Yesterday, Russia’s Orthodox Christmas, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov addressed an awards ceremony organized by the Fund for Reconciliation and Accord, a charity whose board of trustees is chaired by Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Primakov called for a concerted effort to help pull the country out of its economic crisis, saying: “We are all ready to do everything in our power to have Russia up and steady on its feet.”
Aleksy II also addressed the awards ceremony and, later in the day, delivered a sermon at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In his sermon, the patriarch also touched on the country’s hard times. “I wish your, dear Russians, patience and reason when dealing with these difficult social problems.” he said. “They should be settled only by peaceful means” (Russian agencies, January 7).
Underscoring the crisis which began last August and is likely to deepen, a poll released yesterday found that 54 percent of the Muscovites surveyed said they had used up their savings. The poll, taken by the Russian Center for Public Opinion Research, surveyed 800 residents of the Russian capital. Recent news reports noted that sales were very brisk during the New Year-Christmas holiday (Associated Press, January 7). This, together with data suggesting that many Muscovites have spent their savings, would suggest that large inflationary expectations are building. Inflation is already running at roughly 10 percent a month.
Other gloomy numbers were released yesterday. Data compiled by the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank affiliate, reflects that in 1998 Russia’s stock market experienced the worst crash of thirty-two emerging markets. Russian securities, as measured by the RTS-Russian agencies index, fell by more than 85 percent in 1998. In 1996-1997, Russian stocks were the best performers of the emerging markets (Russian agencies, January 7).
TOP COMMUNISTS DISAGREE OVER HOW OPPOSITION WILL FIELD CANDIDATES THIS YEAR.