Issue No. 219 - April 17, 2001
Contents:

1. Macedonia: DIALOGUE STARTED, END OF CRISIS STILL FAR
             By Zvezdan Georgievski

2. Bosnia and Herezogovina: DRAMA STATUS QUO
            By Stojan Obradovic

3. Azerbaijan : DOUBLE IMPRESSION ABOUT KEY WEST TALKS
            By Farhad Mammadov

 4. Special addition : NEW AT TOL
 


Macedonia: DIALOGUE STARTED, END OF CRISIS STILL FAR
    By Zvezdan Georgievski
    If a war is politics executed with different means, then in
Macedonian case it is exactly the different. It means that the
so-called second phase of solving Macedonian crisis, political and
diplomatic dialogue, has already started some time ago. But it is
still far from ending.
    The Albanian political block that completely distanced itself from
the extremists is now threatening to re-start Macedonian crisis,
with graver consequences, if their demands aren't met.
    And their demands are: reconstruction of Macedonian state in
order to recognize Albanians as a constitutional nation;
introduction of Albanian as a second official language;
reconstruction of the state administration and public offices in
proportion to ethnic distribution; and turning Macedonia into a
federal or at least canton state.
    However, analysts estimate that Albanian political parties are
not completely honest in formulating their demands, which are not
logically consistent. For example, they want collective rights in
a civil society; consensual democracy in the parliament created
after regular parliamentary elections; 50 per cent of "state
shares" with only 23 per cent of the ethnic capital ... However,
threats of war shouldn't be taken so lightly. After their defeat
in Sar Planina and Skopska Crna Gora, alleged commanders of the
so-called National Liberation Army are using TV broadcast to
threaten that extremists are located in every Macedonian town.
That is difficult to confirm or reject, but it is possible that
extremism has declined into its own abyss as the only possible
conclusion. It is hard to support the thesis that military
operations in Macedonia were undertaken in order to protect human
rights. It is very likely that rebellion was imported from Kosovo,
turning it into a battle for the territory.
    The international diplomats have finally understood it. While
Kosovo KLA in Kosovo were "freedom fighters", Macedonian KLA were
"fighters against democracy and multi-ethnic community". During
Kosovar crisis, western countries talked about human rights, and
during Macedonian crisis they talk about the unchangeable borders and
territorial integrity.
    But, of course, the so-called intense political dialogue that
is for some reason put under sponsorship of Macedonian president
Boris Trajkovski has only started and already there has been a
consensus to implement some changes by this June. Primarily, it
addressed the new law on the local government that should provide for
the greater decentralization and possibility to solve problems right
at the local level. How much this law is important may be
illustrated with the fact that the US secretary of state Collin
Powell set aside some time during his last visit to Skopje to talk
with several Macedonian mayors about the local government, besides
meeting with foreign ministers from the south-eastern European
countries, Macedonian heads of state, leaders of Albanian and
opposition parties and representatives from Kosovo.
    Of course, Macedonian-Albanian negotiations don't end here. On
the contrary, they are only starting. However, the basic issue of
local politics is whether the present government carries enough
political clout to implement all reforms. British foreign minister
Robin Cook plainly said that Macedonia should change its
constitution to reflect its multi-ethnicity.
    Xavier Solana, EU co-ordinator for foreign politics and
security, has also put forward similar propositions. Taken
together with demands of Albanian political parties, these
attitudes test the so-called introduction of the Macedonian
constitution where it is stated that Macedonia is the country of
Macedonian people and minorities living in it. This introduction,
basically unnecessary for the parliamentary democracy and status
issues, suddenly became an obstacle in otherwise allegedly
"harmonious" relationship between various Macedonian nations.
    It is clear that, after many scandals and especially after 40
days of war, survival of the current government headed by Ljupce
Georgievski (VMRO-DPNE) depends on its coalition partner, Albanian
democratic party led by Arben Djaferi. This means that thin
majority the government enjoys in the Macedonian parliament cannot
turn into two-thirds majority necessary to change the constitution.
    On the other hand, prevailing opinion in Macedonia is that any
talk about constitutional changes would mean backing down because
of war threats which is a precedent that mustn't be allowed. So,
military victory mustn't turn into a defeat at the diplomacy table.
    What is the solution?
    According to how things are developing now, Ljupce Georgievski
will be forced to relent under the pressure from the opposition and
form the government of national unity supported by all
parliamentary parties. The main task of the new government will be
to set date for early elections and pass new election laws. New
elections would give legitimacy to the new politicians who could
then solve the pressing issues.
    However, Macedonian political practice shows that this issue
cannot be solved easily, no matter how it looks. Opposition claims
that Ljupce Georgievski cannot be prime minister of the new
government because of his government's politics. So there are long
and difficult negotiations ahead, except in the case that the
international community takes things into its hands and exerts
pressure for a quicker resolution of these issues.
    Anyhow, Macedonia still has the support of the international
factors, which can be seen from the fact that it is the only
country of the so-called western Balkans that has signed
Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. George
Robertson said in Skopje that "extremists have to be destroyed".
Josska Fischer stated that there was no reason for taking up the
weapons, except for dividing Macedonia. "Le Monde" from Paris
asked whether history will have to punish Albanian nationalism,
too, in order to establish civilized tolerance in the Balkans.
    However, if the international community supports Macedonian
territorial integrity on one hand and mediates in internal changes
in the country on the other, then Macedonian politicians are
constrained to label it a sort of contradiction that is forcing
Macedonia to constantly balance between abyss and Europe.
                         ***
Bosnia and Herzegovina: DRAMA STATUS QUO
     An interview with Zdravko Grebo
     By Stojan Obradovic
    Zdravko Grebo is a law professor at the University of Sarajevo
and is currently president of Legal Center, an NGO dealing with the
promotion of human rights and multi-ethnic life in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. During the war and after it, Grebo remained one of the
most prominent advocates and fighters for whole and multi-ethnic
Bosnia, not relenting his position even in the hardest moments of
war trials and already set-up divisions.
    Almost six years after the Dayton Accord, Grebo is pessimistic
about the current situation in Bosnia and claims that it reminds
him of the atmosphere at the eve of the last war.
    Q: What is the basis for your evaluation that this situation
in Bosnia is dramatic and remindful of the time that preceded the
war. Are these grave evaluations a reflection of recent political
incidents and conflicts that have, to be honest, been there before
or do your pessimistic conclusions go deeper?
    A: I think that dramaticity of the situation in Bosnia isn't
related or caused by recent events following militarist and
separations politics of Bosnian Croats' leadership nor by anything
that came afterwards. Even the recent agreement between Serb
Republic and FRY about their special relations remained in the
background due to Croatian incidents, although that accord is also
dangerous to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The key reason
for dramatic situation is the situation of status quo that has
been going on for six years, since the signing of the Dayton
Accord. During that period, which is neither very long nor very short,
Bosnia wasn't set up as a country in the literal sense of that word and
that is very dangerous. International factors support and keep up
Bosnia as a phantasm of a country, but I think that during these
six years Bosnia didn't manage to become one and that its two
entities, Serb Republic and Federation B-H (Bosniak/Croatian
federation) are more a state each one for itself than it is Bosnia as
a whole. And after such a long and unsuccessful period, there must be
some sort of conclusion and I think that conclusion won't be a
positive one. In my opinion, it is what's making the situation
uncertain and, when Bosnia is in question, even dramatic.
    Q: Is there any hard evidence for your pessimism?
    A: What is additionally fueling my fear is the fact that
some important articles appeared lately, one in The New York
Times, another came from one of the creators of Bosnian political
future Lord Owen. Both authors claim that the world is tired of
non-functioning Bosnia, that Bosnia and Herzegovina is artificial
and are resurfacing the idea of division as the best and the most
realistic solution. That context is giving wings to this
militaristic separatism coming from Croatian side in Bosnia and
more hidden Serbian separatism explicated through form of "special
relations" with FRY. And to be fair, there are some Bosnian
circles where one might feel once again a hidden hope that this
conclusion of the events, Croatian and Serbian separatism, could
create conditions for the creation of a Moslem state in Bosnia, the
first of its kind in Europe.
    So, almost six years after the cease-fire, it is difficult to call
this a peace. Bosnia didn't succeed in recognizing and building
upon its potential state substance, it didn't reach the consensus
among three constitutional nations about key issues and I think
there are some very difficult and uncertain times ahead.
    Q: In spite of your pessimism, even though you think that
there is the idea of unsustainability of Bosnia in some
international circles, the official international community has proved
to be very stubborn to oppose any separatism in Bosnia, even in
the light of the recent political fights with Croatian leadership
in Bosnia, and to keep it as an integral multi-ethnic country, at
least on the record.
    A: I undoubtedly belong among those who would be the last to
abandon the cause of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole and as a
multi-ethnic country. I count myself among those who many times
said that criteria of the breakdown of former Yugoslavia aren't
applicable to Bosnia and I always opposed well-known nationalist
theory that Bosnia is a mini Yugoslavia, so if the former
Yugoslavia fell apart, neither can Bosnia keep itself together. I
claimed that the former Yugoslavia was a political community and
Bosnia a society with much firmer ties than Yugoslavia which, by
the way, collapsed not because of its multi-ethnicity but because
it failed to transform into a democratic country. However, we must
face the reality. What is making the current situation in Bosnia
exceptionally difficult is the fact that all former Yugoslav
republics as present new states were constituted according to the
model of national countries. Despite the horrible war and ethnic
cleansing, Bosnia managed to remain an ex multi-ethnic,
multicultural, multi-religious community; but it didn't result in
new energy, a new quality of life. Bosnia and Herzegovina failed
to prove that the European ideal of unity through diversity, that
complex multi-ethnic life, functions as an advantage and not as a
limitation.
    Bosnia is under the international protectorate and without
international factors practically nothing would ever function and
there would be not one significant decision. However, it is a
question how much more patience the international community has to
deal with people who aren't ready to take their destiny and future
into their own hands. I am afraid that the international community is
tired of Bosnia and I think that the new American government has
already announced it in a certain way.
    We didn't prove to be a serious political people, our leaders
failed all hopes of doing something productive on constituting the
country, not to speak about opening a social and economy
perspective. I think that the grave, almost desperate, social and
economic situation is the biggest and worst problem at this
moment.
    Q: It is often emphasized lately that things in Bosnia could
change with the revision of the Dayton Accord. On the other hand,
others say that change or building upon the Dayton Accord is possible
only when it is implemented in practice. What could be changed,
what would be necessary to achieve, which way to go?
    A: Well, we all know that the Dayton Accord is one, let's put it,
"Frankenstein" creation. We know that it was enforced and came as
a result of many, some bad, compromises. However, that agreement
stopped the war and it isn't a small achievement in itself.
However, the Dayton Accord on its own didn't contribute to the
establishment of a self-sustainable state. So, I am in favor of the
revision of the Dayton Accord, but all three nations have to reach a
consensus for it and it has to be changed with a democratic
procedure. But, more important is the question in what way would
the Dayton revision go. It would be great if people in Bosnia could
adopt one attitude as a condition for everything - that they are
all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and then it's easier to
solve the issues of language, cultures, media, etc. But I am
afraid that now we witness that the revision of the Dayton Accord
(that is in itself much needed for Bosnia) is presented as some kind of
decentralization which in disguise hides further ethnical rounding up
of territory and that there is no clear, firm political will nor
vision to overcome those territorial limitations and traps.
Anyhow, I agree with those who say that some provisions of the
Dayton Accord must be implemented before any additional change.
Bottom line, in my opinion, is at least two of its provisions:
trial for war criminals and return of refugees.
    Q: However, last parliamentary elections in Bosnia created
change of government for the first time. There was talk for a long
time that removal of nationalistic parties from power was a
precondition to start solving problem of Bosnian survival. For the
first time, the Bosnian government wasn't formed by nationalist
parties but by a broad alliance (Alliance for Change) composed of
strongest parties of civil and multi-ethnic platform. All
limitations considered, isn't this enough to start some real positive
changes in Bosnia and what are their chances?
    A: There has been some progress, but with huge support from
the international community. New Bosnian leadership (Alliance for
Change) is a very mixed political alliance, but I agree that it is
a significant step forward compared to hermetic and
non-functioning tri-partite government of nationalist parties that
have ruled until now. The outcome is uncertain, but there are some
chances. I don't know how long the new leadership will last
because it isn't a result of a strong anti-nationalist victory at
past parliamentary elections that has been expected. New
government has only a thin majority in parliament and it has to be
extremely balanced in order to keep up, especially since it is
composed of various political parties. Because of all these factors,
the new coalition government doesn't have enough political clout to
initiate radical changes that are wanted and necessary if we want
Bosnia to survive. So if the present coalition spends itself in
attempts to initiate changes and if some parties leave it, it is
important to keep up the idea of those changes and confirm it at
the next elections even more. I think that this government now has
to determine the general outlook of changes, find a new road for
Bosnia if we want to maintain it as a state, as a multi-ethnic
society, as a democratic community. No matter how long or hard the
journey, it must be set and started once. It is the great task
before this new government. It will have huge problems with the
nationalist forces it toppled as they still have some political
power. It confirms once again that Bosnia has some dramatic
moments ahead. As I said, the chance exists, but the outcome is
uncertain. In these difficult transition times, Bosnia should be
maintained at least provisionally. The process of creating
regional and inter-regional integration's might add to lowering
tensions, and the international community which has huge, almost
unlimited, authority in Bosnia has to use it in a responsible and
radical manner, which it often avoids to do.

                         ***

 

Azerbaijan: MIXED IMPRESSIONS OF KEY WEST TALKS

    By Farhad Mammadov
    The talks held in the city of Key West, Florida April 3-7
continue to be a major topic of discussion in Azerbaijan.
The public only knows that the two sides have agreed to "serious
compromises."  The co-chairs of the Key West talks will take the
compromises of both sides into account and prepare suggestions
for a final resolution before the next round of talks scheduled for
June 2001 in Geneva.  The high level of secrecy of the talks has
lead to much speculation.  Some observers suggest that Armenian
President Robert Kocharian has agreed to the principle of "exchange
of passage."  This would commit Armenia to opening up a transport
passage from Mehri on the Iranian border to Nakhchivan province
in Azerbaijan.  In return, Azerbaijan will open a passage to Nagorno
Karabakh from the Lachin region.  But in this variant, the status
granted to Nagorno Karabakh may be "close to independence."
   The Azerbaijani community appreciates the diplomatic initiative
of the U.S. in arranging these talks.  The U.S. has improved the
effectiveness of the talks by changing their format.  In addition,
the U.S. considers Azerbaijan to be its strategic partner and
therefore hopes that the results of these talks will not be detrimental
to Azerbaijan's national interest.  Nevertheless, members of the
Azerbaijani opposition are afraid that president Aliev will settle the
conflict through compromises that are detrimental to the national
interest.  In the midst of all the speculation over the Key West talks,
opposition leaders have begun demanding that Aliev reveal the
nature of the compromises offered.  It is interesting to note, however,
that while the co-chairs have called the talks a success, the conflicting
sides have been "demonstrating their forces."
  On April 3rd, when the Key West talks began, the Armenian army
held large-scale training exercises near the border with Azerbaijan's
Nakhchivan province.  On the eve of the talks, Armenian policy
makers were promising to unify Nakhchivan with Armenia.  Two
days after the Armenian army's training exercises (April 10th), the
Azerbaijani army began exercises near the Armenian border.  It is
said that some retired officers were enlisted to help with the training.
The defense minister personally headed up these training exercises.
  At the same time, Armenian paramilitary units in Nagorno Karabakh
have been holding military training as well, and the chief of the
Armenian Army's Headquarters is leading them.  Although the
government claims that these military exercises were previously
planned, observers suppose that Armenia's military exercises held on
the day of the Key West talks were in fact an attempt to influence
Azerbaijan.  But the Azerbaijani side wants to demonstrate its ability
to liberate the occupied areas by increasing its own military activation.
President Aliev is still in the U.S., undergoing a medical examination in
Cleveland.  It is uncertain when he will return to Baku.
                           ***

 Special edition: NEW AT TOL                                April 17, 2001
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    - - - INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Hear the latest about the NTV
takeover - - -
    Transitions Online, in association with Washingtonpost.com,
presents a live online discussion on the Russian NTV crisis with
media specialist and TOL advisory board member Alexei Pankin. Join
us on Wednesday 18 April at 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 5 p.m.
Central European Time.
http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/01/world_pankin041801.htm
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OUR TAKE: A Man Of His Time  ---
    Even the big boys, like the Czech Republic's media mogul
Zelezny, have to fall sometime.
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=16&NrArticle=744
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    - - - TOL MESSAGE - - -
    Be sure to visit our new media kit. We reach 27 000 people with
this newsletter every week. Your future business partners,
customers and readers are probably among them. No one reaches the
region like TOL - visit our media kit for more information:
http://archive.tol.cz/mediakit/index.html, or e-mail us at
marketing@tol.cz.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- TOL WEEK IN REVIEW ---
    Neither the Time Nor the Place
    Disco near former Auschwitz death camp in Poland told to pull
the plug.
    by Wojtek Kosc
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    The News According to Gazprom
    The authorities and the state-run gas giant attack two more
Media-MOST outlets as Russia's war over independent media nears
the point of no return.
    by Sophia Kornienko and Maria Antonenko
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    On the Road Again
    EU removes visa requirement for Bulgarian tourists to visit
most countries within the alliance.
    by Konstantin Vulkov
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Successor States Strike Gold Deal
    The countries of the former Yugoslavia reach agreement on
splitting up Yugoslav gold and currency.
    by Ales Gaube http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Shake-Ups and Shake-Downs
    Czech government faces mounting problems in the wake of the
resignation of a well-known minister.
    by Petra Breyerova
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    MORE WEEK IN REVIEW
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Georgia's South Ossetia Holds Illegal Referendum
    Macedonia Signs Stability Agreement With EU
    Students Demand Kuchma's Ouster, Support PM
    Tajik Minister?s Murder Points to Drug-Route Conflict
    Djindjic Makes The Right Noises in  Vojvodina
    - - - PARTNER ANNOUNCEMENT - - -
    Johnson's Russia List (JRL) is read by thousands of
Russia-watchers around the world. JRL carries news and analysis
about contemporary Russia from both Russian and Western sources.
It is edited by David Johnson. Johnson also puts out the CDI
Russia Weekly which is more focused on foreign policy and security
issues. There is no subscription fee for these newsletters.
    Subscribe to either or both publications by sending your email
address to davidjohnson@erols.com
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- MACEDONIA SPECIAL REPORT: Not Out of the Woods Yet ---
    The Hostile Other
    With Milosevic behind bars, who can Macedonia blame?
    Opinion by Dejan Jovic
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=1&NrArticle=724
    Easily Led Now that the violence in Macedonia has died down,
the international community should realize that the real problem
still lies in Kosovo.
    Opinion by Saso Ordanoski
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=1&NrArticle=722
    Coming Apart at the Seams
    A failure of citizens to identify with and commit to the
Macedonian state jeopardizes long-term stability.
    Overview by Jeff S. Merritt
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=1&NrArticle=723
    Tipping the Scales
    Western reporting of the fighting in Macedonia is more likely
to inflame than inform.
    Opinion by Eran Fraenkel
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=1&NrArticle=721
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- IN THEIR OWN WORDS ---
    Not Going Quietly
    Still on the run, Bosnian Serb indicted war criminal, Radovan
Karadzic, grants a rare interview.
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=7&NrArticle=736
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- ANNUAL REPORTS 2000 ---
    The Old-New Poland
    A year of revisiting previous politics and historical
problems.
    by Krzysztof Jasiewicz and Agnieszka Jasiewicz-Betkiewicz
    http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/polar00.html
    Slovakia Pushes Forward with Reforms
    It's not as troubled a country as it would have the world
believe.
    by Sharon Fisher
    http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/svkar00.html
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- FEATURES ---
    Buddha Arises
    Tajikistan soon to unveil a 1,600-year-old giant, sleeping
Buddha that the Soviets tried to hide. A TOL partner post from
EurasiaNet (www.eurasianet.org).
    by Ahmed Rashid
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=2&NrArticle=720
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    - - - TOL PARTNERS - - -
    - Oneworld.net (http://www.oneworld.net) Working through a
network of hundreds of organizations spread throughout the world,
Oneworld aims to be the online media gateway that most effectively
informs a global audience about human rights and sustainable
development.
    - Prague Watchdog (http://www.watchdog.cz) Prague Watchdog
monitors current events in Chechnya with a special focus on human
rights abuses, media access and coverage, and the humanitarian and
political situation.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OUR TAKE: A Man Of His Time  ---
    Even the big boys, like the Czech Republic's media mogul
Zelezny, have to fall sometime.
    "Will the boss of Nova soon be wearing prison stripes?" blared
the front-page headline of the Czech tabloid Blesk on April 12.
Hard as it was to believe, Vladimir Zelezny, the country's media
mogul supreme--the Central European Rupert Murdoch--had been
charged with the credit fraud and tax evasion.
    To Czechs, the sight of the police hauling off a haggard
Zelezny for questioning was something even more unfathomable than
a prominent minister's downfall--even though, as TOL has reported,
the authorities have recently rounded up nearly a dozen well-known
businessmen and charged them with financial crimes. This was a man
on top of the world, the smoothest of the smooth who had even
beaten the American investors who tried several years ago to fire
him and take "his" television station away (an international
arbitration court recently ruled, however, that Zelezny owes the
U.S. company $27 million).
    For years--through changing political constellations--people
had viewed Zelezny as virtually untouchable, with friends in high
places that would never hang him out to dry. Politicians were
hesitant to mess with Zelezny's success for fear that a run-in
with the director might translate into negative coverage on
Nova--the most popular TV station by leaps and bounds. Many even
saw Zelezny as the third pillar of the opposition agreement,
propping up the power-sharing deal between the ruling Social
Democrats and opposition Civic Democrats of former Prime Minister
Vaclav Klaus.
    It's not that people thought Zelezny was clean--far from it.
Without even waiting for the case to go to the court, many have
already pronounced the multi-millionaire guilty, believing that
anyone who enriched himself in the 1990s had to have done it
illegally. A continuing legacy of those years is that a sizable
chunk of the populace still believes that their better-off
neighbors earned their riches by dubious means. Under communism,
Czechs had prided themselves on mischievously working around the
rules of the regime; now they despair that many of their fellow
citizens adjusted such skills to capitalism all too well.
    Nova was but another example of profiting from the holes in
the system that appeared in the privatization and tax collection. In a
situation that parallels the entire post-1989 transformation of the
Czech society, the legal framework provided too many loopholes and
ineffective regulations. In a span of two-and-a-half years, under
pressure from various lobbying groups--including cable
companies--the parliamentary media commission relaxed broadcasting
restrictions. That included removing all 31 conditions that had
regulated Nova. Commission members viewed television broadcasting
as only another business: no special rules required.
    Part of the feeling that Zelezny is now getting his just
desserts comes from those, especially in the media and intellectual
circles, who blame the man for, in essence, destroying the Czech
nation with crass commercialism. They lament how housewives sit
mesmerized in front of dopey Latin American soap operas, how
gruesome murders and car accidents lead the nightly news, and how
their children spend summer evenings watching trashy action flicks
instead of playing games outside--all, they allege, contributing
to society's overall degradation. And they usually chide Zelezny,
not the media commission that took a laissez-faire approach, for
letting it happen. In part, this hand-wringing over Nova
represents a nostalgic yearning for the better aspects of life
under communism, when "family values" supposedly took precedence
over the destructive influence of commercialization (read:
Americanization) and capitalism.
    The bitterness toward Zelezny, which has blinded some to
Nova's plusses--competition for staid public TV, for one, as well
as some fine investigative programs--also stems from the belief
that Zelezny was a complex man living in complicated times who
could have done better. He was, after all, an art collector and a
classical music buff with a doctorate in social science. And in
1968, during the Warsaw Pact invasion, ordered by the Soviets to
quash the country's experiment in "socialism with a human face,"
Zelezny was one of several Czechoslovak television employees who
continued to broadcast shots of the tanks rumbling through
Prague's streets. He was fired two years later, in a period when
communist hardliners were cleaning house of people associated in
any way with reform. Until the Velvet Revolution, Zelezny's
television contributions were limited to screenplays written under
a pseudonym. After 1989, he served as a spokesman for Civic Forum
and then the government before successfully joining with a group
of intellectuals to apply for the license for the first
nation-wide private television station.
    Such criticisms have only irritated Zelezny. He interprets
Nova's promotion of the mass culture as a healthy development that
knocked the snobs from their self-appointed roles as saviors and
determiners of national culture. "Suddenly, Czechs proved that
they are normal Europeans and not so vulnerable to the efforts of
Czech intellectuals," he once said in an interview. "I hate the
idea that Czechs are not mature enough and that they must be
treated like a very special species that need a careful
transformation period to teach them the basics before they feel
the impact of bloody capitalism."
    Zelezny also then scoffed at the need for license
restrictions. "In a small, fragile emerging market in a
post-communist country, any regulation is an additional burden to
the many burdens that are already present in the country."
    Whether or not he is judged guilty, the charges against
Zelezny have shown the era of the little regulation and even less
attention from the financial police is perhaps finally coming to a
close--even for the big boys.
    -- Transitions Online - Intelligent Eastern Europe Copyright:
Transitions Online 2001

                           ***