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I'd like to welcome you all here on behalf of the World Affairs Council and to thank you all very much for coming, I know you're going to enjoy our speaker, I heard him today at lunch and he was excellent. I learned many things that I certainly wouldn't have learned from an American perspective living in this country, it's just a whole different perspective and I think you'll find it very, very interesting. I'd like to thank Bill Dunkley, a member who was responsible for bringing Alexei here, and I just would like to give a little round of applause to Bill. He made this possible, he suggested it, and I'd just like to mention we welcome suggestions from our members and we welcome members who do what Bill did which is basically put together this for us. Well, I'll tell you, I met our speaker, Alexei Pankin, about seven or eight years ago, when he contacted me to seek permission to reprint an article I had done in his magazine. He had founded Russia's first media management publication, called Sreda, and it turned out to be a very influential publication in Russia, the media sector was just developing, it still is developing, and his magazine not only provided the media managers with information about how to operate their businesses and be more professional, but it also provided the government leaders, who were responsible for policy, with insight in how to deal with the media and what kind of regulatory structure was necessary. Before that, he had been the deputy editor of Russia's largest political affairs magazine, and before that had been a media analyst at the Academy of Sciences over there. More recently, he's been independent political analyst and media analyst. And somebody asked me before, "What the heck does a media and political analyst really do, anyway?" And I read his column in the Moscow Times when it appears, it appears every other Tuesday, and actually you can see it, it's on the Internet, it's in English, it's an English-language publication, and I'd seen him take President Putin on the carpet for a number of different things. I've seen him dig into Yeltsin. I've seen him even call Gorbachev to task more than once. He's written that the, Alexei has written that Communism wasn't defeated, it committed suicide. He said that the reason that Yeltsin and Gorbachev never got along had something to do with their wives. Now, how he knows what was going on between their wives, I don't know, but he does, and he knows what's going on behind the headlines and the media today, and that's what he's here to tell us about, so please welcome Alexei Pankin. Well, since we're stuck in exchanging pleasantries, let me say that you here in Hartford have a pleasure and a privilege of having as a neighbor, Bill Dunkley, who in many respects is really a father of the Russian free press, and he for many years, he worked as a consultant to Russian media enterprises, and either genuinely independent and well- organized and profitable newspapers in Russia's regions, these owe to a large extent to Bill's consultancies and advice. He was also very instrumental in promoting the legislative changes that allowed the media environments to become more true to become if they wished to, profitable, so this is really a remarkable person and it's really a great privilege that we have been working together for so many years, and I'm really grateful for him, for this opportunity, and for the World Affairs Council for the opportunity to speak in the United States of America, and to share some of the concerns that have been besetting actually recently. And ever since this morning, I have to say I was feeling a little bit disappointed, because the USA Today carried a big interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, and it turns out that it makes redundant a lot of what I was going to say. At an earlier meeting, I even considered reading this interview out loud, because Gorbachev, in my native English speaking editing, sounds much more convenient, and he conveys my ideas with much more clarity, and precision. But, so I brought this for you, it's some interesting reading, but I will read not from this, but, this text... of a prepared speech, and let me start with an old Soviet joke. A young aspiring Communist party functionary was once asked, "You always agree with your bosses, but do you have an opinion of your own?" And the young man replied, "Of course I do, but I strongly disagree with it." And by the way, this is a good joke, but this is very often how I feel, because I really hate a lot of things that come to my mind about my people, about my country, about Russian policy towards the United States, about the U.S. policies towards Russia, and many of my own opinions seem quite controversial to me, but unlike this young party functionary, I live in a free country, so I never hesitate to voice my opinions, be it here or back home. And before I go to our topic, Russia behind the headlines, let me offer a brief historical context. Russia is a country with a very long history. It has a thousand years of Christianity. Serfdom, however, was abolished only in 1861, and that means that until then, the majority of Russians were not even free. They could be traded like goats by their owners, and then democracy, and that was abruptly aborted by the first, World War I and then the Communist Revolution, and following that revolution followed 70 years of communism, which basically meant that 40 to 60 million people by different estimates were killed or died out of as a consequence of what has been happening in the country, and those who survived were driven into collectivist stables and acquired their living habits there. Reforms in the years started in 1985, in April, by the way, and looking back it seems incredible how much the country has achieved in this period: freedom of speech, competitive elections, private economic initiatives, freedom of travel. Many countries take these for granted, but for us, back in 1985, they had not even been a distant goal. They were an impossible dream. And now, only 20 years after, we Russians also take these things for granted. So I think that Russia now is well on the way towards a mature democracy and civil society. The road has had some serious bumps, however, and now let us proceed to the headlines that captured my attention in the last couple of months, and most of them intertwined past with the present. On February 1st, we celebrated the 75th birthday of the first president of independent Russia, Boris Yeltsin. That was of course widely marked in both our and in the international press. On March 2nd, Mikhail Gorbachev turned 75. This too was a big media event. Winston Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech, which set the tone for the Cold War, marked it's 60th anniversary on March 5th, and on that day, March 5th of this year, a report was released in Washington that was entitled "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do." It was produced by the Council on Foreign Relations under the Chairmanship of ex-Senator John Edwards and former Congressman Jack Kemp. It made headlines in Russia, and provoked speculation on whether it represents a prologue to a new Cold War. Soon after that report, the White House released a National Security Strategy document that accused Russia of diminishing commitments to democratic freedoms and institutions, a rollback of democracy, a slide towards authoritarianism or even totalitarianism. I've seen these scenes quite a lot in the U.S. media, and in the, and from the U.S. politicians. These things were also, I have received in this few days that I have spent in the United States speaking and giving interviews to the media, those were some of the most frequently asked questions. The Washington Post editorials time and again question the place of Russia among the G8 nations, and some high-ranking politicians are also campaigning to, not to conduct this forthcoming summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Back home, in Russia, top officials and political observers claim that this renewed criticism of Russia are a hostile reaction to Russia's economic revival and more assertive role in world affairs. U.S. investment policies in neighboring countries are interpreted there as encirclement. These Western criticisms and actions are viewed as interference in our domestic affairs. Russian public opinion polls reflect that an increasing number of Russians want their president to more firmly stand up to pressures from the West. A new Cold War this may not yet be, but much of the rhetoric from both sides of the Atlantic seems familiar from those bad old days, and I remember that back in 1991, I wrote an article for the London Financial Times. The article was called, The Center Did Not Vanish: It Moved West. By the center, I meant our center of governments. My message was that while the people were longing for democracy and reform, they lost faith in their home and in the Russian people. They lost faith in the homegrown leaders, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and would have happily accepted American leadership into the brave new world of full-scale democracy and market reform. Not only did we Russians unilaterally surrender in the Cold War, we were also prepared to accept a benevolent Western occupation, not in the literal sense of the word of course, but in a sense that we hoped America would do for us what it did for the Germans and the Japanese after World War II, and take my word for it, this was a really genuine feeling. We Russians wanted the Americans to come and steward us towards democracy and market economy. Of course, this was a romantic notion on the one hand, but on the other hand, we see this popular mood in Russia was a unique window of opportunity both for us and for the democratic world to take a short cut from the otherwise long and winding road from totalitarianism, the only experience we had had in 1,000 years, to a full-fledged democracy. And now, 20 years afterwards, we see that this opportunity was missed, and we have the overtones of the Cold War. Why? Because I think, instead of supporting democracy in Russia, the West, headed by he United States, threw its full weight behind people who were adventurers, thieves, market Bolsheviks, or upper capitalists. These people proclaimed themselves to be democrats, but they were not. Their rule led to catastrophic consequences for the Russian economy, for living standards, and for the people's self-esteem. It failed to create any stable institution. Not a working parliament nor free and independent media, and all these failures in the eyes of the vast majority of the Russian population are now associated with support from the West. What is the difference between the democracy that the U.S. supported in Russia, and the democracy that you have for yourselves? The system imposed on us under Yeltsin was what I would call a combination of chaos and anarchy. That's how it was for 97 percent of the population. The remaining 3 percent were beneficiaries of feudalism. The people lost the social safety that they had in the previous regime and at the same time they were also losing jobs and whole industries were closed. Wages and pensions went unpaid for months and months. Meanwhile, like a feudal sovereign, Yeltsin was giving out the natural resources of the world's richest country to his vassals and cronies for us all. They, in turn, would not even pay taxes and would quickly send their ill-gotten fortunes offshore and other segments of our economy languished for lack of investment, and that's part of what U.S. expense support bought in Russia. Your assistance went to people who could speak all the right textbook words in good English about freedom and democracy, about liberalism and free speech, but as it turns out, those people were consistently dismantling democratic institutions, and derailed the checks and balances. Ironic as it may seem, Russia's greatest achievements in democracy happened under Gorbachev. It was then that the basic democratic rights and institutions were established. Free elections, freedom of speech, religious freedom, freedom of travel, right to private property. Gorbachev's historical mission was to dismantle the totalitarian system and the monopolistic position of the Communist Party by giving free reign and financial support to the state-owned media, the Gorbachev Communists actually financed the anti-communist revolution. By allowing free elections and private property ownership, the Communists effectively committed suicide, so that's another sort of catchphrase. The Communists founded the anti-Communist revolution and the Communists committed suicide. One of those phrases that you like so much, so coming back to where I was, One sort of the task for Gorbachev's successes would have been to build on those achievements and to start proper democratic institution market building. Instead, if there was a genuine reversal of democracy in recent history, it was when Yeltsin took over from Gorbachev. The so- called liberal economic reform led to a devastation of our economy. It's just like as if Herbert Hoover would have been put in charge of handling the Great Depression. Yet unfortunately, unlike the Americans, we did not have a change to rid ourselves of incompetent rulers by elections. The self-proclaimed democrats and young reformers, with full support from the West, were steadily removing institutions that they saw as obstacles to implementation of their (word undetermined) plans. The Russian Parliament had different views on economic policies, so in September 1993, Yeltsin dismissed it. When the constitutional court proclaimed his move unconstitutional, Yeltsin disbanded the constitutional court. When the parliament refused to obey, Yeltsin sent tanks against it. On October 3, 1993, we lived through several hours of national tragedy and shame as the Russian Army shelled the Russian Parliament in the center of Moscow, and take that as one sharp example of the difference between the democracy the U.S. supported in Russia, and the democracy that you have for yourselves. This October atrocity met with much less criticism from the West than Putin's decision to replace, for instance a trivial matter, to replace the direct election of governors with governors indirectly. Following Yeltsin's military attack upon Parliament, he devised a new constitution that afforded huge powers to the presidency and significantly weakened the legislature. He put it to a referendum. The results, as few people in Russia doubted, were rigged. U.S. and European observers called the referendum free and fair. Yeltsin refused to let the media become independent. He instigated laws that made it impossible for media enterprises to become profitable. That left them at the mercy of the oligarchs and the regional political bosses. From that time on, the media turned into nothing more than a weapon in the fight between various oligarchs for access to state coffers. Yeltsin vetoed a broadcasting law that would have established an independent regulatory body. Instead, he preferred to issue broadcast frequencies to his cronies. Vladimir Gusinsky, widely heralded in the West as a beacon of press freedom, received his license to broadcast nationwide directly from the President. There were no challengers, there was no competition. Gusinsky received 1.5 billion dollars in loan from the state to control, to build media most, the parent company of his network, NTV, but when he in 19, in 2001, he defaulted, his business manager, an American entrepreneur, estimated that the company was worth only 200 million dollars. The people around Gusinsky were living on the rest. So how do you do, how do you make your business so successful? I do know a journalist who was a Kremlin correspondent for a communist daily national newspaper, reveals how business was done at that time. When Gusinsky felt that some government official would stand between him and the state coffers, he would have his journalist do an expose on this official. They would expose this official's corruption, then Gusinsky would arrange for Yeltsin, that the T.V. set would be switched for Yeltsin exactly at the time when this report would go on the air. Yeltsin would see the report, see the corruption, that the official was corrupt, would punish the official, and the road of Gusinsky to state coffers, to new loans, was open again. Yet, from the outside, all this looked like a courageous fight against corruption in high circles led by independent journalists working for an independent TV network. And this is how Moscow's so-called independent media operated in the service of the state oligarchs. And once I compare Yeltsin-era media and Yeltsin-era democracy to a remarkable flower called Victoria Reggia. This flower grows in Brazil. From a distance, you see a huge, beautiful flower. Then you realize that it has no roots, it floats on the marshes and can only survive in the hard-to-replicate environment of tropical marshes, and finally, when you really get up close, you find that it stinks. So, why am I bothering you with what seems to be kind of a long story of our troubles and tribulations, which should be, should be strictly our domestic affairs and should not, theoretically speaking, should not concern the outside observers? That's exactly because this was created with direct support from the West and now the system, rejected by the Russian people, is firmly associated with U.S. and European involvement, and that also brings me to what I started from, the current Western wisdom is that under Putin, Russia is backsliding from democracy. This I hear all the time, at every step, and my answer to that is that there was nothing to backslide from. Any leader who had followed Yeltsin would have faced the same challenge, to minimize the damage and to reconstruct from ashes, a prototype of a working state, not just a rarely functioning state, but something like initial stages of a prototype, and this is a job that came to call in the right place to restore order, and everyone in Putin's place would have no practical choice but to try and start creating what we call in Russia vertical power. It meant that he would have to take others that on appearance looked authoritarian. He helped to rein in the oligarchs who viewed Russia as their war spoils. In doing so, he negatively had to rein in the media. That is because the Russian media served not the public, they were regarded as weapons for plundering public resources. Putin helped to rein in the governors, most of whom had turned into semi-independent feudal lords, and in the absence of functioning democratic parties, he hardly had any choice but to create a loyal and obedient party and let it have a working majority in Parliament. And now, after years of turmoil and chaos, people find themselves in a more predictable and stable Russia. Their living standards are gradually improving. Between the years 2000 and 2004, the number of Russians living below the government's poverty line dropped from 42 million to 26 million. Is it any wonder that Putin's popular approval stands at 76 percent, and unprecedented success for any 2nd term presidency? And if you consider that the most simple and basic definition of democracy is rule by consent of the people, then under Putin, Russia has made spectacular progress compared to the Yeltsin era. Nonetheless, if you ask me if Putin is perfect, if he's a sort of mature and conscious democrat, my answer will be no. Just take one area for example, the control he established over national TV that initially served to disenfranchise the corrupt and self-serving oligarchs. Unfortunately, however, upon having a assumed control on television, Putin has displayed no rush to establish a system so that broadcasting can become genuinely independent, and we even see a trend now, where in government-friendly oligarchs are taking over smaller networks and some newspapers and they're imposing editorial policies that they feel are loyal to the administration. That's not a progress. Given all this, where do we go next? It is clear that the vertical bureaucratic power is inherently unstable and breeds corruption if it is not supported by functioning representative bodies, a judiciary, and a civil society. It is fraught with stagnation and the tendency towards authoritarianism, and on this I would fully agree with the current U.S. criticism, and not only could but in my own writings back home and along to it in my poems. But with one exception: there's nothing new in this. We have been living with these risks for the past 15 years, and this small qualification of mine explains why U.S. criticisms is falling on deaf ears in Russia. What things have happened under the rule of the self-proclaimed democrats, on young reformers? They met with the approval of or passed the notice by the Western Democracies. Thus, the sudden harsh criticism of comparatively trivial transgressions committed by a genuinely popular leader cannot by evoke suspicion of double standards, and this reinforces defiance both from the Russian public and the political establishment. Tragically, the free world earlier had disqualified itself from the role as a steward of Russia's journey towards democracy, and unless the U.S. becomes able to respect Russian democracy more, then the so called Russian Democrats will have to travel this long and bumpy road all by ourselves to wherever it takes us. I am hoping that both Russian and American leaders will see great and mutual unity and a more cooperative approach, and that these overtones of the Cold War will never develop into a full-scale