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Books by Grigory Yavlinsky
The Center for Economic and Political Research (EPIcenter)
Moscow, May 1992


The current Russian administration is only six months old. Perhaps this is too little time to implement any substantial positive changes, but it is surely enough to demonstrate one's own political concept and ability for its sensible implementation. However, they still haven't been able to demonstrate either.

The goals for policy on nationalities haven't yet been mapped out, though leaders of the democratic movement who previously urged development of this policy are now members of the Russian government. The central authorities didn't show their willingness to take principled decisions on any of the ethnic conflicts within the Russian Federation. Official pronouncements on the subject of German autonomy have been highly controversial. The same illogical approach was demonstrated before: the Ingushes were promised return of their lands, and North Ossetia was promised that it could keep the land as its own territory. (And let us not recall here the history of the state of emergency in the Chechen Lands).

Ethnic conflicts were already a part of life in the country six months ago, but the isolationist tendencies were just emerging then. Demands for a Yenisei Republic and a Far Eastern Republic were not taken seriously. The more were opportunities to nip the process in the bud. What actually happened? Local administrations were dished out vast economic and political powers (varying from region to region); the Treaty of the Federation was hastily (just in time for the Congressional convention) signed - and the result was a very complicated and ineffective system of relations between the different levels of administration.

Tatarstan, the Chechen Lands, and Tyumen refused (the last one, right up until the last moment) to sign the Treaty of the Federation, which made their status in the Russian Federation ambiguous. Noteworthy, all the three regions are strategic in terms of oil and gas. (See the map, p.7).

Komi (which is rich in coal), Bashkortostan, Yakutia-Saha (a gold and diamond eldorado) signed the Treaty only conditionally. Exclusive economic rights were granted Karelia, the Irkutsk Region, and the Altai Republic. Next in the line are: Buryatia, the Kaliningrad, Chita, Amur, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Sverdlovsk, and Chelyabinsk Regions, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, and the Koryak National Okrug which have already staked their claims.

Attempts to curb disintegration by way of constitutionalization of the new status quo have so far been unsuccessful: disintegration forges ahead, while belated and controversial legal acts only register the spread of disintegration and spur it on.

Here are the events following the signing of the Treaty of the Federation: secession of the Koryak NO from Kamchatka, debates about the Far Eastern Republic, statement from the Kuban Cossacks about the deterioration of the situation on the border of Kuban and Northern Caucasus.

After the conclusion of the Treaty of the Federation and adoption of certain decisions by the 6th Congress of People's Deputies of Russia, a number of important issues remain unclear: is the Federation based on the Treaty or the Constitution? If national state entities are subjects of the Federation, representing ethnic minorities, then what is the status of the regions and areas populated by Russians? It is clear that demands of a Russian Republic are not far off, which will involve new demands for border changes.

You can argue that special rights for the Federation's subjects are not tremendously important. But when the republics get the right to have their own central banks (an agreement to this effect with 20 Federation republics is in the pipeline), republican courts become the supreme judicial powers (according to the Russian Ministry of Justice, this provision exists in an Appendix to the Treaty of the Federation), land and natural resources are be taken from the Centre's control, and individual regions can ignore Russian legislation on investment (Sakhalin), it is clear that we are dealing either with the complete inability to counter disintegration or with an involuntary connivance with it. (See the map, p.7).

Instead of structural development of social groups and promotion of the middle class, we are witnessing continuation of polarization of the society with regard to people's earnings. The result is a growth of social tension.

Perhaps this is a temporary phenomenon? Probably the government simply didn't have enough time to carry out its schemes fully? But then what can explain the absence of any actions aimed at changing the character of privatization (one cannot believe that the privatization being carried out by the nomenklatura was part of the government's concept); what can explain the fact that the taxation policy is especially aimed at stifling mid-level business people and private farmers? (And in these conditions the Congress of People's Deputies, considering itself to be the main rectifier of the government's mistakes, refuses to recognize land as an object of private ownership.)

Relationships with the parties, movements and trade unions. Inasmuch as ties with the parties and social movement, and the formation of a bloc in support of reforms have been declared one of the directions in the work of the bodies of executive authority, it is logical to inquire about the results of this work. All the more so since meetings, consultations, conferences and "citizens' gatherings" of this kind have been held on a regular basis. What do we have in actual fact?

Instead of the moulding of a democratic centrist bloc, there is the disintegration of the previously established ones. First the Popular Accord bloc left Democratic Russia. Then Popular Accord was split, having been left by the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR). A split was pronounced in the DPR itself. The constitutional Democratic Party and the Russian Christian-Democratic Movement allied themselves with national patriots. Democratic Russia itself has undergone an organizational split. The bloc of Social-Democrats with Republicans has fallen apart. The Democratic Reform Movement (DRM) has been left by the Russian DRM which has declared the Soviets and the authors of the new draft Constitution to be an obstacle in the way to democracy. On the other hand, the attempts to set up coalition of the Democratic Party of Russia and the People's Party of Free Russia have been unsuccessful thus far.

A split in the democratic camp was probably inevitable, but only as a temporary stage to be followed by unification in new forms and in the name of a new objective. This objective was proclaimed: support for economic changes. However, the government, having secured formal support from major democratic parties, has been unable to offer them any real forms of cooperation transcending the framework of general declarations. The vagueness of the Russian leadership's policy in the question of nation-state structure has resulted in this problem coming to the forefront and aggravated contradictions inside the democratic wing. Owing to the absence of a consolidating issue, the temporary division in the democratic movement has developed into the dominant trend.

As for the communist and national patriotic opposition, neither a constructive approach nor an interest in cooperation are in evidence on its part. The authorities would probably have been unable to cooperate with them even if they so wished.

The trade unions and the labour movement have still not overcome the state of suspension in which they found themselves half a year ago. Conversely, the recent confrontation between the official trade unions and the strike committees in the Kuzbas demonstrated a split in this movement. The government's cooperation with trade unions still boils down to bargaining for pay raises for workers in one or another sector or in one or another region, which usually precedes questions from other regions or sectors as to why they haven't been given the same thing. A cogent example of this kind of policy was demonstrated quite recently in Komi where a commission led by Gennady Burbulis "settled" a conflict linked to the miners' strike.

We have seen neither the centrist bloc and constructive opposition being formalized nor the trade union movement being developed.

Relations with the army. Apparently, there is no chance of substantially changing anything concerning the army, either. At any rate this has been the case until the latest meeting of the heads of state in Tashkent, the specific results of which are not yet clear.

Not to repeat what has already been said on many occasions, let me cite a few illustrations received after analyzing the findings of sociological polls among army personnel.

As many as 82 percent maintained that their material conditions have deteriorated since the beginning of 1992; one in three officers noted the existence of conflicts between the command of army units and local authorities; and ever more servicemen are voicing their readiness to support anti-government actions.

This applies to the military units of Russia proper (let alone the army formations under Russia's jurisdiction located on the territory of other republics).

Relationships inside the central authority. Disintegration has also been manifested in the central structures of state authority.

The deepening of the conflict between the legislative and the executive branches, and between the President and the Soviets, has occurred throughout the period the incumbent leadership has been in office, but it reached its peak at the 6th Congress of People's Deputies when a government crisis broke out and part of the deputies demanded that the President abolish the institution of deputies and state counsellors. In reply Democratic Russia and the RDRM came forward with the idea of disbanding the Soviets and the Congress, and also not only holding reelections, but also completely overhauling the entire system of legislative authority. It is characteristic that although the President rejected this proposal, he did not do it immediately, mentioning that he could have had recourse to this step given a different train of events at the Congress. During his trip round Russia's northern cities Yeltsin had spoken bluntly about the need to disband the Congress.

As we see, yet another eruption of Russian statesmanly thought has occurred in the above-mentioned direction. It is not impossible that in conditions of disintegration this will only lead to its intensification: the advent of separatist forces to power in the regions coupled with society's negative reaction to the new election campaign.

Foreign policy. Having rejected all other paths except the establishment of a Commonwealth and the transition to bilateral ties, as though with foreign states, for relations with the other republics of the former Union, Russia's leadership evidently considered this path to be the most consistent with Russia's interests.

What are the results of the first few months?

The CIS has further disintegrated, with no solution having been found to either military or economic problems. The statements by N.Nazarbayev about disillusionment in the CIS, by L. Kravchuk about the Commonwealth's inability to resolve a single issue, and by S.Niyazov to the effect that the CIS does not exist in practical terms characterize the situation with a suf accuracy. The extension of Western financial aid virtually to Russia alone will probably tend to aggravate contradictions inside the Commonwealth even more.


Let us now take a look at the policy being pursued in relation to each republic of the former Union.

In political relationships with Ukraine pride of place has been given to the conflicts around Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet. Inasmuch as the Fleet is mainly based in Crimea, both issues ultimately boil down to one and the same: to whom Crimea belongs. Whereas Ukraine has unambiguously proclaimed its position and consistently pursued a definite line (a treaty on the delimitation of powers between Crimea and Kiev; encouragement of the Crimean Tatars' repatriation; explanatory statements by L.Kravchuk), Russia has still not officially defined its position. A number of high-ranking Russian politicians have demonstrated their refusal to recognize Ukraine's possession of Crimea; the President has not supported them, but neither has he disavowed them. If this is a wait-and-see policy especially intended to destabilize the situation, the results of this line can be fully predicted: Crimea's becoming one more seat of instability at the very frontiers of Russia; the involvement of large military forces in the conflict; a worsening of ethnic Russians' condition in Ukraine.

Six months ago, Belarus was seen as potentially Russia's closest partner; today, however, it can be said that it has been impossible to build a bloc between the two republics; moreover, Belarus has increasingly been drawing closer to Ukraine on a number of military issues.

Despite fully adequate relations with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Russia has been unable to receive political support here as well; at any rate no qualitative changes have occurred in comparison with December-January. In the meantime a Central Asia-Kazakhstan bloc has been taking shape, yet Russia has in general not reacted in any way to its birth. Nor has there been any response to the alarming signals about the growth of ethnic tensions between Kazakhs and ethnic Russians. Russia's reaction to stormy political developments in Tadjikistan, which already affect the interests of the Russian-speaking population, has not been stated either. All the signs suggest that there is growing gravitation of the Central Asian republics towards Islamic foreign nations; this influence, considering the mujaheddins' victory in Afghanistan, directly affects Russia's interests. And again no reaction. If Russia is counting on the economies of the Central Asian republics being heavily dependent on Russia's economy, this is again shortsighted: first, religious factors are often more important than economic ones; second, whoever pursues a passive policy loses, as a rule, vis-a-vis those who execute an active line.

But, perhaps, the lack of a substantial policy has been demonstrated to the utmost in relation to the Nagorny Karabakh problem. Let us enumerate the results. All three parties to the conflict - Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - are dissatisfied with Russia's policy. Each side accuses Russia of lacking objectivity and sympathizing with its adversary. In Azerbaijan, the forces which have adopted a principled stand to reorient Azerbaijan away from Russia and the CIS and towards the Islamic world have increasingly been gaining in strength. Armenia and the NKR have accused Russia of conniving with Azerbaijan and transferring weapons to it, and renounced Russia's intermediary role in Karabakh. This role is being gradually filled in by Iran. In the meantime the army's position in the Transcaucasus has been going from bad to worse: reports about attacks on military depots and the seizure of army personnel as hostages have become commonplace.

The situation in Georgia after Eduard Shevardnadze's return to the republic has taken a highly favourable turn for Russia. Definite steps towards a rapprochement have been made here: the transfer of humanitarian aid to Tbilisi, the intensification of bilateral contacts at different levels. Georgia no longer insists on the Soviet Army's status as an occupation army.

But so far these favourable conditions have been used neither to augment Russia's positive role in the Transcaucasus nor to resolve the Ossetian problem. Russia's diplomacy in the Moldovan-Trans-Dniestrian question is bewildering either.

Russia came to play the part of one of the intermediaries only after Cossack volunteers have appeared in the conflict zone and relations with Kishinev intensely aggravated as a result of Alexander Rutskoi's visit to Trans-Dniestria. On the other hand, no steps have been taken to protect the ethnic Russians on the left bank of the Dniester. Whereas Ukraine immediately took a clear-cut stand here: no territorial claims, no (even indirect) interference in the conflict, and aid to refugees, Russia has still not announced its position. The substitution of Russia's 14th Army for Ukraine's peace-keeping forces is becoming increasingly probable.

The processes fuelling disintegration have very deep historical and philosophical roots. But, developing chaotically, being prodded by incompetent political decisions and mistakes in economic policy, the disintegration processes are cutting across the boundaries of security, crushing the systems of economic life support, restricting civil liberties, and threatening with serious conflicts.

We have found ourselves in a situation making it imperative to find ways as quickly as possible towards a fundamentally new political and economic integration qualitatively differing from everything that has existed before it, formulate a corresponding programme, secure political support for it, and get down to its implementation without delay. Nearly everything in our deliberations today has been borrowed from the past; ideas, concepts, even words.

However, so far we have been stubbornly striving for the third point of intersection of the way towards a democratic state and effective economy - a new spiral of chaotic disintegration and the loss of all ability for coordinated action in policy and economy alike.