Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

House Clean, But No Room For the Guests

President Boris Yeltsin has had practically no meetings with anyone over the past few weeks. In essence, his contacts have dwindled to zero since he went to Zavidovo to recover from heart surgery, and nearly no one has been with him during his stay there.


This has led to talk of a cover-up of possible complications arising from Yeltsin's operation. Those close to the president explain that he needed isolation so that he could focus on some very important decisions. Perhaps the president did this to avoid the influence of even the closest members of his team so that these decisions would be his very own. In any case, everyone is anxious to see what those decisions will be.


After the elections, the country's main political forces and interest groups noticeably suspended their activities and waited to see what Yeltsin would do once he returned to his responsibilities at full strength. In the meantime, acting officials took advantage of the political respite to strengthen their own positions and to build bridges with moderate and constructive members of the opposition.


However, the administration's activities also did much to increase the numbers of its outright enemies. General Alexander Lebed is without a doubt enemy No. 1. But there are other discarded Kremlin officials who have positioned themselves in opposition to the administration, including Alexander Korzhakov, the former head of the presidential bodyguard, and Oleg Soskovets, the former first deputy prime minister. Now, some of the country's disgraced, but nevertheless influential, governors have also aligned themselves with those who are hostile to the Kremlin. The most well known of these is Vladivostok's Yevgeny Nazdratenko.


Paradoxically, the primary cause for the growing numbers of Kremlin opponents has been Anatoly Chubais, Yeltsin's closest and most-devoted aide. Acting on the best of intentions, he has cleared the ground around Yeltsin. Chubais' victory over the all-powerful Korzhakov, as well as Tarpishchev, Barsukov and others of the president's potentially dangerous allies, destroyed the administration's consistency and effectiveness.


It used to be that a governor or minister who ran afoul of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, for example, would turn to Korzhakov or Soskovets -- or vice versa. In any case, everyone fell under the influence of one or the other of these Yeltsin wings.


Chubais has left room by Yeltsin's side for no one but himself. In the process, the support system for the administration's allies has collapsed. Today, if Chubais does not approve of someone, there is no recourse, and the offended individual becomes easy prey for the opposition. As elected leaders from the regions and charismatic national politicians join the ranks of the offended, the situation will become a dangerous one.


Will the recovering president understand this? If so, how will he react? There is a possibility that he will fire Chubais. More likely, Yeltsin will try to create an alternative center of influence within his circle. Such a person does not necessarily have to be in opposition. There simply needs to be at least one other very influential person near the president. It is difficult to imagine who might be able fill that role -- perhaps the president's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko. Those persistent rumors surrounding her possible appointment may not be unfounded.





Mikhail Berger is economics editor of Izvestia.