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Russia Report: November 19, 2003

19 November 2003, Volume 3, Number 46
By Liz Fuller

The population of the Russian Federation is not only dwindling as a whole, but ethnic Russians now account for a slightly smaller percentage of the country's overall population than they did at the time of the last Soviet census in 1989 -- 79.82 percent in 2002 compared with 81.54 percent in 1989. The total number of Russians fell over that period from 119.86 million to 115.86 million. That is just one of the findings from the preliminary results of last year's census, which were reviewed in two articles published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 November.

One article was authored by academic Valerii Tishkov, an ethnographer and former Russian nationalities minister, who also compiled a table appended to the second article that showed statistical data for 1989 and 2002 for the 22 largest ethnic groups in Russia. The 2002 census collected data on a larger number of ethnic groups than ever before: 160, compared with 126 in 1989. Cossacks, however, of whom there are an estimated 600,000, were not listed in the 2002 census as a separate ethnic group, although respondents were given the option of identifying themselves as Cossacks in addition to their "primary" ethnicity.

In 2002, there were seven ethnic groups in Russia numbering over 1 million people: Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Chechens, and Armenians. The Bashkirs have "overtaken" the Chuvash, moving from fifth place to fourth, while the Chechens ranked in 1989 as the ninth-largest ethnic group in Russia, and have registered one of the highest rates of natural increase (51.39 percent). The Chechens are, however, eclipsed by the staggering 91.45 percent rate of natural increase registered by their neighbors, the Ingush. But Tishkov cast doubt on the reliability of the latter figure, suggesting that the raw data from that North Caucasus republic were "inflated."

Other North Caucasus ethnic groups also registered high rates of natural increase. The number of Kabardians grew by 34.71 percent and that of Ossetians by 27.99 percent, with both peoples now numbering more than half a million. Daghestan showed even higher rates of natural increase among the Avars, the largest group in the republic (39.17 percent) and now the10th largest ethnic group in Russia (up from 13th in 1989); the Dargins (44.41 percent); and the Lezgins (59.97 percent). Those peoples now number 544,000, 510,200, and 411,600, respectively.

Among the Turkic and Uralic-Altaic peoples, the Yakuts registered a 16.78 percent increase, and the Buryats 6.68 percent. Both figures are interesting in the light of a further demographic trend pinpointed in an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 April, namely the steady migration of the population of the north and east of Russia to the central and southern regions. That article pointed out that of the seven federal districts, only the Southern and Central registered population growth during the inter-census period. In the case of the Southern Federal District, the overall increase can be attributed partly to the high growth rate registered among indigenous ethnic groups, but primarily to the influx of Armenians over the past decade.

Other ethnic groups in Russia, however, are declining at an even more precipitous rate than are the Russians. The number of Mordvins, who ranked seventh in 1989, fell from 1.073 million to 844,500, or by 21.3 percent. The Udmurts decreased from 714,800 to 636,900 (minus 10 percent), and the Maris from 643,700 to 604,800 (minus 6 percent).

For all the ethnic groups listed above, the primary factor behind the growth or decline in their numbers was the rate of natural increase. But the census data also reflect other key trends that are clearly the result of out- or in-migration. Thus, although Ukrainians preserved their 1989 ranking as the third-largest ethnic group in Russia, their numbers fell by one-third from 4.36 million in 1989 to 2.94 million in 2002, as thousands returned to Ukraine following the demise of the USSR. The numbers of Belarusians and of ethnic Germans likewise fell by one-third. By contrast, the number of Armenians in Russia more than doubled, from 532,400 to 1.13 million, while the number of Azerbaijanis rose by 85 percent, from 335,900 to 621,500. Armenian sources estimate the number of Armenians in Russia as even higher, at 2.5 million, of whom 1 million are believed to live in Krasnodar Krai and 600,000 in Moscow.

Curiously, although experts believe that almost as many Georgians have traveled to Russia in search of employment over the past decade as have Armenians and Azerbaijanis (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 17 December 1999 and 10 January 2002), Georgians do not rank among the 22 nationalities for whom Tishkov provides data. That absence raises the question of how many Georgians in Russia either identified themselves to census takers as belonging to another ethnic group, or were among the 1.5 million respondents who declined to specify their ethnicity. Tishkov paid particular attention to the Tatars, pointing out that their numbers have remained more or less the same (5.552 million in 1989 and 5.558 million in 2002). He pointed out that if one subtracts from the 2002 total "sub-groups" such as the Siberian Tatars and Kryaschens (Christian Tatars), the final figure might show an overall decline in the number of Tatars, to the horror of Tatar nationalists. The Bashkirs, by contrast, registered a 24 percent increase during the inter-census period, from 1.34 million to 1.67 million. Participating in a roundtable discussion organized by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Tishkov said one possible explanation for the discrepancy in growth rates between Tatars and Bashkirs is an increase in national self-awareness among the latter. In other words, some Bashkirs who identified themselves in 1989 as belonging to another ethnic group may have chosen to designate themselves as Bashkirs in last year's census.

Some of the preliminary findings of the census have already been questioned. Interfax on 10 November quoted current Nationalities Minister Vladimir Zorin as telling a Moscow press conference that there are 14.5 million Muslims in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2003). But Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, rejected that figure, saying that there are at least 20 million Muslims in Russia, according to "Izvestiya" on 12 November. Gainutdin suggested that census takers failed to count all members of the Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Tajik, and Uzbek communities in Russia, which he estimated total 4 million people. Zorin subsequently explained that he had been misquoted, and that the figure of 14.5 million refers to those ethnic groups in Russia that have traditionally professed Islam.

As the campaign for the 7 December State Duma elections continues, the Communist Party and some smaller political parties such as Gennadii Raikov's People's Party are apparently losing ground in the races for 225 single-mandate districts, while Unified Russia and some of the other reportedly Kremlin-sponsored parties and blocs such as the leftist Motherland-Patriotic Union bloc are gaining strength.

In an article in "Politburo," No. 34, in September, Rostislav Turovskii of the Center for Political Technologies projected that Raikov's People's Party would win 25-40 seats. However, he has now revised that estimate downward to 18-22, according to RIA-Novosti on 12 November. The Communist Party, which was expected to take from 35 to 60 seats, can now count on 29-43, according to Turovskii. Having earlier predicted that Unified Russia would win anywhere from 60 to 95 seats, he is now saying they will take 74-95 (see table below.)

The results in the single-mandate districts, according to Turovskii, are therefore more important than ever before. He noted that the State Duma will be controlled not by those who win the election by party lists, but by the party that wins the most single-mandate-district seats. The Communists are projected to win the election according to the party list, as they have done in the past, but Unified Russia -- by winning the largest number of single-mandate districts -- might be able to overcome the Communists' margin.

"Kommersant-Daily" on 3 November made a similar point: "Against the background of an uneventful party campaign, the struggle for the single-mandate districts will appear all the more fierce." As evidence of this, the daily pointed to the variety of efforts by local election commissions to deny registration to some of the better-known candidates in the single-mandate districts -- including former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, and incumbent State Duma Deputy from St. Petersburg Yulii Rybakov. The Central Election Commission overruled the decisions canceling these candidates' registration, but the daily predicted that before election day new attempts will be made to cancel the registration of these and other candidates whom regional authorities dislike. (Julie A. Corwin)

Party________Result in 1999 election_____# of seats_________Projected Minimum-
__________________________________in current Duma*____Maximum # of seats
____________________________________________________in this election

Unified Russia____30 (OVR), 9 (Unity)_______76_____________74-95


People's Party______n/a___________________45______________18-22

Motherland bloc____n/a__________________n/a______________6-9

Agrarian Party______n/a____________________n/a____________3-6

Union of Rightist_____5____________________4______________3-6
Forces (SPS)



Party of Russia's______n/a__________________n/a_____________1-4

Party of Life_________n/a_________________n/a______________1-4

Independent candidates__106______________n/a______________36-52

Smaller parties___________n/a______________n/a______________2-6
(e.g. Greens and Eurasian Union)

*As of September 2003, the number of deputies elected from single-mandate districts nominated by a given party that are loyal to that party in the Duma

Sources: "Politburo," No. 34, and RIA-Novosti, 12 November 2003

By Brian Whitmore

In 1993, Russia's Choice preached monetarism. In 1995, Our Home Is Russia promised stability. In 2003, Unified Russia represents power. The evolution, as it were, of Russia's would-be ruling parties competing in parliamentary elections over the past 10 years shows an unmistakable trend -- a steady retreat from ideas, ideology, programs and platforms in favor of a colorless bureaucratic elite. The process seems to have reached its logical conclusion with Unified Russia, a party that appears to represent no constituency except the bureaucracy, exist for no reason other than to support President Vladimir Putin, and stand for nothing other than its own right to rule.

Russia's latest "party of power" seems unconcerned with selling anything resembling a platform to the electorate. Explaining Unified Russia's decision to opt out of televised debates, party leader and Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said the other contenders carry "no political weight."

The official party program features banal slogans such as "Together we must make Russia united and strong"; "We accept only reforms that assure prosperity"; and "Order and corruption are incompatible."

Its campaign posters feature something for everybody -- a vast array of famous, infamous, and politically incompatible figures from Russian history. Against the backdrop of the Russian tricolor flag, with the slogan "Strong Russia-Unified Russia," are Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev, anticommunist dissident Andrei Sakharov, poet Joseph Brodsky, Nobel Prize laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and 19th-century writers Leo Tolstoy and Aleksandr Griboedov, according to "The Moscow Times."

But the real key to understanding Unified Russia and what it stands for is its party list, which is headed by two federal government ministers, Gryzlov and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, and two heavyweight regional leaders, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev.

Overall, a startling 30 regional governors, representing more than one-third of Russia's 89 regions, are running for the Duma as Unified Russia candidates. The trend marks a sharp turnaround from the 1999 Duma election, when many regional leaders -- led by Luzhkov and Shaimiev -- ran against the Kremlin with the opposition Fatherland-All Russia bloc.

Having so many governors on board allows Unified Russia to take advantage of what political analysts call "administrative resources" to assure positive results in the regions. These range from positive television coverage of favored candidates and parties to harassment of opponents by law enforcement officials, to subtle forms of persuasion to get state employees to toe the party line.

"Needless to say, Unified Russia relies heavily on state resources, considering them its major asset," "Kommersant-Vlast" wrote in its 13-19 October edition. Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 14 October, political analyst Boris Kagarlitskii was less charitable. "The people are increasingly unnecessary to express the will of the people," he wrote.

Having government officials on a party list is, of course, nothing new. In the 1993 Duma elections, postcommunist Russia's first attempt at a party of power, Russia's Choice, included several cabinet members such as Yegor Gaidar, Anatolii Chubais, and Vladimir Shumeiko, and top Kremlin officials like Yeltsin's then-chief of staff Sergei Filatov. The difference was that they all more or less represented a particular political orientation -- the monetarist "shock therapy" that Gaidar preached after the Soviet breakup.

The governors dominating Unified Russia's list, moreover, are as politically diverse -- although not nearly as renowned -- as the historical figures on the party's campaign posters.

There are Communists like Kemerovo's Aman Tuleev and Nizhnii Novgorod's Gennadii Khodyrev, aging Soviet Politburo veterans like Orel Governor Yegor Stroev, and non-ideological regional strongmen such as Luzhkov, Shaimiev, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, and Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel. The only thing that apparently unites this group is power.

Most of the governors "running" for the Duma, however, do not plan to take up their seats, which will then be apportioned to others lower on the list. Just below the governors are a vast array of deputy governors, mayors, and other regional officials. These include the deputy governors of Rostov Oblast, Viktor Vodolatskii, and Novosibirsk Oblast, Viktor Kosourov, as well as Kaliningrad Mayor Yurii Savenko and Pyatigorsk Mayor Yurii Vasiliev.

If Unified Russia has taken one innovative step in its electoral strategy, it is the party's de-emphasizing its federal list in favor of regional lists. The 450-seat Duma is elected half by proportional representation from party lists and half from single-mandate districts. For the proportional-representation part of the election, each party submits a federal list as well as lists from each of Russia's 89 regions and republics. Only after a party wins a high enough percentage of the vote to get its entire federal list into the Duma are seats granted from regional lists.

It has been customary until now for parties to have long federal lists where it places its marquee candidates. The Communist Party's federal list, led by Gennadii Zyuganov, has 18 names. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko has 17. Unified Russia has just four: Gryzlov, Shoigu, Luzhkov, and Shaimiev. This means that the party's Duma candidates will come predominantly from the regions and will be indebted to the regional leaders who assured them their seats. The regional leaders, in turn, will be beholden to President Vladimir Putin, consolidating his "vertical of power."

If Unified Russia performs as well as expected in December's elections, it will represent the culmination of a process that began when former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin formed Our Home Is Russia -- then the "party of power" -- in 1995 by proclaiming that "the era of emotional democracy is over."

If that era wasn't quite over then, it certainly seems to be now.

The reported flirtation between some members of the Communist Party and self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii in October 2002 has resurfaced to become an election issue. During a hearing of the State Duma's Security Committee on 13 November, committee Deputy Chairman Nikolai Kovalev (Unity-Unified Russia) accused fellow committee member and Communist Deputy Aleksandr Kulikov of "working as part of a staff that is preparing a conspiracy against Russia," Interfax reported.

Members of the committee were discussing a draft appeal to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate the alleged misuse of federal budget funds by Rosagropromstroi, which is headed by Viktor Vidmanov. Deputies adopted the appeal on 18 November, with 241 deputies voting for the resolution.

Vidmanov is on the Communists' party list for the State Duma elections, and is considered one of the party's chief financial backers. Kovalev also charged that "there is documentary evidence" that Vidmanov has met with Berezovskii. According to Kovalev, Berezovskii is planning a seizure of power.

According to "Vremya novostei" on 19 November, the Duma renews its interest in Vidmanov and his company every four years as Duma elections loom. Traditionally, Vidmanov is accused of embezzlement and misusing resources. This time, Security Council Deputy Chairman Gennadii Gudkov (People's Deputy) charged that Rosagropromstroi has misused federal budget funds earmarked for the construction of rural housing.

Meanwhile, Communist State Duma Deputy Leonid Maevskii has been giving his party's enemies ammunition. Maevskii said on a 2 November RTR program that Omsk Oblast Committee Secretary and chief party ideologue Aleksandr Kravets had closely cooperated with Berezovskii, and that an agreement was reached in October under which Berezovskii provided partial financing for the party's activities.

According to Maevskii, Kravets personally conducted the negotiations with Berezovskii, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 November.

Maevskii is currently competing against Kravets for a seat in the next Duma from a single-mandate district in Omsk Oblast. Kravets has run in the district three times, losing each time, and made it into the Duma only by his inclusion on the Communist Party list. Maevskii, on the other hand, who placed second in the Omsk gubernatorial election, hopes to fare better. He also reportedly has the support of the Kremlin.

Kravets, meanwhile, has not been taking the swipes passively. The Omsk Oblast committee of the Communist Party, which he heads, recently sent a letter to the leadership of the Communist Party's faction in the State Duma asking that Deputy Leonid Maevskii be expelled from the faction "for discrediting the party," "Kommersant-Daily" reported. (Julie A. Corwin)

OUT: Yukos shareholder Leonid Nevzlin tendered his resignation as rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University on 17 December.

MERGER: Dmitrii Ustinov, son of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, plans to marry an unidentified daughter of deputy presidential administration head Igor Sechin on 22 November in a private ceremony at Moscow's Griboedov Wedding Palace, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 17 November.

20 November: Fifth anniversary of the killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

20 November: Government will discuss the 2004 investment program for the natural monopolies and government participation in the financial programs of Gazprom, EES, and Russian Railways

21 November: State Duma to consider 2004 budget in its third reading

21 November: The third all-Russia Congress on Protecting Nature will close in Moscow

21 November: Interior Minister and Unified Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov will visit Ufa, Bashkortostan

21 November: Bilateral talks on Russia's entry into the WTO to begin in Washington

23 November: Investigators are scheduled to conclude their inquiry into the killing of Border Guard Service General Vitalii Gamov in May 2002

25 November: Russian public organizations will hold pickets and theatrical demonstrations in front of the election headquarters of candidates for the State Duma who voted in favor of allowing spent nuclear fuel to be imported into Russia

28 November: State Duma to consider 2004 budget in its fourth reading

28 November: State Duma will complete its work for the 2003 fall session

28 November: YukosSibneft will hold shareholders meeting

1 December: Deadline for Russian government to draft a set of measures to support the creation of uniform economic space between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine

7 December: Bashkortostan will hold a presidential election

7 December: Gubernatorial elections in Moscow, Tver, Yaroslavl, Kirov, Orenburg, Tambov, Sakhalin, and Novosibirsk oblasts

7 December: Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug will hold referendums on merging the two regions

7 December: Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Tyumen will hold mayoral elections

7 December: Kabardino-Balkaria will hold republican parliamentary elections

7 December: State Duma elections will be held

10 December: Federation Council to set date for presidential election

11 December: Last plenary session of the current Duma

15-19 December: Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan to visit Russia

29 December: Lenin's tomb will reopen after repair work has been completed, according to RIA-Novosti

30 December: Date by which cases against Menatep head Platon Lebedev and Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii are to be submitted to the courts, according to separate Moscow court decisions

January: President Putin to visit Kazakhstan

16 January: The Vyborg city court to begin hearing a case challenging the legality of the election of Federation Council representative Grigorii Naginskii by the Leningrad Oblast legislature