This Date's Issues: 4666
Johnson's Russia List
3 December 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Publishers Say Business
Looking Better And Better.
2. The Electronic Telegraph: Marcus Warren, Russia's
tarnished image to get the PR treatment.
3. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Putin learns
English to chat to his pal Blair.
4. AP: Putin: Russia Must Pay Foreign Debt.
5. AFP: Russia fears epidemic as world marks AIDS day.
6. St. Petersburg Times: Kester Klomegah, Russia Must See AIDS as
Issue of National Security.
7. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Practicing What Is Preached.
8. TechWeb News: Sam Gerrans, Slowly, Shakily, Democratic
Russia Goes Online.
9. Interfax: Russian economics minister outlines priorities.
10. Segodnya: THE STRATEGY OF DEFAULT. Herman GREF publicly
in 2003 Russia will not be able to pay off its foreign debt.
11. Baltimore Sun: Will Englund, To contain nuclear risk,
U.S. funds Soviet-era city. Western academics, Russians join forces on
Russia: Publishers Say Business Looking Better And Better
By Sophie Lambroschini
Russians are reading more and buying better books. At least that's the
opinion of participants at a book fair in Moscow this week. Publishers say
that after years of preferring "how to" manuals and trashy
are reawakening to the pleasures of good literature. RFE/RL Moscow
correspondent Sophie Lambroschini attended the fair and sampled opinions
Moscow, 1 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Publishers attending a book fair in
Moscow this week say low-brow fiction appears finally to be going out of
fashion among Russian readers.
They say that after years of consuming garish detective stories and
readers are finally returning to more serious literature. This is making
publishing such books profitable again.
Aleksey Panokin is the advertising director of Russia's second-biggest
publishing house "Azbuka." He was present at the book fair and
for serious works is growing:
"We used to publish fantasy books, detectives, but we always planned
publish valuable, intellectual, simply 'good' literature. Little by little
could afford to do it. In the beginning, it was unprofitable, but
it became clear these books were becoming more and more popular --
intellectual literature, literature for educated people ... And now that's
almost all we publish."
In the immediate years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, readers
up books by important émigré writers and other works that had been
the past. But over time, mimicking a trend seen in other -- including
-- markets, the book trade became dominated by pulp and "how-to"
Panokin says there are a couple of reasons for this. First, during Soviet
times Russians simply didn't have access to good but unpretentious
novels and romances.
Second, he says economics played a role. His publishing company started
turning out cheap pulp for as little as one or two dollars a book. That
all some people could afford.
Now, Azbuka is coming out with 15 to 20 new titles a month in its
inexpensive "classics" collection. Featured are new editions of
writers such as Romanian-born sociologist of religion Mircea Eliade, South
American novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and U.S. science-fiction writer
Fair participants say that the Russian publishing business is doing well.
This year the number of new titles will for the first time reach levels
seen since Soviet days.
About 120 million books will be printed this year, an increase of about 10
percent from last year.
The publication "Knizhnoe Obozrenye" focuses on the business and
aspects of book publishing.
Editor Alexander Gavrilov agrees that the industry is recovering but
attributes the increase to improvements in publishing and marketing books
rather than a resurgence in serious reading:
"The growth of [the number of books in] circulation does not reflect
growing interest in reading, or a return of that interest. The growth of
printing means that Russian book people learned to publish and sell
Gavrilov says readers are simply offered a better choice of books and are
therefore buying more of them. He points to the success of big bookstores
that opened recently in several large cities. Gavrilov points out, for
example, that inhabitants of Voronezh in central Russia or Novosibirsk now
have a choice on offer.
"It's not about a return of interest for reading, it's [the] return
possibility of reading. People during all that time where they didn't have
the possibility [to buy books] got very frustrated and are now buying in
enormous quantities that are surpassing [projected sales]."
But he says in spite of these encouraging signs, the distribution network
remains "medieval." About 85 percent of all book sales are
Moscow and St Petersburg. Consumers in outlying towns often have to buy
from lone salesmen who come to Moscow periodically, fill big bags with
and then travel the country. Most of these titles are pulp because it
One of the major success stories in the publishing world, and a indicator
positive trends, is the small publishing house "Amphora," in
Petersburg. It was created two years ago by 35-year-old Vadim Nazarov.
Nazarov started out by publishing "samizdat" literature in the
late 1980s and
then launched one of Russia's first private book businesses, making Josef
Brodsky available for the first time in the Soviet Union. Brodsky quickly
became a best-seller, with a print run of 100,000 and long lines of
In two years with Amphora, Nazarov has more than doubled the number of
to 360 from 140 last year. The company specializes in publishing series of
important authors packaged in colorful and attractive editions.
Amphora's book list features Czech writer Milan Kundera and French writer
Marcel Proust along with "new age" Russian writer Pavel
Nazarov says he remembers with nostalgia the early Perestroika-era passion
for books, but he says, unlike other industries, the publishing industry
only getting better. He says the market is now big enough for both
"intellectual literature" and the running best-seller for years:
"How to Make
Your Own Vodka."
The Electronic Telegraph
2 December 2000
Russia's tarnished image to get the PR treatment
By Marcus Warren in Moscow
Russia may be the PR client from hell but, alarmed by its disastrous image
at home and abroad, some of its top PR professionals have launched a
to restore the country's good name.
Where its politicians, tycoons and generals have so spectacularly failed,
its cultural and sporting talents have been helpless to repair the damage,
the PR men are determined to market a new, positive brand for Russia. The
Kursk tragedy, Chechnya, crime and President Putin's KGB past have all
worsened the Cold War legacy but the project's author decided that enough
enough on witnessing a petty - but revealing - incident at Heathrow this
Standing in the passport control queue was Anatoly Chubais, a leading
reformer, now head of the country's electricity monopoly, and reputedly
of its richest men - not that this fazed the immigration officer quizzing
him. Alexander Sitnikov, a top Moscow political consultant, said: "He
to know whether Chubais had enough funds to support himself during his
"He even asked how many people worked for his company. The answer is
a million. I know immigration people are entitled to ask these questions.
why do they always pick on Russians?" The challenge confronting the
campaign's organisers was underlined by a film shown at its launch,
a hair-raising montage of images the West supposedly associates with
The aftermath of the apartment bombs which flattened whole blocks of flats
Moscow last year, fighting in Chechnya and the sinking of the Kursk
submarine were held up as typical of foreigners' perceptions of the
Sergei Stepanov, executive director of the programme, called "Russia
said: "I think that in the near future image will be Russia's number
Those keen to help clean up the country's image took part in a
seminar this week in a grim hotel north of Moscow. With little support
the state, the campaign is still in its infancy and many of those
the conference had more enthusiasm than they did PR expertise. Projects
as "Russian sport masterclass", "Russia's provinces on
Russia", "Good music
for the regions" and "Peoples of the Russian north" sounded
worthy enough but
it was unclear how well they would travel abroad.
Improving Russians' miserable perception of their own country is one of
project's priorities, partly for its own sake but also to thwart
supposedly plotting to blacken the country's reputation. Mr Stepanov said:
"There are forces, such as states or corporations, struggling for a
share of the world market and prepared to exploit culture and information
"We see our task as not allowing ourselves to be manipulated as well
consolidating Russian society." Mr Sitnikov diagnosed his country's
as stemming from the message Russia sends the rest of the world about
He said: "If other people think ill of Russia, that is not their
The Sunday Times (UK)
December 3 2000
Putin learns English to chat to his pal Blair
Mark Franchetti, Moscow
THE special relationship between Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin is about to
become even more intimate: the Russian president has become the first
leader of his country to take English lessons.
After a workout at his country dacha, Putin is driven to the Kremlin,
almost every day a tutor guides him through the complexities of English
grammar for an hour in his oak-panelled office.
The language will have many uses for Putin, not the least of which will be
the ability to speak to Blair without an interpreter. The two men have met
five times in nine months. They have been to the opera together, shared
over a pint in a pub and call each other Tony and Volodya.
"Putin took up English lessons soon after his first meeting with
a Kremlin source. "He is a very determined man and is taking his
"He would like to communicate with Blair in English and is also fed
going to international summits and not being able to make small talk. He
realises it's important to know the language when it comes to making
In a country whose leaders have traditionally been reluctant to speak
anything but Russian, Putin is already the exception: he speaks fluent
German, which he virtually perfected during a five-year posting as a KGB
in Dresden during the cold war.
Aides describe him as a conscientious student of English who is already
to understand well, although he cannot yet manage a conversation.
The news will be welcome to Blair, who forged a good relationship with
when they met in St Petersburg last March. Two weeks later presidential
elections confirmed Putin in office.
Blair's visit was the first to Putin by a western leader and came at a
when Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, and Jacques Chirac of
were holding back, largely out of concern at Russia's bloody war in
Putin repaid Blair's favour by making Britain the first western country he
visited after his election. The friendship that has developed since has
likened to that between Boris Yeltsin, Putin's predecessor, and Helmut
the former German leader.
Putin hopes Blair will become an influential mediator between Washington
Moscow, especially on the vexed issue of the so-called Son of Star Wars
defence shield proposed by Washington and vehemently opposed by Kremlin
For his part, Blair believes a strong relationship with Putin will be good
for British business - especially in the oil sector, where BP and Shell
among companies with high hopes of the Russian market.
There are limits to the bonhomie, however. Blair and Putin have not yet
lashed one another with birch branches in a Russian sauna, as Kohl and
Yeltsin once did.
Blair was unable to manage more than a puzzled smile when Putin made a
during their Moscow pub meeting.
"We have a joke in Russia that when Russian men get together at work
talk about ladies. And when they meet outside the office with the ladies,
they talk about work," chuckled the Russian leader.
A British businessman said: "They may never have the same sense of
even if Putin learns to speak English, but they do get on very well."
Putin: Russia Must Pay Foreign Debt
December 2, 2000
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin insisted Saturday that Russia
make paying off its staggering foreign debts the top economic priority,
deal with public spending needs later.
``The longer we drag out the payment of our foreign debts, the more they
us,'' Putin said during a visit to a prosthesis factory just north of
in response to appeals from disabled lawmakers for more money on social
Russia owes some $140 billion in foreign debt, most of it left over from
Soviet era. After years of decline, the country is now enjoying an unusual
budget surplus, thanks largely to high world prices for oil, a major
export, and debate is heated over how to spend the windfall.
``There are different theories. One is to put social issues first, then
interests of the economy,'' Putin said, in footage aired on Russia's
state-run RTR television. ``There is another philosophy. It is to first
address problems that are burdening the economy, and not slide into new
Still, he promised an additional $2.5 million next year for Russia's
children and veterans, acknowledging that their needs were often ignored
previous cash-poor governments. The money is to come from his presidential
fund, not the state budget.
Russian media called Putin's comment a rebuke to Prime Minister Mikhail
Kasyanov, who rose to power largely by negotiating new debt and postponing
old debt. Speculation has been rife in recent weeks that Putin is
dissatisfied with the government's economic policy and would soon fire
Putin's comments came the day after Russia's lower house of parliament
the government's 2001 budget on the third reading - Russia's first
budget since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Some complain the budget relies too heavily on assumptions that high oil
prices will continue and that Russia can renegotiate payments on
debt to nations known collectively as the Paris Club.
Russia fears epidemic as world marks AIDS day
MOSCOW, Dec 1 (AFP) -
Russia marked World AIDS days Friday with alarm at its unpreparedness to
combat the rapid spread of HIV in a country where Soviet taboos still
efforts to educate people about sexually-related diseases.
"The rate of growth of HIV in Russia is unprecedented. It is worse
African countries," said the country's leading expert on the disease,
Pokrovsky, in an interview with Izvestia newspaper.
Povroksky, head of the government-run National Centre for the Fight
AIDS, warns that if the spread of the virus continues unchecked, Russia
count more than a million HIV-positive people within two or three years.
This year, the state is due to allocate 44 million rubles (1.6 million
dollars, 1.8 million euros) to finance the fight against Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Most of the money is being spent on medical tests to diagnose new
of the Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) that causes the disease and the
rest "will not even cover the treatment of 50 patients,"
Russia would need to spend 65 million dollars to organise a campaign to
inform the public about safe sex and prevent the spread of the HIV virus,
according to the expert.
At the end of November, 71,500 Russians were officially registered as
suffering from HIV. Nearly 40,000 have contracted the virus since the
beginning of the year, according to government statistics.
The World Health Organization recently issued a warning about the spread
AIDS in Russia, saying the real number of HIV sufferers was 10 times that
indicated by official figures.
Top Russian officials insist that the government is concerned about the
spread of the disease.
But Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Onishchenko pointed recently to a lack
funds for supporting programmes to educate Russians about safe sex and the
dangers of sharing needles for intravenous drug use.
"Russian society is not sufficiently aware of the problem of AIDS.
governors even think it's a non-existent problem, something just
The sufferers are mainly young people aged between 18 and 25, and about 90
percent are drug users. About 7,000 cases have been registered among
The rapid growth of HIV has dismayed health experts in a country where
1996 only 100 to 200 new HIV cases were registered officially each year.
Russia's chronically underfunded health system also lacks the means to
provide the hugely expensive treatment necessary to treat the virus that
leads to AIDS.
Hospitalised two weeks ago for blood-poisoning in Moscow's only anti-AIDS
clinic, Yelena, a 23-year-old HIV-positive drug addict, complained like
other patients that she is only being treated for secondary illnesses.
"The centre lacks medecines, even the most basic, and the doctors ask
patients to buy them themselves," said Yelena, who dreams of joining
relatives abroad where she can "get proper care."
Treatment for HIV requires a combination of three antiviral drugs and
nearly 800 dollars a month. According to Russian law, all sufferers of the
virus must be treated free.
"I come regularly to the centre for tests, but the doctors tell me
my immune defficiency does not yet require treatment, said Alexei, a drug
user aged 26 who also suffers from hepatitus and herpes,
"I am becoming weaker every day," he added.
In a small glimmer of light, a sharp increase in Western aid should soon
available to bolster anti-AIDS measures in Russia.
The World Bank hopes to negotiate a 150-million-dollar loan to the Russian
government at the beginning of next year as part of a "multi-pronged
to avert the AIDS crisis with the Russian health ministry and the United
St. Petersburg Times
December 1, 2000
Russia Must See AIDS as Issue of National Security
By Kester Klomegah
Kester Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer, whose recent work
HIV/AIDS in Russia appeared in a book entitled "AIDS and Men: Taking
Taking Responsibility?" He contributed this comment to The St.
ALMOST 20 years have passed since AIDS was first identified. Since then,
almost 14 million people worldwide have died from the disease. A further
million are believed to be living with HIV. Life expectancy in some
countries has fallen by 20 years as a result of AIDS. In Zimbabwe, for
instance, life expectancy has fallen from 65 years to 43 - less than it
at the beginning of the 20th century. In South Africa, there are estimated
be 1,500 new infections daily, and in India 4 million people, almost one
100 adults, are HIV-positive. A recent UN report on AIDS in Africa noted
the cost of treating victims, the loss of workers to the disease and
subsequent restrictions on outside investment will restrict economic
on the continent for decades ahead.
And now, it appears such a crisis is looming for Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. In Russia, the growth in the number of HIV carriers
also been alarming. In 1998, there were 15,569 officially registered
This month, Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko reported that the
number had risen to more than 70,000. However, the actual number of cases
estimated to be between 300,000 and 400,000.
Earlier this year, the government declared AIDS an "epidemic,"
September, a United Nations representative in Moscow, Philippe Elghouayel,
said that Russia now has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. If
current trends continue - and without concerted action, they certainly
Russia will begin the new century crippled by the overwhelming social and
economic costs of one of the world's worst AIDS epidemics.
The solution to Russia's AIDS crisis involves more than just money,
the amount of resources currently devoted to meeting this challenge is
ludicrously inadequate. The government's anti-AIDS program which was
more than four years ago only began receiving funding last year. This
it received just $1.5 million, or 20 percent of the amount budgeted.
Just as important as the amount spent is the way that it is spent. The
solution to the AIDS crisis lies in honestly confronting many of society's
most vexing problems - drug use, prostitution, teenage sex and others.
are living through a severe crisis of traditional values and a mistaken
acceptance of a new culture that is influencing the younger
Dr. Irina Savchenko, a leading AIDS researcher. "Social circumstances
extremely unstable, and economic hardships are also taking their toll. ...
[Y]oung men, especially, are psychologically open to the idea of taking
The transmission of HIV in Russia is closely linked to the use of
recreational drugs. Russian officials estimate that about 90 percent of
cases involve drug users, but that it is spreading rapidly through sexual
contact. Widespread unemployment, poverty and a sudden relaxation of
and legal taboos - coupled with an influx of illegal drugs - has led to a
rapid rise in the number of intravenous drug users, a rise closely
by a sharp increase in the number of Russians who have contracted HIV.
Vladimir Yegorov, the leading drug expert at the Health Ministry,
there are nearly 1 million drug addicts nationwide; others believe about
another 5 million Russians engage in occasional drug use. In parallel with
the rise in drug use, instances of HIV infection have also spread. Once
concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, HIV/AIDS has spread
to cities like Kaliningrad, Kras no dar, Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Irkutsk
In the past, anti-AIDS programs have targeted women, especially
There are estimated to be about 80,000 women engaged in prostitution in
Moscow alone. However, focusing on women may be a mistaken approach. Among
the general population, it is most often men who dictate whether sexual
relations will take place and what kind of birth control will be used. As
result, there are more opportunities for them to contract and transmit the
Russian male drug users are more likely than women to share needles,
shows. Of drug users who are already infected with HIV, 80 percent are
Studies also show that Russian men - especially drug-takers - continue to
resist the use of condoms and demonstrate a dangerously cavalier attitude
toward sexually transmitted diseases. Although condoms are widely
nationally, a survey by condom manufacturers revealed that only ten
of sexually active Russians use them regularly. Sociologists wonder
young Russian men can change their widely held concepts of masculinity
presently lead them to act irresponsibly and to take unacceptable risks.
The authorities are aware of the extent to which injecting drugs
the spread of HIV. But so far they appear unable either to reduce the
of individuals who take drugs or to limit the spread of the virus. Drug
treatment programs, especially on the local level, are primitive and
funded. In many cases, the authorities seem more concerned with masking
local drug problems than with solving them. The government must change its
attitudes toward drug-users, develop programs that encourage them to seek
treatment and widely disseminate accurate information about the dangers of
drug use - including the danger of HIV infection. Drug use must be handled
through the medical system rather than through the judicial system.
It is not too late for Russia to head off the AIDS crisis that is now
over the country. But doing so will require, most of all, the active
leadership of the authorities at all levels. The AIDS epidemic must be
treated as a national security crisis of the highest order.
December 2, 2000
EDITORIAL: Practicing What Is Preached
Before he became an apostle, Matthew was a tax collector. So in a way it
a return to Matthew's roots this week when he was officially named the
saint of the tax police by Patriarch Alexy II.
In doing so, the patriarch was serving two ends f one missionary, the
By tradition and mentality, if not by law, the Russian Orthodox Church is
state church, and in recent years it has sought to bring the government
to its fold. It has done so through an ad hoc arrangement of personal
contacts and bilateral agreements, whether with ministries, government
agencies or even presidents.
Armed forces agencies, with their often-demoralized servicemen, are in
particular seen as prodigal sons. And patron saints play an obviously
role in helping those of Orthodox background find the church welcoming.
Patron saints are often assigned in ways that also show the church's
hyper-awareness of the secular world. Not so long ago the patriarch
St. Barbara the patron saint of the Strategic Missile Forces f as it
the decree establishing the force was signed, by the atheist Nikita
Khrushchev, on St. Barbara's Day. St. Tatyana is the patron of students,
meanwhile, because Empress Elizabeth founded Moscow State University on
Tatyana's Day in 1755.
But the Russian Orthodox Church has a far more complicated relationship
the tax authorities than it does with, say, students or rocket-forces
In the past decade, the church has emerged as a major player on the
field, with an annual turnover believed to be in the hundreds of millions
dollars. And even as it claims a moral leadership role in society, the
has been notoriously nontransparent and tight-lipped about its money. Tax
breaks meant to subsidize the rebuilding of churches and chapels seem to
more helpful to the numerous private businesses, and corruption cases that
have sprung up along the way.
So Apostle Matthew may be helpful not just as a divine intercessor, but
as an earthly friendly liaison.
There is nothing wrong with preaching gospels to taxmen. But we think the
church's mission will be much stronger if it also reveals its budget and
taxes where it must by law. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things
are Caesar's," Matthew quotes Jesus as saying. (Matthew 22:21).
The state could help by granting clear and equal tax breaks to all
by setting up multi-confessional chaplains for the armed forces; and by
legally codifying its relations with the church, and ditching the politics
personal friendships and vague agreements.
Slowly, Shakily, Democratic Russia Goes Online
November 27, 2000
By Sam Gerrans, TechWeb News
Think of Russia, and you think of bread queues and untraceable bits of
intercontinental ballistic missile kept in bedrooms.
You think of counterfeit vodka or warehouses full of "Reebak"
if you think of the Internet, you might think of the "best
warez" and worst
amateur-porn sites available.
But the Internet is playing an increasing role in the democratic process
the new Russia.
Internet penetration is far lower than in most of Europe, with less than 2
percent of the population connecting regularly.
Some 9.2 million Russians have used the Net, according to research
in August by Monitoring.ru, although only about 20 percent of those are
regular users who are online for more than an hour a week.
The Internet's impact could already be much greater than the figures
Users are concentrated in cities in the politically influential west of
country, especially Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Both mainstream and fringe political movements have been quick, in Russia
elsewhere, to take advantage of the communications potential this
President Vladimir Putin's election site (www.putin2000.ru)
is mainly in
Russian and features black-and-white photomontage of the president
Since winning the March election, he has transferred his electronic
attentions to a new, regal (and slow) piece of designer democracy
Other politicians -- such as First Deputy Premier Nikolai Arsonenko;
Chubais, who brought in privatization Russian-style; Sergey Vladilenovich
Kiriyenko of the Union of Rightist Forces; and the powerful Moscow mayor,
Yuri Luzhkov -- all have online shrines to their personal prowess in both
English and Russian.
Not all, however, have been equally quick to grasp the Net. The gruff
nationalist Alexander Lebed has just a Russian-language site; perhaps he
nothing to say to the West.
A domain is registered using the name of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov,
it is currently held by a Russian Internet service provider, Newcom Port.
The cyber war for the mind behind the mouse also rages at the party level.
The Democratic Union Party, the Fatherland Movement, and Yabloko all
well maintained sites. And animated GIF images of red flags abound at the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation site.
But just as important as the official political organizations are the
powers of the new Russia -- business empires, including some operations of
dubious legality, that control many of the country's main websites.
Gleb Pavlovsky's Fund for Effective Policies (FEP) acts as a
organization, and is considered extremely politically engaged.
It has created and manages the websites of several Russian politicians,
including former Premier Sergei Kirienko and former Deputy Premier Boris
Pavlovsky is considered close to the Kremlin. Ahead of the December
parliamentary election he appeared in televised debates, speaking
about Unity, the party endorsed by Putin.
FEP financially supports two major websites, news provider Lenta, and
which supplies analysis and comment.
Despite possible pressure from their backer, both sites show a
determination to pursue an independent editorial policy on all issues.
FEP-sponsored projects, however, maintain an openly pro-Kremlin line.
The site of RosBusinessConsulting, one of the main providers of real-time
financial and economic news gaining some 30,000 hits per day, was
created with the financial support of Mikhail Friedman and Pyotr Aven's
Polit.ru is a well-established site that Russian Internet specialists
describe as a kind of "club" for in-depth discussion of
among a circle of intellectuals and well-known authors.
One of its founders is Modest Kolerov, who was the spokesman of Vladimir
Potanin's Oneximbank, and it was reportedly created with the financial
support of the financial holding company MFK.
The Agency of Political News runs a site which many observers say
in the dissemination of compromising material (kompromat).
One of its editors, Lev Sigal, is seen as particularly involved in
dirty tricks. The site was reportedly created with the financial support
Kremlin insider and Jewish Mafia boss Boris Berezovsky.
Yet despite the partisan affiliations of many sites, the Web has become a
valued source of on-tap news for the younger, better-educated Russians.
Chat rooms feature prominently. Many of these deal with live political and
economic issues; sites such as Lenta and Gazeta are a counterbalance to
traditional electronic and printed media.
But Russia has historically taken a dim view of uncontrolled information
explosion, and this surge of activity among the younger elite could not be
expected to pass unnoticed by government authorities.
In January, the chairman of Russia's electoral commission, Aleksandr
Veshnyakov, said that during the presidential campaign ahead of the March
vote his agency would "consider the Internet as a mass medium"
"monitor and punish" cyber-violations of Russia's electoral
Headlines such as "Communications Ministry is about to take control
Internet" and "The Government wants to register all media on the
appeared frequently on Russian websites.
And extensive coverage has been given to the recent introduction of
Internet-content rules in China, where the ruling Communist Party monitors
the Net for content that could be considered politically subversive or
Russian Internet service providers are also ordered to block a large chunk
foreign news from organizations such as CNN, the BBC, and The New York
However, attempts to control the Internet are sometimes hampered by
ignorance. As writer Yegor Bykovsky observed in the weekly Itogi magazine,
"it is very likely that [Communications Minister] Leonid Reiman [was]
unaware of the fact that the Internet is an international network, and not
It is possible that the government will dedicate time and resource to
monitoring millions of users and thousands of domestic sites, not to
all the international sites to which Russian citizens can potentially
But in a country chaotic enough for entire nuclear devices to disappear
without trace, unfettered online debate is probably a safe bet for a
Sam Gerrans, formerly based in Moscow, is an editor for a major British
newspaper chain. He can be contacted as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russian economics minister outlines priorities
St Petersburg, 1st December: Russian Economic Development and Trade
German Gref outlined the short-term priorities for the government's
policy at a conference entitled "Economic Deregulation in Russia and
Northwestern Federal District", which was held in St Petersburg on
At the beginning of 2001, the government's most important objectives will
include the passage of the Land Code, Labour Code, amendments to the first
part of the Tax Code and the "final adoption" of the second part
of the Tax
Code, Gref said.
The adoption of these legislative acts should go hand in hand with a
of structural and institutional reforms - of the judicial system, banking
system, corporate management and share market, as well as of the country's
natural monopolies, Gref opined.
Speaking about reforming the monopolies, the minister stressed that the
ultimate goal should be the creation of a free market for gas and
energy. In addition, he said, the government should approve a new concept
the state's management of air transportation and the aviation industry.
In his opinion, Gref went on, the current macroeconomic situation is
favourable, which is tied in, most of all, with additional budget
Gref noted that he agrees with presidential adviser Andrey Illarionov, who
had expressed the opinion that the government has not implemented a full
complex of measures aimed at improving the economic situation this year.
is right in many respects. The monetary and budget policy should not just
tough, but (really) tough," the minister said.
At the same time, he continued, the government this year had to swallow
expenses "that were already impossible to avoid". Among such
identified the pensions increase. "The government was greatly tempted
raise pensions, which would increase the potential for the transition to a
cumulative pension system," he said. However, that could have wrought
negative social consequences in the country, the minister said. "That
difficult economic balance, a difficult economic choice."
December 1, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
THE STRATEGY OF DEFAULT
Herman GREF publicly admits that in 2003 Russia will not
be able to pay off its foreign debt
By Viktoria ABRAMENKO, Yelena GOSTEVA, Natalia ILYINA
On November 30 minister of economic development and
Herman Gref told the German-Russian economic forum in Moscow
that in 2003 Russia may stop its foreign debt repayment.
According to Gref, without debt restructuring, including the
debts to the Paris club, "Russia will not be able to pass the
peak of payments in 2003." Notably, Gref said this precisely
before the German audience: Germany is one of Russia's largest
creditors. It accounts for 40% of Russia's total debts.
As chief executive officer of Alfa-Bank Alex
believes, the threat of default in 2003 really exists. "There
are two factors, which influence the situation: the internal
and the external one. The external factor involves the prices
of energy products: we live exclusively at their expense. Now
the prices of actually all commodities exported by us are near
their peak. However, under forecasts, by the end of 2001 the
price of oil will decline to $15 per barrel. Today Russia has
sufficient gold and hard currency reserves of the Central Bank
and the favourable foreign trade balance. But there is also the
internal factor: the outflow of money in the form of an
imperfectly devised budget. Specialists believe that the
government has begun to feel more relaxed and spends too much.
In the opinion of director of the Centre for Macro-Economic
Studies of the Unikon company Yelena Matrosova, "the absence of
an IMF loan creates a threat already to the 2001 budget.
The foreign trade surplus cannot serve as the sole criteria for
the fulfilment of the country's liabilities. The problems,
which Russia faces, considerably exceed its foreign currency
The problem of the Russian debt could be solved
partial write-off. However, in the opinion of economic adviser
to the Russian President Andrei Illarionov, the debt write-off
is hardly probable. We clearly do not correspond to the status
of the poorest countries.
Therefore, debt restructuring is the only thing
However, it leads to the increase of the debt burden and may
generate new crises in the future. Russia has restructured its
debt to the Paris club already several times now. As a result,
despite the fact that it equalled $38 billion in 1993 and
Russia has paid $17 billion over seven years, the debt has now
risen to $48 billion. This is because interest is added to the
principal upon debt restructuring. Apart from that, not all
creditors agree to grant us a postponement. Their position is
simple: you pay now and we shall talk only when the situation
Indeed, it is possible to pay today as much as
There are possibilities for this: by the results of 2000
exports will amount to $100 billion and the foreign trade
surplus will equal $66 billion. In 2003, when payments to the
Paris club come to amount to $17.5 billion, the situation may
be quite different. And the available possibilities will turn
out to be unrealistic for us at that time. However, as a source
in the government told us, the government understands that it
is more profitable for Russia to reduce the total sum of its
foreign debt. At the same time, it is asserted that this will
undermine Russia's position when it comes to express its desire
to agree on a write-off. This makes the circle closed. As a
result, in the opinion of some experts, Russia loses an
opportunity to start buying out its own debts while money is
available. Our interlocutors say that this takes place owing to
two reasons: the lack of organisation and the well-known desire
not to pay. As a result, as chairman of the board of
Russlavbank Nikolai Gusman believes, "our country will probably
be able, by straining itself too much, to fulfil its
obligations." But if it fails, we shall again have to live
December 2, 2000
[for personal use only]
To contain nuclear risk, U.S. funds Soviet-era city
Western academics, Russians join forces on civilian projects
By Will Englund
Sun Foreign Staff
SNEZHINSK, Russia -- Evelina Kuropatenko devoted her life to finding
and better ways to blow the Western world to smithereens, and today the
capitalist nations are willing to listen to anything she has to say, just
long as she stays happy.
This was the site of Russia's primary nuclear-development lab, and today
whole little city around it is being propped up by Western money so that
Kuropatenko and the 10,500 other physicists, mathematicians and
stay content and busy at home, rather than disillusioned and busy
else -- in North Korea, for instance, or Iraq.
In the process, Snezhinsk has turned into a little Soviet island in the
of a turbulent new Russia. To come through the heavily guarded double
that surround the city is to step back into an idealized past.
Here people go about their lives with a sense of purpose. Here there are
Mercedes Benzes or cell phones or billboards or striptease clubs or
bull-necked bodyguards. Here the streets are well-ordered, and the hedges
trimmed, after a fashion. Here there is no junk lying around.
Here, instead of sadistic traffic police preying on the chaos of the
polite and discreet security agents keep a watchful eye on everyone and
If communism had worked, it would have looked like Snezhinsk, a city of
50,000 just east of the Ural Mountains, where a little bit of the U.S.S.R.
lives on -- and the U.S.A. is helping to pick up the tab.
The only thing that's changing is the emphasis. Americans and Europeans
paying for medical research, environmental technology, protein analysis.
Russian government still pays for weapons work, but, as at American labs,
defense-oriented work force is reduced and getting smaller.
Snezhinsk used to be called Chelyabinsk-70. This top-secret town was known
only by the name of a post office box in the nearest large city. It was
founded in 1955 by a patriotic and inspired team of physicists who built a
lab on the shore of a lake nestled among birch and pine forests, where the
landscape flattens out again after the round curves of the Urals. Anyone
coming here had to pass through an old Russian village called
Snezhinsk looks like a throwback to the past because it is still closed,
which means that no one is allowed in who doesn't have a reason for being
here. Earlier this fall a reporter for The Sun was invited to accompany an
American scientific delegation on a three-day visit -- a rare opportunity
a Western journalist to observe life behind the fence.
Kuropatenko, a mathematician who specializes in an area of statistics
Monte Carlo calculations, was the host, gathering various specialists
together for daylong meetings with the Americans. The Russian scientists
presented proposals for research. Shrewd, gracious, and good-humored,
Kuropatenko kept her occasionally talkative troops in line with a
of the eyes and a certain movement of her jaw.
She and her husband, Valentin, also a mathematician, were among the early
settlers here. They were idealists then, and they are idealists now.
Politically, they vote Communist. "We don't seek a return to the
Union," says Valentin Kuropatenko, "but we want to ensure the
stability of the country."
Yet they've enjoyed visits to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
California, and they believe strongly in the conversion to peacetime
research. Evelina Kuropatenko welcomes the American role, hopes that
Livermore officials can help the Russians master some of the more arcane
aspects of the new world -- such mysteries as marketing, sales, and patent
"Commercial technology," she says, "is what we need to
learn from our
They live in a high-ceilinged apartment overlooking the lake -- a huge
apartment even by Moscow standards, in a building where the stairwells are
uncharacteristically well lit, freshly painted and odor-free. They throw
heroic dinner parties, in rooms graced by photos of their daughters, both
whom grew up in Snezhinsk but neither of whom decided to stay once the
The young people, the children of the scientific elite, grow up and leave.
Everyone agrees it's a problem, but at least they're not taking nuclear
secrets with them. Boris Vodolaga, the head of the international program
here, said that not one scientist from Snezhinsk had skipped out on his
country and left for money elsewhere.
"It's the spirit of the collective," he said. "We've always
been like an
But the effort to harmonize with new goals and new clients -- Americans,
less -- hasn't been easy. Inevitable cultural gaps and mistrust persist.
bureaucracies of both governments have meddled. Some people on both sides
question whether anything solid has been accomplished in nearly a decade
trying, at a total cost to the United States of $1 billion. (That doesn't
count $2 billion spent on dismantling weapons and missiles.)
There are a handful of programs. One, run by the Department of Energy, has
sought to beef up security at Russia's scattered nuclear sites, to prevent
thefts and acts of terrorism.
There is more than a ton of weapons-usable nuclear material here, and
although Snezhinsk is better guarded than some other sites in Russia,
security does not meet international standards. Last year, 2 tons of
were stolen from the lab.
Another program, called the International Science and Technology Centers,
jointly backed by the United States, the European Union, Norway and Japan,
has spent $230 million backing research projects in Russia and other
Soviet republics. Almost 260 projects have been financed, or approved for
financing, at Snezhinsk alone.
Scientists here have worked on neutron therapy for cancer patients, on
comet-deflection technology, on radioactive cleanup techniques. Evelina
Kuropatenko conducted an epidemiological study of Snezhinsk children on an
But critics say the research has borne little fruit. It keeps scientists
busy, but the work doesn't get directed into practical applications.
So two years ago the United States launched the Nuclear Cities Initiative,
which is designed to foster commercially viable projects in Snezhinsk and
nine other closed cities. (So far the program has focused on three.)
Here again, Snezhinsk is waiting for results. Ann Heywood, a mathematician
and robotics engineer from Livermore who led the delegation here last
(and is every bit as redoubtable as Kuropatenko), was holding discussions
with Snezhinsk scientists a year ago when her bosses pulled her off to
on another project. She has only now come back.
"'Looking back over seven years, so far there hasn't been an example
successful cooperation" on a commercial project, said Anatoly
mayor of Snezhinsk. "It isn't important who's at fault. When the
comes, this will be a very great help. It will significantly speed the
The Russians were particularly galled when they learned that between 1994
1998, according to a General Accounting Office study, 63 percent of the
spent by the United States on Russian nuclear programs was actually spent
the United States, on overhead, travel expenses and consulting fees. The
Department of Energy has vowed to reduce that amount to 35 percent.
At the same time, though, the Russian government offered the closed cities
"offshore," tax-free status, which was immediately abused by
had no real links to them. Moscow is trying to correct that.
A few years ago salary payments were in arrears, and alarm bells began
ringing on both sides of the Atlantic over the demoralization of the staff
and deterioration of the facilities. But now Russia, too, is putting money
into the lab, and both Russians and Americans say the most dangerous
But even in these somewhat better times, nothing comes easy.
Just putting a delegation together -- coordinating schedules, persuading
Moscow to issue visas -- is a huge task. Visits are postponed, rosters
continually in flux.
In the end, Heywood's little group included Joseph Pritchard, a State
Department specialist on nuclear cities; Dr. Mark Zern, a liver-transplant
specialist from the University of California at Davis; Dr. Nathan Levin, a
nephrologist from the Renal Research Institute in New York; and Linda
the institute's executive director.
For the better part of three days they sat in a building outside the
boundaries of the lab -- which is still off-limits -- and listened to a
parade of scientists who came before them to talk about the work they
like to do.
Yuri Rybakov showed them a vibrating device he has made that he said has
proved effective in reducing the incidence of kidney stones.
"If it works, people would love that, oh, yeah," said Donald.
Khyena Brainina talked about cheap sensors to detect immunity. Dr. Sergei
Brokhman, a pathologist, talked about the extensive medical records,
including autopsy reports, that date back 43 years and that he would like
get on a computer database. Levin was particularly interested in that.
Nikolai Platonov talked about meridional diagnosis of the human energy
Nobody knew what to make of that. The interpreter scolded him for using
she'd never heard. Kuropatenko made Platonov sit down.
Then Zern and Levin talked about some of the research they hoped someone
Snezhinsk might take on.
Unavoidably, maybe, the two sides didn't always connect. Were the right
people getting together? "There must be lots of things going on here
don't know about," Levin said.
The Americans seemed interested in listening to and floating ideas for
research. The Russians wanted contracts. Zern and Levin said they were
concerned about the quality of the Russians' clinical testing.
In the end, the American team summed up, in order, what they deemed the
promising projects. With this stamp of approval in hand, the Russians will
now pursue them through the NCI bureaucracy.
Snezhinsk, which means snowflake, still has its other role to play. From a
peak of 18,000 defense workers, the All-Russian Scientific Research
for Technical Physics now has 10,500 devoted to weapons work. In January,
that is to be reduced to 8,000.
The work isn't as stirring as it was when the Kuropatenkos came here. Much
it involves careful maintenance of the nuclear material -- which is a
but not very stimulating job.
Vodolaga says he hopes to have researchers working part-time on weapons
the rest on civilian research, paid for by the West. There has to be a
compromise, he says, to keep people happy.
Happiness in a Soviet setting -- it means streets that are safe at night,
plenty of vodka but no homeless people, a town full of Russian cars
Jeep Cherokee (the choice of gangsters) in sight. It means little lapel
for visitors, of the type that were once ubiquitous here but vanished soon
after 1991, and it even means Soviet rather than Russian e-mail addresses.
What the Americans are banking on is that that is the sort of happiness
can keep everyone's worst nuclear nightmare at bay.
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