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u7.J No. The Heritage Foundation 214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 546-4400 March 9,1989 c GORBACHEYS MOUNTING NATION- CRISIS INTRODUCTION The recent relaxation of police controls and restrictions on public dis course in the Soviet Union have coaxed into the open one of the most ex plosive problems facing Moscow: its fragile internal multinational empire.
The volatility of the situation is underscored by numerous expressions of nationalist sentiment. These include: the December 1986 riots in Alma-Ata Kazakhstan the 1987 and 1988 demonstrations by tens of thousands in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; the 1988 demonstrations of hundreds of thousands in the Armenian capital of Erevan; the February 1988 riots in Sumgait (Azerbaijan the 1988 year-long strikes in the Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan; the 1988 demonstrations in Georgia, and the 1988 declaration of Estonian sovereignty by its Supreme Soviet (legisla ture).
The Soviet nationality problem predates the Soviet Union itself. It is rooted in centuries of Russian colonial expansion. The more than 100 non Russian nationalities of the USSR total nearly 150 million Soviet citizens and inhabit territories some of which are as large as France or Italy. They com prise half of the total population of the USSR and, according to even cautious demographic projections, will make the ethnic Russians a minority by the end of the century.
Articulating Nationalist Demands. Far from being solved comprehensive ly and finally, as the late Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev used to boast, the national question continues to be among the most intractable of the many deep problems facing the Kremlin. Five decades of Russification not withstanding, at least 40 percent of the non-Russian population does not speak Russian at all. But even fluency in Russian is no guarantee of al legiance to Moscow; as other multinational empires before it, the Kremlin is discovering that it is precisely the best educated, the most Russified elites that articulate nationalist demands and promote national self-awareness Note: Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.
Building on a New Foundation. One of the most disturbing develop ments from Moscows point of view has been the coalescence of the various national democratic movements. The fifth conference of the representatives of the national democratic movements from Estonia Latvia, Lithuania Belorussia, the Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia convened in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnus this January. Their Freedom Charter, adopted at the meet ing, declared that continued existence within the Soviet empire is unaccep table for the peoples that we represent. Another document issued by the conference states: The fact is obvious the system has collapsed. A new edifice must be built on a new foundation. We suqest that it be built on the foundation of democratic, non-violent principles.
The Soviet system itselE, rather than what Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gor bachev calls deformations in the Partys nationality policy, is beginning to be perceived by the non-Russian nationalities as an obstacle to a radical political and economic overhaul Thus, the struggle for ethnic rights inside the Soviet Union is turning into a struggle for greater autonomy from Mos cow and eventual secession from the Union. Visible until a few years ago only in the Baltic republics and Western Ukraine the areas with living memories of a noncommunist past this tendency has recently become pronounced in Armenia, Georgia, and even Kazakhstan Western Movements. Struggles for national independence around the world always have enjoyed active support of Americans. The desire for na tional self-determination of the Soviet peoples must not be an exception. In fact, the national liberation movements of the peoples of the internal Soviet empire especially warrant United States support. Unlike many current liberation movements, the majority of national liberation movements in the USSR are distinctly pro-Western and openly and unequivocally committed to the principles of democratic capitalism: private property, a multi-party politi cal system, respect for human rights and liberties. Proclaimed one of the placards carried by the Alma-Ata demonstrators in December 1986 America, support us Washington long has pressed the Kremlin on human rights of individuals.
Washington now should do so on behalf of the collective rights of ethnic com munities. The U.S. should Reiterate that the right of nations to national self-determination is an integral part of the Western human rights agenda to which overall progress in U.S.-Soviet relations is linked State that appropriate assistance to national liberation movements within the Soviet internal empire is consistent with the Reagan Doctrine of supporting anti-communist resistance around the world Design and articulate long-term and short-term policy objectives toward the Soviet internal empire. The formermay include, for example 2 I 1 Use the recent cessation of jamming of Radio Liberty to increase hours of broadcast in non-Russian languages 9 1 I eventual dissolution of the Sovieidomestic empire and establishment of inde pendent democratic nation-states; short-term goals could include helping spread nationalist democratic sentiment through both government and private means; pressing Moscow to allow greater autonomy to the national republics; and bypassing Moscow by establishing direct economic ties be tween the non-Russian republics and the West ment and supplies to the nationalist democratic activists in the USSR as per sonal computers, computer printers, ink, photocopying machines, and politi cal and religious literature Use the recent relaxation of Soviet customs controls to ship such equip 7 I I i i i I I I i t The Soviet domestic empire is a product of two centuries of relentless Czarist conquest.
This traditional policy of Russian imperialism has been con hued by the Kremlin. Interestingly, Joseph Stalins first post in the Soviet government was that of Peoples Commissar for Nationalities. During his quarter-century dictatorship the present Soviet nationality policy was institu tionalized.
Stalin dispensed with the last vestiges of autonomy for Soviet nationalities.
He designed and introduced the Soviet colonial practices. Among the most important and enduring of these is the obligatoly presence in the leadership of national republics of a Russian second party Secretary who controls per sonnel and serves as a link to Moscow.
Another Stalin technique, the troubling consequences of which have sur faced recently, was the deliberate fragmentation of ethnic groups through ar tificial administrative divisions. This was done to create minority enclaves de pendent on Moscow for protection. Typical is the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, the overwhelmingly Christian Armenian enclave inside Muslim Turkish Azerbaijan? In addition to Nagorno-Karabakh, in over two dozen locations administrative borders do not reflect the ethnic composition of the neighboring populations Thwarting Nationalist Challenges. The late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev allowed local communist elites to run the affairs of the their republics without much meddling from Moscow. This was in exchange for recognizing Moscows supreme policy-making role and guarding against the emergence of a genuine nationalist challenge to Moscow.
At the same time slow but steady Russification, officidy labelled inter M~~OJK~~SXII, continued unabated under the personal guidaqce of Soviet A L 3 Another. reason for giving Nagorno-Karabakh to the Muslim Azerbaijan &IS to carry favor &th Titkey j which Moscow courted in the early 1920s 3 chief ideologist Mikhail k Suslov and was accelerated toward the end of the 1970s In 1978, for example, a decree was passed requiring the study of the Russian language in elementary schools of all national republics NATIONALITY POLICY UNDER GORBACHEV I Until last year, Gorbachev demonstrated very little interest in what the offi cial Soviet media call the national question. Clearly, apemtmika (restruc turing of this aspect of Soviet system was low on his list of priorities. After 35 years of Communist Party work and almost four years in power, Gorbachev has yet to make a single speech or write an article on the subject of nationalities. He is the only Soviet leader in history not to do so colonial rule. In his speech to the 27thParty Congress in February.1986, the only one over which hehas presided as General Secretary, the nationalities issue was given short and routine treatment. In fact, Gorbachev assailed na tional exclusiveness, parasitic attitudes, and nationalism all code words for non-Russian national sentiments gress, is virtually void of laudatory rhetoric addressed to the non-Russian i nationalities in contrast to the previous 1961 Program. The document moreover, is terse and reserved with regard to the use of non-Russian lan guages but effusive on the subject of the study of Russian by non-Russians Gorbachevs policies in the national republics, in effect, have further ir ritated the nationalist feelings, particularly his anti-corruption drive and per sonnel cuts. The wholesale purge of party and government apparatus and its staffing with ethnic Russians threatens the limited home-rule to which na tional communist elites as well as the population in general, have become ac customed during the past two decades.
The likely abolition by Gorbachev of affirmative action (the system of preferential treatment for some non-Russian nationalities in admittance to in stitutions of higher education and job allocation is likely to create additional serious problems since it has been the children of the local Party and govern ment elites who profit from the program the most Postponing the Question. Gorbachevs inability to. reconcile his political and economic agenda with the aspirations of the non-Russian population of the empire is highlighted by the repeated postponement of the Communist Partys Central Committee meeting (Plenum) devoted to the national ques tion. Scheduled first for 1987, the Plenum was moved to spring 1988 and Y now to summer 1989 Gorbachev appears to lack sensitivity even to symbolic aspects of Moscows Irritating the Non-Russians. A new Party Program, adopted at that Con- i J I *I i d I I I i pr;iii:.J Ltiii y,,,j j; i. rt;cl I I a a 4 c SOVIET MUSLIMS: ISLAM AND NEW NATIONALISM Soviet Muslims are concentrated in the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan, and in 4 Azerbaijan. The Central Asians are Sunni Muslims, while the Azeris, like the Iranians, are Shiites. Having doubled their number to 50 million in the past 25 years: the Soviet Muslim population now is the fifth largest in the world, after Indonesia Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The most numerous of the Central Asian peoples, the Uzbeks, are 15 million strong and are the third largest ethnic group in the Soviet Union after the Russians and the Uk rainians.
Central Asia never felt at home under Russian control. Soviet Central Asia exhibits typical characteristics of colonialism: the region exports raw materials and imports most of its industrial products from European Russia.
Some 90 percent of all Soviet cotton is grown in Central Asia, while a mere 7 percent of Soviet textiles are produced there Green Flag of Islam. In recent years Moscow has had to contend with the intensification of Islamic sentiments as a result of the defeat of the Soviet in vasion of Afghanistan and the triumph of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran The rising Islamic awareness is not limited to the Central Asian republics, but has spread to the only Soviet Muslim republic outside the region Azer baijan, located in the Eastern Caucasus on the Turkish border. INestia, the central Soviet government newspaper, reported the appearance of the tradi tional Islamic green flag and a portrait of Irans Ayatollah Khomeini during the November 1988 mass demonstrations on the central square of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan! Many participants of recent demonstrations in Baku wore red headbands, an Iranian symbol of he holy martyr, that were worn by young soldiers going off to Iran-Iraqi front Like Iranians, the majority of Azerbajanis 70 percent to 75 percent are Shia Muslims Aggravating Moscows problems in Central Asia is a new nationalism.
The decades of affirmative action and home rule by local communists in Central Asia have created new party and government elites. Assertive, well educated, urban, and ambitious they are increasingly taking issue with Moscows rule. Though most of them observe Islamic rituals at births, wed Conquered by Czarist armies in the 19th centuxy: the peoples of the f7 4 According to the last Soviet census of 1979, the Central Asians rate of natural increase averaged 3.29 percent annually 5.4 times that of the ethnic Russians. While the Russians had 863 children per thousand women, the Turkmen had 1,809, the Kirghiz 1,885 and Kiuakhs 1,8 Donald W. Treagold, Nationalism in the USSR and Its Implications for the World, in Robert Conquest, ed 7?zc Lart Empie (Stanford, California Hoover Wtution Press, 1986 pp. 387-388 5 A few areas were given nominally independent status of Russian protectorates, like Bukhara and Khiva ruled by local khans. In the 1920s the Bolsheviks completed the conquest by fully incorporating these areas in the Union 6 R. Lynev, A. Stepovoy, Razgovor M plochshadi (A Conversation in the Square IzvestiO, November 28 1988 7 Radio Liberty Research 535/88 (December 5,1988 5zi I I ti a e dings, and burials, they are not necessarily devout Muslims and they speak fluentRussian. These educated, white-collar Central Asians are.used to com peting with ethnic Russians for jobs and promotions and want a bigger slice of the economic pie to be allocated to their republics.
Further exacerbating the situation in the region has been Gorbachevs anti-corruption drive aimed at the private entrepreneurs and the under ground economy and black market This illegal, but widespread, economic ac tivity has been a kind of social safety valve, tempering the extraordinarily shabby living conditions. Indeed, the Central Asian republics suffer from the lowest standard of living in the Soviet Union, the lowest social expenditures and vast unemployment and underemployment closing the underground economy safety valve, as Gorbachev seems to be determined to do, almost certainly will result in massive popular discontent poverty (abject even by the meager Soviet standards abysmal medical care Coupled with the purge of national cadres from the positions of leadership 6 I a I The three Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have known little independence in modem times. Sweden ruled Estonia and northern Lat via until 1721 when armies of Peter the Great defeated the Swedes and took these lands as prizes.lithuania and southern Latvia were taken by Catherine the Great in 1795 after Poland was partitioned. The Baltic nations enjoyed brief independence from 1918 to 1940, but then were forcibly incorporated in the Soviet Union as part of Moscows booty under the 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact.
The Baltic peoples are distinctly Western in character and outlook. Es tonians are ethnically and linguistically related to the Finns, the Latvian capi tal Riga was a major trading center of the Hanseatic League (a medieval economic and political union of free towns in Northern Germany), and the Catholic Lithuanians were once part of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. The Baltic peoples understandably always have measured their social and material progress by West European standards and not by those of the Rus sian heartland, which they consider backward and culturally inferior.
Proclaiming Sovereignty. Given free choice, the three Baltic republics al most certainly would secede from the Soviet Union. The Popular Fronts that have sprung up in all three republics in the past two years may call simply for national sovereignty, but surelysee this as the first step toward national liberation. The sovereignty being sought by the Popular Fronts includes the right of the republics to veto Moscow-imposed laws; making the native J -c 4 tongue the official language of the republic; and giving the republics, rather than the IJSSR, ownership of the land natural resources, industry, transporta Last fall, the Supreme: Soviet of Est&iaproclaimed the republics sovereignty. On February 15,1989 the Lithuanian Popular Front,calle I 3!K 2 4 tion, banks, farms and housing I C I Sajudis, adopted a political program calling for Lithuanias traditional status of neutrality in a European demilitarized zone, universally accepted human and civil freedoms, from which flows the general right of Lithuanias citizens independently to choose and develop their own forms of state existence.
The adoption of the program coincided with the peaceful demonstration in Vilnus by 200,000 Lithuanians on the day commemorating the countrys achieving independence from Russia in 1918.
Making Concessions. Initially Gorbachev attempted to suppress the Baltic national democratic movements. Throughout 1987, demonstrations were broken up by force, organizers harassed and expelled from the Soviet Union.
Beginning last year, however, Moscow has made significant concessions to the nationalist sentiment. Between June and November, First Secretaries in all three republics were removed and replaced with more pragmatic.and reform-oriented party bosses. The authorities did not interfere with mass demonstrations commemorating 49th anniversary of the Secret Protocols to the 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact, which gave Moscow the green light to occupy the Baltic republics. All three republics declared their indigenous languages offi~ r cial in 1988 and pre-1940 national flags have replaced the Moscow- designed by the state in 1950, was returned to the worshippers and the first mass was televised. Native language media in the Baltic republics now are the freest in the Soviet Union. And Lithuania has decided to compensate those arrested and deported from 1940 to 1953, the first such action in Soviet history.
Several factors account for Moscows chkge of policy. In the Baltic republics, the population is relatively small: there are 3 million Lithuanians 1.5 million Latvians, and 1 million Estonians. The strong linguistic, social and cultural differences with the Russians make it unlikely that the freer climate of the Baltic states will spill over to the bordering Russian regions.
Following the Czarist tradition, Gorbachev seem inclined to make the Baltic territories a showcase of economic and social development and create a Soviet equivalent of the Chinas special economic zones there. red ones as the republics official banners. The Vilnus Cathedral, confiscated -I The next test of Gorbachevs Baltic strategy is likely to be this spring during elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In all three republics, repre sentatives of the Popular Fronts may outpoll the official candidates. If Mos cow pennits this, what in essence would be apolitical coup may be inevitable in the fall, when delegatesdo the local Soviets are to be elected. At that time the Popular Fronts may-vkimajorities in the Soviets and transform them from rubberistamp assemblieshto instruments of popular will I i ,r rj t i 4 L a L I. if a f.i i I L JK A I I I I I r L e i C I i: 5 j.3 r y were genuinely loyal to Moscow, which had protected them from Turkey This Armenian loyalty, however, has largely unravelled I t.4 r Following mass demonstrations and strikes in the Armenian capital of Erevan early in the year, the local Soviet of the Nagorno-Karabakh region the predominantly Christian Armenian enclave within Muslim Azerbaijan last July 12 voted to join Armenia the first legislative act of this kind in Soviet history. Moscow's inability or unwillingness to restrain its response to the non-violent and orderly Armenian protest has disillusioned the Ar menians. Frustration and anti-soviet sentiment have grown throughout the republic. Last September 4, before a crowd of 100,OOO in the central Opera Square in Erevan, the Karabakh Committee members, who are now con sidered by most Armenians asitheir. defacto leaders, proclaimed the creation of Armenian National Movement. Its central goal is a national referendum on secession from the Soviet U.nion Responding with Trhps an'd-Tanks. The Armenian events are &haps the best illustration of how flimsy and easily reversible the policy of glaSirost is.
When on July 12,1988,Jhe Karabakh Soviet voted to secede from Azer baijan, Moscow immediately declared the vote illegal. A leader of Armenian democratic nationalists, Paruir-.Hairikian, was seized and expelled from the Soviet Union without trial. Troops were deployed in Erevan, where there had been no acts of violence; all demonstration was prohibited. The members of the Karabakh Committee were.-mested, transferred to Moscow, and remain From the very beginning Moscow3 target was the suppression of the strict jailed there J .I ly non-violent mass democratic movement. Armenian acti~sts point to the speed and efficiency with which tanksand paratroopers were deployed in Erevan, where no violence had occurred. By contrast, the authorities waited for two days before interfering with the bloody antiArmenian rioting in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait?
Failing the Litmus Test. The military forces deployed in Erevak said the leading Soviet dissideut Sergei Grigoryants, were there not to rotect Ar menians but "for the defense of the interests of the empire."l0PThe opinion in Moscow dissident circles is that "Gorbachev has invaded Armeha the way Brezhnev did Czecho- slovakia" The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, said the Soviet human rights leader Andrei-D. Sakharov has been a litmus test for Gorbachev's:ethnic policy. Unfortunately, it has revealed the very .worst fea ture of his approach40 this matter,aamely a fear of grass-roots move ments.w1l 8 I 772 I r I THE UKRAINE: A COMING EXPLOSION 2 Wi''a~temtory.&e&e of France:imd a population of 50 on the Uk raine if independent would be among Europe's largest nations. In 1654 the Ukrainian Cossacks pledged allegiance to Moscow in exchange for help in fighting the Polish kings. An autonomous Cossack state sunrived until the second half of the.eighteen century, when Catherine the Great completed in corporation of the:Ukraine.into the Russian empire by acquiring Eastern 1. rShort-Lived Independence SKortly after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution e: Ukrainim National Republic was declared and, in December 1917, Mos cow ;recognized its independence Almost immediately, however, Moscow reversed itself and dispatched troods to regh the Ukraine. Battles raged on and off for three years, and by. the qnd of,l!QO an independent,ZJkraine For niarly a' decade, the W≠ :enjoyed &e relatively broad cultural autonomy from Moscow. This came 'to an ibrupt halt in the late 192Os, with a aMoscow-directed unabashed Russificationand an assault on the Ukrainian ilational identity Shortly after that$tm'estimated six million Ukrainians died in the 1932-1933 forced collectidtion of agricu1ture:Some experts see the special brutality of the collectivization canipaign in the Ukraine as a deliberate measure to crush Ukrainian nationalism i. Moscow, indeed; system~ti~ally~as'.tried;to suppress Ukrainian national corisciousness..Yet an a6tive and popular underground nationalist 'movement sprbg up in tlie' ealy 1960s:protesting Rubsification and demanding greater d-d and pditical.autonomy from Moscow. To a certain extent, nationalist sentiment was-cautiously encouraged.by the then Ukrainian Communist leader Petr Shelest who advocated preservation of the Ukrainian language and.culture..Shelest's remoyal from the post of the First Secretary of the Uk ra'inian Commiunist Party by I3rezhnev.h 1972 as .a "national deviationist" and his replaeement by Vladi~r ,Shcherbipky, an orthodox and zealous promoter .of hjIoscow's policies,lmarktid the be
.~ng of ,another I frontal at I i i-.:Shcherbitsky's Iron FistiT.:G a group; the:Ukrai.nian.natiionalist dissidents have' been repressed :more'bnitally than anyother "anti-Soviet elements."
Their: prison tek-have bei?n:l;onger;and; prisonxonclitiogs worse.than for other nationalists The iron fist of Shcherbitsky, as well as the vastness of the Ukranian ter ritory and the size and ethnic heterogeneity of its population, have prevented nationalists from taking advantage of Gorbachev's policies of gfmm' and pemstroih with c 7 the Poland I I'i! eked to' ex d ti a. tack'Ukrainian nationalismy 1 _I ctiveness that characterized the national democraoc Lmoveme liib ii d r:~f z: ,i;7 1 ti i.u IL I-::Y f:i j I# if fi i.ina,s&eifie ni o'~.and ipop&t,ionia&well, ascthe*itd ro~e l i played by its agriculture and industry .id the r~,no~y~~.m~re~~e~~se~ ip .:J I 1 4 7 i it 1.;2 apart from other Union republics. Like previous Soviet leaders, Gorbachev is I reluctant to ease the repression in the Ukraine. For this reason, apparently ii# BrezhIie~~ap~ohee.stil1 heading a republic;GorbaChe\\r se,em to have conc~uded;that:an-Ukraine.~~out~e is~by.filr:prefe~able to an Uk iesweptby nationalist turin-oiLDuring a.recent ,tour ,oP:-the;&Jk%ne, Gor 7jachkv-fold Oup of c6al &er You. canonly imagine .whai.would hap penifthere were:disoideriir the;Ukraine. Fmfone .million p,eople ,live here.
The:whole fabrbofthe Sokiet,Union .would:be a&ss c Promoting I .i. Pemtnjih Nevertheless, the fedgnt was formed last sprinkin theWniveriity of Kiev the:Ukrainian,capital. Con- sisting oflstudents, yoqg workers vd. btellemals, its goals .we to expand and ree
e. principles of democracy and g&m elire I the p. national culture, spread andpopul&ze,.ihe w.$qihi~ language improvethe ecologi cal conditions in the Uk≠,[a&st] the re-birthof vkiiii&hnational con sdousnes and preserve.historMandCultural monuments. z 7 i I LastJune .a Demo&tic Froat, to Promote:Perestroika,modeiled on the ji~ti~;.Popdir Fioits:$e ~iii e~ in, L,~F
,of .democra.tiqtion&d national autonomywas unvejled;bythe ecuGve Co*ittee :of the Ukr&nian Hel si U~on,y-.a h~.iights.~~tchdog~oup~ The ,W&&q nationalists t grFatii autonomi fiom, Mbico~j+iro~e$il pibteciion measures r like -adequate cleanup_Gf radio
zation of the banned Ukrainian Catholic Church, and rnaki&Ukrainian the dfficid language of :the f&pubEcy i JL:!:i i 1 r 7 I I h born- bppon&t Shcherbitsky: i.n:power 1 the only remain u c P i iss~<_ia26_nginthe>
In negotiating scientific and cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union, the U.S. should insist on the inclusion of significant numbers of non-Russian rep resentatives in the Soviet exchange delegations. At the moment, the over whelming majority of the Soviet participants in U.S.-Soviet exchanges are Russian J All colonial empires eventually collapse. Their decline and fall usually begin at their peripheries. The Soviet internal empire exhibits all the signs of imminent collapse: worsening economic conditions, rapid diminution of al legiance to Moscow even in traditionally loyal areas, increasingly restive M tional populations disillusioned with the Soviet political and economic models, and a religious renaissance increasingly at odds with the Moscow-im posed state religion of Marxism and socialism.
Building A Record of Support. At no time in the 55 years of American offi cial. relations with the Soviet Union has Moscow faced such a mounting crisis from within. Washington must handle its response to the USSR's crisis with extraordinary care. It also must allow the issue of Soviet nationalities to play an increasingly prominent role in U.S. relations with Moscow internal empire begins dissolving, the U.S. have a long and solid record of being on the side of the oppressed peoples, not their colonial masters. The time to start building such a record is now Both moral imperatives and strategic interests require that when the Soviet Leon Aron, Ph.D. Salvatori Fellow in Soviet Studies 14 Shmrt Goldman Soviet Nationalities Problems Congressid Research Service, October 13,1988, pp. 75 76 12