RUSSIAN REACTION TO AGREEMENT ON UNION WITH
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has
hailed yesterday's Russian-Belarusian agreement but
complains that media reports criticizing integration are
"sowing hostility" between the Russian and Belarusian
peoples, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. CIS Affairs
Minister Aman Tuleev, the government member who has the
closest ties to the opposition, expressed regret that the original
draft of the document was watered down. He said the
Belarusian economy is doing better than its detractors suggest
and that it was not for Russians to complain about
dictatorship in Belarus after the shelling of the Russian
parliament in October 1993. Former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed described the agreement as
premature, while Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov of Russia's
Democratic Choice warned that integration could do even
more damage to Russian political and economic interests than
the war in Chechnya.
CIS PRESIDENTS' REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN
Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma has called the union
agreement "nonsense," while Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov
warned "we should not be drawn back to the Soviet Union."
Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev, and
Turkmenistan's Saparmurad Niyazov were all equivocal.
Armenia's Levon Ter-Petrossyan said it is the internal affair of
Russia and Belarus. Moldova's Petr Lucinschii predicted that
the agreement would strengthen integration within the CIS.
Only Tajikistan's Imomali Rakhmonov was unambiguously in
favor. He expressed the hope that other CIS states would
accede to the agreement. Izvestiya published these comments
yesterday. A spokesman for Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbaev told Interfax he feared the agreement was
premature and could "provoke a split within Russia."
RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS DEADLOCKED.
President Aslan Maskhadov says talks with Russia on the
delimitation of political authority between Moscow and Grozny
are deadlocked because Moscow is trying to make economic
aid contingent on the signing of a peace agreement, Western
agencies and Interfax reported. Maskhadov was speaking to
journalists in Grozny on 2 April. He said he has rejected four
consecutive draft agreements submitted by the Russian side
because those documents were against the interests of the
Chechen people. But Russian negotiator Vladimir Zorin told
Interfax he thought Maskhadov was exaggerating the
difference between the two sides. Zorin also said that
Maskhadov's proposed appointment of field commander
Shamil Basaev as first deputy premier would not affect the
CHERNOMYRDIN DENIES REPORTS ON MASSIVE
Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov has
announced that, contrary to newspaper reports, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin does not hold any shares in the
gas monopoly Gazprom and owns no "palaces, dachas or
mansions." Shabdurasulov said Chernomyrdin's salary, which
averaged about 4 million rubles ($800) per month in 1996, is
his only source of income, Interfax reported on 2 April. An
article published in the French newspaper Le Monde last week
and reprinted in Izvestiya on 1 April claimed that
Chernomyrdin's property holdings are worth $5 billion. In an
interview with ITAR-TASS, Shabdurasulov dismissed
Izvestiya's decision to publish the article as retaliation for the
government's recent refusal to lend money to the paper.
However, he said Chernomyrdin is not planning to sue
Izvestiya for libel.
DUMA FAILS TO PASS LAWS CHANGING NATIONAL
The State Duma on 2 April failed to pass federal
constitutional legislation that would have changed Russia's
national symbols. All three Communist-sponsored measures
failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to pass
federal constitutional laws. Of the Duma deputies, 239 voted
to replace Russia's white, red, and blue tricolor with a Soviet-
era red flag, 243 voted to replace the double-headed eagle
symbol with a shield depicting a hammer and sickle against a
sunrise, and 255 voted to restore the Soviet-era national
anthem, RFE/RL reported.
DUMA OPPOSES LENIN REBURIAL.
The Duma has passed a
resolution denouncing as "vandalism" proposals to remove the
body of Vladimir Lenin from the mausoleum on Moscow's Red
Square. Deputies voted 241 to 11 in favor of the resolution. A
similar motion failed on 21 March. Yeltsin backed off from
plans to remove Lenin's body in 1993 but again proposed
moving Lenin to a St. Petersburg cemetery last month.
Meanwhile, Interfax reports that a previously unknown
organization calling itself the Red Army of Workers and
Peasants has claimed responsibility for blowing up the only
Russian monument to Nicholas II earlier this week. The group
released a statement saying the attack on the statue, which
was located in a Moscow suburb, was a reprisal against those
who wanted to "profane a national shrine" by removing Lenin's
body from the mausoleum.
KORZHAKOV JOINS DEFENSE COMMITTEE.
Presidential Security Service chief Aleksandr Korzhakov is now
a member of the Duma Defense Committee, ITAR-TASS
reported on 2 April. Korzhakov, a former lieutenant general,
won a by-election for the State Duma in February. He asked to
be assigned to the committee, which is chaired by Lev Rokhlin
of Our Home Is Russia. The same day, Korzhakov's appeal
against the presidential decree removing him from the armed
forces last October was transferred to the Supreme Court, but
no date for hearings was set. Korzhakov was fired as Yeltsin's
top bodyguard last June, shortly after the first round of the
MOSCOW TO ACQUIRE CONTROLLING INTEREST IN CAR
Yeltsin has issued a decree ordering the
federal government to transfer its controlling shares in the car
manufacturer Moskvich to the Moscow city government,
Rossiiskie vesti reports. Yevgenii Panteleev, the city's minister
of industry, told ITAR-TASS that the transfer is not a "gift,"
since Moskvich is about 3 trillion rubles ($520 million) in debt.
Under the presidential decree, the federal government will
provide some state support for the restructuring of Moskvich,
but the city authorities must guarantee that the company will
pay off its debts to the federal budget and Pension Fund within
two years. Last year, the Moscow government acquired a 60%
stake in the automobile manufacturer ZIL and Moscow
authorities reached agreement with several banks to finance
that company's restructuring.
INFLATION CONTINUES TO FALL.
Inflation fell to 1.4% in
March and to 5.3% for the first quarter of 1997, according to
data released by the State Statistics Committee, AFP reported
on 2 April. In 1996, inflation reached 10% in the first quarter
and 21.8% for the whole year. Critics maintain that the
Russian government artificially holds inflation low by not
paying wages and pensions on time, thereby keeping money
out of circulation.
DE CHARETTE IN TRANSCAUCASUS.
Minister Herve de Charette says a settlement of the Karabakh
conflict is one of France's foreign policy priorities, Russian and
Western agencies reported. He also expressed the hope that
agreement can be reached by the end of this year. De Charette
met earlier this week with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev
and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. De Charette
and Aliyev pledged support for expanding bilateral relations,
particularly in the exploitation of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil.
NEW REVELATIONS ON RUSSIAN ARMS SHIPMENTS TO
Moskovsky komsomolets has published the results
of its investigation into the clandestine deliveries of Russian
arms to Armenia, including a detailed list of the hardware
involved. Lev Rokhlin, chairman of the Russian State Duma
Defense Committee, told a closed Duma session on 2 April
that the shipments cost Russia more than $1 billion. The
Azerbaijani news agency Turan quoted Georgian Minister of
State Niko Lekishvili as telling a Georgian newspaper that the
arms were channeled through Georgia, but Defense Minister
Vardiko Nadibaidze denied this was the case.
KURDS PROTEST IN ALMATY.
Ethnic Kurds marched
through downtown Almaty earlier this week to protest the
municipal authorities' decision to withdraw permission for a
celebration marking the spring holiday Nowruz, RFE/RL
reported. The Yakbun association, which represents
Kazakstan's 35,000 ethnic Kurds, organized the march.
Participants carried Kurdish flags and portraits of Kurdish
Workers' Party leaders. Some 5,000 ethnic Kurds from
Moscow, Central Asia, and Western Europe had been invited to
attend a celebration in the city's sports palace on 31 March.
One city administration official said the celebration was
cancelled because of purerly technical considerations, but
another told Interfax that the celebration had an "anti-Turkish
character which infringes on the interests of friendly Turkey."
KAZAK PRIVATIZATION CREATES "GHOST TOWNS."
Solomin, chairman of Kazakstan's Independent Trade Unions'
Confederation, says the sale of leading industries to foreign
investors has created 'ghost towns' throughout the country,
Reuters reported. Solomin notes that in 56 towns that were
busy industrial centers during the communist era, enterprises
have closed under new ownership. He adds that these
companies are mainly in the energy sector and have been sold
off at 'give-away prices.' In 1996, privatization revenues totaled
31.1 billion tenge ($414 million) or 4.3 times the previous
year's figure, Interfax reported. Also in 1996, over 4,000 state
enterprises and organizations were sold to private owners,
bringing the total of private enterprises in Kazakstan to some
UYGHURS CALL FOR COORDINATED ACTION.
Representatives of the Uyghur diaspora in Kazakstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, have called for
concerted action to oppose China's policy toward the
Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Republic, ITAR-TASS reported.
The call was made at a recent meeting in Moscow of Uyghurs,
a Turkic group of Muslims. Uyghurs and ethnic Chinese have
recently clashed in several cities in Xinjiang. China's Uyghurs
are seeking their own independent state.
VIOLENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK.
correspondents in Minsk report that calm has returned to the
streets of the Belarusian capital this morning, following
clashes between baton-wielding police and several thousand
demonstrators yesterday. An unspecified number of people
were hurt and about 100 detained in what are described as
the most violent demonstrations over the past six months. Led
by members of the opposition National Front, demonstrators
called for the ouster of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The
demonstrations followed the signing yesterday in Moscow of
the agreement on union between Russia and Belarus. Several
hundred supporters of the union gathered in a park in central
UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGNS...
deputy prime minister in charge of economic reforms, has
submitted his resignation, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported on
2 April. Spokesman Dmitri Markov says President Leonid
Kuchma has not yet decided whether to accept his resignation.
The move follows Kuchma's criticism of the government for
failing to resolve delays in wage and pensions payments.
Kuchma has warned he will sack the government if the
situation does not improve. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko
said last week that once a "realistic budget" is approved, the
government will pay back wages within six months. The
parliament has refused to pass the government's proposed
1997 budget. A $3 billion loan from the IMF is conditional on
the passage of the budget and tax reforms.
...WHILE PRESIDENT PLANS TO GET TOUGHER WITH
Meanwhile, Kuchma is working on what he
calls a "revolutionary decree" providing for a tougher line
toward Lazarenko's cabinet and the government's executive
branch, spokesman Yevgeny Kushnarev told journalists in
Kyiv yesterday. No further details were given. Kushnarev said
Kuchma decided on the decree after meeting with leaders of
various parliamentary factions who expressed dissatisfaction
with Lazarenko's cabinet.
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO ON BUFFER STATES.
Hunter says that the phenomenon of "buffer states" has lost
its significance and that NATO can now cooperate with all
interested countries. Speaking to journalists in Tallinn on 2
April, Hunter stressed the importance of including Russia in
the military alliance's activities. The Estonian news agency
ETA reports that in a meeting with Estonian President Lennart
Meri today, Hunter said the U.S. will continue to pursue close
relations with Estonia.
ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves says "there is no clarity yet as to a
possible second round of NATO enlargement, as the first round
is consuming all the attention of the alliance's members." Ilves
was speaking to journalists yesterday on returning from the
U.S. Ilves said this was the reason why his proposal that
Estonia should be admitted into the alliance in the second
round--and preferably as early as in 1999--was not the subject
of broader discussion. He added that Estonia has better
opportunities to work toward membership in the EU than in
NATO since in the case of the EU, more depends on the
EU COMMISSIONER IN BALTICS.
Hans van den Broek, EU
commissioner responsible for relations with Eastern Europe
and the CIS, is on a three-day visit to Lithuania and Latvia to
explain the EU's current assessment of those countries, EU
officials in Brussels told RFE/RL on 2 April. Van den Broek
will inform Riga and Vilnius of areas where increased efforts
are needed if they are to be admitted to the EU. RFE/RL's
correspondent in Brussels reported that Van den Broek will
also urge Lithuania not to re-start two of the Chornobyl-style
reactors at the Ignalina nuclear power plant until urgent safety
measures recommended by international experts are
implemented. The two reactors are due for shut-down this year
for routine maintenance.
LITHUANIAN POLITICIAN ON ESTONIAN NATO INITIATIVE.
Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis
says a NATO initiative outlined by Estonian Foreign Minister
Toom Henriks Ilves in Washington last week is "worth
discussing." Ilves proposed a meeting of the presidents of the
Baltic States and the U.S. in Washington in 1999 to discuss a
new wave of NATO expansion. Landsbergis suggested that it
may also be worth discussing whether expansion should occur
in waves or should be incremental. Landsbergis made those
comments after meeting with members of the Estonian
parliamentary Foreign Committee.
POLISH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES CONSTITUTION.
The National Assembly has approved the much-debated
constitution by an overwhelming majority, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Warsaw on 2 April. It accepted
most of the 41 amendments to the constitution proposed by
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, including the presidential
right to nominate the heads of the country's top judicial bodies
and military leaders. But the assembly rejected limiting
deputies' immunity. Kwasniewski has decreed that the
constitution will to be put to a nationwide referendum next
FRENCH PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE.
Jacques Chirac ends his
official visit to Prague today by addressing both houses of the
parliament. In talks with Czech President Vaclav Havel
yesterday, Chirac promised France's "unreserved support" for
the Czech Republic's candidacies for membership in both the
EU and NATO. Chirac said he believes and hopes the Czech
Republic will enter the EU in the year 2000 and that it will be
truly integrated into NATO one year earlier, RFE/RL's
correspondent reported. He also said France wants NATO's
scheduled summit meeting in July to approve the candidacies
of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.
SLOVAKIA TO COMPLAIN TO NATO OVER PROPERTY
DISPUTE WITH CZECHS.
The Slovak government says it will
complain to NATO about the division of the former
Czechoslovakia's assets, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reports.
Slovakia says the Czech Republic is unlawfully holding Slovak
gold reserves, among other assets. The Czechs say Slovakia
has failed to pay its debts to the Czech Republic. The Slovak
government noted yesterday that one of the conditions of
NATO membership is clearing up misunderstandings with
neighboring countries. "The Czech Republic is not fulfilling
that condition," the Slovak government said. Slovak Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar has postponed his visit to Prague,
complaining of a negative campaign against him in the Czech
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICIZES SLOVAK POLICE.
Council of Europe says in a report published yesterday that
the Slovak police are using brutal methods against detained
criminal suspects. The report was drawn up by the council's
Committee for the Prevention of Torture and is based on a
fact-finding mission to Slovakia in summer 1995. Investigators
say they found some suspects handcuffed to radiators for
several hours, while others were beaten or bitten by police
dogs. A Slovak government statement included in the report
says two police officers were disciplined in 1995 for unlawful
treatment of prisoners. But the statement also said suspected
lawbreakers had to expect a certain degree of forcefulness from
HUNGARIAN PREMIER, PARTY LEADERS AGREE NOT TO
SEND TROOPS TO ALBANIA.
Gyula Horn and parliamentary
party leaders have agreed not to dispatch Hungarian soldiers
as part of an international peacekeeping force to Albania, the
Hungarian press reported. They say nothing justifies the
participation of a Hungarian contingent. Horn consulted with
party leaders following the Italian government's request that
Hungary contribute 250 troops to an international force. He
stressed that tensions in Albania were caused neither by
ethnic nor international conflict but by an internal political
crisis. He argued this was a matter for Albanian politicians to
HUNGARIAN POLITICIAN CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG
EUROPE'S NATIONALIST PARTIES.
Istvan Csurka, leader of
the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, has called for cohesion
among European nationalist parties and the harmonization of
their goals in order to oppose the "impending alliance" of what
he called left-wing and liberal forces. Csurka attended the
congress of the French National Front in Strasbourg last
weekend. He said that, like the front, his party rejects charges
of extremism, anti-Semitism, and racism. He added that its
aim is to protect national interests against "invading
foreigners," Hungarian media reported.
PRESSURE MOUNTS TO SEND INTERVENTION FORCE TO
The Italian and Albanian prime ministers have
agreed to work quickly to get troops to the strife-torn country.
To ease tensions between the two neighbors in the wake of last
Friday's maritime disaster, Italy has agreed to raise the
sunken vessel and compensate families of the victims. OSCE
representative Franz Vranitzky said in Rome yesterday that
the "indispensable" force should be on the ground within 10 to
14 days. He added that "the United Nations have given us
three months" and stressed the international community must
not repeat the mistakes it made in dealing with the former
Yugoslavia. Vranitzky argued that "Albania has need of aid, of
restoring public order, of economic reconstruction, and [of]
restoring confidence in its political system."
GREECE TO HELP ALBANIA.
Athens is also interested in
helping its neighbor restore its economy, police, and army,
Prime Minister Kostas Simitis told his Albanian counterpart,
Bashkim Fino, in Athens yesterday. Once the situation has
stabilized, Greece will provide $74 million in aid, including
compensation to those who lost money in failed pyramid
schemes. Greece fears an influx of refugees and ultimately
regional destabilization unless Albania becomes stable and
reasonably prosperous. In Tirana, police were deployed outside
the U.S. embassy to control crowds of youths following the
spread of false rumors that the U.S. will admit those wanting
to flee the anarchy. Meanwhile, the Socialists have agreed to
end their 11-month boycott of parliament in order to help the
country "emerge from the crisis," party leader Fatos Nano said.
ALBANIA LETS KING COME HOME.
King Leka's office in
Johannesburg, South Africa, says the Albanian government
decided Tuesday to let the heir to the throne return to the
country he last saw in 1939 as a newborn baby. The son of the
late King Zog I has not yet decided when to take up the offer,
but he has been paying increasing attention to Albanian affairs
in recent years, AFP reported on 2 April. He will have to work
hard if he wants to become a serious political player, however.
The tiny monarchist parties are given to fighting among
themselves, and the regionally-based House of Zogu never had
a chance to develop into a national institution during Zog's
shaky decade-long reign.
BOSNIAN, CROATIAN UPDATE.
In Pale, a police spokesman
said the Croats are blocking the return of Serbian refugees to
Drvar, RFE/RL reported. The west Bosnian town had a 97%
ethnic Serb population before the breakup of Yugoslavia, but
the Serbs fled during the 1995 Croatian offensive. Meanwhile,
in the Slavonian region of Hrvatska Dubica, identification
begins today of the remains of 56 Croats massacred by the
Serbs in 1991.
STRIKE HITS MONTENEGRO.
Some 1,800 workers at the
Radoje Dakic big metallurgical enterprise are on strike to
demand back wages and that management be punished,
RFE/RL reported. The aging communist-era plant was crippled
by economic sanctions against federal Yugoslavia, and most of
its workers are now either laid-off or underemployed. Also in
Podgorica, President Momir Bulatovic's office yesterday denied
reports that he is in poor health. The president is engaged in a
battle of wills with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and other
government officials opposed to close ties to Serbian President
MACEDONIAN MINISTER RESIGNS.
Minister Branko Crvenkovski has accepted the resignation of
Construction Minister Jorgo Sundovski, Nasa Borba reports
today. Sundovski was eased out of office as part of
Crvenkovski's anti-corruption campaign following the recent
collapse of the TAT pyramid scheme. Media in the former
Yugoslavia have linked Sundovski and other prominent figures
to TAT, but Sundovski earlier denied charges of wrongdoing.
VAN DER STOEL ON HUNGARIAN MINORITY IN ROMANIA.
Max van der Stoel, OSCE commissioner for national
minorities, says his meeting yesterday with Bela Marko,
chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania
(UDMR), was 'the most encouraging' he has ever had with a
Hungarian minority leader in Romania. He added that the
government's line on minorities was 'courageous.' Marko told
Van der Stoel that the UDMR's participation in the governing
coalition may lead to a resolution of the Hungarian
community's problems. But he added that legal solutions are
still being sought to enable the implementation of national
rights. Van der Stoel also met with Premier Victor Ciorbea,
with whom he discussed primarily inter-ethnic relations.
Ciorbea assured the commissioner of the government's good-
will on the issue of minorities, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
ROMANIA TO RETURN JEWISH PROPERTY?
Chairman Petre Roman says the restitution of Jewish property
nationalized by the fascist and communist regimes is 'no
particular problem.' Roman was talking yesterday in
Bucharest to Menahem Ariav, head of an association
representing Israelis of Romanian origin. Roman noted the
restitution of nationalized property belonging to individuals
must be settled through legislation that applies to all those
forced to leave the country. He said he opposed 'hasty
solutions' that might trigger 'tensions' but stressed that the
'illegality' of the property confiscation must be made clear,
RFE/RL's bureau in Bucharest reported. Earlier this week,
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said the restitution of Jewish
property is a necessary act of justice that would help
Romanians come to terms with their history, the independent
news agency ARPress reported.
ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO RULE
ON NATIONALIST POLITICIAN'S IMMUNITY.
Constitutional Court says it is not within its competence to
rule on the appeal by 43 senators contesting the parliamentary
procedure used to lift the immunity of Greater Romania Party
Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Radio Bucharest reported.
Nevertheless, the court said immunity is renewed if a deputy is
re-elected and that lifting it requires the whole procedure to be
repeated. The parliamentary majority last month ruled that the
decision to lift Tudor's immunity, taken by the previous
legislature, was still in force.
OECD ON BULGARIAN REFORMS.
The Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development says Bulgaria needs
to follow a comprehensive reform course to overcome its
current crisis, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Paris.
An OECD economic survey says the reform process begun in
Bulgaria some years ago has foundered and that the country is
mired in crisis when much of Central and East Europe is
achieving stability and growth. The OECD proposes a 14-point
program designed to help the Bulgarian economy, including
the reform of the banking sector, the closure of loss-making
enterprises, and the introduction of measures to restore
foreign and domestic confidence in the economy. The report
says Bulgaria will not be able to do everything alone and calls
on the international community to offer generous support to
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT RUSSIA?
has raised with the Russian ambassador to Sofia the
possibility of visiting Moscow, RFE/RL's correspondent in the
Bulgarian capital reported. The President's Office said the visit
depended on Moscow. Stoyanov's scheduled visit to Moscow in
late January was canceled because of President Yeltsin's
illness. Caretaker premier Stefan Sofiyanski is scheduled to
visit the Russian capital before the end of this month. In other
news, Stoyanov has invited Pope Paul John II to visit Bulgaria.
Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev told BTA before departing for
Turkey earlier this week that the most important issue on his
agenda is Turkish support for Bulgaria's quest to join NATO.
Russia's Farms: Still Collective and Far Less Productive
by Robert Lyle
Russia's 1996 grain harvest would have been 150 million
tons, instead of 69 million tons, if only Russian farms were
as efficient as Finnish ones, according to a study by a
private non-profit organization focusing on the problems of
land reform in countries in transition. The Urban Development
Institute of Seattle, Washington, adds that the situation in
Russia compared with Finland and other countries has in fact
deteriorated since the days of heavy subsidies. Even then,
state funding was far below levels of agricultural systems in
similar agro-climatic settings.
The report, entitled "Prospects for Peasant Farming in
Russia," says Russia's 26,000 giant agricultural enterprises,
"still collectives in all but name," produce even less today
than they once did. The old Soviet yields were terrible, it
comments, producing 35% less grain per hectare than Canadian
farms and 60% less than Finnish family farms. Despite the
great benefits to be expected from a system of peasant farms,
"there has been no net increase in the number of peasant
farms in Russia since the beginning of 1994."
The report says that although most collective and state
farms have been privatized and re-registered as joint-stock
companies and in other forms, they "continue to function as
inefficient behemoths whose hundreds of members have little
incentive to maximize production, reduce production costs or
preserve capital assets." They also still suffer from the
inefficiencies of collective agriculture: "World experience
demonstrates that smaller farms operated by single families
and small groups consistently outproduce collective farms."
Based on an on-the-ground survey conducted by three
experts from the institute, along with two experts from the
Agrarian Institute in Moscow, the report asserts that
prospects for the growth of peasant farming are now
"substantially more encouraging than at any time in the past
three years." At present, only about 6% of Russia's
agricultural land is in peasant farms, but those farms are
already producing far better yields than the large
The land of the old collectives and state farms is being
distributed as land shares, but in most places it is being
leased back to the collective at rates equal only to the
amount of land tax. Even at the least productive, the report
says, this land yields 100 times more than that value. It
says this availability of cheap rental land depresses the
lease value of land shares and interferes with the emerging
land share rental market.
Still, there is a potential positive aspect of this,
the report argues. Peasant farmers are paying "about four
times as much per hectare in land share lease payments as
agricultural enterprises." Even though Russian lease payments
per hectare are "quite low" by world standards, the peasant
farmers' higher payments may force agricultural enterprises
to offer better leasing terms to compete successfully. For
example, while Russian peasant farmers are paying 11-15% of
total yield in rent and large enterprises are paying around
3%, similar rents in the U.S. are equivalent to 25% of yield.
At the same time, lease payments are a valuable income
supplement for land owners--especially pensioners, who
generally own around 40% of land shares. The report urges the
Russian government to undertake an intensive program to
inform pensioners and other land owners about their rights
and options. Now, it says, most continue to lease back to the
old enterprises because it seems least risky and they want to
make sure they don't offend old leaders who might cut their
pensions. However, the report argues, this is merely a
continuation of collective farming and the government should
make sure land owners know what they are legally allowed to
do with their property and set rules that make their rights
The report also says that another major impediment to
peasant farmers is the unavailability of machinery. Peasant
farmers in Rostov and Samara, among other places, are
exchanging machinery for short periods or even renting a
combine and driver for 20% of the product harvested, paid in
kind. The biggest difficulty is a worsening shortage of
machinery available to share in many areas.
The report concludes that there is a potential for "very
substantial growth of peasant farming" in Russia, but that
much remains to be done.