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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 208, 00-10-26

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 208, 26 October 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA FACES $102 MILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL
  • [02] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ENDORSES ENERGY CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
  • [03] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES CONCERNED AT RUSSIAN ARMS SALES TO TURKEY...
  • [04] ...WHILE AZERBAIJAN PLANS TO PROTEST TRANSFER OF RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA
  • [05] AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN PUBLISHES 5 NOVEMBER ELECTION 'RESULTS'
  • [06] GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DISAGREE OVER WHEREABOUTS OF CHECHEN FIGHTERS...
  • [07] ...AS RUSSIA PROPOSES DEPLOYING MORE OSCE OBSERVERS ON GEORGIAN BORDER
  • [08] NEW EXPLANATION OFFERED FOR ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH IN GEORGIA
  • [09] RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN GEORGIA
  • [10] KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR WARNS ONE OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER...
  • [11] ...AS ANOTHER ACCUSES KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES OF ELECTION FALSIFICATION
  • [12] KYRGYZ COURT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S LAWSUIT
  • [13] KYRGYZ ELECTION COMMISSION REACHES SOLOMONIC DECISION ON NGO MONITORING
  • [14] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN
  • [15] IMF APPROVES LOAN TO TAJIKISTAN
  • [16] TURKMENISTAN RESUMES PERSECUTION OF PROTESTANTS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [17] KOSTUNICA PRESENTS YUGOSLAVIA AS FACTOR FOR STABILITY
  • [18] BALKAN NEIGHBORS GIVE KOSTUNICA MIXED REACTION
  • [19] KOSTUNICA, HOLBROOKE DISCUSS WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS
  • [20] KOSTUNICA SAYS BELGRADE 'WORKING ON' ISSUE OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS
  • [21] SERBIA TO VOTE IN DECEMBER
  • [22] NEW YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT TAKING SHAPE
  • [23] KOSOVAR LEADERS AGREE TO ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS
  • [24] KOSOVARS WANT EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
  • [25] PETRITSCH RULES ON SITE OF BOSNIAN MASSACRE MONUMENT
  • [26] CROATIAN EX-LEADERS FORM 'INDEPENDENT LIST'
  • [27] YUGOSLAVIA JOINS BALKAN STABILITY PACT
  • [28] ANGRY INVESTORS RENEW PROTESTS IN ROMANIA
  • [29] BULGARIA, YUGOSLAVIA TO RESUME ECONOMIC RELATIONS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] RUSSIANS SEARCH FOR SUITABLE NATIONAL ANTHEM

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA FACES $102 MILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL

    Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Levon Barkhudarian told journalists in Yerevan on 25 October that his ministry has drafted plans for a budget sequester to counter the mounting shortfall in budget revenues, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That shortfall, which is the result of failure to reach tax collection targets and a delay in the release of $46 million in World Bank loans, will necessitate cutting planned government expenditures by one-third, or 86 billion drams ($160 million). Barkhudarian said the government hopes to save some 24 billion drams by cutting back on spending and rescheduling some of its external debts. He said the planned austerity measures have been approved "on the whole" by the IMF. Barkhudarian attributed Armenia's modest 2.9 percent GDP growth for the first nine months of this year to the summer's severe drought, adding that the 6.8 percent increase in industrial output and 22.5 percent leap in exports are "encouraging." LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ENDORSES ENERGY CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

    Boris Nazarian told parliamentary deputies on 25 October that the findings of a multi-party commission that investigated fraud in the energy sector since 1992 are mostly accurate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission's findings, which were made public in June, established that fraud, inefficiency, and mismanagement led to losses totaling some $200 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Nazarian added that four criminal cases brought against 11 energy sector officials are nearing completion. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES CONCERNED AT RUSSIAN ARMS SALES TO TURKEY...

    Four opposition parliamentary deputies expressed concern on 25 October over the possibility that Moscow may sell combat helicopters to Turkey, Armenpress reported. They said that such a deal could negatively affect Armenian-Russian relations. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov discussed possible Russian arms sales to Turkey during his visit to Ankara earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 October 2000). LF

    [04] ...WHILE AZERBAIJAN PLANS TO PROTEST TRANSFER OF RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

    Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev flew to Dushanbe on 25 October to attend the meeting there of CIS defense ministers, Turan reported. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry Press Center said Abiev plans to express his concern at the transfer of Russian weaponry from Russia's military base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia to its base in Armenia. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan said on 24 October that the redeployment does not constitute a violation of the CFE Treaty. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN PUBLISHES 5 NOVEMBER ELECTION 'RESULTS'

    Social Justice Party Chairman Matlab Mutallimli has made public what he claims is a list of almost all the 99 candidates who are to be elected from single-mandate constituencies in the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported on 25 October. Mutallimli had claimed one week earlier to possess such a list. Seventy of the names on the list are candidates from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party and 21 are independent, while the Ana-Vatan, Musavat, Yurddash, Social Prosperity and Azerbaijan National Independence parties and the "Alliance for Azerbaijan" have one candidate each. The divided opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party is not represented. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DISAGREE OVER WHEREABOUTS OF CHECHEN FIGHTERS...

    Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 25 October that the Chechen fighters who refused to surrender to Georgian troops who intercepted them on 20 October have now left Georgia, Interfax reported. Chief of General Staff Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili, for his part, denied that the fighters included Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev. But Russian Federal Border Guards commander Lieutenant-General Yevgenii Bolkhovitin said on 25 October that his men had not registered the passage of any Chechens from Georgia into Ingushetia. And on 26 October, the Russian Federal Border Guard Service said a group of Chechens had attempted to cross that border the previous evening but had retreated into Georgian territory after Russian border guards subjected them to artillery fire, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [07] ...AS RUSSIA PROPOSES DEPLOYING MORE OSCE OBSERVERS ON GEORGIAN BORDER

    Speaking in Moscow on 25 October, Bolkhovitin's deputy, Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Manilov, proposed that the OSCE should deploy observers along the border between Georgia and Ingushetia, Caucasus Press reported. The OSCE deployed some 40 observers along the Georgian-Chechen border earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2000). LF

    [08] NEW EXPLANATION OFFERED FOR ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH IN GEORGIA

    Giorgi Gachechiladze, the chairman of Georgia's Green Party, told a press conference in Tbilisi on 25 October that Italian journalist Antonio Russo may have been killed to prevent him publishing materials on the use by Russian forces in Chechnya of banned chemical or biological weapons, Caucasus Press reported. Gachechiladze said Russo had video materials testifying to the use of weapons that caused "ecological genocide." LF

    [09] RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN GEORGIA

    All 83-86 passengers and crew were killed when a Russian military aircraft crashed in heavy fog in the evening of 25 October when approaching Batumi airport on a flight from Moscow, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze travelled to the crash site on 26 October. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR WARNS ONE OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER...

    Bishkek City Prosecutor Tolobek Albanov warned opposition Ar-Namys party chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov on 25 October that a statement he issued five days earlier is illegal and an attempt to "discredit" the law enforcement agencies, Interfax and RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Kulov had appealed to police and security personnel not to be drawn into "confrontations" with the electorate in the runup to the 29 October presidential poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). LF

    [11] ...AS ANOTHER ACCUSES KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES OF ELECTION FALSIFICATION

    Opposition presidential candidate Melis Eshimkanov told journalists in Bishkek on 25 October that large numbers of voters are casting their ballots early under close supervision by the authorities and that all those votes are in favor of incumbent President Askar Akaev, Interfax reported. Eshimkanov also said that the opposition newspaper "Asaba," which he owns, will be forced to close as a result of the $105,000 fine it received for allegedly insulting former Kirghiz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). LF

    [12] KYRGYZ COURT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S LAWSUIT

    A Bishkek district court on 25 October rejected a law suit brought by Ata- Meken party chairman and presidential candidate Omurbek Tekebaev against Kyrgyz National Radio and Television, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The state media had refused on 9 October to air further election campaign propaganda by Tekebaev, thereby violating a contract signed on 12 September. The district court referred the case to the Court of Arbitration. Tekebaev had won a similar suit against an independent television and radio company the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). LF

    [13] KYRGYZ ELECTION COMMISSION REACHES SOLOMONIC DECISION ON NGO MONITORING

    Central Electoral Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said in Bishkek on 25 October that while the Coalition of NGOs will not be permitted to deploy observers to monitor the conduct of the 29 October poll, the individual NGOs represented in the coalition will be entitled to do so, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Coalition chairwoman Tolekan Ismailova said in Bishkek the same day that representatives of 62 of the 172 NGOs aligned in the coalition will monitor the election. The chairmen of three Kyrgyz parliamentary commissions had appealed to the Central Election Commission to allow the Coalition of NGOs to deploy election monitors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). LF

    [14] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

    On a working visit to Dushanbe on 25 October, Kamal Kharrazi met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional security, Russian agencies reported. The three officials expressed concern at the recent escalation of fighting in Afghanistan, which they stressed can be ended only by peaceful political negotiations and the creation of a coalition government in which all social and political groups in Afghanistan are represented. LF

    [15] IMF APPROVES LOAN TO TAJIKISTAN

    The IMF on 25 October provisionally approved a $51 million loan to Tajikistan under the fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, Reuters reported. An IMF official commented that macro-economic developments during the first six months of this year, in particular continued GDP growth, were "favorable, despite the difficult external environment." In Dushanbe, Economy Minister Yahyo Azimov said on 23 October that industrial production during the first nine months of the year increased by 10 percent and agricultural output by 19 percent, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 25 October. It is unclear how that latter figure was achieved in conditions of severe drought. LF

    [16] TURKMENISTAN RESUMES PERSECUTION OF PROTESTANTS

    Following a lull in the summer months, Turkmen police and security officers have raided at least three Protestant churches in Ashgabat since the beginning of this month, Keston News Service reported on 25 October. Members of all three congregations had their passports temporarily confiscated and were warned not to attend services in the future. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [17] KOSTUNICA PRESENTS YUGOSLAVIA AS FACTOR FOR STABILITY

    After returning from the Balkan summit in Skopje, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told reporters in Belgrade on 25 October that he succeeded in presenting Serbia to its neighbors as a contributor to regional stability, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). He stressed that Serbia no longer poses a threat to regional peace. Belgrade will conduct policies in keeping with its "interests, values, characteristics, ambitions, and wishes," Kostunica added. Earlier in Skopje, he stressed that "Yugoslavia has turned to its future and to improving relations, both bilateral and multilateral relations. That is very important for us," AP reported. He added that "the Balkans need peace and stability...[and] Europe needs a peaceful and stable Balkans." Kostunica argued that all countries in the region must accept their share of blame for its problems and free themselves "of pent-up prejudice...[in order] to solve the problems that burden our relations," the "International Herald Tribune" reported. PM

    [18] BALKAN NEIGHBORS GIVE KOSTUNICA MIXED REACTION

    In their public remarks, most of the participants in the 25 October Skopje Balkan summit took a positive stance toward Kostunica and his promises that Serbia intends to be a good neighbor. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, however, said that Balkan problems are largely the work of the "Belgrade criminal regime" of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Meidani demanded that Kostunica send Milosevic to The Hague "as an apology for wartime atrocities" committed by Serbian forces in Kosova in 1998 and 1999, AP reported. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic called the Milosevic regime "the main source of instability and a generator of crisis." Granic urged Kostunica to "openly renounce the [aggressive policies] of the former regime." PM

    [19] KOSTUNICA, HOLBROOKE DISCUSS WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS

    At the Skopje Balkan summit on 25 October, Kostunica met with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke for two hours, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The two men spent the last 15 minutes of their talks alone. Holbrooke told reporters that the topics included Bosnia, Kosova, and a wide range of other issues, adding that the details of the discussion were "confidential" and should remain so. Holbrooke also said: "We look forward to the very near, future day when Yugoslavia will join the community of nations as a free and democratic country, an full member of the United Nations and other international organizations." Holbrooke noted that "this is the beginning of a difficult and complicated process which...will lead to the first full integration of southeastern Europe and the Balkans in a unified Europe." He added that "I believe President Kostunica will continue to play a historic role in the process," AP reported. PM

    [20] KOSTUNICA SAYS BELGRADE 'WORKING ON' ISSUE OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS

    After his meeting with Holbrooke in Skopje on 25 October, Kostunica told Yugoslav journalists that the two men "agreed on some issues and disagreed on many others." He added that it would be "boring if people always agreed, " RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica said that Serbia's new leaders "are working on" the question of the future of several hundred Kosovars held in Serbian prisons. Kosovar and Albanian leaders have called on him to release the prisoners as a goodwill gesture. PM

    [21] SERBIA TO VOTE IN DECEMBER

    Dragan Tomic, who is speaker of the Serbian parliament, announced on 25 October that elections for the legislature will take place on 23 December. President Milan Milutinovic then dissolved the parliament. PM

    [22] NEW YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT TAKING SHAPE

    Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that the new federal government will have 14 posts in place of the previous 30, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 October. Some 60 percent of the positions will go to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and 40 percent to Montenegro's Socialist People's Party. He did not elaborate. He added that he plans to meet on 26 October with officials of Montenegro's governing coalition. PM

    [23] KOSOVAR LEADERS AGREE TO ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS

    Representatives of the five largest ethnic Albanian parties signed an agreement in Prishtina on 25 October in which they agreed to respect the results of the 28 October local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). Holbrooke was present at the signing. He then met with representatives of the Serbian community in Mitrovica. They gave him a letter in which they called for clarification of the fate of "all kidnapped and missing persons from the Serbian, Albanian, and other communities" in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [24] KOSOVARS WANT EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, a "UN official" in Kosova told Reuters on 26 October that "the ascent of a democratic president in Belgrade has changed the political landscape, diminishing the importance of the [local] elections in Kosovo Albanian eyes. The Serbs in Belgrade have now jumped ahead of Kosovo Albanians in a new race for democratic legitimacy. So the Albanians now demand we move up the date for parliamentary elections to gain bargaining power [for the Kosovars] vis-a-vis Belgrade. They want to represent themselves, not us to do it, as they realize they no longer automatically enjoy the ear of the West [after Kostunica's victory]," the official added. Holbrooke recently called for early parliamentary elections in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). PM

    [25] PETRITSCH RULES ON SITE OF BOSNIAN MASSACRE MONUMENT

    Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, decided on 25 October that the planned monument to the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre will be at Potocari, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. That outlying village was the site of the Dutch army base where Serbian forces separated the women and children of Srebrenica from some 8,000 mainly Muslim males. Most of the men were never seen again. Local Serbs object to placing the memorial in the area under Serbian control. Petritsch said in his decision that he will hold Bosnian Serb authorities responsible for any delays in construction of the monument, AP reported. Holbrooke is slated to visit the site on 26 October. PM

    [26] CROATIAN EX-LEADERS FORM 'INDEPENDENT LIST'

    Andrija Hebrang, who was health minister in the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said in Zagreb that he and several other prominent intellectuals in the HDZ will run in the spring 2001 elections for the upper house of the parliament on an "independent list." Hebrang argued that his and his colleagues' views on several important issues have been rejected by the current HDZ leadership. He stressed, however, that he and his colleagues do not want to give up their membership in the HDZ, "Jutarnji list" reported on 26 October. Miroslav Tudjman, who is a son of the late president and a former intelligence chief, is one of Hebrang's several supporters. PM

    [27] YUGOSLAVIA JOINS BALKAN STABILITY PACT

    Bodo Hombach, the coordinator of the EU-backed Balkan Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, said on 26 October in Bucharest that Yugoslavia has been admitted as a full member of the organization, Reuters reported. The decision came at a meeting of the leaders of and representatives from the countries either funding the program or benefiting from it. Yugoslavia was banned from the program--begun by the EU in 1999--as long as Slobodan Milosevic was president. The pact will provide economic support to the countries of Southeastern Europe. PB

    [28] ANGRY INVESTORS RENEW PROTESTS IN ROMANIA

    Angry investors in the private National Investment Fund (FNI), which collapsed in May, protested in Bucharest on 25 October, Romanian media reported. Some 400 people blocked traffic in front of the government building until police intervened. The investors marched through the capital for several hours protesting the continued delay in finding a solution that would allow them to get back their investments. The parliament has returned to the government a draft law that proposed partial compensation for the investors. In related news, the Bucharest Appeals Court on 25 October decided that the contract between the state-owned CEC bank and the FNI whereby CEC was to have guaranteed investments was legal. The court thus rejected an appeal lodged by CEC and the Finance Ministry. ZsM

    [29] BULGARIA, YUGOSLAVIA TO RESUME ECONOMIC RELATIONS

    Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and his Yugoslav counterpart, Vojislav Kostunica, said after meeting in Skopje that joint economic projects will resume, Bulgarian radio reported on 25 October. "It is a well known fact that Bulgaria has wonderful relations with all its neighbors. With Yugoslavia, however, our relations have lagged behind for obvious reasons and we must catch up now," Stoyanov said. The two agreed that they will meet again in Nis, Yugoslavia, in the coming weeks to discuss construction of the Sofia-Nis highway, part of an international route that will connect Europe and the Middle East. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, also held a meeting in Belgrade on 24 October with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova aimed at kickstarting bilateral trade. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [30] RUSSIANS SEARCH FOR SUITABLE NATIONAL ANTHEM

    By Sophie Lambroschini

    Ever since former President Boris Yeltsin decreed the abolition of the Soviet anthem and replaced it with a theme by the 19th-century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, Russia has been looking for a text for the substitute anthem.

    But in the seven years since Yeltsin's decree, Russians have not only been unable to agree on a text for Glinka's wordless "Patriotic Song" but have become increasingly dissatisfied with the music itself. The Kremlin has regularly organized national contests to find suitable words for the melody. None was agreed upon, however, and the issue remained dormant, until last month's Olympic Games in Sydney. There, after a disastrous first- week losing streak, a group of Russian athletes complained that standing tight-lipped during the playing of their national anthem at the opening ceremony had affected their morale.

    Within days, following a meeting with Russia's governors, President Vladimir Putin appointed a special commission headed by Saint Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to reconsider the anthem issue. The question has also been raised at recent meetings of the State Council, an advisory board of regional leaders recently set up by Putin to discuss important national issues.

    According to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a council member, a majority of the council's executive board supports the idea of reverting to the music of the "Hymn of the USSR," which was written by Aleksandr Aleksandrov, a military orchestra director, and music adopted in 1944 as the Soviet anthem. Some apparently reason that if the hymn is to remain wordless, its music might as well be familiar--at least to those who grew up before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

    For many, the Glinka theme is just not in the same category as its Soviet predecessor. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has been quoted as saying that "the Soviet hymn's melody is solemn and easy to remember. It sent 'goose bumps' down my body when I was in the army." But Glinka's theme, he noted, does not create a "shivering thrill. It's not very vivid [and] therefore does not 'hearten,' as any good anthem should."

    President Putin has the same view of Glinka's melody, according to Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii.

    Not surprisingly, the Communist Party has long been pushing for the restoration of the Soviet anthem. At the same time, the Communists have called for substituting a red flag for Russia's current tricolor and a hammer-and-sickle instead of the present double-headed eagle as its coat-of- arms. So far, all communist efforts have failed to muster the two-thirds majority in the State Duma required for passage.

    But some democratic politicians--especially those belonging to Democratic Russia, which was founded in the perestroika of the late 1980s--are wary of any sudden turnabout. They call the Communists' proposals "a sign of the old regime's restoration." And they point to other ominous signs, such as the vague project to bring back a guard of honor at the Lenin mausoleum.

    Even if the Kremlin and Duma eventually agree on music for Russia's anthem, they will still have to choose an inspirational text for a population traditionally sensitive to poetry. The last text contest, held some two years ago, prompted some 6,000 offerings, but none was found suitable by Soviet-era pop singer Yosif Kobzon, who was given the "honor" of sifting through them.

    Some historians say the quest for a new anthem text is hopeless. They believe that emerging Russian society has not yet found common ideals with which a miner from the Kuzbass, a Moscow banker, and a soldier in Chechnya can identify and which can be combined in one song.

    Russian historian Andrei Zubov says that the hymn fiasco keeps repeating itself not because "we have bad poets and bad composers, but because the existing Russian state does not reflect the country or any tradition." Russians, he notes, still disagree over what to respect and what to be ashamed of. The country remains reluctant to condemn the Soviet period and "is still trying to find itself," he adds.

    While the media has occasionally taken an irreverent view of the anthem issue--NTV's "Itogi" recently suggested the popular song "My country is big and wide," noting that a majority of citizens would undoubtedly agree that Russia is indeed big--others take the dispute more seriously. Sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii, for example, speaks of an "empty debate" that fails to touch on any of Russia's real concerns. For Kagarlitskii, the authorities' sudden infatuation with the Soviet hymn is really a political offering to the Communists, who have largely been supportive of President Putin's policies.

    The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.

    26-10-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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