#38 | April 23 - May 6, 1998  smlogo.gif

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In This Issue
Feature Story
Press Review
Death Porn
Kino Korner
Moscow Babylon


Respectable People Talk Technocracy

Who said journalists are dishonest? When the eXile started investigating this whole "technocrat" thing, we were sure that every last member of the Moscow press corps would fight to the last breath to defend the word and its usage. As it turned out, though, most respectable reporters in the city were comfortable being candid when asked: what does the word "technocrat" mean?

Judith Augsburger, NBC News:
God, I have no idea. You'd have to ask a print journalist, they worry about that more.
eXile: Does it have anything to do with techno music?
Augsburger: I don't think so.

Technocrats...or just stoned losers
David Filipov, Boston Globe:
If a 'democrat' is a Russian politician who got up and said reasonable-sounding things to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in 1989-1990, and a 'reformist' is someone who ignored the Supreme Soviet in 1992-3 and the Duma in 1994-7, then a 'technocrat' is someone who was not a known political figure until this year.

Although this person should have 'democratic' and 'reformist' principles, presumably he or she was quietly making money until now. The logic that goes into describing how someone becomes a 'technocrat' seems to have no other basis than the writer's attitude about the person rather than what the person did or does.

Thus Sergei Kiriyenko, a studious guy who believes in capitalism, doesn't want to go back to communism and, before going into politics, made lots of money - under questionable circumstances and perhaps thanks to his proximity to power - is a "technocrat" because people instinctively like him. Boris Berezovsky, a studious guy who believes in capitalism, doesn't want to go back to communism and, before going into politics, made lots of money - under questionable circumstances and perhaps thanks to his proximity to power - is a "crony capitalist" and an "oligarch".

That is not to say that Kiriyenko and Berezovsky are the same. Surely, they are not the same, but instead of explaining how they are different, in the interest of economy of expression, the media comes up with code words like "technocrat."

Incidentally, I believe Kiriyenko was flattered when he heard himself described as a "technocrat." His own word for himself, which he used in an interview on NTV a few weeks ago, was "botanik," or nerd.

Don't know what the hell the word "technocrat" means? Well, we didn't either, until we read chapter three of the exciting new eXile publication, "How to win friends and gain influence by surfing the Moscow Times website." As it turns out, a technocrat is a fella with a broader character than Noah Webster would have you believe. In fact, it even seems that the technocrat might be defined just as easily by what he wears on his nose as by the politics he preaches. Here's a short list of some of the people the Moscow Times has called technocrats over the years:

glass.gif Sergei Kiriyenko, Prime Minister
Crat-entials: "young technocrat", 4/28/98; "whiz-kid technocrat", 4/24/98; purveyor of "technocratic economic sludge", 4/11/98; Is also a(n): "market-oriented reform figure", 5/5/98;
"Bespectacled": yes
Redundancy factor: 0

Costas Simitis, Greek Premier
Crat-entials: "technocrat", 2/1/96;
"Bespectacled": when he reads
Redundancy factor: "a pragmatic technocrat", 2/1/96

glass.gifDmitri Vasiliyev, Federal Securities Committee Chief
Crat-entials: "quixotic technocrat", 3/31/98
Is also: "reform-minded", 3/22/97
"Bespectacled": yes

Anatoly Chubais, loans-for-shares architect
Crat-entials: "technocrat who is also a symbol of reform", 11/27/97
"Bespectacled": no

glass.gifMaxim Boiko, former State Property Chief
Crat-entials: "boyish, bespectacled technocrat", 8/14/97
Is also a(n): "reformer", 8/14/97
"Bespectacled": see above

glass.gifSergei Witte, doomed Tsarist Minister of Finance
Crat-entials: "consummate technocrat", 1/30/96
Is also a(n): "autocrat", 1/30/95; "nationalist" 1/30/95
"Bespectacled": yes

halfglas.gifTiit Vahi, absurdly-named Estonian Premier
Crat-entials: "technocrat", 1/27/96
Redundancy factor: "a moderate technocrat", 1/27/96
"Bespectacled": when he reads

Anatoly Dyakov, former head of UES
Crat-entials: "quintessential Soviet technocrat", 2/3/98
Is also a(n): "hardliner", 2/3/98
"Bespectacled": no
Redundancy factor: "prosaic" technocrat, 2/3/98

Viktor Chernomyrdin, mumbling ex-Premier
Crat-entials: "subsidy-friendly Soviet technocrat", 1/27/96
Is also: "all things to all people", 3/24/98; "likely to compromise the program of economic reform", 1/12/94; a "reformer" 12/18/97

Robert Kocharyan, President of Armenia
Crat-entials: "technocrat", 4/28/98;
Is also a(n): "nationalist", 4/28/98
"Bespectacled": no
Redundancy factor: 0

Boris Yeltsin
Crat-entials: "A typical technocrat", 4/25/96
Is also a(n): "hardliner", 11/3/95; "democrat", 10/17/94; "reformer", 10/17/94
"Bespectacled": no

Fred Weir, Hindustan Times:
You have surely turned to your dictionary. Webster's defines "technocracy" as "a theory of government. . . advocating control and management of industrial resources and reorganization of society by technologists and engineers". That's probably not much help as a guide to its current usage by our profession to describe the Kiryenkos of the new Russian government. I think the connotations journalists are intending to brush on are "apolitical" and "pragmatic". The spin is good. Curiously, if you look back over the literature, Soviet bureaucrats used to be derided as technocrats - at least in the Brezhnev era - only then the connotations were "soulless" and "without conscience". But I never use the word myself, so can't be of much help here.

Geoff York, Canada Globe and Mail:
A technocrat is someone who listens to autocratic techno music.

Laura-Julie Perrault, Le Soleil:
I have no idea.
eXile: Does it have anything to do with techno music?
Perrault: That would have been my only answer.

Vasily Ustuzhanin, Komsomolskaya Pravda:
Technocrat is one of these words that carries a lot of meanings all at once.

Lately it seems to have this connotation of describing someone who is a specialist in a very narrow field- not even an economist or a an administrator, but someone who has a very concrete technical skill, like an engineer, or a builder. The thing is, at least as far as Kiriyenko is concerned– and he's the one who's being described as a technocrat more than anyone else these days- he actually has a wider grasp of economics than Chernomyrdin did.

Another way it's being used is to describe someone who is young, earnest, straight out of college, studious, a hard worker. Again, this doesn't seem to fit Kiriyenko all that well. He seems to be a guy who's had a lot of experience in the world, and has a higher education.

In general, they're using the word technocrat...it's basically for journalists, you know, they appear on panels, call this person or that a technocrat, and usually it's negative. Or sometimes it's positive, depending on the point of view of the reporter.

eXile: Does Sergei Kiriyenko listen to techno music?
Ustuzhanin: I've never seen it.

Alan Philps, Bureau Chief, Daily Telegraph:
A technocrat...that's a good question. I think mainly it's meant to describe someone who is placed at the head of government in order to make technical rather than political decisions. Most importantly, it's supposed to describe someone who is not a politician first and foremost.
eXile: But isn't someone who is the head of government automatically a politician?
Philps: Well, if Yeltsin is willing to take political responsibility, then Kiriyenko would mainly be implementing technical decisions as Prime Minister.

Anthem Rock

Are you the kind of person who gets dewey-eyed listening to "O Canada"? If you are, then the Russian State Automobile Inspection-the GAI-has a treat for you. Moscow's baton-waving bribemasters have done what the Russian government failed to do when communism died; they replaced the stirring Soviet national anthem with one of their own. What follows is a translation of the official hymn of the Podmoskovnaya GAI, as published in the February issue of the oxymoronically-titled "I Love GAI" newspaper:

Music and Lyrics by M. Nozhkin

Our Podmoskovniye roads,
Our Podmoskvnaya GAI,
Here on strict and difficult duty,
are friends of yours and mine.
Roads have always been dangerous,
Break the law-GAI's not at fault,
But don't, don't run a red light
Stop, driver, don't urge on your horses!

There are many roads in this world,
Our whole lives are filled with roads,
But the main road, the road of Russia,
Is but one, like our Motherland!

Oh, the road, it's nothing but risks
And with alarm the inspector
looks in
At the wheel-either green gypsy
Or intoxicated with weapon bandit
An inspector never knows peace
In cold, in rain, in heat, in hail,
Oh, the road-it's a lead cocktail!


On the road we're all much like brothers,
Which means, in the blaze of random meetings,
That we must be understanding with each other
And keep control of our nerves!
We'll force you to respect people,
Before the law we set aside our pride,
Setting aside neither conscience nor soul,
We'll preserve our Podmoskoviye!

eXile in hieroglyphics

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