Today we met Dr. Tetiana Stepankova, director of the Center for Advanced
Study, sometimes called the Center for Policy Studies; they havenít
quite settled on the name. The Center is funded by George Soros. It has
big ideas about leading the way to a market economy, doing the planning,
drafting legislation and checking on implementation. Also training
government servants and the parliament, and educating the public about
market economics. And carrying out administrative reform. These are big
ideas indeed; especially for a Center that occupies one room in the
Institute of Public Administration.
Bogdan Kravchenko stopped in for a few minutes. We later learned that is
all he spends with anybody, except maybe Kravchuk, the President. Heís
a fast talking, very confident Canadian with Ukrainian roots. He is
close to Soros as well as the President.
We were asked to begin the mission at this time in order to participate
in a conference on the Ukraine in transition, which begins tomorrow. It
is to be opened by the President, and feature cabinet ministers and such
foreign visitors as Jeffrey Sachs from Harvard, and Soros. Multi
luminaries. If all show up, it will be a feather in the Centerís cap.
Sideri, my partner on the mission, seems to complain a lot. He doesnít
like the food or the hotel, but I tell him that compared with Tashkent
we are in the lap of luxury.
26, 1994 Kharkov
This is more like it. After a week in Kiev, much of it taken up by an
international economic conference, I was ready for a change of pace. The
trip to Kharkov to visit a regional group was on again, off again.
Sideri couldnít stand the thought of two nights on a train, 11 hours
each way, so he wanted out. Then the Center decided to go by charter
plane, the regular flight being sold out, so Sideri was in again. Then
the charter flight was cancelled because too few people signed up, so he
We, Peter, a Canadian of Ukraine decent who
works part time at the Center, and I, left Kiev at 9:20 pm after a long
day. I had checked out of the hotel in the morning so I had dinner with
Sideri but no shower or change of clothes. After lugging computer, tote
bag and small briefcase through the crowded station and getting into a
tiny, stuffy compartment, I felt grubby. There was barely room for us to
sit on the bottom bunk. Bedding was provided, but the sheets were wet.
No towels. Not enough light to read by.
The train was fairly smooth, compared with the sleeping car we last had
in Egypt, but it was hard to get comfortable on top of the coarse wool
blanket I put over the wet sheets. It got cool enough so I had to
sandwich myself between layers of the blanket, which wasnít big enough
for the job. I was so grubby that I tried to lie so that my fingers
didnít stick to each other. There was no water in the car, and in the
toilet there was one cold tap but no paper or towels. Finally, at five
thirty in the morning I used my undershirt for a washrag and my shirt
for a towel and got decently clean.
The train arrived on time and we were met by the head of the Kharkov
group. Iíd met him at the conference in Kiev and wasnít sure about
him. He took us first to a hotel where we took a room just for the day
and then took off for a visit to a missile guidance factory. I
couldnít figure out what we were doing there because we are here to
evaluate the work and needs of the local research group, and neither
could the Director of Marketing, who received us in the Directorís
conference room. After a few preliminary remarks by either side,
however, we got a very interesting account of the ways in which this
plant, called Kartron, is dealing with the present situation. Kartron
produces the guidance systems that allow Russian space vehicles to dock
in space. They have 30,000 employees, and four years ago their entire
production was for military or space purposes. Now they are at 60% to
70% and the proportion is continually dropping.
They first diversified by building a control system for pipelines, after
a pipeline blew up in the Urals because of poor control systems. Then
they went into such things as car computers, electronically guided toys,
and medical technology. They are negotiating a joint venture with
Westinghouse, called Westron, which sounds close to fruition. On May 18
they sent a letter to Kiev requesting that they be privatized! This is
not the usual attitude of a state enterprise. Most of them are begging
for more subsidies, but this guy Bek says subsidies are bad for the
enterprise and for the economy. He had nothing good to say about the
Government. Kravchuk is an old party hack with no understanding of
economics, and the rest of them are no better. He said the US and the
World Bank ought to lean on the government to reform. Without changes in
legislation, he said, they canít make a profit even if they are
allowed to privatize. The tax system, the currency system, and the
banking system all need to change, but Kartron is obviously not waiting
for those things to happen.
Next we went to see Robishnikís research group. It turns out that he
heads a group of economists at a union of scientists, a non-university
organization that does not necessarily exist elsewhere. They are
professional researchers, working on contract research. Stepankova
simply chose from a menu of topics they are interested in working on and
signed a contract for it. She has agreed to a certain amount of research
over the year, and will decide upon topics one at a time. Itís a much
more professional group than I expected to find, although Iím in no
position to judge the quality of their work. They have three computers
in one small room, and one of their number is a computer programmer.
After that visit we went back to the hotel for a rather elaborate lunch,
which we had agreed to pay for. We were around fifteen people and we had
tomato and onion salad, a good soup, and chicken Kiev, my fourth or
fifth time around for that. I said that in America we called it chicken
Kiev, but maybe it was really chicken Kharkov. They assured me that even
in Kharkov they called it chicken Kiev. We had at least eight bottles of
wine with the meal, two champagnes of a local variety, two reds and four
whites. Toasts were always being made so the group got quite loquacious.
After lunch they gave me around 45 minutes for a shower and change of
clothes, then Robishnik came around for more discussions. He liked the
idea of research proposal workshops such as we held in the ADDR project,
and I think that will be a winner if we can find Russian or Ukrainian
speaking researchers. May need to tie in with some Poles who speak
We are on the train again tonight, but it is a much different train.
First class was full so we bought all four berths in second class. It is
a clean train with dry linen, a towel furnished, and even tea served. I
think Iíll even sleep tonight with luck.