnes
Heller, Andrew Arato, Jean L. Cohen, Shlomo Avineri, Nadezda Cacanovic,
Vladimir Tismeneanu, Irena Gross, Elzbieta Matynia, Radim Marada, Maria
Markus, Jose Casanova, Jeffrey Goldfarb, and David Plotke. The keynote
speaker will be Adam Michnik, a well-known historian, writer, and a key
actor in the revival of civil society.
Symposium program (all locations at Graduate Faculty, New School
University, 65 Fifth Avenue between 13th & 14th Streets, New York, NY
November 2 (Thursday) (Swayduck Auditorium)
6:00 PM Keynote Address by Adam Michnik (historian, political
thinker, Editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland
November 3 (Friday) (Wolff Conference Room)
10:00 AM-1:00 PM Session: Civil Society Reinvented: Concepts and Case
- Elzbieta Matynia (Committee for Liberal Studies, Graduate Faculty),
"A Lost Treasure Revisitef: Poland's Solidarity, 20 Years Later"
- Radim Marada (Masaryk University, Brno, the Czech Republic), "Civil
Society: Representing and Represented"
- Maria Markus (School of Sociology, University of New South Wales,
Australia), "Decent Society and/or Civil Society"
- Nadezda Cacinovic (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb,
Croatia), "A Mixed Heritage: The Case of Former Yugoslavia"
2:30-5:30 PM Session: Civil Society and the Meanings of 1989
- Vladimir Tismeanenu (Dept. of Government and Politics, University of
Maryland), "Civil Society and the Legacies of 1989"
- Shlomo Avineri (Institute for European Studies, The Hebrew University
of Jerusalem), "The Promise of Civil Society and the Burden of History"
- Jeffrey Goldfarb (Dept. of Sociology, Graduate Faculty), "1989 and
the Creativity of the Political"
- Andrew Arato (Dept. of Sociology, Graduate Faculty), "Civil Society
Then and Now"
November 4 (Saturday) (Wolff Conference Room)
10:00 AM-1:00 PM Session: Civil Society and the Post-Cold War World:
Advocates and Critics
- Agnes Heller (Dept. of Philosophy, Graduate Faculty), "Does Civil
Society Have Cultural Memory?"
- Jose Casanova (Dept. of Sociology, Graduate Faculty), "Civil Society
and Religion: Retrospective and Prospective Reflections"
- Jean L. Cohen (Dept. of Political Science, Columbia University),
"American Civil Society Talk"
- Irena Grudzinska Gross (The Ford Foundation), "The
Information: Please call 212-229-5580
October 9-15, 2000
Tackling corruption isn't as exciting as in the movies.
By Elena Chinyaeva
Elena Chinyaeva is a political columnist for the Russian weekly Kommersant
Last year's money laundering scandal connecting the Bank of New York (BoNY)
to the Russian mafia that had raved in the Western press for a good few
months, greatly stimulated sales in the mass media business: Just like the
Russia of "glasnost" and "perestroika" earlier, a new Russia of "mafia" and
"corruption" has by now become a standard item in print and on the screen.
A year later, an American Justitia--in the person of United States Attorney
Mary Jo White--quietly established that the money in question actually
belonged not to the mafia and corrupted officials, but to Russian businesses
trying to escape the punitive domestic tax system. Corruption is indeed a
problem in Russia, though its causes are too boring to make a splash in the
international press: High income disparities, underdeveloped legislation, and
the legal infantilism of the citizenry.
The BoNY case is the latest example of the difficulty a Western audience has
in understanding the differences among "corruption," "mafia," and just a
shady economy determined by the inadequacies of reform. As Peter Rutland, one
of the leading American specialists on modern Russia, wrote in Transitions in
March 1998, "It is important to differentiate between the various types of
criminal activity, rather than to lump them all together unto the seamless
web of 'Russian Mafiya.' One can distinguish between organized crime, which
revolves around the use of violence (extortion, killings, etc.) and crony
capitalism (using political connections to win government contracts, for
example). The two can overlap ... but on balance the distinction is worth
A DECADE'S LEGACY
>From the start, capitalism in post-perestroika Russia had been far from
developing as a perfect model of "equal competition" set up within a system
of balanced laws and a stable political situation--understandably so, since
modern business standards emerge from decades and centuries of practical
experience and competing interests. Terminated by the 1917 Bolshevik
Revolution, capitalism in Russia could not just resume its evolution from the
point it left, but had to start all over again, including the unleashing of
the enormous energy of private initiative--just as lava chooses its routes
blindly, with no consideration for morality or order.
In the early years of transition, crony capitalism became widespread. It was
then that, as Rutland continues, most owners of stores and service outlets
had to pay protection money to criminals or the police, ranging from 10 to 50
percent of overall turnover. At a company level, many transactions--be they
renting premises, shipping goods, or avoiding paying wages and
taxes--depended on the manager's position in the local elite network.
Crony capitalism also dominated the privatization process. As the range of
business activities widened, from peddling goods to trading shares,
corruption acquired more sophisticated forms. In the absence of established
business legislation and ethics, wide use was made of insider information in
stock-exchange dealings and other financial matters. Thus many officials made
fortunes just before the financial crisis of 17 August 1998. Fat yields are
still taken by some stock-exchange adepts who receive tips about expected
emissions or company sales through a carefully established network of
hand-fed government and business "partners." To blame are both inadequate
laws (a draft regulating insider dealings is still only in the preparatory
stage) and a particular mind-set: Many believe that to pass up an opportunity
when it presents itself is akin to a sin. The understanding that at the end
of the day it is more profitable for every party in a trade to uphold
standard regulations is just being developed--logically enough, since the
more ordered business becomes the more sophisticated legislation it starts to
CORRUPTION: A TRICK OF THE MIND?
Judging by the tone of declarations--from ordinary people to the president
himself--everybody in Russia is set to combat corruption. However, whenever a
driver is pulled over by the traffic police, he will most certainly attempt
to bribe the officer. Otherwise, the offender would end up paying twice as
much and waste his time trying to find a savings bank, through which he must
pay the fine, should the legal route be chosen. In other realms of society,
you can always try to get your way--upgrading your place in a train or a
theater or receiving some kind of permission--by paying extra to the minor
official who is in charge. As your needs grow, the officials become more
formidable, the extra payments larger. People demand strict laws against
corruption, but tend to perceive any proposed regulation--such as prohibiting
traffic police from collecting fines on the spot--as an irritating
complication to the usual ways of resolving problems.
The contradiction between the intention to uproot corruption and being
accustomed to use all means necessary to get your way is a consequence of a
particular attitude to the law. A centuries-long ambiguity in Russians'
perceptions of the legal system--reflected in folklore sayings, such as "if
it is prohibited but you want it badly, then it is allowed" or "the law is a
like a horse-steering lever--you turn it your own way"--is still inherent in
the Russian mentality. People's attitudes to law and the authorities often
amount to nihilism. According to a study conducted several years ago by the
Independent Institute of Social and Nationalities Problems, about 54 percent
of respondents made a clear distinction between "law" and "justice,"
regarding the former as less important than the latter. Only about 20 percent
recognized the priority of the law, while 72 percent said they would abide by
the law only if officials did the same.
This conflicting perception of the state and the law has been a typical
feature of the Russian collective consciousness for generations. In the
1920s, analyzing old Russian chronicles and literature, the Russian emigre
historian Mikhail Shakhmatov concluded that the Russian ideal of the state
was a one of equity (gosudarstvo pravdy), rather than a state of law
(gosudarstvo zakona) in the Western tradition. With the rise of Peter the
Great, the ideal of a state of equity faded away, replaced by a perfect
bureaucratic apparatus in a state of law.
Interestingly enough, the ambivalent attitude of Russians to the law has
proved compatible with an inclination to democracy. While 70 percent of
respondents in the study mentioned above wished for the country to have a
strong leader, 56 percent emphasized the importance of democratic procedures
and 88 percent wanted Russia to become a lawful society with a developed
legal system. Amid the legal anarchy and official corruption, longing for a
powerful leader obviously translates into a hope to see a strongman who would
set up the "rules of the game" once and for all, thus creating conditions for
Russia to regain its past glory. The real problem seems to be not a desire to
have a strong state but a popular expectation that "order" ought to be
introduced from above: In their declared fight against corruption, people are
still not quite ready to start with themselves.
Neither the flaws of the economy and the legal system, nor the legal
immaturity of the Russian people are fatal or despairing. During the last
decade developments in Russia have been moving at an enormous speed, bringing
about formidable changes. Every couple of years amounts to an epoch--from the
low level of criminality in Soviet times to an upsurge in illicit activities,
accompanied by violence, in the early 1990s, to the gang-organized crime of
the mid-1990s, to the current respectability of yesterday's mafia bosses.
IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
As the country develops and the economy takes off, crime and corruption will
acquire different forms. They will never disappear in Russia, as in any other
country. Yet the direction of the changes currently introduced suggests that
a viable legal and judicial system could be installed in the foreseeable
future, able to "control the damage."
It is certainly hopeful that President Vladimir Putin and the new government
in Russia, acting on their pre-election promises to combat corruption, are
trying to eliminate and change the conditions for its blossoming, rather than
just shedding blood and putting on some show trials. As a first step, the
government introduced a new tax system with a flat rare of 13 percent and a
lower corporate income tax. The authorities have also been consistent in
using economic rather than administrative measures to create favorable
macroeconomic conditions--through export-import taxes, a new code of custom
taxes, a no-deficit state budget, and federal transfers channeled strictly
through the federal treasury.
Those moves are already paying dividends. The Russian press, Vedomosti on 12
October and Expert on 9 October, reported that the unofficial flight of
capital from Russia decreased 2.5 times in the second quarter of 2000--$8.3
billion to $3.4 billion, almost 16 percent lower than in the same period last
year. The government even tested the waters of paying higher wages to top
officials--but predictably, a proposal to pay them $5,000-$10,000 a month was
met with indignation since most people's incomes do not exceed $100 per
The transparency and optimization of financial currents is the prime
condition to combat corruption effectively in the economic realm. That
includes making sure that transfers--tax, custom, and other payments, as well
as those dealing with the state budget--do not pass through commercial banks.
In the past, such arrangements have been a source of illegal enrichment and
corruption, since the owners of these private banks undoubtedly needed to pay
something for the privilege of handling the state's business. The second
necessity is strengthening the state--anchored in the reforms undertaken by
Putin when he started to bring regional legislation and institutions in line
with the Federal Constitution. And as conditions change, people will grow
more accustomed to working within a functioning judicial system to settle
their problems (most still believe that it is not worth trying to find
justice in court). Most probably, however, the custom of relying heavily on
the informal safety network will survive.
But who is interested in talking about such stifling and mundane things as
the budget deficit, legal reforms, and slow changes in people's attitudes?
While talking about corruption in Russia, serious commentators should abstain
from a sensationalist approach, feeding the post-Cold War propaganda that
aims to turn Russia from an evil communist empire into an evil mafia empire.
The biggest problem with corruption--in Russia, like anywhere else--is that
it is enduring and boring, needing constant attention and everyday diligence.
But this is a free world--you may switch on your television and watch the
latest Hollywood blockbuster about the Russian mafia instead.
October 17, 2000
Widow Pleads Not Guilty in General Murder Case
On Monday, October 16, the controversial trial of Tamara Rokhlina opened in
Naro-Fominsk, near Moscow. Rokhlina stands accused of murdering her husband
Lev Rokhlin, an army general and Duma deputy who founded a movement for
protecting and promoting the military’s interests.
Tamara Rokhlina’s renowned defence lawyer Anatoly Kucherena insists that
the accusations against her were thought up by “excessively emotional”
prosecutors and there is no direct of his client’s involvement in the crime.
July 3, 1998, Lev Rokhlin, a general, Duma deputy and the founder and
leader of the movement for support of the military, defence industry and
military science, was killed by a single bullet to the head, fired from his
own award pistol while asleep at his dacha in the village of Kotovo
(Klokovo) in the Naro-Fominsk district near Moscow.
Later the same day Lev Rokhlin’s widow Tamara Rokhlina confessed to killing
her husband. Her fingerprints were found on the gun. However, she later
withdrew her confession saying she had made it under pressure of threats to
her family’s safety if she denied the murder charge. Her family and
supporters believe she has been framed.
The investigation lasted until March 1999. In December last year The Moscow
City Court granted Tamara Rokhlina bail and she was released from the
pre-trial detention where she had been held for 18 months. The same court
imposed a travel ban upon her.
Rokhina’s trial was due to commence on September 25. However, the court
delayed the hearings for two days because Tamara Rokhlina’s son Igor
suffered a serious epileptic fit and was hospitalized.
Two days later the hearing was postponed yet again, this time because
Tamara Rokhlina herself was not well enough to attend court. Rokhlina’s
lawyer applied for another postponement of the trial and the court
rescheduled the trial for October 16.
And finally the court case opened on Monday, October 16. Prosecutors
presented the indictment act. In particular, it read: “the crime committed
by Rokhlina was caused by her dislike of her husband, the State Duma deputy
General Lev Rokhlin, due to her personal relationship (with him).”
The prosecution claimed that Tamara Rokhlina killed her husband because he
failed to pay enough attention and take necessary measures to help their
son Igor, who suffers from epilepsy. The prosecutors also alleged that
Tamara Rokhlina was exasperated with her husband’s socio-political
Summing up, the prosecution alleged that Tamara Rokhlina committed murder
in a state of temporary insanity and that, although she suffers no
permanent psychological disorders, on the day of the murder she had been
drinking dry wine and beer, and had taken strong medicine that increased
the effect of the alcohol.
After the indictment act was read, Tamara Rokhlina told the judge she had
understood everything but refused to plead guilty.
Rokhlina’s defense attorney Anatoly Kucherena said the prosecutors’ case is
“confused and excessively emotional.”…“ In court we will carefully
scrutinize each point of the indictment. It is full of inaccuracies,
distortions, everything is built on assumptions,” the lawyer said.
Despite Kucherna’s certainty of Rokhlina’s innocence and the strength her
case, he is not sure of winning the case. “I am optimistic about this case,
I even wrote about it in my book The Ball of Lawlessness. However,
absolutely everything is possible in our country and, being an honest man,
I cannot give a 100-percent guarantee of success.”
Kucherna added that Tatyana Rokhlina’s health has not improved: “She is not
well, her rinitis hasn’t been cured. But we postponed the hearings too many
times and so we decided not to ask for further postponement in spite of
Tamara Pavlovna’s bad health.” According to Kucherena, Rokhlina’s son,
Igor, is currently in hospital. He is being treated for epilepsy and a
heart condition. “The boy needs treatment. Due to his mental state he tried
to commit suicide and cut his veins during a fit”.
October 18, 2000
EDITORIAL: Berezovsky, Bush Twist The Truth
There is a transatlantic tug-of-war under way over the historical record on
1990s Russia f and unfortunately, both sides are doing violences to the truth
for their own political gain.
On the one hand are the American Republicans, suddenly crying crocodile tears
for Russia. Consider George W. Bush's assertion that Viktor Chernomyrdin
stole IMF money: Here we have a major American politician willing to talk
about mistakes vis-a-vis Russia f but unwilling to put in the effort to do so
rigorously and intelligently.
And so Bush, with his it's-just-a-tool-in-my-campaign sloppiness, plays
straight into the hands of the other camp, which is Boris Yeltsin and the
"oligarchs." He becomes a straw man to be played off against, the perfect
counterpoint to the distortions and dishonesties on offer in Yeltsin's
memoirs, and in The Washington Post commentary by Boris Berezovsky on this
Berezovsky writes as if there is a box of stuff called "private property"
that in 1917 the Bolsheviks seized, and was parceled back out after Yeltsin
came to power.
The reality is far messier. Much of the property Berezovsky seems to have in
mind was created under the Soviet Communist Party. And much of the private
business we now delight in has had nothing to do with "privatization" f the
government sell-off of assets f and instead owes more to the glasnost days,
when people were allowed to set up their own businesses.
Berezovsky plays fast and loose throughout this account. Yeltsin and Anatoly
Chubais decided to sell state assets in 1995 f not 1996 f and these smug,
hastily rigged oil privatizations did much to revive Communist political
They discredited by association the idea of private property f which would
probably have made it easier, and not harder, for a Communist president to
push for renationalizations. They cost the budget potential billions and
created a class of oil company chieftains who were happy to shovel Xerox
boxes of cash into Yeltsin's election campaign, but less willing to pay fair
taxes f in a country where a shortfall in budget revenues a few years later
would play a leading role in the August 1998 financial meltdown.
The infamous Yeltsin-era oil company privatizations were closed to foreigners
and they were rigged. Far from every corruption and money-laundering
allegation has proven false f or been sponsored by "Communists and the KGB"
as a "concerted smear campaign."
So it's sad to be offered a choice between Bush's view of events and
Berezovsky's f two self-serving caricatures of the Yeltsin years, both only
loosely based in reality. Doesn't anyone care what really happened?
October 18, 2000
Cabinet Mulls Spending Of $9.3Bln Oil Windfall
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
High world oil prices have given a 260 billion ruble ($9.3 billion) windfall
to this year's budget, which the government could use to pay for the war in
Chechnya, a Cabinet official said Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin said that the government will decided
what to do with the extra money at a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Oct. 26.
He said two top priorities would be the military campaign to suppress
independence fighters in Chechnya, which has been criticized by Western
governments for the military's human rights abuses, and making up for foreign
loans the government expected but that didn't come through.
The windfall is in excess of the $6.8 billion Russia is planning to spend on
the military in next year's budget, which envisions about $40 billion in
High oil prices have been a boost to the nation's tax collection, since
Russia is a major exporter. Oil and gas account for around 40 percent of the
value of Russian exports, which represent a chief source of government
revenue through taxes.
Deputies in the State Duma have been urging the government to put more money
in the budget for next year, citing oil prices. Leftist factions have said
that any windfall revenue should go toward social spending and have
criticized the amount of money budgeted for debt servicing.
"If in the past the budget was one of survival, [now] it's a budget of
foreign-debt service. It degrades the population and borders on
catastrophe,'' said the Communist Party's Vladimir Tikhonov.
The government has resisted raising the projected budget, saying the oil
bonanza can't last and Russia should plan spending more cautiously.
Number of registered HIV-infected rockets in Russia
Orel, 17th October: A total of 62,270 carriers of the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) had been registered in Russia as of 1st October.
There were 15,652 HIV-infected persons in Russia as of 1st January 2000.
However, over 33,000 new HIV-carriers were revealed during the first nine
months of this year alone, the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Supervision
Committee has told Interfax.
Over 90 per cent of the cases have been discovered in intravenous drug users.
At the same time, the number of those who were infected sexually has also
risen. Medical workers are particularly concerned about the increase in the
number of HIV-infected new-borns. Since the first HIV-carrier was registered
in Russia in 1987, 381 children have been infected with AIDS in the womb. In
most cases, the mothers were young drug users.
As of 1st October, HIV-carriers had been registered in 82 of Russia's 89
regions. Moscow and Moscow Region, which became involved in the
epidemiological process in as late as 1999, are now leading in the
distribution rate of the infection. Medical experts registered the
epidemiological rate of HIV distribution in Ryazan, Kemerovo, Samara, Perm,
Sverdlovsk and Leningrad Regions and in St Petersburg at the beginning of the
U.S. businessman's spying trial to open in Moscow
October 17, 2000
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. businessman Edmond Pope goes on trial in Moscow for
espionage Wednesday, but outsiders, including diplomats, are barred from
proceedings, a U.S. embassy official said Tuesday.
Pope, a former naval intelligence officer who suffers from a rare form of
bone cancer, has been in Moscow's Lefortovo prison since April on charges
of illegally seeking information about a new torpedo.
The trial has strained ties between Russia and the United States, where a
House committee has asked President Clinton to consider curbing financial
aid to Moscow unless Pope is released.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russian justice must take
its course. Pope, 54, could face 20 years in prison if convicted.
"The trial is closed, they're not letting us in. They have cited laws
saying that, given the material in question, it is not appropriate to have
it open to the outside," said the U.S. embassy official, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
"As we are not being allowed in, it is hard to comment on whether the
defendant's rights are being upheld. But the system is the system."
He said the embassy had seen Pope about 15 times in detention but
complained that Russian authorities had refused to allow an
English-speaking doctor to see him and had released no details of his
current state of health.
Pope told reporters in September that the nature of his illness meant that
the longer he stayed in prison the greater was the threat to his life.
Court officials deemed he was fit enough to remain in prison.
The embassy spokesman said Pope's wife Sherry, who was allowed a prison
visit in July, would decide on coming to Moscow once it became clear how
long the proceedings would take. It was not clear whether she would be
allowed to attend the trial.
The U.S. State Department says it has seen no evidence that Pope was
spying. It warned Americans that business practices considered normal
elsewhere are viewed with suspicion in Russia.
IMPEDIMENT TO RELATIONS
U.S. lawmakers who have taken up the case say Pope's trial has thrown up a
serious impediment to relations.
"We don't necessarily believe the proceedings are fair," said Jennifer
Bennett, press secretary for Republican Congressman John Peterson from
Pennsylvania, who has visited Moscow with Pope's wife.
"Many people believe the outcome is predetermined, though we hope not. We
believe he is innocent. We say let him come home so we can get on with the
future of relations with Russia," she said by telephone from Washington.
Russian politicians have criticized protest actions by U.S. legislators as
interference in Moscow's internal affairs.
Pope, arrested on April 3, is alleged to have made contact with a Russian
scientist as part of attempts to gather information on a Russian torpedo.
Pope says he was merely a businessman who openly bought technology and
sought joint ventures with Russian firms.
October 17, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
By Semen NOVOPRUDSKY, Izvestia news analyst, exclusively for
The current Israeli-Palestinian war - or premonition
thereof, if you will - makes one ponder a problem that
humankind has failed to resolve in the 20th century. Is there a
way to organize disunited nations into a more or less harmonic
What mechanism of preventing local wars is the most efficient?
Mankind has asked and failed to answer these questions in the
past hundred years.
The League of Nations - the very first attempt at creating
a global parliament - was buried by World War II. We are not
announcing the demise of the United Nations even post factum
due to our ritual respect for the dead - you either say good
things about them or you say nothing at all.
Meanwhile, the issue of building a 'new global political
configuration', to borrow from hard-nosed political columnists
of yesteryear - is becoming more acute than ever before.
The system of checks and balances that existed in the
Soviet era as a form of confrontation between the two political
camps, is no more. The United States as the only remaining
superpower is incapable of ensuring any stable system of
international security. The US is not strong enough to dictate
the rules of the game in the economy and geopolitics to the
rest of the world and see to it that the rules are observed.
The final victory of Taliban in Afghanistan that is
becoming ever more realistic and the latest outburst of
Palestinian- Israeli animosity are but links in a chain of
In this light, it is too early to view the USSR's
disintegration as a fait accompli. The former Soviet republics
are now being drawn into opposing civilizations. The Central
Asian states are facing a realistic threat to their secular
regimes. The Baltic states, Ukraine and, with lesser zeal,
Moldova are stubbornly aspiring for the European civilization.
Belarus, shielded as it is by Russia, wants to stay a Soviet
socialist republic. Russia is undecided in which direction to
move, while finding it hard to get used to its post-imperial
Understandably, there is no chance Russia can become a
superpower in the foreseeable future. But it is quite capable
of participating in the effort to structure a planet enveloped
by chaos. But before Russia can have a sensible role to play in
this basic and inevitable process, it will have to find a niche
for itself in the world.
That NATO's enlargement to the East, something that the
previous Russian regime viewed solely as the main threat to the
country's security, presents no realistic threat to Russia is
evident. But the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism to the
Russia, if only by force of its vastness and appreciable
nuclear potentialities, stands a realistic chance of becoming
one of the general designers of a future world.
Thus far, it can facilitate an active reform of the UN by
way of enlarging the Security Council membership (India and
Japan could have been admitted to it long ago) and work for a
rapprochement with NATO. I do not mean ideological or, even
more so, military rapprochement; what is important is to build
a really functional organization capable of formulating
mankind's collective will and enforcing it on the "rogue
October 14, 2000
FRAGMENTS: There's a Time For Everything Under Heaven
By Suzanne Thompson
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every
event under heaven: A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to uproot what is planted, a time to work in Russia, and a time to
go to Arizona ţ ."
OK, so I'm paraphrasing "Ecclesiastes", but you get the idea. And, yes, it's
I've got my plane reservation. I've packed my trunk. I've got someone to take
over the apartment. I'm giving away the clothes I don't need. With one foot
out the door, I'm finally meeting some contributors Saturday morning whom
I've only known electronically for months. And I've got the cat passport for
my feline charge, who goes from being a homeless street cat living in the
wasteland of an abandoned building to one who will chase sparrows and lizards
in the sunlight of the Sonoran Desert.
I will join my large family and significant other in Tucson. That latter
worthy is of Ukrainian descent, and his parents fled Josef Stalin's enforced
famine and ravaging of Ukraine. His parents hailed from the western part of
that nation, and it seems that my friend drank in Ukrainian nationalism with
his mother's milk. This is the only bone of contention in our otherwise
placid relationship. When he lived here in Moscow, he looked around and
continually asked me, "Why do you love this place so much?"
Good question. The answers, though, are highly subjective, as they always are
when we try to determine the reasons we become attached to someone or
I love this place because it is like the homeless cat I stumbled upon:
beautiful and lost. I love this place because I have found in it many
remarkable people who have faced overwhelming odds in life f war, hunger,
deprivation, repression f and still they have gone through the years with
humor, grace and a determination to make the best of life.
I love this place because of its ineffable but famous dushevnost, that sense
of spirituality that is often manifest in the simplest things, such as
late-night sessions over tea in dimly lit kitchens.
I love this place because its culture is one of the world's finest. Its
musicians, artists, poets, novelists and craftsmen have taken ingredients
from East and West and woven them into a cultural tapestry that is truly
unique, uniquely fascinating.
Like so many Russia hounds, I know I will be back. I have seen so many of my
colleagues leave over the years since 1985, only to return in some other
guise, with some other job, months or years later.
Many of us shuttle back and forth; some finally make the break with Russia
and stay in their native countries f or move on to adventures in other lands
f but many find it hard to stay away for long. If the United States for me is
husband f stable, known, comfortable, but often slightly dull f then Russia
is lover f still mysterious, ever-changing, always exciting, never
For now, though, life in the States beckons. But I go knowing that Russia
will be here when I return, some day. Or to paraphrase "Ecclesiastes", "A
generation goes and a generation comes, but Russia remains forever."
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