.Moscow is a city like no other. This ancient city of has seen the rise and fall of empires. It has been the home of rulers and despots, a token of war and an envisioned destiny for many. Yet never has it seen the likes of the last decade. The center of power for the world’s largest country, Moscow is something of a powerful symbol, a center of power, and in its most simple form, a municipal city. Yet this is the great intangible mystique of Moscow. The physical city, and its leaders, are more than just leaders and she is more than just a city.
At the center of the daily management of Russia’s most important city is the Mayor of Moscow. Unlike what the West considers a mayor’s job, Moscow’s mayor goes far beyond just managing the city. He is not simply an elected municipal leader. He reports directly to the President of Russia. He is inherently virtually a Muscovite dictator and national political bear. And though Russia shrugged off Communism, it certainly hasn’t installed an established and lasting system, especially at the municipal level.
This has left the Mayor of Moscow with unprecedented power to do as he sees fit, especially as long as Moscow continues to experience prosperity untouched by the rest of the nation. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, no Russian icon has changed more than the city of Moscow. Though there is only one real dynamic figure to take this office, Yuri Luzhkov has truly been the spearhead in this change.
In order to better understand its unique politics, one must first understand Moscow’s basic setting. It is not only the capital of the nation of Russia, but also of the Moscow oblast (region). The oblast has a gubernatorial executive. In other oblasts, the regional governor is the power point. In Moscow, oblast and city, it is the mayor who maintains the greatest power.
The politics of this are far reaching, for example is the most recent election of the Moscow Oblast’s governor. In January of 2000, Acting President Putin supported Gennadiy Seleznyov, just to oppose Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s ally. Luzhkov’s candidate won. Going against personal wishes, but attuning to the political climate of Russia, Putin then desires to appoint Luzhkov as a deputy minister of new, powerful regional council.
As with all of Russia, the pivotal has been economics. Moscow’s Mayors Office has taken a more than active role in seeing prosperity in Moscow, if nowhere else. Luzhkov likes to refer to himself as a khoziaistvenik (business manager). He is visibly at ease discussing business plans and financial flows. Unlike most Russian managers, he has a good head for facts and figures. Even more unusual for a Russian, he neither smokes nor drinks. But he rules Moscow with an iron fist. In December of 98, he even imposed Christmas spirit by decree. “All stores and restaurants around the capital had to put p Christmas and New Year’s decorations.”
Luzhkov runs Moscow on a two-tier basis. Apart from the $8 billion official budget, there is an “unofficial” budget, where revenues from city-owned businesses and buildings get directed to construction of new apartment blocks, schools, shopping malls, stadiums and roads. Moscow officials put the size of this budget at about $4 billion. Most people think it’s a lot bigger than that.
Rival and presidential contender, General Alexander Lebed, describes the problem with this politics, “Russia has long been sick with symptoms of a dinosaur — a huge body and tiny head. By the time a signal from the head passes through the body and reaches the tail, it is already time to turn in the other direction.”
But Lebed, the sting of Moscow’s czar. During the 2000 campaign, Forbes magazine went to interview Lebed as his Moscow campaign headquarters near Teriyaki Gallery. The rooms were not only modest, but very bare and empty; just “cheap linoleum and fluorescent lighting.” Early in the interview, Lebed tells of Moscow’s hard-hitting politics, “Luzhkov is trying to evict us. The building has been declared an architectural monument and we’ve been told we have to go.”
Regardless, Moscow has become an oasis of prosperity in a ravaged nation. In 1996 Luzhkov was reelected mayor with 90% of the vote. Whereas rivals clash with mafia and special interests, Luzhkov coexists with them in the Russian capital; but he makes them cough up big money in return. In a recent interview, Mayor Luzhkov was asked why the city of Moscow has successfully retained so much control. “We say that privatization is necessary to create new owners who will manage the factories better than the old, but that is possible only if the factories are sold for real money, so the new owner has to work to make a return on his investment.”
The mayor’s office opinion is simple, “We have to have a flexible policy. If an enterprise is working well and improving itself, don’t touch it. Forget about how the new owner obtained it.” The Mayor’s office has demised a mafiaesque plan of doing this. Unlike the rest of Russia, Moscow is exempt to the privatization rules of Yeltsin’s government . The city still controls property and the sale of it. Thus, you can still buy property, but the mayor’s office decides how much it will cost you and where the proceeds will go.
As communism collapsed, Luzhkov simply grabbed many of the best Moscow enterprises and properties for the city government. He has assembled a great business empire with more than half the working population of Moscow directly — or indirectly — on the municipal payroll.6 The City of Moscow owns and operates two big auto plants, an oil company, several big construction firms, part of the local phone and electric utilities, a TV network, two fast food chains (including part of the local McDonald’s), dozens of food processing plants, several big hotels, and hundreds of shops and restaurants.
This economic plan doesn’t believe in price controls, but favors a highly interventionist government policy to spur Russia’s industrial revival. He wants to use the government’s position as monopoly supplier of electricity, gas, and rail transport to run those businesses — at a loss, if necessary — in order to bring down the basic costs of living and doing business. No free trader, he advocates tariffs to protect inefficient Russian industries as a means of spurring the generation of money.
Additionally, the Mayor’s office has gone out of its way to bring foreign capital into Moscow. The city has attracted $12 billion in direct investment and credits, the lion’s share of all such funds invested in Russia. The city is home to some 5,000 foreign companies and joint ventures. Moscow’s next, and most ambitious project is the new financial district, Siti, an 8 billion dollar project to be crowned by the 115 floor Russian Tower.
The greatest extortion involves taxes. Most of the biggest Russian companies are registered and pay their taxes in Moscow . Most of the money never leaves the city. Consider Gazprom, the gigantic natural gas utility. It pumps its gas from Western Siberia, pipes it across the length of European Russia and sells it in Germany, Italy and France. Gazprom pays its taxes in Moscow and there most of the money stays. 7
But the municipality of Moscow reaches far beyond the ring. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has steeped his national power especially deeply with the beginning of his own political party. “Russia Homeland” is a nationalistic party founded by Luzhkov, giving him a basis of national support and a much more far reaching platform. Yet Fatherland politics have been inflammatory. In an interview with Novye Ivestiya on 25 September, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov blasted the Moscow city government for its policies vis-a-vis non- Muscovites, saying that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov “is hunting down Caucasians, has turned Moscow into a screening camp, and is eliciting a chauvinistic wave in this multinational state.”
Titov, who is also head of the Voice of Russia bloc, which is aligned with Right Cause and New Force, said that Luzhkov’s policy “threatens the stability of Russia no less than terrorism.” Two days later, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who is a member of Our Home Is Russia, told ITAR-TASS that his region will “not allow civil rights to be infringed upon or people divided on an ethnic basis.” The governor added that he is planning to meet with members of the local Chechen diaspora to discuss their involvement in settling the North Caucasus conflict.
This has gone on to affect Moscow politics, with a greater concern over anti-Semitic relations and the influx of Russians to the prosperous city. Washington, DC, The Federal City, has faced immense change in its short 200 years. In modern times, Washington has been plagued with the nation’s highest murder rate, high poverty levels and poor education, Washington is still home to the US Federal Government. Behind the US Capitol is a slum.
Down the road from the White House is the nation’s crime capital. But it is still the center of American political power, the base of Congress, the Supreme Court, DOD, the President….the central nervous system of American government. But these are just guests in the city of Washington. The city itself, a non-state District has nonvoting representation in Congress and receives its budget from local taxes and federal monies.
The city has been plagued by its last mayor, Marion Berry. Following years of simply foolish remarks and policies, plus incidents regarding prostitutes and a cocaine habit, the city has turned to a new mayor. Anthony Williams, a young democrat, defeated Berry to become mayor in 1998. Williams sees DC’s greatest challenge is one of reinventing itself. Much like Rudolph Gullioni’s new New York, mayor Anthony Williams is reinventing a new Washington. This expansive plan is authored and enforced through the mayor’s office.
Mayor Williams asks the people of D.C. to come together and work together to improve the quality of life in the District for both its citizens and the local business community. The mission is simple: giving the citizens of DC the best city in America.9 What at first seems like political rhetoric actually has a multifaceted plan and vision of making Washington the city it wants to be.
In a TQM style, the mayors office has approached Washington’s problems in a wide to narrow scope approach. This begins with the Mayor’s Vision for Washington. This Vision, making Washington the ‘best’ city in America, has tiers of goals established by the Mayor’s Office:
- Strong schools, safe streets, clean communities, affordable housing, and reliable transportation;
- Access for all people to health care where our senior citizens and children at risk receive quality services;
- A wealth of social and cultural growth opportunities;
- Vibrant economies downtown and in the neighborhoods;
- True inclusion, a seat at the table for all;
- Taking advantage of the District’s truly unique assets-tourism that is second to none, unique partnerships with federal agencies, a strong regional economy that lacks only a vital urban center; and
- Empowering men, women, and children of all communities to solve problems together. Coming together, working together, succeeding together.
Regardless, there still seems to be a bubbling revolt in Washington. Williams noted that the only people in the U.S. denied voting representation are, “minors, convicted criminals and DC residents.” This stems from federal control of the federal city, equaling Congressional oversight of all spending, taxation, and use of funds. The people of DC are infuriated that Congress maintains this control while the residents of DC have no Congressional vote.
This has led to the city actually filing suit. There are two suits on the table. One challenges the Court to allow the District to become a state, or for its residents to become part of an existing state, such as Maryland. The other suite demands that Congress provide the DC representative with a vote in the House. Efforts from within Washington groups include giving DC two members in the House and two members in the Senate. An additional option, not officially supported, would be to remove Federal taxation from DC residents. They would still not have representation, but they wouldn’t be taxed, either.
The city and residents of Washington, DC are making their point on this issue known in a unique way. On the morning of November 4, 2000, thousands lined up outside the District’s DMV office to get the new, official plates for their vehicles. The old plates have been in use since 1997 and bear the slogan Celebrate and Discover. The new plates look the same, but the slogan across the bottom of the plate reads, Taxation Without Representation. Mayor Williams, Delegate Norton and several city officials were on hand November 4 with city vehicles being the first to sport the new plate.
Two capital cities. Two centers of world power….two worlds apart. Moscow and Washington are two very different cities with different leadership structures, especially with regards to municipal leadership. In Washington, the mayor is what the west would consider ‘just a mayor’, truly the political leader and manager of the city, but nothing like Moscow’s mayor. In Moscow, the mayor runs a near dictatorship, ruling almost every detail of the city.
By virtue of being the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov has been reserved a seat on the national stage. The formation of the Father Russia party only solidifies this to a national voice. The Mayor’s office not only dictates local taxes, but also makes official opinion on Chechnya, Yugoslavia, and international trade. This illustrates a key point about the city Moscow itself. Moscow, as Moscow is the center of Russia. The city represents a nearly mythical image in Russian life. It is Moscow that is the fulcrum of Russian culture, money, and power.
American would have no such of Washington. Granted, it is the federal center of American politics, Washington still owes its power to representatives from throughout the country. This is as opposed to a very concentrated, central power from Moscow that flows down to the citizenry as opposed up from the citizenry.
Both cities have had major economic and planning issues in the last decade. Their leadership has definitely taken different approaches. For Moscow, there has been a level of endorsed underground economics, filled with shady deals and understood corruption. But no ne wants this changed, especially as long as Moscow continues to prosper.
For Washington, autocratic leadership and results haven’t been so easy. Dealing with American norms of municipal leadership, processes have been slow and balanced. Whereas in the Muscovite world, Mayor Williams can not decree that there be Christmas spirit. He can of course do ribbon cuttings, tree lightings, and declare a festive day in Washington, but never proclaim that every street be lit and every tree be trimmed.
Marion Berry lead a downward spiral for Washington’s crime, education, and overall standard of living. Once reelected following the cocaine scandal, an aurora of incompetence again shined above DC. Finally, with the election of Anthony Williams, DC seems to have a definite vision and plan for moving towards this vision. Crime, pollution, and a decaying infrastructure have slowly headed to a Washington that has been selected as one of America’s best largest cities. These changes came about at an ‘American pace’, with the authorization of a city council, referendum, etc.
Changes in Moscow come about as Yuri Luzhkov pleases, with the wishes of the underground. With an extensive underground connection and a system of favors and patronage, the wheels of Moscow run like a mafia organization. Moscow has the same problems as Washington, such as a infrastructure, crime, and education. But Moscow has also had to deal with the collapse and establishment of an entirely new government and economic model.
When Luzhkov took the reins of Moscow, he entirely took control. Dealing directly with Yeltsin, he took control of companies and land, and the entire political machine. By doing so, his city retains control only known in the Soviet Union, but still alive in Moscow, the capitol of the ‘New Russia.’ There is no way, even with eminent domain, Washington DC’s municipal offices would imagine fiating control of property and businesses. Then Luzhkov makes a national stance as leader of his own party; no third party candidate could stand a reasonable chance of winning the mayor’s office in DC, let alone establishing their own party.
One of the greatest likeness/differences the executive officials of DC and Moscow deal with is the push/pull of the federal center and the regions. In Russia, Moscow boasts of its position on the hierarchy of national politics. Moscow is the center of Russian influence, and by commandeering businesses, and taxing regional businesses headquartered in Moscow, the city has set itself as different from the rest of Russia. Moscow is a city that is on top of the food chain. While most of Russia starves (and some parts of Moscow), Moscow taxes regional companies, keeping the money in Moscow, spending the money on roads and skyscrapers.
In Washington, the people are crying “taxation without representation”. There is a great fear in crowning Washington as a city above other cities. They don’t even have a voting voice in the chamber that oversees much of its funding. Rather than dealing with CEO’s and mafia bosses, the mayor’s office deals with a city council, Congressional oversight, and he continued reinvention of a plagued city.
In short, Washington, regardless of who lives there and what goes on, is still just a city. Moscow is a Russian Mecca; the home of all power and good things. It is one of the only jewels in a very tarnished Russian crown. Both Mayors know their positions, and both use their power accordingly. For Anthony Williams, it is the fight for better schools and an expanded Metro. For Yuri Luzhkov, it’s bulling President Yeltsin into exempting Moscow from major legislation, or condemning Allied bombing in Serbia. These truly are two different worlds, with two very different types of leaders with two very different jobs, regardless of their titles.