GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW ARRANGEMENT WITH
The government plans to review an arrangement
whereby almost all of the state's 40% stake in the gas
monopoly Gazprom is managed by the company's executives
rather than by the state directly, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported yesterday. First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii
Chubais and Boris Nemtsov both called for reviewing what
Nemtsov described as an "inexpedient" arrangement. Chubais
and Nemtsov co-chaired yesterday's cabinet meeting after
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who headed Gazprom
from 1989 to 1992, unexpectedly went on leave for two days.
Addressing the State Duma on 9 April, Gazprom head Rem
Vyakhirev claimed that international financial institutions and
foreign gas companies were using the Finance Ministry to
break up the Russian gas giant. Deputy Prime Minister Alfred
Kokh said yesterday that it was "nonsense" for Vyakhirev to
criticize his own beneficiary, pointing to Gazprom's
administrative control over the government's share package.
REACTION TO YELTSIN'S ANTI-CORRUPTION ADDRESS.
Opposition figures were generally skeptical about President
Boris Yeltsin's radio address yesterday focusing on anti-
corruption measures (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997).
State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a
leading member of the Communist Party, said Yeltsin was
fighting corruption only in words and had, in fact, appointed
several corrupt officials, Interfax reported. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii argued that the president's words will
remain "hollow phrases" until a list of corrupt officials is
published, AFP reported. In contrast, Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev told ITAR-TASS that he welcomed Yeltsin's address.
GOVERNMENT INCREASES PRIVATIZATION TARGETS.
government has increased its target for 1997 privatization
revenues from 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion) to 10 trillion
rubles ($1.7 billion), Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. Deputy Prime Minister Alfred Kokh, who also heads
the State Property Committee, told journalists that the
government plans to sell off a 25% stake in the
telecommunications company Svyazinvest, whose starting
price will be $1.1 billion. In the third and fourth quarters of
1997, Kokh said, the government plans to sell a 50% stake in
the Rosgosstrakh insurance company, 2% of the electricity
giant Unified Energy System, and an unspecified stake in the
oil company Rosneft. Kokh said privatization revenues last
year were only about 10% of the budgeted $2 billion. He
blamed the shortfall on last year's political uncertainty in
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DENIES "ALUMINUM MAFIA"
Kokh says reports that criminals control Russia's
aluminum industry are "completely wrong," ITAR-TASS
reported yesterday. In particular, Kokh said the Trans-World
Metals group and the brothers Lev and Mikhail Chernyi, who
critics say dominate the industry, do not even control half of
Russia's aluminum production. Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov has recently charged that mafia-like structures were
monopolizing and destroying the aluminum market. In
January, the private network NTV ran a three-part
investigative report on privatization in the aluminum industry
since 1992. NTV's reports linked the Chernyi brothers to
various corrupt practices and alleged they maintained close
contacts with some former Yeltsin associates, including former
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets.
IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN MOSCOW.
Akbar Nateq Nouri, addressing the Duma this morning, urged
Caspian states to reach agreement on the legal status of the
Caspian Sea, which he termed "the core of Russian-Iranian
cooperation," ITAR-TASS reported. Nateq Nouri, who is tipped
to succeed Rafsanjani as Iranian president in next month's
elections, arrived in Moscow yesterday with the Iranian
defense and economics and trade ministers. He also met with
Yeltsin, who described Russian-Iranian relations as "good and
positive," according to Interfax.
MASKHADOV POSTPONES DEPARTURE ON HAJJ.
President Aslan Maskhadov has postponed until later this
month his departure for Saudi Arabia citing "a busy work
schedule," ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. In Moscow, First
Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov and Said-Hasan
Abdumuslimov held talks yesterday on "a range of issues."
Udugov told journalists that the issue of economic aid for
reconstruction can be discussed only after a formal peace
treaty is signed. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
evaluates the ongoing negotiations in today's Rossiiskie vesti,
noting the "fragile trust" that now exists between the two
parties and praising the Chechen side's "constructive"
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SAID TO BE UNDER
PRESSURE IN REGIONS.
Human rights defenders such as
Mariana Katzarova of Amnesty International and Lyudmila
Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki group say regional
authorities are arresting local critics in order to stifle publicity
about human rights violations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported yesterday. They said a human rights activist in
Magadan was released yesterday only after intervention from
the Kremlin. The activist had spent two weeks in detention. A
human rights campaigner in Omsk was released last
December following intervention from then presidential Chief
of Staff Anatolii Chubais. The ITAR-TASS and Interfax news
agencies, which did not report the findings of a recent
Amnesty report on torture in Russia (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4
April 1997), also did not cover yesterday's press conference.
Meanwhile, Yeltsin issued a decree yesterday declaring 1998
the "year of human rights in the Russian Federation," ITAR-
WAGE ARREARS PROMPT HUNGER STRIKES...
power station workers have resumed a hunger strike to protest
persistent wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reports today. Workers at
the same station staged hunger strikes last August and
September. Meanwhile, 44 workers at a nuclear power plant in
Arkhangelsk suspended their four-day hunger strike last night
after they were paid for the first time since October. Vladimir
Yakovlev, leader of an education workers' trade union, told
ITAR-TASS yesterday that 20,000 Russian teachers are on
strike, and 30 are on hunger strikes. Deputy Prime Minister
Oleg Sysuev said on 9 April that the government has enough
money to pay teachers' wages. He blamed regional authorities
for using federal funds earmarked to pay teachers for other
..AND OTHER DESPERATE ACTION.
About 700 coal miners
in Kemerovo Oblast lifted a 16-hour blockade of the Trans-
Siberian railroad yesterday, Russian news agencies reported.
The miners have not been paid in six to eight months. Coal
industry officials helped end the protest by promising to pay
part of the miners' back wages soon. Meanwhile, 300
construction workers in Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk Oblast)
have spent the last three days underground. The workers are
refusing to emerge from a subway tunnel under construction
until they receive their wages, which have not been paid since
PRIMORE RESIDENTS SEEK TO HOLD ON TO LAND
DISPUTED BY CHINA.
Less than two weeks before Chinese
President Jiang Zemin's visit to Moscow, Primorskii Krai
residents are seeking to ensure a disputed piece of land is not
handed over to the Chinese, Interfax reported on 9 April. Local
deputies are planning to hold a referendum on whether to cede
to China a strip of land south of Vladivostok. Primore
residents say this will undercut trade with Japan because it
will give the Chinese a new port at the mouth of the
Tumannaya River. They also fear that if the Chinese farm the
land around the basin of Lake Khasan, fertilizers and
pesticides will pollute the lake, which is the primary source of
fresh water for the area.
NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS MEET IN MAKHACHKALA.
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev says Moscow
should not try to micro-manage relations between federation
subjects but should encourage them to expand bilateral
relations among themselves, RFE/RL's Makhachkala bureau
reported yesterday. Stroev was addressing a Dagestani
meeting of the Council of the Association for Social and
Economic Cooperation of North Caucasus Republics, Krais,
and Oblasts. The meeting was attended by leaders from the
North Caucasus, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia but not
Chechnya. The participants approved guidelines for a draft
program on the North Caucasus, which is to be forwarded to
the Russian government and president for approval,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported today.
TWO MORE AZERBAIJANIS KILLED IN BORDER
Two Azerbaijanis were shot dead last night trying
to cross the frontier into Armenia's Izhdevan Raion, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported today, citing a Defense Ministry press
release. Armenian troops returned Azerbaijani fire and then
gave warning shots as three men tried to cross the border.
There were no Armenian casualties. Interfax yesterday quoted
an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman as denying reports
that two Azerbaijani troops were killed in a border shooting
earlier this week.
GEORGIA HOSTS "TRASECA" CONFERENCE.
Commission and the Georgian government have sponsored a
conference on reviving the historic "Silk Road," which ran from
China via Central Asia, the Transcaucasus, and Turkey to
Europe, Russian agencies reported. Participants in the
conference, which opened in Tbilisi on 8 April, include the
deputy premiers and transport ministers of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation member countries and IMF and EBRD
representatives. The so-called TRASECA project foresees the
expansion of existing road, rail, and telecommunications links
as well as ferry services across the Caspian and Black Seas. It
could earn Georgia more than $300 million in transit tariffs in
1998 alone. Although the proposed transport routes do not
cross Russian territory, Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze favors Russian participation in the project.
KAZAK PRESIDENT BACKTRACKS ON THREATS OVER
Nursultan Nazarbayev has extended the
deadline for the payment of pension arrears to the end of this
year, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Last month,
Nazarbayev set 10 April as the deadline and threatened to sack
both Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and oblast
governors who did not comply. But at a special government
session yesterday, he extended the deadline, noting that there
were signs of progress toward paying the arrears. As of 1 April,
pension arrears totaled some 39 billion tenge ($500 million).
LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CENTRAL ASIA.
Birkaus is on an official visit to Central Asia, RFE/RL's Central
Asian and Latvian services report. He arrived on 9 April in
Kyrgyzstan, where he signed agreements on transportation
and mutual legal aid as well as a protocol on consultations
with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Roza Otunbayeva. He also met
with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. In Kazakstan yesterday,
Birkaus met with his Kazak counterpart, Kasymzhomart
Tokayev, to discuss the opening of a Kazak embassy in the
Latvian capital and how to improve bilateral relations. Today
in Tashkent, Birkaus is due to sign 12 accords, one of which
will establish an intergovernmental commission on trade.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WARNS BELARUS.
Strasbourg-based European Parliament has warned it will
block a planned trade and aid agreement between the EU and
Belarus unless Minsk undertakes genuine political and
economic reform. The European Parliament yesterday
complained that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
has adopted an increasingly "dictatorial style of government,"
which, it said raises serious questions about future EU
relations with Belarus. In particular, the parliament accused
Lukashenka of total disregard for the democratically elected
parliament, which was disbanded last year, and of strongly
repressing any opposition to his regime. All international
agreements concluded by the EU must be approved by both
the European Parliament and the 15 EU governments.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES UNION ACCORD WITH
Lukashenka says the Russian-Belarusian union
accord, initialed in Moscow last week, will benefit both states.
He said on Belarusian TV yesterday that the recent growth in
bilateral trade is an indication of the benefits of closer ties.
Referring to the crackdown on anti-government protests in
Belarus, he commented that those who act within the law and
the constitution "won't need to be afraid of truncheons."
Opposition parties do not recognize the current constitution,
approved in a controversial referendum last November, giving
Lukashenka broad new powers.
UKRAINIAN BANK HEAD SUPPORTS NEW DEPUTY
Ukrainian Central Bank director Viktor
Yushchenko says he is giving his "full support" to new Deputy
Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko, who is to oversee economic
reforms. Yushchenko told reporters in Kyiv yesterday that he
hopes Tigipko will play a positive role in his new post. Tigipko
is the former head of Privatbank, one of the top five banks in
Ukraine. He replaced Viktor Pynzenyk earlier this week.
ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON FUTURE OF OSCE
Toomas Hendrik Ilves has told the OSCE that he
hopes its diplomatic mission in Estonia can soon be closed
because its work has been successful. RFE/RL's
correspondent in Vienna reported yesterday that Ilves told an
OSCE meeting in the Austrian capital that the practical
groundwork for the integration of the Russian-speaking
population in Estonia is "in its final stages." Ilves also
commended the work of OSCE High Commissioner for
National Minorities Max van der Stoel, who has frequently
visited Estonia to examine complaints by the Russian-
speaking minority and suggest revisions to Estonian
regulations. Earlier this week in Tallinn, Van der Stoel praised
Estonian progress on integrating ethnic minorities.
LATVIA BROADENS ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED
The Latvian parliament has amended the law
on state secrets to extend access to classified information to
non-citizen employees of the Interior Ministry and other state
security agencies, BNS and RFE/RL's Latvian service reported
yesterday. The amendment applies only to non-citizens who
are already employed at those bodies. However, they will be
stripped of access privileges if they do not become naturalized
citizens within one year of becoming eligible for citizenship.
Until now, non-citizens whose work required access to
classified information had to leave their posts within three
months. Meanwhile, Latvian authorities have handed out the
first batch of special passports to resident aliens, BNS
reported yesterday. The passports are meant for the one-third
of Latvia's 2.6 million people, mostly ethnic Russians and
Ukrainians, who did not qualify for citizenship under current
laws. Non-citizens have been using old Soviet passports, which
are often not recognized abroad.
POLISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER DISMISSED.
request of Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, President
Aleksander Kwasniewski has dismissed Agriculture Minister
and Deputy Prime Minister Roman Jagielinski, RFE/RL's
Warsaw correspondent reported yesterday. Kwasniewski had
postponed announcing the dismissal for several weeks but
came under increasing pressure from Jagielinski's Polish
Peasant Party (PSL), which blamed the minister for last year's
food trade deficit and low grain prices. The PSL wants
Jagielinski to be replaced by its Sejm deputy Jaroslaw
Kalinowski. Cimoszewicz said he regretted Jagielinski's
departure, explaining that he submitted the motion only
because, under the coalition agreement, the PSL has the right
to designate the agriculture minister.
POLISH INTERIOR MINISTER UNDER INVESTIGATION
OVER GUN POSSESSION.
A spokesman for the Warsaw
Prosecutor's Office told journalists yesterday that an
investigation has been launched into Leszek Miller after the
minister admitted on national TV that he has an unlicensed
pistol, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. Miller said a
he was given the gun in 1995 by a cabinet colleague but failed
to obtain a license for it. The minister said he is willing to face
the consequences of his oversight. He added that his offense
was not serious, because he had kept the gun in his safe.
Miller is in favor of a bill liberalizing conditions for obtaining
CZECH DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS.
Rudlovcak, who was responsible for the country's capital
markets, has resigned following sharp criticism that he failed
to carry out his duties properly. In particular, Rudlovcak came
under attack for the transfer abroad of some 1.3 billion crowns
from the investment fund C. S. Fondy. The Finance Ministry's
role in the transfer prompted calls for Rudlovcak's departure.
A ministry spokesman said yesterday there has been a media
campaign against both the Finance Ministry and the deputy
minister. Rudlovcak claims his department did all it could to
carry out its duties under law.
SLOVAK PREMIER CRITICIZES CZECH REPUBLIC AGAIN...
Vladimir Meciar says he will go to the Czech Republic only if
Czech President Vaclav Havel apologizes for calling him
"paranoid" about his country's probable exclusion from the
first wave of NATO expansion and only if the Czech Republic
returns some 4.5 tons of Slovak gold, TASR reported. That gold
is currently held in the Czech National Bank. Meciar warned
that he could make public various episodes from his
experience with Czech politicians but said he would not do so.
He also said he knew Havel very well personally and that the
Czech president is not the person his supporters "are making
him out to be." Meciar was addressing a rally yesterday in
Bratislava organized by his Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia. Czech TV crews were banned from the meeting.
...WHILE CZECH POLITICIANS LAUNCH
Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus
yesterday criticized Slovak Premier Meciar for making his
official visit to Prague conditional on the return of gold to
Slovakia. Klaus told journalists in Trebic that it was
"outrageous" that Slovakia had reopened the question of the
division of former federal property. Czech Senate Chairman
Petr Pithart said on Czech Radio that the current state of
Slovak-Czech relations was undoubtedly connected to the
forthcoming NATO's Madrid summit in July. He said Slovakia
might be preparing for its exclusion from talks on joining
NATO. President Vaclav Havel, who is vacationing in Italy, has
not commented on Meciar's demand for an apology.
FIRST ITALIAN TROOPS ARRIVE IN ALBANIA.
Italian soldiers disembarked at Durres today as an advance
unit to safeguard humanitarian aid deliveries. The majority of
the 6,000 international troops will start deploying on 14 April.
Meanwhile, a team of military experts from six countries
completed preparations yesterday for the force's arrival.
Albanian Defense Minister Shaqir Vukaj says the troops will be
safe and that all sides accept their presence. A French Defense
Ministry spokesman said in Paris that the troops could be
forced to disarm Albanian gangs if their own security is
threatened but that this is not their mission. Portugal's
defense minister said in Lisbon that Operation Alba is too
risky and that Portugal will not take part.
ALBANIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON FORM OF
President Sali Berisha and the main political
parties agreed in Tirana yesterday that voters will choose in a
referendum between a parliamentary republic, a presidential
republic, and a monarchy. The vote may take place at the
same time as early general elections in June. Meanwhile, the
tiny royalist party Legality has said Leka Zogu, exiled
pretender to the throne, will arrive in Albania tomorrow and
stay for an "indefinite period."
SERBIAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER KILLED.
gunman shot dead Radovan "Bazda" Stojicic early this
morning in a Belgrade restaurant, an RFE/RL correspondent
in the Serbian capital reported. Stojicic, a police general who
headed the public security department, died immediately.
Police have launched a manhunt. Stojicic was a long-time aide
to President Slobodan Milosevic and was involved in planning
the Bosnian and Croatian wars by arming Serbs in those
U.S. ENDS BOYCOTT OF SERBIAN PRESIDENT.
The new top
U.S. diplomat on implementing the Dayton peace accords left
yesterday for the former Yugoslavia, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from Washington. Robert Gelbard has replaced John
Kornblum and will visit Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and
Macedonia over the next 10 days. U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright said in Washington yesterday that his trip
emphasizes that the U.S. expects greater efforts to implement
Dayton, including the handing over of war crimes suspects.
The visit will be the first high-level U.S. contact with Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic in five months. Washington
suspended meetings with Milosevic to protest his refusal to
accept the results of the November local elections.
MILOSEVIC LOYALIST KILLED IN KOSOVO.
Liberation Army (UCK) said yesterday that it killed Ramiz Leka
in the village of Banjica, RFE/RL's correspondent in Pristina
reported. Leka belonged to Serbian President Milosevic's
Socialist Party of Serbia. This is the sixth time this year that
the UCK has killed an ethnic Albanian whom, it says,
collaborated with the Serbian authorities. Since January, the
UCK has switched from occasional attacks against random
targets to much more professional and systematic operations.
CROATIAN PRESIDENT URGES SLAVONIAN SERBS TO
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said yesterday that
the 13 April elections are the first step toward guaranteeing
the return of Croatian refugees to that region, the coexistence
of local Serbs there as equal citizens, and the end of the war of
independence. He urged all citizens to put the past behind
them and to concentrate on building a better future. Jacques
Klein, UN administrator for eastern Slavonia, says that
everything is set to go for the elections. Some local Croats,
however, say that they have received threatening telephone
calls telling them not to vote, Vjesnik reported yesterday.
PLAVSIC ATTACKS HER ENEMIES.
President Biljana Plavsic told Banja Luka TV on 9 April that
her rivals are denying her air-time on Pale TV and calling for
her resignation. She said "this amounts to the destruction of
the country." It was Plavsic's most open attack to date on the
Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, Momcilo
Krajisnik, who controls Pale TV and with whom she is locked
in a power struggle. She has launched moves against
corruption and profiteering that threaten to undercut
Krajisnik's business empire and power base.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA.
Jacques Santer told the Romanian parliament yesterday that
the economic program of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet is "bold."
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported Santer as saying that in
addition to the $ 482 million already promised by the EBRD,
Romania will receive some $61 million to help balance its trade
deficit. Santer was in Bucharest to met with Ciorbea, members
of the cabinet, the chairmen of the two houses of parliament,
and President Emil Constantinescu, with whom he discussed
Romania's application for EU membership.
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES ALBANIAN MISSION.
The parliament yesterday approved President Constantinescu's
request that Romania send a 400-strong contingent to join the
multinational mission in Albania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. The leftist and nationalist opposition opposed the
motion or abstained. The legislature also approved
Constantinescu's proposal that the Timisoara airfield be used
as a logistics and supply base for the Albanian operation. In
other news, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and Austrian Vice
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel agreed in Bucharest on 9 April
to set up what they call a "trilateral mechanism" to promote
Romanian and Hungarian admission to the EU, Romanian TV
reported. Hungary has not yet responded to the initiative.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA.
meeting yesterday with President Petru Lucinschi and leader of
the Transdniester breakaway region Igor Smirnov, Yevgenii
Primakov said negotiations between the two sides will be
resumed. Primakov said Lucinschi and Smirnov have agreed to
sign the "memorandum of understanding on normalizing
relations" by 15 May. The memorandum was drafted last year,
but Chisinau has refused to endorse it, saying it encroaches
on Moldovan sovereignty. An article stipulating that Chisinau
and Tiraspol will develop relations "as part of a single state" is
to be added to the document. But Smirnov says he is
pessimistic about the outcome of future negotiations.
Primakov, who is in Chisinau on a two-day visit, also met with
Premier Ion Ciubuc and Foreign Minister Mihai Popov.
Primakov and Popv agreed that the State Duma should ratify
the basic treaty between Russia and Moldova, which was
signed in 1990.
OSCE MISSION IN MOLDOVA TO CONTINUE
PARTICIPATION IN JOINT CONTROL COMMISSION.
agreement on the participation of OSCE mission
representatives in the Joint Control Commission has been
extended to 1 September, Infotag reported yesterday. The new
agreement also provides for a Ukrainian representative to the
commission, which is overseeing the truce in the Dniester
breakaway region. Other members represent Moldova, the
Transdniester, and Russia. Since late March, Tiraspol has
hindered the participation of OSCE mission representatives,
claiming the original agreement expired in February and had
to be renewed.
BULGARIAN PENSIONERS CONFRONT PRESIDENT OVER
President Petar Stoyanov was
forced to retreat inside the presidency building in Sofia
yesterday after being confronted by a group of angry elderly
protesters, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Stoyanov had
sought to address the pensioners but had been shouted down
with cries of "fascist" and "traitor." Security forces had to
intervene to prevent Stoyanov from being physically attacked.
Small groups of pensioners have been protesting economic
hardships in front of the presidency building for the past
several days. In other news, Socialist Party leader Georgi
Parvanov accused the United Democratic Forces of making
unrealistic electoral promises that might lead to social unrest.
RUSSIA ASKS SOFIYANSKI TO POSTPONE VISIT.
Bulgarian government press service announced yesterday that
Russia has asked caretaker Premier Stefan Sofiyanski to
postpone his scheduled visit to Moscow at the end of this
week. RFE/RL's Sofia correspondent says Moscow wants to
clarify some aspects of the 8 April agreement on Russian gas
supplies to Bulgaria and the construction of pipelines to the
Balkans that will transit Bulgarian territory (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 9 April 1997). The press service said the visit has
been re-scheduled for next week.
Neither Left Nor Right, But Simply Wrong
by Michael Shafir
A decade ago, the Israeli political scientist Zeev Sternhell
wrote Neither Left, Nor Right, an analysis of the emergence of
fascist ideology in France since the end of the last century.
"Neither left, nor right, but [simply] Romanian" is how Corneliu
Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme nationalist, anti-Semitic,
and xenophobic Greater Romania Party (PRM), chose to
describe his group's alliance with the extraparliamentary
Socialist Labor Party (PSM), which was sealed two days ago, on
As Sternhell shows in his book, fascist ideology has often
been misinterpreted as belonging to the "right" of the political
spectrum. He demonstrates that those who embraced the
ideology had little in common with the "traditional right" or
what in the U.S. would be termed "conservatives." Rather, the
"radical right," as it should be called to distinguish it from
other right-wing formations, was bent on destroying the
existing parliamentary and democratic order. Like the "radical
left," it displayed a boundless hatred of individualism and used
as its model a society based on communitarian values. This
explains why so many original adherents of the "radical left"
eventually ended in the opposite, "radical right" camp.
History seems to be repeating itself in post-communist
Eastern Europe. "Red-brown" alliances, as they are often
called, are no longer rare. Communists march arm-in-arm
with those nostalgic for the "Black Hundred" in Moscow at
demonstrations against "imported" political and social models.
The same phenomenon can be found in most of the other
former communist states.
Thus, the alliance forged by the PRM and the PSM comes
as no surprise. The two formations were allied in the previous
legislature as members of the so-called "red quadrangle"
coalition, led by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania
(PDSR). Last autumn's elections ousted not only the PDSR
from power but also the PSM from the parliament. Now the
PRM will represent the interests of the PSM in the legislature.
The two formations will also run joint candidates in upcoming
The two groups have much in common. Both are
"national-communist nostalgics," and both are what may be
described as parties of "radical continuity". Such parties blend
extreme-nationalist ideology (of which Ceausescu's national
communism was a variant) with populist jargon aimed at
undermining the emerging democracies.
They are also both led by former Ceausescu "court poets."
Tudor progressed from the late dictator's humble bard to
outspoken leader of the PRM, which was in coalition with the
PDSR until Tudor turned against his post-communist
mentors. Although in theory the PRM is headed by Ilie Verdet,
a former prime minister under Ceausescu, in practice Adrian
Paunescu, another "court poet," is largely responsible for
determining the party's political line. Last week, Paunescu was
reinstated as first deputy chairman--a post he resigned from
after the PSM's dismal performance in last fall's elections--
prompting him to remark that the party "could not possibly
afford to lose a man like me."
Little else is poetic about the PRM and the PSM, however.
Most worrying is that throughout the former communist bloc,
parties such as the PRM--with or without allies--are now
attempting to unify their forces. Indeed, the PRM leader
announced earlier this week the imminent birth of the
"Nationalist International," apparently an international
offshoot of Jean Marie Le Pen's French National Front.
The recent National Front congress in Strasbourg was
attended not only by Tudor but also by East European leaders
such as Istvan Csurka, head of the xenophobic Hungarian
Justice and Life Party, and Jan Slota, chairman of the extreme
nationalist Slovak National Party. Although those leaders may
hate one another or, more precisely, one another's nations,
they are united by a still stronger hatred: that of democracy
and its values.
Last January, Le Pen visited Belgrade, where he met with
Vojslav Seselj, accused war criminal and leader of the Serbian
Radical Party. In May, he will visit Bucharest, at Tudor's
invitation. Slota has also invited the French leader to visit
Slovakia and extended another invitation to Jorg Heider,
leader of the populist Austrian Freedom Party, whom many
suspect of pro-Nazi sympathies.
And then, of course, there is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who
calls himself a "liberal" as well as a "democrat." The Russian
leader's religious wedding ceremony last year was attended by
Le Pen, whom Zhirinovsky later visited in France.
It is Le Pen whom Tudor is now emulating when he says
the new alliance is "neither left nor right, but [simply]
Romanian." Many view the new Romanian alliance with
apprehension. They also fear that a more accurate description
than Tudor's would be "neither left nor right, but simply
wrong" for Romania's still fragile democracy.