|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 41, 27 February 1991
BALTIC STATES LAURISTIN BUST REMOVED. The bust of Estonian Communist leader Johannes Lauristin has been removed from the courtyard of Toompea Castle, seat of the Estonian government, Paevaleht reported February 26. Tallinn's Deputy Mayor Irina Raud said the bust was removed at the family's request. Johannes Lauristin joined the ECP in 1917 and died fleeing the advancing German Army in 1941. His daughter Marju, a strong proponent of Estonian independence outside the USSR, is the current deputy speaker of Estonia's Supreme Council. (Riina Kionka) NORDIC COUNCIL REJECTS SOVIET WARNING. On February 26 Nordic Council leaders rejected as "unacceptable" the USSR warning of February 25 that Nordic support for Baltic independence amounted to interference in the Soviet Union's internal affairs. Council President Anker Joergensen said that the Council regards its political support for the Baltics as "work for democracy and parliamentarianism," AP reported February 26. The Council plans to devote a part of its four-day session specifically to Baltic issues and parliamentary delegations from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are attending the session as the Council's guests. (Dzintra Bungs) OPPOSITION FACTION RETURNS TO LATVIAN PARLIAMENT. Radio Riga reported February 26 that the Ravnopravie faction had resumed work at the Latvian Supreme Council. The pro-Moscow group comprises less than one-third of the Council's deputies. They had boycotted the Council since January 13 essentially in an effort to obtain more say both in the Council and the government, where the views of majority People's Front faction tend to dominate. Although this was the longest walkout they had staged, their absence did not impede the Council's work. The return came about as a result of negotiations in the Inter-Faction Bureau, consisting of deputies from both factions, that was created on February 21. (Dzintra Bungs) RUSSIAN DEMOCRATS FOR LATVIAN INDEPENDENCE. On February 24, Russian democratic organizations met in Riga to discuss the independence poll in Latvia on March 3. According to Radio Riga February 25, they adopted a resolution supporting Latvia's independence and urging residents to vote affirmatively in the poll. Radio Riga also reported that polling stations had been opened throughout Latvia, but not all of them were open at the designated time, and that some older people were inadvertently casting invalid "ballots" because they did not follow rigorously the directions. (Dzintra Bungs) INTERNATIONAL ROADS FEDERATION TO HELP BALTICS. Diena reported February 26 that at a recent conference of the International Roads Federation in Hamburg, it was decided to improve the road system in the Baltics, especially the transit links from Helsinki through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Warsaw. The conference noted that these communications and transit problems should be solved in the next two years. Baltic ministers are to meet in March to discuss the possibilities of modernizing and rearranging the Baltic railway system. (Dzintra Bungs) INDONESIA, SOUTH KOREA, BELGIUM INTERESTED IN TRADE WITH LATVIA. According to Radio Riga and Diena February 26, Indonesian and South Korean diplomats stationed in Moscow recently visited Riga to discuss expanding trade between Latvia and their countries. Indonesia, for example, would want Latvian minibuses, electronics, and pharmaceuticals in return for coffee, cocoa, and vegetable oil. Diena also reported about plans to establish an economic partnership between Riga and the Belgian city of Antwerp. (Dzintra Bungs) VILNIUS-BUDAPEST PARTNERSHIP. At a news conference held recently in Budapest, Mayor Gabor Demszky announced that Budapest has established city-partnership relations with the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Demszky also said that the Local Government of Budapest had sent medical aid worth 600,000 forint to Vilnius in January, Magyar Hirlap reported February 23. (Petronela Gaal) FOUR NEW LITHUANIAN MINISTERS. On February 26, the Lithuanian Supreme Council approved four new ministers in a OBssion broadcast live over Radio Kaunas. Rimvydas Raimondas Survila (born 1939) is now Minister of Agriculture, Vilius Zidonis (born 1933) is Minister of Material Resources, Elvyra KuBBviciene (born 1939) is Minister of Finances, and Aleksandras Abisala (born 1955) is Minister without Portfolio. The first three ministers replaced Vytautas KnasBs, Romualdas Kozyrovicius, and Romualdas Sikorskis, respectively, who had been temporarily appointed on January 17. Minister without Portfolio is a new position; Abisala's primary role will be managing discussions with the USSR. Survila and Abisala temporarily give up their seats as deputies to the parliament. (Saulius Girnius) B LOOBUANIAN REPRESENTATIVE ON OBJECTIVES OF MOSCOW TALKS. Deputy Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Ceslovas Stankevicius told Radio Kaunas February 26 that he would be flying to Moscow later that day. One of the main goals of his trip is to meet USSR Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev, the leader of the USSR delegation on talks with Lithuania. Stankevicius will try to clarify whether the talks will be a continuation of the previous consultations, which had set up a structure for future negotiations. No firm date for a meeting has been set. (Saulius Girnius) USSR--ALL-UNION TOPICS GORBACHEV ATTACKS DEMOCRATS. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev warned of possible civil war in the Soviet Union in a speech to Belorussian intellectuals (Central Television, February 26). He accused RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin and Gavriil Popov, chairman of the Moscow city soviet, of attempts to seize power by force and dismember the Soviet Union. Gorbachev denounced the "neo-Bolshevik tactics" of the radical opposition and charged that democratic opposition groups and leaders are being directed by "alien research centers." Gorbachev said the Soviet "left" is in reality a "rightist opposition" because it rejects socialism and favors capitalism. At a meeting with workers at a Minsk tractor plant, Gorbachev accused Yeltsin of having "diverged from the path of perestroika. He dismissed suggestions that he himself has abandoned perestroika. (Alexander Rahr) GORBACHEV ON UNION TREATY. Speaking at the Minsk tractor plant February 26, Gorbachev forecast that republican representatives working on the draft Union treaty would complete their work at the latest by March 5, TASS reported; it will then be sent to all the members of the Federation Council. The Soviet media have spoken of good progress on the draft, but have also made plain that differences still exist on several key points. Gorbachev said the center should be have responsibility for defense, energy, some fuel matters, railway transport, and communications. He added that the March 17 referendum "opens the possibility to advance more boldly towards a new, renewed Union." (Ann Sheehy) GORBACHEV ON PRICE REFORM. In the same speech, Gorbachev said that work on the draft agreement between the center and the republics on price reform had been completed February 26. He added that republican leaders will sign the document within the next three or four days, after which the dates for raising retail prices will be fixed. Gorbachev did not say whether the republics had agreed on uniform measures of compensation, which had been the major sticking point, with the more prosperous republics unwilling to subsidize compensation in the Central Asian republics. (Ann Sheehy) GORBACHEV STRESSES CEASEFIRE. Speaking to workers in Minsk, Gorbachev said yesterday the Middle East question should be settled as a whole, otherwise: "we will be keeping a powderkeg capable of destroying the world," AFP reported February 26. Gorbachev also noted relations between the United States and Soviet Union are "fragile" and said Moscow and Washington would have to show "a great sense of responsibility" not to destroy what has so far been achieved in improving ties. (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET MEDIA COVERAGE OF GORBACHEV'S TRIP. "Vremya" led off its broadcast last night with an extensive report on Gorbachev's first day in Belorussia, and Central Television later broadcast, in full, Gorbachev's speech to the Belorussian intelligentsia. "Vremya" also showed footage of Gorbachev's discussion with assembly-line workers in a tractor factory. Several workers told Gorbachev that shop shelves are bare and that they have ration coupons for which there are no goods. Gorbachev told them that he has issued decrees stepping up the fight against economic sabotage and speculation, but said that the workers must act on the spot, too. (In December, Gorbachev issued a decree on the creation of special workers' committees to monitor food and consumer goods distribution; the committees have the power to close down enterprises suspected of theft, hoarding, or speculation. (Dawn Mann) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA PLANS MARCH 10 DEMOS. Leonid Batkin, a leader of Democratic Russia, said in a interview yesterday that the organization is planning to organize demonstrations nationwide on March 10 in support of Yeltsin and radical reform. "The intent is for people, especially in the provinces, to know they are part of something larger," Batkin said, according to the Washington Post February 27. At a meeting held February 26 in Moscow, leaders of DR called on Soviet citizens to "declare themselves openly and unambiguously in opposition to the central administration led by Gorbachev," Reuters reported today. (Dawn Mann) AND CALLS FOR "NO" VOTE ON MARCH 17. Democratic Russian also urged people to cast a "no" vote in the national referendum on the future of the Soviet Union on March 17, TASS reported February 27. Vyachselav Volkov, coordinator of the work of the faction, said the formulation of the question implies the restoration of Communist and military structures. Democratic Russia adopted a statement yesterday calling for the creation of a "Commonwealth of Sovereign States" on the basis of a confederation. Leaders of Democratic Russia regard the forthcoming referendum as an opportunity to vote against Gorbachev and his policies. (Alexander Rahr) LATEST DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Belonogov briefed journalists February 26 on the Soviet Union's latest diplomatic efforts. Belonogov said, since Iraq had met the main goal of the UN resolutions, "we see no impediments or reasons for not going ahead with a ceasefire." Belonogov also stressed that "the fact of the start of an Iraqi withdrawal [represents] a new element in the Gulf situation," TASS reported February 26. (Suzanne Crow) IGNATENKO ON COOPERATION WITH US, SADDAM. Presidential assistant and spokesman Vitalii Ignatenko said yesterday that "ground operations could have waited if we had been able to integrate all of the proposals of Bush and Gorbachev...and if it had been possible to do all that through institutions and instruments of the UN Security Council..." Looking forward, Ignatenko said the USSR would cooperate with the United States in the UN. Asked if the USSR would try to pressure the United States if it refused to accept a ceasefire, Ignatenko said: "I don't think we will put forth any type of pressure. That period in our affairs and diplomacy is long gone," TASS reported February 26. (Suzanne Crow) BESSMERTNYKH INTERVIEWED. The Soviet Union will play a role in formulating the post-war security structures in the Persian Gulf and the entire Middle East region, stressed Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh in a TASS interview published February 26. The USSR has its own ideas, he said, and considers that a security system cannot be established without the participation of the USSR. TASS said Bessmertnykh "noted that the Soviet Union with ever more effort will fight for its line of thinking, which has always consisted of 'guaranteeing the interests of the Arab people of Iraq, the Arab people of Kuwait, and the Arab people of the whole region.'" (Suzanne Crow)to to COMMENTARY ON GULF. TASS reported February 26 on a Radio Moscow commentary by Vladislav Kozyakov that was highly critical of the ground war. "According to a spokesman for the US military command, the first day's losses were light, however this view is hardly shared by the families of those Americans who were killed or wounded." The commentary followed closely the line taken in Soviet official statements and accused the US-led alliance of exceeding UN mandates. Pravda said February 26, "America is at the very height of the nationalistic, jingoistic fever, and mass war psychosis is gripping the country," TASS reported. (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET OFFICER SAYS HUSSEIN FINISHED. The German newspaper Bild February 26 quoted a Soviet officer as saying that Saddam Hussein is finished militarily and that the allies should overthrow him. Colonel Vladimir Nazarenko, identified as the General Staff's expert on Iraq, said that Hussein now stands before "a catastrophic military defeat," and that he hopes to save some military potential. Nazarenko reportedly added that "with the Republican Guard [Hussein] could maintain the dictatorship," but that he would be unable to wage war in the Middle East. Nazarenko's comments--he also called Hussein an "Arab Hitler"--contrast with anti-American remarks made by other uniformed spokesmen. (Stephen Foye) DEBT CRISIS LIKELY IN 1991. The latest issue of the OECD's Financial Market Trends warns of a probable crisis this year in the Soviet Union's external debt (Internaitonal Herald Tribune, February 27). At the end of 1990, the USSR's gross convertible currency debt was estimated to be $52 billion, while its reserves "are now well below minimal acceptable levels," accounting for 22 percent of imports. The OECD notes that "a basic problem is that the sharp rise in debt has been accompanied by a virtual collapse of central control over international payments. Many independent banks and enterprises have begun to import or borrow overseas without the authorization or even the knowledge of the central authorities." (Keith Bush) GENERAL STAFF CHIEF ON ARMY'S PROBLEMS. In Pravitel'stvennyi vestnik February 26, General Mikhail Moiseev condemned "the separatist strivings of political demagogues." He also said the army was a stabilizing factor in the Soviet Union, but should not be used to resolve domestic conflicts. While tacitly supporting the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact, Moiseev expressed concern about problems faced in resettling the troops. He said 192,000 servicemen currently lack housing and the number could reach 250,000 with the withdrawal of forces from Germany and the proposed withdrawal from Poland. (Stephen Foye) USSR--IN THE REPUBLICS GORBACHEV PROMISES MORE CHERNOBYL' AID. Gorbachev told the Belorussian Supreme Soviet yesterday that the proposal submitted by the governments and Supreme Soviets of Belorussia, Ukraine and the RSFSR for the adoption of a USSR law providing more social and material aid to people affected by the Chernobyl' nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 "is entirely justified and logical, and the national government will take the most effective steps to satisfy them fully," TASS reported February 26. Gorbachev is scheduled to visit the contaminated areas of Gomel and Mogilev. (Dawn Mann) BELORUSSIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MORE AID FOR CHERNOBYL' VICTIMS. The Belorussian Supreme Soviet adopted the first in a proposed package of laws dealing with the Chernobyl' nuclear power plant accident, TASS reported February 25. Residents in the four zones specified in the law will receive compensation--assuming the government can find the funds. The estimated cost for implementation of the law is 6 billion rubles; the republic's current budget deficit is 3.5 billion rubles. Funds will be requested from the all-Union authorities; the resolution accompanying the law also instructs the republican Council of Ministers to take the necessary concrete steps. (Dawn Mann) DONBASS MINERS DIVIDED ON STRIKE. Yesterday's meeting of the Regional Union of Donbass Strike Committees failed to agree on the miners' strike announced for March 1, TASS reported February 26. Opinion is divided among those who want to go ahead with the strike, those who are for a twenty-four hour strike that would be renewed on March 11 should the miners' demands not be met, and those who argued for a postponement in order to better prepare for an all-Union strike. (Roman Solchanyk) KARAGANDA MINERS PLAN ONE DAY STRIKE. The Karaganda miners have decided to stage a one-day strike on March 1, Radio Moscow reported February 26. Their demands are partly political (the conclusion as soon as possible of the Union treaty on mutually advantageous conditions for the republics) and partly economic (a single system of price formation, increased wages, a common tax policy, and improved supplies). (Ann Sheehy) ENERGY BLOCKADE ENDING IN SOUTH OSSETIA. Kudzha Khundadze, a spokesman for the Georgian Supreme Soviet, told Reuters February 26 that electricity was being restored in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. The Georgian Supreme Soviet is expected to hold an emergency session today to discuss the situation in South Ossetia. Boris Oleinik, deputy chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Council of Nationalities, told Sovetskaya Rossiya February 26 that a national commission must be sent to Tbilisi and to South Ossetia to negotiate a settlement. Oleinik said that Georgian and Ossetian authorities would also be "invited to Moscow for negotiations." Reuters reported February 26. (Dawn Mann) SLIGHT MAJORITY IN LENINGRAD FOR PRESERVATION OF USSR. The Center for the Study of Forecasts of Social Processes has conducted a survey in Leningrad, soliciting citizens' opinions on the national referendum to be held on March 17 on the preservation of the USSR. According to Radio Moscow February 26, a slight majority--53%--favor the preservation of the USSR. 29% are opposed; 18% are undecided. Among those who say they would cast a "yes" vote on March 18, 34% favor a socialist state, while 43% are against a socialist state. (Alexander Rahr) UKRAINE TO HAVE ITS OWN BANKING SYSTEM? Radio Kiev reported February 25 that Ukrainian Supreme Soviet committees on planning, finance, budget, prices, and economic reform held a special meeting in order to discuss the creation of a Ukrainian banking system. Participants noted that a republican banking system is needed in order to circumvent the USSR State Bank's control over the republic's wealth. They said that of the 120 billion ruble income produced in Ukraine, only half stays in the republic, while the rest is passed to Moscow, which then lends a portion of it back to the republic at annual interest rates of 4-8%. Ukrainian anti-inflationary measures are also rendered ineffective by the USSR State Bank's monetary policy, they noted. While the republican money supply decreased last year by 1.4 billion rubles, in the USSR it grew by 25 billion. (Valentyn Moroz) UZBEKISTAN BANS RELIGIOUS PARTIES. The recently-adopted Uzbek law on public associations forbids, inter alia, the creation of parties of a religious nature, TASS reported February 26. The corresponding USSR law only forbids the creation of associations whose aim to inflame religious discord. The authorities in the Central Asian republics have shown themselves hostile to attempts to set up Islamic parties on their territories, and have enlisted the official clergy to argue that such parties are incompatible with Islam. (Ann Sheehy) UZBEK PEASANT PARTY'S CONGRESS RESCHEDULED. A congress of the Democratic Party of Free Dekhkans (Peasants), set up to back Uzbek peasants' demands for better living and working conditions, has been rescheduled for March 27, Uzbek journalist Anvar Usmanov told RFE/RL February 25. The authorities refused permission for the congress to be held on February 23. They evidently feared that dissatisfaction with widespread unemployment and pollution in the Fergana valley, where the congress is to take place, could influence voters in advance of the March 17 referendum. (NCA/Ann Sheehy) YANAEV, NISHANOV MEET SOVIET GERMANS. On February 25-26 USSR Vice-President Gennadii Yanaev and chairman of the USSR Council of Nationalities Rafik Nishanov met members of the organizing committee of the congress of Soviet Germans due to convene March 11-15, TASS reported February 26. Yanaev and Nishanov said they would try to see that the USSR Supreme Soviet take up the question of annulling all repressive acts against the Soviet Germans and that the Soviet government look into the status of the former members of the labor army in which Soviet Germans served following their deportation. They apparently made no promises, however, on the Germans' main demand--the restoration of their autonomy. (Ann Sheehy) DAGESTANIS BEING EVICTED FROM GEORGIA? In an interview published in Rabochaya tribuna February 13, Ramazan Abdulatipov, chairman of the RSFSR Council of Nationalities, said there was a big campaign to evict the 45,000 or so Dagestanis in Georgia from the republic. He said the Georgian government was offering the Dagestanis "removal expenses" of 30,000 rubles, which was not enough to buy a hovel in Makhachkala. (Ann Sheehy) KAZAKHSTAN-GERMAN SOCIETY SET UP. A Kazakhstan-German Society has been set up in Kazakhstan, TASS reported February 25. The society intends to seek new partners and joint contracts, bypassing the cumbersome state system. It will further the study of German in Kazakhstan, and of Kazakh in Germany. (Ann Sheehy) SUNNAH PUBLISHED IN RUSSIAN FOR FIRST TIME. The sunnah (collection of hadiths or traditions about the life and sayings of the Prophet Muhammed) is being published for the first time in Russian, TASS reported February 25. Extracts, translated from the original Arabic, will appear in each issue for 1991 of the independent newspaper "Uzy" published twice a month in Moscow, and the full text will be published in Moscow by the joint Soviet-Arabic enterprise "Dom Biruni." (Ann Sheehy) STATUE OF MAITREYA RETURNED TO BURYAT BUDDHISTS. A 16-meter-high copper statue of Maitreya, the next future Buddha, was recently returned to the Buddhist datsan (monastery) in Aginskoe in the Aginsky Buryat autonomous okrug, TASS reported February 25. The national sacred object of the Buryat people had been removed from the datsan when it was forcibly closed down in 1940. The head of the monastery told TASS that not only believers but also USSR and RSFSR deputies and the local authorities had campaigned for its return. (Ann Sheehy)
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.