Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 159 Part I, 19 August 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 159 Part I, 19 August 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by
the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL
Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's
Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN PROJECTS CALM

* RUBLE, EQUITY MARKETS CONTINUE TO FALL

* RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF VISITS TAJIKISTAN

End Note: A COUP THAT SHOOK THE WORLD
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN PROJECTS CALM. President Boris Yeltsin returned to
his residence outside Moscow on 18 August, but his aides
noted that he continues to monitor the situation, Interfax
reported, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko told journalists
that the government was forced to take the recent steps and
would have control over the situation from now on, according
to ITAR-TASS. (The same day, he asked Japan to extend Russia
the $800 million credit Tokyo had agreed to last month.)
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov said it is
important to prevent panic, noting that "today we have to
pay for mistakes in the economic policy that were made in
the past two years," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUBLE, EQUITY MARKETS CONTINUE TO FALL. The ruble fell
against the U.S. dollar on 19 August but rose slightly
against the German mark at the Interbank Currency Exchange,
Interfax reported. At the close of trading, the rate was
6.99 rubles to the dollar and 3.96 rubles to the German
mark. The Central Bank announced that it is increasing its
control over currency exchanges, where the ruble has fallen
further, and has established a 15 percent maximum difference
between foreign-currency buying and selling rates. Equity
markets also fell on 19 August, with demand "practically
non-existent" and investors trying to sell for dollars,
Interfax reported. And because of declining demand, the
Russian privatization agencies announced on 19 August that
they will delay the offer of a 5 percent share in Gazprom,
ITAR-TASS reported. PG

GOVERNMENT MEMBERS PROMISE BETTER FUTURE. Speaking in
Rostov-on-Don, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said on
18 August that expanded exports, which are likely following
the fall in the value of the ruble, and funds released by
debt restructuring will help the government to pay back
wages, Interfax reported. He also said that the Russian
government has no plans to drive the ruble down, as some
observers have suggested, according to ITAR-TASS. Meanwhile,
Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax on 18 August
that tax collections continue to improve. PG

ZYUGANOV CALLS FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. Arguing that
Yeltsin had been "absolutely devalued" by the decisions
announced on 17 August, Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov demanded that the president resign, Interfax
reported on 18 August. He said that he and his faction at
the 21 August State Duma session will call on Yeltsin to
step down and allow for the formation of a responsible
government. Only such steps may allow the country to escape
from its current predicament and avoid civil war, Zyuganov
said. He added that his faction is prepared for "an
emergency dialogue" with all groups opposed to Yeltsin's
actions. PG

OTHER POLITICIANS DEMAND CHANGES. Fearing that the ruble's
decline will trigger more inflation and greater uncertainty,
other political leaders called on the president and his
government to make changes. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev
proposed the formation of a coalition government, Interfax
reported on 18 August. He indicated that the Duma may ask
for the current government to be reshuffled if that does not
happen. Meanwhile, Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev
said he favored a roundtable meeting, but Yeltsin's
spokesman rejected that proposal, at least for the time
being. PG

RUSSIAN MEDIA SLAMS GOVERNMENT MOVES. On the day after the
de facto devaluation of the ruble, commentators in the
Moscow press attacked the move in the strongest terms.
Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 August, Tatyana
Koshkareva and Rustam Narzikulov argued that "those who are
chiefly to blame for the financial crisis are again trying
to evade responsibility." They even suggested that "August
1998 bears a remarkable resemblance to August 1991. Seven
years ago, there was a putsch in Moscow; yesterday there was
a coup in economic policy." In "Segodnya," Yuliya Ulyanova
entitled her article "Russia goes bankrupt" and argued that
Yeltsin and his team are playing word games to avoid
assuming responsibility,. adding they no longer deserve
anyone's trust. But perhaps the sharpest comment came in
"Komsomolskaya pravda." Its editors featured a list of six
ways to survive the current crisis, noting that these could
be ignored by those who already have hard-currency accounts.
PG

CENTRAL BANK OUTLINES FREEZE RULES. The Central Bank on 17
August suspended for 90 days all payments by residents to
non-residents in settlement of the principal on financial
loans whose term exceeds 180 days. It also suspended for the
same period insurance payments on loans backed by
securities, Prime-Tass reported. But the bank outlined a
number of exceptions, including loans from the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development and certain other loans
guaranteed by the government. Other Russian banks announced
that they were scheduling talks with foreign partners to
reschedule debt payments, ITAR-TASS reported. And Deputy
Prime Minister Fedorov told Interfax that he has invited
representatives from JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank to help
reschedule Russia's domestic debt. PG

REACTION OF RUSSIAN REGIONS TO RUBLE'S FALL VARIES WIDELY.
According to a survey in the 18 August "Kommersant-Daily,"
the Russian Federation's far-flung regions reacted very
differently to the change in government policy on the ruble.
Some remained "icy calm," while others faced runs on foreign
currency and goods. In St. Petersburg on 17 August, most
banks simply refused to exchange currency at all, and people
eagerly bought up durable goods and jewelry. The same
pattern held in Novosibirsk and a number of other regions.
In Novokuznetsk and Stavropol, on the other hand, there was
little reaction at all. In most places, ever more people
tried to convert rubles or buy durable goods as word spread
about the de facto devaluation of the ruble. PG

INTERNATIONAL REACTION CALMS. Political leaders, bankers,
and investors in most countries suggest that Russia's
economic difficulties will not have a serious immediate
impact on their economies, Russian and international news
agencies reported on 18 August With the exception of Belarus
which is tightly linked to Russia and Ukraine (where
officials are concerned about the fall of the hryvnya),
leaders in the other former Soviet republics, the Baltic
States, and Eastern European states indicated that they do
not expect much damage. And in news that will be welcome to
many Russian investors, the Cypriot Central Bank told ITAR-
TASS on 18 August that the new Russian currency corridor
will not have a "serious negative effect" on the activities
of Russian off-shore companies there. PG

NEMTSOV PRESENTS FIRST SUBSIDY TO DISPLACED MINERS. Deputy
Prime Minister Nemtsov on 18 August presented the first
30,000 ruble (some $400) subsidy to a miner who is seeking
to go into business, ITAR-TASS reported. Nemtsov also
chaired a meeting looking into charges that mining company
officials have failed to live up to their obligations to pay
workers. PG

RUSSIAN REVENUES FROM OIL, GAS SALES FALL. Revenues from the
sale abroad of natural gas were down 18.4 percent and from
oil exports down 23.4 percent in the first half of this
year, compared with the corresponding period in 1997, ITAR-
TASS and Interfax reported on 18 August. The fall in
revenues from the sale of natural gas reflects both a
decline in price and a decline in exports; the decrease from
the sale of oil reflected only the decline in price, as oil
exports rose during this period. PG

MOSCOW PLACES GREAT HOPES ON CLINTON-YELTSIN SUMMIT.
Yeltsin's foreign affairs adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, told
ITAR-TASS on 18 August that the Russian government has high
expectations of U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to
Moscow on 1-3 September. Prikhodko said Yeltsin is "set to
do serious work" on a wide variety of issues from economics
to strategic arms reduction to the resolution of a variety
of international problems, including Kosova. PG

YELTSIN AIDE DRAWS 'RED LINE' AGAINST NATO. Also on 18
August, Sergei Prikhodko told ITAR-TASS that Russia will
modify its approach to Western countries if NATO invites
invite any former Soviet republic into the alliance and thus
crosses the "'red line'" formed by the border of the former
Soviet Union. Prikhodko also suggested that failure to make
progress on modifying the Conventional Forces in Europe
treaty could "jeopardize not only the amendments but the CFE
in its present form." Meanwhile, Russian Defense Ministry
officials again spoke out against any use of force in Kosova
without UN Security Council approval, Interfax reported. And
a commentary in the military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda"
said that "NATO declares war on Yugoslavia," which the
newspaper described as "one of the countries most friendly
toward Russia." PG

NEW SHAKEUP IMMINENT AT ROSVOORUZHENIE? "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 19 August quoted unidentified sources as
predicting that Yevgenii Ananev may soon be replaced as
director-general of Rosvooruzhenie and that his replacement
will be a deputy director of the Russian presidential
administration who it claims has little experience in the
field of arms exports. The newspaper recalls that the
driving force behind Ananev's appointment one year ago and
the concomitant restructuring of Rosvooruzhenie was Finance
Minister Yakov Urinson, whom Yeltsin recently harshly
criticized. LF

YELTSIN URGED TO AID RUSSIA'S 2 MILLION HOMELESS CHILDREN. A
group of public figures have called on the Russian president
to take "energetic measures" to help the country's some 2
million homeless children, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August.
Their appeal said that "not only the future of the children
rejected by society is threatened, but society itself."
Among those signing the appeal were Raisa Gorbachev. Also on
18 August, Moscow's Commission on Vagrancy Prevention
reported that there are some 30,000 homeless people in
Moscow, the most prosperous city in Russia. At present, the
Russian capital has facilities to handle only 1,505 of the
homeless. PG

RUSSIANS SPLIT OVER MEANING OF AUGUST 1991 COUP. On the
seventh anniversary of the August 1991 coup, the All-Russia
Center for Public Opinion released a poll highlighting deep
divisions in Russian society about that event, Interfax
reported. Of the 1,600 people polled, 46 percent said the
events were "just an episode in the struggle for power,"
while 31 percent said the coup was "a tragic event with
catastrophic consequences for Russia and its people." Only 8
percent said the events had allowed democratic forces to
"put an end to communist rule" (see also "End Note" below).
PG

PROTEST RALLY IN KALMYKIA. Some 500 people staged a
demonstration in the town of Priyutnoe on 10 August to
protest catastrophic living conditions, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 19 August. Water supplies to the town
have been cut off, some workers have not been paid for over
a year, and some families have been reduced to eating animal
fodder. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Kalmyk
President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Russian presidential
representative in Kalmykia V. Bembetov, and Russian
President Yeltsin for his protection of Ilyumzhinov's
"illegal" regime. They also addressed a letter to the
Russian Chess Federation to protest the fact that funds
allocated for paying child allowances are being used to
finance the construction of facilities for the 33rd Chess
Olympiad in Elista, the Kalmyk capital. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF VISITS TAJIKISTAN...The head of
Russia's Federal Border Service, Colonel-General Nikolai
Bordyuzha, arrived in Tajikistan on 18 August, ITAR-TASS
reported. Bordyuzha described the situation along the Tajik-
Afghan border as calm and said there is no immediate need to
reinforce units already there. He added that Russian troops
in Tajikistan are "ready" should the Taliban threaten the
CIS border. Bordyuzha met with Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov behind closed doors. Later, Rakhmonov's defense
adviser, Mizrob Kabirov, said Bordyuzha assured Rakhmonov
that Russia will give Tajikistan all necessary help,
including military, Interfax reported. The defense and
foreign ministers of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan are scheduled to meet in Tashkent on 22-23 August
to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. BP

...FOLLOWED BY CHIEF OF STAFF, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER. A
Russian delegation led by the army chief of staff, Anatolii,
Kvashnin and First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov
arrived in Tajikistan on 19 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The
delegation visited the headquarters of Russia's 201st
Motorized Division and peace-keeping forces stationed in
Tajikistan. The delegation then met with President Rakhmonov
to discuss how to improve security along the Tajik-Afghan
border. BP

COMMANDER OF TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTRY FORCES SACKED.
President Rakhmonov on 18 August dismissed the commander of
the Interior Ministry's military forces, Major-General
Shovali Saidamirov, ITAR-TASS reported. Saidamirov was fired
because of "serious deficiencies in management of the
troops, poor military discipline in units of the ministry's
forces, and failure to enforce presidential orders on
measures to consolidate law and order." BP

KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER EVICTED FROM BUILDING. The Kyrgyz weekly
newspaper "Asaba" has been evicted from the building in
which it was located for nearly 60 years, RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek reported on 18 August. That
building was transferred to the Interior Ministry in 1991.
Former Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov allowed "Asaba," now an
opposition newspaper, to continue using its offices in the
building, but incumbent Premier Kubanychbek Jumaliev
supported the ministry's call to evict the newspaper. A
government decree was issued in late may ordering the
newspaper to vacate the building by 15 August, on which day
the newspaper organized a protest in Bishkek's central
square. Some 500 people, including members of the
parliament, took part in the rally. The Interior Ministry
responded by sealing off the newspaper's offices and
releasing a statement saying "Asaba" is under private
ownership and can "provide itself with its own building." A
member of the newspaper's editorial board said new office
space has been found and this week's issue of the newspaper
will appear on time on 21 August. BP

WOULD-BE AZERBAIJAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PROTEST
IRREGULARITIES. A spokesman for Azerbaijani businessman
Ilgar Kerimov, whose application to register as a candidate
for the October presidential elections was rejected, told
Turan on 18 August that members of the Central Electoral
Commission had hinted they expected a bribe in return for
registering Kerimov as a candidate. The spokesman rejected
as "unfair" the commission's claim that 70 percent of the
signatures collected in support of Kerimov's candidacy were
forged. A second would-be candidate, Umid [Hope] Party
chairman Abulfat Akhmedov, claimed that the commission
deliberately "lost" lists of signatures submitted in support
of his registration. He said he intends to appeal to the
Supreme Court against the commission's refusal to register
his candidacy. LF

FALL-OUT FROM BAKU PROTEST RALLY CONTINUES. Azerbaijan's
Movement for Democratic Elections and Democratic Reforms
issued a statement on 18 August protesting alleged bias in
the state television coverage of the 15 August opposition
demonstration in Baku, Turan reported. The Human Rights
Center of Azerbaijan reported that at least seven
journalists were detained by police during the
demonstrations in Baku and other cities, adding that four of
them were beaten. The chairman of the Azerbaijani Council
for Civil Defense and Sport said on 18 August that he
intends to ask the Baku municipal authorities to demand that
the leaders of the political parties who organized the
demonstration pay a fee for the use of the motor sport
stadium on the outskirts of Baku where the rally took place.
The Baku mayor had refused permission to hold the
demonstration on Baku's central Freedom Square. LF

ABKHAZ, GEORGIANS FORTIFY INTERNAL BORDER. Newly appointed
Georgian State Minister Niko Lortkipanidze and Major-General
Sergei Korobko, commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces
deployed under the CIS aegis along the border between
Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, met in Tbilisi on 17
August, Interfax reported. Korobko expressed concern that
trenches and other fortifications are being dug on the
Georgian bank of the Inguri River, which forms the internal
border. A member of the Abkhaz government in exile told
Caucasus Press that the Abkhaz are erecting barbed wire
fences on their side of the river and that they intend to
electrify those fences. But Georgian deputy parliamentary
chairman Vakhtang Kolbaya cast doubt on that report,
pointing out that the topographical relief would make it
difficult, if not impossible, to do so. Lortkipanidze asked
Korobko to intensify his control over the border to prevent
further incursions by Abkhaz militants into Georgian
territory. LF

ARMENIAN EX-PRESIDENT READY FOR COOPERATION. Levon Ter-
Petrossian's press spokesman, Levon Zurabian, told RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau on 18 August that Ter-Petrossian may
cooperate with the present Armenian authorities in the
future, despite "serious policy differences" on key issues.
But he declined to predict whether Ter-Petrossian will
return to active politics. Zurabian said that Ter-Petrossian
could have taken "tough action" in response to pressure from
then Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, which precipitated his
resignation in February 1998. He added, however, that the
former president refrained from doing so in the interests of
democracy. Zurabian rejected charges that Ter-Petrossian's
Karabakh policy was "defeatist," and he stressed the
latter's achievements in winning the Karabakh war, stamping
out racketeering and banditry, and ensuring macroeconomic
stability. LF

KARABAKH TO ISSUE OWN PASSPORTS. The government of the
unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced on 18
August that it plans to replace the old Soviet passports
still in use with new ones, RFE/RL's Stepanakert
correspondent reported. The process of exchanging passports
will take approximately one year. Residents of Karabakh have
until now used Armenian passports when traveling abroad.
Azerbaijan is currently also issuing new passports. LF

END NOTE

A COUP THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

by Paul Goble

	Seven years ago, a coup in Moscow set off a series of
shock waves that continue to reverberate throughout the
Russian Federation, its neighbors, and the world at large.
	When the coup began on 19 August 1991, the Soviet
Union still existed, Mikhail Gorbachev was its president,
and the post-Cold War international system appeared to be in
order. When it ended three days later, each had been called
into question.
	But despite the dramatic changes that followed, the
coup attempt itself--why it was organized, why it almost
succeeded, and why it ultimately failed--was in fact a
manifestation of three underlying features of political life
that continue to resonate there.
	First, the August 1991 coup was staged and opposed by
two relatively small groups of people, each of which was
convinced that the country faced a crisis and that its
future depended entirely on the outcome of that crisis. The
Emergency Committee, as events quickly showed, had very few
people behind it. But despite the heroism of the defenders
of the Russian White House, the number of people involved
was also small. Both groups were united in a sense that the
country would be doomed if the other won and by an
understanding that the number of people actually involved in
the political struggle was and would remain small.
	Most people in the Soviet government and in the
country at large did not take either side. Instead, they
adopted a wait-and-see attitude and probably would have been
willing to support whoever came out on top. That absence of
involvement and sense that the country will develop by
crisis rather than organically continues to characterize
political life across the post-Soviet space.
	Second, the coup bid almost succeeded and inevitably
failed because individual loyalties to particular leaders
proved to be greater than any attachment to political
institutions. The Emergency Committee that launched the
abortive coup thought it could count on the deference of the
population to anyone claiming to speak in the name of the
government. And its members also believed they could reckon
with the obedience of the subordinates the members of the
committee nominally led.
	While members of the committee may have been correct
in their first assumption, they were clearly wrong on the
second. Not only had the bonds of obedience already snapped,
but their own all-too-obvious disobedience further severed
the ties on which they had counted.
	But those who opposed the coup, including Russian
leader Boris Yeltsin, also adopted a personalist approach.
On the one hand, Yeltsin sought to portray himself as a
hero-leader rather than an elected representative. And on
the other, his demand that Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev be returned to Moscow clearly had little to do
with his respect for the office of the presidency.
	This absence of support for institutions independent
of the people who occupy them continues to dominate
political life in the region. Indeed, it remains one of the
major reasons why the people in so many post-Soviet states
have found it difficult to make the transition to democracy,
a system that insists that institutions are more important
than the individuals who occupy them.
	Third, the coup bid inevitably failed not so much
because of the actions of those who opposed it but because
the collapse of the coup and the ensuing developments served
the interests of those who many supposed would be its most
interested defenders.
	By mid-1991, many officials, both in Russia and other
republics, on whom those behind the coup thought they could
count had already decided they could profit more from
reforms than from a return to the past. Such officials thus
did not support the coup. But even though most did not
oppose it either, they rapidly changed their political
affiliations in its aftermath in order to continue to
benefit from the new circumstances.
	And that pattern, one not typically revolutionary, has
had some very serious consequences for political life in the
post-Soviet states. It has meant that there has not been a
clean break with the past in terms of those in power or in
the ways they do business.
	It has increased cynicism both about the declarations
of these now ex-communists leaders and about the ideals--
democracy and free markets, for example -- that they claim
to support. And it has left many in these countries with the
sense that once again the elite has found a way to take care
of itself at their expense, an attitude that may produce a
revolution but is certainly not the product of one.
	On the seventh anniversary of the abortive coup,
Russia and many of its neighbors are developing in ways that
reflect both the shock waves of that event and the
continuities it revealed--a collection of new bottles that
in many cases contain old wine.

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