This Date's Issues: 4612
Johnson's Russia List
1 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
DJ: A recent Reuters story quoted a former US policymaker on Russia: "The 'forget Russia' school is in the ascendancy in Washington."
I'm interested in comments and reactions. Is this true? Is it bad, or good? Consequences?
A request: I strongly recommend that recipients' comments for circulation on JRL strive to avoid personal criticism and sarcasm.
Civil discourse is the watchword.
1. AFP: Facing energy crisis, Europe has forgiven Russia for Chechnya:
2. strana.ru: Russia marks Day of Memory of Victims of Political
3. AFP: Bush or Gore, Russians cautious of post-Clinton era.
4. Interfax: RUSSIA TO REDUCE ITS ARMED FORCES BY 365,000 IN NEXT THREE
5. Tom Moore: Why Study Russia?--A Response to Andrei Liakhov's
6. Sian Glaessner: liakhov/why russia.
7. Matt Taibbi: Hay, Shleifer.
8. Moscow Times: Alla Startseva, Minister Says UES Power Cuts Violate
9. Interfax: INFORMATION ON YELTSIN'S, BORODIN'S ACCOUNTS IN SWISS BANK FALSE -
10. Stratfor.com: Russian Withdrawal Risks Warfare in
11. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: Julie Corwin, MINI-PUTINS AIMING FOR NEW STATE
12. Reuters: Sebastian Alison, Kyrgyz election deepens gloom over
13. Newsday: Michael Slackman, The Talk Of Ukraine. Efforts to forge new identity alienate
Facing energy crisis, Europe has forgiven Russia for Chechnya: press
MOSCOW, Oct 31 (AFP) -
Facing an energy crisis, Europe has turned a blind eye to oil-rich Russia's
war in Chechnya, Russian newspapers said Tuesday, commenting President
Vladimir Putin's summit with EU leaders.
"The potential intrigue linked to France's view of (war in) Chechnya never
materialized," Vremya Novostei wrote of the gathering in Paris.
"As much as (French) journalists wrote about Chechnya before Putin's visit,
the EU seems to have taken a very formal view about Chechnya. They say: 'We
have been forced to ask you about it, so, we are asking.'"
The newspaper said Putin, on his first visit to France -- one of the most
vocal critics of the 13-month military offensive -- had demonstrated that
Russia has developed into a predictable and trustworthy partner.
"The era of great intrigue -- when it was never clear whether Russia might
just blow something up, or close its border, or bang its shoe on the table,
or perhaps ally itself to Liberia or peg its currency to the pound -- is
over," Vremya Novostei wrote.
In a joint statement Monday, Putin and French counterpart Jacques Chirac,
whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, stressed their
"shared commitment to European security and stability" and their desire to
boost Russia's "strategic partnership" with the rest of Europe.
The leaders said in a communique they planned to boost their cooperation in
the natural gas, oil and power sectors and announced the establishment of
dialogue to open the way to an "EU-Russia energy partnership."
Moscow newspapers agreed Tuesday that the European Union, in response to
growing oil prices that have put a damper on EU economic growth, now viewed
Russia as a business partner rather than brutal military regime.
"The energy crisis has brought Russia and the European Union closer
together," the Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. "Vladimir Putin had an easy time
finding a common language with the Europeans."
"If Russia now, most of all, needs a good reputation, then the EU most of all
needs a stable supply of energy," the Vremya MN newspaper agreed.
"So a deal (for Russia) to supply energy in exchange for winning long-term
economic investment is taking on political, not just economic, overtones,"
said the paper.
Meanwhile escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Middle East is
forcing European states to re-assess their condemnation of Russia's offensive
in predominantly Muslim Chechnya, claimed Nezavisimaya.
"Finally, events in the Middle East have completely calmed Europe's anger
over Russia's policies in the North Caucasus, because they view the situation
there as one similar to that in Chechnya," the daily wrote.
October 31, 2000
Russia marks Day of Memory of Victims of Political Repression
By Aram Yavrumyan
Remembrance rallies were held in cities across Russia yesterday as the
country marked the Day of Memory of Victims of Political Repression.
Thousands of people turned up to demonstrate and possibly there were among
them some survivors of Mordovian prison camps, who had marked the first Day
of Political Prisoner on October 30, 1974, by announcing a hunger strike.
Dissidents and sympathizers used to pay homage to political prisoners on that
day till 1992, when the RSFSR Supreme Soviet voted to give the day an
official status, renaming it the Day of Memory of Victims of Political
The mass repression started in Russia after October 1917. The first victims
of the new regime were 3,000 Russian Orthodox priests shot dead in early
1918. Between 1918 and 1922, the Soviets ruthlessly quelled peasant uprisings
in the Don area, in Western Siberia, in the Volga area, and in Karelia. Over
one million peasant households suffered during the collectivization drive
launched in the late 1920s, with 5 million peasants exiled to outlying areas
with harsh climatic conditions. The period from 1921 to 1953 saw a total of
4,060,306 people persecuted without trial for political motives, 799,455 of
them shot dead.
On April 7, 1930, the NKVD spawned what was called ULAG, Prison Camps
Directorate, which was reorganized into Main Directorate, or GULAG, the next
year. GULAG embraced 105 correctional labor camps and 9 special camps, as
well as 97 directorates and departments of punitive camps and colonies of the
USSR's constituent and autonomous republics, territories and regions.
The peak of repression fell on the years 1937-38, when 1.3 million people
were sentenced on the basis of ill famed article 58, "counter-revolutionary
crimes," with 682,000 of them shot, including 40,000 top-, middle- and
lower-level army officers. All in all, 45% of command personnel was purged as
During the war years, the wheel rolled over 994,000 Red Army servicemen, who
either emerged from German encirclement or were taken prisoner; 157,000 of
them were executed. A similar fate awaited large numbers of repatriated
Shortly before the World War II, the NKVD started mass-scale deportations of
entire ethnic minorities, such as Poles, Kurds, Koreans, Buryats, Germans,
Crimean Tartars, Kalmyks, and others. The deportations went on intermittently
till 1961, affecting 14 ethnic groups in toto and portions of 48 others, or
an estimated 3.5 million people.
In February 1956, the 20th CPSU Congress exposed crimes committed by the
Stalin regime and started the process of liberation of political prisoners
and rehabilitation of innocent victims. Over 500,000 people were thus
restored in rights till the mid-1960s, when this work stalled to be resumed
only in the late 1980s.
"Dissidents" emerged as the next main enemy of the regime in the 1960s
through the 1980s. Between 1967 and 1971, the KGB "cracked" more than 3,000
"politically harmful" groups and persecuted 13,500 members thereof.
Approved on October 18, 1991, the RSFSR Law "On Rehabilitation of Victims of
Political Repression" restored civic rights to victims of persecution and
fixed money compensations for sustained moral damage. The RF Prosecutor
General's Office reviewed 459,000 earlier criminal cases, rehabilitating
500,703 citizens. Over the last nine years, prosecutors considered 631,000
applications, rehabilitating another 164,717 and recognizing 309,290 people
A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia told Strana.Ru that
this year's federal budget envisages 940 million rubles in outlays for the
defense of rights of victims of political repression. The draft budget for
2001 is due to raise the figure to upwards of 1,120 million rubles.
And yet many former GULAG inmates are in urgent need of money and medical
assistance. The Buryat association of victims of political repression, for
one, issued a plea yesterday, asking for aid in the creation of a charity
fund of mercy, since many former prisoners again "find themselves on the
brink of survival."
Bush or Gore, Russians cautious of post-Clinton era
MOSCOW, Oct 31 (AFP) -
In the US presidential elections Russia has become a byword for sleaze.
Republican contender George W. Bush has used what was once a key strategic
partnership to taint Democratic rival Al Gore with the corruption that has
dogged a hectic decade of reform in the former Soviet superpower.
While Gore once intended to use his stewardship of Russia policy as proof of
his statesmanship, the idea backfired dramatically as the Clinton
administration became mired in a partisan "Who Lost Russia?" debate.
Instead of acknowledging his foreign policy success, Bush has forced Gore to
bite his tongue, and analysts here fear that bilateral dialogue may not
resume soon, no matter who wins the November 7 vote.
"The games that Clinton played with Russia will end" following the November 7
US presidential election, said Andrei Piontkovsky of Moscow's Center of
"In a sense the more hawkish Republicans are almost preferable to us because
Gore will be saddled with all the scandals that broke here under his watch."
The two nations remain at odds over almost every question that Clinton had
optimistically set out to solve by offering seemingly unequivocal support for
the bumpy post-Communist reforms launched by Boris Yeltsin.
Whether nuclear arms, regional geopolitics linked to oil and gas interests,
or the fate of foreign investments and economic aid, lawmakers in both
capitals are more and more frequently reverting to Cold War era vernacular.
"We support the United States in its desire to settle world conflicts, but we
believe that ignoring Russian efforts clearly shows mistrust between the two
countries," said Yevgeny Primakov, who served as both foreign minister and
prime minister in the Clinton-Yeltsin era.
Washington's "monopolization of negotiations, particularly in the Middle
East, has already shown us that this is a path to nowhere and that without
Russia's participation, conflicts cannot be solved," said Primakov, who is
now a senior lawmaker.
Indeed analysts say the seven-month-old administration of President Vladimir
Putin is unclear which of the two candidates might be more disposed to
improving bilateral ties and help pull Russia out of its decade-long economic
"I do not think that Moscow has a favorite in the race as it did in the
Soviet era, when all of the state propaganda worked in favor of one of the
candidates," said Yevgeny Volk of the US-based Heritage Foundation political
"Some think that it will be easier to work with Gore because he knows the
ropes here" from his days co-chairing a joint cooperation commission with the
then Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
"But Gore is increasingly coming under attack for his Chernomyrdin links,"
said Volk, referring to a Bush comment in which the governor said the
Clinton-Gore team supported Russian politicians who allegedly channelled most
of the economic aid into their own offshore bank accounts.
Professor Sergei Markov added: "By attacking Chernomyrdin, Bush is really
pointing out Gore's links with all of the shadowy Russian elite."
That makes some analysts here question whether it will be politically
expedient for Gore to focus his attention on Russia should he win.
Moscow's chief problems with a Bush administration meanwhile will be the
Republicans' more hawkish stance on negotiations over the ABM treaty and
apparent indifference to Russian concerns over a US nuclear missile shield.
Further, some fear that Bush will be far more assertive in the battle for
control over Caspian Sea energy reserves controlled by former Soviet
"We must remember that Bush is linked to the Texas oil companies which are
waging a war with Russia over the Caspian Sea" oil reserves, said Markov.
"In this sense, Gore is clearly more preferable to Russia than Bush."
However Piontkovsky said that at least some in the Kremlin are placing their
stakes on a Bush presidency.
"For Moscow, Republicans have the advantage because they can start from a
clean sheet, whereas the Democrats are tainted by all the political and
economic scandals here."
RUSSIA TO REDUCE ITS ARMED FORCES BY 365,000 IN NEXT THREE YEARS
MOSCOW. Oct 31 (Interfax) - Russia plans to reduce its military
personnel by 365,000 between the years 2001 and 2003, Defense Ministry
sources said Tuesday.
About 240,000 officer positions, 30% of which are of the rank of
major, lieutenant colonel or colonel, would be abolished during this
time, the sources told Interfax, as would more than 380 generals'
The sources said the military leadership have signed the orders to
complete next year's key measures by cutting the armed forces' numerical
strength by more than 250,000.
Forces stationed in the city and of Moscow and its surrounding
region are slated to be cut in 2001.
However, the deadlines and size of the reductions will be finalized
during a planned session of the Russian Security Council next month, the
sources said. President Vladimir Putin will chair that session.
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000
Subject: Why Study Russia?--A Response to Andrei Liakhov's post
A good bit of discussion about Russophobes and about the ontology we all
bring to our common area of endeavor, Russia, has occurred on JRL.
Andrei Liakhov's piece in JRL #4610 caps or at least alludes to much of
this dialog. I would like to answer his question "Why Am I interested in
Russia?" from my own, and just my own, perspective.
When I was an undergraduate, I once answered the question this way: I study
Russia because anything on Earth that can happen has happened in Russia,
and on a scale unimaginable anywhere else. You must forgive the romantic
blindness and naiveté of the statement, but I do not really think I have
ever left behind that notion. Nor do I think it inaccurate. From the
Petrine period to the attempt to change the direction of rivers and the
weather, Russians have exerted tremendous influence on their environment,
themselves, and the world.
Russia once again finds itself in a "pseudo-constitutional" crisis that Max
Weber diagnosed during the revolution of 1905. Today, Russia does not seem
to have moved much further past what is a central
question/distinction for it, and one that a publication edited by Petr
Struve bore the name of, "Svoboda i kul'tura" (to wit, Freedom and Culture).
Liakhov calls recent Russian history "a huge testing ground for various
models of social order." This is true, but it must be said that Russians
have, by in large, been those who worked in this laboratory. Sadly, they
have not always been allowed to choose the best results, and certainly not
ones that allowed them to be more free.
To resolve this situation, many have pointed to the gray area of "culture"
to explain Russia. I do not think this is true if what is meant as
"culture" is simply Russian absolutist rulers (tsars or commissars). The
zemstvos of early Russia, the city legislatures, and the (aristocratic)
society of the boyars stand in contrast to the growing power of the tsars
(to what extent the Mongol Yoke and it's infusion of Oriental Despotism
encouraged this, I leave to period experts).
Cultural explanations fall into two groups: The Russian special path
(similar to a German belief in their disassociation from "Western history,"
a path neither Western/European nor Eastern, but only Russian) and those
who have attempted to complicate the picture by proposing a model of
Russian cultural development (Messrs. Lotman and Uspenskji).
This is not a useful discussion for Russians, since it makes them prone to
use (a largely rhetorical conception) of Moscow the Third Rome (I will not
recount the Legend of the White Cowl).
Liakhov, rather than dwell on Russia's problems or their solutions, also,
defensively and understandably, tires of these explanations and boldly
writes that "[Russia] will affect the course of history on the
[sic.] scale comparable to the Reformation or the Enlightenment."
The extent to which either the Reformation or the Enlightenment has
positively or negatively impacted the West is at present only now being
fully examined by scholars (I am not a deconstructionist, so please, no bad
email). These are ideas too, not nation states. Liakhov's use of ideas
rather than other countries when comparing Russia's future impact to their
past results is interesting: Here again, we come to the "Russian idea"
which to Russians seems to be their country. This is significant, since
Russia is not an idea that
is sui generis, nor is it fully Russian. It is an amalgam of styles,
ideas, times, and cultures as diverse as the architecture of Moscow's
An American would say his country is free. Perhaps, a Russian would thus
try to say that their country is the idea of freedom itself (or you may
insert whatever idea you want). This is the central problem facing us
today: The Russian tendency to a superlative degree of a thing, rather
than a realistic reflection of it through human mechanisms of change.
From: "sian glaessner" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: liakhov/why russia
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000
there are several things that struck me on reading that article.The idea
that russia underwent a huge and unprecedented loss of direction or purpose
needs clarification. in history it is rare to find events or processes
totally without precedent, although scale and details often differ (and
thats where things get interesting)importantly, it must be recognised that
russia lost not so much any real purpose but in the fall of the soviet
union lost all the illusions that had been keeping the country, regime and
people going. it could be argued that the fall of the soviet union was more
of a a realisation of the real state of affairs, brought about by the
economic situation than an actual process of decay and dissolution. things
had in reality gone as far as thay could and it was no longer possible to
ignore or rewrite the status quo. the actual fall was a formality. that
said, to underemphasise the effect of the subsequent changes, or chaos as
it seemed to many russians would be to miserpresent things. to go from a
country where the price of bread had been the same for 30 yrs to one where
nothing can be taken for granted entails huge changes by ordinary people on
the most basic levels of everyday life.
before i came to voronezh this year, before i ventured further than moscow,
i thought i was well on my way to understanding some of the hows and whys
of this country. i have never been more wrong. i have seen moscow change
through 86-97, through my family i have an insight to russia outside the
realm of the tourist or academic, i have no idea what to say when
confronted with questions about what things have been and where theyre
going. and that is why i find russia so interesting, why i feel the need to
study its history, language, culture.
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000
From: "Matt Taibbi" <email@example.com>
Subject: hay, shleifer
Does anyone out there have access to the text of the U.S. government civil
complaint against Harvard, Jonathan Hay and Andrei Shleifer? If you do, please
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me in Moscow at any time at 151-46-70.
Thanks in advance, Matt Taibbi
November 1, 2000
Minister Says UES Power Cuts Violate Law
By Alla Startseva
National power grid Unified Energy Systems is violating the constitutional
rights of citizens when it cuts off power to debtors, national human rights
commissioner Oleg Mironov said Tuesday, Interfax reported.
Mironov, the people's ombudsman, told UES boss Anatoly Chubais in a protest
letter that by shutting off power UES isn't simply punishing a debtor f it's
punishing all the organizations and people that are hooked into the same
section of the energy system. By doing so, he said, UES violates one of the
"fundamental rights guaranteed to all people by the Constitution f the right
Mironov didn't give specific examples of such cuts, but UES has been involved
in a number of high-profile shut-offs. Last month, for example, UES ordered
four electricity transmitting stations in Tambov to drastically cut power to
the city network over 449 million rubles ($16 million) in debts. Officials
responded by sending riot police to occupy four power stations and forcing
workers at the stations to return power to normal levels.
Mironov said that children, hospitals, and social organizations, as a rule,
do not have any debts to UES, but they "suffer" nonetheless.
UES board member Andrei Trapeznikov agreed with Mironov on Tuesday that
pulling the plug on "children, medical organizations and educational and
cultural groups" is in violation of the Constitution. But, he said in a press
release, it isn't the fault of UES, but the fault of paying agents, who
mediate between various UES subsidiaries and its consumers.
Trapeznikov said these paying agents collect "live" money from consumers, but
do not pay UES. As of Oct.1, paying agents owe UES 30 billion rubles ($1.1
billion), he said.
Trapeznikov said UES is in compliance with Russian law when it limits energy
supplies to delinquent paying agents, but "unfortunately we cannot control
who paying agents themselves" cut power to.
Supervising paying agents is up to regional and municipal authorities, not
UES, he said, adding that in the present situation, it is the power industry
and the average person that suffer the most.
"Meanwhile, the problem of paying agents really has an 'extraordinary'
character, as Mironov fairly said. And resolving this problem requires the
combined efforts of UES and legislative and executive powers, including the
authority empowered to protect the rights of human beings in the Russian
Federation," the release said.
Renaissance Capital energy analyst Svetlana Smirnova sided with UES on the
issue and blamed the delinquent paying agents. "UES cannot be blamed for
this," she said.
"UES can't directly control the paying agents' activity," said Kakha
Kiknavelidze, an energy analyst at Troika Dialog. "It is technically
impossible to cut energy only to the debtor if the debtor is not a very large
industrial object," he said. "To be able to cut individual debtors is
possible, but it would require very big investments [to upgrade the system].
"I think this is only the beginning. This problem will soon become more
INFORMATION ON YELTSIN'S, BORODIN'S ACCOUNTS IN SWISS BANK FALSE - INVESTIGATOR
MOSCOW. Oct 31 (Interfax) - Information about a bank account in
Switzerland allegedly belonging to former Russian President Boris
Yeltsin and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin has turned out
to be false and was not confirmed.
"The copies of the bank document, the so-called Dean-S account
allegedly bearing Yeltsin's and Borodin's signatures, have been
recognized as fake," Ruslan Tamayev, senior investigator with the
Russian Prosecutor General's Office in charge of particularly important
cases, who is heading the investigation into the so-called Mabetex case,
told Interfax on Tuesday.
According to the investigator, the corresponding response has
arrived from Switzerland. It says that there has never been such an
account in Banco del Gottardo and that the form that was published is a
Tamayev noted that this is the reason why he did not question Boris
Yeltsin and only questioned his family members - his wife and two
daughters. "The evidence obtained from them and a number of other
witnesses convinced me that Yeltsin is not involved in any of the abuses
mentioned in numerous publications," he said.
The investigator did not specify whether he is going to prolong the
investigation into the Mabetex case (which expires on November 8). "We
have to receive certain documents, after which we will make a decision
on the matter," he said.
The criminal case on abuses in the Kremlin property department in
connection with the restoration of the Kremlin and repair work to a
number of other important objects in Moscow was opened by the Russian
Prosecutor General's Office on October 8, 1998, on a personal commission
from then-Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov. No official charges have
been brought against anyone in this case.
October 31, 2000
Russian Withdrawal Risks Warfare in Abkhazia
Russia’s imperative to secure the lawless frontier along its border with
Georgia will affect its planned withdrawal from the breakaway republic of
Abkhazia. Russian troops, well armed, will remain in Abkhazia to police and
deter a potential influx of guerrillas across its southern border.
Russia’s deployment to Abkhazia began in1994, in an effort to enforce a
cease-fire after a separatist campaign escalated to war in the summer of
1992. Since then, Russia moved carefully to block Georgian attempts to join
NATO and to justify a continued presence.
Current plans for Russia to withdraw from Abkhazia ignore the precarious
balance of interests in the region.
A Russian abandonment of Abkhazia threatens the autonomy of separatists and
probably would incite aggression. This fact will keep Russia on hand in
Abkhazia, in violation of agreements with Georgia.
During a fourth round of negotiations completed Oct. 20, Russia and Georgia
agreed to demobilize a Russian military base in the breakaway Abkhazia
republic. The agreement allows a Russian presence on the base, chiefly to
coordinate a remaining CIS Peacekeeping Force.
Negotiators will meet again in December to determine what to do with
armaments on the base. Negotiations will also proceed on the closure of
Russia’s two remaining bases in Georgia proper.
The December negotiations are expected to be difficult. Georgia wants
ownership of all remaining armaments at Gudauta. Georgia believes if the
base is not fully demobilized, it’s left with the risk of Russia
maintaining war-fighting capability or the danger of ethnic groups in
Abkhazia seizing the weapons.
But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov has shown no interest in
turning the weapons over to Georgia. Georgia has proposed the base be
demobilized under the watch of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe.
Russia agreed in the Istanbul Accords in November 1999 to fully demobilize
two of four of its bases in Georgia and Abkhazia by July 2001. Russia is
supposed to pare its armor and artillery systems down to 153 tanks, 241
armored combat vehicles and 140 artillery systems. Currently, it has 188
T-72 battle tanks, 554 armored combat vehicles and 167 artillery systems
deployed in Georgia and Abkhazia.
The withdrawal is on schedule at Vaziani base, and NATO inspectors have
already surveyed its landing fields for potential use.
But delays concerning the Gudauta base may cause a suspension of the
Istanbul Accords. This is a result of Russian intransigence and Abkhaz
leaders’ refusal to see the bases lost to Georgian control.
The U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia also affected the need for the
continued presence of Russian forces in the area.
In fact, a poor review of the Abkhazia peacekeeping mission last July
caused the U.N. Security Council to extend the mission through Jan. 31,
2001. Accordingly, the upper house of Russia’s parliament approved the
extension of the peacekeeping mission, meaning Gudauta will sustain its
present capabilities into the next year.
Given the urgency to sustain a peacekeeping mandate, Russia is unlikely to
withdraw from Gudauta to preserve the Istanbul Accords.
The patrol duties for the current peacekeepers are tedious, with troops
having to usher U.N. monitors, shuttle internally displaced people and
rebuff frequent gang and paramilitary attacks. A force of 1,800 patrols the
12-kilometer region on each side of the Inguri River forming the
Georgia-Abkhaz border. A little more than 200 troops remain permanently at
the Gudauta base. A battalion from Russia’s 27th Motorized Rifle Division
is part of this contingent.
Plans to turn Gudauta into a rehabilitation center for a CIS peacekeepers
have provoked Georgian negotiators because the plans would not meet the
scheduled withdrawal. The center would also allow for a landing area for
Russian aircraft on contested Georgian territory.
With a long record of siding with Abkhaz guerrillas, Russia is frequently
accused of meddling in Abkhazia rather than acting as a neutral party. But
Moscow needs Gudauta for reasons beyond pressuring Tbilisi.
Russia’s southern borders are notorious for lawlessness and guerrilla
traffic. The first line of defense at the southern edge is the Federal
Frontier Service, the most overwhelmed and underpaid and least enviable
force of Russia’s civil services. The Georgian Frontier Service serves as
Russia’s counterpart to monitor border incursions.
Russia's frontier service does not patrol on the Abkhaz side of the Psou
River, only the Russian side. The arrangement is based on mutual confidence
between Russian and Abkhaz authorities. Should radical Abkhaz leaders lose
this confidence, Chechen-led mercenaries in the region could find old
friends and a new home in Abkhazia.
Abkhazia is the weakest link in Russia's counter-terrorist,
counter-narcotics program and a precarious ally. Russia’s withdrawal of
forces and demobilization of its bases would create a security vacuum in
Abkhazia, even if CIS peacekeepers remained on hand with minor coordination
Abkhaz leaders have dug in their heels to resist Russia’s departure from
the Gudauta base. They threaten political violence as a first response to
withdrawal. This is a matter of economic concern, displacing the cottage
industries fostered by the Russian barracks. A more provocative protest
concerns the fate of the property at Gudauta, which Abkhaz leaders insist
must belong to them in the event of Russia’s departure.
Abkhaz resistance to Russia’s departure is critical. As Russia has
preserved a balance between Abkhazia and Georgia, radical Abkhaz leaders
may consider Russia’s departure an act of aggression. Accordingly, Russia
would lose its leverage over the fractious ethnic groups and paramilitaries
in the region. Russia’s absence from Abkhazia would not only present an
unmanageable influx of refugees into Russia’s south. Withdrawal may present
terms for radicals to attempt armed incursion into Russia or at least host
guerrilla training areas over a porous border.
27 October 2000
MINI-PUTINS AIMING FOR NEW STATE ORDER?
By Julie A. Corwin
Almost half a year has passed since President Vladimir
Putin appointed seven envoys to his newly created federal
districts. While the Magnificent Seven have only a few
accomplishments to their credit, it is already clear what at
least some of them hope to create: a new state order in which
the seven federal districts constitute a bureaucratic layer
separating Russia's 89 federation subjects from Moscow. If
their wish becomes reality, the seven federal districts will
have their own media, their own long-term economic plans, and
their own State Councils. The envoys' ability to achieve
these goals remains questionable, however.
To date, the presidential representatives appear to have
done little other than set up offices, hire personnel, gather
facts about their regions, and organize meetings and
conferences. But their public comments reveal how they see
their jobs evolving. Currently, they have four key tasks:
ensuring that regional laws conform with federal legislation,
overseeing cadre issues, developing economic strategies for
their macro-regions, and organizing new bureaucratic and
other structures at the new district level, including media
Each envoy has already presented to the regions within
his district a list of local laws that do not conform with
federal legislation. However, on cadre issues, they have
moved more slowly, possibly because they anticipate a
stronger negative reaction. In the Urals district, envoy Petr
Latyshev dismissed the head of a customs office in
Yekaterinburg and is reportedly preparing to dismiss a local
prosecutor and police chief as well. Sverdlovsk Governor
Eduard Rossel called Latyshev's moves inadmissible "muscle-
flexing." Latyshev responded that he was given the right to
make such appointments and intends to keep doing so.
In the longer term, the envoys hope to concern
themselves with their macro-regions' economic development.
Latyshev reported that at a meeting last month, President
Vladimir Putin advised the envoys to establish Centers for
Strategic Development in their districts' capitals, along the
lines of the Moscow-based think-tank of the same name. As
head of that center, Minister for Economic Trade and
Development German Gref coordinated the drafting of a 10-year
economic plan for Russia. Presumably, the districts' seven
centers will each draft such a long-term development plan.
But judging from the envoys' statements, they consider a
key ingredient to economic success to be getting the regions
to regard themselves as smaller units of a larger whole,
namely, the federal district. In a recent interview with
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," presidential representative to the
Northwest district Viktor Cherkesov complained that one
problem with the local media, particularly newspapers, is
that 80 percent of coverage is about local news and 20
percent about national developments but there is no
information at all about neighboring regions. He noted that
"for the development of large business, it is necessary to
push forward business information beyond an oblast's or
Cherkesov was one of the first envoys to suggest the
creation of district-level media with district-wide
broadcasting and distribution capabilities, but others soon
followed. Latyshev, for example, recently hosted a conference
on how to create a "single information space" in Russia's
District-wide media, however, is only part of a much
larger plan. Soon after his appointment, Putin's envoy to
Siberia, Leonid Drachevskii, announced he is forming a
council of all leaders of the regions in his district. And
this month, Georgii Poltavchenko, envoy to the Central
district, announced the formation of a similar council in his
district. According to Poltavchenko, analogous bodies are
being planned in the remaining federal districts. These new
mini-State Councils will co-exist with district level
entities of Sberbank, Rostelecom, and the All Russia State
Television and Radio Company.
Almost as soon as the new office of presidential envoy
was created, analysts queried what powers--if any--those
envoys would be given to enforce their will. Khakasia
Republic President Aleksei Lebed recently suggested that the
new envoys are mostly "paper lions" and that regional leaders
cooperate with them only when it suits them. However,
Rossel's negative reaction to Latyshev's dismissing some of
his local appointees suggests the paper lions do have teeth.
In fact, the ability to hire and fire local officials may be
one of the envoy's most effective weapons, undercutting
regional leaders' ability to distribute jobs and contracts to
their local associates and thus diminishing the leaders'
influence over local elites.
And the ultimate weapon--control over money--may soon
become part of the envoys' arsenal. Far East Envoy Konstantin
Pulikovskii recently declared that envoys will have the
ability to "guarantee" the transfer of federal monies to the
regions. He also suggested that the envoys will ensure those
monies are used properly.
Meanwhile, presidential envoy to the Volga region Sergei
Kirienko suggested in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
this week that rather than being given more powers, the
office of the presidential envoys may simply fade away. At
the same time, he maintained that the system of seven
districts is needed to make the Russian Federation more
governable. Therefore, the number of district-level
organizations and personnel may continue to proliferate. If
that happens, it may become increasingly clear that the
Kremlin's aim is to create a new hierarchy in which regional
leaders are bumped down in the chain of command.
Soon regional leaders will be deprived of their forum at
the Federation Council. But they may have at least one
comforting thought: one level below them will remain, namely
that of city leaders. These officials, with few weapons at
their disposal, have battled against the governors for their
fair share of tax proceeds--usually in vain.
ANALYSIS-Kyrgyz election deepens gloom over democracy
By Sebastian Alison
BISHKEK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's presidential election has deepened
gloom over democratic standards not just at home but throughout Central
Asia's former Soviet republics, Western officials and diplomats said on
The one positive sign they could see in Kyrgyzstan was that there was an
election at all in a region where one leader has his job for life and two
others have secured almost unchallenged rule.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe slammed the Sunday
poll for failing to meet international standards after incumbent Askar Akayev
secured an easy victory in what has been seen as the region's most democratic
The OSCE's verdict followed criticism of Akayev's treatment of his main
rival, Felix Kulov. Kulov was arrested in March and, although later released,
was disqualified from running on Sunday for refusing to take a mandatory
Kyrgyz language test.
"With some justification, Kyrgyzstan has always been regarded as having made
more serious efforts to reform politically and economically," a Western
diplomatic source said.
"And the commitment of the president in the past towards democracy has been
genuine. But the various significant shortcomings in the presidential
elections which the OSCE has identified show that the process is tarnished
Akayev, whose tiny, mountainous nation gained independence from the former
Soviet Union in 1991, won nearly 75 percent of the vote, compared with less
than 14 percent for his nearest rival.
The result meant Akayev, who first became a Kyrgyz leader when his nation was
still a Soviet republic in 1990, will stay in office to at least 2005.
Mark Stevens, head of the OSCE's election observation mission in Kyrgyzstan,
told Reuters the vote marked a step in the wrong direction for regional
"I think so for sure. We feel that quite strongly," he said.
He added that Kyrgyzstan had held parliamentary elections earlier this year,
after which the OSCE identified a number of shortcomings which had not been
"Two elections in one year have placed the country under an intense spotlight
and it hasn't come out too well," he said.
The OSCE reported the stuffing of some ballot boxes on Sunday, heavy pressure
on the state media and dozens of procedural breaches. It also said there were
violations before results were entered into the computerised counting system.
ELECTION BETTER THAN NOTHING
But the Western diplomat said the fact that Akayev allowed opponents to stand
at all and win a quarter of the total vote was a sign that pluralism still
existed in Kyrgyzstan.
"While flawed, the fact that the election did take place is in itself a small
but positive step," he said.
Stevens said Kyrgyzstan could not be written off as a place where political
pluralism was dead.
"There are some elements of democratic development which can still be worked
with," he said.
Democracy -- or the lack of it -- across Central Asia has come under the
spotlight as the region's leaders tenaciously cling to power.
In Turkmenistan, Saparmurad Niyazov has been named president for life,
obviating the need for future elections. Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbayev may enjoy a similar right if parliament passes a bill which it has
considered in the past.
Uzbek leader Islam Karimov has clamped down increasingly on opponents since a
series of bomb blasts in his capital, Tashkent, early last year.
He has used the threat of religious extremism and drugs -- important to the
regional economy -- to justify the clampdown.
Stevens remarked dryly that the regional trend towards presidencies for life
was "not usually on the list of democratic standards."
Despite finding some good points, the diplomat said the way the Kyrgyz
election was held was bad for regional democracy.
"It doesn't augur well for the future," he said.
October 29, 2000
Displaced Peoples Of The Former Soviet Union
The Talk Of Ukraine
Efforts to forge new identity alienate Russian-speakers
By Michael Slackman. RUSSIA CORRESPONDENT
Last of a series.
Lviv, Ukraine-For three years Larisa Beskaravaynaya worked the crowded street
cars as a conductor, often collecting more abuse than money from impoverished
residents who had trouble paying the few cents fare. Still, she plodded on,
happy to have a job.
Beskaravaynaya was at work a few months ago, her ticket pouch slung over a
shoulder, when a passenger asked for directions. She responded in Ukrainian,
but the passenger asked her to say it again - but in Russian. She happily
Another passenger quickly jumped up and berated Beskaravaynaya for speaking
Russian, then stormed off the car to complain to a supervisor.
A day later, Beskaravaynaya was summoned to her boss' office and reminded she
is not permitted to speak Russian while on duty because the government
insists that civil servants speak only Ukrainian. "I said, 'I am a person. I
will speak whatever language I will choose,'" she recalled. "I said, 'I will
not turn my back to a person.'" She was fired on the spot.
To Beskaravaynaya the point is civility, service and getting along with her
neighbors. To her government, those are lofty values that must take a back
seat to its efforts to build the new Ukraine and have everyone speak
Ukrainian even if that means that Russian is cast down.
Life was much simpler when it was the Soviet empire, imposing uniform rules,
language and culture on 250 million people across 11 time zones. Easier for
the dominant Russians, but painful for many of the rest. Some nationalities
were defined out of existence, their heritage papered over, or discarded, as
part of the process of trying to force everyone into the new, modern Soviet
mold. But with the empire's collapse, life changed everywhere-especially for
the 25 million ethnic Russians who live in the former Soviet republics. For
them, the ebb tide of history has been especially humiliating and dangerous
as the lands their people once ruled now often treat them as hostile
Nowhere has this attempt at cultural renaissance proven more difficult, or
more galling to Russians, than in Ukraine, a nation of fellow Slavs that
Russia once condescendingly called "little Russia." It rankles so much that
government officials actually trot out genetic theories to prove Ukrainians
are not even related to the Russians. It is here that Russian and Ukrainian
languages lie along a fault line that runs through the country like a snake,
poisoning every aspect of public and private life.
Since its separation from the Soviet Union 10 years ago, Ukraine has been
fighting to forge its own identity, to define itself for the first time in
its 1,000-year history as separate and distinct from its much larger cousin
to the east. The heart of the divorce strategy is language, with the
government pushing residents to speak Ukrainian and learn it in the schools.
It sounds simple enough, but it is turning out to be more complicated because
the czars and Communists were so successful in forcibly Russifying this land,
at one point even outlawing the native tongue. Like it or not, Russian and
Ukrainian worlds are inextricably intertwined. Too much time has passed, too
much blood has been mixed, to be able to distinguish "them" from "us." The
conductor, Beskaravaynaya, for example, is not a Russian who resents being
made to drop her mother tongue, but she is a Ukrainian. And she is resentful
that she is being bullied to abandon the language she was raised on.
"A strange situation has emerged here," said Alexander Svistunov, a
businessman and leader of the Russian movement in Ukraine. "The people who
are close to us in spirit and blood have become alien to us. They are our
ideological enemies . . . They ignore the fact that other cultures have a
more powerful history and more spirited roots." For the government, the
change to a Ukrainian-center view is long overdue.
"Previously they were the dominant nationality, not by numbers but by
prestige," Mykola Zhulynsky, the vice prime minister in charge of the
nation's cultural program, said of the Russians. "Now the situation has
changed. Ukraine is independent and they are a minority. They don't even
grasp that very notion." There are 51 million people living in Ukraine, of
whom approximately 11 million are ethnic Russians. But Ukrainian officials
acknowledge it is impossible to draw the lines using census figures. More
than 60 percent of the population considers itself Russian speakers, many
people speak what amounts to pidgin Ukrainian, a Russified version of the
language, called "Surzhik," and many of those who are Ukrainian have
relatives who are Russian. This has made it difficult for the government to
move its nationalist agenda forward, even though it has passed laws
requiring, for example, that all public officials speak Ukrainian, or
limiting the amount of Russian language broadcasting on radio and TV.
Recognizing the enormity of its task, the government has gone back to square
one and is focusing on the next generation. So far, it has shut down or
transformed to Ukrainian more than half the country's 5,000 Russian language
schools and eliminated Russian from the curriculum until fifth grade. Even
then it allows only one hour of instruction a week through the ninth grade.
School 113, an old red brick building 20 minutes drive from the center of
Kiev, situated among single family wooden houses and Soviet-style apartment
blocs, is on the front line of this evolution. More than 400 students in
first through 11th grade study there. Ten years ago, School 113 was one of 21
Russian and three Ukrainian language schools in the area. Today it is one of
24 Ukrainian language schools in the area.
When they began the transition, all of the textbooks were in Russian, many
teachers did not speak the language fluently, and the older students had
never formally studied in Ukrainian. In fact, the Ukrainian language at times
was the problem, because the words did not exist to describe certain many
modern concepts, or objects.
"When we switched to Ukrainian we had no complaints at all," said school
principal Leonid Stetsenko. "Now parents will come to us and say we have a
teacher who speaks Russian during breaks, and we are not that happy about
it." Sergey Polivanov attends 11th grade in the school and though he is
ethnic Russian, the 16-year-old said he can't be happier about studying in
"I love the Ukrainian language as beautiful," said the lanky teenager. "It is
our habit, since childhood to speak Russian. But there is a certain sense to
us speaking Ukrainian now. This is Ukraine." Not everyone is willing, or
able, to change their habits. "For teenagers and young people, Russia is like
the official language," said Irina Maximenko, 16, a classmate of Polivanov.
"It is our habit to speak Russian and that is what I speak when I am with my
friends and at home." Even Polivanov concedes that when he leaves the school
grounds, it is Russian that he speaks. "It happened historically that the
Russian language took deep roots here," he said.
This campaign to raise a generation that views Ukrainian as its mother tongue
is being waged across the country, but nowhere is it as heated, or as
confrontational, as in Lviv, where vigilante groups try to pressure merchants
to stop selling Russian language books and periodicals and Russian speakers
say they are harassed on the streets. Unlike the more heavily Russified
eastern portion of the country, this region has long been the seat of
The city itself, once occupied by Poland, looks European in character, with a
grand Viennese opera house in the center of town, narrow winding streets,
edged by small row-houses, and churches with spires and bell towers, rather
than the golden onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Church.
School 45 is one of only two Russian language schools left to serve the more
than 20,000 Russian children. It is a squat, white concrete building tucked
on a back street outside the center of town. This is a Soviet-built
neighborhood, with the ubiquitous boxy apartment buildings, crumbling and
filthy. There are graffiti scrawled in the parks and on buildings along the
main street that say in Ukrainian, "Russians get out," or "Russians go back
to Russia," though the word for used for Russians is a far less polite ethnic
slur. An open air market of smoked fish and fresh vegetables clogs the
sidewalk in front of the school.
Each morning, Julia Goncharskaya, 15, must take a bus across town to get to
here because her neighborhood school was converted to Ukrainian. Like others
interviewed, she said that when she is on the bus, or in the street, she is
either silent or she speaks in Ukrainian. Then she walks through the school's
swinging doors and sighs in relief.
"It's a problem to speak Russian on the street. People are always saying,
"There's a kid from School 45.' They don't like us," she said. "This is a
pretty city, but the people are no good." The principal, Vladimir Kravchenko,
a leader of the local Russian movement and former member of the Communist
Party, points with outrage to the flag stand in his office with a Ukrainian
flag and a city flag. There is an empty hole where once the Russian flag
By order of local authorities he may not display the Russian flag, a minor
slight, but one that infuriates him. Like other Russian leaders here and in
the east, his view of history has Russia as a benevolent big brother, doing
all it could to support the primitive Ukrainian culture, a view disputed by
many historians. Orlando Figes, in his book "A People's Tragedy," writes that
in 1907 officials refused to allow cholera epidemic notices to be printed in
Ukrainian. Peasants who could not read Russian died after drinking
The idea that Ukraine is trying to impose its culture and language on him is
something that Kravchenko now finds offensive. "We have concluded the world
still does not realize the tragedy of the 25 million Russians who lost their
motherland without any guilt on their side," he said of ethnic Russians who
found themselves outside Russia after the Soviet collapse. "In Ukraine we are
deemed enemies of the state who must assimilate or be thrown out." Yet even
in Lviv, which the Russians still stubbornly call by the Russian name, Lvov,
many people are stuck somewhere in the middle, Ukrainians who speak Russian,
Russians who want to speak Ukrainian, or some other variation that
illustrates the difficulty both sides are having.
Volodya Taran is a case in point. When he wants to put his daughter's
overcoat on, or summon her to supper, or even just give her a hug, he calls
her over using the Russian name, Xenia, he and his wife gave her at birth.
But when she starts school in a few years, she will probably have to answer
when her teachers call by the Ukrainian version, Oxana.
Taran is not a Russian who fears his daughter will be stripped of her ethnic
identity. He is an ethnic Ukrainian. And he is angry there are no longer
Russian language kindergartens.
"My way of life, my circle of friends are Russian speakers. Why should I
shift to Ukrainian?" asked Taran, who has lived all his 26 years in this
"Why should my daughter go to a Ukrainian school? We are Russian thinkers."
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