Russian emigres here firmly behind Yeltsin

For a small group of Russian emigres gathered in a Park Heights apartment, the question wasn't whether Boris N. Yeltsin was right to dissolve parliament and crush the opposition to his reform movement.

"Yeltsin's mistake was he should have done it sooner," said Mikhail Zeltserr, 69.


The immigrants, who had no particular group affiliation other than being neighbors in the city's Russian emigre community, had watched intently as political differences in their homeland led to fighting and bloodshed.

They all supported Mr. Yeltsin, although several criticized him for not having a well-formed economic plan. And they agreed that there are uncertain times ahead for Russia.


"He did the right thing," said Yuri Borin, 70, a journalist who came to the United States in March. "He was right to disband parliament, and he was right to crush them."

Maya May, who taught English at a medical school in Kharkov in the Ukraine, translated for the Russians who were interviewed Tuesday in Ms. May's apartment. She has been in the United States for four years.

"Yeltsin made a lot of mistakes," she said.

"He didn't have a real economic plan and prices went out of sight, but it was difficult for him to straighten things out because parliament opposed him on everything."

Said Dr. Yakov Gendin, 62, a psychiatrist who emigrated from Moscow 1 1/2 years ago, "Russia is a very, very long way from democracy. There will be more blood ahead. President Clinton was quite right in backing Yeltsin. Yeltsin's reforms can be realized if he gets enough moral and financial support from the West. But the United States should be very cautious about giving money. It should get in the right hands for the right purposes."

"Many people in Russia want to fight the United States, but many also remember the help the Americans gave us in World War II," Dr. Gendin said. "America has an image with crime and the homeless, but the word is getting around even in Russia that it is a great country."

Mr. Borin said that Mr. Yeltsin can't survive without the West.

"I don't think he will become arrogant with this victory," he said. "If he drops the reforms and destroys the democratic movement, the West won't put up with a dictator and will withdraw its support."


Said Mr. Zeltserr, a native of the Ukraine, "America must not forget there is great danger if these [parliament] people and their kind ever get control. They would be enemies of the United States, and they would not be responsible about the use of nuclear power."

David Kopeliovich, 24, left his native St. Petersburg three years ago to live in Israel, and is now visiting relatives here.

"Parliament leaders accuse Yeltsin of violating the constitution by disbanding their organization," he said, "but so, he had to use an undemocratic method in order to defend democracy. The only difference between the communists and fascists in Russia is they use different slogans."