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Newsline - August 31, 1998


Leftist opposition groups have vowed to reject acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bid to head the government. "Chernomyrdin has neither a program nor a real opportunity to shape a cabinet, because 90% of Russian citizens do not trust him," Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 31 August. Yabloko officials, meanwhile, reiterated their previously-stated intention to reject Chernomyrdin. Viktor Ilyukhin, Duma Security Council Committee chairman and Communist Party member, told Interfax on 31 August that Duma factions would approve Chernomyrdin's candidacy for prime minister but only if President Boris Yeltsin resigns. The State Duma Council ordered Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin to draft guidelines for an alternative list of candidates for premier; however, CIS Executive Secretary and financial magnate Boris Berezovskii predicted that Yeltsin would dismiss the Duma before he agreed to an alternate candidate. He told Interfax on 31 August that "President Boris Yeltsin wants Viktor Chernomyrdin to become the prime minister, and I do not recall a case like this where he changed his mind." JAC


Despite announcements on 30 August that representatives of the Duma, Federal Assembly and presidential administration had reached an arrangement for an 18- month-long political ceasefire, Zyuganov declared that his party opposes the truce because it lacks sufficient enforcement guarantees. On 30 August, Zyuganov told the television program "Itogi" that Yeltsin's family should "convince him to resign and not to drag the entire country into the grave with his bony hand." The People's Power and Agrarian factions also declared their opposition to the agreement. JAC


Stocks fell 5-15 percent during the first 45 minutes after the Russian stock exchange opened on 31 August, Interfax reported. Bloomberg cited traders who predicted that the Duma's rejection of Chernomyrdin would be bad for the market. JAC


"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 August that the Defense Ministry has been sending out "secret instructions" to the commanding officers of units based in Moscow, Tula, Ryazan, and Tver to be ready for an emergency situation. The leadership of the armed forces is also preparing operational documents for coordinating the actions of army units and MVD troops in the "event of mass disturbances." The paper also reports that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev assured President Yeltsin in a recent private meeting of his "complete loyalty" and pledged the army's support during "this difficult period for Russia." On 29 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that State Duma Security Committee chairman Ilyukhin, said that he received information from various military units about a "suspicious intensification of their activities." Tank units have been supplied with fuel. JAC


According to the version of the proposed political agreement initialed by Chernomyrdin and Duma leaders on 30 August, the Duma agreed not to initiate either a no-confidence vote or an impeachment proceeding for a period of 18 months. At the same time, Yeltsin would agree not to disband the parliament during the same time period. In addition, the prime minister would appoint cabinet ministers together with the parliament, while the president would retain the right to appoint ministers of defense, security, and foreign affairs. At the Communist Party's urging, the document also contained a proposal for a new media law that would allow for increased public control over TV and radio outlets. JAC


The political agreement so dramatically shifted current political arrangements that it would have required constitutional amendments. Aleksandr Kotenkov, presidential liaison to the Duma, said on 29 August that Yeltsin agrees that draft amendments should be prepared that outline the process for selecting cabinet ministers and the participation of the Duma in that process. He also told reporters on 30 August that draft laws to lift the immunity of Duma deputies and revise the election procedures for the Duma would be prepared within a month. According to ITAR-TASS, the government wants to create a rotational system so that one quarter of the Duma deputies are elected every year. JAC


In a television interview with RTR on 28 August, President Yeltsin pledged to remain in office until his term expires in 2000, putting an end to rumors that he was poised to resign. He also clearly stated that he would not run in 2000. "It is impossible to remove me, especially considering my character," he said. "I will not go anywhere. I will not resign, I will work as long as the constitution allows." Yeltsin also promised to make every effort to preserve Russian citizens' savings and keep inflation to a minimum. Yeltsin rejected the notion that he had increased the powers of the office of the prime minister, saying such powers had already been quite "extensive." Despite the president's assurances, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 August continued to assert that Yeltsin will resign, based on the Kremlin's active pursuit of legal and material guarantees for Yeltsin once he retires (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998). Duma deputy speaker Baburin predicts that the announcement of Yeltsin's resignation will occur on 3 September. JAC


On 28 August, the Central Bank put the nation's eighth largest bank in terms of capital and primary creditor for the agricultural sector, SBS- Agro Bank, under its provisional administration, suspending its operation with individual and commercial depositors. The Central Bank will conduct an inventory of SBS-Agro's assets. The Central Bank asked the Duma to accelerate passage of a law on the state regulation of SBS-Agro Bank. According to Interfax, the SBS-Agro Bank accumulated debts of more than 680 million rubles ($87 million) to its clients, despite more than 1 billion rubles worth of loans from the Central Bank. On 28 August, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that although the government must prevent the collapse of the banking system, "nationalization of banks is a stupid idea." JAC


Yeltsin issued a decree on 28 August dismissing long-time ally Anatoly Chubais from his post as presidential envoy to international financial institutions as well as eliminating the position itself. Earlier, members of the Communist Party as well as Our Home is Russia had demanded that Chubais be absent from the next government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1998). Meanwhile, Boris Fedorov, acting deputy prime minister, was chosen to head a team of economic reformers, including Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin, acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, Vnesheconombank chairman Vladimir Kostin, and State Property Fund head Igor Shuvalov, that is charged with alleviating the financial crisis, according to the "Financial Times" on 31 August. The paper quoted Sergei Markov, professor of politics at Moscow State University, who said that Fedorov's appointment suggests that the government will be more oriented towards reform than previous Chernomyrdin administrations but less radical than that of sacked Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. JAC


Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov met with Yeltsin, Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev, State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev and acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 28 August. Russian and Bulgarian officials signed a variety of cooperation agreements, covering cultural and scientific activities, environmental protection and border issues. The two presidents also agreed to form a joint working group that would advance relations by drafting an action program for the next two years. Yeltsin admitted that Russian- Bulgarian relations had once been "extremely rich" but had weakened in recent years. Upon his return, Stoyanov said he was pleased with the results of the visit, and particularly with the fact that he received guarantees from "the highest echelons" that Russian commitments to settle the problem of custom duties on Bulgarian imports and a $48 million debt owed to Bulgaria will be settled by the delivery of spare parts to Bulgaria's Air Force. JAC/MS


Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong finished his five-day visit to Russia on 29 August, Russian media reported. Luong met with President Yeltsin on 25 August and in a joint statement afterward outlined cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of oil and gas production and military technology. Russia will help Vietnam construct a chain of power generating facilities, build an oil refinery, and help increase oil output in Vietnam to 15-16 million tons annually. Yeltsin said he will send Defense Minister Sergeev to Vietnam "in the next few months" to discuss further sales of Russian military hardware to Hanoi. Luong also visited St. Petersburg, the sister city of Ho Chi Minh City, on 27-29 August before leaving for Minsk (see story in Part II). BP


Speaking in Grozny on the second anniversary of the Khasavyurt accords that he helped craft and that ended the fighting between Moscow and Chechnya, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said that "the Chechen people will not attain well-being by seceding from Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. At the same time, the retired general said he would support the creation of "a special body" to handle relations between Moscow and Grozny and to ensure both that the Russian government would live up to its promises and that the international community would be able to send aid as well. On 29 August, Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov had claimed that no progress had been made on defining Russian-Chechen relations since the signing of the Khasavyurt agreement, according to Interfax. Udugov said that Chechnya still considers itself an independent state despite Moscow's refusal to recognize it as such. PG/LF


Aleksei Lebed, governor of the Republic of Khakasiya, announced on 26 August that the republic will no longer make any contributions to the federal budget, "Vremya MN" reported the following day. Lebed said that the region is perfectly capable of surviving without subsidies from Moscow, having paid 641 million rubles more in taxes over the past seven years than it has received in subsidies. Aleksei Lebed and his brother, Aleksandr, governor of neighboring Krasnoyarsk krai, were reported to be consulting earlier this month on a series of economic agreements intended to improve economic conditions in Khakasiya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 1998). LF


Following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Nancy Soderberg on 28 August, Eduard Shevardnadze said through his press service that UN Security Council resolutions on Abkhazia had been "less effective" in dealing with Abkhazia than had "European structures," ITAR-TASS reported. (On 3 August, Shevardnadze had characterized the most recent UN resolution as a breakthrough for Georgian diplomacy, given that its tone was "firmer and more categorical" in its condemnation of Abkhazia than earlier resolutions.) The press statement also indicated that "certain forces would not like the peace process" in Abkhazia to go forward. Soderberg, for her part, said that it was "imperative" for UN resolutions to be implemented, including the dispatch of "a certain UN contingent to the conflict zone." PG/LF


In his regular weekly radio broadcast on 31 August, Shevardnadze warned against "seeking scapegoats" and "blaming the power ministries for all misfortunes," Caucasus Press reported. That statement represents a retreat from his recent categorical criticism of the work of the security ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998). Shevardnadze stated that he will not dismiss National Security Minister Djemal Gakhokidze, reasoning that "the change of one minister for another one may be justified, if the new candidate is better than the previous minister, and we do not have such candidates today." Gakhokidze was appointed in July 1997 following the resignation of Shota Kviraya, who had been accused of blackmarketeering, telephone tapping, and the shooting of six men suspected of looting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). LF


Meeting in Moscow on 27 August, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Georgian counterpart Davit Tevzadze agreed to postpone any further discussion of the future of the Russian military bases in Georgia pending the drafting of a concept of bilateral military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. The two ministers also agreed that Sergeev's planned visit to Georgia, originally scheduled for February but postponed three times, will take place only after a new Russian government is named. Moscow has consistently rejected Georgian claims for financial compensation for military equipment allegedly removed from Georgia following the demise of the USSR. LF


Meeting on 28 August with a group of visiting Finnish parliamentarians, Armen Darpinian said it is wrong to proceed on the assumption that Armenia is incapable of developing economically until a final settlement of the Karabakh conflict is reached, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that overcoming that "illusion" would contribute to reaching a settlement of the conflict. Darpinian argued that both Georgia and Azerbaijan would benefit if the blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey were lifted, adding that Armenia and Azerbaijan could become "natural economic partners," according to Interfax. LF


Armenian President Robert Kocharian chaired on 28 August the first session of the political council he created to provide a forum in which those political parties not represented or underrepresented in the National Assembly can exchange views, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian characterized the creation of the council as "the first attempt to consolidate political forces" and called upon the eleven parties represented on the council to demonstrate tolerance towards each other in the runup to next year's parliamentary elections. Union of Constitutional Rights chairman Hrant Khachatrian, who was elected the council's first chairman, told RFE/RL on 29 August that he will endeavor to persuade the Communist Party and Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union to name representatives to the council. They have thus far declined to do so. LF


On 26 August the Democratic Congress, which comprises a dozen influential opposition parties, set up a working group to prepare for a people's congress to debate the problems Azerbaijan currently faces and possible solutions to the present political crisis, according to Turan on 27 August and "Russkii telegraf" of 29 August. The Azerbaijani authorities have rejected the opposition's application to hold a mass demonstration on 5 September on Baku's Freedom Square, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar told Turan that the opposition will demand legal proceedings against the city's mayor for "illegally" violating citizens' constitutional right to hold such demonstrations. On 26 August, the Ministry of Justice refused for the second time to register the Movement for Democratic Elections and Democratic Reforms as a public organization, Turan reported. LF


Uzbekistan's parliament opened its 12th session on 28 August, ITAR- TASS and Interfax reported. President Islam Karimov began the session by warning about the possible consequences of the Taliban movement's successes in neighboring Afghanistan. Karimov said the conquest of Afghanistan may not satisfy the Taliban and "we have to take this into account." Karimov dismissed claims that the Taliban seek to spread their rule to Uzbekistan's ancient city of Samarkand, saying "someone wants to create a conflict." Karimov also spoke about Tajikistan, voicing his support for "the government led by Imomali Rakhmonov" and adding that "these (Uzbek-Tajik) relations should remain stable and solid." The parliament approved Ghofur Barnoyev as head of the Central Electoral Commission. BP


On Russia, Karimov said the economic crisis there would affect Uzbekistan and hoped "Russia will ensure currency and financial stability as soon as possible." Karimov noted, however, that Russian banks are not very active in Uzbekistan and that Russia accounts for only 15-20 percent of Uzbekistan's turnover of goods. Karimov said he supports Viktor Chernomyrdin in the post of prime minister, adding "we regard him as the organizer ... of our republic's gas complex." BP


Kazakhstan will decommission a 25-year old nuclear reactor in Mangyshlak with U.S. assistance, Interfax reported. The reactor was built to last 20 years but following the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the Kazakh government did not have the funds to shut the reactor down. Spent nuclear rods were stored in a special pool but such facilities provide for a storage time of three years and the rods have been there for ten years. The U.S. will provide special containers and railway cars to ship the rods to a burial site in Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk region, the former site of Soviet nuclear tests. BP


Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 28 August that "the devaluation of the hryvnya is impossible," ITAR-TASS reported. "There are no reasons for a sharp devaluation of the hryvnya and its rate is under control," AP quoted him as saying. The hryvnya has been falling steadily since Russia devalued the ruble two weeks ago. On 28 August the hryvnya sank to 2.25 to $1, reaching the upper limit of the formerly set exchange corridor. Yushchenko added that the confusion in Ukraine's financial market was bound to stop given the IMF's plans to issue a $2.2 billion loan to the country. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said in Washington on 28 August that he will call a meeting of the IMF Executive Board "on short notice" to consider the loan. JM


The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Yurii Dubinin, to protest statements made by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 26 August in Sevastopol, AP reported. Luzhkov, speaking at the opening of a Russian-language school, accused Ukrainian authorities of the forced Ukrainization of the city and its educational system and of attempts to force the Ukrainian language on ethnic Russian residents. According to the agency, Luzhkov also told Russian servicemen in Sevastopol to continue to hope that the city will return to Russia. "Some statements by Yurii Luzhkov can be assessed as an intrusion into Ukraine's internal affairs and disrespect for its sovereignty," the ministry said in a statement. JM


Belarus and Ukraine can help Russia overcome its crisis if the three former Soviet republics draw closer together, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on 28 August, at the end of his three-day visit to Crimea. "Bringing the three Slavic countries closer will be a strong factor in stabilizing the situation not only in Russia, but in Belarus and Ukraine," Interfax quoted him as saying. Lukashenka said that the financial collapse in Russia was predictable and that the Russian government "should have warned Ukraine and Belarus" of it. In his opinion, the current situation pushes the three presidents to make "steps toward each other. The three of us will be to blame if we fail to use this unique situation," he said. JM


After returning to Minsk on 28 August, Lukashenka told journalists that the IMF's recommendations "have in no way proven to be a universal remedy for economic reform," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. In his opinion, "[the IMF's recommendations] aim at disrupting the national economic system of post-Soviet republics." Lukashenka added that during his visit to Crimea he met with Russian acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin twice but did not meet with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. JM


Lukashenka met on 29 August with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong, who is on a three-day official visit to Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. The Belarusian president said after the meeting that Belarus and Vietnam intend to increase the mutual trade turnover by 1000 percent by 2000, to some $200 million annually. Lukashenka added that Vietnam "may become a bridge for promoting Belarus on markets of the Asian and Pacific region, while Belarus may become a bridge for promoting Vietnam's interests in Europe." He stressed that both Belarus and Vietnam pursue "similar" domestic and foreign policies. JM


In conformity with a 1994 agreement and despite suggestions that Moscow would continue its operation, the Russian authorities turned off the Skrunda radar site in Latvia on 31 August, BNS reported. Skrunda was the last Russian military outpost in the Baltic countries. Russian officials have 18 months to dismantle and remove equipment from the site. Moscow paid $5 million per year to rent the site at which 400 Russians had been working since 1994. PG


In ceremonies in Tallinn on 28 August, representatives of the three Baltic countries established a joint naval squadron to be known as BALTRON, BNS reported. Consisting of two mine-sweepers each from Estonia and Latvia and a Lithuanian logistics ship, the unit will participate in its first exercise in September. Based in Estonia's Mine Harbor, the unit will be commanded this year and in 1999 by Latvian Naval Captain Ilmars Lesinskis. PG


As the Russian economic crisis deepened, the three Baltic governments adopted increasingly different public positions. An Estonian foreign ministry deputy secretary, Clyde Kull, said on 29 August that Moscow might launch a propaganda attack against the Baltic states to divert attention from its domestic problems, BNS reported. A day earlier, Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts said that the Russian crisis would harm some Latvian banks but not the banking system, a prediction apparently born out when one Latvian bank was forced to close and other banks in that country experienced a run by depositors. Meanwhile, also on 28 August, Lithuanian State Security Department Director Mecys Laurinkus met with President Valdas Adamkus to discuss the crisis, BNS reported. Laurinkus said that Lithuania is well-placed to weather the current difficulties. PG


Polish radical Catholics placed two more crosses at the former Auschwitz concentration camp and held mass at the site on 30 August in defiance of church leaders, Polish media reported. The mass was organized by a priest from the Society of St. Pius X, a splinter Roman Catholic order which does not recognize the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65. German priest Karl Stehlin held the service in Latin and criticized in Polish the official position of Polish bishops on the Auschwitz crosses dispute. The same day the bishop's statement condemning the erection of new crosses at Auschwitz was read in all churches in Poland. Both the government and the Catholic Church admit that more than 150 crosses planted recently around the papal cross should be removed from the camp site. JM


Vaclav Havel, speaking on Czech radio in his weekly program on 29 August, said that he supported RFE/RL's plan to start broadcasts to Iran and Iraq. Havel said that the Czech Republic went to great lengths to get RFE/RL to move to Prague. This, he said, also means that "we have delegated certain decision-making powers and Radio Free Europe in fact decides itself in what languages it broadcasts. This means, to put it formally, [that] the station must not consult anyone at all." Jan Ruml, leader of the opposition Freedom Union, said on 30 August that since the Czech Republic allowed RFE/RL to relocate on its territory, it cannot stop it from broadcasting to Iran or Iraq, since RFE/RL is a private institution and no government can decide on its broadcasts, CTK reported. MS


Havel on 28 August was released from the hospital, where he underwent surgery on 26 July. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel will now rest in the presidential residence at Lany, near Prague, and prepare for his official visit to the U.S., set for 14-19 September. In other news, the British government has contacted Czech and Slovak officials after some 600 Roma from the two countries requested asylum in the United Kingdom in August, TASR reported on 29 August. The applicants say they are victims of attacks by skinheads. MS


Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 28 August said that Slovakia wishes to be self-sufficient in energy and that this means it will have to rely on nuclear power by 2003. Meciar said water and coal resources are insufficient, and stressed that 59 percent of the electricity supplied by the Slovak national power company is already produced by nuclear plants. Earlier on 28 August Meciar attended the official start-up of the first reactor at Slovakia's controversial Mochovce nuclear power plant. He said that the second reactor will be launched within a year. MS


In agreement with the National Bank, the Hungarian government decided on 29 August to cut the monthly rate of the national currency's crawling- peg devaluation from 0.8 percent to 0.7 percent as of 1 October, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the move is expected to reduce inflation and improve the current balance of payments. "Although the Russian economic crisis has painfully hit the Budapest Stock Exchange, its effects on the Hungarian economy do not necessitate exchange-rate policy measures," he said. MSZ


Former Postabank President Gabor Princz firmly denied charges that he or his bank had illegally collected information on leaders of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998), Hungarian media reported on 31 August. The former executive manager of Pinpoint Ltd., Gyorgy Meth, called allegations that his firm carried out illegal surveillance of FIDESZ-MPP politicians "false assertions." Meanwhile, "Nepszabadsag" reported that it received an envelope, allegedly from the Swedish Embassy, containing the complete documentation of the secret investigation. According to the documents, the investigation was based exclusively on company registers and not on secret or illegal sources. MSZ


The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement in Belgrade on 29 August that members of special police forces found a crematory two days earlier in the village of Klecka near the Prishtina-Prizren road. The text added that ethnic Albanian "terrorists" had allegedly killed 22 Serbian civilians in July and cremated their remains in a limekiln. The statement added that police found remains of the incinerated bodies nearby. In Prishtina, the pro-Kosovar Board for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms called for an investigation by independent forensics experts to determine if the remains are indeed those of Serbian civilians. Spokesmen for the Board hinted that the Serbian police may have planted the alleged evidence. PM


The Serbian government issued an appeal to the international community on 29 August, in which it called for the condemnation of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) as a terrorist organization. The statement added that some unnamed governments have taken a "tolerant attitude" toward the UCK and allow it to conduct recruitment and other activities on their territory. The next day, Serbian Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic said in Belgrade that the authorities have filed charges against more than 300 persons for "terrorism" this year. In Duha, which is southwest of Prishtina, police Colonel Bozidar Filic said on 28 August that, for the first time in nearly four months, Serbian police are in control of the entire Prishtina-Prizren road. He added that police are now in control of all major highways in Kosova. PM


Greek diplomats appealed to other EU ambassadors in Brussels last week to postpone until at least 8 September a decision on whether to deny landing rights to Yugoslav state airlines (JAT), the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 29 August. EU diplomats agreed in June to seek a ban on landing rights for JAT in response to the Serbian crackdown in Kosova. JAT has since threatened to bar EU carriers from landing in Serbia in retaliation. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in May expressed concern that such countermeasures would make it difficult for Germany to continue deporting refugees back to Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). PM


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Zagreb on 30 August that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina must be first and foremost citizens of that country and participate in its political structures. President Franjo Tudjman replied that "the main problem between the United States and Croatia is the problem of obliged by its constitution to take care of Croats outside the Republic of Croatia." Albright also said that Croatia has yet to meet "European standards" in democratization, minority rights, and independence of the media. To underscore her concern for democracy in Croatia, she met with the leaders of six major opposition parties. Two days earlier, representatives of those parties agreed to prepare joint draft election and media laws, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM


Also on 30 August, Albright met with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik in Bijeljina and praised the two as a "good ticket" committed to the Dayton agreement. Albright reminded Bosnian Serb voters that the international community is prepared to deliver economic and reconstruction assistance, but only to those officials who back the Dayton accords. Her basic message, she added, is that "Dayton pays." Dodik, however, said that the international community should grant local authorities more decision-making powers and cut the size of the peacekeeping force. Meanwhile, near Mostar the previous day, some 150 Serbs returned to their former homes in two villages for the first time in six years. This was the fourth time in recent weeks that a group of Serbs went home in that part of Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 29 August that Muslim and Croatian authorities are issuing privatization vouchers to former soldiers in place of back pay for political reasons. He noted that giving compensation to former soldiers is a way to "win votes" in the 12-13 September general elections. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit pledged economic and political support for Bosnia. He said that a $10 million reconstruction grant will be paid soon, along with $4 million in assistance for Air Bosna. Ecevit suggested that the Turkish government might soon decide to admit Bosnian-built Volkswagens to the Turkish market duty-free. PM


Representatives of the OSCE and Council of Europe issued a joint statement in Tirana on 30 August, in which they urged Albanian political parties to stop making a political issue of the recent arrest of six former government officials on charges of committing crimes against humanity (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 August 1998). The text read: "we find recent statements and reports that cast this issue only in political terms to be counterproductive." The statement also urged all parties to allow justice to take its course and warned that politicizing the case risks compromising the ability of the legal institutions "to implement due process." It added that "we are very concerned about statements that contain violent rhetoric and we call upon all parties to refrain from any statements that may hinder peaceful and democratic procedures." FS


As political tensions mount in the wake of the arrests, Fatos Nano pledged in Tirana on 29 August to strengthen the police, defense forces, and the secret service "to show the real force of the state by applying the law correctly." Former President Sali Berisha the same day said that Nano has "torn up the agreement that prevented civil war and [he] will face all the consequences of [his] unilateral act." Berisha called on his supporters to turn out for a rally slated for 31 August. Interior Minister Perikli Teta banned the demonstration, charging that "criminal elements" were planning to cause trouble. Six opposition supporters and six policemen were injured during a banned rally in Tirana on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 August 1998). "Rilindja Demokratike" on 30 August quoted Berisha as saying that "nobody can stop the protest," adding that "the fall of Nano starts tomorrow." FS


Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Albanian counterpart Paskal Milo opened a Greek consulate in Korca on 30 August. Milo praised the opening as "a major contribution to the further expansion of [bilateral] relations." Greece opened its first consulate in postcommunist Albania in Gjirokastra in 1994. Albania has a consulate in Ioannina and plans to open one in Thessaloniki soon. Meanwhile, the Greek consul in Gjirokastra on 28 August asked police to ensure the protection of the ethnic Greek community there following threats by masked gunmen against villagers. FS


Radu Vasile, speaking on Romanian state radio on 29 August, criticized the slow pace of privatization and said changes will soon be made in "the second and third echelons" of the State Property Fund, where some officials are "blocking privatization." One day earlier, at a meeting of the leadership of the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (PNTCD), Vasile criticized the performance of Privatization Minister Sorin Dimitriu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The 28 August meeting was "tempestuous," with former Premier Victor Ciorbea saying the government has met none of its deadlines. A meeting of the party's leading bodies must be convened and "fixed deadlines" must be established for carrying out the reforms, he said. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu said he demands that Vasile "state clearly" if he intends to sack him. MS


Two Romanian journalists working for the Botosani "Monitorul" newspapers were fined 100 million lei ($11,250) after being convicted of libel, AP reported on 29 August. The journalists had written that a local politician had abused his position by quashing court proceedings against his son, who was accused of demolishing a building that was listed as a protected historical monument. This is the third time in recent months that journalists have been sentenced for libel in Romania. MS


Bucharest is hosting the 12th international ecumenical gathering "People and Religions," which is being attended by Christian Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants, as well as by Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews. The event is sponsored by the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Italian Catholic organization Sant Edigio. An interdenominational chapel was inaugurated on 29 August. Addressing the opening ceremony on 30 August, President Emil Constantinescu said he hoped the gathering will pave the way for the planned Romania visit of Pope John Paul II. He added that conflicts between the Orthodox Church and the Uniate Church in Romania "are not grave." MS

Russia: A State Nation Among Nation States

by Paul Goble

Underlying all of Russia's current problems -- the collapse of its currency, stock markets, and public confidence in its government -- is the fact that the Russian Federation is a country different from most others around the world.

Russia is a state nation rather than a nation state. That is, the Russian people define themselves in terms of the state rather than the state being defined by the people, a pattern that undermines the state's ability to maintain authority when its power is weak.

In contrast to most of its neighbors, the Russian state thus lacks the authenticity that states rooted in a nation generally have. Consequently, it cannot count on either the authority that such rooting often gives or on popular willingness to go along with the state when it is unable to deliver but has to make tough choices.

And that, in turn, predisposes the Russian state whenever it finds itself weakened to try to demonstrate its effectiveness either by relying, as now, on outside support or by using coercive measures to compel its population to go along.

Neither of these means represents a full solution to its political dilemmas, but the absence of the kind of natural deference to the political authorities that a nation state provides gives the Russian state few alternatives and helps to explain why historically it has been so difficult for Russia to escape from one of its periodic times of troubles.

This very contemporary Russian problem has its origin in a special feature of Russian history. Namely, the Russian state became an empire long before the Russian people became a nation.

Beginning half a millennium ago, the Russian state began a rapid expansion across an enormous territory coming to embrace dozens of different peoples and cultures. But because the central authorities, first tsarist and then Soviet, defined the population as Russia's, the ethnographic group known as the Russians was left in an extremely difficult position.

On the one hand, their identities were defined by the state, leaving them at the mercy of its strength and also with no clear definition of who they were and equally important who they were not. And that, in turn, meant that they seldom were clear about the borders around themselves and their people.

On the other hand, the state could claim the allegiance of these people not as its representative because of who they were but only in terms of its ability to demonstrate power and deliver the goods.

Whenever the Russian state has been strong, the loyalty of the Russian people to it has been impressive, even remarkable. But whenever the Russian state has been weak, that loyalty has tended to snap, further reducing the ability of the state to gain the kind of support it needs to regain its strength without taking measures that will repel others.

Just how serious this problem is for Russia becomes clear in any comparison with the nation states that surround it. Sometimes the relative success of the non-Russian countries which gained or regained their independence in 1991 is explained by their small size.

Sometimes it is explained by the fact that these countries generally view the collapse of the Soviet empire as a gain rather than -- like most Russians -- as a loss.

But underlying both of these is the presence in many of these countries of a bond of loyalty between the state and the nation, a bond that is inevitably complicated and imperfect but one that allows the state to count on at least some support even when it is relatively weak and when it cannot deliver everything it promises.

To take the most dramatic example, the Estonian state immediately after the recovery of independence was able to ask its nation to make some extraordinary sacrifices in order to allow the country to escape the consequences of Soviet domination.

Despite economic measures that hurt many people in that country, Estonians generally supported the state precisely because they saw an identity between its interests and their own.

Since 1991, the Russian state has not been able to draw on such a reserve of support. And while that does not explain all of Russia's current difficulties, it does help to explain why they are as large as they are and why both the Russian state and the Russian people are having a far more difficult time than other states and nations in the region.