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CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List

Johnson's Russia List
 

 

November 18, 2000    

This Date's Issues:  4641

 

Johnson's Russia List
#4641
18 November 2000
davidjohnson@erols.com

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: U.S. says nuclear materials secured in Russia.
2. BBC Monitoring: Will the government survive until 2001-political analyst. (Igor Bunin)
3. Interfax: RUSSIA'S POPULATION DECREASED BY 6 MLN SINCE 1992 - POCHINOK.
4. Moscow Times: Elizabeth LeBras, Chances Getting Thin For International Aid.
5. Stanislav Menshikov: Subject: $66 BILLION AID TO RUSSIA IS A MYTH. Will IMF Shift Policies After US Elections?
6. Interfax: COMMUNIST LEADER COMMENTS ON POLITICAL SITUATION IN RUSSIA.
7. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, CONNECTING IN SIBERIA-SPACE. Life in the tundra is much less chilly as Internet usage heats up in a region.
8. New York Times book review: Birth of a Hundred Nations. (Colin Thubron reviews Yoav Karny's HIGHLANDERS: A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory)
9. US News and World Report: Masha Gessen, A matter of justice. Attempts to reform Russia's flawed court system are failing.
10. Moscow Times: Boris Kagarlitsky, Always a Dissident: The Conflict That Never Came. (re Kremlin and governors)
11. The Independent (UK): Adam LeBor, Stalingrad. The bloodiest battle in human history has become europe's most expensive movie. But are some memories best left undisturbed?

******

#1
U.S. says nuclear materials secured in Russia

WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday that 
10 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials, enough to make 500 
nuclear bombs, is now secured at a central storage facility in Siberia, as 
part of a joint U.S.-Russian program to prevent theft by terrorists. 

"Today's announcement shows the continuing commitment of the U.S. and Russia 
to reduce the risk that terrorists or countries of proliferation concern 
might acquire nuclear materials for use in a weapon," said U.S. Energy 
Secretary Bill Richardson. 

The materials were moved from three separate storage locations to the central 
site at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant in Siberia. That site 
contains comprehensive nuclear material and accounting systems. 

The systems were put in place as part of the U.S.-Russian Material 
Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, an effort designed by the 
two nations to protect hundreds of metric tons of plutonium and highly 
enriched uranium against theft. 

MPC&A was launched in 1993 in partnership with Russia and the New Independent 
States to correct deficiencies in systems to secure nuclear materials. 

The Energy Department said security upgrades were underway for 750 metric 
tons of the estimated 960 metric tons of nuclear materials requiring 
security. 

The main point of the program, according to the agency, is to install modern 
physical security and material accounting systems; reduce risks by 
consolidating materials into fewer buildings; and converting highly enriched 
uranium into forms not usable in nuclear weapons. 

******

#2
BBC Monitoring
Russia: Will the government survive until 2001-political analyst 
Text of report by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 18th November 

[Presenter] Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to dissolve the 
government if it does not solve the problem of collecting and transportation 
of non-ferrous metals. He ordered Deputy Prime Minister Aleksey Kudrin to 
deal with the problem during the trip to Novosibirsk, `Nezavisimaya Gazeta' 
said. 

Putin' stormy reaction to the problem took place after he was told about an 
attack at a nuclear physics institute when condensers containing non-ferrous 
metals had been stolen. As a result the institute had to suspend its work for 
eight months. 

Igor Bunin, the head of political technologies centre, in an interview to 
Ekho Moskvy said that Putin's threat is not groundless. 

[Bunin] It looks like Putin wants his cabinet to be composed of people fully 
devoted to him, the people who have been tightly bound to him for a long 
time. I think that he has such plans in his head. However, I don't think it 
is a final decision because one of possible strategies is to balance three 
elements: the Family [Boris Yeltsin's entourage], liberals and power 
officials. He plays the role of an arbiter here and can appoint people to 
various posts. If one of the three groups becomes stronger, he can compensate 
this by some reshuffling. 

At the same time there is another strategy to create an absolutely homogenous 
government with a hierarchical vertical line which has if not groupings but 
people he has known for years. 

[Presenter] However, Bunin believes that this government will survive until 
the next year. 

******

#3
RUSSIA'S POPULATION DECREASED BY 6 MLN SINCE 1992 - POCHINOK

MOSCOW. Nov 17 (Interfax) - Russia's population has decreased by 6
million people since 1992 and now totals 145.6 million people, Russian
Labor and Social Development Minister Alexander Pochinok announced at a
State Duma session on Friday.
Pochinok has informed the deputies on measures taken by the
government to prevent a demographic crisis.
If the natural reduction of Russia's population continues at the
same pace, Russia's population could drop to 138.4 million people by
2015, according to State Statistics Committee forecasts. This would move
Russia from the 7th most populated country in the world to the 14th.
Pochinok described the demographic situation in the country as
grave and said that not only is it harmful for economic processes, but
it has also begun to negatively affect national security.
The extremely high death rate and low birth rate are incomparable
with the demographic situation in all other European countries, Pochinok
said.
Last year, average male life expectancy for the first time ever
fell lower than the pension age to 59.8 years, while female life
expectancy in Russia is 72.8 years, the minister said.
This negative trend "has only slightly" changed this year, giving
grounds to forecast male life expectancy in 2001 at a level of 61 years
and female at 73 years.
Such a demographic situation, in addition to society aging in
general, may lead to a situation in which the recent problem of
unemployment may give way to the problem of a lack of people to man all
the vacancies, Pochinok remarked.
The probability of accidental death in Russia is 4.5 times higher
than in Europe on the whole and the number of accidents in the country
may reach 150,000 by the end of 2000, he said. The death rate due to
tuberculosis, drug addiction and AIDS is also very high.
The government has worked out a concept of demographic policy for
the near future and corresponding particular programs that should help
change the current negative trends in demography, Pochinok said.

******

#4
Moscow Times
November 18, 2000 
Chances Getting Thin For International Aid 
By Elizabeth LeBras
Staff Writer

Prospects are rapidly dimming for the government to receive additional 
credits from the International Monetary Fund or to write off some of the $43 
billion of Soviet-era debt it owes the Paris Club of sovereign creditors. 

Interfax quoted a source close to the Cabinet as saying Thursday that an IMF 
delegation visiting Moscow this week said it sees no reason for Russia to 
continue to receive international assistance. 

The nation stopped repaying the principle of the debt after the 1998 
financial crisis. But it has been making bilateral agreements with each of 
its 18 creditors in the Paris Club and has been making interest payments. 
Norway is the only creditor yet to make a deal, but Russia is still pushing 
to reschedule $3 billion out of next year's foreign debt bill. 

Gerard Belanger, the head of the IMF delegation, told Finance Minister Alexei 
Kudrin on Monday that in view of the nation's projected $66 billion trade 
surplus for this year, the IMF would not recommend that its debts be 
rescheduled. 

Lacking its own economic experts, the Paris Club relies heavily on 
information from the IMF to make decisions. 

The draft 2001 federal budget has no provision for debt repayments that 
threaten to make a $6 billion hole in it. Next year Moscow is due to pay $3 
billion to the Paris Club, $1.8 billion to the IMF and $1.2 billion to the 
World Bank. 

Factors such as high oil prices and surging Central Bank reserves have 
generated strong confidence in the nation's economy. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin flew to Paris on 
Thursday for a meeting with Francis Maier, president of the Paris Club. But 
he arrived late, and it was unclear if the men had met. 

If Russia fails to reach a restructuring agreement with the Paris Club, it 
will have to pay $3 billion in 2001, slightly more in 2002 and $6 billion in 
2003. 

To cover a likely failure to win a new agreement from the club, the 
government has proposed that the 2001 budget allocate 70 percent of excess 
revenues for principal debt repayments, United Financial Group brokerage said 
in a research note this week. 

The draft budget allows for a drop in world oil prices in the coming months, 
and makes its calculations on the basis of oil fetching $18 to $19 a barrel, 
40 percent below current prices. 

Christopher Granville, politics analyst for UFG, and Alexei Kazakov, economy 
and politics analyst for Nikoil brokerage, said Russia will be able to 
service all of its loans next year. 

"Russia is theoretically strong enough to service its debt, but debt payments 
could amount to over a third of the budget," Granville said. 

Kazakov said the government needs to restructure its debts in order to 
continue its economic program. 

"Restructuring of the whole debt will allow the government to reduce 
companies' tax burden and preserve the growth trend of the past year and a 
half," Kazakov said. 

Marina Ionova, politics and economics analyst for the Aton brokerage, doubted 
the nation's ability to service its loans over the next few years. She 
reckons Russia will need to sustain an economic growth rate of up to 6.5 
percent in order to service its debts. However, she said economic growth in 
2001 would be closer to 4.5 percent. 

Ionova said the political position of the next presidential administration in 
the United States will influence any debt restructuring deal. The United 
States yields considerable influence over the IMF, and generally determines 
the course of the institutions' relations with Russia, she said. 

******

#5
From: "stanislav menshikov" <menschivok@globalxs.nl>
Subject: $66 BILLION AID TO RUSSIA IS A MYTH
Will IMF Shift Policies After US Elections?
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000

"MOSCOW TRIBUNE", 17 November 2000
$66 BILLION AID TO RUSSIA IS A MYTH
Will IMF Shift Policies After US Elections?
By Stanislav Menshikov

A recent IMF report on Russia and its new mission to Moscow are apt to pose
a few questions. Talks are about a new two-year mutual "preventive standby
agreement" under which Russia would undertake to implement a range of
economic reforms while the Fund would turn on the green light for
restructuring the old Soviet debt to the Paris Club. This would save $3
billion in Russia's debt service in 2001 equivalent to anywhere between a
half and 80 percent of the expected extra revenue in next year's federal
budget.

There is no sound legal basis for the Fund's veto in this matter which,
strictly speaking is one between Russia and certain European
creditor-states. But the latter will not grant Russia the 40 percent
reduction it seeks on that debt without permission from Washington.
"Atlantic solidarity", a euphemism for European political dependence on the
US, is holding up an agreement that would be signed long ago were Europe
more independent.

The Fund's attitude towards Russia is ambivalent, to say the least. On the
one hand, it is pouring praise on the Gref-Kudrin economic policy package,
while, on the other, it is claiming that not enough effort is being made to
implement it. The Russian government, it asserts, is putting up with
corruption and barter, is dragging its feet on breaking apart natural
monopolies, refrains from bringing more openness to the state-controlled
Savings Bank. The Fund's report on Russia recommends revaluing the rouble,
chastises the government for failing to keep up with the terms of former
agreements with the IMF.

As usual, most of this criticism and advice borders on professional
incompetence. For instance, reforming natural monopolies at this time is
tantamount to raising (NOT reducing) their tariffs, promoting general
inflation and undercutting economic growth. It is not Sberbank which needs
immediate reforming: it is the only Russian bank today that, unlike most
privately controlled commercial banks, is providing loans to the
capital-thirsty real sector and thus supporting the economic boom.
Following the Fund's advice to revalue the rouble would reduce competitive
power of Russian industry and bring back the crisis situation that led to
the 1998 disaster.

Listening to the IMF's gurus is also useless today because its policies
towards Russia will be clarified only after the new US administration
settles down in Washington. A Bush administration would mean an even harder
line at the Fund towards this country. Even under Gore, a Republican
Congress would have hardly permitted the continuation of the Clinton-Gore
line which, according to a recent Congressional report, has dismally
failed. In the next few months there is nothing concrete, let alone
favourable, that Moscow can expect from the Fund.

The Congressional report is noteworthy yet for another reason. It claims
that between the USSR debacle at the close of 1991 and September 1998, the
IMF, World Bank and other official western creditors poured $66 billion
into Russia making it the largest financial aid recipient in the world.
This figure which looks large is widely quoted in the media and creates a
totally wrong picture. From RECEP - the Russian European Centre of Economic
Policy (based in Moscow but run by the EC) we get an approximate breakdown
of that figure:

IMF - $19.4 billion
Other international institutions - $ 6.6 do
Other government creditors - $ 9.7 do
Total financial aid - $ 35.7 do

This adds up to only a bit more than a half of the US Congress figure.
Where did it get the remainder? Add $16 billion for Eurobonds sold by
Russian government agencies and $11 billion in short-term paper (the
notorious KROs) sold by the Russian Ministry of Finance (on which it later
defaulted). But both these items were PRIVATE foreign investments, NOT
financial aid.

Let us look closely at the IMF figure. Unlike money provided by the World
Bank or the EBRD, Fund credits are not used to finance projects in the real
sector, to buy equipment or new technologies. They are credited to
correspondent accounts of the Bank of Russia or the Ministry of Finance in
New York and are used to support the rouble exchange rate or finance the
federal budget deficit. In both cases the Bank of Russia bought roubles for
dollars, I.e. transferred dollars from its accounts in New York banks to
offshore accounts of rouble sellers, usually Russian private commercial
banks. Therefore, IMF dollars never entered Russia but in fact sailed
around the world.

If IMF credits are excluded, western financial aid is reduced to $16
billion, i.e. a mere fourth of the US Congress figure. Adding $14.5 billion
in foreign direct investment and deducting $60 billion in capital flight
from Russia leaves a large net outflow, rather than an inflow of real
economic aid. 

Debt service, however, is calculated on gross inflows meaning that Russia
has to pay interest and return principal even on money that never reached
its shores. It is a one-way street where IMF is always the winner and
Moscow the loser. Unfair? You bet!

*******

#6
COMMUNIST LEADER COMMENTS ON POLITICAL SITUATION IN RUSSIA

MOSCOW. Nov 17 (Interfax) - The current situation in Russia is
"complex and contradictory," Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Russian
Communist faction in the State Duma, has said.
"A bitter struggle is underway in the Kremlin, government and State
Duma between advocates of the old destructive course and of new state-
patriotic policy," Zyuganov said at a meeting with a Cuban National
Assembly of People's Power delegation led by speaker Ricardo Alarcon de
Quesada, the press service for the Russian Communist party has reported.
Zyuganov said during the meeting that the Russian Communist party
and the people-patriotic forces in general proceed from the following
principle in assessing the executive power's activity: "to support
everything useful for the people and the state and to staunchly oppose
everything destructive and harmful to the working man's interests," the
press service said.
"The public sometimes feels that President [Vladimir] Putin is
ready to reject the old course, but, in pursuing wise measures, reveals
indecisiveness and sluggishness," Zyuganov said.
The leftist opposition is concerned over the fact that "the widely
publicized crusade against the oligarchs is in fact being reduced to a
mere replacement of the old with the new," Zyuganov said. "There is not
much difference between the devil and the deep blue sea when it turns
out that the authorities lure Abramovich, Chubais or Mamut in place of
Berezovsky," he said.
Touching on Putin's upcoming visit to Cuba, Zyuganov told the
guests that during a recent meeting with Putin he recommended that the
president pay attention to "how reforms in Cuba are being carried out in
the face of difficult external conditions and what success it has
achieved in key spheres of its economy."

******

#7
Chicago Tribune
November 17, 2000
CONNECTING IN SIBERIA-SPACE 
Life in the tundra is much less chilly as Internet usage heats up in a region 
famous for its isolation
By Colin McMahon

IRKUTSK, Russia -- Ah, Siberia!

The frozen tundra, the endless forests, the sinister prison camps. The 
Internet boom, the Web-based videoconferences, the intellectual heritage.

If all of this doesn't fit your image of Siberia, welcome to Irkutsk.

The southern Siberian city is a pleasant surprise. Architecture surviving 
from the 19th Century delights. A cultural tradition dating back centuries 
still flourishes.

But most intriguing is Irkutsk's development as an Internet center. Despite 
its reputation as a place to which one is banished, Siberia is becoming a 
leader in Russia for connecting to the rest of the world.

Siberia has more Internet users as a percentage of its population than the 
rest of Russia, according to a recent study, even if those numbers are still 
quite small by Western standards.

Russia as a whole has only about 2 million Internet users, experts estimate, 
in a nation of 145 million people. But champions of technology in Irkutsk, 
like their brethren in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, are pushing for more 
computers, better phone lines and a deeper understanding of the Internet's 
potential.

The reason is simple, the backers say. Siberia needs the Internet in a way 
that Europe and North America do not.

Part of this is due to Siberia's size. Part of it is because nearly all of 
the mass media in Siberia are controlled at some level by the government.

"This is a huge territory," said Andrei Mantsyvoda, who runs the Internet 
center at Irkutsk State University. "The Irkutsk region is two times the size 
of France. You have to find a way to integrate the communities, to build new 
social organizations.

"Airplanes do not fly everywhere, and there are no roads in much of the 
region," said Mantsyvoda, whose projects are funded by local companies, the 
university and Western grants. "But the Internet we have for free. People in 
Siberia have the right to get information, and the only way is the Internet."

Mantsyvoda is working now to connect all the region's hospitals. The best of 
these are in the city of Irkutsk, which is home to about 600,000 people. 
Through videoconferencing and live communications, doctors in Irkutsk will be 
able to help their colleagues in distant towns diagnose and treat patients 
who cannot be transported to the regional capital.

This may seem like obvious stuff. But those involved in a recent live 
videoconference between Irkutsk cancer specialists and doctors in Angarsk 
marveled at the technology. They used it to discuss treatment for a patient 
in Angarsk and, eventually, they went ahead with a supervised, successful 
operation on the woman, Mantsyvoda said.

In Soviet times Irkutsk was a scientific hub, a key city in the 
military-industrial complex. Its industry, like the manufacturing sector 
across Russia, has suffered in the last decade. But Irkutsk still has more 
than 40 schools of higher learning, including many technical institutes that 
are among Russia's best.

Partly as a result, Irkutsk is a young city that regularly draws in fresh 
blood. The average resident is about 30 years old.

Irkutsk was founded in 1661 and its cultural heritage dates back to the 18th 
Century. But its major intellectual boost came in the middle of the 19th 
Century.

It was to Irkutsk that many of the Decembrists rebels were banished after a 
failed insurrection in 1825.

Mostly high-ranking military officers of the nobility, the Decembrists moved 
against the czar and demanded the abolition of serfdom and other democratic 
reforms.

When the insurgency failed, the non-noble leaders were executed. The other 
115 or so were sent to internal exile or prison camps across Siberia.

"They were rich people, but they struggled for a cause," said Alexandra 
Luchsheva, 88, of Moscow, a descendant of one of the Decembrists. "They lost 
all they had."

Slowly, as their prison sentences ended or when amnesty was granted, some of 
the surviving Decembrists gathered in Irkutsk. Several were met there by 
wives or girlfriends who had braved tremendous hardship and governmental 
hostility to travel the more than 3,000 miles from St. Petersburg.

The Decembrists built grand wooden homes in the traditional Siberian style. 
Some of those remain today; two have been converted into museums. Like a few 
18th Century churches and some grand buildings that went up during a gold 
boom in the late 19th Century, those houses are architectural gems in a city 
sadly dominated by Soviet-era ugliness.

The Decembrists also taught the children of Irkutsk math and science, Russian 
and French, theater and music. Irkutsk remains a good theater town and its 
museums are among the best east of the Urals.

Like the Decembrists, other outsiders have helped invigorate Irkutsk. Many of 
the residents have Central European or Baltic blood. Some are descendants of 
pioneers who came to Siberia to build new lives. Many are descendants of 
prisoners exiled by a succession of czarist or Soviet autocrats.

This aspect of Siberia may indeed fit the average foreigner's image of the 
place. And to be sure, Siberia remains cold and snowy and sometimes 
depressingly bleak.

The new generation of Siberia says life here is not just the harsh nights 
huddled around a bottle of vodka and a pot of boiled dumplings. In Irkutsk 
you can find the young spending nights huddled in a computer room, 
communicating with the rest of the world.

******

#8
New York Times
November 19, 2000
[for personal use only]
Book review section
Birth of a Hundred Nations
An Israeli journalist reports on the Caucasus in the post-Soviet era. 
By COLIN THUBRON
Colin Thubron's most recent books are ''In Siberia'' and ''The Lost Heart of 
Asia.'' 

HIGHLANDERS 
A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory.
By Yoav Karny.
Illustrated. 436 pp. New York:
Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27.

The mountains and valleys of the Caucasus, spreading 750 miles between the 
Black and Caspian seas, may contain greater ethnic and linguistic diversity 
than any comparable region on earth. Throughout history, the area has 
attracted beleaguered minorities and insulated them in precipitous terrain. 
Long after the Russians completed their arduous conquest in 1864, the people 
of the Caucasus remained grimly self-sufficient. 

To unravel this web of small republics into a coherent narrative is a 
formidable challenge, and the Israeli foreign correspondent Yoav Karny has 
approached it head-on. During the early 1990's, following the collapse of 
Soviet power, his travels brought him into contact with many of the region's 
most influential figures: the wise, the rash, the moving and the ridiculous. 
He conducted his interviews with intelligence and modesty, astute in his 
interpretations but sensitive to possible misjudgments. If his new book, 
''Highlanders,'' seems to zigzag through a maze of political factions and to 
deliver contrary messages, it is only reflecting the region's complexity. 
Karny at once negotiates crosscurrents of near tribalism and steamrolling 
modernity, bitter memory and contrived history, and emerges with a cry of 
foreboding. 

The net he casts misses some areas (no Georgia, no Ossetia), yet its reach is 
adventurously wide. There are the Cossacks, of course: a Russian resurgence 
seething with barely repressed militarism. And the once-renowned Circassians, 
clinging to their terrain in the long aftermath of a catastrophic 
19th-century expulsion. And the remnants of small nations removed by Stalin 
and now returned: the Ingush, fewer than 250,000 strong; the Balkars, who 
lost over a third of their people in the deportation; and the Chechens, 
inexplicably intrepid. 

But Karny reserves the heart of his book for another ''autonomous republic'' 
within the Russian Federation: Dagestan. ''It is unlike any other part of 
Russia,'' he writes; ''indeed, few parallels could be produced anywhere. 
Thirty-odd nations, speaking some of the world's most exotic languages and 
heirs to some of the planet's oldest surviving traditions, are all bundled 
together in one province about half the size of Virginia.'' These tiny groups 
of people, united under a collective presidency, defy the lessons of 
Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the old Soviet Union by surviving together in 
precarious statehood. The once-powerful Kumyks; the 90,000-strong warrior 
Laks; the Lezgins, split fatally between Russia and Azerbaijan -- all cohabit 
with communities as small as the Mountain Jews and the one-village nation of 
Khynalug, a near-illiterate Lezgin subgroup with its own language. 

Nationalism is shallow-rooted in the Caucasus, where loyalties have 
traditionally been regional and religious. But in the void left by the death 
of a supranational socialism, local patriotism rushed in. Within half a 
generation after the Soviet collapse, however, the intellectuals who took the 
stage for nationalism were ousted by a younger, tougher breed: businessmen 
and administrators, some of whom make up the ill-defined ''mafia'' lamented 
throughout today's Russia. Karny traces this decline graphically in two 
successive representatives of the little Lak nation. In the heyday of 
Gorbachev's liberation, its spokesman was the fiery and cultivated Ali 
Aliyev. But now, in harsher times, he has been replaced by Magomed 
Khachilayev, a shaven-headed karate champion amassing wealth and political 
power in tandem. 

Karny subtitles his book ''A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory,'' 
and the memories he finds are rife with ambiguity. Remembrance, of course, 
rests at the heart of nationhood, and Karny's allegiance lies above all with 
diversity. If the Caucasus becomes a burial ground of nations, he writes, 
''all of us will be so much the poorer, our civilization closer to a dull 
uniformity, our imagination less elaborate and our minds a bit more inclined 
toward the simplistic.'' In cities like Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, 
racial and cultural differences are vanishing into a grinding mill where soon 
only Russian may be publicly spoken. All over the Caucasus, Karny writes, ''a 
very small number of those who survived with their memory intact have been 
trying to preserve the past, but they may be too late.'' The histories that 
most flagrantly bolster nationhood, he knows, are often false: ''In Dagestan, 
as in many other Russian provinces, the past is a Pandora's box sealed many 
times over. . . . History has been tampered with so often that if total 
transparency were encouraged or tolerated, the very legitimacy of state 
structures might be called into question.'' Karny writes pungently on the 
attempts of (so-called) intellectuals in Azerbaijan to discredit Armenians by 
claiming that they are newcomers to the Caucasus. This would be absurd or 
surreal if it did not underpin tragedy. 

Karny himself seems sometimes to repudiate memory, a striking thing for an 
Israeli. ''Does the truth always liberate?'' he asks in frustration. ''Might 
it not be better to forget -- or even to induce forgetfulness?'' He also 
backtracks on his own championship of linguistic diversity, asking if a poor 
country like Azerbaijan can afford to sustain one of its minor languages when 
that language would culturally embalm and marginalize its speakers. 

He asks such questions in a spirit not of assertion but of imaginative 
inquiry. He is tolerant to a fault, yet canny, sometimes ironic. His own 
Jewish identity, he says, was seminal to his fascination with the Caucasus, 
yielding an empathy with the persecuted and a concern with the deceptions of 
history. At high school in Israel, he says, government lecturers would 
instill into pupils the certainty that in this land ''we are older . . . and 
we have always been the rightful owners of everything,'' but ''I suspect this 
is a common affliction of ancient peoples who experience rebirth, or at least 
of young peoples who experience a great yearning to be older.'' 

This book full of heartfelt uncertainties has its defects. Sometimes it loses 
focus (as in a longueur on Chechens living in Jordan). Playfully, it employs 
the chapter summaries common to 19th-century travelogues, as if to place in 
another genre what is essentially a journalist's reportage. Yet I doubt if 
any Westerner understands the political scenery of the post-Soviet Caucasus 
better than Karny, or has gathered and deployed his knowledge with such 
courage and sympathy. 

******

#9
US News and World Report
November 20, 2000
A matter of justice
Attempts to reform Russia's flawed court system are failing 
By Masha Gessen 

MOSCOW-Her worst mistake was to scream, "You can't take all that money!" That 
was Jan. 13, 1996, after the police stopped the 24-year-old Nigerian student 
on the street for a document check. She had left her passport in her dorm 
room, and when the cops searched her at the station house, they found 
$400–her tuition money. "They said they take it for the fine," she recalls. 
That is when she screamed and when her troubles really began. 

First, they pulled her cap down over her eyes. "I was blindfolded," she says. 
"They cuffed my hands behind my back. They took my scarf and pulled it like 
this." She pantomimes being strangled. "I almost gave up on life." She felt 
fingers inside her boots, and then the cap was removed. "The policemen said, 
'Look, she has narcotics.' One opened up my right boot–and four little 
things, something wrapped in foil, fell out." 

A year and a half later, a local court sentenced her to eight years in prison 
for selling heroin. The lead prosecution witness was a young man who said he 
had bought heroin from a black woman the day she was detained. Two years 
later, the city appellate court decided his testimony was unreliable and 
halved her sentence. She was released January 19, after four years and six 
days behind bars.

What price freedom? Today, she has lost contact with her family. Jail 
authorities would not allow her to write letters in English, and she says her 
parents in Nigeria cannot believe that she was wrongly imprisoned for all 
this time. She has also lost her identity: Her passport, left in her dorm 
room, has vanished. A convicted criminal and an undocumented alien, she now 
lives in hiding. Members of Moscow's small community of liberal law experts 
say the woman's case is typical of the Russian court system, where judges 
work together with corrupt police and incompetent prosecutors to convict 
anyone who comes before them. 

The frightening experience of the young African student demonstrates just how 
far hopes have fallen for a drastic overhaul of the Russian criminal justice 
system. In 1991, driven by the understanding that legal reform is a 
prerequisite for freedom, democracy, and foreign investment, the Russian 
parliament approved an ambitious program that would have restructured the 
investigative process, introduced jury trials, and spelled the end of an 
unjust police and court system. Nine years later, these ideals are withering. 
Russia has the world's second-highest proportion of its population behind 
bars, a jury-trial experiment has been halted, and the architects of legal 
reform say justice is no more attainable than it was in Soviet times.

The reform attempts began in 1994 when nine of Russia's 89 regions introduced 
jury trials. Early results were startling as jurors asserted their 
independence. Shoddy evidence routinely accepted by professional judges did 
not pass muster, and verdicts were carefully considered by the panels. "Some 
feared that our people are cruel and the juries would hand down unusually 
harsh sentences," recalls Mara Polyakova, chairwoman of the Independent 
Council of Legal Expertise. Instead, the juries returned acquittals in half 
the cases. Reaction from the legal establishment, intent on preserving the 
status quo, was swift. In Moscow, the prosecutor's office and the Interior 
Ministry successfully lobbied against introducing jury trials elsewhere. 

A recent survey of Moscow courts by the International Commission of Jurists, 
a group of legal experts who monitor trials, flatly condemned jurisprudence 
in the capital. "Not a single court conducted itself in accordance with the 
law," says Moscow chapter head Karina Moska-lenko. The biggest problem is the 
lack of adversarial procedure. "You'd think it would be easy for a judge to 
sit back and let them fight it out, then rule," she adds. "But it is the 
prosecutor who gets to relax. He has nothing to prove." One reason lies in 
Russian law, which makes the judge, not the prosecutor, ultimately 
responsible for ensuring that all of the evidence comes out. Says Polyakova: 
"The judge closes his eyes to the prosecutor's violations because he believes 
this is his contribution to fighting crime." Appellate courts then review 
trial transcripts submitted by judges who reportedly doctor them to conceal 
procedural violations. "The appellate court covers for the lower court, which 
covers for the prosecution, and all of them gang up against the defendant," 
concludes the ICJ's Moskalenko.

Judicial disregard of due process isn't the only problem. Last month, 
Russia's human-rights ombudsman, Oleg Miro-nov, issued a report on the use of 
torture in law enforcement. "This is an outrageous evil that has become 
entrenched in our society," says Mironov, a Communist Party member who has 
generally been reluctant to make trouble. His findings reflect those of the 
international activist group Human Rights Watch. Its book-length report 
published last year called Confessions at Any Cost concluded that police 
torture in Russia is rampant. "Torture has become a universal technique," 
agrees former Judge Sergey Pashin, author of the 1994 jury trial initiative 
and several other legal-reform measures. "Police even use the same terms 
around the country. An 'elephant' is when the accused has to put on a gas 
mask and breathe tear gas. A 'crucifixion' is when he is cuffed to a metal 
bed with electrical current coursing through it."

Few acquittals. In this star-chamber legal system, virtually everyone is 
convicted. Last year, fewer than 1 percent of nonjury trials ended in 
acquittals–and half of those verdicts were reversed. "Appellate courts have 
about 15 minutes per case," explains Pashin. "That means the documents are 
filtered by a secretary, who knows that acquittals generally need to be 
overturned and convictions do not." 

Legal expertise is also in short supply on the Russian bench. Most new judges 
are court clerks who are permitted to try cases after completing a 
correspondence course at the master's degree level. A 1996 study by the World 
Bank concluded that many Russian judges were woefully undertrained. Since 
then, say critics, things have gotten worse, and judicial rulings usually 
read as though they were written by a semiliterate person. Judge Pashin, who 
has a Ph.D. in law, was thrown off the bench last month by a judges' board 
for allegedly giving out his office telephone number during a radio 
interview. His supporters interpret the firing from his $178-a-month job as a 
signal that judicial reform in Russia has officially ended. "We can try to 
reform the laws and the system, but we can't change the people," states 
Sergey Vitsin, vice chairman of the Presidential Council on Judicial and 
Legal Reform. "Our jurists have the concept of justice upside down." Says 
Pashin: "How sad that it was all over so soon." 

******

#10
Moscow Times
November 18, 2000 
Always a Dissident: The Conflict That Never Came 
By Boris Kagarlitsky 

About six months ago, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree creating seven 
federal districts and named the men who would oversee them. Ever since, the 
nation has awaited the inevitable conflict between the new president and the 
old regional governors. But nothing of the sort has happened. 

The Federation Council was quietly reformed, and the regional leaders were 
smoothly shuffled off into the State Council, seemingly satisfied with this 
consolation prize. The new council doesn't have the power to legislate, but 
that was never what the governors wanted anyway. They merely want an 
organization to serve as their base in Moscow to allow them to lobby their 
interests and to maintain contact with one another. What that organization is 
called doesn't matter. 

It is more important, however, that the governors lost their immunity from 
prosecution. The Kremlin never hid the fact that this was its main motivation 
in pushing the reform. Nonetheless, no criminal cases against regional 
governors have been filed, although one might fairly suppose that there 
exists plenty of material for a number of high-profile prosecutions. 

It would seem that the Kremlin, having taken away the governors' legal 
immunity, has granted them a kind of political immunity in exchange for their 
loyalty. This arrangement no doubt suits the governors, since in Russia 
political guarantees always have more value than legal ones. Those governors 
whom the Kremlin doesn't like are thereby sentenced to the worst form of 
punishment f having to live according to the law. For our leaders, such a 
punishment is worse than any prison or even death. 

As an example to the others, the Kremlin dealt with former Kursk Governor 
Alexander Rutskoi, whose re-election bid was stymied last month when his name 
was struck from the ballot just hours before voting began. This was done not 
because Rutskoi was a particularly independent governor, but simply because 
someone had to be used to demonstrate Putin's willingness to flex his new 
muscle. 

Maybe the Kremlin will decide that a couple more examples would help make its 
point even more clearly. The general message will be, "Neither a step to the 
left nor a step to the right will be tolerated." 

So, the governors will continue to pillage as usual, but only on the 
condition of political loyalty to the Kremlin. This is the decisive step from 
former President Boris Yeltsin's "democracy" to Putin's "dictatorship of the 
law." 

The governors have been surprisingly quick to learn this lesson. The only 
exception has been Nikolai Fyodorov, the president of Chuvashia, who has been 
very public in his criticism and has even filed a suit in the Constitutional 
Court. Strangely enough, nothing has happened to Fyodorov so far, which leads 
to the sneaking suspicion that he and his appointees actually may not be 
stealing! If so, then there is nothing the Kremlin can do until the next 
election rolls around next year. 

The Chuvash situation notwithstanding, even the Kremlin has been amazed at 
how quickly the remaining governors have fallen into line. 

Paradoxically, Putin's new supergovernors have been left more or less with 
nothing to do. They were, after all, created as a weapon in the struggle 
between the center and the regions. But instead of a struggle, we see only a 
touching unanimity. 

However, things may yet look up for the super-governors. If the regional 
energy crisis continues or if the center resumes the policy of not paying 
wages on time, the governors may once again become rebellious. And then we'll 
see why Putin appointed generals to keep them in line. 

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Moscow-based sociologist. 

******

#11
The Independent (UK)
18 November 2000
Stalingrad 
The bloodiest battle in human history has become europe's most expensive 
movie. But are some memories best left undisturbed? 
By Adam LeBor 
'Surviving Hitler: Choices, Corruption and Compromise in the Third Reich' by 
Adam LeBor and Roger Boyes is published by Simon & Schuster 

Across the freezing mud of wartime Stalingrad, through the charred rubble of 
buildings blown to bits, mangled corpses and burnt out tanks, two men, each 
armed with a high-velocity rifle, stalk each other across the front lines. 
One is Vasily Zaitsev, the most famous Soviet sniper of the Second World War. 
The man who would have Zaitsev in his crosshairs is his Nazi counterpart, 
Major Koenig, brought from Berlin to kill him. 

This is a scene from Enemy at the Gates, the most expensive film ever made in 
Europe, filmed this year at the Babelsburg studios in Berlin. The duel 
between the two snipers, as they battle it out in the wreckage of the Soviet 
city, is the centrepiece of the 56m blockbuster. Zaitsev is played by Jude 
Law, Ed Harris is his adversary, Major Koenig, and Joseph Fiennes plays 
Danilov, a Soviet commissar. The love interest is provided by Tania Chernova, 
a female Soviet sniper, played by Rachel Weisz, for whose affections Zaitsev 
and Danilov compete. 

Directed and co-written by Jean-Jacques Annaud, whose previous works include 
Seven Years in Tibet and The Name of the Rose, Enemy at the Gates is now in 
post-production, and is scheduled for release next spring. But the film has 
already sparked controversy by its blending of fact and fiction, and its 
dramatisation of a battle that has assumed mythic status as one of the 
turning points of the Second World War. History is hot now in Hollywood, but 
it seems to be getting mangled in the cinematic re-telling. It is the age-old 
dilemma of dramatising great events in human history: how far should 
entertainment triumph over truth? Where Hollywood is concerned, it's usually 
entertainment that wins. 

Stalingrad, the Russian city on the river Volga, is now a byword for heroic 
endurance, with a resonance that still evokes emotions across the world. Not 
a name to trivialise. "The power of the name Stalingrad is that this was the 
most pitiless battle in human history," says Anthony Beevor, author of the 
best-seller Stalingrad. "It changed the perception of war, it was so brutal 
and inhuman, not just fought on the ground, but one fought from roofs, from 
sewers and buildings. The defeat there traumatised the German army. It was 
the psychological turning-point of the war, and gave the Russians confidence 
that they could mount an offensive." 

The Germans laid siege to Stalingrad in the summer of 1942 but soon became 
mired in the mud, rubble and, when winter arrived, ice and snow. In 
conditions of unbelievable harshness and savage fighting, street by street, 
building by building, sometimes room by room, its Soviet defenders beat them 
back, until General Friedrich Paulus defied Hitler's orders and surrendered 
on 31 January 1943. "The air is filled with the infernal howling of diving 
Stukas, the thunder of flak and artillery, the roar of engines, the rattle of 
tank-tracks, the shriek of the [rocket] launcher and Stalin organ, the 
chatter of machine-guns back and forth, and all the time one feels the heat 
of the city burning at every point," wrote one Panzer officer to his wife. 
Russians were blunter in their letters: "The Germans won't withstand us," was 
the simple message of one soldier called Sergey to his wife. 

In this hell, a man called Vasily Zaitsev did stalk German soldiers, killing 
149. Zaitsev, a shepherd from the Ural mountains, was revered by his comrades 
for his skill with a rifle. News of each new kill was quickly passed along 
the front-line troops. So successful was he that he trained younger snipers, 
and a new military doctrine was founded, known as "sniperism". But German 
military documents have no record of a Major Koenig fighting a duel with 
Zaitsev, says Beevor. "There is no trace of this famous incident in any 
reports on the snipers' activities sent by the political department of 
Stalingrad front, which certainly would have been sent back. Nobody has found 
any trace of the so-called Major Koenig, commandant of a sniper school, who 
was sent to Stalingrad." 

Some see another attempt by Hollywood to re-write history, substituting truth 
for maximum box office returns. Earlier this year the submarine movie U-571 
reworked the May 1941 raid by the British Navy against the German U-110 in 
which it captured the first Enigma enciphering machine. The British sailors 
were transformed into more box-office friendly Americans, even though at that 
time the United States had not even entered the war. 

"US studios have become obsessed by the ideas of true stories," says Beevor. 
"I don't know if this is in response to the needs of the public, or if they 
feel that the public has come to expect it. With many historical stories they 
feel compelled to claim that it is true. Almost any adaptation of history is 
bound to be closer to fiction. More and more people are incapable of 
distinguishing fact from fiction. Since the main raw material of history in 
the popular imagination comes from television and film, this does matter." 

Certainly the film's setting in one of the war's bloodiest and best-known 
battlefields, is the stuff of human drama. Stalingrad was the very crucible 
of the war. A soldier's graffitto encapsulated the fear felt by the Germans 
on the eastern front: "Russians in front, Russians behind, and in the middle, 
shooting." In fact the epithet could just as well have been reversed for the 
troops of the Red Army. Except the shooting behind Soviet troops came from 
the guns of the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) machine-gunners, ready to mow 
down any Red Army soldiers who were reluctant to attack. Some 13,500 Soviet 
troops were executed by their own side at Stalingrad, enough to form an extra 
division. Such offences, catalogued in Russian Ministry of Defence archives, 
were classified as "extraordinary events", included drunkenness, cowardice, 
incompetence, self-inflicted wounds, the catch-all "anti-Soviet agitation" 
and crossing over to the enemy. This was more common than the propaganda 
myths would have us believe: more than 50,000 Soviet citizens fought in the 
German Sixth Army's front-line divisions. 

Nor did being captured by the Nazis offer a haven from the killing. For the 
Germans, the war in the east was a Rassenkampf, a race war, against a people 
they regarded as sub-human. The Geneva Convention was not observed for Soviet 
PoWs. Of 5.7 million Soviets captured by the Nazis, 3.3 million, almost 60 
per cent, died: they were starved or worked to death, or died of disease. In 
a ghastly irony, many of those Soviet PoWs who survived the camps were 
arrested once they returned home after the war and were sent by Stalin to the 
gulag, since surrender or capture, in his twisted mind-set, meant treachery. 

Initial press coverage of Enemy at the Gates said the film was intended as a 
rendition of actual events. "Enemy tells the true story of a duel during the 
Second World War between a young Russian shepherd and a German officer set 
against the epic battle of Stalingrad," reported the trade newspaper Variety 
in September 1999. "The true story of Valisi Zaitsev, a Russian sniper 
credited with over 140 kills at the Battle of Stalingrad," records the 
website www. upcomingmovies.com. Now, wary perhaps of the deep historical 
waters in which the producers find themselves, the British distributors Path 
Pictures say the film was never intended to be factual. "Jean- Jacques Annaud 
has made a film against the backdrop of Stalingrad, and there is no official 
press statement where it is claimed that the story is true. It was never set 
up as a true story," says Geraldine Moloney, head of publicity for Path. 

Either way, the film arouses mixed emotions in Germany and Russia. It was 
shot at the Babelsburg studios, just outside Berlin, where Marlene Dietrich 
starred in The Blue Angel, and where director Fritz Lang shot Metropolis. The 
nearby village of Krampnitz, in the former East Germany, with its real-life 
scenes of decaying Soviet-era barracks and crumbling concrete, provided the 
perfect backdrop. A new statue of Stalin was built, while the banks of the 
river Oder, 50 miles away, were transformed into the Volga running through 
Stalingrad. Its steep river banks were recreated in a brown-coal mine in 
nearby Cottbus. It proved a neat symbiosis of the demands of capitalist 
Hollywood and former Communist East Germany. "We have everything we need 
here. The old Russian barracks, the old factories that were built according 
to the Russian model, all close to Berlin and with a modern infrastructure," 
Annaud told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. 

Apart from the locals, many of whom gained parts as extras in the film, few 
Germans wish to remember the Third Reich's worst military defeat. One veteran 
of the battle, 81-year-old Helmuth Rnnefahrt, told Die Welt newspaper that 
he would not see the film: "Nobody who was not there can understand that, 
nobody can re-enact it. The money could have been used better." About 150,000 
Germans perished, as well as hundreds of thousands of the Germans' Hungarian, 
Romanian and Italian allies. Many of these Axis troops stood little chance, 
sacrificed by their leaders in an "anti-Bolshevik crusade" for which they 
were ill-equipped and worse led. So ineffective, for example, was the 
Romanian firepower against the stolid and well-armoured Soviet T-34 tank, 
that the shells were mockingly dubbed "door-knockers". Of 90,000 German PoWs, 
just 6,000 returned home. 

In Russia there is a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation that the film is being 
made, says Lev Karakhan, deputy editor of leading film magazine Iskusstvo 
Kino (The Art of Film). "There will be tremendous interest in this film in 
Russia. There is no doubt that this topic is very close to people's hearts, 
and people will also be very critical. There is a colossal amount of 
literature and film on this topic already, and Annaud's work will have to 
measure up." In Russia, any artistic portrayal of an event that is still so 
much part of the country's psyche will cause controversy, he says. "There are 
so many different forces and points of view in Russia that there will always 
be someone who will decry the film, whether it's communists on the left or 
nationalists on the extreme right." 

Yet none of this, and no controversy about the historical veracity of Enemy 
at the Gates, can detract from the indescribable heroism of the Red Army as 
it beat back the Nazis. As one German soldier wrote: "Here a saying from the 
Gospel often passes through my thoughts: 'No stone will be left standing one 
upon another.' Here it is the truth." In the charnel house, the cauldron of 
war that was Stalingrad, its defenders were tested beyond human endurance. 
They were not found wanting. 


******   

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