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Russia Report: March 18, 2002

18 March 2002, Volume 2, Number 9
Russian President Vladimir Putin's continued high popularity rating has proven puzzling to many analysts -- if for no other reason than that Putin has made controversial choices on the foreign-policy front, including repeated overtures to the West. At the same the economy has stabilized rather than surged, and, outside of Moscow, there are few signs of economic prosperity. The results of a recently released report analyzing more than 10 years of polling data may shed some light on the Putin phenomenon. Some lead authors of the report wrote an article summing up their results in a recent issue of "Obshchaya gazeta" (no. 10). According to the authors, the Russian public distinguishes very sharply between the era of President Boris Yeltsin and the post-Yeltsin era. And Putin, correspondingly, seems to benefit from the widely held perception that he represented and continues to represent a fresh start.

In a list of 12 key events of the past 10 years, respondents responded most positively to Yeltsin's resignation. That action was viewed positively by more than 86 percent of respondents. The only other event viewed as positively was Putin's election, with 73 percent. The public was not only happy to see Yeltsin go -- it also views Putin as following a different course. Only 11 percent of respondents considered Putin as a promoter of Yeltsin's policies while 37 percent felt he was pursuing policies that have little to do with Yeltsin's programs. And, 12 percent believe -- and/or hope -- that Putin will stop everything Yeltsin set in motion.

Another key finding of the report is increased optimism. For example, over the last three years, the number of poll respondents who view the situation in Russia as catastrophic has fallen from 51 percent to 14 percent. In addition, almost two-thirds of Russians view their current social status as satisfactory while 41 percent call themselves middle class. This is despite the fact that almost 42 percent of those polled believe that they personally lost from the reforms -- first of all in a material sense. Anxiety over insufficient food supplies has also dropped dramatically. In 1994, fear of starvation was a widely held phobia, whereas now 92 percent of respondents said they are confident that the current food supply will not worsen. At the same time, certain fears have persisted. More than half of those polled --57.4 percent -- are afraid that crime will grow while 47.1 percent are afraid of a decline in their standard of living.

But such fears are likely more characteristic of a society that has stabilized than is its fear of starvation. "Obshchaya gazeta" observed in the lead-up to the authors' discussion that revolutions typically go through four phases. At first, there are "revolutionary expectations" and then, after the first changes are made, euphoria. Then comes disillusionment, which turns into depression. And during the final, fourth stage, life again becomes stabilized, and psychological equilibrium is restored. If the revolutionary cycle theory is applied to Russia over the past 10 years, then perhaps phase three -- disillusionment and depression -- lasted a little bit too long, and the period of stability ushered in by the arrival of a taciturn little man from St. Petersburg was long overdue. (Julie A. Corwin)

The study: "Ten Years of Reform Through Russian Eyes" was prepared by the Russian Independent Institute of Social and Nationalities Problems (RNICiNP), the Friedrich Ebert Fund in Russia, and the Institute for Complex Social Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Sociologists questioned 1,750 respondents in 2001 and compared the data to corresponding surveys from 1992 to 2000. Parts of the study can also be found on RNICiNP's website at

Who do Russians believe is "guilty" for the poverty and disorder the country experienced during the 1990s? (expressed in terms of percentage of total respondents)

Individual or Entity________________________1994_____2001

Communist Party of Soviet Union________________21.9%_____12.6%
Present day Comm. Party______________________12.2________5.2
Mikhail Gorbachev____________________________29.0________32.1
Boris Yeltsin_________________________________18.1_______34.0
International financial circles_____________________5.4________6.9
Intl. conspiracy against Russia____________________7.1________9.4
U.S., American imperialism______________________3.7________5.5
No one_______________________________________0.5_________1.8
Difficult to answer________________________________8.6_________15.0


Duma deputies passed on 14 March in its second reading legislation requiring drivers to acquire insurance for their automobiles within five days after registration, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. If the bill becomes law, drivers without insurance will not be allowed on the roads after 1 July 2003. The vote was 235 votes in favor with 132 against, according to Interfax. JAC

On 15 March, Duma deputies passed in its second reading a bill designed to improve the financial well-being of military servicemen. The bill would raise salaries according to military rank starting from 1 January 2003, according to ITAR-TASS. For example, a regiment commander's wages would go up from 5,029 rubles ($162) to 7,121 rubles. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that the bill's most important feature is that "allowances of every serviceman -- from warrant officers, sergeant majors, lieutenants to generals -- will be increased starting from 1 July and that will compensate for the annulment of certain benefits." For example, the bill would eliminate privileges such as a 50 percent break on the cost of housing and pubic utilities. The vote was 247 in favor, 110 against, and 2 abstentions. JAC


Name of law_________________Date Approved____________# of reading

On obligatory insurance for_________13 March________________2nd
persons owning vehicles

On improving the finances________15 March________________2nd
of military service personnel

OUT: Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko resigned on 15 March. His term was set to expire at the beginning of September, and according to law President Putin was supposed to nominate to the Duma a candidate for the new chair three months earlier, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 March. His term ended a bit earlier, however, due to his opposition to a bill amending the law on the central bank that the Duma was considering in its second reading that day, according to the daily. First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Ignatiev will replace him. Ignatiev was born in Leningrad and worked in the government under then acting-Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar. He is reportedly a close ally of Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and shares some of the same views as presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov.

IN: President Putin issued an order on 14 March naming the new members of the State Council, Russian agencies reported. They include: Chita Oblast Governor Ravil Geniatulin, Astrakhan Oblast head Anatolii Guzhvin, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev, Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, and Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov. The governors, each of whom represents the federal district in which their region is located, will serve a term of six months.

19-20 March: IMF First Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger will visit Moscow

20 March: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to meet representatives of Russian oil companies

20 March: Duma to consider bill amending election laws in its second reading

20 March: The first draft of a report on Russia's efforts to join the WTO by the task force devoted to this quest will be ready

22 March: Deadline by which the State Duma will consider dismissal of Central Bank Chairman Gerashchenko, according to Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov

24 March: By-elections to be held in single-mandate district in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug for State Duma seat vacated by Aleksandr Ryazanov, who went to work for Gazprom

24 March: The Watan Party together with the Fund for the Development of Muslim Peoples plan to hold a conference on the status of Tatarstan in Moscow's Asadullaev House, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau

27 March: Tender for TV-6's broadcasting license

27-28 March: International conference on combating terrorism to be held in St. Petersburg, according to Interfax on 24 January

end of March: CIS Interparliamentary Assembly will hold its 19th plenary session

April: Norwegian Energy Minister Einar Steensnes will visit Russia, according to ITAR-TASS on 19 February

April: Unified party of Unity and Fatherland to officially register as a political party

April: Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman will visit Russia, according to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 24 January

1 April: Russian and Belarusian officials will sign a package of documents aimed at creating a single economic field, according to Prime Minister Kasyanov on 12 March

2-3 April: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will visit Moscow, according to Interfax on 1 March

7 April: Presidential elections in Ingushetia

8 April: The St. Petersburg Dialogue, a Russian-German forum, will hold its second conference in Weimar, Germany, according to Interfax

9-10: Russian-German interstate consultations on the entire agenda of "bilateral relations and key international problems" will be held in Weimar, Germany, according to Interfax

14 April: Gubernatorial elections in Lipetsk and Penza oblasts

18 April: President Putin to deliver his annual message to the State Duma and Federation Council

22 April: State Duma will hold a hearing on the buying and selling of agricultural land, according to Interfax on 17 January

late April: Summit of five Caspian states to be held in Ashgabat, according to First Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kaluzhnyi on 24 January

28 April: Presidential elections to be held in the Republic of Karelia

14-15 May: Foreign ministers of NATO countries and Russia will meet in Reykjavik

19 May: By-elections to be held in Altai Republic for State Duma seat left vacant by newly elected Altai Republic President Mikhail Lapshin

19 May: Gubernatorial elections in Smolensk Oblast

20 May: International press center for the 300th anniversary in St. Petersburg will open

23-26 May: U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Russia

28 May: Russia-EU summit to be held in Moscow

31 May: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova

June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to take place in St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported

June: Baltic Sea State Council meeting to be held in St. Petersburg

June: Government will have drafted a federal program for putting Russia's armed forces on a professional basis, according to Prime Minister Kasyanov on 7 December

June: Russia and the U.S. will have drafted an agreement on radical cuts in strategic offensive weapons, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 18 December

9 June: Repeat elections for legislature of Primorskii Krai

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

26-28 June: Group of Seven summit to be held in Canada

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine

September: Symposium and investment fair for atomic power plants to take place in Vladivostok

10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk

9-16 October: All-Russia census

26-27 October: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in Las Cabos, Mexico

7 November: Day of Reconciliation and Agreement