ON Saturday night, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and half his Cabinet bathed in the warm sounds of Mstislav Rostropovich's National Symphony Orchestra.
Across town, in the cold, darkened shell of the White House, as Russia's parliament building is known, Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov and Vice President Alexander Rutskoi settled down for another uneasy night in their marble bunker. Around the building a ring of Interior Ministry troops wearing bulletproof vests was drawn tight.
A relaxed Boris Yeltsin made his own appearance yesterday to hear the orchestra fill Red Square with the triumphant sounds of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture celebrating the victory over Napoleon.
Even a less than impressive turnout of some 20,000 pro-Yeltsin demonstrators yesterday outside the Kremlin has not dimmed the government's confidence. Unless Mr. Yeltsin rises to some provocation and attempts to forcefully seize the parliament building, his victory in this phase of Russia's political war seems certain. (Boost from CIS, Page 3.)
Indeed within the White House, deputies no longer talk about their own triumph, as they did so fearlessly in previous days. Rather they seek, or at least hope for, Yeltsin's ultimate defeat.
Mr. Rutskoi, a former Afghan war hero, vowed yesterday to ``fight to the end'' against any attempt to seize the White House. But the day before, in a long hall decorated with floor-to-ceiling poster-like paintings of the heroic Soviet working class at work and play, a haggard Mr. Khasbulatov was already talking about fleeing with his would-be government to some Siberian stronghold. The middle path
Talk of compromise floated through Moscow's political corridors over the weekend. Instead of Yeltsin's decreed dissolution of parliament, followed by early parliamentary elections in December and an early presidential poll in June, the would-be dealmakers talked of early, simultaneous elections.
Nikolai Ryabov, the parliament vice chairman who defected to Yeltsin's camp and was rewarded by being named head of the new Central Election Commission, talked Saturday about this idea, even suggesting the joint elections could be held later than December. A group of liberals disaffected from Yeltsin, including reform economist and would-be presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinksy, made a similar proposal, adding that the parliament be partially restored pending the elections.
Parliament leaders seem unable now to grasp even this straw. They reject simultaneous elections in December, arguing that the government's total control of the media and all the machinery of power make such a vote a mockery of democracy.
``It's not elections, it's nominations,'' says Oleg Rumantsyev, head of the Social Democratic party. ``An election now is to get a pocket parliament.''
Without this fragile bridge out of the crisis, the Yeltsin foes camped in the White House predict that even if they are defeated, Yeltsin will ultimately have unleashed his own doom in spurring the disintegration of central authority in Russia. They point to the regions, where at least half the regional legislatures oppose Yeltsin's decree. But rather than support the parliament, regions are opting for assuming authority on their own.
``The regions will insulate themselves from what is happening,'' asserts Sergei Baburin, the goateed leader of the anti-Yeltsin Russian Unity faction of parliament. ``And this means the breakup of the Russian Federation.''
The heads of 39 of Russia's 88 regional and republican legislatures, as well as 9 regional administration leaders, gathered yesterday at a meeting in St. Petersburg. According to reports, they debated creating a parallel power structure, diverting taxes from Moscow to an assembly based in St. Petersburg, the former Russian Imperial capital. The nuclear factor
Mr. Baburin, stopping to talk yesterday on a carpeted stairway in the White House, warned of the Army splintering as well, along with its nuclear weapons. ``The nuclear briefcase will be in Yeltsin's possession but the nuclear arms will be divided among the republics and regions,'' he said. ``Out of one state will emerge one, two, maybe more nuclear powers.''
In the ranks of the Yeltsin government, such predictions are dismissed. ``Today I met the heads of the different forces, heads of directorates, the military command of Moscow, and other leaders right down to the heads of military academies, and they all spoke out for Yeltsin,'' Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev said Saturday.
The young economic reformers in the government, now buoyed by the return to the Cabinet of reform architect Yegor Gaidar, seem excited at the prospect of ruling by decree without an anti-reform parliament standing in their path.
According to a Western economic adviser, reformers are drawing a host of new degrees at Gaidar's request, including an end to all state subsidies for collective farms in the form of state purchases of grain, an end to all export controls except on oil, and the breakup of state production monopolies such as Gasprom, the state gas production combine.
But the reformers' eagerness seems to make them blithe to the fact that political realities are still in place. Gasprom, for example, is the province of Premier Chernomyrdin, who used to head the state firm and takes every opportunity to grant it favors. And the prospect of December elections is likely to cause Yeltsin to think twice about measures that might lose the government votes.
From the balcony of the White House, anti-Yeltsin economist Tatyana Koryagina assured several thousand Communist and extreme Russian nationalist demonstrators below that under Gaidar's hand, the economy would take another dive in October. An energy crisis is coming and ``many of our poor people may die,'' she predicted.
By the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Nov. 7, ``we will come again to Red Square'' to celebrate their assumption of power. ``Bandit Yeltsin to trial,'' the crowd shouted. ``Sovietski Soyuz,'' they continued, rythmically chanting the name of the former Soviet Union.