This Date's Issues: 4652
Johnson's Russia List
26 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. the eXile book review: Matt Taibbi, STEPHEN COHEN'S "FAILED CRUSADE"
2. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Julie Corwin will speak on
From Ballots To Beers: Russia's View on The U.S. Presidential Election in Washington November
3. Jeffrey Surovell: New book "Capitalist Russia and the West."
4. PRESS CONFERENCE WITH SERGEI KOVALYOV, SERGEI GRIGORYANTS, YURI
SAMODUROV AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS SUPPORTERS on the national congress in defense of human
5. Postimees (Estonia): Marko Mihkelson, RUSSIA IN THE THRALL OF ITS
OWN HISTORY. The faulty historic cognition hinders Russia´s development.
6. Mikhail Ramendik: But we ARE doing it! Re JRL 460, Kashkin.
7. Robert Bruce Ware: Straus JRL 4648 (re Russian and American elections)
8. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Moscow Conference Focuses On EU
From: Matt Taibbi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: STEPHEN COHEN'S "FAILED CRUSADE"
Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000
STEPHEN COHEN'S "FAILED CRUSADE"
By Matt Taibbi
Let's get the ethical stuff out of the way first: I'm not a disinterested
party when it comes to Professor Stephen Cohen's new book, "Failed Crusade:
America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia." The eXile is mentioned
in it several times, and Mark Ames and I are footnoted throughout the first
section. In one point, we're even credited with producing "some of the best
press criticism" coming from Russia. So obviously I have to blow Cohen in
I mention this up front because one of the most interesting things about
Cohen's book has been the reaction to it. A lot of the people who reviewed
this book were mentioned in it, and of those people, almost none of
them-particularly the ones who were villains in the book-admitted to the
fact in their reviews.
A conspicuous example is odious sellout John Lloyd of the New Statesman,
whose work was cited specifically throughout Cohen's book as an example of
some of the dumbest and most irresponsible journalism to come out of Russia
in the last ten years. Lloyd's Statesman review blasting Cohen doesn't even
mention that he was in the book. (This might have something to do with
Statesman policy, incidentally. In a similar case, Oliver Ready recently
wrote a smug review of the eXile book for the journal without mentioning
that he'd been called a "pencil-necked geek" in our paper).
The Washington Post, while somewhat gentler on Cohen, also chose to give
itself a pass in its review. Reviewer Richard Lourie wasn't mentioned in
the book specifically, but nearly the whole of part 1 of the book was about
the generally shitty performance of his Post's Moscow bureau over the last
decade or so. The Post's response, through Lourie, was to take the
proverbial "high road", affecting the air of the high school nerd who's
been counseled on how to protect himself against abuse from bullies: "Just
ignore them." Rather than respond to Cohen's charges that the Post in
Russia had been little more than a propaganda organ for U.S.-backed
shysters like Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, Lourie had this to say
about Cohen: "He is an excellent critic because he knows his own mind and
has no fear of speaking it."
The New York Times was also excoriated in Cohen's book, but if its feelings
were hurt, you sure wouldn't have known it from its review. Here's what
reviewer Robert Kaplan had to say about Cohen's treatment of his paper:
"[Cohen] derides an editorial in The New York Times for celebrating a new
McDonald's in Moscow, frequented by the nouveau riche arriving in Jeep
Cherokees and Toyota Land Cruisers, while the average monthly wage 'was
about $60, and falling.' Though, broadly speaking, his criticism of the
American press is valid, there are important exceptions, notably the travel
writer Jeffrey Tayler, who wrote extensively for The Atlantic Monthly about
the most distant parts of rural Russia in the 1990's, substantiating
Cohen's own claims about the destruction of living standards."
It doesn't get much more smug than that. A famous professor devotes a third
of a whole book on the failures of American political journalists in
Russia-as exemplified by your newspaper-and you respond by agreeing
entirely, taking exception only in the case of some obscure travel writer
who a) doesn't write for you, and b) doesn't even write about politics? In
the pointy-headed New York pseudo-intellectual world, this is about as
close as you can get to a WWF-style dissing. The Times was just flat-out
toying with Cohen in its review. In the face of a mountain of criticism, it
just dismissed him, with a wave of a hand, as a bitter ex-communist
sympathizer whose book means nothing and changes nothing. Then it sighed,
yelled "Next!", and moved on to blow the more ideologically-acceptable book
by Chrystiya Freeland.
This appears to be sole problem with Cohen's book, that it didn't hurt
enough. Constrained by the rules of friendly academic discourse, Cohen-- a
great advocate of calling things by their names-- was forced to leave all
the names in the small print of the endnotes section. Rat-faced swine David
Hoffman thus becomes in Cohen's text "A Washington Post correspondent",
while intellectual felon Lloyd becomes merely "A former Moscow
correspondent [who exposed] the myth about American shock therapists...
without mentioning that he had been their enthusiastic proponent."
These days you can be at or near the top of your profession, write an
entire book criticizing a small group of people with the expectation that
it will get major press coverage, and yet still have no hope at all of
forcing an answer out of anyone on so much as a single question. What could
possibly have moved David Hoffman to write "Russia looks great" about a
place that hasn't looked great since mastodons roamed it? How could Martin
Malia get away with saying about Russia, in April, 1999, "No one
anticipated...anything quote like such an impasse"-when in fact there were
prominent academics, including Cohen himself, who had publicly predicted
the arrival at such an impasse going back many years?
We'll never know the answers to those questions, because these days, if you
work for the right side, you never have to answer your critics, even ones
as well-known as Cohen. One of the central points of Cohen's book is that
people like Hoffman and Malia and Lloyd and Jeffrey Sachs live in a sort of
consequence-free environment, where both intellectual and moral errors are
rewarded with promotions and accolades. Steve Liesman screws up and wins
the Putizer Prize. Andrei Shleifer is caught taking part in an insider
trading scheme and wins the John Bates Clarke medal for economics. Scholars
and journalists sifting throuh the rubble after Russia's economic collapse
contracted amnesia when it came to their own roles, and kept their jobs to
screw things up another day.
It seems to me that the lesson in all of this is that it takes more than
position papers and endnotes to move the front lines in the fight against
these people. You can't fight the David Hoffmans of the world using
conventional weaponry. Probably we all need to move on to something more
along the lines of the recent activist campaign to jam Washington Post
editorial page editor Fred Hiatt's mailbox and telephone line, which
reportedly forced the former Moscow bureau chief to change his phone number
and put a block on his e-mail address. Instead of books like Cohen's, we
need to mass-distribute streaming videos of Lawrence Summers sucking off a
pony. We don't even need to catch him with the actual pony. We can just
assume the pony, put our designers to work on the pictures, and then just
send the videos out there without thinking about it.
After all, as Cohen points out-that's what they do. All of these
"transitionologists", as Cohen calls them, just assumed that a triumphant
transition to democracy was taking place in Russia, and then wrote about it
as fact, whether there was evidence there to support the idea or not. It
was this mindset, as Cohen points out, that led observers to describe the
non-payment of salaries as "victory over inflation" and the impoverishment
of over 75 percent of the Russian population as "reform, remarkable
progress, and a success story."
Cohen's book is about as good as a book written according to the rules of
academic discourse can be. He gets the whole of the Russia story going back
some fifteen years more or less completely right. The most interesting
part, in my mind, was part II, in which Cohen reprints articles he wrote
going back some ten years to prove that he was right all along. This is an
extremely intrepid little maneuver, given that Cohen, as he must surely
know, already has a reputation for being a famously self-aggrandizing
public personality. It takes serious huevos to stand in front of an
audience inclined to dismiss you as a pompous jerk at the slightest
provocation, pull out a bunch of old papers, and say, "Exhibit A: How Great
I Am and Always Have Been."
But the irony of this whole story is that the Lloyds and the Malias of the
world left Cohen with every right to do what he did. By claiming over and
over again after the 1998 crash that nobody saw disaster coming, they
forced Cohen's hand. In order to make his point that the disaster was
partly a result of a collective failure of observation (or unwillingness to
observe), he had to go back and make the point that the evidence was out
there, in full view, all along. His own work was the best possible argument
on this score. Cohen must have creamed in his jeans when he realized how
easily he could get away with devoting so many pages to saying, "I told you
Cohen called many aspects of the crisis long before the crisis happened.
Here's his take on privatization way back in 1992:
"Like yesterday's Marxists, today's communists understand that property is
power, so the struggle is raging everywhere, from the capitals to the
provinces. Some of these people, perhaps many of them, are sincere converts
to marketization and democratization. But it is foolish to ignore the
politics of confiscation unfolding since late 1991 and its dangerous echoes
of politically-motivated expropriations earlier in Soviet history."
Cohen also offered an advance peek at what would ultimately be the central
reason for the failure of the American journalistic and diplomatic corps
when he wrote:
"...while our diplomats and journalists seek Russia's destiny in Moscow, it
is being determined largely in the vast and remote provinces."
Cohen's book has been attacked largely on the grounds that he is secretly a
communist sympathizer, that while he succeeds at being a scrupulously
well-informed naysayer, he offered neither then nor now anything in the way
of viable alternatives to the West's policies toward Russia over the years.
Several commentators have accused him of failing to take note of the fact
that Russia's catastrophic demographic and economic decline actually began
in 1989 and 1990, before the U.S-backed-"reform" team came into government.
The argument goes something like this: since the alternative was a return
to communism, and the Russians are hopelessly corrupt and inherently
incapable of governing themselves, the present Russian reality is, all
things considered, the best we could have hoped for. In this rhetorical
scheme Cohen is painted as a typical ivory tower intellectual who knows
very well how to enhance his own career, but knows nothing about the "real
world" diplomats deal with every day.
Ok, fine. Maybe that's true. If it is, it's a criticism that holds true for
a lot of us. But what about the other part of it-all the energetic lying
our diplomats and journalists did over the course of the last ten years?
Why continually call an unfolding disaster "progress" and a "success
story"? Why not protest corruption, or even admit that it exists, until
Western investors lose their shirts in a devaluation? What about that end
of it? This is the primary question that Cohen asks in this book, and
judging by the reaction so far, he won't get a good answer to it.
Some of the book's limitations are built into its structure, of course.
Cohen writes for a relatively narrow academic audience, and his prose is
correspondingly dry. Reading him is a little like listening to Earth, Wind
and Fire without the Earth and the Fire. But within its own context the
book is quite vituperative towards Cohen's academic colleagues, and in that
sense it is extremely entertaining. The chief pleasure it offers is the
image it conjures of the presidents of Universities like Stanford and
Berkeley reading in detail about the crass stupidities charges of theirs
like Michael McFaul and Stanley Fish (another reviewer who failed to
mention his own place in the book) have been guilty of all these years. If
you cross your fingers as you read, you can almost hope that the book will
cause one or the other of these monsters to be passed over for tenure,
which is something like physical death for these people. Oh, wait, that
already happened to McFaul, even before Cohen's book came out... Maybe to
one of the others, then. There's still hope.
Cohen has long been something of an unofficial spokesman of the American
left, a distinction he earned both through his own work and through his
association with America's leading left-leaning publication, the Nation (a
publication which, incidentally, I've written for). With this book Cohen
restores some of the dignity the left lost during its embarrassing
infatuation with the Clinton administration. The transformation of the
standard "bleeding-heart" liberal of the seventies and eighties into the
"think-positive" winners of the nineties (who had "their man" in the White
House) was one of the key early causes of America's current disaster of
political homogenization. By parting with the "winners" over this issue so
dear to the heart of the old liberals-the fate of their fallen
standard-bearer, the Soviet Union-Cohen has successfully restored some
reason and idealism to the oldskool bearded-lefty way of looking at things.
Cohen was the perfect candidate for this task, of course, being the
prototypical bearded oldskool lefty. He is said to live in a shadowy book-
and Knick-poster-lined lair somewhere on the upper West side, and
reportedly has some kind of Luddite aversion to e-mail and even computers.
"Failed Crusade", in fact, was supposedly written on a typewriter, one
clack at a time. John Lloyd and Chrystia Freeland probably write on two
iMacs (one blue and one pink, of course) at a time. Not exactly an
Subject: INVITATION: Russia on the US Election
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
invites you to a briefing by
Regional Specialist for Russia, RFE/RL NewslineŽ
>From Ballots To Beers:
Russia's View on The U.S. Presidential Election
Thursday, November 30, 2000
in Conference Room A (4th Floor) at
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
1201 Connecticut Ave NW
[entrance on Rhode Island Ave NW, next to St. Matthew's Cathedral]
Russians in the government and in the media have followed the November 7
U.S. presidential election and ongoing battle for victory no less intently
than their counterparts around the world. Julie Corwin, a longtime Russia
expert who closely monitors the Russian media for RFE/RL NewslineŽ, will
share what she has learned about Russia's response to this unprecedented
and unusual event in the world's oldest democracy--the U.S..
Julie Corwin is a regional specialist on Russia at RFE/RL's Washington
office, where she contributes daily analyses on Russian domestic and
economic policies to RFE/RL Newsline and edits the RFE/RL Russian
Federation Report, a weekly review of news in Russia's regions. She has
published articles on Russia in U.S. News & World Report, International
Economy, Russian Petroleum Investor, and other major international
Please RSVP by Wednesday, November 29, 2000 by email to
<email@example.com>, by telephone to Melody Jones at (202) 457-6949, or
by fax to (202) 457-6992.
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000
From: Jeffrey Surovell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Surovell book, "Capitalist Russia and the West"
I want to inform your readers about the publication of my book,
"Capitalist Russia and the West," by Ashgate (UK), ISBN No.
0754613542. It is available for purchase on all major on-line book-
sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
This book departs dramatically from the conventional: it explains a
central aspect of international relations, Russia's relations with the
West, in terms of both Marxism and dependency theory. Contrary to the
mainstream view that Russia's leaders have been "anti-Western" in their
"opposition" to NATO expansion, to the West's policies in Yugoslavia, and
in other areas, this book, by means of a thorough documentation in
Russian sources, demonstrates that the Russian leaders, who promote
the interests of the newly-formed capitalist class in Russia, have been in
cahoots with, even compliant with, the dictates of Western elites.
"Capitalist Russia and the West" is useful not only for non-academics
but for undergraduate and graduate courses. It is a work which must be
read by any student of Russia.
College of Aeronautics
New York, NY
TITLE: PRESS CONFERENCE WITH SERGEI KOVALYOV, SERGEI GRIGORYANTS,
YURI SAMODUROV AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS SUPPORTERS
(PRESS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, 15:07, NOVEMBER 22, 2000)
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
Moderator: I thank you for being so numerous today, for coming
here. I welcome you at the Press Development Institute. Our press
conference today is devoted to the extraordinary national congress
in defense of human rights. We have here members of the organizing
committee of this congress. The press conference is called: For the
First Time in Russia: A Congress in Defense of Human Rights.
I will introduce our guests. I believe you all know the State
Duma deputy Sergei Adamovich Kovalyov. And you also know that he
never comes on time. So, we do expect him. Sergei Ivanovich
Grigoryants, the Glasnost foundation, Yuri Vadimovich Samodurov,
the Andrei Sakharov Public Center and Museum... Oh, here is Sergei
Adamovich. As I said, he is always a bit late... Lyudmila
Vsevolodovna Vakhnina, coordinator of the Common Action Movement
and Svetlana Alexeyevna Ganushkina, who represents here two
organizations -- Memorial and Civil Assistance. We have here
another representative of Memorial -- Valentin Mikhailovich Gefter.
Ponomaryov: Ladies and gentlemen, I will say a few words of
introduction. I will explain how the idea to convene the congress
originated, who are the initiators. After that my colleagues will
make their own contributions.
The idea to convene the congress originated this summer. We
have a group called Common Action and it is its initiative. Common
Action unites most human rights organizations in Russia. I mean the
biggest that work on the federal level and individual human rights
On the initiative of Common Action we held a conference this
summer, an interregional conference of human rights organizations.
It was held on July 1. At this interregional conference, which was
attended by representatives of 20 regions of Russia, it was decided
to hold a national extraordinary congress in defense of human
Initially we were planning to hold it in October but because
of purely organizational problems we had to postpone it and now the
final decision has been taken to convene it on January 20 and 21 in
Moscow. This is already final. I am sure that the congress will
The main idea of the congress is not a chance one, I mean that
this is going to be an extraordinary congress. In the opinion of
our group Common Action, in the opinion of our member organizations
the situation in the area of various human rights is a very
strained one. This includes political rights, civil rights and
social rights. All these issues will be raised at the congress. We
hope that the congress will give these issues importance in the
eyes of society. Thank you.
Grigoryants: It is not just that the human rights situation is
drastically deteriorating in Russia. I mean all rights without
exception. Although there exists an extensive program that mentions
the Administrative Code, the Code of Criminal Law Procedure, the
Labor Code, that even mentions the destruction of civil society
even in the weak form in which it now exists in Russia...War has
officially been declared on civil society in Russia.
Common Action arrived at the idea of the need to convene the
extraordinary congress first of all because, the way we see it, the
political regime has changed and we are now living in a different
country. And this should be stated openly. The country, in fact,
has already turned into one huge Chechnya. In this country we may
find ourselves with a totally new Constitution only a few months
from now. Sergei Adamovich will speak in more detail on this. The
new Constitution will not include any articles dealing with civil
rights. The special services have come to power in our country. And
very soon our country may find itself isolated in the world.
It is this situation that made us decide that we need such a
national extraordinary congress. Indeed, no such congress has ever
been held. We expect to have at least 400 deputies from all over
the country, including deputies from Chukotka and Vladivostok. We
want the most diverse organizations to be represented, even those
who are not really close to us but actually do represent Russia.
I would like to specify. This will not be a congress of human
rights organizations. This will be a congress on human rights. This
is not an accidental wording. We will have environmentalists and
trade unionists, we will have journalists and representatives of
youth organizations. In other words, all those who uphold human
rights in Russia in a wide range or in some specific field. In
other words, those for whom a change of the political regime in the
country is a pressing problem. But I think this is a pressing
problem for the entire population of Russia.
Adamov: I think the quicker we start taking questions, the
better. After all, this is a press conference, a venue where
questions are asked and answers are given.
I will add only the following to what has been said. Indeed,
the congress is the initiative of Common Action. We are concerned
with the present political development of the country. We are not
in a panicky mood, but we are very concerned. This is so because
the vector of this political development is directed, as it seems
to me, not really straight back into the past... You see, mutually
exclusive processes are taking place in the country, processes
moving in different directions. But the present authorities are not
going to restore the glorious Soviet past. It is going to use the
ways and methods of the past and to restore it in a substantially
Let us look at what is happening in our internal and indeed
external policy. In internal policy we see a distinct trend toward
restoring the all-too-familiar vertical power structure from top to
bottom. Our flawed federalism becomes just a fiction. We see that
the decision-makers have learned to act without high-sounding
rhetoric, quietly by technical methods. So, nobody will tell you
that censorship is being restored in the country. And indeed it
won't be restored as an institution. There won't be anything like
Glavlit of the Soviet times. But the authorities clearly are
committed to taking the press under control.
And it is not accidental that they come up with the concept of
information security. I challenge the journalists present here to
tell me what "information security" means.
Another wonderful novel concept is "controlled democracy". I
submit that if democracy is not the ruler, it is non-existent. But
these cliches together with constant sounding off about the
national idea and the great power now dominate official rhetoric.
But it wouldn't be half as bad if it were confined to rhetoric. But
as I have told you we see quiet technical actions which make this
rhetoric a real new philosophy of government.
And we find the same in foreign policy. The talk about the
multipolar world interspersed with talk about the former grandeur
which should be restored -- and we see where the authorities are
looking for allies. A wonderful company -- North Korea, Iraq, Iran
and Libya and so on. And visits to Cuba are being planned. And all
this is done allegedly under the banner of "multipolarity". I
wonder what kind of multipolarity we would like to establish.
It is very dangerous. I repeat, the organizers of the congress
are not in panic. They are clearly aware that the democratic forces
should unite. The question is how to unite. I hope, and this is my
personal view, that we will not go for the creation of every new
organizations put together from heterogeneous pieces. Most probably
the idea of unification should be geared to fairly loose functional
unification based on a common awareness of danger and a common
awareness of the need to counter these dangerous trends with the
will of society which is the real resource of power. And the
authorities are no more than our servants, our mechanism. That is,
if it is a democratic form of government.
I think that the human rights community faces a very clear
task. To try not to be left on the sidelines as passive on-lookers
and to play an active part contributing to the choice of the
country's direction. I think that the human rights community should
learn to influence political forces, above all their own allies,
those associations, parties, and so on who profess to belong to the
democratic part of the political spectrum. That means the parties,
associations and blocs which claim that they are democrats.
But we observe very diverse patterns of behavior among those
who claim to be democrats. And the human rights community should
indicate very clearly what the price of its support is. It should
do so frankly and unambiguously so that the political elite should
understand when it can hope to get support from the democratic
forces in society.
Many would not find it a problem to meet that requirement, but
I don't think that far-sighted politicians will be indifferent to
the congress. We hope that the congress will be a factor that will
force the political decision-makers to give serious thought to the
course they are charting for the country. It's time I ended my
Samodurov: The Extraordinary All-Russia Human Rights Congress
was first the name suggested by Marina Yevgenyevna Salye. I must
give her due credit for this. There is no political opposition in
the country, not in the sense of contesting seats in parliament,
but in the sense of clear opposition to all the authoritarian
threats whose name is legion and which I could go on enumerating.
One of the main tasks of the congress is to work out and implement
general, one might say, national programs of action to counter some
of these threats.
One of these tasks is to prevent a legitimate constitutional
coup that is gradually taking place, to bring about an end of the
Chechen war and create a legitimate administration in the Chechen
And I must say that in this context I am very much worried and
I think we are taking a great risk in calling such a congress. I
wonder if the people who will come to the congress will be capable
of working out a clear-cut and more or less united position on
Needless to say we will appeal to the participants in the
congress in advance and put such projects and our proposed common
position to them and we will try to secure an answer from them. But
I would like to say that those gathered here are exposing
themselves to a great risk, but we are doing it consciously because
in our view we are witnessing a creeping kind of situation. Thank
Moderator: Thank you. Svetlana Alexeyevna Ganushkina.
Ganushkina: I would like to draw your attention to two
dangerous trends that we see in our state. First, as has already
been said and I will speak about it in more detail. The first
dangerous trend is the shutting out of society from influencing
power. I don't mean pushing society out of power, I mean denial of
an opportunity to influence power.
This is happening by way of very strong pressure exerted on
non-governmental organizations. Organizations cannot secure
registration. We see waning interest in dialogue with NGOs. One
reason why we should speak up at this point in time is the danger
that our voice will cease to be heard. It is already not heard very
I deal with the problems of forced migrants, with the problems
of refugees and I see this trend in the way the administration
works with us very clearly. While at parliamentary hearings in 1996
a representative of an NGO presented the third main speech on
Chechnya, this year in the course of such advanced hearings as were
organized by the Council of Europe, NGOs were only given the floor
when they remained alone in parliamentary hearings.
Advisory councils of NGOs under official power structures,
notably at the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Migration and
National Policy are being dissolved.
The commission, the government commission on migration policy
in the Russian Federation which included representatives of
ministries and agencies at the level of deputy ministers and two
representatives of NGOs, Lidiya Ivanovna Grafova, who is present
here, and myself, didn't have a meeting since last December. Nobody
consulted us when the Federal Migration Service was shut down and
when its structures were abolished. And now that commission ceased
to exist (in October) like many similar groups where we could talk
as equal partners with the official representatives.
The second and closely-related danger is the meaning that the
authorities read into its endless talk about vertical power
structure. In some ways we all want laws to be uniformly observed
throughout the territory of the Russian Federation, we are in favor
of compliance with federal laws. But this is not what the
authorities have in mind. The culture of administration built up
since 1993 -- and I am speaking about things I know well, the
control of migration, such structures have been abolished locally.
There used to be council, advisory non-governmental councils and
organizations of settlers operating under territorial
administrations. All this has been destroyed. The democratic power
structures is being destroyed. It's the very vertical power
structure that everybody is talking about and seems anxious to
So, the authorities when they speak about a vertical power
structure, mean directives issued from above when nobody cares what
people down below think about them. And the result is, and this is
the final sentence I will say, is total neglect of the individual
and his/her fate.
And we see proof of this in the area with which we are
dealing. Members of Memorial are just back from refugee camps in
Chechnya. It was a crime even to resettle people to an unsafe area,
to Chechnya where their lives are in danger every day. And besides,
nobody is interested in what is happening to them now. In the
village of Asinovskaya people are starving to death and they are
not getting any relief. We don't see any professional media
coverage of this, we don't hear anything.
And another proof. The first government documents on
compensation to these people who suffered during the hostilities in
Chechnya came out as early as May, 1995. This time around even a
draft document doesn't exist. The authorities think they can do
anything they like to their citizens and we -- all of us -- we
don't matter. It is starting in Chechnya and naturally it affects
all of us. I think the situation is extremely dangerous.
Moderator: Thank you. Lyudmila Vsevolodovna Vakhnina.
Vakhnina: I would like to add that practically all my
colleagues said is relevant to a situation which can in itself be
described as an emergency factor and that is the mindset of our
Our citizens are not used to protecting themselves. They don't
believe it is possible. They wait for a tsar to come along to
punish the enemies, usually imagined enemies. But they are not used
to doing something for themselves. It may sound paradoxical, but I
think our citizens don't have enough healthy egoism.
However, there is a certain segment of our people which has
been able over these past years to establish structures intended
not so much to protect citizens as to teach them to protect
themselves. I think this is important. Without it nothing -- no
political parties, no vertical or horizontal power structures would
be any use -- as long as our citizens don't realize that they have
legal opportunity to protect themselves. And this is already
happening. It is happening in practically all the regions with the
help of human rights organizations and not only human rights
organizations, but those active in other areas, for example,
protection of children.
I hope that the congress that will bring together the members
of these organizations will help society to become aware of such
opportunities and of the existence of such people. They hopefully
will become aware that human rights activists are not just 10 or 20
people who are upholding, as we used to say, abstract values. They
are upholding day-to-day values and are addressing day-to-day
problems of people helping them to solve these problems and helping
them in emergency situations, for example, when they are jailed
without any grounds or are beaten by police.
There are ways, there are such forces and such people. And I
hope that the congress will help to bring it home to the citizens,
but this is only possible if the media contribute to it.
(THE PANELISTS THEN TOOK QUESTIONS)
From: "Marko Mihkelson" <email@example.com>
Subject: Article from Postimees (Estonia)
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000
November 25, 2000
RUSSIA IN THE THRALL OF ITS OWN HISTORY
The faulty historic cognition hinders Russia´s development
By Marko Mihkelson, Baltic Center for Russian Studies
The Russian calamities have been blamed on its size, the submissive nature
of the nation and the indifference of the authorities towards the
subordinates, as well as on the Jewish conspiracy. No matter what the
attitude towards these explanations is, the faulty historic cognition of the
Russian people has been one of the principle questions of the last years.
A direct inducement for the writing of this article was provided by the
recently published bulky monography of the Russian war historian Mikhail
Meltjuhhov "The Lost Opportunity of Stalin".
Based on archival documents in its bulky work Meltjuhhov proves that Stalin
prepared for an anticipatory attack towards Germany on June 12, but being
afraid of the German - English agreement postponed the attack by a month.
This offers the attack plans of 1941 first presented by Viktor Suvorov ( in
the book "Icebreaker") a more solid confirmation.
Yet in his book Meltjuhhov does not just remain the provider of historic
facts, but quite openly establishes his attitude towards this " failed"
Already the headline of the book refers to its attitude. In the summary of
the book he writes the following: "Unfortunately, Stalin, being afraid of
the English - German compromise, postponed the attack towards Germany by at
least a month, which as we now know was the only way to break the German
attack. This was probably one of the main historic mistakes made by Stalin.
Stalin gave away a favorable opportunity to destroy a lot stronger European
country and by exiting to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean liquidate a
centuries long Western threat to our country."
The lost chance of " liquidating the everlasting Western threat" " seems to
be one of the leading motives of this book. Why else was it stressed
provided separately in the short annotation at the back of the book?
But this is not all. The summary made by Meltjuhhov, in which he speculates
on the subject what would have happened if Stalin had attacked on June 12,
says: "The crushing of Germany and the socialization of Europe would have
enabled Moscow to use its scientific - technical potential, would have
opened the path to "fair social restructuring" in the European colonies in
Asia and Africa. The socialist camp established within the boundaries of the
Old World would have controlled the largest resources of the earth. Even if
the New World had not been conquered, it hardly would have been able to pass
the Russian world by its living standard. In that case there would have been
a large part of the unsatisfied, who with the aim of receiving help with
longing had looked behind the ocean. Upon the total seizure of the earth by
the socialist system the task of creating a common country of the mankind
formulated in the liberal European tradition would have been entirely
realized. This in turn would have enabled to create a rather stable social
system and provided huge preconditions for development."
Now picture if the German historians would start in all earnestness to
discuss the subject how order, equality and brotherhood would have
flourished in the world if Hitler had instead of June attacked the Soviet
Union in May. This would be quite awful and uncalled for.
Why does Meltjuhhov write and think this way? What makes him praise one of
the biggest tyrants of the XX century and the system created by him? Why
speaking about the state of Stalin ensuring worldwide social stability does
he forget about Gulag and terror? Would the power subordinated to fear have
really been able to make the Old World progressive without competition?
These are the questions Meltjuhhov does not ask. These simply do not have a
place in his world vision.
The reasons for such faulty historic cognition do not need to be looked for
in the world vision of only Meltjuhhov. The problem lies a lot deeper. Meltj
uhhov is just a typical example of how the Russia troubled from the identity
crisis hinders rational historic cognition.
One of the explanations behind this deep identity crisis of Russia lies in
the nature of the changes of the 1990s. As the Soviet Union fell apart, the
place of Russia in the world could not be explained to the society in an
acceptable manner. The inertia of the society, the failure of the reforms
and the helplessness of the political power hindered the development of
competent cognition of the past. The falling apart of the Russian empire
brought along a lot of other problem to the motherland. The old stereotypes
proved hard to disappear.
As the legal successor of the Soviet Union Russia become primarily
responsible for the local and foreign policy performed by the Kremlin
leaders. Unfortunately, in close political competition history remained on
the background or became mixed with everyday worries.
The authorities have not been able to provide a legal evaluation of the
communist regime, as they themselves were part of that regime. As in Russia
there was no breakthrough of the new political elite, it was impossible to
find answers to many questions.
The country still today faces a situation where the restoration of the
Stalin hymn as the Russian anthem is in all earnestness being discussed,
where a proposal to restore the monument to Feliks Dzeržinski, the leading
Chekist, is made to the Parliament and where as the warning of the past
times the mummy of Lenin is exposed to everyone on the Red Square.
The attitude of the Russian people towards the bolshevist revolution of 1917
is a vivid example of the split historic cognition. According to the
questionnaire organized by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center 49
percent of the replied consider the October events of 1917 to be a positive
turn in the Russian history, as 35 per cent acknowledge its negative impact
on the later course of history.
The questionnaire refers to a principle split in the opinions about one of
the most crucial events in the Russian history. What is positive is the fact
that differently from the time ten years ago, the unanimous approval of the
bolshevist revolution and the misanthropic regime following it has
substantially cracked. Yet, those who rather see more value in the seeming
stability accompanying the closed society than in the liberties and
possibilities of choice established by the reforms, are still in the
It is not excluded that as the economy and welfare increase, also the
attitude of the Russian people towards its past will change. But this will
not happen overnight. The historic cognition of the Russian people will not
change before the Kremlin does not acknowledge the importance of history and
its impact on the society on the whole, as well as on the everyday decisions
From: "Mikhail Ramendik" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: But we ARE doing it! Re JRL 460, Kashkin
Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000
I'd like to answer, for the list, Mr. Kashkin's criticism of Esther Dyson's
position. And to base this answer, in a large extent, on personal experience -
for I happen to be a part of the phenomena under discussion.
I have talked to Esther Dyson while on my very first (sorry, actually second)
journalistic assignment, back in 1992, on the Comtex exhibition in Moscow.
14 and working for a teenager newspaper, Glagol. Ms. Dyson probably has no
to remember me, but some of her words were a good lesson in journalism.
Basing on this early Glagol experience, I finally launched myself into the
as a technical writer, and now successfully work for a foreign-owned telecom
software development company. So, I'm just one of the employees of the free
market based New Economy that Esther Dyson has praised. And from personal
experience, as well as that of those around me, I can tell you that her
reasoning, while seeming simplistic, has one significant advantage over many
other analysts. Namely, she is right.
Unlike the Russian economy in general, the New Economy in Russia was built
scratch, from the very beginning, on a free market base. The latest period
Soviet Union has witnessed its growth, mostly without state support - and.
thankfully, regulation. The unflexible Soviet state simply did not know how
what to regulate about the computerized economy (once the bans on free
of information were lifted). "Joint Ventures" were the first spearheads of the
Returning to the personal experience part, it might look symbolic that my real
first journalistic assignment was an interview in the "Science" department
Dialog, one of the most famous of these Joint Ventures. I happened to live
the street from it. (This branch is now an independent company, DialogNauka,
producing good antivirus software).
So - the dirty hand of the Big Brother was out. And that was good! Yes,
of hardware quality have come too, and they persist. Yours truly has
a book on avoiding them, fourth edition to be out soon. And this is indeed the
way to combat problems in this economy - free market distribution of
NOT some clumsy bueraucrat trying to tell a good computer from a piece of
They have failed at this before, some decades ago, killing the BESM project
only chance for a good independently developed Soviet computer, with really
bright ideas - in favour of ES, stolen copies of IBM machines.
The Free Market guided IT technology here for the last decade, nearly without
state intervention. The result? Well, we the IT people are a large part of the
new middle class. (And I *want* to be middle class, not rich - but this is a
topic for another article). The money is good, the relationships between
are good, organization is usually relatively good - all of this in striking
contrast with many other areas of the Russian economy, where leftovers from
Soviet era - both in the form of hardware and management practices, not to
of persons in management and state intervention - took the lead.
If I want to help someone out of poverty, I usually think of ways to apply
her talents in the IT industry. Some cases have been successful; one of
works beside me in the same company, operating desktop publishing and
her mother and sister with some money; she was a rather poor graduate of
art school some years ago...
So, "Russians are doing it again" is misguided sarcasm. We ARE doing it.
ARE doing it like Americans, in many ways people in the IT offices are very
like Americans - although at the same time different from them. But for all
difference, we want people like Dyson in, and the dirty state hand, with the
theorists behind it who laugh at the idea that "free market and
eat anything" and produce a good economy, out, preferrably far, far away.
see that, plain and simple, it will.
At least in our IT sector, where leftovers are not a problem, and where people
are used to working as one has to work in a free market. It is different with
other parts of the economy; they have to re-learn where we started from ground
zero (like the coal miners in 1998, who blocked railroads and picketed in
except of beating the guts out of the mine directors who refused to pay
There, a pure free market may not be immediately applicable, as people have to
learn it first. And of course it is also unapplicable to the Chechnya problem,
because people there first have to learn (the hard way) that you don't
humans, don't rob, rape and exile someone just because he or she is not of
ethnic group, and don't allow your neighbours to do it all, or else don't
complain when your village gets bombed out. (I heard Basayev traded in
for some time in the early 90s; unfortunately, it did him no good, he
learn our rules and preferred to become a "conqueror" of pregnant women
But we in the IT sector know how a free market works. And we ARE the basis
new healthy economy. Just as Ms. Dyson says.
Yours, Mikhail Ramendik
P.S. I'm intentionally not naming the company I work for, because I have not
asked for authorization. I'll answer private inquiries, but won't name it in a
From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <email@example.com>
Subject: Straus JRL 4648 (re Russian and American elections)
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000
I always appreciate Ira Straus' insight, but if we learn anything from a
comparison of Russian and American presidential elections it is that there
is further support for the dictum that federal systems have a potential to
amplify electoral irregularities produced by local political cultures.
While the Moscow Times' examination of the Russian election was careful to
note that regional electoral fraud might not have been centrally
orchestrated, the caveat has rarely been granted adequate recognition in
secondary reports and discussions of the Times' investigation. Those who
infer that because Putin benefited from the fraud, he therefore must have
initiated the fraud, fail to consider that regional officials also
benefited. Indeed, since many have pointed out that Putin surely would
have won the second round, and since electoral fraud undermines the
legitimacy of his administration it would appear that he might have
benefited less than some regional officials. In the case of Dagestan,
which was at the core of the Times' investigation, I tried to show why the
history of Dagestan's federal electoral fraud suggests that falsification
is initiated in Mahachkala not in Moscow (see Ware, Christian Science
Monitor, 10/18/2000; JRL #4608; Moscow Times, 11/18/2000; also Kisriev and
Ware, "Conflict and Catharsis", Nationalities Papers, September 2000; Ware
and Kisriev , "Ethnic Parity and Political Stability in Dagestan: a
consociational approach", Europe and Asia Studies, January 2001; "The
Selection of Dagestan's Second People's Assembly", Electoral Studies,
forthcoming). Understandably, if inexcusably, Dagestani officials have
long taken a manipulative approach toward the Kremlin, upon which they
depend for economic subsidies and military support. Other JRL
contributors have suggested that electoral fraud in other Russian regions
also might have had local motivations. The critical difference between
Dagestan and Florida is that whereas irregularities in Dagestan's federal
elections are fraudulent, the initial Florida irregularities were
unintentional. Yet what happened in Florida and other states on 7
November, and what has happened since, is far more democratic than the
preceding campaign and nomination procedures in both major American
parties. Whereas these were virtually predetermined by powerful political
forces, the current political process is beyond anyone's control and is
genuinely democratic. Certainly it is characterized by wrangling,
maneuvering and confusion, but these are the hallmarks of democracy. The
fact that both sides have roughly equal opportunities to maneuver is
indicated by the daily seesaw of political advantage. In Russia's
federal elections the field is not level for all political players. This
is nothing new. In the second round of the 1996 presidential election,
Dagestani officials appeared to have committed greater falsification on
behalf of Yeltsin than they did on behalf of Putin in 2000, if only
because Yeltsin had much less genuine popular support. But what is new is
that in the 2000 Russian presidential election fraud attracted media
scrutiny and modest subsequent discussion. We can hope that a
continuation of this scrutiny might lead toward the further development of
Russia's democratic political culture, just as current scrutiny and
discussion will surely lead to developments in American democratic culture.
Russia: Moscow Conference Focuses On EU Ties
By Sophie Lambroschini
Russians sometimes view the European Union's plans to accept as members
several former Warsaw Pact states and three former Soviet republics as
neglecting Russia's point of view. The EU's proposed eastward expansion --
and its effect on Russia' northwest region -- was the subject of an
international conference this week in Moscow. RFE/RL correspondent Sophie
Lambroschini attended the event and files this report.
Moscow, 24 Nov 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Meeting under the informal motto of "common
borders link the fates of countries," dignitaries from the European Union, EU
candidate states and Russia gathered this week in Moscow to discuss the
implications of the EU's proposed expansion.
Delegates to the event, sponsored by the European Commission and the
international East-West Institute, were quick to point out that most of
Russia's earlier concerns about expansion have been settled.
Participants noted that Russia's doubts about the possible inclusion of three
former Soviet republics, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, have abated in favor of
a more pragmatic stance, especially after the EU-Russia summit in Paris in
Former Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas, speaking informally on
behalf of the candidate states, told participants he believes Russia mostly
supports his country's desire to join the Brussels-based union:
"How does our desire to join the EU reflect in relations with Russia? I would
say we don't feel any lack of understanding for our aspirations coming from
Russia. Not in any way. As we have prepared for, like other neighboring
countries, Poland for instance, Russia has not expressed any displeasure."
Russian president Vladimir Putin was quoted at the Paris summit as saying
Russia sees EU enlargement not as at threat but as an opportunity.
The comments seemed to break with an earlier Russian position that the EU's
eventual enlargement into Eastern Europe would cost Russian companies their
export markets. The Kremlin has also expressed doubts over the EU's plans for
a common defence policy.
Larisa Vdovichenko is an adviser to Russia's Security Council on European
issues. She tells our correspondent Russia is not concerned at the moment by
the EU's expansion plans or by plans to cooperate more closely on defense
issues. She says, on the contrary, a common European defense policy might
lessen the continent's dependence on NATO and the U.S.:
"At present, it is actually in our interest that the EU identifies itself in
this sphere as an independent European force that will take an increasing
share in resolving crises on the European continent, without resorting to
help from the United States."
She says Russia has adopted a "wait and see attitude" until the European
Union makes up its mind on what form this defense cooperation will take:
"It's interesting that even among Westerners themselves there is no definite
conviction about how this role in the defence sector should be expressed. I
know that discussions are continuing and that the Europeans have not yet
settled on a single point of view identifying their defense role."
Participants agreed that one of the most important issues binding the EU and
Russia is the status of Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which is squeezed
between EU hopefuls Poland and Lithuania.
Several months ago, Russian officials suggested Kaliningrad become a "pilot
project" in EU-Russian cooperation and benefit from extra EU aid.
European Commission ambassador to Russia Richard Wright told the conference
the EU's expansion plans included integrating the Kaliningrad enclave through
the "Northern Dimension" project for northwest Russia, but he stopped short
of promising specific aid to Kaliningrad.
He pointed out that about $250 million worth of EU technical assistance was
already earmarked for Russia's northwest. He also said neighbors such as
Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland had already become the enclave's biggest
But that may not be enough for some Russian experts.
A Russian economist specializing in the Kaliningrad region, Natalya
Smorodinskaya, called on the EU to act more quickly. She pointed out that
economic disparities between Kaliningrad and neighboring Poland and Lithuania
could lead to instability in the region.
As a concrete contribution to the concept of Kaliningrad, she suggests the
enclave become an experimental ground for adopting more transparency and
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