Russia curbs market reform

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The Independent Online
SEVENTY years to the day after the Communist Party broke the news of Lenin's death, Russia yesterday awoke to the political obituaries of those who tried to overthrow his legacy with a free-market fervour almost Bolshevik in its zeal.

Radical reform, battered by a week of fierce intrigue within the Kremlin, took what some saw as a fatal blow yesterday with an announcement that the ascendancy of 'Western market economics' was over. 'The mechanical transfer of Western economic methods to Russian soil has caused more harm than good,' said a spokesman for the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, whose cabinet has been stripped of its most dynamic members and stacked with Soviet apparatchiks.

The prospects for radical change, already clouded by a surge of electoral support for communists and nationalists, dimmed further with the resignation of Yegor Gaidar and, after a labyrinthine power struggle, the departure of the Finance Minister, Boris Fyodorov. Mr Chernomyrdin promptly declared the end of 'romantic reform'.

Nothing in this battle, however, is clear cut. Nor is it over. Last night Mr Fyodorov, focus of much of the week's wrangling, suggested there was still a slim chance he might rejoin the government: But the odds seem against it.

'Lenin's mission lives. Will it triumph?' asked the worried front-page headline yesterday in the liberal Kuranti newspaper. 'The government, shorn of its chief reformers, is turning red before our eyes.'

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, mocking President Yeltsin's pledge only a week ago of 'deep' reform, printed a cartoon of him stamping reforms into the ground and muttering: 'We are going to deepen them.'

Pravda and Sovetskaya Rossiya, tribunes of unreconstructed communism, rejoiced at the apparent demise of free-market recipes, which have helped tame inflation but hobbled industry and alienated much of the population. Both papers carried long tributes to Lenin.

Inside Story, page 15

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