Yavlinsky is the head of the “Yabloko” party in Russia --
a party that has been described as decidedly liberal in
its outlook. Yavlinsky is a former economist, and was a
candidate for the Russian presidency in 1996, an election
in which he finished with less than 10% . He is expected
to be a key player --whether as a candidate or not -- in
Russia’s 2000 elections.
Yavlinsky was born in the Ukrainian city of Lvov in 1952.
He became deputy director of the Council of Ministers of
the Russian Federation -- when it was still part of the
USSR -- in 1991.
Last week he agreed to this interview with
a member of the IntellectualCapital.ru
staff. Here is a translated, and edited, version of the
IC What do you think is the real state
of the Russian economy? Despite the gloomy statistics, it
seems to one that people, at least in big cities, really
do live better than they used to.
GY The state of the economy is really very
difficult. One can't balance on the edge of the crisis for
very long. One would have either to take serious measures
to make the economy more healthy, namely to develop industry,
to control "natural monopolies" -- or to be ready
to accept the fact that "card houses" built on
credit can't stand for very long. As to people living better
than they used to, there is a simple indicator -- how they
vote, for example -- at the State Duma elections. Why do
a large proportion of our citizens support Communists? Russian
society of today is a society of big inequality in terms
of wealth. Of course, many now live better. But a still
larger number of people lost even the basic benefits they
had under socialism. Hence the support of the KPRF (Communist
IC What's your attitude about the International
Monetary Fund's (IMF) participation in saving Russia?
GY I approve of many aspects of the IMF
activities. One must keep in mind that it's a very professional
organization. Sometimes they make mistakes. But it's not
the IMF who is responsible for internal Russian economic
problems; it's the Russian Government. So all the blame
should be put primarily on ourselves. And the IMF? Well,
they help as well as they can, as far as they understand
the Russian situation.
IC What alternative financial sources
GY An alternative source would be a Russian
government policy to attract private foreign investments,
and to encourage Russian investors. But to achieve that,
the Parliament must amend legislation so it would encourage
IC What do you think about the process
of economic globalization? How do you see Russia's participation
in this process?
GY Globalization is an obvious and inevitable
thing. Russia is becoming more and more integrated in the
world economy. The proof is how the events in Southeast
Asia influenced the Russian financial markets. It's also
obvious that Russia, as a big supplier of energy resources
to the world market, has been a part of the world economy
for a long time. I think Russia's problem is that she is
still not integrated enough in the sector of the world economy
one could call a "private industrial investments sector."
Also, Russian manufacturing exports are still too low.
IC What about events in India, in Pakistan,
about nuclear weapons and about the role Russian companies
play in supplying weapons to the Third World countries in
GY I see the nuclear tests conducted in
India and Pakistan as very alarming. So far, no great pressure
is being put on those countries to stop the tests. In the
system of tests they now joined, the probability of a chance
nuclear conflict -- a chance one as well as an intentional
one -- is higher. So a real race of missiles and nuclear
weapons is beginning in South Asia. As to supplies by Russian
companies to India, as far as I know, they don't have anything
to do with India's nuclear program..
IC How would you assess the first month
of the new prime minister in office?
GY Nothing radically new is being done,
as compared with what Victor Chernomyrdin was doing. It's
the same old policy, on the background of the country's
economic situation getting worse
IC What do you think about General Aleksandr
Lebed's victory in the Krasnoyarsk region? During the 1996
elections there was talk about a possibility of Lebed-Yavlinsky
alliance of one sort or another. Would such an alliance
be possible now?
GY Lebed's victory means only one thing:
People are so fed up with the current state of affairs,
they would trade it for anything. We'll see what they get
now. We'll see what Lebed can do in Krasnoyarsk. Let's wait
for one year. It's too early to speak about any alliances
now. There are almost two years before the next elections.
IC Do you agree with financier Boris
Berezovsky, who said that only three people can possibly
be elected as the new president: Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov,
Lebed and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov? Are you ready
to find a new candidate from "Yabloko," to propose
a fresh "electable" person to the country, using
Berezovsky's logic? Who could that person be?
GY I wouldn't select a person Berezovsky
points to as "electable," but one who can prove
that a choice is possible in principle, that nothing is
predetermined as it was the last time: either vote, or you
get the Communists.
IC This interview with IntellectualCapital.ru
provides an opportunity to address Russian Netizens. What
important things would you personally and "Yabloko"
as a political movement like to communicate to them? Why
shouldn't young Russians be indifferent to politics?
GY There was a very significant expression
in your question, "Russian Netizens." What is
important is who the Internet users think they are: Russian
citizens or citizens of the Net. A haughty, arrogant attitude
toward politics, toward social developments is typical of
young people. They often think they can hide behind their
work, their hobbies. But then they grow up, their parents
grow old and need medical treatment, their children grow
up and need schooling, they want to feel confident of their
future.So gradually they understand that an arrogant attitude
toward politics turns against those who thought political
battles were not for them. Suddenly it turns out that taxes
are not acceptable, that a war is starting somewhere, and
so on -- and we will not be spared all that. As to "Netizens"
being able to influence the way the country goes -- of course
they can do that, just as every person can do it. Our country
is nothing but us, all of us.
IC What is "Yabloko"'s position
on the legislation and regulations concerning the Internet?
In particular, what do you think about the wording of the
new law on mass media?
GY "Yabloko" is against all attempts
to limit the freedom of the Internet. We are against licensing,
against censorship. We are liberals as far as the Internet
IC Does "Yabloko" plan to employ
the Internet potential in election campaigns in 1999 and
2000? How would you assess the potential of the Net as a
means of political communication?
GY Of course we are going to use the Internet,
both in the parliamentary elections in 1999 and in the presidential
campaign of 2000. We believe the Internetís potential is
high, and we see it as an alternative to mass media. So
far in Russia the Internet is not developed enough to make
serious competition to TV or to large-circulation newspapers.
But the situation is changing rapidly.