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JRL #7136 Simple Text - Entire Issue

1. Regional parliaments
2. Feedback: Russian public opinion and human rights
3. Federal Districts and economic regions
4. The former state banks
5. Bias in the 2002 population census
6. Threats to ethnic and religious minorities
7. St. Petersburg cafés
8. Central Asia realigns
9. Origins of the war in Iraq
10. Book review William Taubman. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
Obituary: David Azarian
Call for papers
Note of correction



SOURCE. A. S. Avtonomov, A. A. Zakharov, and Ye. M. Orlova, Regional'nye parlamenty v sovremennoi Rossii. Nauchnye doklady No. 118 [Regional Parliaments in Contemporary Russia. Scientific Reports No. 118] (Moscow: Moskovskii obshchestvennyi nauchnyi fond, 2000)

In this monograph three political scientists consider Russia's experience of parliamentarism since 1990 through the prism of regional parliaments -- i.e., the legislative assemblies of the 89 subjects of the federation (SFs). (1)

They identify three stages in the development of Russian parliamentarism:

Stage 1: from the first competitive elections of people's deputies in the RSFSR in March 1990 up to August 1991. In this period revived Soviets were reclaiming power from the party apparatus under the slogan of 1917: "All power to the Soviets!"

Stage 2: from August 1991 to September 1993. In this period there was a hierarchy of Soviets headed by the Supreme Soviet. This structure came increasingly into conflict with the new institution of the presidency.

Stage 3: Yeltsin's constitutional reform of September to December 1993 did away with the Soviets and replaced them by new parliaments with more limited powers. In the regions these parliaments, elected in 1993-94, were variously called councils, Dumas, assemblies, etc.

The authors argue that it is unjust to regard the Soviets of 1991-93 as mere relics of the communist era. They were autonomous and pluralistic. However, they did have many defects that made them inefficient and unable to deal with serious problems: they were too big, most deputies were unpaid, they lacked stable norms, their internal organization was insufficiently differentiated, and the demarcation of functions between the executive and the legislative branch was unclear. (2)

By the late 1990s, the new parliaments had become institutionalized. They had well-demarcated functions and stable rules of procedure, and had acquired an institutional memory. Despite a rather unfavorable context of executive dominance, they had won a large degree of autonomy.

Indeed, regional parliaments were in general in a stronger position vis-à-vis the executive branch at their level than the Federal Assembly was at the center. In some regions they were in a much stronger position. For example:

-- Unlike the Federal Assembly, regional parliaments adopted constitutions (of republics) or charters (of provinces) and had the right to interpret these documents (a function fulfilled by the Constitutional Court at the federal level).

-- Many regional parliaments took decisions on the holding of referenda.

-- Some regional parliaments gave or withheld consent to the appointment or dismissal of the head of the regional government. If the head of the regional administration resigned before his term was complete, the regional parliament might appoint his successor.

-- In some cases, the regional parliament could void an act of the regional executive on the grounds that it contravened regional law.

-- Some regional parliaments defined the basic directions of policy.

In 1999 a federal law was finally adopted that defined a standard division of powers between the executive and the legislative branches at the regional level. (3) This law codified many of the de facto powers of regional parliaments, which were empowered:

* to adopt a regional constitution or charter

* to adopt regional laws, including the regional budget and programs of socio-economic development, and to check their fulfillment

* to levy regional taxes

* to control extra-budgetary and foreign-currency funds and property belonging to the region

* to determine the structure of the regional administration

* to determine the administrative-territorial divisions of the region

* to give or withhold consent to changing the borders of the region

* to determine procedures for the holding of regional elections and referenda

* to ratify the making and abrogation of treaties by the region

* to give or withhold consent to the appointment or dismissal of certain regional officials

* to vote motions of no confidence in the regional government

Thus parliamentarism is stronger in the provinces than it is in Moscow -- if often not in practice, then at least in principle and potentially. The legacy of 1990-93 was not fully uprooted after all.

The authors discuss in some detail the election, inner structure, and mode of operation of the regional parliaments. All these differ widely from one region to another. For example:

-- 67 SFs elected parliaments in 1995-97 by a purely majoritarian (first past the post) system. Others combined PR with majoritarian voting and/or single-mandate with multi-mandate electoral districts.

-- 3 SFs have all paid professional deputies (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Koryak AD). A few others have a substantial proportion of paid deputies (Voronezh province 40 percent, Tatarstan 30 percent). But many have only one or two paid deputies (the chairman and perhaps a deputy chairman). Unpaid deputies are often enterprise managers (up to half or more) or state and municipal officials (about a third).

-- Most regional parliaments are unicameral, but several are bicameral (e.g., Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Sakha-Yakutia, Sverdlovsk province). Ethnic republics value bicameral parliaments as symbols of "statehood."

-- The chairman is always a key political figure, but in addition some regional parliaments have collegial leading bodies of varied composition (e.g., a presidium in Tatarstan, a council in Voronezh and Tver provinces).

-- All regional parliaments have committees and commissions, which may be permanent or temporary. Some have as few as 3 (e.g., on legislation, economic policy, social policy), while others have up to 22 (Sakha-Yakutia).

-- Some regional parliaments have auxiliary bodies that perform special functions. For instance: the Khanty-Mansi AD Duma has a 4-member Assembly of Representatives of Native Small Peoples of the North to settle land use issues; the Khabarovsk territory Duma elects a 4-member group to ensure that rules of procedure are observed.

A few regional parliaments (e.g., Bashkortostan, Sakha-Yakutia, Sverdlovsk province, Tver province) do not recognize deputy groupings, but most make provision for them in the form of fractions of deputies aligned with political parties, electoral blocs or social movements or (in some regions) belonging to various professions.

However, even in many regional parliaments that recognize deputy groupings in principle they do not operate in practice because political parties are so weakly represented. Thus out of 3,481 deputies elected in SFs in January 1998, only 635 (18 percent) had been nominated by political parties. (4) The authors regard the weakness of political parties in regional parliaments as a highly negative phenomenon: it impedes coordination of action among deputies, disorganizes the legislative process, and makes the "independent" deputies very vulnerable to the pressures of lobbyists.


(1) Alexei Avtonomov heads the sector of comparative law at the Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the juridical department of the Foundation for the Development of Parliamentarism in Russia (FDPR). Andrei Zakharov is vice-president of the FDPR. All the authors are specialists in parliamentarism and/or federal relations.

SFs are of four kinds: provinces (oblasti), territories (krai), republics, and autonomous districts (ADs). The republics and ADs are named after titular ethnic groups. I use "SF" and "region" interchangeably.

(2) But I would point out that these defects can be attributed, at least in part, to the Leninist tradition -- in particular, to its hostility to the division of powers.

(3) The law's title is: "On the general principles of organization of the legislative (representative) and executive bodies of state power of subjects of the RF."

(4) 279 by the CPRF, 28 by the APR, 22 by Yabloko, 18 by NDR, and 15 by the LDPR. There were other deputies who belonged to a political party but had not been nominated by it and were therefore de facto independents.




In RAS No. 17 I summarized a study of Russian public opinion on human rights by Theodore Gerber and Sarah Mendelson, who contest the optimistic conclusions of other researchers, notably Timothy Colton and Michael McFaul. I remarked that the authors have a more sophisticated approach to statistical method than most researchers. This led to an exchange of opinion with Professor McFaul that may be of interest to readers. (1)

MM: I thought your characterization of our piece was a little unfair. We did ask questions of tradeoffs between democracy and order, and reported them in Table 14 (p. 21). Yes, we asked the abstract questions about "importance" but then also asked very specific questions about the practice of democracy, which was our focus (not human rights). And I hope the second footnote was not in reference to our -- or I should say Tim [Colton]'s -- work. Surely, the multinomial logit regressions that we/he has deployed in other work goes well beyond the "cookbook" fashion you criticize. Since ours was the ONLY other study mentioned in your review, you do imply that we are the culprits in mind. I hope this was a misreading of your piece.

SDS: Yes, I didn't intend that implication, but I see how the misunderstanding could easily arise. The contrast in my mind was between Gerber and Mendelson's work and my general impression of sociologists' output, not any specific work of other researchers.

[Further remarks not in the original exchange.] In referring to the "cookbook" approach I had in mind not the absence of complex mathematical techniques -- the "cookbook" can be a small or a large one -- but rather a mechanical and indiscriminate approach to using them and drawing conclusions from the results. For example, many researchers assume that in determining that a difference between groups is highly significant statistically they have discovered something of correspondingly great substantive importance. Gerber and Mendelson make a sharp distinction between a statistically significant difference (one that is unlikely to have arisen by chance) and a substantively significant difference (one that matters); they know that one does not imply the other.

MM: Of course, using "human rights abuses in Chechnya" as the test case for how Russian thinks about human rights more generally is suspicious. I would hate to see how Americans would respond to surveys asking about the necessity of protecting the rights of Al Qaeda members. In saying that Russian support for human rights is not very strong (and on this agree with them), one always wonders compared to what?

I also think that your conclusion that Russians do not care about freedom of the press is the explanation for why they are misinformed on Chechnya is wrong. As I'm sure you know, 51% of Americans thinks that Saddam was personally involved in 9-11. Every expert I know, including those in USG, believe this to be false. Surely, though, one would not conclude from this finding that the cause of American ignorance is their lack of care for freedom of the press?

SDS: I agree to some extent. I too feel the need for international comparisons. When one makes them Russians usually end up looking not so much worse -- or not worse at all -- than Americans. However, it also seems fair to me to test whether people are prepared to apply their declaratory support for human rights to difficult real-life situations, and to ask what practical significance that support has if they are not prepared so to do. Being for human rights in the abstract has become a bit like being for motherhood and apple pie. Of course, that also leads us to be more skeptical about Americans' commitment to human rights.

MM: I disagree that Chechnya serves this litmus test. First, it is not a "real life" situation of any of those being polled. It is a situation in a "foreign" land (and other surveys have shown that most Russians consider Chechnya a foreign place). Second, when asked abstractly are you for "human rights" then yes, I would agree that it is like apple pie and mom. But when asked more specifically, there are all kinds of things I would consider "human rights" that I know the vast majority of Americans do not. Measuring people's embrace of different rights, therefore, in and of itself and without reference to what they would do to defense those human rights -- is important. Finally, making active defense of human rights the measure of beliefs in human rights conflates two different political phenomena. My own reading of survey data in Russia (and many other countries) is that there is string support for democratic values, but not much of a willingness to fight for them.

SDS: Yes, I see the distinction between active and passive defense of human rights, but what Gerber and Mendelson were doing was correlating general views on human rights with specific views on pertinent policies -- and not with action. I still think it is fair to test people's willingness to support the rights of unpopular minorities, e.g. to ask Americans about freedom of speech for communists (or nowadays perhaps Islamic fundamentalists) or to ask Russians about freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture for Chechens, who after all are still citizens of the RF and not of any foreign state.

MM: I agree, but the inference one might take from these answers is that Russians have a much lower respect for these rights than we do in the West. While I think the gap exists, it's probably not as big as readers might think.


(1) The Gerber-Mendelson article appeared in the October-December issue of Post-Soviet Affairs, the Colton-McFaul article in the April-June 2002 issue. Michael McFaul's e-mail address is <mcfaul@hoover.stanford.edu>




SOURCE. A. P. Obedkov, Geografiia khoziaistva Rossii: otraslevaia i territorial'naia struktura [Geography of the Russian Economy: Branch and Territorial Structure] (Syktyvkar, 2002), pp. 82-89

Putin's division of Russia into Federal Districts (FDs) is often criticized on the grounds that the boundaries between the FDs were drawn to coincide with planned military districts and make little sense in terms of economic geography. (1) The discrepancy can be assessed by comparing the composition of the 7 FDs with a set of 20 economic regions (ERs) proposed by a Russian economic geographer in a recent textbook.

The 89 subjects of the federation (SFs) -- republics, territories, provinces, and autonomous provinces -- are divided rather unevenly among the FDs:

Central FD = 18 SFs

Siberian FD = 16 SFs

Volga FD = 15 SFs

Southern FD = 13 SFs

Northwestern FD = 11 SFs

Far Eastern FD = 10 SFs

Urals FD = 6 SFs

The size of the FDs, especially the larger ones, makes their economic heterogeneity inevitable. By increasing the number of regions to 20, Professor Obedkov obtains units with a more clearly marked character in respect of climate, landscape, culture, and economy. Thus:

* The region around St. Petersburg (the Northwestern ER) is distinguished from the far north of European Russia (the Karelo-Murmansk and Dvina-Pechora ERs); the Northwestern FD includes both.

* The non-black earth zone around Moscow (the Moscow ER) is distinguished from the black earth zone to the southwest (the Black Earth ER); the Central FD includes both.

* The Northern Caucasus proper (the North Caucasian ER) is distinguished from the steppe lands around the Sea of Azov (the Azov-Black Sea ER); the Southern FD includes both.

* The territory of the Siberian FD is divided into four ERs: the Ob-Irtysh ER (western Siberia), the Kuznetsk-Altai ER (south-central Siberia), the Angara-Yenisei ER (north-central Siberia), and the Transbaikal ER (southeastern Siberia).

* The territory of the Far Eastern FD is divided into three ERs: the Yakut ER (corresponding to the giant Republic of Sakha-Yakutia), the Northeastern ER (the far northeast), and the Far Eastern ER (the southern part of the Far East).

However, the author does not simply disaggregate the FDs. Three of his regions straddle the boundaries of FDs:

-- The Lower Volga ER combines Saratov province (in the Volga FD) with Volgograd and Astrakhan provinces and the Republic of Kalmykia (in the southern FD). (2)

-- The East Urals ER combines Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, and Chelyabinsk provinces (in the Urals FD) with Orenburg province (in the Volga FD).

-- The Ob-Irtysh ER combines Tyumen province (in the Urals FD) with Omsk and Tomsk provinces (in the Siberian FD). (3)

It is striking that 7 of the 20 ERs are defined in relation to rivers. Four ERs follow the Volga alone (the Upper Volga ER, the Volga-Vyatka ER, the Middle Volga ER, and the Lower Volga ER). The other 3 riverine ERs refer to rivers that empty into the Arctic Ocean -- from west to east, the Dvina-Pechora ER, the Ob-Irtysh ER, and the Angara-Yenisei ER.

By contrast, the only FD named after a river, the Volga FD, does not correspond at all closely to the Volga river basin. It excludes the Upper Volga (placed in the Central FD) as well as the river's lowermost section (placed in the Southern FD), while it includes SFs well to the east of the Middle Volga (e.g., the Republic of Bashkortostan) that Obedkov groups together as the West Urals ER.


(1) See No. 10 item 4. For general background on the FDs see RAS No. 8 item 2.

(2) Kalmykia is often considered part of the Northern Caucasus.

(3) As Tyumen is well to the east of the Urals and generally regarded as part of Western Siberia, the real question is why it was included in the Urals FD rather than the Siberian FD. Presumably this was an arbitrary reallocation to reduce the disparity in size between the Siberian and Urals FDs.




SOURCE. Koen Schoors, "The Fate of Russia's Former State Banks: Chronicle of a Restructuring Postponed and a Crisis Foretold," Europe-Asia Studies [http://www.carfax.co.uk/eas-ad.htm], Vol. 55, No. 1 (January 2003), pp. 75-100

The USSR had five specialized state banks (spetsbanki):

-- Agroprombank (to serve agriculture and related industry)

-- Promstroibank (to serve industry and related construction)

-- Zhilsotsbank (to serve residential construction)

-- Vneshekonombank (to serve foreign trade)

-- Sberbank (citizens' saving bank)

Professor Schoors (Centre for Russian International Socio-political and Economic Studies, Ghent University, Belgium) examines what happened to these banks in the post-Soviet transition.

Toward the end of the 1980s, the spetsbanki fell under the control of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), which encouraged the regional branches of Agroprombank, Promstroibank, and Zhilsotsbank to become independent commercial banks. Nevertheless, privatization was a spontaneous uncontrolled process. Vneshekonombank (renamed Vneshtorgbank) and Sberbank remained de facto state banks with the CBR as majority shareholder. (1)

Apart from regional fragmentation followed by merger of various fragments, privatization was not accompanied by any restructuring. The descendants of the spetsbanki increasingly got into financial trouble; many went bankrupt, especially in 1995-97. In 1994, 5 of the 10 biggest banks were still spetsbank descendants. Of these the only ones that still exist are Vneshtorgbank and Sberbank.

The author compares the position of spetsbank descendants with that of other banks at the beginning of 1995, when many spetsbank descendants were still operating. From the register of banks he first weeded out the many fictional "banks" and then selected samples of those remaining. (2)

The main results of the comparison were as follows:

* Spetsbank descendants remained overstaffed.

* Spetsbank descendants had a higher ratio of bad loans to assets than other banks. The old bad loans were wiped out by the hyperinflation of 1992-93, but were replaced by new ones. The spetsbank descendants inherited old state enterprises as customers from the spetsbanki, and could not refuse these enterprises new loans because they were often co-owners as well as customers.

* Spetsbank descendants charged higher interest rates on loans than did other banks, even after controlling for cost factors. The higher interest rates compensated for the lower probability of repayment.

* Spetsbank descendants had inadequate capitalization, but were only slightly worse off in that respect than other banks of comparable size and age.

In conclusion, Professor Schoors discusses the prospects for the development of a more competitive banking sector. Up to now Sberbank has been the only bank whose deposits are protected by state guarantee, but a new law should introduce a broader system of deposit insurance by July 2003. Vneshtorgbank is scheduled for privatization, apparently with a view to easing Russia's entry into the WTO.


(1) However, some regional branches of Vneshekonombank did break away.

(2) Out of over 2,500 entities registered as banks at the end of 1994, only about 1,000 really operated as banks. Detailed information was collected on 126 banks and less detailed information on 230 banks.




SOURCE. Valery Stepanov, Etnicheskaia identichnost' i uchet naseleniia: kak gosudarstvo provodilo Vserossiiskuiu perepis' 2002 goda [Ethnic Identity and the Counting of the Population: How the State Conducted the 2002 Russian Census]. Paper presented to conference "The 2002 Russian Census as a Catalyst for Change" at Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University (Providence, RI) on April 7, 2003

The author, a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEA), studied how the Russian census of October 2002 was conducted in Moscow and other cities. (1) In this paper he 77surveys problems that arose in counting the population and assesses the likely biases in the census data. (2) Although the usual concern is that the census undercounted the population, he argues that the net bias was probably upward.

The census was supposed to be conducted during the week of October 9-16, 2002, with all information collected referring to the moment of midnight on the night of October 8 and 9. However:

* Many inadequately trained enumerators were confused by this distinction and included anyone who was present at a given residence at any time during the week of the census. (3) This led to overcounting, because it meant counting both babies who were born during the week and people who died during the week as well as double counting of those who changed place of residence during the week.

* In many places, including Moscow, local authorities and local branches of the statistical agency (Goskomstat), wishing to spread the work burden over a longer period and anxious to complete the census on time, on their own initiative started conducting the census early. (4) Stepanov mentions that he himself was counted on October 4, five days before the official starting date. This practice too led to net overcounting, because those who should have been counted but were not (who were born in the interval between counting and the official start) were outnumbered by those who should not have been counted but were (who died or migrated during the interval).

The author thinks that the error in the total population estimate arising from these causes cannot exceed 0.1 percent and is probably less than this, but that data for specific regions and categories (age, ethnic, educational) will be subject to more significant biases. (5)

What of undercounting resulting from people refusing to be counted -- the "problem of closed doors"? To minimize refusals people were assured that their answers would be treated as confidential and that they would not be required to show the enumerator any documents. People were also assured that they did not have to let the enumerator into their home: if they wished, they could visit a special "census point" or provide information by telephone instead.

The trial census in 2000 showed that despite all these assurances 10 percent of people still refused to answer the census questions. Pro-census propaganda appealing to people's self-interest (6) may have brought down this figure, although certain slogans were perhaps counterproductive -- e.g.: "Write yourself into the history of Russia!"

Depending on area, 10-50 percent of people preferred to visit a census point or participate by telephone rather than let the enumerator past their threshold. Enumerators found it particularly difficult to gain access to the residences of the wealthy [as in other countries -- SDS].

Stepanov suspects that the census points did more harm than good. Many were set up in poorly lighted semi-basements, with telephones constantly ringing and visitors arguing with and even threatening the enumerators. (7) The author is convinced that the quality of data recorded at census points was poorer than that of data obtained in people's homes. Moreover, people living near a census point used that as an excuse not to answer the questions at home, promising to come by when they had time and then not doing so.

Most chaotic of all were the makeshift census points that were hurriedly set up toward the end of the census week in public places (e.g., in a sports hall or at the entrance to a polyclinic) to expedite completion of the census. Here, the author remarks, any passerby could get enumerated -- as many times as she or he liked! (8)

Nevertheless, the author believes that close to 100 percent of the population was eventually counted thanks to post-census checks (which in Moscow picked up 15-20 percent of all participants). (9) It is the quality of the data that most concerns him. But what about the homeless -- people living in underpasses, under bridges, in railroad stations, and so on? Unfortunately he does not discuss the extent of their coverage by the census.

One big data quality problem concerns the division of the population into permanent and temporary residents. A separate census form was provided for people "temporarily on the territory of Russia and permanently resident abroad" ("temporarily" meaning up to a year). Temporary residents comprise "real foreigners" from the "far abroad" (outside the former USSR) and -- the great majority -- people visiting Russia from the "near abroad" (other post-Soviet states).

Coverage of real foreigners was very partial. Even in Moscow, where they are concentrated, few census forms for them were submitted. Many refused to take part in a Russian census; there was a language barrier; and enumerators had difficulty in gaining access to their homes.

More seriously, temporary residents from the near abroad had strong motives to avoid taking part in the census or to claim to be permanent residents. (10) They were afraid of the police (see item 6 below) and of losing their accommodation in Moscow. Few were inclined to trust the enumerator's assurances. To illustrate the magnitude of the resulting bias, Stepanov mentions that in his own district of Moscow a mere 0.18 percent of residents were classified as temporary, although the district is near one of the big Moscow markets not far from the center. The true proportion of temporary residents in the area, he argues, is more like 5 percent.


(1) In Moscow he observed the census as a supervisor. The research was conducted as part of the international project "Identity and Language in the 2002 Russian Population Census" of the IEA and Brown University, with the financial support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. French researchers also took part in the project.

(2) Part of the paper is devoted to another aspect of data bias in the census -- ethnic categorization. I do not summarize this part as the issue was discussed in RAS No. 6 item 10.

(3) In some cases it was a matter not of confusion but rather of tiredness or embarrassment. One female student enumerator told the author: "Well, do what you like, but I'm not going to ask men where they were on the night of October 8 and 9 any more!"

(4) If these local authorities had not yet received the official census forms, they devised their own -- with different questions! This situation should be distinguished from the Far North, where for practical reasons an early start was planned in advance by Goskomstat.

(5) He mentions another non-standard practice: if counting could still not be completed by the end of the census week, as in Moscow, the period was extended by a further five days. But the bias this may have caused is not assessed.

(6) An example was a cartoon story about a student who drinks beer when he should be taking part in the census and later discovers that student grants have been cut because students were undercounted.

(7) Some people tried to make their participation in the census conditional on repairs being carried out in their apartment buildings.

(8) Let me suggest what biases this caused. Who would want to get enumerated repeatedly? Lonely people with plenty of time on their hands who valued the social contact -- disproportionately the unmarried, the unemployed, and the elderly.

(9) This at least makes for more complete coverage than in the US census, where work in a district just stops when the money allocated runs out (judging from what I hear from acquaintances who worked as enumerators or supervisors in the recent US census).

(10) Temporary residents living in the same apartment as permanent residents (e.g., relatives visiting from the near abroad) were most likely to be identified correctly.




SOURCE. Nikolai Butkevich, "Minorities at Risk in Russia," The ISG [Institute for the Study of Genocide] Newsletter, No. 30, Spring 2003, pp. 17-21

The author, who is Research and Advocacy Director for the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, considers the risks currently faced by the Jewish community, dark-skinned minorities, and minority religious groups. As antisemitism has already been dealt with recently in the RAS (No. 15 item 7), I summarize only the last two sections of the article.

White racism in Russia "keeps getting worse and worse." The main victims are Chechens and others from the Caucasus and dark-skinned foreign students. [But also Uzbek and other migrants from Central Asia -- SDS] Skinhead attacks continue almost everywhere and have "widespread, though silent, public support." Rarely do police do anything to defend the victims. Indeed, in many places the police behave no better themselves:

* In Moscow and Voronezh police made "revenge attacks" on Chechen civilians.

* Police units from all over Russia are used as soldiers in Chechnya and return brutalized to their home towns, where no effort is made to rehabilitate them.

* Chechen students sew their pockets shut to prevent police from planting drugs or weapons on them.

Despairing of police protection, many victimized minorities are now forming self-defense groups, raising the prospect of violent ethnic clashes.

The Russian Orthodox Church, in some regions with the help of local government, persists in demonizing minority Christian "sects" (even those long established in Russia) as Western agents. Moscow city authorities have made repeated attempts, each time struck down by the courts, to disband the Salvation Army and the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Mormons are also constantly defamed. However, Christian minorities have shown a growing ability to defend themselves by legal means.

Islamophobia remains widespread. Much of the Russian press equates Islam with terrorism, and regional governments often block the building of mosques.




SOURCE. Ella Paneiakh, "Peterburgskie kafe -- geografiia neformal'nogo obshcheniia" [St. Petersburg Cafés -- The Geography of Informal Communication], pp. 154-62 in Rossiiskoe gorodskoe prostranstvo: popytka osmysleniia [Russian Urban Space: An Attempt at Understanding] (Moscow: Moskovskii obshchestvennyi nauchnyi fond, 2000)

The author, a researcher at the Center for Independent Sociological Research (St. Petersburg), surveys the customary meeting places in St. Petersburg, mainly cafes, of the informal communities called "tusovki " A tusovka is easy to join and too big for everyone to know everyone else, but has core members who preserve its spirit and traditions.

One of the oldest examples of such a place was the Café Vienna, which was a meeting place for journalists in the years before 1917. An active journalist would go there every day to write articles and exchange news. There were similar places for lawyers, engineers, and students. Proprietors were proud of their cafes' prestige and gave their special clientele credit and discounts.

(Today too tusovka members get preferential service in "their" cafes. For instance, they are served out of turn. This sometimes gives rise to conflict with non-tusovka customers.)

During the Soviet period, such occupationally defined tusovki met in restaurants inside official institutions (e.g., the House of Writers, House of the Actor, House of the Cinema). Entry was restricted to those with the requisite membership card, pass or invitation. (1) But there were also a few public cafes patronized by tusovki defined by lifestyle or subculture.

The best known place of this kind was the Café Saigon. From the late 1960s through the 1980s it was a meeting place both for representatives of underground culture (poets, artists, singers, rock musicians, etc.) and for illegal traders in foreign currency and banned books and music tapes. In 1990 the café was closed. (The premises now house a rock music store.) Most of the younger Saigon crowd moved on to the Ogryzok [Stub], and when that too closed in 1991 to the café in the store on the corner of Nevsky Prospect and Pushkin Street. Then they were pushed out and moved to less prestigious parts of the city.

Two other countercultural meeting places emerged in the 1970s: the ice cream café Pridatok [Appendage] and Gastrit [Gastritis]. Pridatok still exists but is no longer a tusovka meeting place. Gastrit has been turned into a fast food restaurant.

Oriental-style coffee (exotic at that time) and hot sandwiches attracted a tusovka to Krysa [Rat] in 1989. The tusovka fell apart in 1992 because most members could no longer afford the prices.

In 1995-96 Koshka [Cat] (2) was a meeting place for a tusovka of former hippies, many of whom had become computer specialists. When it closed the computer specialists moved on to the "much more respectable" Rossan, near the European University. Hippies meet not only in cafes but also in the open air, e.g., on the steps of the Kazan Cathedral and in an underpass they call the "cold pipe." (3) Two other "pipes" give refuge to musicians.


(1) Such closed restaurants were "oases of high-quality food at low prices."

(2) The author adds: "Of course, this is a slang name." The same may be true of all the café names she mentions.

(3) Hippies also frequent the Rotonda, a circular cast-iron stairway of an old three-storey building. All hippies who arrive in St. Petersburg go first to the Rotonda to see what is new, leaving only when the cigarettes, beer, and cannabis run out.




SOURCE. Institute of War and Peace Reporting, Reporting Central Asia (RCA)

Post-Soviet Central Asia has been a fluid buffer zone in which Russia and the West (and to a much lesser extent China and Iran) jockey for influence and local states maneuver among the outside powers. In recent months there have been signs of a trend that points toward breakdown of the buffer zone and polarization of the region. Uzbekistan is aligning itself with the West, while Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are aligning themselves more closely with Russia. (1)

Let's start with Kazakhstan. In mid-February President Nazarbayev visited Moscow for talks with Putin. At the press conference he announced that a joint enterprise would be created to handle the transit of Kazakh oil through Russian territory: "Long-term agreements on transit of oil will save Kazakhstan from having to seek alternative routes" -- i.e., from the need to connect the Kazakh oilfields in the northeastern Caspian to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, as urged by the US.

This decision reflects rising tension between the Kazakh state and business elite and Western oil companies over the tax and other conditions under which those companies operate in Kazakhstan. Another factor may be Nazarbayev's irritation at the persistent Western criticism of his regime for bribery, corruption, and human rights abuses (RCA, No. 187, March 3, 2003).

At the same time, Kazakhstan's relations with Uzbekistan continue to deteriorate. In May 2002 the Uzbek cabinet imposed a 70 percent customs duty on the import of consumer goods, thereby setting off a trade war. Uzbek officials have accused neighboring states of "economic aggression" and demanded that they close down the 20 or so cross-border markets at which Uzbeks spend millions of dollars daily on cheap food and clothing. Uzbekistan sealed its border with Kazakhstan in December 2002 and with Kyrgyzstan in January 2003. Kazakh ambassador to Uzbekistan Umarzak Uzbekov complains that Tashkent's actions and anti-Kazakh propaganda in the Uzbek media are causing tension between the two countries. (2)

Relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are affected not only by the trade issue but also by a border dispute in the Batken area. Many people and animals are being blown up in this area by landmines that the Uzbek army laid in 1999-2000 during the clashes with Islamist infiltrators. (3) Tashkent refuses to clear the mines until the border dispute is resolved (RCA, No. 192, March 21, 2003). There have also been incidents of Uzbek border guards harassing Kyrgyz travelers and (on February 14) entering Kyrgyz territory.

Kyrgyzstan is at loggerheads with Tajikistan as well. Crowds of villagers on the two sides have been involved in violent incidents in connection with a border dispute (RCA, No. 174, Hanuary 10, 2003).

Kyrgyzstan has reacted to its insecure situation by strengthening its ties with Russia, which it sees as its only viable protector. When Putin visited Bishkek in December 2002, President Akayev declared that he saw his country as Russia's key military and political partner in Central Asia. He offered Russian fighter jets full use of the Kant military airbase outside Bishkek; it is expected that around 20 planes and 1,000 Russian soldiers will be stationed there by summer 2003. (4) In return, repayment terms on Kyrgyzstan's $170m debt to Russia were extended by 20 years, and Putin promised to improve the legal position of Kyrgyz migrant laborers in Russia (RCA, No. 168, December 10, 2002 and No. 185, February 21, 2003).

While Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan draw closer to Russia, Uzbekistan's relations with Russia are coming under strain as a result of the two countries' divergent stances on the war in Iraq. Tashkent, which fully backs the US war effort, resents the antiwar message that the Russian media convey to the many Uzbeks who still read the Russian press and watch Russian TV (RCA, No. 193, March 25, 2003).


(1) How Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are likely to fit into the emerging pattern is not yet clear -- at least to me. But the position of these states is too peripheral to have much impact on the overall shape of the pattern.

(2) RCA, No. 178, January 27, 2003 and No. 195, April 1, 2003. Uzbekov also claimed that Tashkent encourages the illegal import of flour from Kazakhstan.

(3) For a survey of Islamist movements in Uzbekistan, see RAS No. 11 item 8.

(4) Akayev may also hope to use Russian forces against his domestic opponents. See Justin Burke, "Russian Deployment in Kyrgyzstan Could Prompt Growing Domestic Turmoil," Eurasianet.org, December 11, 2002, reproduced in JRL #6597, 12 December 2002.




SOURCES. (A) James Buchan, "Miss Bell's fateful lines in the sand," Guardian Weekly, March 20-26, 2003, p. 20; (B) John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London and New York: Verso, 2002; paperback 2003), ch. 2

These sources provide background that helps us understand the origins of the present war in Iraq. James Buchan tells us how Iraq came into existence as a country. (1) The Australian investigative journalist and documentary film-maker John Pilger traces the evolution of Anglo-American policy on Iraq.

In 1918, following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey in World War One, the Arab provinces of the old empire were divided between Britain and France. The three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra fell under British control. In 1920-21 they were constituted into a new state, called initially Mesopotamia (the name of the ancient civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) and later Iraq. The British high commissioner in Baghdad was Sir Percy Cox, but the main credit or blame for the invention of Iraq belongs to another colonial official, Gertrude Bell. "I had a well-spent morning at the office making out the southern desert frontier of Iraq," she wrote to her father on December 4, 1921. It was also on her initiative that the Hashemite Prince Faisal was made king of Iraq.

Many of the policies that later marked the Ba'athist regime have their origin in this interwar colonial state, including supremacy of the Sunni minority over the Shi'a majority and forcible retention of the Kurdish mountains. In suppressing resistance to their rule, the British used (inter alia) phosphorus bombs and poison gas. The gas was dropped on rebellious Kurdish villages. Saddam Hussein, who gassed 5,000 Kurds at Halabja in 1988, probably felt the same way as Britain's then Colonial Secretary, a certain Winston Churchill, who wrote: "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes." (2)

I do not wish to understate the importance of later foreign influences on the Ba'athists -- in particular, from Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. (3) But it was imperial Britain that set the ball rolling.

The British withdrew from Iraq after the Suez crisis of 1956. In 1958 the king was murdered in a republican coup that put Abd al-Karim Kassem in power. The Kassem regime regarded itself as socialist as well as Arab nationalist. When the foreign-owned Iraq Petroleum Company was threatened with nationalization in 1963, the CIA engineered a coup that put the Ba'ath Party in power. Saddam Hussein took over leadership of the Ba'ath in 1979.

Until he invaded Kuwait in 1990 Saddam enjoyed full British and American backing. US Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, visiting Baghdad in 1989 after the Iran-Iraq war, praised him as "a force for moderation in the region." He was allowed to import nuclear reactors and biological weapons. Anthrax was supplied by the Porton Down laboratories of the British Ministry of Defense, and botulism by a Maryland company acting with the approval of the Commerce and State Departments.

The Anglo-American attitude to Saddam changed with the invasion of Kuwait. However, the volte face applied only to Saddam himself, not to the Ba'ath regime as a whole. Right up to the outbreak of the present war, British and American ruling circles hoped for an internal coup that would replace Saddam by a new leader with whom they could do business. President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam to go into exile may be understood as a call for such a coup, as he could hardly have expected Saddam to go voluntarily. (4)

This is not to say that US and British leaders were really ardent admirers of the Ba'ath regime. But they demonstrated a clear preference for that regime over the uncertainties and risks associated with Iraq's opposition forces coming to power. When the regime drowned the Shi'a uprising in blood at the end of the 1991 war, Britain and the US did not merely refuse the insurgents help. They actually helped Saddam's generals by returning captured helicopter gunships so they could "establish law and order" and granting the Republican Guards passage through their lines in order to pursue the insurgents.

It seems that the dream of restoring a friendly Ba'ath regime under a new leader has finally been abandoned. But the US still distrusts the Iraqi opposition, even to the extent of bombing Iraqi groups that "interfere" with US plans by fighting Saddam independently. Evidently a new Iraqi polity is to be built from scratch, relying neither on the Ba'ath nor on the opposition. (5)

President Bush has promised that after victory the Iraqi people will be provided with food and medical aid. In view of the deprivation inflicted by sanctions and the devastation of two wars, they will need aid on a massive scale.

One problem that will have to be tackled in reconstructing Iraq is the radioactive contamination of southern Iraq caused by the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by US tanks and aircraft in the first Gulf War. According to Professor Doug Rokke, the US army physicist responsible for decontaminating Kuwait, (6) well over 300 tons of DU were released. There are indications that some was mixed with plutonium.

The extent of radioactivity in the environment is unknown because the UN Sanctions Committee has not allowed Iraq to import geiger counters! Dr. Jawad Al-Ali and his colleagues at the Basra hospital note frequent congenital deformities and mutant fish, huge mushrooms, and other species: "It is like Chernobyl here." He estimates that cancer mortality has risen 12-fold since the 1991 war and that 40-50 percent of the population of the Basra region will eventually get cancer. (7) This is broadly consistent with a calculation by the UK Atomic Energy Authority that if 8 percent of the DU fired in the Gulf War was inhaled it could cause "500,000 potential deaths." (8) If DU munitions are being used again this time round, the radioactive contamination will be even more extensive.


(1) A fuller scholarly account is that of Samira Haj, The Making of Iraq, 1900-1963 (State University of New York Press, 1997). For a list of book titles pertinent to understanding the situation in Iraq compiled by the American Association of University Presses, see: http://www.aaupnet.org/news/bfu/iraq/list.html#topictwo For other titles (inexplicably omitted by the AAUP) see the Verso Books site http://www.versobooks.com

(2) A different concept of "uncivilized" was implicit in a statement made by Mahatma Gandhi on his first visit to England. Asked by a reporter what he thought of British civilization, he replied: "It would be very nice."

(3) The influence of Stalinism and Nazism on the formation of Ba'ath ideology is analyzed by Kanan Makiya in The Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq (University of California Press, 1998).

(4) This is my own interpretation. Pilger's book was published before these events. It is conceivable that the ultimatum served merely to justify the war.

(5) In February 2003, the United States Institute of Peace http://www.usip.org issued its Special Report 102: Ray Salvatore Jennings, After Saddam Hussein: Winning a Peace If It Comes to War. Jennings advocates the "de-Ba'athification" of Iraq on the model of de-Nazification in postwar Germany, but does not consider what contribution the opposition in exile can make to reconstruction. At the same time, he (quixotically?) urges the US occupation to display humility not arrogance.

(6) Saudi Arabia, where the munitions were tested, was also contaminated, but a decontamination effort was undertaken only in Kuwait.

(7) Formerly rare types of cancer such as neuroblastoma are now common. Many other diseases (of the blood, kidneys, lungs, etc.) have also greatly increased.

(8) The author's source for this estimate is a UKAEA memo to Royal Ordnance of April 30, 1991 that was published in the June 5, 1999 issue of "The Independent" newspaper. For a report on DU in Kosovo and Iraq, see http://www.merip.org/mer/mer215/215_peterson.html There appears also to be a Rand Corporation study on DU, but it does not seem to be publicly accessible.

I wonder whether US troops were given potassium iodide pills before being sent to war. As the problem is not officially acknowledged, I guess they were not.




William Taubman. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Co., 2003)

Several extremely laudatory reviews of Professor Taubman's biography of Khrushchev have appeared in the US press and been reproduced in JRL. The book is indeed a major achievement. It is lively and readable, often highly perceptive, and draws on numerous newly accessible archival and interview sources.

But I have a couple of misgivings. It is precisely because this book is likely to be regarded as the definitive biography of Khrushchev that I am putting these misgivings on record. I hope this will contribute to an improved second edition that is not open to criticism.

So this is not a balanced review. A balanced review would be one with (let's say) 90 percent praise and 10 percent criticism. But as other reviews have been completely uncritical I concentrate on criticism to right the overall balance.

I have two basic problems with the book. The first is the author's excessive reliance on speculation to fill apparent gaps in the record and explain psychological motives that may have prompted Khrushchev's actions. The second is the author's overwhelming focus on the interaction of personalities to the detriment of adequate analysis of policies, ideas, and institutions.

There is an influential school of historians that rigorously rejects speculation and sees the historian's task as being simply a clear presentation and interpretation of what is known with reasonable certainty. I am not sure I would go that far, but I do think that speculation should be limited to cases in which the evidence makes some conjecture probable rather than just a more or less plausible possibility, and also that speculation should always be very clearly marked as such.

I found many of Professor Taubman's speculations plausible, but others seem to me arbitrary and unsupported by any real evidence. Take the question of Khrushchev's political sympathies as a worker activist in 1917 and 1918 before he joined the Bolshevik party in late 1918. Khrushchev himself says that at this time he found it hard to grasp the differences between the various socialist parties, implying that he did not sympathize with one party more than with another. This is what one might expect of a theoretically unsophisticated lad with hardly any education. (1) It would have been sensible to leave the matter at that. Professor Taubman, however, speculates that Khrushchev sympathized with the Mensheviks, on the general sociological grounds that the Mensheviks appealed to skilled workers and Khrushchev was a skilled worker. One reviewer of the book for a prominent newspaper repeats this claim, presenting it not as speculation but as fact. Thus is pseudo-history generated.

True, Professor Taubman does make clear what is speculation and what is known fact, but often he does this only the first time that a point arises. A very careful reader will not be misled. The problem is that many readers, including some reviewers, are not very careful.

Another example of unwarranted speculation concerns Khrushchev's relations with women. The author purports to show that the young Khrushchev was a "womanizer" -- i.e., that he had a casual attitude to making and breaking sexual ties. Supposedly this personal history aroused contradictory feelings in the mature Khrushchev toward his son Leonid, who apparently really was a womanizer. The whole construct is built on sand. The only evidence adduced is Khrushchev's unsuccessful short marriage to a young girl some time after the death of his first wife. But Khrushchev married the girl, who was pregnant by another man, in response to an appeal from her father, a friend of his. Then he divorced her at the urging of his mother, who complained that she was neglecting his children by his first marriage. Neither the marriage nor the divorce was an act of self-indulgent caprice on Khrushchev's part.

Now to my second problem with the book. This is a "people" book. It is full of vivid portraits of people and how they interacted with one another -- not only Khrushchev himself at various stages of his life, but also numerous of his colleagues, friends, and relatives. The book is also organized into chapters in strictly chronological fashion, starting with Khrushchev's childhood and ending with his old age in forced retirement. All this makes for a good story. The trouble is that serious matters like policies, ideas, and institutions get rather short shrift. The author does devote quite a few passages to these matters -- many of them are very informative and insightful -- but they are scattered throughout the book. As a result:

* Nowhere are the threads pulled together in a systematic analysis of what Khrushchev believed in, stood for, and tried to achieve. Nowhere is there sustained reflection over his significance for an understanding of Soviet history as a whole. Perhaps the best solution would be to add a more analytical chapter at the end of the book, in order to preserve the impetus of the story. (2)

* There is very uneven coverage of different policy areas. Thus agriculture (an extremely important subject to Khrushchev) gets adequate treatment, while industry fares less well. Many pages are devoted to the cultural aspect of destalinization, but there is nothing about the no less important legal aspect (the introduction of "socialist legality," the revival of the institution of the defense lawyer, etc.). (3) Education and housing get about half a page each, but there is no discussion of healthcare, although it was under Khrushchev that Soviet health indicators reached levels typical of developed countries. (4) Was this really so insignificant?

* Too little attention is devoted to the historical origins of Khrushchev's ideas. The reader gets the impression that he pulled his ideas out of his hat, but such was not always the case. For instance, Khrushchev's proposal to replace the professional army by territorially based citizens' militias comes (via Lenin) from nineteenth-century radical democratic and socialist thought. One of the goals underlying the proposal was abolition of the officer corps as a closed and privileged social caste. (5) Thereby it served Khrushchev's drive toward a classless communist society (chapter 18).

* Some of the occasional comments on institutional matters are confused. For example, on p. 245 the author seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that the Politburo and the Presidium were two different bodies rather than the names used for the same body at different times.


(1) Even in 1923, when Khrushchev briefly aligned himself with the Trotskyites, what attracted him was not Trotskyism as such -- there is no indication that he understood anything about it -- but rather the personality of a local Trotskyite (Kharechko). Stalin knew about the episode (Khrushchev himself told him about it) but did not hold it against Khrushchev, evidently realizing that no real ideological deviation was involved.

(2) Someone might object that at almost 800 pages (including notes) the book is already quite long enough and that it is not realistic to suggest making it longer still. But surely some of the existing material could be sacrificed: more policy analysis and less gossip about Khrushchev's relatives?

(3) Nor is there anything on the legal aspect of Khrushchev's drive to establish communism (the "People's Courts").

(4) See Gordon Hyde, The Soviet Health Service: A Historical and Comparative Study (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1974), p. 222. Khrushchev may not have been directly involved in healthcare in the way that he was in agriculture or cultural, foreign, and defense policy, but under the Soviet system little of importance could happen in any sphere of state policy that bore no connection to the activity of the top leadership. Khrushchev must at least be given credit for the fact that more resources were channeled into the healthcare system.

(5) Khrushchev declares this goal openly in his memorandum to the presidium on military reform of December 8, 1959.



Manoog Kaprielian draws attention to the death on March 25 of the talented jazz pianist David Azarian, who was killed by a passing car while changing a tire on the side of the highway. Azarian was born in 1952 and grew up and learned music in Yerevan. In the 1970s he formed a jazz trio that toured Europe and the Soviet Union. He came to the US in 1989.



A special issue of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology is being planned on resource economics. Anyone interested in contributing to the issue should contact AndrewSavchenko@aol.com for further information.



Professor Grigory Olekh, whose paper on the amalgamation of Siberian regions was summarized in RAS No. 16 (item 2), points out that I made an error regarding his institutional affiliation. He is from Novosibirsk State Academy of Water-Transport Engineering and not from Novosibirsk State University as I indicated. Sorry for the mistake. -- SDS

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