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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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.

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