Signs of 'Balkanization' Seen in Soviet Union

CENTRAL government officials are trying to present an image of a new Soviet Union coming together, but they are making little real progress towards unity.Indeed, some experts have even warned that the "Balkanization" of the country is under way. Last week the 12 remaining Soviet republics pledged to sign an economic union agreement. So far, only Byelorussia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan have signed the treaty. The other republics, particularly Russia, are balking at following through on their commitments. The Russian Council of Ministers has disavowed republican Economics Minister Yevgeny Saburov's signature on the economic pact, known as the Alma-Ata agreement, the independent Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported. Grigory Yavlinsky, the chief architect of the economic union treaty, has downplayed the negative reports, saying he believes the agreement will be signed. Meanwhile, the session of the national parliament, or Supreme Soviet, has been postponed from today until Oct. 21. Parliament officials say the delay was needed because several republics had not decided on the composition of their delegations. They denied the delay was a sign of chaos in the central organs of power. "We have demonstrated the readiness to respect internal difficulties in the republics," Andrei Sebentsov, a parliamentary organizing committee member, told the Tass news agency. m sure this will help us in the future to work out common solutions." Mr. Yavlinsky and Mr. Sebentsov may be too optimistic, some experts say. A recent report, prepared by several political experts with KGB help, portrays the nation as another Yugoslavia waiting to happen. Yugoslavia is now the scene of all-out war between ethnic groups. "The country is rapidly going along the Yugoslavian path, almost step by step repeating the events that were taking place there half a year, or a year ago," said the report, leaked to the Russian parliament and printed in several newspapers. Economic and social conditions were sinking rapidly, the report also said. And as production was dropping, crime and inter-ethnic clashes were increasing. "The progressing crisis in the internal sphere may lead toward anarchy and either to the return of forces that backed the [failed August] coup or to the establishment of nationalist regimes of populist or fascist types in the republics," it said. Already in some southern republics, especially in the Transcaucasus, bloody clashes are raging and appear out of control. In Georgia, the republican national guard loyal to nationalist President Zviad Gamsakhurdia opened fire on opposition demonstrators over the weekend, killing at least one and wounding 81. The opposition claims Mr. Gamsakhurdia has amassed dictatorial powers since he was democratically elected in the spring. The president counters his opponents are staging an armed insurrection. And in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is inhabited mainly by Armenians but lies in Azerbaijan, the death-toll from the three-year conflict grows, despite a peace agreement brokered two weeks ago by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. At least 20 people have been killed since Armenia and Azerbaijan supposedly agreed to end hostilities, Tass said. It is possible the violence may spread to Russia. In the autonomous republic of Tatarstan and in the Northern Caucasus region, tension is rising, analysts say. On Sunday, Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoi held talks with nationalist leaders in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic on the southern fringe of Russia. The region has been agitating for greater rights, as well as the return of territories "unlawfully taken away from the Ingushi people in 1944" and given to the neighboring North Ossetia, Tass said. "I fear another Karabakh in the Chechen-Ingush territory," Mr. Rutskoi said after meeting local leaders. "Symptoms of this are already there." In Tatarstan, a Muslim enclave on the Volga River, the nationalist party Ittifak wants to create the autonomous republic's own armed forces. A Russian parliamentary delegation recently ended talks in the Tatar capital, Kazan, aimed at organizing a summit meeting to resolve disputes, including control over natural resources in the region. With passions running high all over the nation, implementing a meaningful economic or political union treaty will be difficult, says Sergei Blagovolin of Moscow's Institute of World Economy and International Relations. "From the point of view of common sense, the republics should try to implement the economic union treaty," Mr. Blagovolin says. "But I'm not sure there's enough common sense. A lot depends on Russia implementing real reforms. Russia can greatly influence the situation in the whole former union." However, the Russian parliament presently seems more preoccupied with personal squabbling than passing legislation. At a news conference last week, acting parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov denounced Yeltsin aides Gennady Burbulis and Sergei Shakhrai, saying "These kids aren't ripe to become serious politicians." Mr. Shakhrai fired back at a later parliament session, charging Mr. Khasbulatov with "feeling larger than life."

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