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RUSSIANS EVACUATED FROM GEORGIA. Russian charge d'affaires to Georgia Ivan Volynkin told Interfax on October 6 that two airplanes belonging to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry will evacuate some 180 Russian citizens from Georgia the same day. Volynkin said that more Russians will be evacuated within the next few days. He added that the Russian Embassy has received more than 300 requests for assistance to return to Russia, and that some people have already returned via Kyiv, Yerevan, and Baku, Meanwhile, Volynkin said that most Russian officers in Georgia have been instructed to avoid leaving their military units, as "they do not have Georgian visas." FF
UKRAINIAN PREMIER, PRESIDENT URGE RESUMPTION OF COALITION TALKS. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said in Mykolayiv on October 5 that despite Our Ukraine's declared intention to withdraw its ministers from the government and join the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006), his Party of Regions insist on the need to create a broad coalition with the pro-presidential bloc, Ukrainian media reported. "I'm sure that we have not yet completed this process [of building a broader coalition] and that President [Viktor] Yushchenko, with whom we reached agreements, remains and will continue to be Our Ukraine's leader, and that the de facto representatives of Our Ukraine in the government are working in accordance with our agreements," Yanukovych said. In turn, President Yushchenko said in a press release later the same day that participants in the failed coalition talks "still have the chance to reach agreement on key issues." "I do not consider the negotiating process to be exhausted," Yushchenko stressed, adding that a potential agreement between Our Ukraine and the ruling coalition should be based on the declaration of national unity signed by Ukraine's major political forces in August. JM
POLL SAYS YANUKOVYCH IS UKRAINE'S MOST INFLUENTIAL POLITICIAN. According to a poll held in late September, 44 percent of respondents said Prime Minister Yanukovych is the most influential political figure in Ukraine, while 19 percent credited President Yushchenko with this position, Interfax-Ukraine reported on October 5. Three-fourths of respondents stated that Yanukovych and Yushchenko pursue policies that are at variance with each other, while just 13 percent said their policies are coordinated. The poll was conducted by the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies among 2,005 adult Ukrainians. JM
MONARCHIST NOSTALGIA REMAINS POWERFUL. The recent reburial of the remains of Maria Fyodorovna, the Danish princess who married the future Aleksandr III of Russia in 1866, is the latest episode in a long-standing effort to cultivate the idea of restoring the monarchy in Russia.
The idea gained currency under President Boris Yeltsin in 1997, when his close circle, alarmed by the Russian president's ailing health, started to think about a possible successor. Some of them turned their attention to the living descendents of the Romanov dynasty. That same year, renovation work began at the Kremlin to restore the coronation hall and the tsar's throne. In 1998, Yeltsin attended a state ceremony to bury the remains of the last Russian emperor, Nicolas II, and his family, who were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Interest, however, in the monarchy idea waned as Yeltsin's circle realized that no living Romanov, for various reasons, had a legitimate claim to the Russian throne and the project was abandoned.
But under Russian President Vladimir Putin interest in Russia's imperial and monarchical past grew legs once again. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicolas II and his family. Since that time, Russia has seen a boom in the number of monarchist organizations. Recent years have seen the release of hundreds of books and films about the monarchy.
At various times, politicians from across the political spectrum have endorsed constitutional monarchy for Russia, including the former Union of Rightist Forces co-Chairman Boris Nemtsov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko.
Many intellectuals and cultural icons have also jumped on the monarchy bandwagon. Two of Russia's most popular filmmakers, Nikita Mikhalkov and Stanislav Govorukhin, have paraded their monarchist colors. Stanislav Belkovsky, the founder of the National Strategy Institute, said in February 2005: "I believe that the restoration of the monarchy, either formally or informally, is the only choice for Russia, since it is the only way to restore the sanctity of the supreme power."
The amount of television coverage certainly suggests the Kremlin's involvement in -- or, at the least, tacit approval -- of monarchist revivalism. And the state's hand has been revealed in other places. In 2005, a book called "Project Russia," by unnamed authors, appeared on the website of a state-security veterans organization in St. Petersburg. The book argues that Russia was a monarchy for 1,000 years and, even after 1917, it became a republic only nominally.
The book harshly criticizes Western-style electoral systems and advocates the gradual revival of Russia's monarchy between 2008 and 2016. It suggests a new monarch could be chosen from among the country's prominent citizens. The author saw Putin's 2004 abolition of gubernatorial elections as a first step in this direction. The book suggests using the media -- movies, documentaries, talk shows, lectures, and newspapers -- to sell the monarchy to the Russian people.
According to Russian media reports, "Project Russia" originated as a series of lectures delivered to the cadets at the Federal Security Service (FSB) and military intelligence (GRU) academies. It was later published in a special edition for members of the presidential administration, the government, the army's General Staff, the Duma, top clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian business leaders.
Over the last 10 years, the number of Russians supporting monarchist ideas has risen threefold. A September poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) indicated that 19 percent of Russians agreed with restoring the monarchy, but only if an acceptable candidate can be found. Support is higher in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But only 6 percent of those who favor the monarchy wanted the future guardian of the realm to be a Romanov. The majority thought a monarch should be a prominent public figure chosen in a referendum. In this way, the poll reveals less the prevalence of monarchist ideas than a traditional Russian desire for strong leadership.
The idea of monarchy is intrinsically tied up with the notion of succession, which makes it of special interest to Russia's current political elite, for whom that issue is a perpetual problem. Many Putin supporters would relish the idea of an anointed successor rather than have to bother with a presidential election.
There is also an international dimension. Many monarchists believe that reviving the monarchy would bolster Russia's historical ties with Europe. And reviving the monarchy goes hand in hand with the rejection of the 1917 February and October revolutions in Russia. Because those revolutions paved the way for the independence of the Baltic states, Georgia, and Ukraine, among others, revanchists could use the opportunity to revive territorial claims on parts of the former Russian Empire.
But others worry that the monarchist fervor might not stop at mere territorial issues. One Russian humorist quipped recently that the "new Russians," surely the aristocrats of their age, "want to restore the monarchy only in order to restore serfdom." (Victor Yasmann)