U.S. Media Misleads on Russia, Official Tells Law School Crowd

The American media present a misleading picture of the Russian Congress as a conglomerate of Communist hard-liners, a Russian legislator told a crowd of 25 at a speech at Harvard Law School.

Alexander N. Domrin, chief specialist for the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation, said that the members of the body in fact have a broad range of views on public policy.

Domrin spoke on the present political and constitutional crisis in Russia as part of a lecture series presented by the Law School's Human Rights Program. The program was organized as a result of recent political upheavals in Russia.

The specific impetus behind the speech was Russian President Boris Yeltsin's attempt last week to disband the Russian Congress.

Domrin, a member of the Supreme Soviet for the last three years, attempted to debunk the idea that President Yeltsin and his government stood for democratic reform in a battle against a reactionary Parliament. "I do not believe the assumptions of this dilemma are totally true," Domrin said.

Domrin said the Congress was composed of three distinct factions. Although Communists and Yeltsin supporters are present in the Congress, Domrin said approximately 40 percent of the body had political attitudes somewhere between the two groups.

"The Congress is not antidemocratic," Domrin said, asserting that a once-content Congress has changed its attitude toward Yeltsin because of the country's turbulent economic predicament.

Yeltsin's shock therapy for the economy has cooled his relations with the legislature and resulted in rampant inflation, up to 2 percent per day. Moreover, a drastic fall of production, a decline in living standards and an increase of crime, corruption and social inequality have also rocked the nation.

Yeltsin's latest attempt to gain power, his bid to dissolve the Russian Congress, further antagonized the legislature, he said. Domrin maintained that Yeltsin's actions did not have popular support.

Domrin's feelings are based on the referendum of April 25, 1993, in which one third of the voters said they were not happy with Yeltsin and his economic policy. In contrast, 40 million out of the 72 million who voted were happy with the Russian Congress.

There is, however, no constitutional crisis presently facing the Russian Federation, Domrin said. And although the Russian Constitution was written in 1978 by the Communist regime, he believes the over 300 amendments to the constitution make it a document appropriate for modern Russian society.