RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 10 January 2000
HUNGARIAN RAILROAD WORKERS STRIKE FOR HIGHER WAGES. The
three largest rail workers' unions began a 60-hour strike
at midnight on 10 January after wage talks with the
Hungarian State Railway Company (MAV) failed to break an
impasse. Trade unions are demanding a 14 percent wage rise,
but MAV stuck to its 8.5 percent offer. The two sides are
expected to continue negotiations. The strike is the most
serious labor unrest in Hungary since the present coalition
took power in 1998. The daily "Nepszabadsag" says the
strike is an indication of workers' frustration at the
government policy of curbing inflation by keeping wages
Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov Speaks Out (Part
At the age of 76, the Soviet Union's last defense minister,
Dmitrii Yazov, walks with greater agility than some of his
40-year-old colleagues. He remembers the events that took
place in Czechoslovakia very well. Back then, he ran one of
the strongest armies in the world.
Today, Marshall Yazov works as an adviser to the central
administration for international cooperation at the Russian
Defense Ministry. This interview by Petra Prochazkova first
appeared in the Czech daily "Lidove noviny" on 25 November
Q: A few days ago, all Europe celebrated the 10th anniversary
of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in
Czechoslovakia. Do you consider those anniversaries to be
worth celebrating as well?
It's no tragedy, your country has a right to decide its own
fate. But I'm not celebrating. Instead, I remembered why the
Berlin Wall was established--because the Germans started a
war. The fascists are to blame for all of it, and the Germans
had to bear the responsibility for it. The Soviet Army alone
lost 10.5 million people during the war. The Germans had to
be divided. And why did the Americans, who protested the
loudest against the Berlin Wall, build a 240 kilometer wall
between South and North Korea? We left Germany in the end,
but the Americans did not.
Q: Because no one is pushing them to...
And who was pushing the Russians? We were the winners! It was
right for us to leave. But the Americans should also leave
Q: Were you sorry that you were organizing the withdrawal of
Soviet troops from all of Central and Eastern Europe?
Not at all. The problem is that one group leaves, and another
group takes its place. I knew it would turn out like that.
The Americans didn't cross your borders in military boots,
but they got you with money. It's enough to look at who Czech
industry works for today and the size of the unemployment
rate in your country. You're not better off than you were.
The Americans don't intend to share and they're holding all
of Europe in the palm of their hand. The Germans are paying
them and serving them in exchange for having them on their
territory. The Czechs never paid the Russian army for its
stay. In 1979 and 1980, I was the chief of financial
administration for our troops in Czechoslovakia. We had to
pay you for every unfortunate incident, every felled tree or
Q: You didn't regret the departure of the Soviet Army from
Europe, but the average soldiers didn't look forward to going
Where do you think it's better to live, in Siberia or in
Czechoslovakia? Of course it was better for a soldier to live
in your country. Furthermore, the Czechs had a normal
relationship with Russian soldiers....
Q: Were you astonished that we joined NATO?
I never thought that the Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians would
join NATO. [Former Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev made a
big mistake when he failed to sign a written agreement with
the Americans that NATO cannot move eastward. Only a verbal
agreement existed. Gorbachev knew that it didn't guarantee
anything. Today, a swindler has turned into a hero....
I experienced the year 1989 as an internal insult or
sorrow. In the year 1945, we lost 140,000 soldiers in your
country, and 44 years later someone comes to power and turns
you into an enemy of the Soviet people. We never sold you. In
1939, we were ready to send 100 divisions to help you. I
would recommend to all those Czechs who hate Russia to
examine how many bones of Russian soldiers are buried in your
country just so that it could be independent, free, and have
its honor preserved.
Q: So, after all, you consider it to be unjust that you had
to leave Czechoslovakia?
There was nothing else that could be done in 1989. I didn't
think that our troops would be in your country forever. We
had to return home some day. The time had come. I'm just
surprised that the Americans can have military bases in
Germany, Italy, Greece.... For the time being, they have only
a fifth column in Russia. Just look how many American films
are on television...!
So you didn't liquidate several memorials to the Soviet
liberators who in 1945 guarded your pioneers with pride? You
didn't rename streets and squares, all in the name of
democracy? As if Praguers launched their own uprising and
freed the city with their own efforts. Why didn't you rise up
in 1942, or in 1944? You rose up after Berlin fell!
Unfortunately, I know that you'll lose the Sudetenland once
again. You'll see.
Q: Relations between our countries didn't worsen after the
war, but after 1968.
Relations worsened when the Warsaw Pact fell apart. When the
anticommunist Havel, the so-called democrat, came to power.
Those types came to power in our country as well. You think
that democrats are governing in Russia? Everything is run by
an oligarchy. They have billions and the majority of Russian
teachers are not even getting their wages. What kind of
democracy is it when the country's God-given wealth, which
belongs to the nation, is being sold off by oligarchs? Why is
the state selling off gas, crude oil, and electricity from
the power plants, which were built by the hands of the Soviet
people? Why is some [Gazprom head Rem] Vyakhirev doing
business with my gas? Where is your democracy?
Translated by Victor Gomez.
Part 2 will appear in "RFE/RL Newsline" tomorrow
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