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Issue No. 169 - April 10, 2000.
       By Ivan Lozowy
       By Mikael Danielyan
       By Peter Karaboev
       4. Slovakia: TRAIL ON COMMUNIST PAST
       By Zoltan Mikes
        5. Special addition: NEW AT TOL

    By Ivan Lozowy
One of the best pieces of evidence that corruption in post-communist societies remains misunderstood is the state of
loss in which international donors, from George Soros to the U.S. Agency for International Development, are in today, after almost a decade of frenetic activity in countries which gained their independence following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.  Even a brief review of the antecedents and currently all-pervasive forms of corruption in Ukraine should suffice to summarize the scale of the problem.
To begin with, corruption has its historic inception back in the 18th century, when the Russian empire began its centuries-long
quest to conquer Ukraine. Ukraine's eventual subjugation was accompanied by the trappings of empire, whose pillars included a pervasive system of corruption.  Albeit corruption by today's standards, since in those days the Russian tsar expected his
subordinates in the regions to make up their pay with bribes.

Corruption was institutionalized following the establishment of the Soviet Union.  Managers from Ukraine regularly made the
trek to Moscow to wine and dine or otherwise encourage their superiors to grant contracts, pay bonuses and other special favors to their agencies.  Locally also, a far-reaching, interconnected web of favors served as the basis for personal power within the ruling hierarchy, the Communist Party.
The institutionalized giving-and-taking of bribes and favors in the Soviet period was the direct precursor of today's shadow
economy.  Former "special stores" for the communist elite made an easy transition to "the mayor's hard currency liquor store", a
store which does not exist on paper, but sells CDs and hi-fi equipment or any number of other variations.  Any businessman
wanting to stay in business has to make friends with a large number of functionaries. This is done by granting special privileges such as free products, outright bribes or the tried-and-true "wine and dine" approach. Following the gradual melting away of Soviet authority which began with the perestroika period under Mikhail Gorbachev, corruption reached unprecedented
levels in the context most suited to it.  With the former communist nomenklatura firmly in charge at all levels of government in Ukraine following independence in 1991, corruption quickly became the principal operation practiced in the new,
quasi-market economy.
The waves of small and large scale privatization which began after independence were the primary target for corruption activities and this area remains among the most serious to this day.  Even rules inherited from the Soviet period, such as that of principal decisions having to be made by workers- collectives, were systematically ignored, documents falsified and those who objected repressed, removed or even killed.  Most state property underwent this wild privatization or, as Ukrainians call it "prykhvatyzatsia " ("grabbing-privatization ").
Among others, newly privatized enterprises neatly mesh their activities with government agencies through corruption.  One of the more famous examples is the case of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko.  When Lazarenko was appointed in mid-1996 he quickly grasped that the natural gas and petroleum sector was by far Ukraine's most lucrative and established United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) as a monopolist in the field.  Within the course of only one year Lazarenko was able to amass a personal fortune running into several hundred million dollars.  This in addition to the resources eaten up by his accomplices both in and outside of Ukraine, which, as a minimum, raise the amount of funds looted from the oil and gas sector by a factor of several times. Though the precise route through which Lazarenko received massive kick-backs from UESU-s operations has not been identified, it runs  through a British company and ends in personal bank accounts at a number of Swiss and other foreign banks.  It is this point on which Swiss police wish to interrogate Lazarenko and on which he is undergoing extradition hearings in the United States, while remaining in custody.  In the meantime, Lazarenko's family resides in a house once owned by Hollywood actor Eddy Murphy, for which "Papa", as he was unofficially known while still in power, paid
6.5 million USD, in cash.
The pattern of government-backing for business interests which in turn generate kick-backs, bribes and other forms of corruption has been the norm among the "oligarchs", those businessmen whose monopolistic or oligopoly status has taken them to the top of the financial pyramid.  Repeating a pattern seen in Russia during Yeltsin's re-election to the post of president, the most powerful and, necessarily, most corrupt businessmen were behind Leonid Kuchma's re-election in November 1999.  A Financial Times article from February 11, 2000 revealed that the U.S. government had submitted to Kuchma a list of people who should be barred from policy-making which included Oleksandr Volkov and Ihor Bakai. Volkov, who has $3 million in assets frozen by the Belgian police, including $1 million in expensive automobiles, heads a slush-fund named the Fund for Social Defense and channels government subsidies to large, failing banks such as the "Ukrayina" bank. Bakai is in charge of Naftohas Ukrayiny, a consortium of five companies which manage oil and gas distribution in Ukraine. Other oligarchs include:
Hryhory Surkis, honorary Chairman of the Board of the Dynamo Kyiv soccer team, which is a the heart of a financial empire whose interests extend to a private customs service, ownership of Ukraine's only newspaper-print plant, a multi-million dollar
printing firm and the "Slavutych" agro-business company; Viktor Medvedchuk, First Deputy Speaker of parliament and co-owner of the "BIM" law firm, which services Surkis financial empire, whose declared personal income in 1998 surpassed 7 million hryvnia (1.3 million USD); Viktor Pinchuk, head of "Pipe", the company which manages the multi-billion dollar network of oil and gas pipelines  in Ukraine; Vadim Rabinovytch, a business partner of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and prime stakeholder in Golden Telecom and, at one point, the "1+1" television station, who, like Bakai, has been blacklisted by the U.S. government and denied entry into the U.S. All of these oligarchs supported Kuchma in his bid for re-election and it is easy to understand why.  Their businesses have flourished under the current regime.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Regional oligarchs, small and medium-sized businesses all participate, albeit at a lower scale, in the cycle of government preference, protection and corruption.  In Ukraine today business is inherently corrupt and
money is made the old-fashioned way v it is stolen. Take several of a multitude of examples.  The Soros Fund in Ukraine was
notoriously corrupt during its years of operation (it is in the process of being closed down).  Government tenders for lucrative
contracts are presided over by committee members whose sole question during their first meeting with prospective subcontractors is: "Who is the one who will pay me to get my vote?
"  The militia scour Kyiv's train station and pick up travelling traders who may have had a drink or two on the pretext of their
being drunk in public and strip them of their cash and sometimes even goods. Not only is it practically impossible to make money honestly in Ukraine, there is very little reason to do so.  If the economic actors are rational, they are highly  isincentivized in amassing capital honestly and reinvesting it. Making money honestly consumes much more time than making it dishonestly.  Risk increases as time drags on.  Laws may change and wipe out profits. Authorities from on high may decide to simply close down a given business and a pretext is always to be found.  Even those who have made money dishonestly, but who wish to turn legitimate cannot do so.
The situation is inherently unstable, with rival oligarchic clans vying for control.  Some, like Lazarenko, are driven out. New oligarchs and clan leaders arise in their place.  The average citizen, however, is locked out.  His society is a closed one, with little opportunity available and less chance of establishing a stable and acceptable level of income.  After all, "rational" does not necessarily mean "best ", not by a long shot, and it is the average Ukrainian who suffers from the consequences of the ferment of "rational corruption".

   By Mikael Danielyan
The issue of religious minorities in Armenia was first touched upon in April, 1995. when defence ministers issued a secret order
resulting in pogroms for all religious minorities non relevant to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Pogroms were carried out for a week his loyal detachments «Erkrapah». Temples and places where religious minorities gathered were robbed and razed, the believers were beaten and transferred to the regional headquarters of this ''public'' organisation where they were kept without water and food. This action can be considered the second one after the crumpling on the conscripts due to their cruelty and
anti-democracy, committed by ''democratic'' authorities of Armenia. In fact both the first and the second ones were held on
the behalf of national interests. That's why neither the political parties nor then non-existing Human Rights Organisations didn't
react the pogroms.
In 1991 the draft law ''Freedom of conscience and religious organisations'' was passed. The Godfather of this draft is court
Human Rights activist, the chairperson of the commission on Human Rights of national Assembly of RA, now a member of the
Constitutional Court Rafael Papanyan. That law is wretched. In order to look like a civilised law, it declares freedom of all
religions. However, the primacy is given to the Apostolic Church of Armenia. However, even such, it can be considered more liberal compared with amendments of 1997. For instance, if for the formation of religious organisation it was necessary 50 people due to the amended law  the census has increased up to 200 people (Article 5). The relation of the church to the state isn't clear enough. The Article 17 provides: ''In the Republic of Armenia the Church is separated from the state'' but the Article 6 states: ''In the territory of Republic of Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church is acting with its traditional organisations an d other religious organisations which are formed and acted in the frames of their believers''. Can it be considered that the words ''frames of their believers'' can be spread on the whole Armenia. Due to one of the points of the article 7 it was allowed to form
educational groups for believers and their children now after the amendments that point that children up to 18 years old can't be
the members of the religious organisation is added in the Article 5.
As it turned out only the amendments weren't enough. The wreath of the religious freedom violation was the memorandum
between the government of RA and Armenian Apostolic Church signed on March 17, 2000. The prime minister and chairman of the  Constitutional Court were present at the ratification of the memorandum. The state now officially accepted Armenian Apostolic Church to be the state religion so it is unlikely that such a memorandum can be made also with other religious group.
The governmental committee on religious and church affairs found about 50 various religions and religious organisations representing 14-15 affiliations. To the question: ''Which religious organisation, acting in the territory of RA weren't registered?'', the members of the committee answered: ''You would like to know why ''Yehova Witnesses'' aren't registered. I think that besides ''Yehova Witnesses'' such religions aren't registered as International Commune of Krishna and Bahahi. You can meet
Krishna religion believers though they are very noticeable just I know them. Some of them left religion afraid of repetition of the
pogroms, the others getting political asylum left the country, particularly to the USA. The Bahahi religion believers were few. I
don't think that anybody can be found in the republic. At least for a long time I haven't heard of them. ''Non-official'' policy
is: Armenian Apostolic Church exists, the others are sectarianism. Some of them were considered to be the main disasters for the state and national interests, about the silence only silence hangs. When the topic of the increased ''sectarianism'' is touched
upon, first of all ''Yehova Witnesses'' are meant. As one of the leaders of this organisation Rustam Khachatryan stated (though
Yehova Witnesses don't accept the word leader) today this religious organisation has about 16 thousand followers. Very often, they can be met in the street where they not always legally propogandated their ideology, looking for the brothers and sisters
among the population which doesn't believe in anything or anybody anymore. Yehova Witnesses act in Armenia since 1994 and not once submitted documents for the registration, but always they were rejected giving groundless arguments. The registration of Yehova Witnesses became something of national importance. During one of the meetings of the presidential Human Rights commission the following question was settled, the nervous people should read this: ''Shall we register ''Yehova Witnesses'' in Armenia or not?''. Just imagine the scene, people are sitting, calling themselves Human Rights activists and deciding if the freedom of conscience was necessary or not. After disputes the commission came to the conclusion that the final decision should be reached by the justice, which we know how ''fair'' is in Armenia. Only three members of the commission made a statement that Yehova Witnesses should be registered.  Nobody ever thinks over that how stupid it is.  The former political prisoner , Human Rights activist, the chairman of the committee of the freedom of conscience of Russia, Gleb Ikunin named such a discussion an absurd one. But how he can be compared with the Armenian ''Human Rights activists''. For instance, with such as Agasi Arshakyan is, who in this question is more than ''brilliant''. Agasi Arshakyan, the chairman of the Fund after A. Sakharov, deputy of National Assembly stated: ''Instead of membership to Council of  Europe, which claims t o register some yehovahs and krishnaids, we'd better think over the membership to Russian-Belorussian union''.
Taking into consideration present political situation, ''Yehova Witnesses'' won't be registered for a long time. Their registration means the adoption of their statement, where it is clearly provided that the representatives of organisation can't serve military service in the army. The last nominations in the high rank positions in the ministry of Defence showed that those who were responsible for the pogroms in 1995 have great influence on the political procedures in the republic. And if at that time they were just the representatives of the ''non governmental organisation'' today they are at the power. Today 19 persons from
the religious organisation ''Yehova Witnesses'' are convicted for the refusal of military service. The chairman of Armenian Helsinki Committee A. Ishkhanyan in one of his interviews stated: ''We don't support the unwillingness of Yehova Witnesses not to serve in the army. The service in the army is the duty of each citizen of the republic''. In spite of this Armen ia is steadily
attempting to stand side by side with other civilised countries of the Council of Europe. We suggested you would like to be the
member of the Council of Europe, we aren't against. There are suggestions: adoption of amendments on the law ''Freedom of
conscience and religious organisations'', adoption of ''Alternative Civil Service'' law. The chairman of the commission on international contacts of the National Assembly, which represents Armenia in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of
Europe, H. Hovhannissyan, explained to the journalists that the terms and recommendations will be passed to the president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament for the signature and added that in general the government of Armenia doesn't object to the offered recommendations, but.. Law ''On Alternative Civil Service'' will be available only for those religious organisations which are officially registered in the republic. Consequently due to such official and Armenian Human Rig hts policy Yehova Witnesses will have to pass their sentence in the prisons for a long time. By the way we couldn't find out whether our government signed the ''memorandum of the intentions'' with the Council of Europe and what are these suggestions and recommendations are in general? But this question already concerns the free access to the information.
But let's refer to the question of the freedom of conscience. It will be unfair to mention that all the religions or religious organisations are oppressed by the authorities. For instance, mormons. It is also a very huge organisation, which is without any
problems function in the republic, moreover, some persons among the closest personnel of the president are the members of this ''sect''. Or religion? Rumours are spread that this fact isn't spread that the new hostes of the hotel ''Armenia'' are mormons.
How ''Armenia'' was privatised, only the blind and the deaf don't know. Consequently for transferring to the level of religion from the level of sect it is necessary to be in the suite or to pay. And this topic already concerns the corruption in the high ranks
of the authorities.
While the democratic authorities of Armenia continues to talk profusely about freedom at schools step by step the lessons on
religion are taught. It is unlike that at schools Bkhagabat-Guta or Ghuran will be taught. Only the thought over this will make the
present authorities get to hospital with heart attack. The church is separated from the state only on the paper. Everybody knows who and how nominated the present catholicos. And the barometer of the freedom of religion in Armenia will be the steps towards the official registration of the religious organisation ''Yehova Witnesses''.
    By Peter Karaboev
At the end of February Bulgaria's public opinion was obsessed with event taking place thousands of miles away from the Balkans.Six Bulgarian medics - 5 women and 1 men - were charged in Libya of committing a crime equal to the plot against the state security and are under threat - if convicted - to get death penalty. And Bulgarians are facing for the first time such case - to follow  with horror how death rope hangs over their fellow citizens and how the officials will react to save them. The case is in fact a  huge human tragedy for Libyans because it's about infection of 400 children with HIV virus in Pediatrics and Maternity clinic in the  city of Benghazi. Because of, probably, criminal neglect of the staff sometimes in mid-1990's hundreds of newborn babies were infected through dirty needles and up till now nearly 60 of them died. Maybe Bulgarians, working there, were the wrong people on the wrong place at the wrong time, but 18 months after the investigation started 6 of them plus a Palestinian are charged with a plot for a mass killing. Bulgaria and Libya have an Agreement for exchanging of convicted but if they get death penalty this agreement is useless because Bulgaria abolished death penalty few years ago.
23 Bulgarians, some Poles, Czechs, Egyptians, Filipinos and other nationalities were detained briefly on 9 February 1999. 17
of Bulgarians were released but got their passports only in March 2000 just to find that they will have to wait for exit visa from
The six other Bulgarians stayed under arrest for 11 months with explanation from Libyan side "to be available during the course of investigation". Suddenly on 7 January 2000 they case went to the court without Bulgarians knowing what happens. Bulgarian Embassy was notified about this three days later. On 9 February they were charged with three crimes, each of them under threat of death penalty. In the courtroom they said "We are innocent", but the case appeared to be more complicated. There was no defendants lawyer, they have never heard the charges in detail and they have never met Bulgarian diplomats in private.
On 22 February 2000 Bulgarian Foreign minister Nadezhda Mihailova asked Tripoli to provide Sofia with the text of the
charges. Libyan independent lawyer Osman Byzanty was involved in the case but he too have never read - up till today - the full text spread over 1600 pages! According to Libyan justice tradition the text can be HEARD only in courtroom and can't be copied or distributed away from the building. That's why the very first information was provided by the Libyan translator who REMEMBERED  the charges, because he was not allowed to make any notes of them.
Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov asked in telephone conversation Libyan leader Muamar Kadafy to help with his authority for the postponement of the trial. But there is still a tremendous lack of information about it. Sofia sent to Tripoli Bulgarian Minister of justice, Chief State Prosecutor and Deputy  Minister of Health but without success - they met 6 Bulgarians but
were asked by Libyans to provide in advance their statements and were never left alone during the meeting. In fact they were
allowed to say only few word about how Bulgaria is supporting them and follows their trial with interest. The special representative of the President went to Libya this week and he hopes to make some useful contacts there because he is former Minister of Interior. A number of foreign dignitaries and institutions were urgently asked for help - the President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak, the Chairman of European Commission and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, former Russian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister  Evgeniy Primakov, The World Health Organisation for independent professional expertise...
At the beginning Bulgarian media was defending lawyer for the charged in Libya. The interest was huge, but the information -
just pieces. Libya didn't provide any Bulgarian journalist with accreditation. To Tripoli went only one lady from the national TV
and it was because she is wife of Bulgarian ambassador in Libya. The press in Sofia was split in half - one openly calling for
xenophobic actions and publishing pictures of Kadafi looking through the hangman's rope; the other part - trying to squeeze any
possible facts to make a story of them. Surprisingly, the President and the prime Minister Ivan Kostov asked media for more
restrain on the topic. It appeared that Libyan Minister of Interior Abdel Rahman Shalkam asked in few occasions Bulgarian
officials to stop publications "that erode our good bilateral relations". And he got explanation that there is independent media
in Bulgaria which are not under Government control like in Libya. At the end media got the only effective point - t o write and
speak not about "the terrorist country Libya" or to quote US State Department's reports but to ask for open and fair trial. And
"please, don't call them, because here in Bulgaria we share different human values".
As we came to the values, it is interesting how unprepared Bulgarian society and media were for the story coming from a
Muslim country. Bulgarian journalists should have spend their energy on informing the public how Libyan justice system works in a mix of European - mainly Italian - law, and traditional Islamic law "sharia". Almost complete lack of media interest in this field leads me to another conclusion: there is something rotten in Bulgaria if - like a country with thousand of its citizens living
now in Libya, with a local Muslim minority and bordering Islamic world - behaves this way.
During the last decades Bulgaria was one of the main channels between the Soviet block and Arabic world. Thousands of tons of  weapons went under "help for our brothers in the developing world" to Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and Latin America. Since late 1960'es thousand of Bulgarian medics, teachers, petrol engineers spent years and were very well accepted in Libya, Algeria, Tunis, Maroco. This was a huge profit for the communist regime too, which was always in need of fresh hard currency.
But after 1989 the links with the Arab world were damaged because of many factors - new relations with Israel and the West,
the War in the Gulf, the poor economic situation... And it was really surprising how the old media prejudices didn't move even an  inch away since mid-1970es. Walking on the edge of provoking religious hatred and xenophobia, some Bulgarian institutions and media owners created atmosphere of overreaction, over tension and over expectations.
Libyan law is partly based on Islamic tradition and this was enough to wake up in Christian Bulgarians an image of the decision
based on some irrational emotions. The mess becomes larger because of the fact that the Sharia itself is not universal system in the Islamic world. There is no such Islamic institution as Christian church, there is no one institution to codify traditional law.
That's why Sharia is more analogy and personal conclusion of the judge. The problem is that Bulgarians didn't knew that Libyan law is not of this kind and there is no torture in their Penalty law.
Another missing link in the case was the lack of epidemiologist who can explain as professional how can be so many people infected with HIV, in how long period of time this  happened, was there any possibility for prevention - questions which now can save Bulgarians lives. A special expert commission was established in Sofia, but the trial already started and - as it in the poker game - every side in it keeps its cards closed. In  this atmosphere hardly can be initiate any dialog - Bulgarian institutions refused to quote even WHO reports on the state of Libyan health care system. The explanation - Libyan Government has the copy rights over these reports.
We always knew that Libya is unpredictable state, said expert Sebastian Ashar. We can't expect open trial in the European terms especially when we are talking about so big scandal. Everything that happens in this country is under direct control of colonel Kadafi so nothing incidental can happen there, he said. The case has huge internal meaning and that's why Bulgaria should concentrate more on the details and accusations. It's not unimagined that Kadafi will use the case for internal politics
through accusations against foreigners. In Arab world foreigners are respected but they don't have equal legal protection as local people. That's why they can be charged only on a number of accusations without proofs. And when you have 400 HIV infected children this even in Bulgaria can be understand as a threat to the national security.
So what - quiet diplomacy or aggressive actions? Bulgarian media should be more careful in dealing even with reports from
respected human rights groups as Amnesty International, at least because this organisations are not responsible to any national
Government. In the Arab world - too sensitive to its dignity and pride this can have a negative consequences.
    By Zoltan Mikes
After Germany and the Czech Republic, also Slovakia began the crackdown on its its communist past. A week ago , the state
prosecutor indicted Vasil Bilak, the former secretary of the Central Committee of Communist party of Czechoslovak Socialist
Republic on three charges.
The first charge is also the most serious- Bilak is charged of acting against the law about "protecting the peace". It is the official language of the law. The real crime, which should lead to acting against this law was the fact, that Bilak was among the five members of Communist Party {KSC}, who, in the end of July 1968 , wrote the so-called "invitation letter". This was a letter,
where Vasil Bilak, Alois Indra. Oldrich Svestka, Antonin Kapka and Drahomir Koldera wrote to Leonid Breznev, the head of Communist party and the leader of Soviet Union about their fear of the democratisation process in Czechoslovakia led by popular head of country, Alexander Dubcek . This process was known also as "Prague spring". In their letter, these five politicians also wrote about the possibility of Czechoslovak socialist republic quitting the Warsaw Pact, the army alliance of the socialist countries and about the danger for socialism in Czechoslovakia. Letter ended with the politicians asking Breznev to "protect against the  counterrevolution". This letter became a very valuable document for Russians. Breznev, who get this letter on August 2nd 1968 used this letter  first on August 18th,1968 when he persuaded the leaders of communist countries on the summit of Warsaw pact that the socialism in Czechoslovakia is in danger and that the "Slovak communists want them to act".
On 21st of August,1968 the armies of the countries of Warsaw Pact entered with their tanks into Czechoslovakia and stopped the  democratisation process in the country. The soldiers were surprised that they were not welcomed with flowers, as saviours of  socialism and protectors before counterrevolution as Breznev promised them with the "letter of invitation". The Soviet leader
then used the letter for a second time, when Soviets explained to USA via diplomatic channels  that they came into  Czechoslovakia at the request of "Czechoslovak politicians". The letter was used as a formal excuse for the invasion of the Warsaw pact. The answer of USA after seeing this letter was-OK, since they had called for you, we will not act, it is your business and the business of Czechoslovakia. To Bilak, then member of Central Committee of Communist party , this letter was a chance to protect himself against the democratisation process, which would be the end of his political career of a conservative communist. After the invasion the letter became the chance to step forward in the political career and  Bilak became the general secretary of the Communist Party. Today, the prosecutor sees the invitation of the armies of socialist countries in 1968 as acting against the law of protecting the peace.
The two other crimes, which are in prosecution, have economical character. Officially are they called as "acting against the rules by manipulation with finances: and the "endangering of currency by business with foreign countries".Bilak was responsible for decreasing of taxes for members of Communist party in 1973 which was against the law. In 1971 he was responsible for increase of retirement pensions for the members of Communist Party, which was also against the law. Together he made
a damage of 60 million crowns. { 1,5 millions USD}. Bilak endangered the currency, after the opinion of prosecutor, by
giving money to the Foundation of help to communist parties in Moscow. Together he was responsible for giving 250 thousand crowns {6,25 millions USD } to this Foundation.
Bilak does not feel guilty and is laughing about the whole process. "Ok, they can put me to trial, if they want, I am not guilty. And I am not afraid- I am 83 years old", he said to a Slovak radio station. Bilak really need not be afraid- the trial will be a race with time. It is not known, when will the process begin. But it is well known, that together in the trial there should be 1500 witnesses  and the book of prosecution alone contains 23 000 pages. And as the last straw for Bilak could be the recent president of Slovakia Rudolf Schuster. He was a former communist, who was the favourite politician of Bilak in the times
of socialist Czechoslovakia. Schuster can thank for his steps in political career to Bilak. In the case of judges find Bilak guilty
, Schuster could pardon him .
 Special addition : NEW AT TOL
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    This month's "In Focus" package: Lingua Fracas Language is one of the most fundamental instruments of power -- be it domination or subversion. In this region the tools by which people communicate and think are often a primary source of tension
between ethnic and political groups.
    IN FOCUS: Worlds Apart
    by Tim Judah
    As far as the Serbian language is concerned, Pristina is a ghost town. Storefronts, newsstands, and even the graffiti on the
walls are wiped out; speaking the tongue in the streets is to risk death. What is left behind is the somewhat thorny question of the Albanian language, which is bifurcated into two dialects, Tosk and Gheg. Reassessing the standardization could mean challenging the notion of a greater Albania and independence for Kosovo, argues Judah, the author of "The Serbs" and "Kosovo: War and Revenge."
    IN FOCUS: Q&A with Vasil Bykau: The Lynching of a Language
    Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau has been hailed as the conscience of the nation. His steadfast insistence on writing in
Belarusian -- taboo under the authoritarian pro-Russia policies of Belarusian President Alyaksandar Lukashenka -- along with his outspoken criticism of the current regime have forced this Nobel Prize nominee into exile. Bykau speaks with <i>TOL</i> about the struggles of his native tongue. "Hope doesn't mean much in Belarus," he says. "The 87 percent [who speak Belarusian] doesn't mean anything as long as the ruling regime -- the police, KGB, army -- operates in another language."
    IN FOCUS: Resuscitating Russian
    by Sophia Kornienko
    The recent evolution of the Russian tongue has been decried by many as soiled with foreign words and slang. Acting President Vladimir Putin is among the embracers of traditional Russian; his newly established Language Council will slap heavy penalties on journalists and politicians who let so-called pollutants slip into their speech. But Russian politicos are hardly known for speaking with the tongues of angels. One analyst concedes that Putin himself speaks correct Russian, "but his entire vocabulary is only about 1,500 words -- a fifth-grader's vocabulary."
    IN FOCUS: Inflections in Flux
    by Donald Kenrick
    Much of the international Roma community's lack of unity can be traced to its plethora of dialects, many of which are not
mutually understandable. Efforts to establish a unified written language through various congresses, though they have produced
some results, are largely confined to an academic minority. With the language increasingly confined to an oral existence, and with fewer parents bothering to teach Romani to their children, the many manifestations of the tongue may have only one thing in common: their progress on the road to extinction.
    In an accompanying article, Matt MacLean tracks a day in the life of Emil Cina, one of the last bastions of the written Romani language in the Czech Republic.
    IN FOCUS: Talking Turkish
    by Polia Tchakarova
    Partly because of Bulgaria's relatively large contingent of minorities equal rights have tended to be at the forefront of the
country's consciousness. Part of their pro-active attitude stems from the harsh repression of minorities -- notably ethnic Turks -- in the 1980s, where people's names were Slavicised and thousands were forced to leave the country. In early February, Bulgarian National Television finally agreed to air Turkish-language programming on its channels. Although several private programs already exist, the broadcasts will go a long way toward officially acknowledging the needs of the ethnic Turkish minority.
    IN FOCUS: Far from Fluent
    by Alisher Khamidov and Makhamadjan Khamidov
    A little more than ten years ago, promoters of the Kyrgyz language scored a stunning victory: on 23 September 1989, the
Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic passed a law designating Kyrgyz the state language. The assumption, however, that the language and other state attributes would then develop in a rapid manner turned out to be unrealistic. Efforts to increase usage of Kyrgyz have run up against a limited terminology and vocabulary, the language's continuing unpopularity among other ethnic groups, and a lack of government funding for language promotion programs. At least language boosters seem to have stopped their absurd attempts to coin new words for "television set," "telephone," "airplane," and other everyday terms.
    OPINION: With a Little Help From His Friends
    by Laura Belin
    Vladimir Putin avoided debates against his opponents and refused to reveal specific policy plans. He could afford to ignore
the formalities of the campaign, in part because daily newscasts included massive, fawning coverage of all his activities. Though
incumbents invariably enjoy some perks when it comes to media exposure, coverage of Putin went well beyond that natural
advantage. Comfortable with so much media bias during a campaign he had no real chance of losing, how will President Putin act once the honeymoon is over?
    Also in our Week in Review:
    Jewish cemetery in Prague will be preserved ... Porn lives on in Poland ... "No anti-Semitism in Hungary" ... Black times for
Serbian media ... Montenegrin businesses rack up damages ... Croatian president moves on up ... and threatens to wield his
power ... Unemployed of Sofia, unite! ... Shopping madness in Macedonia ... More pollution in the Tisza ... Belarus students get to play hooky ... Two questions slashed from Ukrainian referendum ... The hot list of Romanian-Moldovan citizens ... The Baltics buck daylight savings time ... Regional heads in Chechnya agree to direct presidential rule ... Georgian writers charged with embezzlement ... Kyrgyz coal workers strike back ... Taliban broadcasts in Uzbekistan ...