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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Roll Up for the Duma Show

he Fourth State Duma winds up for the summer at the end of this week.


Stay your cynical remarks for a few moments. It has not been that bad.


The Duma, after all, has carried on working and not dissolved into chaos. Nor has it been dissolved itself, as many predicted. It has not precipitated civil war as others said it would by giving even an amnesty to last October's White House rebels. It even passed a budget.


True, the legislature has not got down to much legislation. The country still needs a law election and a new criminal code, to name but two requirements.


But at least the Duma has provided good political entertainment at a time when theater audiences in Moscow have been dwindling. Some of Russia's most colorful performers have been on show.


So here are a few Party Lines' awards for the First Session of the Duma '94.


Surprise of the session: Duma speaker Ivan Rybkin, a Communist Party member, stayed in the besieged Supreme Soviet right till the end. Then he became speaker of the body which Boris Yeltsin's "constitutional coup" had given birth to in its stead.


Rybkin surprised us all, holding cosy weekly chats with Yeltsin, slapping down Alexander Rutskoi and telling him to go away and write his memoirs, signing Yeltsin's Pact on Social Accord.


At his first press conference as speaker he managed to be so spectacularly diplomatic and dull that bemused journalists simply laid down their pens.


Rybkin is spearheading a new political tactic -- consensus rather than confrontation. Just as cynical perhaps as the rotweiller strategy of Ruslan Khasbulatov and the Supreme Soviet, but a lot more conducive to stability.


And the payoff? Last month when Rybkin's counterpart in the upper house, Vladimir Shumeiko, suggested putting off parliamentary elections, the fruits of the strategy suddenly seemed clear. The aim of the game appeared to be to share the spoils of power and strike a deal to try to stay in office as long as possible.


Best original performance: Early on Vladimir Zhirinovsky found the talent to turn the hall into a chamber of horrors. In his monologue to the Duma after returning from ex-Yugoslavia he threatened not to "leave a stone standing" in any nations that attacked the Serbs.


Lately though the performance has gone stale. After you have declared World War III a few times, where do you go from there?


Greatest disappointment: Grigory Yavlinsky, the man who set himself up as the leader of the "democratic opposition," has barely caused a ripple in the Duma despite a sizeable mandate of 8 percent support from the electorate for his Yabloko bloc. He left the reformist field to the pro-Yeltsin Russia's Choice.


Is Yavlinsky concentrating his energies on his presidential campaign? Or is he just a poor parliamentary tactician, not capable of fighting the everyday battles of parliament? Either way the liberal constituency which is skeptical of Yeltsin has not had its say in the Duma.


Most invisible deputy: The non-attendance rate of Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev of Russia's Choice is only outstripped by that of his deputy Anatoly Adamishin of Yabloko, who has not been spotted once in the Duma. Vladimir Kvasov, head of the government bureaucracy, has been so inconspicuous that one seasoned reporter was not even aware he had been elected.


But the prize has to go to Anatoly Kashpirovsky, the telehypnotist, who, if we believe some reports, launched Zhirinovsky to power and won a place in parliament for his efforts. He has spent much of the session in New York.


Most stylish deputy: Irina Khakamada is so way out on the liberal fringe she looks as if she wandered into the wrong building. One of Russian Cosmopolitan magazine's first interviewees, she was adopted by Christian Dior for their Russian ad campaign. Enough said.


Best performers: Yuly Gusman, the Baku-born Jewish film director from Russia's Choice, and Vyacheslav Marychev, the portly St. Petersburg deputy from Zhirinovsky's party, have formed an effective double act, defusing some of the party tensions. Marychev set the tone by giving Yegor Gaidar an enormous bunch of flowers on his birthday.


Gusman has found the most effective weapon against Zhirinovsky -- humor.


After a particularly rabid speech by the ultranationalist, Gusman the Jew played on Zhirinovsky's own reputed Jewishness. "Vladimir Volfovich," he said. "I'm talking to you as one Orthodox Christian to another..."


If Russia's Choice had had a team of Gusmans, last December's election campaign might have gone very differently.