|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 232, Part I, 3 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 232, Part I, 3 December 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * RUSSIA'S POPULATION TO PLUNGE * IMF TELLS RUSSIA MAYBE NEXT YEAR * SEARCH FOR SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT CONTINUES End Note: THE STRUGGLE FOR THE PAST CONTINUES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA'S POPULATION TO PLUNGE. Russia's population will shrink by one half by the middle of the 21st century according to the State Committee for Statistics. Regions likely to witness the largest population drops are the Far East, Western Siberia, and Central Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 December. Residents of Eastern and Western Siberia have the shortest life span, 64 years. Meanwhile, Russia's birth rate dropped by 6 percent from 1989 to 1997, Interfax reported on 2 December. During the same period, the death rate jumped 3.5 percent and is reportedly as high as that of a country engaged in war. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that Russian men live 13 years fewer than women, a larger difference than in any other country. JAC INFLATION ACCELERATES SLIGHTLY. Inflation in November measured 5.7 percent, up from 4.5 percent in October, according to the State Statistics Committee, agencies reported on 3 December. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told the Federation Council on 2 December that the money supply would grow at the rate of 18-26 percent and inflation would be confined to 30 percent a year. JAC IMF TELLS RUSSIA MAYBE NEXT YEAR. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus completed two days of meetings in Moscow on 2 December, telling reporters that the Russian government and the fund have agreed to continue their dialogue, despite differences over tax and budget policy. He also reported that a new IMF mission will arrive in Moscow in January. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that he and Camdessus did not discuss specific loans or their terms, nor did they touch on the subject of rescheduling Russia's debt payments to the fund. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters the next day that Russia should no longer request the "services" of the IMF. He said, "Look how they abuse our government. They send one group of representatives, then another one. Camdessus again comes over and again says wait until tomorrow." JAC GOVERNORS REACT TO ECONOMIC PROGRAM. Members of the Federation Council responded to the government's presentation of its anti-crisis program to that body on 2 December with mild expressions of support. According to ITAR-TASS, both Perm Oblast Governor Gennadii Igumnov and Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov emphasized that implementation of the program would be at least as important as its contents. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov was more critical, saying that the idea of strengthening vertical authority in the country would usher back the centrally planned economy and totalitarianism. Vladimir Fedotkin, speaker of Ryazan's regional legislature, said that "the more the government prepares its plans..., the more it drifts in the direction of previous reforms, the "Moscow Times" reported. "Izvestiya" on 3 December also noted a similarity between the government's presentation and that of an earlier one by then Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. JAC DUMA ASKS YELTSIN TO SUBMIT MEDICAL RESULTS. The State Duma passed a non-binding resolution on 2 December asking that a report on President Boris Yeltsin's health be sent to the legislature within 10 days. The resolution passed with 247 votes in favor and 33 against. Meanwhile, Yeltsin's former heart surgeon Renat Akchurin told "Argumenty i fakty" that Yeltsin's continuing series of health problems are unlikely to be related to his heart and may instead stem from a weak immune system. JAC NEW LIGHT SHED ON STAROVOITOVA CASE? Duma deputy and leading liberal activist Galina Starovoitova may have been killed by amateurs rather than professionals, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 3 December, noting that the assassins used "sloppy firearms" and had their getaway car parked at a great distance from the crime. According to the daily, St. Petersburg businessman Ruslan Kolyak, whom the authorities earlier announced they are seeking for questioning, told NTV that the St. Petersburg criminal world had nothing to do with Starovoitova's death (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 1 December 1998). Kolyak is considered to be the "kingpin" of the criminal Tambov gang. JAC PRIMAKOV BLAMES GOVERNORS FOR UNPAID WAGES. In his address to the Federation Council on 2 December, Prime Minister Primakov repeated an earlier accusation by Finance Ministry officials against regional officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). He charged some governors with diverting federal funds intended to pay wages of state workers to support their own pet projects He also called on regional leaders to wage their own fight against crime and corruption. JAC KRASNODAR OBLAST ON WATCH LIST FOR ATTACKS ON JEWS. International human rights groups have put the Krasnodar Oblast on a watch list following dozens of attacks on Jews, the "Moscow Times" reported on 2 December. Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko recently made a number of remarks supportive of Duma deputy and Communist party member Albert Makashov (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 24 November 1998). The same day, Duma deputy and popular singer Iosif Kobzon announced that he will boycott Duma sessions until Makashov is properly sanctioned for his anti-Semitic remarks. Earlier, the press spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Moscow told Interfax on 30 November that emigration to Israel has increased by 10-15 percent in the last three months. JAC NEW SIBERIAN MOVEMENT FORMED, LEBED SNUBBED. The new Union of the Future political movement wants to elect a Siberian faction to the State Duma, "Vremya MN" reported on 2 December. The movement will hold its first congress on 12 December. The election of former Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov to the post of chairman of the organizational committee of the union indicates the dislike among other Siberian leaders of the current governor of Krasnoyarsk, Aleksandr Lebed, the newspaper concluded. Zubov and Lebed are bitter rivals. A number of Zubov's former deputies have recently been arrested on a variety of corruption charges by the local prosecutor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998). JAC DUMA PUTS DZERZHINSKII ON PEDESTAL... The Duma on 2 December gave its preliminary approval to a draft resolution calling for the return of the statue of the Cheka's first chairman, Felix Dzerzhinskii, to Lubyanka Square in Moscow on 2 December. The bill now goes to the Culture Committee, which will finalize it before presentation at the Duma's next plenary session, ITAR- TASS reported. The monument, which had been torn down by crowds on the nights of 22-23 August 1991, would symbolize anti-crime efforts in Russia, "Segodnya" reported on 3 December. JAC ...GUNS FOR BEREZOVSKII. Also on 2 December, the Duma voted by 226 to one to appeal to CIS heads of state to remove Boris Berezovskii from his post as CIS executive secretary, AP and Interfax reported. The Duma resolution said Berezovskii's call for a ban on the Russian Communist Party is incompatible with his official position and "aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the Russian Federation." LF NEWSPAPER SAYS COMMUNISTS POISED FOR ANOTHER TAKEOVER. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 December argued that the Communist party is close to seizing power in the country because it has a "controlling interest in at least every second region of the country," with 43 governors backing the Communist party. According to the newspaper, the Communist Party has "the majority in regional legislatures" if one excludes the national republics, which "are rather indifferent to the political colors dominating the capital." And with elections approaching in a number of regions, such as Karachaevo-Cherkassia, Udmurtia, Komi, Kemerovo, the Communists are likely to further cement their power. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial support from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC IVANOV, SERGEEV ON SECURITY PRIORITIES. Addressing the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Oslo on 2 December, Igor Ivanov again advocated enhancing the role of the OSCE as a pan-European security structure and a counterweight to NATO, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Ivanov called for a more active OSCE role in launching peacekeeping operations. He acknowledged that "it will not be easy to work out a consensus on many key points in drafting a Charter of European Security" but predicted that "given the political will," that charter could be signed at the 1999 OSCE summit, Interfax reported. And he expressed concern at the delay in adapting the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Also on 2 December, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists in Moscow that the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty must be extended when it expires in 1999, Interfax reported. Sergeev did not rule out Yugoslavia's accession to that pact. LF MOSCOW ABANDONS IDEA OF POWER-SHARING TREATY WITH CHECHNYA. President Yeltsin has annulled his directive of September 1997 that provided for drafting a treaty with Chechnya on the mutual delegation of powers, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 December. The newspaper quoted former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin as saying that the Chechen leadership is currently considering accepting the 1996 Russian proposal to establish a free economic zone in Chechnya. In a 2 December interview with ITAR-TASS, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov underscored that Chechnya is an independent state but added he is ready for "any dialogue" with the Russian government and hopes for the signing of "a full-fledged treaty" between Moscow and Grozny. Maskhadov also said he is ready to assume "a certain responsibility for defending the strategic interests of the Russian Federation in the Caucasus." LF INGUSH FUGITIVES REJECT RELOCATION OFFER. Ethnic Ingush who were forced to flee their homes in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion in November 1992 to escape ethnic- cleansing by the local authorities have reacted with alarm and suspicion to a Russian government proposal to rehouse them elsewhere in Russia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 December. An estimated 46,000-64,000 Ingush fled their homes at that time. The Russian Federal Migration Service is currently conducting a survey of all Ingush families who left North Ossetia for neighboring Ingushetia in order to identify possible volunteers. The Ingush parliament has condemned that initiative as potentially destabilizing, and it insists on the right of the Ingush to return to Prigorodnyi Raion. Ingush observers attribute the new Russian government initiative to Prime Minister Primakov's former ties with North Ossetia, from where he was elected a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA SEARCH FOR SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT CONTINUES... On the sidelines of the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Oslo, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met with the head of the U.S. delegation, Stephen Sestanovich, and with his Italian and Spanish counterparts to discuss the latest OSCE proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Norwegian capital. Italy is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, but Spain is not. Addressing the OSCE meeting, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov repeated Azerbaijan's rejection of the proposals, which he termed a violation of Azerbaijan's sovereignty. Armenia and Stepanakert have said they will accept the proposals, despite reservations. LF ...AS ARMENIAN OPPOSITION QUESTIONS CONTENT OF LATEST PEACE PLAN. Armenian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Hovannes Igitian told journalists in Yerevan on 2 December that the new proposals do not, as widely reported, advocate Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic creating a "common state." Igitian claimed that the new proposals would give Karabakh only broad autonomy within Azerbaijan, and he expressed his bewilderment that Baku has rejected them, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Former Armenian parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsian had told journalists on 26 November that the most recent Minsk Group proposals "contain nothing new," but he suggested that Azerbaijan's rejection of those proposals was motivated by a desire to delay indefinitely a solution to the conflict. Both Igitian and Ararktsian are members of the former ruling Hanrapetitiun coalition,. which supported Levon Ter-Petrossian. The former president's stated willingness to accept a compromise solution to the conflict precipitated his resignation under pressure. LF WESTERN AMBASSADORS TRY TO EXPEDITE ABKHAZ AGREEMENT. Ambassadors to Tbilisi from the five Western countries that are members of the informal UN Secretary-General's Friends of Georgia group traveled to Sukhumi on 2 December for talks with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, ITAR-TASS reported. The talks were intended to clarify the reasons for the delay in the proposed meeting between Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze at which a protocol on the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia and a non-aggression pact is to be signed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 19 November 1998). Ardzinba's adviser, Astamur Tania, has accused Tbilisi of demanding last-minute amendments to the two agreements. The Russian Foreign Ministry has also issued a statement expressing the hope that the two agreements will be signed soon as well as its concern at continuing terrorist acts in Abkhazia by maverick armed bands, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 December. LF KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN DECLARE AMNESTIES. The Uzbek and Kyrgyz presidents on 2 December declared an amnesty for some prisoners in their countries, Russian media sources reported. In Uzbekistan, veterans of World War Two, emergency workers at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant after the disaster in 1986, women over 60, minors, and the handicapped will be released over a four-month period beginning on 8 December, the sixth anniversary of the Uzbek Constitution. Other prisoners may have their sentences reduced. In Kyrgyzstan, 2,000 prisoners will be released on 10 December in honor of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. Those to be released are mainly minors and women, although some jailed for economic crimes may be set free if they can pay three times the amount of money they were charged with misappropriating. BP KAZAKH COURT ORDERS OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CLOSED. Almaty City Court ordered the opposition newspaper "DAT" closed because of bankruptcy, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The court appointed a liquidation commission to seize the newspaper's assets and warned its owners to stop publishing or face a criminal case. The case against "DAT" on charges of unpaid taxes was opened this summer. Tax officials seized some of the newspaper's assets, but "DAT" had issues published in Russia and transported into Kazakhstan. Customs officials have confiscated those issues several times. The announcement of the newspaper's closure coincides with the start of the Kazakh presidential race. "DAT" has been connected with candidates running against incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP SMUGGLING ON THE RISE IN KYRGYZSTAN. Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev signed a decree on 2 December aimed at stepping up the fight against smuggling, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Smuggled goods that have been confiscated are now subject to excise taxes and customs duties. A government official told RFE/RL that 60 percent of cigarettes, 30 percent of alcohol, and 30 of oil products in Kyrgyzstan are brought into the country illegally. BP NEW TURKMEN RULES ON HARD CURRENCY CONVERSION. The Central Bank on 2 December published new regulations on the conversion of hard currency, Interfax reported. The manat can now be converted into hard currency only by people who are leaving the country for medical treatment and have a medical certificate from the Ministry of Health Care. Also eligible to convert currency are those leaving the country to study at foreign schools and state employees on official visits abroad. The Turkmen Central Bank said the move does not represent a suspension of hard currency conversion but is necessary owing to lower budget revenues caused by the decrease in exports of natural gas. Interfax quotes "sources" as saying Turkmenistan's foreign debt is equal to 75 percent of the country's GDP. BP END NOTE THE STRUGGLE FOR THE PAST CONTINUES by Paul Goble Efforts to write new national histories in the post-Soviet states are exacerbating ethnic tensions across the region, undermining national unity in several countries, and increasing cynicism about the value of history itself. Each of these three developments threatens not only the possibilities for intellectual understanding of the states' complicated pasts but also the countries' prospects for evolving into stable, open, and democratic societies. Consequently at a time when most historians in the region assumed they could focus on correcting the distortions of the Soviet-era history, many are being forced to address post-Soviet challenges that may prove equally fateful. These were the unexpected and unsettling conclusions of a remarkable conference of young historians from seven of the post-Soviet states that took place in Moscow earlier this fall but was reported in a supplement to the Moscow newspaper "Nezavisimaya gazeta" last week. The meeting was unprecedented in one way and unusual in a number of others. It was unprecedented in that it attracted scholars from so many of those countries to discuss their current common problems. And it was unusual in that it was sponsored by private groups rather than state institutions, attracted junior researchers rather than senior scholars, and focused on the ideological problems facing historians in the post-Soviet period. While there were significant differences in emphasis among the participants, all agreed that efforts by national leaders to use history to bolster their authority and that of their country pose an extremely serious threat. First, efforts to create new national histories are exacerbating tensions among the countries of the region and in some cases among the peoples within those countries. That happens in several ways: Sometimes these historian-recruits to the national cause simply put a minus sign in front of Soviet views. Sometimes that approach seems reasonable. Many North Caucasians, for example, no longer celebrate the actions of the Russian generals who conquered them. But sometimes it is questionable. One speaker noted that some Georgians refuse to commemorate Hitler's defeat because a few historians there had suggested that the Georgian soldiers involved had fought in a foreign--that is, Soviet--army. In every case, such an approach offends many people even as it affirms the views of others. But this "change of signs" from plus to minus and from minus to plus is by no means the worst aspect of the new national histories. According to Tamara Guzenkova of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, new national history textbooks devote little attention to anything except military history and enemies within and without. That, in turn, has the effect of creating an explosive cycle, one that not only builds up the image of the enemy, which all the participants said was an integral part of nationalism, but also infuriates the nation whose heroes are denigrated. Not surprisingly, several participants blamed this new slant on history for the recent wave of ethnic violence. In the words of one, "many contemporary ethnopolitical conflicts have their roots in the pages of history texts." Second, in some cases, attempts to foster national unity are turning out to be counterproductive, destroying the very social cohesion that the political sponsors of such histories hope to achieve. Efforts to create national histories, several conference participants said, often prove self-defeating. Many of the post-Soviet states are divided along ethnic and regional lines. And what some groups approve, others find offensive. In every case, there is a generational problem. Older people tend to hold on to the heroes and enemies of the past, even the Soviet past, while younger people tend to fasten on new post-Soviet ones. And because national histories can be either ethnic or political, historians and political figures who seek to make use of them have to make a choice. In Kazakhstan, for example, the new national histories emphasize ethnicity. In Russia, the latest histories stress politics. Both approaches create problems at home and abroad. Third, because many of these post-Soviet efforts are so blatant, they are discrediting history in the minds of many and thus limiting its utility as a means of overcoming the problems of the past and building a better future. While the conference devoted relatively little attention to this problem beyond reporting a poll showing that fewer than one Russian student in three can now name the other former Soviet republics, this may prove the most serious obstacle of all. But the meeting ended on a remarkably optimistic note--precisely because these young historians are now focusing on this problem and talking to one another, something they could not have done in the past. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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