|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead|
No. 55, 19 March 1991
BALTIC STATES VOTING IRREGULARITIES IN ESTONIA. There were widespread allegations of voting fraud in Sunday's all-Union referendum, a number of Estonian and Finnish sources reported March 18. Erik Kuznetsov, an ethnic Russian living in Estonia, boasted to the Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat on March 18 that he had cast 7 votes in favor; Postimees reporter Stepan Karja said he had had the opportunity to vote 12 times; and journalist Mart Linnart said he had been given ballots in 5 places, once without even showing his ID card. The Estonian Supreme Council refused to hold the referendum, but local Communist Party cells and military units organized their own voting. (Riina Kionka) TASS MISREPORTS ELECTION TURNOUT. TASS's reporting on Sunday's referendum continued the widespread propaganda campaign initiated with the rundown to the vote. According to TASS March 18, some 250,000 people voted in Estonia. TASS described this number as representing 83.6% of the eligible voters. In fact, 250,000 voters constitutes only about 23% of the eligible voting population in Estonia. (Riina Kionka) MORE PARTICIPANTS IN USSR REFERENDUM IN LATVIA. Pro-Moscow deputy Stanislav Buka told Diena March 18 that over 450,000 people took part in the March 17 referendum and that of these, about 20,000 had voted "no." Buka claimed that 23-30% of all eligible voters had participated. He added that most of the voters came from the cities of Riga, Daugavpils, Rezekne, and Jelgava, where most of the inhabitants are Russians and other Slavs. He said that his figures did not include results from Soviet military bases in Latvia. In the March 3 poll on Latvia's independence, 87.6% of the registered voters participated. (Dzintra Bungs) COMMENTS ON USSR REFERENDUM IN LATVIA. Latvia's Foreign Minister Janis Jurkans said that the USSR referendum cannot save the Soviet Union, especially since it cannot resolve the basic problem of the economy which remains subordinated to ideology, Reuters reported March 18. In a different vein, Irena Andreeva and Gennadii Kiselev, two Soviet observers of the March 17 referendum in Latvia, complained that "polling stations had been set up in buses, army tents, ... and other unsuitable places"; they claimed, therefore, that "the Latvian leadership was undemocratic," TASS reported March 18. What TASS failed to note was that the referendum was not organized by the Latvian Supreme Council or the government, but by USSR troops, and various groups and organizations in Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) REFERENDUM VOTE IN LITHUANIA. TASS reported March 18 that 652,000 people in Lithuania voted in the March 17 referendum, of whom 96.7% voted "yes." The number of voters is less than the majority needed to make the vote official, but far in excess of expectations. In a telephone report to the RFE Lithuanian Service on March 18, a correspondent reported that Lithuanian Communist Party secretary General Algimantas Naudziunas had said about 100,000 people had voted at military bases and an additional 500,000 people (of whom, 120,000 reside in Vilnius) had voted at civilian polling centers. The overwhelming vote for Lithuanian independence in the republic's February 9 poll makes it difficult to believe that almost 400,000 people living outside of Vilnius could have voted for the Union. (Saulius Girnius) HOW MANY SOVIET TROOPS ARE IN THE BALTIC? Sunday's vote may present the army with a problem. Soviet troop strength in the Baltic has been significantly increased over the past year, primarily through redeployment of forces from Eastern Europe. For obvious political reasons, the High Command has refused to reveal the number of troops currently deployed there. The military leadership advocated a "yes" vote in the March 17 referendum and would like vote totals in the Baltic to indicate strong support for the preservation of the Union. The problem: well-known population figures and recent voter surveys in the Baltic republics provide an approximation of the number of voters there who might be expected to vote "pro-Union." An overly large "yes" vote would therefore suggest either widespread voting fraud or the presence of massive numbers of troops. (Stephen Foye) LATVIAN-DANISH PROTOCOL SIGNED. On March 18 the foreign ministers of Latvia and Denmark signed a protocol in Copenhagen that could lead to establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Denmark, which has never recognized the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States in 1940, has already signed identical protocols with Estonia and Lithuania. According to Reuters and Radio Riga of March 18, agreements on economic, cultural, and educational cooperation were also formalized. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR ALL-UNION TOPICS TV NEWS REPORTING: BACK TO THE ORWELLIAN PAST? The head of TSN newscasts was replaced yesterday, and the March 18-19 editions of TSN were turned into highlights of the official news show, Vremya." Moreover, coverage in both shows is lacking: neither Vremya" or TSN (which was, in the past, reputed to provide viewers with more information in its 15 minute broadcasts than Vremya" did in 45) reported yesterday or today, for example, on the results of the RSFSR referendum; they mentioned Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov's visit to Leningrad's Kirov factory but did not report that the workers welcomed Pavlov by staging a huge protest rally; and neither mentioned the six-day old hunger strike of the Kuzbass miners demanding Gorbachev's resignation. Instead, they aired a number of rosy pictures of success-ranging from reports on the USSR referendum to items on certain provincial industrial enterprises. (Julia Wishnevsky) DISTURBING TREND IN TELEVISION PROGRAMMING. On March 18, Central Television devoted almost 3 hours of prime time to a "literary- artistic show" that had nothing to do with either literature or the arts, but instead lionized the military. The military and the Russian Orthodox Church, the moderators said, constitute the only trustworthy segments of Soviet society. On March-15, Central Television broadcast an unscheduled 105-minute-long interview with Igor Shafarevich, a noted mathematician, whose book, Russophobia, is widely reported to be anti-Semitic. On March 16, "Vremya" aired an interview with another hardliner-Sergei Vikulov, the former editor of the ultranationalist literary monthly Nash sovremennik, who urged voters to vote "yes" in the USSR referendum. "Vremya" was followed by an unscheduled two-hour performance of the Kuban' Cossack Choir (whose music arouses nationalist feelings in certain circles). (Julia Wishnevsky) GORBACHEV MEETS ECONOMISTS. Pravda March 19 reports on USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev's March 16 meeting "with the country's leading economists." Pravda printed only Gorbachev's address and did not identify those present ("Vremya" showed Valentin Pavlov, Leonid Abalkin, Aleksandr Granberg, and Vadim Medvedev). Gorbachev said a compromise must be found between what he termed the "Gossnab" approach, in which the entire economy runs on state orders, and a full-blooded market economy based on inter-enterprise contracts. Both, Gorbachev declared, were wrong for the Soviet Union, which should base itself on the Spanish or Brazilian models. The East Europeans are already, Gorbachev claimed, regretting their moves to the market. (Elizabeth Teague) 100 ARMED GROUPS DISBANDED. In the past 7-months, some 100 armed groups having more than 6,000 members have been disbanded, according to Yurii Golik, chairman of the committee charged with coordinating the activities of law-enforcement agencies. Golik, speaking on Central Television on March 15, said 30,000 firearms, 4-tons of explosives, and 1 million rounds of ammunition have been confiscated. (Dawn Mann) INFORMAL PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATIONS IN THE USSR. On March 12, Komsomol'skaya pravda published a cover story listing informal military and para-military formations in the USSR. The newspaper reports that there are no informal military organizations in the RSFSR, Ukraine, and Belorussia, nor are there any in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Following Soviet military actions in Baku in January 1990, there are no more military formations in Azerbaijan, while various military extremists their continue activities in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Last January, too, the government of Moldavia disbanded a battalion of national guards, but the pro-Moscow Dniestr and Gagauz republics have kept their volunteer "worker detachments." The newspaper noted that, in Georgia, Ossetians are using rocket launchers in their confrontation with the Georgian militia. In the three Baltic states, the report concludes, the national para-military organizations of the pre-Soviet era are confronting the worker's militia detachments created by the Interfront movements and OMON squads. (Victor Yasmann) DETAILS OF PRICE INCREASES. Following an interview with USSR State Committee for Prices Chairman Vyacheslav Senchagov, "Vremya" March-18 showed its viewers what some of the new retail prices due to take effect on April 2-3 will be. On some staples, the increases are very steep. For example, the new prices (with the former prices in brackets) are, per kilo: beef-7.00 (2.00); sugar-2.20 (0.94); rye bread-0.60 (0.19); and cod-2.20 (0.59). (Keith Bush) KOMPLEKTOV AS US AMBASSADOR? AP and AFP cited unnamed White House officials as saying on March 18 that Viktor Komplektov will become the USSR's new ambassador to the United States. Komplektov, a career diplomat and Deputy Foreign Minister since December 1982, is a US and Latin American specialist. The officials said Komplektov was viewed as a humorless hard-liner in Washington. AFP said Washington accepted Komplektov's appointment on March 18. TASS has yet to report on the appointment. (Suzanne Crow) KVITSINSKY STRESSES EAST EUROPE. In an extensive interview on Soviet-East European relations in Pravda March 18, Deputy Foreign Minister Yulii Kvitsinsky said that these countries must remain a focal point of Soviet foreign policy. Kvitsinsky said the question of new political agreements between the USSR and East European countries is immediately related to the USSR's own security. He dismissed concerns that NATO "is not in a hurry to follow the WTO's example" in dissolving itself by saying that the WTO's move belonged to an important tendency [toward non-confrontation] present in Europe. TASS summarized parts of the interview on March 18. (Suzanne Crow) CHURKIN SAYS KURILES RUMORS "PREMATURE." Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin reacted on March 18 to an Interfax news agency report on Soviet plans to return two of the disputed Kurile Islands to Japan by saying, "my only reaction is that it's too premature to talk about things like that," AP reported March 18. Churkin's statement-far from a denial of such a deal-stands in sharp contrast to previous denials by him and other Soviet officials that two islands might be returned to Japan. (Suzanne Crow) NEW PROPOSAL FOR KURILES. The chairman of the Sakhalin regional executive committee, Valentin Fedorov, has come up with a new proposal for settling the dispute over the South Kurile island group, TASS reported March 15. He suggests that the islands and part of Hokkaido be designated a free economic zone, while remaining Soviet and Japanese territories, with third parties able to participate in the zone for development purposes. Meanwhile, in a poll held simultaneously with the March 17 referendum, the vast majority of voters in the South Kurile district of Sakhalin oblast-which includes the four disputed islands-and in two other districts of the oblast voted to remain within the USSR, TASS reported March 18. (Keith Bush) SHEVARDNADZE IN FAVOUR OF LEADERSHIP RENEWAL. Speaking to journalists in Moscow, former USSR foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze has repeated his warning that the danger of dictatorship exists in the Soviet Union. Reuters March 16 also quoted him as saying that a younger generation should take over the country's leadership. "There are quite a few politicians" who could lead the country into the future, Shevardnadze said. Shevardnadze cut short a trip to Italy and returned to Moscow to meet with US Secretary of State James Baker, whom he hosted in his private apartment. (Alexander Rahr) YAKOVLEV TRIES TO CALM POLITICAL PASSIONS. Pravda March 16 contained an interview with former Presidential Council member Aleksandr Yakovlev. According to TASS, Yakovlev considers the March 17 referendum a great step towards democracy and was critical of the democratic opposition for demanding Gorbachev's resignation. Yakovlev also expressed concern over the "crude methods" of political struggle employed with regard to creation of an RSFSR presidency. Commenting on the interview, Radio Rossiya said on March 16 that Yakovlev had initially opposed the introduction of an executive presidency in the RSFSR but was persuaded to change his mind during a meeting with younger Russian politicians. (Julia Wishnevsky) LIBERAL NEWSPAPER SAYS THREAT OF FASCISM EXISTS. As its model for consolidation, the Soviet Union's ruling group might choose the ideology of corporate fascism, according to politologist Mikhail Leont'ev, writing in Nesavismaya gazeta March 15. Faced with the need to take tough economic measures, the authorities will be obliged to continue their search for an "enemy," Leont'ev writes, and have, in fact, already identified the "mafia" and saboteurs as such. Leon'tev cites a poll conducted by the All-Union Center for the Study of Public Opinion indicating that 42% of those polled believe that real power in the country belongs to the "mafia," and he says Gorbachev himself has described democratic politicians as "indirectly paid agents" of criminal capital circles. (Victor Yasmann) USSR IN THE REPUBLICS PRELIMINARY REFERENDUM RESULTS. The preliminary results of the all-Union referendum made available so far are somewhat confusing since it is not always clear whether TASS is referring to the total electorate or only to whose who actually voted. Figures cited by AP on March 18 for seven of the nine republics which held the referendum give a turnout of between 83% (Ukraine) and 97.7% (Turkmenistan). The vote in favor ranged from 70% of those voting in Ukraine to 95% in Turkmenistan. In terms of eligible voters the "yes" vote thus ranged from 58.1% in Ukraine to 92.8% in Turkmenistan. No overall figure has been given yet for the RSFSR, or for Azerbaijan, where the turnout was relatively low at 74%. (Ann Sheehy) PRELIMINARY REFERENDUM RESULTS FROM UKRAINE. First results from the referendum in Ukraine say that 73.4% of registered voters in the republic responded positively to the question posed by the all-Union referendum regarding maintaining the Soviet Union, Radio Kiev reported March 18. At the same time, an even higher percentage-82.8%-supported the republican opinion poll, which asked if Ukraine should remain part of the Soviet Union on the basis of its declaration of sovereignty. In Kiev, only 44.5% of the voters supported the all-Union referendum. The three West Ukrainian oblasts (Lvov, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankovsk) registered the lowest support for the all-Union referendum. Voters in Lvov Oblast responded to the all-Union referendum with a 76% "no" vote. In Ternopil, 19.3% voted "yes" in the all-Union referendum and in Ivano-Frankovsk the corres-ponding figure was 18.2%. (Roman Solchanyk) REFERENDUM RESULTS IN BELORUSSIA. Voter turnout in Belorussia was 83%, with 82.6% in favor of preserving the Union. The results from the city of Minsk were more ambiguous: turnout was reported to be 70%, and of these, 60% of the votes were cast in favor of preserving the Union. An-nouncements of the price hikes to go into effect throughout the USSR on April 32- were carried in republican newspapers on the evening of March-17, and sources in Minsk say that some voters went back to the polling places, demanding that they be given back their ballots-presumably so they could change their vote. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) REFERENDUM IN CENTRAL ASIA. Preliminary results of the March 17 referendum, as reported by TASS on March 18, indicate that, as expected by Central Asian leaders, voters in their republics voted heavily for preservation of the union. The figures given were 94.1% of voters approving in Kazakhstan, with 94.5% favorable in Kyrgyzstan and 95.2% in Tajikistan. TASS states that more than 90% of the population of Uzbekistan approved the Union, but presumably the figure actually refers to the% of voters who cast favorable votes. The figures provided by TASS suggest that calls by opposition political groups in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for a boycott or votes against the Union were largely unsuccessful. (Bess Brown) RADIOROSSIYA ON THE RSFSR REFERENDUM. "How they must hate Russia and be afraid of her people," a Radio Rossiya moderator lamented during the evening of March 18, in reference to "Vremya's" failure report on the results of the RSFSR referendum on the introduction of a republican presidency. According to Radio Rossiya, 65.5% of the eligible RSFSR citizens voted on March 17, 78.52% of whom opted for the creation of an RSFSR presidency. Thus, in accordance with the RSFSR law on referenda which states that more than half of the eligible voters must vote in favor of a measure in order for it to pass, the office of president of the RSFSR will be created. "Vremya" did report on March 18 that the RSFSR law had-been amended earlier that day to read "[a measure is con-sidered passed if] more than the half of those voters who took part in a referendum amount to more than 50% of those eligible," a change that-was presumably introduced following the decision of some (autonomous) republican soviets within the RSFSR not to hold the referendum. (Julia-Wishnevsky) MOSCOW RESIDENTS FAVOR DIRECT ELECTION OF CITY MAYOR. Radio Rossiya also reported that in Moscow, about 68% of the eligible citizens voted, slightly more than half of whom said "yes" to the preservation of the Union, 78% of whom opted for the introduction of the RSFSR presidency, and over 80% of whom favor direct election of the capital's mayor. (Julia Wishnevsky) GORBACHEV'S NEIGHBORS DO NOT SHARE HIS VIEWS. Gorbachev appears to have voted with the minority in the Moscow district in which he lives, Radio Rossiya reported March 18. The radio cited preliminary data released by Il'ya Zaslavsky, chairman of the Oktyabr'sky district soviet, according to which, the majority of district residents said "no" to the "preservation of a renewed [Soviet] Union," and "yes" to the introduction of the post of RSFSR president and to the direct election of the mayor of Moscow. Gorbachev, however, claims to have voted "yes," "no," and "no," respectively. (Julia Wishnevsky) YELTSIN, KHASBULATOV ON QUADRILATERAL TREATY. Yeltsin and his first deputy Ruslan Khasbulatov appear to differ on the urgency of a possible quadrilateral treaty between the RSFSR, Ukraine, Belorussia, and Kazakhstan. Interviewed by Radio Rossiya when he went to the polls on March 17, Yeltsin said they had not abandoned the idea, and that if there were difficulties over the signing of the Union treaty the four republics would sign a treaty among themselves. Khasbulatov, on the other hand, called at a news conference on March 18 for the signing of a treaty of quadrilateral cooperation between the four republics at the first opportunity, TASS reported. (Ann Sheehy) WHY ARE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTIES INEFFECTIVE? In a lengthy article in Ogonek No.-10, Leningrad political journalist Sergei Andreev seeks an answer to the widely-debated question of why newly- created democratic parties in the RSFSR seem unable to act as a viable opposition to the CPSU. Andreev points out that these parties do not take into account the concrete interests (including economic ones) of various groups in society. He suggests replacing existing parties that have abstract liberal or social democratic programs by parties of workers, peasants, creative intelligentsia, etc., i.e., by organizations that deal with the real problems of real people.(Vera Tolz) TSIPKO ATTACKS YELTSIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS. Russian philosopher Aleksandr Tsipko, known for his liberal views, has denounced Yeltsin's supporters as "neo-Bolsheviks" and "demons" of the Russian democratic movement. In his latest article, published in Komsomol'sakaya pravda March 16, Tsipko stressed that it would be a "tragic mistake" to support Yeltsin in his political struggle against Gorbachev. He criticized "so-called democrats" for provoking unjustified fears in society. According to Tsipko, society should resist not only a return to totalitarian Communism but also calls for the dismantling of the country. (Alexander Rahr) COMMERCIAL FOREIGN RADIO IN MOSCOW. A commercial radio station, "Europe Plus Moscow," a joint-venture between France's "Europe Plus" and the Soviet group, "Sat Tele Export," has been set up in Moscow. Radio Moscow World Service in French reported March 12 that French songs and news bulletins in Russian, French, and English comprise 60% of the station's programming. There are other commercial radio stations in Moscow, but they differ from "Europe Plus Moscow" in that they chose to rent short amounts of broadcast time from Soviet radio stations. (Vera Tolz) DEMONSTRATIONS BANNED IN CENTRAL MINSK. RFE-RL learned March 14 that the Minsk City Executive Committee has banned demonstrations and rallies on Lenin Square in central Minsk. The decision was purportedly based on concern for the disruption of traffic, but activists charge that the move was directed against the free expression of opinion. Lenin Square has been the scene of numerous protest meetings. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) FOKINELECTED UKRAINIAN PEOPLE'S DEPUTY. Vitol'd Fokin, chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Ministers, has been elected a Ukrainian SSR people's deputy, Ukrinform- TASS reported March 18. Fokin won more than 62% of the vote in a by- election to fill the seat vacated by former first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party Volodymyr Ivashko. (Roman Solchanyk) LAST MOLDAVIAN COMMUNIST NEWSPAPER LEFT WITHOUT STAFF. The Moldavian CP's last remaining native-language republican newspaper remains "practically without staff" after most of its journalists left to join other publications, TASS reported March 15, citing Moldovapres. Cuvantul, launched last September as the Moldavian CP daily after the Party lost all of its other Moldavian-language republican newspapers, is languishing with only 6,000 subscribers. The journalists left to protest against what they termed the "dictatorial policy" of the Moldavian CP's new First Secretary, Grigore Eremei. Following Petru Lucinschi's replacement by Eremei, "all democracy has come to an end in the Moldavian CP," the journalists said. (Vladimir Socor) [As of 1300 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore & Dawn Mann
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.