Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 16

Kommersant-daily has published what it says are highlights of the draft text prepared for President Yeltsin’s annual "state of the nation" address, due for delivery to the Russian parliament at the end of February. (Kommersant-daily, January 21) According to the newspaper, "numerous passages" in the draft are directed against first deputy premiers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. The text was drafted by a working group led by Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, at Stalin’s former dacha in Volynskoe, near Moscow. Until March 1997, Livshits served as both deputy prime minister and finance minister. Strong criticism of his work led to his replacement by Chubais in the spring reshuffle of government positions.

Kommersant-daily says that, though neither of the "young reformers" is mentioned by name, the dominant theme of the address is criticism of the government’s performance over the past year. "Chubais is scolded for poor collection of taxes, Nemtsov for the stalemate over reform of housing and municipal services, while everyone is hauled over the coals for sluggishness." In part, this criticism is fueled by Livshits’ desire for revenge against the man who took his job last year.

Kommersant-daily reports that some of the strongest criticisms may be toned down before the speech is delivered. But the fact that it is the economically-far-from-radical Livshits who is heading the drafting team indicates the extent to which Yeltsin has backed away from the reform program he endorsed last spring. Then, he appointed what enthusiasts hailed as a "dream team" of reformers. The working group drafting his speech at the time was dominated by radicals from Yegor Gaidar’s Institute for the Study of Transitional Economies. If Livshits gets his way, this year’s speech is likely to be far more cautious. What is more, Kommersant-daily says, the fact that Yeltsin’s address to parliament will be followed almost immediately by the government’s progress report to the president, suggests that heads may be about to roll.

Russia Still Without an Official Anthem or Flag.