|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 20, 29 January 1991
BALTIC STATES SOVIETS SEIZE TWO LITHUANIAN CUSTOMS POSTS. On January 27 Soviet Black Berets assaulted Lithuanian customs posts in the villages of Medininkai and Lavariskes near the Belorussian border, AP reported on January 28. The soldiers fired shots, confiscated documents, broke windows, and beat up several customs officials who did not, however, require hospitalization. The soldiers ordered the customs officers not to reopen the posts. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN SHOT BY SOVIET SOLDIERS. On January 28 a Lithuanian man, Jonas Tautkus, was shot in the back of the head by Soviet troops at a checkpoint on the road between Vilnius and Kaunas, Reuter reported on January 29. He is in critical condition in a hospital with brain damage. A military official confirmed that there was a shooting and was quoted as saying: "We have contradictory reports. There have been many such incidents, it is dificult to say who shot at whom." (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT PROTEST. On January 28 the Lithuanian Supreme Council's session, broadcast live over Radio Kaunas, unanimously adopted a statement written by Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis and his deputy Ceslovas Stankevicius. The statement, entitled "On the Threat of Military Dictatorship in the USSR and on the Expansion of Aggression against Lithuania," condemned the order of the USSR Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs organizing joint Army-MVD patrols beginning February 1 as a grave danger for the public and gross violation of human rights. It noted that laws passed by foreign governments were not valid in Lithuania and declared: "in Lithuania it is most important to halt the crimes of the USSR Army." (Saulius Girnius) KUZMICKAS APPEAL TO NORDIC COUNCIL. Radio Kaunas on January 29 reported that Lithuanian Vice President Bronius Kuzmickas had flown to Stockholm from Canada. On January 28 he presented an appeal to the presidium of the Nordic Council calling on it to create a commission to investigate the events in Lithuania on January 13, to protest the transfer of Soviet troops from East Europe to the Baltic States, and to bring up the question of the Baltic States in the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe. (Saulius Girnius) BOMB DROPPED IN LITHUANIA. On January 28 an unidentified plane dropped a bomb in the raion of Salcininkai, leaving a crater 4-5 meters deep and about 20 meters wide, AFP reported that day. The bomb did not cause any casualties, but broke windows and knocked down power and telephone lines. The Lithuanian authorities are investigating the incident; the Soviet military denies any knowledge of it. (Saulius Girnius) BIELECKI SAYS POLAND SUPPORTS LITHUANIA, BUT... Polish Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki told Der Spiegel of January 28 that while Poland supports Lithuania's striving for sovereignty, he sees no reason "why Poland should be the first" country to recognize formally Lithuanian independence. Bielecki stressed the significant reconciliation between ethnic Poles and native Lithuanians that has taken place since the Soviet military intervention, with common goals developing a "spirit of solidarity." (Roman Stefanowski) POLISH PROTEST ON LATVIA. The All-Poland Club of Friends of Latvia has issued a strong protest against "the brutal violations by the Soviet authorities of human rights in Latvia". The statement, according to PAP of January 28, demands an immediate stop to the campaign of repression and activities directed against the legal authorities of the Republic of Latvia and its people. The Friends of Latvia also demand the immediate withdrawal "of Soviet occupational forces" from Latvia and the other Baltic states. (Roman Stefanowski) NISHANOV IN RIGA TO ORGANIZE TALKS. Rafik Nishanov, Chairman of the Soviet of Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet, arrived in Riga on January 28 to try to organize meetings between the Latvian leadership and representatives of various political and public movements. Nishanov was accompanied by USSR deputies Anatolii Denisov and Nikolai Sychev, according to TASS and Radio Riga of January 28. The announced purpose of their presence and the meetings that they are to organize is to diffuse tensions in Latvia. Following his previous fact-finding trip to Latvia, Denisov's comments to the press led to widespread speculation of imminent presidential rule in Latvia which, in turn, served to heighten tensions among Latvians. (Dzintra Bungs) MILITIA MEETING ENDS CALMLY. In response to a stormy meeting of about 500 members of the militia and the KGB on January 25, whose participants expressed lack of confidence in the government of Latvia and demanded that Latvia observe the USSR and Latvian SSR Constitutions, Latvian leaders met with representatives of the dissatisfied militia men on January 28. The men hooted at Anatolijs Gorbunovs, Chairman of the Supreme Council, when he told them that the barricades in Riga were erected for protection against a possible military attack and cheered Col. Nikolai Goncharenko when he called for the dismissal of Interior Minister Aloizs Vaznis. The participants calmed down when they started to discuss their pay, housing, and staffing problems. (Dzintra Bungs) GERMANY AND THE BALTIC STATES. German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher told his Latvian and Estonian counterparts on January 28 that Germany rejects the use of force in the Baltics, according to RFE/RL's correspondent in Bonn. Genscher told Latvia's Janis Jurkans and Estonia's Lennart Meri that Bonn thinks developments in the Baltic should be based on the CSCE Agreement and the new Charter of Europe. On January 14, the day after 14 died in Vilnius, Genscher said that the German people's willingness to aid the Soviet people should not suffer because of events in the Baltic states, a RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bonn that day. (Riina Kionka) FINLAND TO OFFER REFUGE? Finland's Interior Minister said on January 27 that Finland may be able to offer refuge to draft resisters from the Baltic states, according to a Reuter report on January 28. Jarmo Rantanen said that Finland could consider granting residence permits to evaders without giving them formal asylum. This policy would put Finland in line with Sweden's policy toward conscientious objectors. (Riina Kionka) ALKSNIS ON GORBACHEV AND BALTICS. In interviews in the Western press as well as in the latest issue of Argumenty i fakty, a leader of "Soyuz," Colonel Viktor Alksnis, said that Gorbachev personally endorsed a shadowy National Salvation Committee of Lithuania. Alksnis complained that immediately afterwards, however, the Soviet president got frightened and failed to follow through on the crackdown. The TV news program "TSN" stressed on January 29 that Gorbachev should publicly deny Alksnis' assertion if it does not reflect reality. In the same interview in the Soviet weekly, Alksnis also predicted that the current crisis in the Baltics "will inevitably spread into a civil war on a scale of the union." (Vera Tolz) WILL THE CPSU REHABILITATE THE "SECRET PROTOCOLS"? A. Lopukhin denied in Pravda, January 19, that the CPSU Central Committee is planning to hold a conference of historians to dispute the conclusions of Aleksandr Yakovlev's report to the second session of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies in December, 1989. Yakovlev's report, approved by the Congress, condemned the "secret protocols" to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, which included the then-independent Baltic States in the USSR's "sphere of influence." Pravda has received several telephone calls citing rumors of this conference as "the most obvious fact of the CPSU's ideological recoil." Lopukhin called these rumors "disinformation," but admitted that there indeed will be a conference devoted to the 50th anniversary of the German attack on the USSR, in the course of which some historian may discuss the pact between Stalin and Hitler. (Julia Wishnevsky) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS OPINION POLL ON RESULTS OF THE YEAR 1990. An opinion poll published in Moscow News No. 1 examined the results of the year 1990. The weekly reported that 88% of those polled thought the past year was more difficult than 1989. The largest group of people (35%) suggested that Yeltsin's election as chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet was the main event of the year; the second largest group (27%) thought that the main event was the unification of Germany. The largest group of those polled called Yeltsin "the man of the year 1990"; the second most popular figure was still Gorbachev; and the third... Margaret Thatcher. Finally, a considerable majority (60%) rejected the idea of using military force to stabilize the situation in the country. (Vera Tolz) CABINET OF MINISTERS MEETS ON ENERGY PROBLEMS. The Soviet Cabinet of Ministers, chaired by President Gorbachev, met in the Kremlin January 28 to discuss the near crisis situation in the country's oil and gas industries. According to TASS of January 29, Gorbachev instructed the Cabinet to devise--within seven days--a series of financial and material/supply measures to improve the immediate situation in the oil and gas producing regions. To address more fundamental problems, Gorbachev gave the Cabinet six months to draft plans to halt the decreasing output of oil and the slower growth rates of the gas industry. (John Tedstrom) NEW LAW ON EMPLOYMENT PUBLISHED. Izvestia on January 25 published the new law on employment. The new law includes many traditional guarantees such as free training, freedom to choose place and type of work, and unemployment insurance. A section on regulating employment outlines the state's rights to "develop job sites, increase the economic interests of enterprises...in production...and to direct the employment of displaced labor to developing branches of the economy." These, and other vaguely worded articles, quietly give the government leverage to micromanage enterprises and to strongly influence the labor market. The law has numerous internal contradictions and would seem to contradict other laws such as the Law on State Enterprises. (John Tedstrom) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL AIDE FINDS NEW JOB. Nikolai Petrakov, who was working as an economic adviser to Gorbachev until last week (see Daily Report, January 21), has been named chairman of the USSR Scientific-Industrial Union's Committee for Economic Reform and director of the "Institute of the Market," according to Izvestia January 23. (Dawn Mann) SUMMIT POSTPONED. US Secretary of State James Baker said on January 28 that "by mutual agreement, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev will be rescheduling their summit in Moscow...to a later date in the first half of this year." Baker went on to cite the Gulf war and unfinished business with the START agreement as reasons for the meeting's postponement. American officials said Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh had warned Baker in private discussions that blaming the crackdown in the Baltics for the summit postponement would only strengthen the hand of conservatives in the Soviet Union, the New York Times said January 29. (Suzanne Crow) SOLTAN COMMENTARY ON SUMMIT. Radio Moscow World Service carried a Yurii Solton commentary on January 26 saying that Moscow would not be upset if the summit were cancelled because of the Gulf war and unfinished START treaty. Solton said it would be "dangerous," however, if the United States postponed the meeting simply to "punish" Moscow for the Baltic crackdown. Soltan went on to note that "there are people in the Soviet Union too who don't like the drawing together of their country and the United States, who dislike the common stand of the two countries with regards to Iraq." (Suzanne Crow) KORTUNOV ON SUMMIT, TIES. The USA-Canada Institute's Andrei Kortunov said on Radio Moscow's Top Priority program (January 25) that the cooling of US-Soviet relations was inevitable. "...We are returning to business as usual. ...There was a lot of euphoria about the Cold War ending, but now, when we turn to positive aspects of Soviet-American relations...it turns out that the basis for such positive interaction is pretty limited." Kortunov went on to say "for the Soviet Union I think the European direction becomes much more important than the American direction because the Soviets are expecting to get much more from Europeans in the economic sense than from the Americans." (Suzanne Crow) CHURKIN ON COLD WAR. A return to the Cold War cannot be ruled out, said Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin at a Moscow news conference on January 25. Churkin said he was expressing his personal opinion. "A hasty reaction to events in the Soviet Union which have occurred or could occur, could endanger what we have achieved with so much effort over the last five years," AFP quoted Churkin as saying on January 25. (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET GENERAL: IRAQ STILL HAS CHEMICAL AND BIO WEAPONS. The Commander of the Soviet Union's chemical warfare forces said in Izvestia on January 28 that despite allied bombing, Iraq still possesses significant stocks of chemical and biological weapons. General Stanislav Petrov said that development and production of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq are conducted at more than ten or twelve sites. He cautioned that Iraq may still possess botulin toxin weapons capable of mass killings, as well as between 2,000 and 4,000 tons of poisons such as mustard and cyanide gas. Petrov also said that allied attacks on these weapons could pose a major threat to civilians. (Stephen Foye) SOVIET MARSHAL ON IRAQI MISSILE POTENTIAL. Soviet Artillery Marshal Vladimir Mikhalkin said on Soviet television (January 26): "I think that Iraq's missile potential is not exhausted and they still have the necessary number of missiles to carry on military action." Mikhalkin also rejected accusations that the USSR provided Iraq with this extended range missile capability, arguing that the systems were modernized "with assistance from firms in Germany and Italy," Reuter said January 26. (Suzanne Crow) GORBACHEV TO SHIFT FROM WEST TO JAPAN? Soviet businessman Artem Tarasov warned that Gorbachev might shift his economic and political strategy from cooperation with the West to Japan, which voices less concern about a Soviet crackdown on democracy and favors dealing with a state-controlled rather than decentralized Soviet economy. According to The Baltimore Sun on January 29, Tarasov predicted that Gorbachev will return the Kurile islands to Japan during his forthcoming visit to Tokyo next April and receive major economic help in return. (Alexander Rahr) NATURAL POPULATION INCREASE LOWEST SINCE 1945. Natural population increase in the Soviet Union in 1990 was the lowest since 1945, according to the official results for 1990 published in Ekonomika i zhizn' on January 26 and cited by AP January 26. Deaths were 10.4 per 1,000, up from 10.0 per 1,000 in 1989, and births declined from 17.6 to 16.8 per thousand. Moreover, some 400,000 Soviet citizens emigrated last year. According to AP, economic commentator Aleksandr Fedotov wrote in Pravda that the population figures were the "most important result" of a year of bad economic news. (Ann Sheehy) LATEST AIDS STATISTICS. Radio Moscow announced January 24 that, on average, 10 new cases of AIDS are diagnosed every month in the USSR. The radio said 585 Soviet citizens and 579 foreigners have so far been identified as carriers. Komsomol'skaya pravda reported on January 22 that, despite some initial opposition from health officials, anonymous testing for the disease has been successfully introduced in Voronezh. But, the newspaper revealed, most citizens in the central Russian city are unaware that they will be routinely tested for AIDS whenever they happen to be hospitalized. The result will be entered in their medical records even though they will not be informed the test is being made; their permission for it will not be sought; and they will not be informed of the result. (Elizabeth Teague) SUICIDE FIGURES UPDATED. Valerii Ochirov, deputy chairman of the USSR SupSov committee for defense and state security, told the USSR Congress of People's Deputies on December 22 that whereas for the USSR overall the suicide rate was 21.5 per 100,000, in the army it was only 20 per 100,000. But according to Komsomol'skaya pravda of December 8 the annual number of suicides in the USSR is 60,000; this works out at 20.7 per 100,000 for the population as a whole in 1990. The wide, and unexplained, regional variations are striking. In the central Ryazan' oblast the suicide rate is 17 per 100,000, but in the far northern region of Arkhangel'sk it is 70; in the Mari ASSR (on the north bank of the Volga) it is 90; and in Udmurtiya (in the Urals) it is a staggering 100. (Elizabeth Teague) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN, STANKEVICH CRITICIZE NEW POLICE POWERS. Boris Yeltsin said on Radio Moscow on January 28 that the granting of police powers to MVD and defense ministry troops presages "a state of emergency regime" in the USSR, and is "a rather serious step" towards dictatorship. He noted that the RSFSR leadership had not been consulted prior to the move, and still has not been contacted by the all-Union leadership. Sergei Stankevich told RFE-RL the same day that the Moscow city soviet had not been officially informed about the order, and he had learned about it from "friends." Stankevich said he believed the move is part of a plan to introduce a state of emergency throughout the USSR, and denounced it as "unconstitutional" and "illegal." (NCA/Russian BD/Sallie Wise) "WORKER'S UNION" SUPPORTS YELTSIN. Boris Yeltsin met with deputies of the RSFSR parliamentary group "Worker's Union" to discuss recent political developments in the country, Radio Moscow reported on January 28. The Russian workers' representatives supported Yeltsin's tough stand against the Kremlin's moves in the Baltic and called for a further strengthening of Russian sovereignty. Workers also asked Yeltsin to voice his views on central TV. The workers' support seems essential for Yeltsin's success in confronting conservative forces. (Alexander Rahr) CENTER THWARTS RSFSR CURRENCY TRANSACTION. According to the USSR State Bank and Ministry of Finance, a contract for the sale of 140 billion rubles for 7.8 billion US dollars (ten times less than the official commercial rate), concluded by a firm in Chelyabinsk with a British company, violates USSR legislation, TASS reported January 25. In an interview with Izvestia the same day, RSFSR deputy premier Gennadii Fil'shin explained the deal was to acquire foreign currency for the republic with which to purchase consumer goods and food. On January 21 Boris Yeltsin had cited the sale of rubles to foreign investors as a way for the RSFSR to ensure its foreign currency independence and stabilize the consumer market. (Ann Sheehy) MOLDAVIAN COMMUNIST PARTY AVOIDS SPLIT. A conference of the Moldavian Communist Party ended January 28 without the Party splitting, although some of the Transdniester Communists said they did not want to belong to the Moldavian Communist Party as long as the existence of the outlawed "Dniester SSR" was not recognized, TASS reported January 28. The Party first secretary Petru Lucinschi also expressed satisfaction that, in spite of some opposition, the conference had managed to adopt the Party's statutes, thus enabling the Party to apply for registration. (Ann Sheehy) MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF REFERENDUM. At a meeting on January 27 in Kishinev, leaders of the Moldavian Popular Front called for a boycott of the March 17 all-Union referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union, Novosti reported January 28. Novosti said it was possibly the smallest meeting ever of the front, attended by only about five thousand of its most radical supporters. The leaders of the front said that, if the referendum was held, the whole Romanian nation should take part. (Ann Sheehy) DISPUTE OVER SECOND MOSQUE IN MOSCOW. For nearly five years Muslims in Moscow have been trying unsuccessfully to regain possession of a historic mosque, Moskovskie novosti of January 6 reports. At present there is only one functioning mosque for the city's 209,000 ethnic Muslim inhabitants. The Moscow city soviet decided in November 1990 that the mosque, at present occupied by a printing firm, should be returned, but the printing firm is unwilling to vacate, and those living in the vicinity of the mosque are protesting loudly against the soviet's decision. (Ann Sheehy) BASHKIR WRITER AWAITING TRIAL FOR CROSSING INTO USSR. The Bashkir writer Nezametdin Akhmetov, who spent twenty years in Soviet prisons for human rights activities, is awaiting trial for illegally crossing into the Soviet Union, Moskovskie novosti of January 6 reported. Akhmetov was arrested on November 8, 1990, when he crossed the Polish-Soviet frontier without a passport, after three years' in the West at the invitation of the PEN club. A Soviet consulate in Germany had told him it would take at least a year to have his lost passport restored. According to Moskovskie novosti, the authorities are concealing his whereabouts, and neither his family nor his lawyer knows where he is. (Ann Sheehy) NAZARBAEV ON CONGRESS. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev thinks the Fourth Congress of USSR Peoples' Deputies did not take effective measures in dealing with either the economic crisis in the USSR or the issue of the Union Treaty. In the January 6 issue of Moskovskie novosti, Nazarbaev asks where are the measures, such as employment services and unemployment insurance, that could really stabilize the situation. He wonders if the government really intends to introduce a market economy, what is the point of the office of vice-president, and argues that a basis for a Union treaty already exists in the horizontal relations developing between republics. He warns that these republics may themselves take responsibility for the future of the Union. (Bess Brown) PEASANT BANK SET UP IN KAZAKHSTAN. TASS reported on January 28 that a peasants' commercial bank has been established in Chimkent Oblast to provide financing to individual farmers, cooperatives and small enterprises. The new bank, the latest in a number of such financial ventures, is part of a republican program to provide credit to individuals or groups willing to start market-type economic ventures. (Bess Brown) ISLAMIC INSTITUTE OPENS IN ALMA-ATA. TASS reported on January 28 that thirty young men have begun studies at the new Islamic institute in Alma-Ata, which is to train imams for the rapidly growing number of new mosques in the republic. The report notes that the number of mosques in Kazakhstan nearly doubled last year, to nearly 150, and another 20 are under construction. (Bess Brown) AZERBAIJAN TO CREATE COMMODITIES EXCHANGE. On January 26 Radio Moscow cited Azerbaijan SSR Council of Ministers Deputy Chairman Ragim Guseinov as asserting that a commodities exchange will soon be opened in Baku as part of Azerbaijan's market reform plan. Guseinov said that the exchange would function according to classic market principles, and would also deal in auctions and barters. Special exchanges to deal in petroleum, cotton, tobacco, wine and other products of the republic's economy will be set up when volume allows. (NCA/Liz Fuller) UKRAINIAN STUDENTS READY FOR NEW STRIKE. A Ukrainian student leader was quoted by Novosti on January 28 as saying that students were prepared to strike once again if an unfavorable situation develops in the republic. The student hunger strike in October last year forced the resignation of Vitalii Masol, chairman of the republican Council of Ministers. Since then, however, authorities have been summoning students for questioning in connection with the takeover of a Kiev State University building during the October strike. The head of the Ukrainian Students' Union in Kiev, Oles' Donii, was detained, but subsequently released. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK SATISFIED WITH CRIMEA REFERENDUM VOTE. Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Leonid Kravchuk described the results of the recent referendum in Crimea as "just" and complemented the residents of the peninsula on their respect for the law in conducting the referendum, Ukrinform-TASS reported on January 28. The referendum on January 20 resulted in an overwhelming vote to restore the Crimean ASSR. (Roman Solchanyk) GENERAL MOISEEV'S FREUDIAN SLIP. Visti z Ukrainy, a newspaper aimed at Ukrainians abroad, took note in issue No. 50, 1990, of a comment made in November by first deputy Defense Minister General Moiseev in an address to the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet. Arguing that the parliament had acted wrongfully in taking measures to regulate military service by Ukrainians, Moiseev, who reminded his audience that Ukrainian boys are the mainstay of the army, said that "the concern is for the Russian state, which must be defended" [emphasis supplied]. That statement was omitted from summaries of Moiseev's address published in the official dailies. (Kathy Mihalisko) THE RETURN OF MARC CHAGALL. A chapter in the history of Soviet anti-Semitism came to a close this month as the city of Vitebsk, Belorussia, hosted its first "Chagall Days" celebration in honor of its most famous native son. The city is also planning to open a museum to exhibit the works of Chagall and other masters of the "Vitebsk school." As noted in Izvestia, January 21, a certain "philosopher from Minsk" (i.e., Vladimir Begun, a notorious and officially favored promoter of anti-Semitism) prevented the rehabilitation of Chagall in his homeland. His death in 1989 removed a shrill anti-Jewish voice from Belorussian and Soviet intellectual life. (Kathy Mihalisko) [As of 1230 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore and Sallie Wise
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.