until they were left with responsibility only for collecting taxes, paying overdue bills, and cutting subsidies. In carrying out these tasks they are likely to make lots of enemies and then fail.

Chernomyrdin acted with the president’s prior approval, or so the president’s spokesman said. President Yeltsin himself, when he showed up at the Kremlin, said only that in his absence "a lot of work has piled up, plenty of questions and problems have been created." He scolded his government for failing to solve in his absence the problems it had failed to solve when he was on the job — in particular, for failing to keep his promise to clear up arrearages in pay and pensions by the New Year. Many observers drew the conclusion that when Chernomyrdin presents his report on the government’s performance next month, Yeltsin will bounce one or both of his young reformers — if they haven’t already quit.

The political shifts of the past few months signal a realignment in the Kremlin. On one level, the president and the resurgent Prime Minister have moved toward a political truce, if not alliance, with the Communist faction in the parliament. That process has moved so far that the Communist leader of the Duma,