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A Russian leader on porridge, czars, and real estate

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Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is considered a leading contender for the presidency in Russia's scheduled 2000 election, though he has not yet announced his candidacy. A Soviet apparatchik unbound, he has flamboyantly and brutishly helped define Russia's new brand of democratic capitalism. His style of machine politics and financial wheeling and dealing has changed the face - and tenor - of Moscow with elaborate real estate developments and an iron grip on who may or may not live or do business there.

Reelected to city hall in 1996 with nearly 90 percent of the vote, Mr. Luzkhov's challenge in the presidential elections will be how to extend his enormous local popularity beyond the glitter of the city limits to the far-flung, impoverished regions of Russia.

The Monitor's Moscow bureau chief, Judith Matloff, was granted a written interview with Luzkhov. Excerpts of that interview follow.

How did you get your reputation as a "man who gets things done"?

Moscow is quite successful, compared with the other Russian regions and the country as a whole. Why? There are many reasons.

First, there is the philosophy of the Moscow city government: Government should serve its citizens. Our main task is to create conditions so that every capable citizen can work, own property, raise and educate his children, and have proper leisure. The government must help those who can't feed themselves because of poor health or old age.

Second is our devotion to a market economy and free-market reform. We are sure that tremendous creative potential is connected with the market mechanism, but it has to be used skillfully.

Our strength is that we managed to insist on our reforms, which differed from those imposed on the country by such Russian monetarists as [former Yeltsin ministers Yegor] Gaidar and [Anatoly] Chubais.

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