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Russian Politician Speaks

By Jacqueline A. Newmyer, CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Grigory Yavlinsky, a 1996 Russian presidential candidate and leader of the Yabloko faction of the Russian State Duma, spoke last night before a packed audience at the Kennedy School of Government's Starr Auditorium.

Addressing Russia's future, Yavlinsky noted the lack of private property as the chief obstacle to Russia's becoming a free-market democracy. His nation, he said, is bound to evolve into a coordinated oligarchy.

"In Russia, government and business are the same," Yavlinsky said.

He added that lack of bankruptcy laws, the persistence of monopolies and a concentration of industry in the hands of those close to Russia's leaders must be remedied by economic and political reforms before the country can progress.

Yavlinsky criticized the Russian people for electing Boris N. Yeltsin as president of Russia, claiming that the leader's "time was past." Yavlinsky called for new leadership to institute limited taxation, oversee decentralization to a Russian federation, and reform Russia's "one-man constitution."

Immediately following Yavlinsky's speech, Richard Pipes, a retired professor of history at Harvard and an acclaimed scholar on Russia, delivered a response.

He cited weaknesses in Russia's party structure as additional obstacles to Russian democracy.

Yavlinsky's statement that Russia's 100 largest companies contribute 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product while employing only three percent of the population prompted Pipes to question whether Russia can achieve a free-market system without drastic economic reform.

Yavlinsky replied that although a fair system might evolve in Russia in a few hundred years, the country is ripe for change now.

He said free press would play a critical role in improving Russia and stipulated that democratic and economic improvement must occur in tandem.

Recognizing the pessimistic tone of his forecast, Yavlinsky said that to avert an oligarchic future Russia ought to apply the mantra "Just do it" to the cause of reform.

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