Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 170

The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta, which is controlled by financier Boris Berezovsky, has published an all-out attack on First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. The article, written over the pseudonym "Ulyan Kerzonov" (Julian Curzonov), is a sustained and closely-reasoned outpouring of vitriol remarkable even by the standards of Russia’s politically charged media. The article is lengthy but the title says it all: "Anatoly Chubais is Striving for Complete Control over Russia. In Order to Achieve his Aims, He is Strengthening not Democratic, but Oligarchical Tendencies."

The conflict between Chubais and Berezovsky, who doubles as deputy secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, has been going on since July. At that time, Berezovsky and his business allies accused Chubais and his reform team of rigging the auction for control of Russia’s telecoms giant, Svyazinvest, in favor of Chubais-ally Vladimir Potanin. The immediate spark for the latest row is the article on Chubais published in the Washington Post last month by the distinguished American academic, Peter Reddaway. "Julian Curzonov" quotes repeatedly and with relish Reddaway’s assessment of Chubais as a man of "questionable integrity and authoritarian ways."

Chubais, Curzonov says, does not forgive or forget. He has not forgotten the way in which President Yeltsin dropped him from the Russian government in January, 1996, and, although Chubais returned to the Yeltsin team in April 1996, he is determined never to let Yeltsin oust him again. Chubais learned from the downfall of Yeltsin aide Aleksandr Korzhakov in June of 1996 (which Chubais himself engineered). Without Yeltsin, Korzhakov was nothing, since he commanded neither the mass media nor the security services, and he lacked both a strong financial base and western support. Chubais has shored up his position in the past year by building a power base in all these areas. The result, Curzonov says, is a "super-oligarchy" centered on Potanin’s Oneksimbank, which owes its privileges and position not, as Yeltsin fondly imagines, to the president, but to Chubais.

Chubais, in Curzonov’s depiction, wants power not for its own sake but in order to promote his economic reforms. According to Curzonov, Chubais is "that most dangerous of combinations, a fanatic and a cynic." His closest parallel in Russian history is Lenin — both men are depicted by Curzonov as totally dedicated to changing Russia’s economic and political system. Chubais portrays himself as a liberal and a democrat but, Curzonov says, his determination to pursue his reforms in a hostile environment has forced him to use methods that are profoundly undemocratic and that have resulted in the construction of an oligarchical system of government that is the very opposite of a liberal democracy.

The anchor of NTV’s "Itogi," Yevgeny Kiselev, devoted over twenty minutes of his program to Curzonov’s article, calling it "the publication of the week" and suggesting that it will form the main topic of discussion when President Yeltsin holds his scheduled meeting today with leading Russian bankers. Kiselev said the significance of the attack is that it appears not, as heretofore, in the Communist or nationalist broadsheets but, for the first time, on the front page of a "respected liberal newspaper." (NTV, September 14) The plot thickened yesterday with unconfirmed reports that the Federal Security Service (successor to the KGB) is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Chubais. (Reuter, September 14)

Rokhlin Sets Up New Duma Group.