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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 41, 01-02-28

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. 5, No. 41, 28 February 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE VISITS ARMENIA
  • [02] GEORGIAN JUSTICE MINISTER UNDER FIRE
  • [03] HAS ZHIRINOVSKY CANCELLED PLANNED VISIT TO GEORGIA?
  • [04] GEORGIA TO BAN EXPORT OF SCRAP METAL?
  • [05] TURKISH AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA VISTS ABKHAZIA
  • [06] KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIAL HOLDS TALKS WITH NATO
  • [07] KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON ENERGY SECTOR PRIVATIZATION
  • [08] KYRGYZ DIPLOMAT SUMS UP VISIT TO BALTIC STATES
  • [09] CRACKDOWN ON RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM IN KYRGZYSTAN COULD PROVE COUNTER- PRODUCTIVE
  • [10] TAJIKS DON'T TRUST BANKING SYSTEM
  • [11] TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISCIPLINES TWO CABINET MEMBERS
  • [12] TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DENY IMPRISONED BAPTIST TORTURED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] NATO CAUTIOUS ON REDUCING PRESEVO SECURITY ZONE
  • [14] NATO SEEKS SIGNS OF SERBIAN GOOD INTENTIONS...
  • [15] ...AMID CONCERN ABOUT SERBIAN FORCES
  • [16] MIXED REACTION IN SERBIA TO NATO'S RULING
  • [17] NATO TO SEND TEAM TO MACEDONIA...
  • [18] ...AS MACEDONIA'S IMPATIENCE GROWS
  • [19] POWELL STRESSES U.S. COMMITMENT TO BALKANS
  • [20] SERBIAN PRESIDENT SNUBS MILOSEVIC?
  • [21] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT PASSES CITIZENSHIP LEGISLATION
  • [22] YUGOSLAVIA'S 'SUPER GRANDDAD' DIES
  • [23] LOWER HOUSE CONFIRMS BOSNIAN 'ALLIANCE FOR CHANGE' LEADERS
  • [24] CROATIA ENDS ROUND OF TALKS WITH EU
  • [25] ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO IMPROVE RELATIONS
  • [26] ROMANIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES DECIDE ON MERGER
  • [27] FINAL RESULTS OF MOLDOVAN EARLY ELECTIONS RELEASED
  • [28] COMMUNISTS INTEND TO BRING MOLDOVA CLOSER TO RUSSIA
  • [29] BUCHAREST, TIRASPOL NOT ENTHUSIASTIC OVER COMMUNIST VICTORY
  • [30] BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY KICKS OUT DISSENTERS
  • [31] U.S. REPORT SEES IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS IN BULGARIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] ANOTHER DIFFICULT ANNIVERSARY

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE VISITS ARMENIA

    Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana held talks in Yerevan on 27 and 28 February in his capacity as OSCE chairman-in-office with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Geoana told Kocharian that mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict remains one of the OSCE's priorities. Praising the continuing dialogue between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, Geoana said he hopes the OSCE Minsk Group will soon find a solution acceptable to all parties to the conflict. LF

    [02] GEORGIAN JUSTICE MINISTER UNDER FIRE

    United Communist Party of Georgia chairman Panteleimon Giorgadze suggested on 27 February that Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili "deserves a thrashing" for suggesting the previous day that the Communist Party should be stripped of its registration and banned, Caucasus Press reported. Interfax on 26 February had quoted Saakashvili as saying that the Communist Party is supported by "influential Russian forces" that are interested in destabilizing the situation in Georgia. He reportedly accused the party of engaging in "anti-constitutional activities," including calling for the overthrow of the Georgian leadership. Also on 27 February, Socialist Party leader and parliament vice-speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili called for Saakashvili's impeachment on the grounds that he has violated the Georgian Constitution by failing to step down as a parliament deputy after being named minister of justice last October. LF

    [03] HAS ZHIRINOVSKY CANCELLED PLANNED VISIT TO GEORGIA?

    Rcheulishvili also said on 27 February that Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has abandoned his plans to visit Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili had said on 26 February that if the Russian politician did come to Georgia, government officials and the parliament majority would refuse to meet with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). But the daily "Akhali taoba" quoted Zhirinovsky in its 28 February issue as saying that he has not cancelled his planned visit but merely postponed it due to the logistical problems involved in travelling from Tbilisi to Sukhum and the fact that it would not be possible for him to meet in early March with either Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze or parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania. The paper also quoted Zhirinovsky as arguing that Russia should keep and enlarge its military presence in Georgia so that its troops could guarantee the safety of rail traffic between Russia, Tbilisi and Yerevan. LF

    [04] GEORGIA TO BAN EXPORT OF SCRAP METAL?

    The Georgian Interior Ministry has asked the government to impose a temporary ban on the export of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, ministry official Eduard Gendzekhadze told Caucasus Press on 27 February. Gendzekhadze said scrap metals worth $5 million, mostly telephone and high- tension cables, were illegally exported from Georgia last year, and that a ban on such exports could reduce the crime rate by as much as 15 percent. LF

    [05] TURKISH AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA VISTS ABKHAZIA

    Visiting Sukhum on 26 February, Turkish Ambassador to Georgia Burak Gursel met for 90 minutes with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Caucasus Press reported. Gursel underscored his country's support for, and readiness to promote, a peaceful solution to the Abkhaz conflict. Gursel told journalists after his talks with Ardzinba that Turkey "is an influential state," and is interested in assessing the economic potential of the South Caucasus region, including Abkhazia. LF

    [06] KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIAL HOLDS TALKS WITH NATO

    Marat Tazhin, who is chairman of Kazakhstan's Security Council, met in Brussels late on 26 February with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson to discuss bilateral cooperation and the security situation in Central Asia, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The possibility of holding an international seminar on Central Asian security issues was also discussed. Also on 26 February, Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev met in Astana with Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgenii Kartashov to discuss bilateral military cooperation. LF

    [07] KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON ENERGY SECTOR PRIVATIZATION

    The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's legislature) decided on 26 February to form a special commission to oversee the privatization of the energy giant Kyrgyzenergo, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies also appealed to the government to delay that privatization, which is intended to raise between $3-5 billion, most of which is to be used to pay off the country's foreign debt. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev had announced plans to privatize Kyrgyzenergo at the first session of his new cabinet last month, but said at that time that the company would be divided into four parts prior to privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). LF

    [08] KYRGYZ DIPLOMAT SUMS UP VISIT TO BALTIC STATES

    Kyrgyz First Deputy Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev told journalists in Bishkek on 27 February on his return from a visit to the three Baltic states that a special agreement was signed during that trip between Kyrgyzstan's National Bank and its Baltic counterparts, and that those states' $1.4 million debt to Kyrgyzstan was discussed, but gave no further details, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Interfax quoted Abdyldaev as saying that he also discussed expanding trade turnover with the three Baltic states, which amounted to over $10 million last year, and access to Baltic ports for exporting Kyrgyz goods. Abdyldaev complained that a transit agreement on shipping Kyrgyz exports via the Pakistani port of Karachi is not being implemented. LF

    [09] CRACKDOWN ON RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM IN KYRGZYSTAN COULD PROVE COUNTER- PRODUCTIVE

    Participants at a conference held in Osh on 27 February to assess the threat posed by religious extremism in southern Kyrgyzstan warned in a letter to President Askar Akaev and to the Kyrgyz government and parliament that a crackdown on the banned Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir could backfire by engendering further support for that organization, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 27 February, a court in Djalalabad Oblast sentenced three members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir to one year in prison on charges of inciting hatred between members of different religious faiths. LF

    [10] TAJIKS DON'T TRUST BANKING SYSTEM

    Of a total of more than 100 million somonis ($43 million) currently in circulation in Tajikistan, only 17.8 million pass through the country's banking system, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 26 February quoting the Press Center of the National Bank of Tajikistan. The agency quoted unnamed specialists as recommending that the government should raise interest rates as part of an attempt to make the banking system more attractive to the population. Last year's annual inflation rate in Tajikistan was over 60 percent, according to Interfax on 21 February. On 27 February, Asia Plus- Blitz reported that several counterfeit 50 somoni notes have surfaced and been confiscated in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. The persons from whom those bills were confiscated said they received them in payment for goods they sold in Dushanbe. The somoni was introduced as a replacement for the Tajik ruble in late October 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 October 2000). LF

    [11] TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISCIPLINES TWO CABINET MEMBERS

    At a cabinet meeting on 26 February, President Saparmurat Niyazov demoted Minister of Water Resources Sakhatmurad Kurbanov to the rank of deputy minister because of unspecified "serious flaws in his work," Interfax reported the following day. Niyazov said that if Kurbanov's work improves during the next 12 months, he will be allowed to retain that post. Niyazov also dismissed acting Customs Committee Chairman Mered Khalovezov for serious shortcomings. Niyazov announced that in future, individual customs officials will not be empowered to rule on whether to issue export permits and clear imports through customs, but must make such decisions collectively in consultation with officials of the state border service. LF

    [12] TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DENY IMPRISONED BAPTIST TORTURED

    Turkmenistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbors Kepbanov has assured Amnesty International that imprisoned Baptist Shageldy Atakov has not been tortured while in custody, Keston News Service reported on 27 February. Amnesty International had reported earlier this month that Atakov had been forcibly treated with psychotropic drugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2001). But the Turkmen government has still not responded to a request by the OSCE center in Ashgabat to be allowed to visit Atakov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 2001). LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] NATO CAUTIOUS ON REDUCING PRESEVO SECURITY ZONE

    At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on 27 February, Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the alliance is "prepared to implement a phased and conditioned reduction of the Ground Safety Zone" along Serbia's border with Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 February 2001). He added that the allies are "still working on the details of how this will be done." British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called the decision a "significant step." Details of the plan are expected to emerge in the next few days, Reuters reported, citing unnamed NATO sources. NATO negotiators are slated to arrive in Bujanovac on 28 February, AP reported. PM

    [14] NATO SEEKS SIGNS OF SERBIAN GOOD INTENTIONS...

    An unnamed "senior NATO diplomat" told Reuters in Brussels on 27 February that ethnic Albanians will regard any shrinking of the zone as a concession to the Serbs, so NATO must be "careful not to spark new tensions." He added that Serbia must free Kosovar prisoners and take other, unspecified measures to win the Albanians' confidence. The Serbian military presence in the area must be reduced, he added. The "Wall Street Journal" reported that the Serbs must quickly begin integrating Albanians into local political and police structures. Reuters noted that "some NATO allies...have lingering doubts about the durability of the new friendship with Serbia that has blossomed since hard-liner Slobodan Milosevic was ousted... They're asking 'what if the situation changes?'" Observers note that the head of the General Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, commanded Serbian troops in Kosova during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign. The commander of the Serbian Interior Ministry special police, Deputy Interior Minister General Sreten Lukic, commanded Interior Ministry forces in Kosova at that same time (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 February 2001). PM

    [15] ...AMID CONCERN ABOUT SERBIAN FORCES

    U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference in Brussels on 27 February that the problem of the zone should be resolved without turning the nearby Serbian forces into "belligerents...[which would lead to] a more difficult situation than we have now," the "New York Times" reported. An unnamed U.S. official noted that Serbian "tanks are in a very, very aggressive position [and able to] run roughshod over [the zone]." Reuters observed that NATO does not want to send its own forces into the zone, conduct joint patrols with the Serbs, or allow the Serbs to take on the Albanian insurgents by themselves. Shawn Sullivan, who is political advisor to KFOR commander General Carlo Cabigiosu, said that there is a "definite danger" of a clash between KFOR and Serbian forces if the Serbs are allowed into the zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). Sullivan noted that there are "still people [in the Yugoslav army and police] who do not want to see a peaceful solution," the "Daily Telegraph" reported. PM

    [16] MIXED REACTION IN SERBIA TO NATO'S RULING

    Reuters noted on 27 February that the delayed decision on exactly how to reduce the size of the zone is "likely to come as a disappointment to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who confidently predicted [the day before] that NATO will soon hand back most of the buffer zone." In Belgrade, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic nonetheless welcomed the NATO decision, saying that the "security zone was the least secure place in Europe," the "New York Times" reported. But government political leader and parliamentary deputy Cedomir Jovanovic warned that "if NATO does not fulfill its obligations [to prevent armed infiltrators from entering Presevo from Kosova], then we will do it." PM

    [17] NATO TO SEND TEAM TO MACEDONIA...

    Robertson told the Brussels news conference on 27 February that NATO will send "a political and military mission immediately to Skopje to see what the situation is on the ground," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). He stressed that "NATO is committed to supporting the stability and security of...Macedonia, including the enhanced security of its borders." PM

    [18] ...AS MACEDONIA'S IMPATIENCE GROWS

    Reuters quoted an unnamed "Macedonian defense official" in Skopje on 27 February as saying that "the situation cannot stay like this. Eventually we have to attack with military force." A second official said: "We have asked KFOR to step up patrols many times. Now we are asking the international community to support Macedonia in dealing with the issue." Elsewhere, President Boris Trajkovski and Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski prepared a document on the crisis, which they will soon send to NATO and the UN. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted on 28 February that the long border between Kosova and Macedonia is so rugged that it is not possible for KFOR to control it completely. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has nonetheless repeatedly criticized this view. The Serbian authorities have similarly said that they expect KFOR to exercise control over Kosova's border with the Presevo Valley. PM

    [19] POWELL STRESSES U.S. COMMITMENT TO BALKANS

    Powell said in Brussels on 27 February that the U.S. will not take any unilateral move to withdraw its troops from the Balkans, which account for about one-fifth of the 60,000-strong Western presence in Bosnia and Kosova. He noted that "we [NATO members] went in together and we will leave together," the "Financial Times" reported. Pre-election speculation that the U.S. will greatly reduce or pull out its Balkan ground forces in the near future led in recent months to expressions of concern among U.S. allies in Western Europe and in the region, as well as to rising expectations in Belgrade and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2000). PM

    [20] SERBIAN PRESIDENT SNUBS MILOSEVIC?

    Milan Milutinovic has reportedly rejected a call by Milosevic, who is his former mentor and boss, to block the new amnesty law and government measures against Milosevic's former director of Serbian television, "Vesti" reported on 28 February. Since the fall of the old regime in October, the new authorities have not pressured Milutinovic to resign and have developed a working relationship with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2001). His term ends in 2002. There is much speculation that Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is content to keep the indicted war criminal as president in order to deny that post to Kostunica should the Yugoslav federation break up and Kostunica find himself out of a job. PM

    [21] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT PASSES CITIZENSHIP LEGISLATION

    The legislature voted on 28 February to allow Yugoslav citizens to hold dual citizenship, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The parliament also voted to restore citizenship to the Serbian royal family, thereby reversing a communist decree from 1947. The question of returning the Karadjordjevics' property will be dealt with as part of upcoming legislation on the restitution of property confiscated by the communists. PM

    [22] YUGOSLAVIA'S 'SUPER GRANDDAD' DIES

    Dragoslav Avramovic died at 82 on 26 February at Rockville in the U.S., where he was undergoing medical treatment, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Avramovic had long been suffering from kidney and other problems. As governor of the National Bank, he became something of a folk hero when he ended hyper-inflation in 1994. Although some critics suggested that his ideas remained too influenced by socialism, he was often discussed in opposition circles as a potential presidential candidate against Milosevic. PM

    [23] LOWER HOUSE CONFIRMS BOSNIAN 'ALLIANCE FOR CHANGE' LEADERS

    The lower house of the mainly Croatian and Muslim federal parliament voted on 27 February to confirm non- nationalists Karlo Filipovic as president and Safet Halilovic as vice president. The appointments must be approved by the upper house, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [24] CROATIA ENDS ROUND OF TALKS WITH EU

    In Brussels on 27 February, Croatian and EU representatives concluded the second round of talks on Croatia's stabilization and association agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said that the EU no longer considers Croatia to be a "problem" country. "Novi List," however, reported in an article entitled "Croatia Is Not For Sale" on concerns among many Croats that EU membership could lead to widespread purchases of Croatian coastal properties by affluent West Europeans. PM

    [25] ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO IMPROVE RELATIONS

    Romanian President Ion Iliescu discussed bilateral relations with a Russian parliamentary delegation led by Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev in Bucharest on 27 February, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said there should be "normal relations" between the two countries, adding that there can be no European or world stability without the "active role" of Russia. He also said Romania's aspirations to EU membership do not pose a threat to Romania's relations with Russia. After meeting with Stroev, Premier Adrian Nastase proposed the creation of a group to promote economic relations between Romania and the various Russian regions. Nastase said the two parties also discussed "political problems," including the Romanian state treasury deposited in Moscow during World War I. He said these problems can be solved and they should not hinder the development of bilateral economic relations. ZsM

    [26] ROMANIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES DECIDE ON MERGER

    Leaders of the National Peasant Party -- Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Christian Democratic National Alliance (ANCD) on 27 February decided to merge "as soon as possible," Romanian media reported. A former major government coalition member between 1997 and 2000, the PNTCD is to absorb the ANCD according to a schedule approved upon at the meeting. The ANCD, led by former PNTCD premier Victor Ciorbea was created in 1998 by politicians who split from the PNTCD. Both parties failed to secure parliamentary representation in the November 2000 elections. ZsM

    [27] FINAL RESULTS OF MOLDOVAN EARLY ELECTIONS RELEASED

    The Moldovan Central Election Commission on 27 February released the final results of the 25 February pre-term parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Vladimir Voronin's Communist Party of Moldova (PCM) won 49.93 percent of the vote, Premier Dumitru Braghis's "Braghis Alliance" 13.40 percent backing, while the third party to pass the 6 percent threshold was the Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), with 8.31 percent of votes. The estimated distribution of the 101 parliamentary mandates gives the PCM 70 seats, the "Braghis Alliance" 19 and the PPCD 11. The communists thus have an absolute majority in parliament, which would allow them to form a government, elect the country's president and modify the constitution. Voter turnout was 69 percent. ZsM

    [28] COMMUNISTS INTEND TO BRING MOLDOVA CLOSER TO RUSSIA

    PCM chairman Voronin said on 27 February that Moldova might join the Russia- Belarus Union and introduce Russian as the country's second official language, Infotag reported. While arguing that Moldova, being a "small and poor republic," should join the Russia-Belarus Union, Voronin said a referendum should be held on whether to introduce Russian as an official language. According to Voronin, the PCM wants no major changes in the country's foreign policy. But at the same time he warned that the notion of "two Romanian states" favored by some Bucharest officials is not acceptable for Moldova and "has no perspective for the future." As for the Transdniester problem, he foresees an agreement suiting both parties involved in the conflict. The PCM wants no interference with the banking sector, but Voronin promised to examine in detail the privatization of former state-owned companies. ZsM

    [29] BUCHAREST, TIRASPOL NOT ENTHUSIASTIC OVER COMMUNIST VICTORY

    Romanian President Iliescu said on 27 February that the outcome of the parliamentary elections in Moldova reflects the choice of a population "at the brink of survival" and which looks to political forces that have not previously been represented in the government to solve its problems, Mediafax reported. He said Bucharest should preserve good relations with Moldova regardless of which parties govern that country, as the majority of the population in both countries "are of the same origin." Grigori Marakutsa, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the breakaway Transdniester region, similarly viewed the results of the elections as a desperate gesture on the part of Moldova's electorate. He said he has no reason to be optimistic about the prospects of improving the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, because, he said, the PCM has the same agenda as all other Moldovan parties concerning the country's territorial integrity. ZsM

    [30] BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY KICKS OUT DISSENTERS

    The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) expelled two party members on 27 February for their public comments made last year that Premier and party leader Ivan Kostov should resign, BTA reported. Hristo Biserov, the party's former chief secretary, and Yordan Tsonev, a former member of the UDF's ruling body, were ousted from the party for acting "against the party rules" and for causing "damage to the organization." Biserov is expected to form a center-right party that could attract members from the UDF. Commenting on that possibility, Kostov said: "I don't believe that the UDF could split and a part of it take a different path." A recent Gallup survey showed that if parliamentary elections were held now, the UDF would garner 22.2 percent of the vote, while the opposition Socialist Party would get 19.8 percent. PB

    [31] U.S. REPORT SEES IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS IN BULGARIA

    The U.S. State Department report on human rights for 2000 said that in Bulgaria "several serious problems" remain, although improvement could be seen as the government "generally respected the human rights of its citizens," BTA reported on 27 February. The problems mentioned include extrajudicial killings, poor conditions in many prisons and detention centers, corruption within the courts, violence and discrimination against women and Roma, and human trafficking. The report cites instances of "serious human rights abuses" by police. It also quotes a Bulgarian Helsinki Committee survey as saying that Romany prisoners are abused more often than other inmates. The report said as many as 10,000 Bulgarian women, many under the age of 18, are victims of international trafficking. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [32] ANOTHER DIFFICULT ANNIVERSARY

    By Paul Goble

    Tomorrow, March 1, marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the revolt of Kronstadt sailors against Soviet power, an anniversary that Russian officials and Russian scholars have found it difficult to acknowledge.

    On that date in 1921, 15,000 sailors of the Kronstadt naval garrison near what is now again St. Petersburg, a group thought to be among the most fanatical supporters of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime, staged a demonstration in front of the cathedral there to protest Soviet repression of worker and civil rights. They demanded new elections in order to have soviets which genuinely reflected the will of workers and peasants.

    Fearing that the appeals of the Kronstadt sailors would spread to other groups in society, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership ordered their forcible suppression. Under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, the Red Army attacked Kronstadt and by March 18 had killed 15,000 of the sailors and forced another 8,000 to flee across the ice to Finland.

    Like the working class revolts in the Siberian cities of Izhevsk and Votkinsk and the peasant revolts in Tambov and elsewhere during the Civil War, the Kronstadt protest by hitherto loyal Soviet sailors and the drowning of their efforts in blood presented the Soviet regime ever after with a serious ideological problem.

    On the one hand, it called into question Soviet claims to represent the workers, peasants and soldiers in whose name Lenin had made the revolution and in whose name his government claimed to exercise its power. And on the other hand, it showed that the Soviet regime was prepared to be especially merciless to those who were members of these social categories but who questioned the behavior of the Soviet regime.

    Not surprisingly, the Soviet government and Soviet historians did what they often did when confronted with a fact that did not fit in with their ideological world view: they ignored the event to the point of acting as if it had never happened.

    Access to Kronstadt was restricted until 1996, and the cornerstone of a monument to the sailors who died was laid only in 1990. In 1994, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered that the Kronstadt sailors be officially and mostly posthumously rehabilitated, and he called for the erection of a memorial to their heroism.

    But until last year, little was done to implement Yeltsin's order. The government provided no money for constructing a monument, and things appeared to have reverted to the pattern of the Soviet period when no one said anything and nothing appeared to be remembered about the sailors of Kronstadt.

    Then last winter, Kronstadt administration head Leonid Surikov organized a competition to design a monument to the sailors. The winning entry consists of a broken mast as a symbol both of the aspirations of the sailors for freedom and their suppression by Lenin and his government. Local historian Marat Kuznetsov is slated to publish a volume on the rising next month.

    Throughout the Soviet period, most Russians were told that the Kronstadt struggle was an "armed rebellion" or a "counter-revolutionary mutiny." Many people in Russia still believe that, including many in the government. According to Venyamin Iofe who heads the St. Petersburg branch of the Memorial human rights organization, there is a good reason for this.

    As he puts it, "the heirs of the communists are still in power and still determine how we treat history." But he adds that such an interpretation must change because the Kronstadt sailors did "what was right." His words are echoed by historian Kuznetsov, who said in advance of this difficult anniversary that the events in Kronstadt in 1921 were not "an armed rebellion." Instead, the rising "was a natural expression of discontent by sailors over the policy of the Bolsheviks directed at their own people."

    28-02-01


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


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