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JRL #7043 Plain Text - Entire Issue
1. ITAR-TASS: Boris Yeltsin to celebrate his 72nd anniversary on Feb 1.
2. National Post (Canada): Matthew Fisher, Little love lost for Russia's
forlorn Lada. Noisy, leaky, prone to break down -- but at least it's cheap
3. RFE/RL: Gregory Feifer, Observers Say Anti-Western Sentiment A Constant
Of Putin Presidency
4. Upcoming Culture Events at the Kennan Institute in Washington.
5. Interfax: Poll shows most Russians oppose military action against Iraq.
6. Boston Globe: Marcella Bombardieri, Harvard denies owing damages in
Russia case
7. AFP: Putin vows to push through Chechen referendum despite violence,
8. The Russia Journal: Otto Latsis, How to get out of a dead end.
(re Chechnya)

9. New French book on Chechnya.
10. AP: Russia Detains Man for Alleged Scam. (Sergei Mavrodi)
11. Science: Paul Webster, Prestigious Plant Institute in Jeopardy.(Vavilov)
12. AP: Moviegoers agree: House elf from 'Harry Potter' looks like Putin.
13. The Russia Journal: Matt Taibbi, Uncovering Putin's anthropological
14. Reuters: Russia eyes Iran nuclear deals despite U.S. fears.
15. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Mark MacKinnon, It's hopping down under
for Diggers of Moscow. Odd group of underground fanatics delights in life below
16. Toronto Star: Michael Mainville, Stalingrad '03: The battle over a
name.'Volgograd' insults veterans of epic WWII siege but others fear
'glorification' of hated dictator
17. National Post (Canada): Paul Webster, Back to the U.S.S.R.. A Moscow
eatery serves Stalin-era cuisine. Trendy stores peddle Soviet chic. But what's
driving this wave of nostalgia? In Russia, the past wasn't exactly 'Happy Days.'


Boris Yeltsin to celebrate his 72nd anniversary on Feb 1
February 1, 2003

Russian first president Boris Yeltsin will celebrate his 72nd anniversary
on Saturday.

Yeltsin plans to celebrate his birthday as usual with his acquaintances and
close friends, chief of ex-president's proceedings Vladimir Shevchenko said.

Despite of the family holiday the outstanding Russian politician
celebrating his birthday expects guests who will doubtlessly visit him on
this day. In 2002 Yeltsin's successor on the top state post Vladimir Putin
and his wife, a number of ministers from the Russian government and many
friends, including famous tennis player Yevgeny Kafelnikov arrived to
personally congratulate the first Russian president. The leaders of CIS
states, including Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, President Askar Akayev
of Kyrgyzstan, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and others extended birthday
greetings to Boris Yeltsin by telephone. Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Alexis II is most likely to come to congratulate Yeltsin on his birthday.
During his visit to Yeltsin's country house in 2002 the patriarch noted
that they both follow the tradition extend birthday greetings to each other
already for ten years. The tradition was broken only once --- on Yeltsin's
70th anniversary when he was hospitalised and could not receive guests over
his indisposition.

Boris Yeltsin was born on February 1, 1931 in the village of Butka in the
Sverdlov region. Upon graduation from the Urals Polytechnic Institute he
began his career as a master in the Uraltyaztrubstroi Company and was
promoted to the first secretary of Sverdlov regional committee of the
Communist Party and then to the first secretary of the Moscow city
committee of the party.

In 1987 Yeltsin was dismissed from all his posts and returned to big
politics only in March 1989 when he became a people's deputy of the USSR.
In 1990 he was elected chairman of the Soviet Supreme Council on the
alternative basis. Boris Yeltsin was elected Russian president by the
national voting on June 12 1991 and re-elected for the second term on July
3 1996. He declared his resignation on December 31 1999 resigning from the
post of the head of state ahead of time.

Yeltsin's presidency was marked by a series of complicated landmark events
for the fate of Russia. During the 1991 coup d'etat attempt Russian
democratic forces rallied around Yeltsin. Then he initiated the liquidation
of the USSR and proclamation of the Commonwealth of Intendment States
(CIS). In September 1993 Yeltsin signed a decree to disband the Congress of
people's deputies and the Russian Supreme Council that led to the standoff
in the society. Under Yeltsin's decree federal troops were deployed in
Chechnya in December 1994. Three these facts were the main accusations
against the first Russian president that prompted the beginning of
Yeltsin's impeachment procedure in May 1999.

Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that he had finally left politics. "I state it
emphatically I do not plan to engage into any big politics," he reiterated.
Yeltsin regretted that in the capacity of the Russian president he visited
many countries but alongside scheduled measures he did not have enough time
to see something else. Thus now Yeltsin plans to visit all CIS states and
meet with their presidents who are his friends.


National Post (Canada)
February 1, 2003
Little love lost for Russia's forlorn Lada
Noisy, leaky, prone to break down -- but at least it's cheap
By Matthew Fisher

MOSCOW - Tell Yuri Mareev you want to buy a new Lada and the veteran car
salesman bursts out laughing.

"Perhaps you're telling me a joke or wish to amuse your friends in Canada
with stories about your experiences with such a car. I mean, when it was
first built by Fiat it was Europe's car of the year in 1966," he said as a
prospective foreign buyer kicked the tires of several Ladas during a tour
of the immense Auto World showroom on the outskirts of Moscow.

Mr. Mareev's reaction is pretty typical among Russians. But it's not a good
sign either for Lada or the domestic Russian car industry, which is
teetering on collapse.

Ladas -- called Zhiguli 6s or Zhiguli 7s in Russia -- have never been much
loved. They were imported into Canada for a brief spell during the 1980s.
Although Fiat stopped producing them in Italy decades ago, they are still
being built at two plants in Russia.

A brand-new Lada, albeit with 40-year-old technology, can be bought for as
little as $4,600.

Despite the low price, there are not enough customers for the boxy,
four-cylinder vehicles to keep Russian assembly lines going. At least
50,000 of last year's 715,000 units remain unsold. Most unpopular are the
four-speed Zhiguli 6 and five-speed Zhiguli 7.

These days, most Russians prefer foreign vehicles, even though they may be
battered and clapped out after years of use on roads in western Europe or

To try to force Russians to buy Russian, and rescue the domestic car
industry, in October the government slapped a duty of 35% on foreign cars
more than seven years old.

But Russian car dealers and customers had known the new charges were coming
for almost two years. To beat the new tariffs, dealers imported 470,000
used cars last year, up 30% from the previous year.

Foreign automakers also increased their share of the new car market last
year from 24% to 29%. Sales of Toyota, Hyundai and Chrysler more than
doubled while Opel, Ford and Peugeot also made big gains.

"The situation for Russian car makers is very, very bad because of severe
competition from used foreign cars," said Elena Sakhnova, an automotive
analyst with United Financial Group.

"There are now so many foreign cars waiting to be sold in Russia that
demand for Russian cars will be severely damaged for at least six or eight
months more.

"But that is not the end of it," she said. "Parliament is now discussing
raising the import duties on cars more than three years old. All this will
mean that our used car dealers will go on another big buying spree overseas
and more Russian cars will be left unsold."

This was all old news to Mr. Mareev, who sold cars in Moscow long before
foreign models became available in the early 1990s.

"A Russian who has tried a foreign car, even a very old one, would never go
back willingly to a Zhiguli," Mr. Mareev said.

"First of all, it is a question of comfort. Let us not even begin to speak
about matters such as speed and reliability."

Pointing to a new Volga's broken glove compartment, he laughed and said,
"What can you expect from a car made in Russia?"

Asked about a robust-looking Russian four-wheel-drive vehicle, the car
salesman almost shouted, "Forget it. There is always a draft and when it
rains everyone inside gets wet. Plus, you have to register it with the
military and if there is a war, they can take it away from you."

As he spoke, he edged toward the front of the showroom, where new Renaults
from France, Nissans from Japan and Kias from South Korea were given pride
of place.

Not 500 metres away from Auto World, behind a garish yellow "Autosalon"
sign, another salesman was at work. A specialist in the bottom end of the
car market, he trudged by more than 50 snow-covered, unsold Zhigulis as a
pack of German Shepherd dogs kept a snarling watch.

Smiling at the notion a foreigner would come to this remote, frozen place
to buy a Lada, "Oleg," as he asked to be called, launched into his routine
sales pitch.

"Zhigulis are much cheaper than foreign cars. A guy like you could buy
three of them for what one new little foreign car costs. Spare parts are
cheaper, too, and easier to find. It costs kopecks to fix one of these cars
compared to lots of dollars to fix foreign ones," he said. "It is also well
equipped for Russia's terrible roads. I, myself, have a Zhiguli, and I am
very satisfied."

As if by some miracle, an elderly Russian man in a track suit suddenly
appeared to pick up his new Lada. "You are an eyewitness to the fact that
my cars sell well," said Oleg, accelerating his spiel.

"A Russian guy is happy to buy a Zhiguli 7 for less than US$4,000,
everything including registration included. For that we are giving them
anti-corrosion, an alarm and central locking. He wants for nothing. It's
fully loaded."

After ensuring the rear de-icer worked after a fashion, the buyer said, "If
life is dear for you, buy a foreign car, if money is dear for you, buy a
Russian car."

Russian automakers employ 350,000 people, down sharply from 500,000 in the
last years of communism, but much deeper cuts are needed for the industry
to survive.

AvtoVAZ, which employs 150,000 people, did US$4.5-billion in sales last
year. GAZ, which makes the even older Volga, has 80,000 workers and sales
of US$2.3-billion. In comparison, BMW had US$60-billion in sales with
100,000 workers.

"To become competitive, the Russian car industry has to lose about
two-thirds of its workers," Ms. Sakhnova said. "The problem is quality.
Many people have to have their Zhigulis serviced once a month and some
people have to take theirs in every week."

This is because Russian auto technology is stuck in the 1970s and the
plants are outdated.

"The industry is trapped in a circle," she said. "It doesn't have cars that
consumers want, so there is no demand and therefore no money coming in to

The only hope is to stop churning out dinosaurs such as the Lada and the
Volga and enter joint ventures with foreign manufacturers keen to get a
piece of one of the most lucrative emerging car markets in the world.

Already, BMW and Kia are assembling some models in Kaliningrad, while Ford
opened a plant near St. Petersburg last year.

Ford's Russian-built Focus is so popular it has a waiting list of several
months. The Detroit-based multinational plans to push annual production to
25,000 cars in 2005, from 4,000 in 2002.

"Every car has its customer," Mr. Mareev said. "The Zhiguli's difficulty is
that it does not have as many customers as it once did. It offers nothing
but a low price."

Playing the part of a good Russian patriot, Ms. Sakhnova said she owned a
Lada and it had given her virtually no problems since she bought it three
years ago.

But when pressed, the 26-year-old analyst said she preferred her
German-made Audi 4 because "I like to drive fast."

As for the Lada, she lets her younger brother drive it.


Russia: Observers Say Anti-Western Sentiment A Constant Of Putin Presidency
By Gregory Feifer

Recent incidents of foreigners being expelled from Russia have fueled
reports of a rise in anti-Western sentiment within the channels of
government bureaucracy. But rights groups and other observers say the
apparent increase in visa troubles and other problems is in fact nothing
new, and that antipathy toward the West has been a constant under Vladimir
Putin's presidency. As RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Gregory Feifer reports,
the issue may prove a factor in the parliamentary and presidential
elections ahead.

Moscow, 31 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- In Russia, Westerners might be feeling
less welcome than they used to.

In recent weeks, Moscow has kicked 27 Peace Corps volunteers out of Russia,
saying the country no longer needs their services and even accusing two
members of spying.

The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe was asked to close
its mission in the war-torn region of Chechnya after Moscow refused to
extend its mandate.

And an American labor activist had her visa revoked without explanation by
passport officials at a Moscow airport. The activist, who had lived in the
country since 1992, had recently helped hire a lawyer to represent striking
Russian airline workers.

Such incidents -- and others like them -- have fueled speculation that
anti-Westernism is on the rise in Russian officialdom.

But observers in Moscow say such sentiments are nothing new, and that
anti-Western bias is a constant in Vladimir Putin's Russia. Moreover, they
say, the issue is likely to become even more prominent in the months ahead
as pro- and anti-Western political forces square off in this election year.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group rights organization.
She says anti-Westernism is a constant variable in Russian politics: "It
was especially evident after September 11, when the president said the
general line of Russian policy would be integration with the Western world.
The political establishment resists that very much. That's sometimes less
visible, sometimes more, but it's generally very constant. We have a very
anti-Western political establishment."

The bias appears to stretch beyond Western people to Western principles.
Alekseyeva says her group is viewed with suspicion in part because its
ideals of human rights and personal dignity are also Western values.
Financing from the West is especially suspect. The government did away with
tax breaks for human rights groups last November.

"It's just a desire to put everything and everyone under control,"
Alekseyeva said. "The Duma (lower house) is already under control.
Political parties are already under control. The Federation Council (upper
house) is already under control. Now we're (nongovernmental organizations)
left. It's an attempt to put us under control because, of course, financing
from the West gives us economic independence from our authorities."

Anna Neistat, director of the Human Rights Watch Moscow office, agrees the
government's attitude toward Westerners has not changed markedly since
Putin's election. She says the government issues general criticism of her
organization because of the going idea that "the West shouldn't mess with
Russia's internal affairs."

Vladimir Pribylovsky is president of the Panorama political research group.
He too says the latest expulsions do not represent a change in policy and
must be seen as individual cases: "These anti-Western feelings are more or
less evenly distributed among a certain part of the bureaucracy --
especially those coming out of the power structures. That they have
[recently] become visible just means there have been more excuses. For
example, Western observers [like the OSCE] simply get in the way of
carrying out the 'counterterrorist' operation in Chechnya as wished."

The recent incidents come as the U.S. flexes its muscles on the issue of
Iraq. The Kremlin has stated its opposition to a war on Baghdad, but is
relatively powerless to influence Washington's decision making. This
feeling of impotence may serve to heighten anti-American sentiment in
Russia. It may also play to the advantage of Putin, who rose to power with
promises to restore Russia's status as a great power.

At the same time, however, the Russian president has positioned himself as
an ally of the West since the 11 September attacks on the U.S. and the
subsequent war on terrorism. He has made a number of unprecedented
concessions to Washington -- agreeing to the deployment of U.S. forces in
Central Asia and Georgia, providing the U.S. with intelligence on Al-Qaeda,
and allowing Washington to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile

Such moves have raised protests from many of Putin's own government
appointees -- mainly former security and military officials who spent much
of their careers in a system built on distrust of the West. The
anti-Westernist camp includes members of Putin's so-called "Saint
Petersburg" group, such as former KGB colleague and current Defense
Minister Sergei Ivanov.

These officials, many of whom now boost Putin's authority from positions in
the upper ranks of state agencies, have run up against pro-Western economic
advisers and others favoring liberal values. These include such influential
officials as Economy and Trade Minister German Gref, Finance Minister
Aleksei Kudrin, and presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin.

Duma Deputy Boris Nadezhdin, a member of the liberal Union of Right Forces
Party, says the presidential administration and the government are
witnessing an ongoing struggle between the two groups.

"In that sense, it's possible to interpret events: Depending on who has
more influence with the president, it's possible to talk about the top
bureaucracy's leaning toward the direction of Europe, away from the West
and so on," he said.

Nadezhdin says both sides are currently seeking to expand. Although
anti-Western measures are currently making headlines, he says pro-Western
voices can still be heard -- and that Putin may be attempting to strike a
palatable balance between the two: "I wouldn't say that a decision has been
made, let's say in the direction of a large degree of patriotism or in the
other direction, but there's a constant battle being waged on that field."

He adds that Putin's ultimate choice may depend on whether he decides to
pick one side or another to back him in presidential elections in 2004. The
choice might even become clear by the end of this year, when parliamentary
elections are due to be held.

But Nadezhdin concludes that discerning any systemic trend remains
difficult. Putin will try to cultivate both sides, relying on one or the
other depending on the situation. In the end, the Duma deputy says, "it's a
two-sided stick."


Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003
From: "Nicholas Wheeler" <WheelerNC@wwic.si.edu>
Subject: Upcoming Culture Events

Kennan Institute
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 202 691-4100
Fax: 202 691-4247

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Woodrow Wilson Center's Kennan Institute to Launch
Program Series on Russian Cultural Influences on America
Contact: Sharon A. Coleman
Phone: (202) 691-4016
E-mail: colemans@wwic.si.edu
News Release Release No. 127-03
January 31, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C.-On February 18, 2003, the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kennan
Institute will launch a four-part series of programs on Russian culture
titled "Culture/Kultura: Russian Influence on American Performing Arts."
The series will feature performances and/or video presentations in addition
to lectures by scholars and experts in the field. The program on February
18 will focus on Russian music and its influence on America. The remaining
programs held later in the year will focus on dance (in May), theater (in
October), and film (in December).

"Who can think of the best of modern-day dance, or music, or theater, or
film, without thinking of the enormous contributions of Russian giants such
as Rostropovich, Balanchine, Stanislavsky, or Eisenstein? Who can imagine
the history of the arts in the West-from the classical periods to the
avant-garde-without the innovative masterpieces that came out of Russia?
We hope this series of programs will both educate and entertain," said
Kennan Institute Director Blair Ruble.

The February 18 seminar will focus on the rich interplay of musical
influences between Russia and America. Victor Yuzefovich, musicologist and
former Wilson Center fellow, will lead the discussion. Panelists will
include Victor Danchenko of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Peabody
Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University; composer Leonid Hrabovsky; and
Anne Swartz, Professor of Music, Baruch College, City University of New
York. The themes of discussion will include:

Distinctions and similarities between the two musical cultures;
History of cultural communications between the countries;
Aspects of influence, including Russian composers in the U.S., Russian
conductors at the helm of U.S. orchestras, Russian performers on the U.S.
stage, Russian founders of performing schools in the U.S., and Russians as
creators of new musical institutions;
Significance of intercultural communications for international mutual

The program will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Polaris room of
the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, followed at 6:00
p.m. by a one-hour discussion and then a one-hour performance. An R.S.V.P
is required to attend this event. To R.S.V.P and request directions and
information on the program series, please contact the Kennan Institute at

The Kennan Institute was founded as a division of the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars in December of 1974 with a mission to
improve American expertise and knowledge about Russia and the other
successor states of the former Soviet Union.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living,
national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and
headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a
neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan
institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study
of national and world affairs.

Media planning to cover the event should contact Sharon Coleman at


is pleased to invite you to a special event on Russian Culture
Tuesday, February 4, 2003/ Seminar- 2:30 to 4:30 pm*
Cosponsored by The Stanislavsky Theater Studio
"Anton Chekhov's Legacy in America: New Interpretations in the Stanislavsky
Theater Studio's Production of The Seagull."
Andrei Malaev-Babel, Producing Artistic Director, Stanislavsky Theater
Studio and Director, The Seagull; Sarah Kane, Vice President, Michael
Chekhov Association, and Voice Consultant, The Seagull.
Discussant: Boris Lanine, Head of Literary Studies, Russian Academy of
Education, Moscow, and Regional Exchange Scholar, Kennan Institute.
Please note that this program will begin at 2:30 instead of the usual 3:30
start time for our seminars.


Poll shows most Russians oppose military action against Iraq

MOSCOW. Jan 31 (Interfax) - Over half of Russians oppose military action
against Iraq, as shown by a public opinion poll of 1,600 people conducted
by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center on January 24-28.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are "outraged and angered" by
the U.S. and Britain's plans to launch such an operation against Iraq, and
only 3% said they support it.
When asked what Russia should do if the U.S. launches a military action
in Iraq, 38% said Moscow should not take part in it, but remain an ally of
the U.S. in the anti-terror coalition.
Twenty-four percent of respondents believe Russia should condemn U.S.
actions and provide diplomatic assistance to Iraq.


Boston Globe
January 31, 2003
Harvard denies owing damages in Russia case
By Marcella Bombardieri, Globe Staff

Harvard University sharply denied yesterday that it owes damages to the
federal government because two of its employees made personal investments in
Russia, while they were working under a government contract, that allegedly
harmed relations between Washington and Moscow.

Harvard contends the civil suit against it is ''an attempt on the part of the
government to achieve a more than $100 million windfall.''

Federal prosecutors argued last December in US District Court that Harvard
should pay a fine of up to $102 million because two Harvard employees, Andrei
Shleifer and Jonathan Hay, used their influential positions as advisers to
the Russian government from 1994 to 1997 to make insider investments in
Russia's securities market and oil industry. The prosecutors said the
investments caused lasting damage to US-Russia relations and tainted at least
$350 million in US projects.

In a strongly-worded response filed yesterday, Harvard said that, although
prosecutors said Shleifer and Hay's dealings harmed US-Russia relations, the
US Agency for International Development has spent years touting the benefits
of the pair's work.

''Shleifer's and Hay's contributions to Russian reform have been described by
current and former United States and Russian officials with words like
''brilliant,'' ''ingenious,'' ''fantastic,'' and ''colossal,'' the university

Harvard lawyers asked US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to rule that the
government cannot prove actual damage and is therefore not entitled to

A lawyer for Harvard added that the project encompassed much more than the
work of the two men. Shleifer, an economics professor, led the project with
Hay, a legal specialist, as his deputy at the Harvard Institute for
International Development.

''The government's claim that the work on the project was valueless is an
insult to the scores of HID employees and consultants who gave their soul''
to rebuilding Russia, said attorney David J. Apfel, representing Harvard.

Prosecutors say Harvard should return the $34 million the government paid to
the university from July 1994 to May 1997. But under the False Claims Act,
Woodlock could levy triple damages -- a total of $102 million. The government
contends triple damages are warranted because Harvard ''refused'' to remove
Shleifer and Hay until after the government canceled the contract.


Putin vows to push through Chechen referendum despite violence, criticism
January 31, 2003

President Vladimir Putin slapped down criticism from Europe and even his
own top security advisers as he vowed to push through a controversial
referendum cementing separatist Chechnya's status as a Russian republic.

Putin told a meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) which he
headed shortly before becoming president that he felt it was "essential to
support this initiative, which is coming from the Chechen people themselves."

He added that ordinary Chechens were looking forward to the March 23 vote,
comments that clashed with an unexpectedly critical report delivered
Thursday by Russia's Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo.

Putin said only "terrorists" opposed a referendum which would confirm the
republic's status with the Russian Federation after nearly a decade of
off-and-on wars which claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides.

"We cannot say that terrorists are the same as ordinary Chechens," Putin
said in televised remarks.

Rushailo on Thursday broke with the Kremlin line to report before Russia's
Security Council that federal troops have so far been unable to overwhelm
the Chechen rebel resistance or win the confidence of ordinary civilians

His comments came as Europe's top rights representative on Chechnya, Frank
Judd, threatened to resign from his post in protest and end his routine
visits to the North Caucasus republic should the Chechen referendum vote go

Putin did not react to Judd's threat directly, although a top Kremlin aide
offered an acerbic welcome to the envoy's protest, with Sergei
Yastrzhembsky saying that "Judd's resignation (threat) is sign that the
political times in Chechnya have moved forward, whereas as he has not."

But Rushailo was far more skeptical about Russia's chances of pulling off a
safe and fair vote in Chechnya.

"Despite positive progress, we have to admit that the counter-terrorist
operation has not normalized the situation in Chechnya," said Rushailo.

"We have not been able to fully dismantle the system by which the (rebel)
formations are controlled" by separatist field commanders, Rushailo conceded.

"For now, the majority (of Chechnya) continues to distrust efforts by the
federal center to normalize the situation," he said.

Putin's comments Friday appeared to represent a formal response to
Rushailo's criticism although he did not refer specifically to the Security
Council report.

Restoring stability in Chechnya was a key theme to Putin's 2000 election
campaign, and although Russia has been embarrassed by a steady stream of
deadly rebel strikes against federal targets, Putin's popular support
remains steady at around 80 percent.

Putin has since handed control of the Chechen campaign to the FSB -- rather
than interior or defense ministry troops -- in a move aimed to show that
the military stage of the latest offensive was over and is now a
run-of-the-mill security operation.

But Putin conceded that the FSB had a big task making sure that the
referendum is not disrupted by rebels who call the vote illegitimate.

Preparations for the vote were "gaining pace," said Putin.

While Putin has gained a dominant role in Russian politics since his
election and few top officials disagree in public with his views,
Rushailo's warning was echoed Friday by the speaker of the Federation
Council upper house of parliament.


The Russia Journal
January 31-February 6, 2003
How to get out of a dead end
By Otto Latsis

Lord Judd recently completed a visit to Chechnya at the head of a Council
of Europe Parliamentary Assembly delegation sent to inspect the situation
there. He followed the visit with a somewhat contradictory statement to the
effect that he saw progress in peaceful regulation of the conflict, but
found no improvement in the human-rights situation.

The improvement he saw, it would seem, was that Grozny is no longer a ghost
town. Life has resumed and people are living there, even though this seems
like it should be impossible. But the main political result of the visit
came with Judds statement that the referendum on a new Chechen
constitution, scheduled for the spring, should be postponed. This was not
what the Russian authorities wanted to hear.

Judd tried to find Chechens who have seen the draft constitution with their
own eyes, but he didnt find any. The official Chechen authorities
responded with some irritation that the text was freely available to all,
but that they couldnt force people to study it if they didnt want to.
Realizing, perhaps, the futility of such discussions, Judd finally made the
most important point that the Chechens couldnt have a free say in the
referendum with 100,000 federal troops looking on.

The Kremlin has been successful in one thing: There are now hardly any
journalists working in Chechnya that arent controlled by the federal
authorities. This means there are no direct eyewitnesses to what the
federal forces are doing in Chechnya speaking out in the press, nor does
anyone hear from witnesses of what takes place during what the military
calls "special operations," and what local people call "cleansing."

Stories of murders and people disappearing during this procedure can be
heard in refugee camps, but in most cases it is hard to prove them. Some
facts, however, do manage to emerge and become known.

At a meeting between Chechen leaders and Russian journalists last August,
Malika Umazheva, the head of the administration of Alkhan-Kala, a town of
20,000 people, took the floor. Umazheva, a woman well known in Chechnya for
her fearless willingness to speak out about what the federal forces were
doing, told journalists about a cleansing operation in Alkhan-Kala during
which her younger brother was killed.

Umazhevas brother was known for certain not to have anything to do with
the separatist fighters in Chechnya. Umazheva named the Army division and
the prosecutors office representatives who commanded the operation and
refused to investigate the murder. Like hundreds of similar public calls,
Umazhevas appeal got no official reaction. But in December, four armed men
in masks and camouflage gear entered Umazhevas home and, ignoring her
familys protests, took her into the yard and shot her.

The militarys usual reaction in such cases is to blame terrorists who
dress in Russian uniforms in order to discredit the federal troops. Its
impossible to prove or disprove these statements, though its hard to
imagine why the separatists would have wanted to kill Umazheva.

With regard to the referendum, however, what is significant in this case is
that a Chechen official was killed, a woman known throughout Chechnya.
Assuming the murder really was committed by rebels and not by the "death
squads" that locals insist exist within the federal forces, this shows the
authorities cant guarantee peoples security and lives. How can a
referendum be held in such conditions? Perhaps Lord Judd is right to
suggest that it is too early.

The authorities are pursuing one very transparent aim with their idea of a
referendum and new presidential elections for Chechnya. They want an
argument against those who say they should negotiate with Aslan Maskhadov,
the man who was elected Chechen president with Moscows approval in 1997.

The Kremlin doesnt want to talk to Maskhadov, something that is only
confirmed by Moscows insistent campaign to have Akhmed Zakayev,
Maskhadovs representative at negotiations, extradited to Russia.

The Kremlins new plan is clear and could realistically be carried out. The
idea is to hold a managed referendum followed by a managed election that
would elect a new president with whom Moscow would then negotiate. The
problem is that the only real way to end any war is to make peace with your
adversary, and in the case of the guerilla war underway in Chechnya, the
adversary is the Chechen people, which will only accept negotiations and
deals with its own representative Maskhadov as legitimate. To ignore
this is to let the war continue.

There is a great danger the war will indeed keep going. By insisting on
holding the referendum and elections as soon as it can, Moscow might drive
itself further into the dead end created by several years of hasty actions.
Its not easy to get out of a dead end, but it is possible. The thing to
remember, however, is you dont get out by blundering forward, but by going
into reverse.


Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003
From: Michel Jouvin <jouvin@lal.in2p3.fr>
Subject: Book on Chechnya Announcement

Dear Sir,

I am pleased to send you an announcement of a forthcoming book on Chechnya
issues. the annoucnement is in English, the book is up to now only in
French but wa have hopes to have it translated in English. If you have any
idea about a publisher to be interested by a publication, please let us
know. Contacts at the publisher La Dcouverte are included in the

Sincerely yours
Anne Le Hurou
one of the authors


March 2003
To be released on March 13th
Ten keys to understanding
Price : 6,40 Number of pages : 128 Collection " Sur le vif "
CLIL : 2342-01 ISBN : 2-7071-3997-1 General : International Politics

The book:

Since 1994, Chechnya has been devastated by two wars of exceptional
violence: hundreds of thousands of victims; the country's capital, with a
population 400 000, has been razed to the ground; the country's entire
infrastructure destroyed. The remaining population lives under a regime of
military and police terror.

Was this the inevitable price to pay for aspirations for independence from
Russia by this little republic of the Northern Caucasus? Was this the
result of combating Islamic terrorism, which is the argument put forward
by the Russian authorities to the international community that has become
more likely than ever to accept the Russian point of view since September

The reasons and realities that lie behind this war in this area to which
foreign reporters and humanitarian organisations are allowed extremely rare
access are hard to grasp.

The importance of this book is that it is the first to provide a full
analysis of the conflict.

The members of the Chechnya Committee, based on their long experience in
research and humanitarian work with Russian and Chechen NGOs, provide
answers to the most frequently asked questions on the war in Chechnya such
1 What is the scope of the disaster?
2 What are the Chechens fighting for?
3 Are the Islamic fundamentalists responsible for this war?
4 Is this a war for oil?
5 What makes the war go on?
6 How does Moscow hide and manipulate information?
7 What is the impact of the war on the Russian society?
8 What is the impact of the war on the Chechen society?
9 Who is responsible for the violence against civilians ?
10 What can be done for Chechnya despite the indifference of the
international community?

The authors*:

Since September 1999, the Chechnya Committee has been active in informing
and mobilizing public opinion and decision makers against the war in
Chechnya. The Committee has been providing support to all those who are
against the war, in Chechnya, in Russia, and in France, as well as those
who have suffered from it.

* The authors' collective is composed of:
Joseph Dato - in charge of the North Caucasus region for the humanitarian
NGO Mdecins du monde
Juliane Falloux - In charge of Eastern Europe and the CIS for FIDH
(International Federation of Human Rights Leagues).
Anne Le Hurou - specialist in Russian issues at CADIS, EHESS-CNRS.
Bleuenn Isambard - specialist in Russia issues at INALCO, Paris University.
Alexandra Koulaeva, works for FIDH, member of the human rights NGO Memorial
in Saint-Ptersbourg.
Aude Merlin - specialist in Caucasus issues at Sciences Po, Paris
Amandine Regamey - specialist in Russian issues at Sciences Po, Paris
Guylaine Saffrais - journalist, specialist on Russia issues.
Mylne Sauloy - Broadcast journalist and producer of numerous film on
Chechnya at war.
Florent Schaeffer - works at the International solidarity NGO Cedetim in
Silvia Serrano -specialist in Caucasus issues at the Observatory of
Post-Soviet States, INALCO, Paris University.

Anne Le Hurou
15 rue du Bel Air
94230 Cachan


Russia Detains Man for Alleged Scam
January 31, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian police on Friday detained the architect of an alleged
pyramid scam from the early 1990s, reviving an all-but-forgotten page of
the country's rocky post-Soviet transition.

Police arrested Sergei Mavrodi, founder of the MMM investment fund, in an
apartment in Moscow, the Interior Ministry said. He is under investigation
for fraud, the ITAR-Tass news agency and Channel One television said.

Russian media reported Mavrodi had been on an international wanted list,
and his appearance in Moscow came as a surprise to many. Russia's Channel
One said he had been living in Greece.

Millions of Russians are believed to have fallen victim to Mavrodi's fund.
At the time of its collapse in 1994, analysts said it was classic pyramid
scheme in which no shareholder money was invested and initial customers
were paid returns from shares bought by new victims. Many investors lost
their life savings.

Mavrodi was jailed for four months in 1994 on charges of tax evasion and
obstructing an investigation, but was released so that he could run in
parliamentary elections. He won the seat, thus obtaining immunity from

In 1995, Mavrodi's fellow lawmakers voted to revoke his immunity, but he
managed to evade authorities, apparently fleeing to Greece. It was unclear
why he returned to Russia, where his face - which once graced MMM's shares
- was widely known.

In videotape aired on Russian TV stations, Mavrodi stood handcuffed,
looking around groggily as police fanned out through his apartment.

``We have already seized a passport with someone else's information and
Sergei Mavrodi's photograph glued on,'' Konstantin Krysanov, a federal
police official, told TVS television.

Earlier this month, Russian media reported that police had arrested
Mavrodi's brother, Vyacheslav, who served as MMM's vice president.


31 January 2003
Prestigious Plant Institute in Jeopardy
By Paul Webster
Paul Webster is a writer in Moscow.

A renowned plant sciences institute in St. Petersburg is facing eviction
because of the Russian government's desire to beef up its presence in the
former Imperial capital. The All-Russian Vavilov Institute of Plant
Industry, home to the world's oldest and second-largest plant gene bank,
has already beaten off one attempt by city authorities. But this time, its
opponent is none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin, a St.
Petersburg native.

This is not the first time that Vavilov researchers have found themselves
staring into the abyss. A decade ago, after the Soviet Union unraveled, the
institute received $5.5 million from Western institutions for repairs and
renovations to facilities housing its vaunted collection of 320,000 plant
germ-plasm accessions.

The latest threat originated last year, when officials in the office of St.
Petersburg vice governor Valeriy Nazarov, the federally appointed chair of
the City Property Administration Committee, hatched a plan to acquire one
of the Vavilov's buildings. The institute hit back with a civil suit,
arguing that the land grab was illegal because the building's owner is the
Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The Vavilov has occupied the
building in question since 1930, some 36 years after it was erected for the
Russian Ministry of Agriculture. Last month, the court found for the
institute; last week, Nazarov's office announced that it would appeal.

The appeal is backed by a federal decree, issued 17 December, that
transfers control of both of the institute's buildings from the
Agricultural Academy to the Putin administration. "The president wants to
move bureaucrats from Moscow into our building," says the institute's
director, Viktor Dragavtsev."If they take it, we will have nowhere to go."
He estimates that relocation into new facilities would cost $70 million,
including roughly $30 million for a new germ-plasm storage facility.
Nazarov declined to speak with Science.

Western experts hope that Russian officials will recognize the value of the
Vavilov's germ plasm before inflicting irreparable damage. "It's a very
important collection. Anything that threatens its ability to keep operating
matters deeply, not just to Russia but to the entire world," says Ruth
Raymond, coordinator of the Global Conservation Trust at the International
Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome, which is campaigning to raise
$250 million to preserve international crop-diversity collections such as
the Vavilov's. "The government must make provision for the collection," she
says; "otherwise it will be a tragedy."


Moviegoers agree: House elf from 'Harry Potter' looks like Putin
By Sarah Karush
January 31, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) -- What does the stern-faced commander in chief of a
million-strong army have in common with a self-effacing elf from a popular
children's film? Nothing -- except perhaps a longish nose, piercing eyes
and a certain indefinable similarity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be green and wrinkly like Dobby,
the house elf from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," but
moviegoers have been struck by a certain resemblance.

The British Broadcasting Corp. even set up a Putin/Dobby poll on its
children's Web site. Out of 9,188 people who cast votes as of Friday,
nearly 57 percent agreed that Putin does look like Dobby.

Russian media reported last week that a Moscow law firm was preparing to
sue the makers of the Potter movie for intentionally modeling the character
on Putin. However, no law firm has come forward to take credit for the idea.

Pavel Astakhov, a prominent Russian litigator, said the claim would be
almost impossible to prove, though he acknowledged the resemblance.

"The more you look at them, of course, the more they seem to look alike,"
he told NTV television this week.

Artist Nikas Safronov, known for his portraits of the Russian political
elite, took an NTV crew into his workshop to look for signs of Dobby in the
many Putin paintings.

"This one here you could compare to your Dobby character," Safronov said,
pointing to a portrait emphasizing Putin's full lips.

"He has pretty big lips, yes. But what can you do? They're normal men's
lips -- tough," he said. "The nose has something similar too."

For Putin's critics, the president's physical resemblance to an irritating,
self-hating gnome is a source of glee.

"The similarity becomes even greater when you observe poor Dobby's
upheavals. Destitute, cowardly, ingratiating, he betrays his masters and
beats himself for the sake of a sorcerer," the ultra-nationalist newspaper
Zavtra said in a caption under Dobby's photo.

The Kremlin has been silent on the Dobby issue. But Putin's entourage has
been sensitive in the past to jokes at the president's expense. In 2000, a
group of St. Petersburg professors demanded NTV pull a Putin puppet from
its satirical Kukly show. At the time, many believed the complaint was
initiated by Putin's image makers.


The Russia Journal
January 31-February 6, 2003
Uncovering Putin's anthropological roots
By Matt Taibbi

I remember being in the Moscow Times newsroom many years ago and spotting
an Itar-Tass photo of former President Richard Nixon, who at the time was
visiting Russia, in what was doubtless some last quixotic tribute to his
own eroding memories of the good old red-baiting days. For some reason,
Nixon on that trip decided to visit an abattoir. The photo showed Nixon
smiling in a row of soon-to-be-slaughtered pigs. The caption, in Russian,
read: "Nixon s leva" ("Nixon on the left").

That was a quality piece of journalism that went unnoticed in this country,
and its too bad. Fortunately, the newer era of Russian-American relations
now has its own scandal surrounding a presidential likeness: The
Putin-Dobby scandal.

This story has been puttering around the edges of the mainstream media of
late scoring hits in the Globe and Mail, the BBC and Radio Free Europe,
as well as Ekho Moskvy and Novaya Gazeta but is not likely to go any
further, unless one of the big American papers rescues its flagging momentum.

Basically, the issue here is that a certain elf in the loathsome Harry
Potter movie called Dobby has been rendered to look more or less exactly
like Vladimir Putin, except that Dobby is green and has huge bat-ears.
According to some news reports, the Russian government is considering legal
action against Warner Brothers, claiming they improperly used the likeness
of Vladimir Vladimirovich as the inspiration for the character.

I cant stand the Harry Potter series, but I made it a point to take a look
at Dobby, just to check this story out. Thats because the issue of Putins
face has personal significance to me. Ive actually spent nearly three
years trying to figure out just exactly what it is Putins face reminds me

I feel quite certain, in fact, that I have conducted the most elaborate
examination to date on the question of who or what Putin looks like. Those
who doubt me are free to look at my library records; Ive withdrawn dozens
of books in a frantic attempt to nail this question down.

There is no question that the Dobby discovery is an important advance in
the study of Putins facial identity, probably the most important since the
(ultimately misleading) discovery of a likeness to Prince Mikhail Tverskoi.

Whether Putin looks like an elf, whether he looks like the Western
understanding of the fictional creatures, or whether mankind simply wants
its cinematic elves to look like Vladimir Putin is a question that
scientists will ultimately have to resolve.

I, for one, am not hopeful that the Dobby incident will bear any real
scientific fruit. Ive long believed the key to Putins facial ancestry
lies elsewhere. For some time now, in fact, Ive been focusing on four or
five promising models.

Among contemporary figures, there are several who bear striking
resemblances to the Russian leader. The Jewish-American actor Norman Fell,
best known for his role as the creepy landlord Mr. Roper on the sitcom
"Threes Company," is strongly Putinish in the eyes and forehead, and in
his youth was, minus the mustache, almost a dead ringer for Putin. Famed
prosecutor and true-crime author Vincent Bugliosi, the man who put away
Charles Manson and wrote "Helter Skelter," once looked a lot like Putin
but only, oddly enough, for a brief part of his career, in between the
Manson case (which aged him considerably) and the release of his more
thoughtful second book, "And the Sea Will Tell." Last, but not least, a
colleague of mine at Cambridge University assures me that data is currently
being collected on the resemblance between Putin and Indian-diaspora
cricketer Nasser Hussain. The results of that research are currently being
peer-reviewed, but I feel certain that a strong correlation will be proven
there as well.

All three men shared the same distinguishing features with Putin: Thinning
hair, dark, crater-like eye sockets, a sloping face, a distantly gorilloid
nose, pursed lips and an occasionally vacant expression.

There is a suggestion in the appearance and joint professional profile of
the four men of a common human ancestor, a sort of
armed-landlord-prosecutor prototype, but further investigation along those
lines will likely prove to be an unusually ridiculous waste of time.

On the other hand, I think there are legitimate reasons to look for Putins
roots not in other human ancestors, but in the non-human hominids of
prehistory. Indeed, I feel it is possible that Putin himself represents the
evolution of an entirely separate, and not wholly human, species.

He may even be the sole living specimen. Perhaps only one lives at a time.
There is almost no doubt in the paleo-anthropological world today that
there was a period of Earths history in which there were enormous numbers
of creatures that looked like Putin. The fossil record shows sharply
Putin-like characteristics in all of the ape-like hominids that existed
during the evolutionary time frame between Zinjanthropus, a small-brained,
semi-erect ape that lived some 3.5 million years ago, and homo habilis, the
first homo species.

All of these animals had the low foreheads, deep eye-sockets, hunched
shoulders and awkward upright locomotion of the current Russian president.
The distinctive sloping jaw was the result of a dental structure that
favored back-tooth grinding, as opposed to the ripping and tearing motion
favored by modern humans, which have larger front teeth. The relatively
small cranial vaults of these species were designed to hold brains that
were anywhere from 450-800 cubic cm, or in the general range of the modern
gorilla brain or Republican presidential candidate. There are no reliable
estimates of the size of Putins brain.

I personally believe Putin is a descendant of a recently discovered animal
called Kenyanthro-pus Platyops, or "flat-faced man from Kenya." This animal
was an evolutionary anomaly, having a much flatter face than the
contemporary Australopithecus animals, as well as the small ear holes and
molars of later homo species. However, it was extremely primitive in other
ways, being much smaller and more unsure of itself upright than the
australopithecines, which proved to be an evolutionary dead end.

In short, Kenyanthropus did not hear very well and could not see far beyond
where he stood. It would have been powerful for its small size and would
have needed its wits to maneuver around larger hominids. This sounds a lot
like Putin.

There is something very basic and primordial about Putins face. Like a
horseshoe crab, he seems refined by millions of years of sculpting sea
tides, which washed away everything but the most necessary features of a
streamlined predator. Psychological literature is full of stories of people
haunted by nightmares and visions of missing links, many of which, I think,
looked like Putin. I dont think Putin is some new form of elf. I think he
has always been with us, and Im glad hes suing.


INTERVIEW-Russia eyes Iran nuclear deals despite U.S. fears
January 31, 2003
By Clara Ferreira-Marques

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's top nuclear exporter said Friday it would seek
new contracts with Iran, brushing aside U.S. fears that the reactors could
be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Washington has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" for allegedly
developing weapons of mass destruction and questions why the oil-rich
country needs nuclear power. It says Tehran will use Russian know-how to
develop a nuclear arms program.

But Viktor Kozlov, head of Atomstroyexport, said Washington's fears were
groundless and promised to bid for more Iranian deals.

"Iran has a (long-term) program which includes six reactors. We have only
concluded a contract for one bloc but we also have an agreement for further
cooperation," Kozlov told Reuters in an interview.

Islamic Iran is a bitter foe of the United States and U.S. officials have
said that Russia's nuclear dealings with Iran are the biggest single thorn
in increasingly warm relations between Washington and Moscow.

But Kozlov said the $800 million Bushehr light-water reactor in southwest
Iran, completed by Russian scientists and due to open next year, could
serve only civilian purposes.

"These are just assumptions by the man on the street, for whom a nuclear
plant is the same as a nuclear bomb," he said.

"This is purely political. They see Iran as an enemy which should not be
allowed even to develop economically. ... We will be training technicians,
not nuclear physicists."


But Russian analysts said Iran could turn spent fuel rods into a "dirty"
bomb to disperse radioactive material.

"Theoretically you could make a bomb out of these rods but for arms-grade
plutonium you need a different kind of reactor," defense analyst Pavel
Felgenhauer said. "However, radiological weapons, or 'dirty bombs,' can be
built from such rods."

Kozlov said used fuel from Bushehr would be returned to Russia for
reprocessing -- a gesture designed to appease the United States, which
fears fuel from the plant could eventually be refined locally into
weapons-grade plutonium.

"There is such a deal," he said, giving no further details.

Kozlov said that during 2002 some 50 monitoring teams from the U.N. nuclear
watchdog had visited Bushehr, a German plant begun in the 1970s but frozen
after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

"Russia is convinced that the plants it builds in neighboring countries are
used only for civilian purposes," he said. "You shouldn't think Russian
leaders are stupid."

The Russian nuclear sector, heavily subsidized during the Cold War, was
effectively crippled by the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion and the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Exports of nuclear technology and expertise are essential to keeping the
sector afloat. The Bushehr contract alone will involve some 20,000 people,
19,000 of them in Russia.

"We need to focus on markets where demand for energy is high, and that is
mainly developing countries at the moment, including Iran, India and
China," Kozlov said.

Iran is key, footing a large part of the Bushehr bill in cash. Russia's
other main clients, China and India, pay most of their bills in kind.


The Globe and Mail (Canada)
February 1, 2003
It's hopping down under for Diggers of Moscow
Odd group of underground fanatics delights in life below capital
By Mark MacKinnon

MOSCOW -- As the sewer-hole cover is lifted off and the vapours from the
Moscow waste system rise into the winter air, a crowd of onlookers wrinkle
their noses and take a step back. But Vadim Mikhailov is in his element.
While the others recoil, he peers down into the darkness and exhales like a
man who's finally arrived home after a long day at the office. He climbs
down, and starts to sing joyously as his hardhat disappears beneath the

Moments later, his girlfriend, Olyessa Gerasimova, smiles shyly at the
crowd around her and expertly slides her thin body down the sewer. At the
bottom the pair exchange a quick hug, then point their flashlight up so
that those following can see the rungs on the grime-covered ladder.

As the last member of the seven-person group slips underground, their
rubber-clad feet splashing in the snow runoff at the bottom, the hulking
Mr. Mikhailov smiles broadly.

"Welcome to another world," he greets the newcomers like a deranged tour

It's a dark, damp and malodorous world, but one Mr. Mikhailov and Ms.
Gerasimova happily inhabit. The two are at the head of an openly odd
organization known as the Moscow Diggers of the Underground Planet. While
you'd think a habit like crawling around the city's sewage system would be
fairly solitary, there are dozens of devoted Diggers in the city -- Mr.
Mikhailov says they number in the hundreds -- easily identifiable on the
surface by their electric-orange waterproof uniforms.

But none are as passionate about the world under the city as Mr. Mikhailov.
The 37-year-old son of a subway driver, he's been exploring the depths of
Moscow on an almost daily basis since he was 12. The medical-school dropout
says he sometimes spends three or four days underground without coming to
the surface at all. "Some people take heroin to get their fix," he said. "I
go underground. Asking me why I do this is like asking someone why they
play the violin. I just do."

The 19-year-old Ms. Gerasimova, shy and clearly in some awe of her
gregarious partner, has a similarly difficult time explaining why she's a
Digger. "Why not?" she shrugs. "It's interesting."

A lot of it is tied to a love of exploring. The sewer system is just one of
the many underground networks that snake under Moscow's roads. Further
down, Mr. Mikhailov says, there is everything from the metro lines to
underground bunkers set up decades ago to shield Politburo members in the
event of a nuclear war.

All in all, he says, Moscow's labyrinth of underground tunnels would
measure thousands of kilometres in length if stretched out on the surface.

Of course, the Diggers aren't the only ones crawling around the underground
system. Drawings on the wall of Mr. Mikhailov's living room -- he lives at
home with his mother -- show him battling giant rats.

"I've seen ones like this," Mr. Mikhailov grins, holding his fingers about
20 centimetres apart. "Thousands of them." He's reported seeing rats as
large as one metre in length, to the delight of the city's tabloids.

The first tunnels were built under Moscow hundreds of years ago, linking
the Kremlin with the city's churches and fortified monasteries to allow
soldiers to move between them in the event of an attack.

Mr. Mikhailov has photographs of a sarcophagus the Diggers found in those
tunnels, with writing on it dating from the Byzantine era.

There are more recent legends, too. At the deepest depths of the system --
about 60 metres -- Mr. Mikhailov says he once found a KGB bunker dominated
by a massive statue of a pipe-smoking Joseph Stalin. He says that bunker
was sealed off five years ago, soon after he first told reporters about its

With a group of underground neophytes in tow -- and with only a single
flashlight to illuminate the surrounding darkness -- Mr. Mikhailov heads
first into the city's electrical system, which opens upon what seems to be
an underground highway, littered with run-down Ladas and stripped military

Its use is unclear, but the layers of dust on the cars that sit 15 metres
beneath the surface suggest no one but the Diggers have been down here in a
long time.

Crawling over a crumbled opening in the wall, we enter next into what looks
like somebody's dishevelled basement. Through a door, the chamber expands
into a forgotten workshop, complete with rusted power tools and Soviet-era
textbooks beside a drill press. Adjoining it, there are bedrooms, and a
bathroom that still has running hot water.

The complex goes on and on. There's a kitchen, with a checkered
red-and-white cloth covering the table. The next room sits empty save for a
weight bench and a gas mask that hangs from a dust-covered light fixture.

Though he doesn't know exactly what the rooms were used for, Mr. Mikhailov
says he's seen many more areas like it in other parts of the underground.
Beyond giving tours to the curious -- the Diggers charge as much as $150
(U.S.) a trip, which they use to buy new equipment -- their passion has a
serious side.

Mr. Mikhailov has made headlines in Moscow in recent years by repeatedly
warning that some of the tunnels were dug so close to the surface that they
undermine the foundations of some buildings and roads on the top. Last
year, one of his predictions came true when an old building in Moscow's
centre began to slide underground.

The group has also gained something of an associate status with Moscow's
department of emergency services, most famously by helping out during last
fall's standoff at a downtown Moscow theatre where Chechen rebels held
about 800 people hostage for three days. While city maps showed there was
no way to get to the scene from below, Mr. Mikhailov told police he knew of
one, and led special forces underground the night they stormed the theatre
and ended the crisis.

"Vadim Mikhailov is really crazy about the underground, it seems he was
born there," said Yuri Vedeneyev, spokesman for Moscow's
emergency-situation board. "He can crawl where nobody else can or find some
unknown communications or similar; he really knows the Moscow underground
by heart."

Doing a civic duty gives Mr. Mikhailov an immense pride, so much so that he
often turns up at accident scenes he hears about on the radio, just to lend
a hand. But it's really just another excuse to go underground, where he
feels most comfortable.

Though he was recently acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records
as the person who has spent the most time beneath city surfaces, he says
there's more to see.

There are rumours of a secret military subway line somewhere under Moscow,
one that was used during the height of the Cold War to move nuclear
missiles around so as to protect them from U.S. attack.

Though he hasn't seen it, Mr. Mikhailov has seen enough conspiracy theories
proved true under Moscow to believe that all he has to do is keep digging.
"Only the uppermost layers of the underground system are accessible," he
said in his best Rod Serling voice. "Below that, we don't know."


Toronto Star
February 1, 2003
Stalingrad '03: The battle over a name
'Volgograd' insults veterans of epic WWII siege But others fear
'glorification' of hated dictator
Michael Mainville, SPECIAL TO THE STAR

This southern Russian city, renowned as the site of the greatest battle of
World War II, is now at the centre of another conflict - whether it should
revert to its former and much more familiar name: Stalingrad.

More than 2 million people died here between August 1942 and Feb. 2, 1943
in a battle that saw the Nazi war machine begin to fall apart.

Stalingrad remains a source of national pride for Russians, who managed to
overcome overwhelming odds and force the German forces laying siege to the
city to surrender. It was the first major defeat for Hitler's forces and is
considered a turning point in the war that killed 27 million Russians. Many
Russians, especially veterans of the battle, consider it a great insult the
city no longer bears the name Stalingrad. And as tomorrow's 60th
anniversary of the end of the siege nears, they have been fiercely lobbying
to have the name restored.

"The name should never have been changed. It is a historic deception," said
veteran Fyodor Slipchenko, 78, his chest covered in medals. "Let's say
Pearl Harbor - could you call it something else? It would be nothing less
than foolishness."

Vladimir Andropov, deputy head of Volgograd's regional assembly, said the
city should return to its "fame and glory."

"This is a duty we have to those who perished here and a duty to history."

Volgograd's regional assembly sent a request for the name change to
President Vladimir Putin and the country's lower house of parliament last

But Putin opposes restoring the name, saying "it would lead to suspicions
that Russia is going back to Stalinism."

Many of those who suffered under Stalin's regime agree.

"Changing the name would be a glorification of Stalin," said Alyona Zaks,
66, a member of Memorial, a Russian human-rights group devoted to
uncovering Stalin-era crimes. "My father died in Stalin's concentration
camp and it would be an insult to him, and to all the others who suffered
under Stalin."

But Putin has also said the final decision on restoring the name rests with
local officials and the country's lower house of parliament.

Volgograd, a city of about 1 million located 900 kilometres south of
Moscow, has already seen its name changed twice since the Bolshevik

Before 1925, the city was called Tsaritsyn. Some say the name was derived
from the Tatar name for a nearby stream, others that is was named after
Tsarina Catherine the Great. Not surprisingly then, the Bolsheviks renamed
the city after Stalin, who had helped secure victory here in a key battle
during the post-revolution civil war.

By 1942, Stalingrad housed a massive tractor factory and key parts of
Russia's industrial complex. Hitler decided capturing it was vital to
destroying Soviet military capabilities. His forces laid siege in late
August, 1942, expecting a quick victory.

Instead, soldiers on both sides faced unimaginable horrors. They fought
hand to hand in collapsing buildings and on streets, scavenged for stray
animals and raw grain to eat and suffered temperatures reaching minus 30C
with no heat or electricity.

The few buildings that managed to survive the siege are scored with bullet
holes. The names of the Soviet dead are scattered across the city - on
small plaques on the sides of buildings, on columns in public parks and in
a vast memorial complex just outside the city centre. It's impossible to
dig here without finding human bones, weapons or mangled metal shell casings.

"People today cannot imagine what it was like," said Anatoly Kosler, 80,
retired colonel who commanded an infantry platoon during the battle. "It
was a very cruel battle and a difficult time. ... But Stalingrad set an
example for all the people of the world. It was here that Hitler's spine
was crushed."

After Stalin's death in 1953, as details of his notorious purges were
allowed to surface, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev renamed the city in
1961 after its position on the Volga River.

Veterans say the city's residents opposed the move at the time, but could
do little about it.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many residents here began
to push for the name to be restored. Thousands of veterans signed petitions
endorsing the plan and cities and towns from across Russia sent letters of
support. Supporters insist that restoring the name is not about venerating

Michael Mainville is a Canadian journalist based in Russia


National Post (Canada)
February 1, 2003
Back to the U.S.S.R.
A Moscow eatery serves Stalin-era cuisine. Trendy stores peddle Soviet
chic. But what's driving this wave of nostalgia? In Russia, the past wasn't
exactly 'Happy Days'
By Paul Webster

At Morrisville, a restaurant down the street from Moscow's Electricfactory
metro station, the menu has some daunting offerings. There's the Capital
salad -- shredded cabbage beneath a pond of mayonnaise. There's borscht, of
course, served here with huge, grey meatballs. There's the Cutlet-- the
contents of which aren't specified on the menu, and remain unspecifiable
when it's delivered on a plate -- and then Icecream Surprise, which might
seem less ominous in a different context.

If it all sounds a little reminiscent of Soviet film noir, that's just what
it's supposed to be. Morrisville takes its name from a Czechoslovakian
horror film, and its mandate is to revive Communist-era food. The cooking
is based on Tasty, Healthy Food, the government-issue standard cookbook of
the Soviet Union -- not exactly The Joy of Cooking, but every bit as common
in Soviet communal kitchens as Irma Bombauer's cookbook was in North
American pantries for much of the 20th century. "We're tweaking the menu a
bit," explains Anatoly Shemuratov, Morrisville's manager, "but we still try
to stick to the original recipes."

The place has a simple, socialist allure: The red-and-white checkered
tablecloths and straight-back cafeteria chairs are "classic" Soviet retro,
says Shemuratov, who's in his thirties and remembers, quite vividly, the
waning days of Soviet culture. Shemuratov was a rock musician until
Morrisville opened last spring, and on the weekends, the restaurant becomes
a nightclub, featuring live music. The bands play Soviet-era folk rock with
cryptic political lyrics riffing off old Communist slogans -- stuff about
comrades in arms, with occasional references to trouble in the commissariat.

Morrisville seems to be on its own in the effort to revive Soviet cuisine,
but Communist nostalgia is sprouting up with gathering force around Moscow.
At least a handful of new restaurants, malls and stores aim to celebrate
retro-Soviet decor. Docked beneath the massive red stars that adorn the
towers of the Kremlin Palace is a disco barge named the Aurora (after the
Bolshevik battleship), where wealthy hipsters get aboard and dance as the
boat travels up and down the Moscow River through the night. There's also
the CCCP Caf, where the staff wear t-shirts sporting the hammer and
sickle. And, just behind Lubyanka -- the massive Soviet-Italianate
structure built as the KGB headquarters in the 1930s that dominates
Moscow's main traffic hub today -- is another Communist-inspired nightclub,
called Propaganda.

Pop culture journalist Arina Birstein, who writes the Club Kid column in a
local English-language newspaper, says an absolute flood of Soviet
nostalgia hangouts, offering "slightly improved service and toilet paper in
the bathrooms," is about to swamp the city.

In North America, where mass-marketed retro crazes come and go as
predictably as the seasons, nostalgia for headier days is hardly news. But
in Russia, the nostalgia industry is blossoming on treacherous terrain.
After all, here, the curses of the past offer scant cause for celebration.
This is a country where the Fifties don't represent the Happy Days. A
sizable portion of Russia's population still remembers Stalin's atrocities
firsthand. In the face of all this, a nostalgia for things Soviet might
almost seem a little perverse. But Russia's new respect for historical
material is growing just the same.

Though it may sound strange to say so, good aesthetic sense is a major part
of what's driving the Soviet chic phenomenon.

Throughout the Soviet period, the Russian elite's taste for the highbrow in
art, music and architecture was one of the great ironies of the workers'
state. Under Stalin, Lenin's "proletarian culture" was renamed "Soviet
culture" as part of what cultural historian Solomon Volkov describes as a
ruthless effort to force experimental artists back to classical traditions
more easily managed by bureaucrats.

On the flip side, Communist patronage for the classical arts did bequeath
an enormous amount of high art to the new Russia. In fact, the Communist
Party often relied on the arts for legitimacy. When Sergei Kirov,
Leningrad's senior Communist Party leader, was assassinated in 1934, Stalin
enshrined Kirov's name in the international high-art firmament by attaching
it to the city's Maryinsky Theatre, home to one of the world's great
classical ballet companies. Patronized by the state and protected by the
party, the Kirov survived the Soviet period and still ranks with the best
ballet companies in the world.

Communist Russia also remained a world centre for classical music and
opera. These days, by going Soviet, Russian as well as foreign aesthetes
are doubling back a century, straight into the sublime artistry of Pushkin,
Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky.

Moscow's booming property market is one arena where that movement is much
in evidence. Here, Soviet baroque has emerged as the pinnacle of taste. The
city's skyline, long dominated by seven ephemerally delicate wedding-cake
towers commissioned by Stalin in the late 1940s -- they were his answer to
New York -- is increasingly crowded with new towers, modelled, with more or
less abstraction, on Stalin's.

Apartments in the original Stalin buildings are among the hottest addresses
in town for Russians with new money from the booming oil economy. "These
Stalin-era buildings were constructed especially for the Soviet elite,"
explains Pavel Zdradovsky, a high-end real estate agent. "They all have
perfect views."

A big part of the rebirth of Soviet architecture derives from the failure
of contemporary Russian designers to improve on totalitarian tastes. So
far, judging by the the capital's glitzy casinos, the kitsch of its new
shopping palaces and the gilt-drenched interiors of expensively renovated
Moscow apartments, most efforts to pioneer a new Russian aesthetic seem to
have been inspired by late nights out in Las Vegas. Faced with a choice
between the aerosol Romanesque fantasies of Russia's contemporary designers
and the traditionally totalitarian granite, hardwood parquet, bevelled
glass, and plentiful brass favoured by Communist builders, sensible Soviet
seems the more tasteful choice.

Communist aesthetics were, in their more expensive forms at least, boldly
classical, and strikingly elegant. They were also intended to endure:
There's little doubt Stalin's towers -- and the many descendants of his
regime's elite who live in them still -- will be watching with quiet
satisfaction when the cheaper free-market imitations rising today have to
be pulled down 50 years from now.

- - -

Aesthetics aside, though, Communist chic in Russia also reflects a
fascination with even the most gruesome aspects of the period. How else to
explain the "totalitarian recreation" phenomenon?

The trend is best encapsulated by Stalin World. That's the unofficial name
of the Soviet Sculpture Garden at Grutas Park, a 500-acre theme park in
southern Lithuania that's modelled on a Siberian labour camp, complete with
electric fence, moat, dogs, guard towers and 78 statues of Soviet heroes,
some of which are up to 30 feet tall. The heaviest, weighing 47 tonnes,
depicts a group of Soviet guerrillas. There are also 12 Lenins, a Stalin
and an Engels.

The park's founder, Viliumas Malinauskas, claims to have spent more than
US$1-million developing Stalin World. Since its opening, in April, 2001
about 200,000 people, from 80 different countries, have visited the park,
which charges about US$1.25 in admission.

"It's been a great success," says Malinauskas, a man who made his name as a
wrestler, and a fortune exporting rare mushrooms. "There are a lot of spas
and resorts in this area, and coming here has become a popular holiday
thing to do."

He has a personal connection to the park's theme. His father, a Lithuanian
police chief, was deported to a Siberian gulag when the Soviets occupied
his country during the Second World War. Malinauskas believes it was the
impact of a decade living on wheat husks that killed his father two years
after he returned home. But Malinauskas isn't trying to forget. Instead,
he's created a memorial where people pay to absorb the sadness of the past.

"My father was in Stalin's gulags for ten years. This is not an ironic
park," he says. "It is a serious, anti-Soviet memorial -- it reflects the
bitterness towards Soviet occupation we feel here in Lithuania."

When building Stalin World, Malinauskas rounded up the 78 statues from
across Lithuania. The government, happy to be rid of the totems of a past
that saw 30,000 Lithuanians disappear into Soviet gulags, gave him most of
the bronze, copper and iron structures for free.

The popularity of Malinauskas's gulag theme park is not an isolated
phenomenon. Across Siberia, abandoned Soviet gulags are attracting
increasing attention. The emergence of the trend is seen by some as a kind
of reclamation of history. Certainly, the gulag-land owners position it
this way. "I built the park so that people don't forget that one in three
people here were affected by the Stalinist repression," says Malinauskas.
"We want the park to show our history, and to remember fifty years under
Soviet rule." But local governments are also discovering that gulag tourism
can pay. Several agencies now offer tours, and demand is steady.

Anne Gorsuch, a historian at the University of British Columbia who studies
Soviet youth culture, has observed the popularity of totalitarian
recreation during recent trips to Moscow, and done some thinking about what
it means. A group of her Russian friends had a Soviet costume party
recently. "I don't think nostalgia was at work here," she says. Instead,
she sees a "light irony and perhaps pleasure in being able to play, through
dress up, with such serious stuff. Being able to play with such symbols is
perhaps a way to cope with the enormity of what happened." It's also,
perhaps, a way for people to simply remember their childhoods, their own
personal pasts.

- - -

In the arts, "totalitarian retro" is proving to be a serious driving force.
For every kitschy project like the Best of Soviet Restaurant Music
1975-1976 CD for sale at Morrisville, there's a White Nights festival --
the musical event held every summer at the Maryinsky Theatre in St.

Last year, the festival featured a revival of Prokofiev's Soviet operas,
Semyon Kotko and The Story of a Real Man. Both pieces were composed after
Prokofiev returned from Europe to live in the Soviet Union in the late
1930s, and were written to fit socialist-realist doctrine. According to
Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison, the Maryinsky's decision to revive
the pieces from "the graveyard of musical agitprop" constituted a "powerful
cultural reckoning."

Or take the work of fashion designers Tamara and Natasha Surguladze, twin
sisters from Georgia, the former Soviet republic where Stalin was born. The
twins were last year's New Generation Award winners at the London Fashion
Week shows. According to a recent Vogue Daily Catwalk Report, they drew
from the Soviet Union's past for their Tata Naka collection. The clothes
were baggy and loose, and decorated with hammer-and-sickle motifs and
prints taken from 1920s Soviet Symbolist art. Natasha says the idea is to
evoke "the grungier aspects of the Soviet Union with the breaking down of

The collection mostly won raves, although one British critic, writing in
The Spectator, complained that using totalitarian motifs may not seem so
stylish to families of the tens of millions of people killed in the many
Soviet ideological purges, famines, and gulags. Of course, the Surguladzes
would argue that subverting this meaning is exactly the point.

In literature, things are equally interesting. Public interest in writing
about the Soviet period -- however arcane -- is growing. Last summer,
Moscow-based novelist Vladimir Sorokin managed to get himself investigated
by the police for a passage in his latest book, Blue Lard, depicting Lenin
and Stalin having sex. Sales of his book took off in a hurry after that. In
a more serious realm, poet Timur Kibirov has emerged as a major figure in
Russian letters on the basis of his exploration of Soviet life.

Stanford University Slavicist Gregory Freidin says Kiborov's 1994
collection Sentimenty "may be used as the basis for a reconstruction of
that world, as its clamour continues to resonate in the hearts of its
former citizens." Freidin argues that the phenomenon of Soviet nostalgia as
a whole, is part of a gigantic Freudian "working through" by Russians
anxious to come to terms with and assimilate the break with their Soviet

- - -

There may be an even simpler explanation, as a recent poll of Russian youth
by Moscow State University economist Alexander Buzgalin found -- and it's
particularly true for the huge numbers of young Muscovites who can barely
afford to eat, let alone go to kitschy restaurants and nightclubs.
Buzgalin's research notes that Moscow's disaffected youth are
"disillusioned with Western bourgeois values," and that has led to "an
idealization of the Soviet past." This is a country where a decade of
free-market competition and consequent inequality of income has pushed 40%
of the population into a kind of poverty which makes the poor of the West
seem affluent.

In fact, Buzgalin thinks that, "compared with many of today's hardships,
many of the Soviet Union's problems seem trivial to young people." For kids
forced out of school to support unemployed parents and grandparents in
flats that house up to four families, Buzgalin says, "the Soviet Union's
triumphs and achievements look more than impressive."

Some Soviet loyalists are capitalizing on the nostalgia trend. Moscow's
mayor, a hard-headed former Communist boss named Yury Luzhkov, wants to
start re-erecting the Soviet past in a highly tangible form. He recently
proposed to return a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet
police, and one of the figures most reviled by Soviet dissidents, to the
pedestal in front of Lubyanka from which it was removed when Communism
collapsed. In St. Petersburg, meanwhile, the discovery of a Stalin-era mass
grave containing the remains of as many as 30,000 murdered victims has
confronted Russian President Putin with a highly unwelcome reminder of the
past. Tellingly, the Russian government has not launched an official
investigation, and no Russian leader has commented on the discovery.

A Canadian reporter named Fred Weir, who recently visited the mass grave
site, says the road has been cut off to keep visitors at bay. Weir, who
came to Russia as correspondent for a Canadian Communist newspaper in the
late 1980s and stayed to watch the Soviet denouement while raising a family
with his Russian wife, says the discovery is another black eye for the
Soviet past. He says official efforts to downplay it, while the government
pushes to revive public pride in the past, shows the struggle for Russia's
post-Communist soul is far from over.

Judging from the food at Morrisville, it seems the struggle for Russia's
stomach isn't over yet either. There may be culinary revolutions still to
come. But perhaps what happens in the kitchen is beside the point.
Shouldn't real Soviet Chic march on an empty stomach?