Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:00 pm

"Shock Therapy" -- With Emphasis on Shock
by Newsweek Staff
January 12, 1992 AT 7:00 PM

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Boris Yeltsin called it "shock therapy." For millions of Russians and their neighbors in other republics of the former Soviet Union, it meant a distinctly unhappy New Year. In Moscow's state stores, the price of bread quadrupled. The free-market price of sausage went up more than sixfold, and pork sold for 465 rubles a pound-more than the average wage for a month's work. Yeltsin's overnight price reform had Russians worrying about runaway inflation. "We used to go shopping with one 10-ruble note," said a worker named Yuri. "Now we need a suitcase full of them."

Yeltsin insists that things will have to get worse before they can get better. "The economy is sick," the Russian president said in a New Year's message. His cure was a sudden shift from the centrally planned economy to free-market mechanisms. Higher prices were intended to lure more goods into the shops, in the hope that prices would stabilize when supply and demand come into balance. "It will be hard, but the period will not be long," Yeltsin promised. "We are talking of six to eight months." With a painful winter ahead, it was by no means certain that Yeltsin would have that much time before the Russian people-and the military-lose patience. And thorough economic reform will take far longer than Yeltsin hopes. Meanwhile, sharply higher prices could prove to be more shock than therapy.


Exactly two years ago, Poland began shock therapy of its own, freeing prices and slashing government subsidies for most essentials. The gain was worth the pain. Although Poland has had to endure prolonged recession and widespread unemployment, its economy has begun to turn around. Shortages of consumer goods have been eliminated. Inflation has dropped sharply, from a rate of 1,266 percent in 1989 to 70 percent in 1991. Russia faces even stiffer challenges. "In no way can [Russian] living standards improve within a year," says Leszek Balcerowiez, who has just stepped down as Polish finance minister and has visited Moscow to advise Yeltsin. "You need years for that."

Yeltsin's price reforms seem to go just far enough to inflict pain on consumers without guaranteeing any long-term gain. In theory, individual state stores set their own prices, but so far most of their prices appear to be set by bureaucrats rather than market forces. And although most prices have been decontrolled, ceilings have been set for key commodities ranging from milk and bread to fuel oil and vodka.
The sharp price increases in Russia forced some of the other former Soviet republics to follow suit more quickly than they had planned.

Washington endorsed Yeltsin's program by urging that Russia and five other members of the new Commonwealth of Independent States be granted full membership in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which would enable them to apply for loans to ease the transition to a market economy. But some economists complained that price reform was not accompanied by other changes. Russia has only begun to privatize land and other state property, and the republic still does not even have a budget. Radical Russian economist Gregory Yavlinsky warns that, without the proper preparation, price reform may produce nothing more than a staggering increase in the cost of living.

Reform will come much harder in Russia than it did in countries like Poland. The republic is vastly larger, with a volatile ethnic mix that does not exist in Poland. Russia's chronically inefficient distribution system is crumbling rapidly. One neighbor to the south, Armenia, has increased its agricultural production by privatizing farmland. But the added produce cannot get to market in Russia because of inadequate rail transport.

The most tangible impediment to economic reform is the military-industrial complex, which in the past devoured as much as 30 percent of the gross national product. Yeltsin is moving toward a smaller, all-volunteer army. That is essential for the economy, but it remains to be seen whether he can pull it off. Millions of soldiers and defense workers will have to be retrained, factories will need retooling and the generals and plant managers will have to surrender most of their power.

Perhaps equally important, the mind-set of the Russian people is quite different from that of Poles or Hungarians. The Soviet system taught them to believe in a kind of egalitarianism that is suspicious of individual advancement. Profit is increasingly honored in Eastern Europe, but in Russia the middlemen who make money by bringing suppliers and consumers together are regarded as criminals.

Countries like Poland have had far more experience with free enterprise. Communism was forced on the Poles nearly 30 years after it was imposed on Russia, and the Polish economy was more advanced to begin with. Even under Communist rule, 80 percent of Polish farmland remained in private hands, while a few private businesses were allowed to operate. "We, after all, did have the private sector," says Stanislaw Ciosek, Poland's ambassador in Moscow. "But here, by and large, these people have not had that kind of historic school at all. They were transferred straight from feudalism into Lenin's or Stalin's system of government."

Turning his people into capitalists, and doing it in a hurry, may be a task that is beyond even the talents of Boris Yeltsin. If he fails, the outcome could be frightening. "The situation in this country and its capital is very much like that of 74 years ago," writes the Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "People queue for bread, the empire is falling apart, the number of small sovereign republics is mushrooming and armed citizens in exotic uniforms are marching through the streets and squares of former district centers under the multicolored banners of new independent states. " All this is so reminiscent of the civil war that began in 1918 that many Russians fear the past is fated to repeat itself. But whatever happens, a communist economy seems to have no place in anyone's future. Russia's only choice is to break sharply with the past-and hope for the best.
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:07 pm

Why half of Russians regret the 1991 August Coup
by Fred Weir
Christian Science Monitor
August 22, 2011

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"We woke up in a different country."

That's how many Russians still remember the morning after the defeat of an attempted coup by Soviet hardliners, which unfolded from Aug. 19 to 21, 1991. On that day the realization began to sink in that the sweeping democratic changes of five years of perestroika reforms under Mikhail Gorbachev had been secured and a world of dizzying new possibilities awaited the country.

"We had a lot of hopes, and we believed that everything was going to be totally different very soon," says Alexei Makarkin, who was one of a few thousand Muscovites who rushed to defend the White House, home of the freely elected Russian parliament, on the day the coup broke out.

"There was so much idealism then. We thought that, having crushed the coup, we could go on to change every aspect of our life for the better," says Mr. Makarkin, who is today deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, an independent Moscow think tank.

But disillusionment set in quickly, and popular regrets over the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union have remained surprisingly constant over the 20 years since the end of the coup. A poll released last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that just 27 percent of Russians now believe the country chose the right path of development in the wake of the coup. Forty-nine percent said Russia went in the wrong direction.

Post-Soviet economic hurricane

One reason for the lingering anger may be memories of the economic hurricane that swept over the country as President Boris Yeltsin, who became sole leader of Russia after Mr. Gorbachev resigned on Christmas Day, 1991, launched the country into a "shock therapy" program designed to rapidly erase the centrally planned Soviet economy and jump start a market system.

Prices on all but a few staple products were freed on Jan. 1, 1992, and the resulting tidal wave of hyperinflation wiped out peoples' savings and put the exciting, mainly imported new products flooding into Russian shops out of the reach of the majority. Even successful new businesses didn't look like positive examples, due to widespread criminal methods and reliance on criminal gangs to protect property and propel the business forward in Russia's wild new marketplace.

One of the many bitter jokes that proliferated during that first dreadful post-Soviet winter had one Russian asking another: What has Mr. Yeltsin accomplished in one year that our former Soviet leaders couldn't manage to do in 70? The answer: He's made Communism look good.

"In Soviet times there was a certain stability and predictability to life which vanished almost overnight," says Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center who worked as a parliamentary aide in the first years after the collapse of the USSR. "When this revolution happened it brought very radical changes in society and created a lost generation of people who couldn't adapt to the new possibilities."

Even today, he says, "the people who can count themselves as winners are still relatively few. Polls show that just about 10 percent of Russians look back on the outcome of the coup as a great victory, something to celebrate. But there are still too many who feel they lost out, that the right to be taken care of by the state was snatched away from them, and this accounts for the large numbers who still take a negative view of how things turned out."

During the decade of the 1990s Russia lost nearly 50 percent of its Soviet-era gross domestic product, and the few profitable sectors of the old Soviet economy were sold off in murky auctions to a handful of Kremlin-connected insiders who became known as "oligarchs". The country endured repeated economic shocks culminating in a 1998 financial crash that wiped out hundreds of banks, along with peoples' savings, and left the rouble with barely a fifth of its former buying power.


Democratic hiccups

But widespread cynicism among Russians about democracy isn't, perhaps, to be explained solely by economic pain. After two years of squabbling with Russia's legally elected parliament over the division of power, Yeltsin ordered the body to be dissolved in late 1993. When deputies refused and holed up in the White House – much as Yeltsin had done to defeat the hardline coup two years earlier – Yeltsin sent troops and tanks to storm the building, leaving scores dead and the White House in flames.

"After the 1991 coup Yeltsin had an unbelievable fund of trust from the people, but he managed to squander it in a very short period of time," says Alexander Krasnov, former chairman of Moscow's Krasnopresnensky District Council, and a staunch supporter of Yeltsin in 1991. "By 1993 I was so disgusted and fed up that I supported the parliament in their confrontation with the Kremlin. Now my attitude about 1991 is that, in defending Yeltsin and the White House in hopes that he stood for the things we did, we were all bitterly deceived."

After dispersing the parliament, Yeltsin re-wrote Russia's Constitution to vest the lion's share of power in the Kremlin and reduce the new legislature, the Duma, to little more than ornamental status. His successor, Vladimir Putin, was able to use that Constitution to restore many aspects of an authoritarian regime without changing a single word.

After his victory in the October confrontation, Yeltsin presented the country with a new draft constitution that gave the president near-dictatorial powers. Under the proposed constitution, the Supreme Soviet would be replaced with a smaller body, the State Duma, which would have virtually no control over the executive branch. The president would have the power to appoint without interference all ministers except the prime minister, who would have to be confirmed by the Duma. If the Duma rejected three of his candidates for prime minister, the president would be able to dissolve the Duma. The president would have control over the budget and appoint the director of the Central Bank and the justices of the Constitutional Court. Removing the president would require a two-thirds majority of the parliament as well as approval by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Laws would be passed by the Duma, but they could be vetoed by the president, and the veto could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of the Duma, a near impossibility in a parliament expected to contain numerous factions.

The draft constitution was put to a vote simultaneously with elections to the new parliament on December 12, 1993, only a month after the publication of the text. In the referendum, 54.4 percent of eligible voters were said to have participated, with 58.4 percent voting for and 41.6 percent against the new constitution. [44] The constitution was thus supported by about 30 percent of the electorate. Technically this was enough: Yeltsin had established a rule whereby only 25 percent of eligible voters had to vote yes for the constitution to become law. [45] There were immediate suspicions, however, that the approval was fraudulent. Particular concern was focused on the appearance of nearly nine million unexplained ballots. [46] An independent analysis by Alexander Sobyanin of the pro-government Russia’s Choice Party showed that only 46.1 percent of the electorate had voted, not the 54.4 percent the government claimed, in which case the turnout was 3.9 percent short of the required minimum. The presidential team never explained the origin of the extra ballots and ignored all demands for an investigation. It is highly likely that the 1993 Constitution was never approved by the population. [47]

-- The Less You know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter


Life under Putin

The past decade under president and now prime minister Putin has seen a remarkable stabilizing of the economy, and improving living standards for most Russians. Mr. Putin tamed the "oligarchs" and drove them from politics, nationalized oil and gas companies, and paid off the country's huge Yeltsin-era foreign debts. But he also muzzled the media, curbed civil society, and undermined democratic elections.

It's perhaps the ultimate irony that the man shunted aside after the failed coup 20 years ago, Gorbachev, chose the anniversary last week to lash out at Putin for accomplishing some of the goals the coup plotters had aimed for.

"Putin and his team are for stability, but stability kills development and results in stagnation," Gorbachev said in an interview with the BBC on Friday. "The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it."

Still, many experts argue that today's Russia is a vastly changed place from the Soviet Union that slipped into history's dustbin in the wake of the August Coup.

"Regardless of all the ambivalent outcomes, I believe we managed to save Russian democracy," by defending the White House against the coup plotters back in 1991, says Mr. Makarkin.

"A lot of things followed from that, which have not been taken away. It may sound banal, but people today can travel freely abroad, read whatever they want, listen to the music they like, hold property, and enjoy a lot of things that would have been banned in the USSR," he says. "People today just don't understand that it all might have been otherwise."
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:16 pm

Russia: Go for an Alternative Economic Program
by Michel Chossudovsky
New York Times
April 1, 1993

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The constitutional deadlock in Russia is more than a personal clash between President Boris Yeltsin and Communist hardliners. The dramatic impoverishment of the population under economic "shock therapy" is the central issue. Many former Yeltsin supporters, including members of the moderate centrist coalition called Civic Union - which a few months earlier had advanced an "alternative economic program" - sided against Mr. Yeltsin's economic reforms.

Shock therapy was intended to stabilize the Russian economy and alleviate inflationary pressures. Yet consumer prices have increased since reforms began in January 1992 by more than 100 times as a result of the devaluation of the ruble and the deregulation of domestic prices.

Real earnings have declined by more than 80 percent, and billions of rubles of savings have been wiped out. Russians are bitter. "The government has stolen our money," they say. The minimum wage as of April is 4,500 rubles a month - less than $7. With consumer prices steadily rising, ruble salaries are barely sufficient. A winter coat costs the equivalent of nine months' pay.


But the worst is yet to come. The privatization program will have a devastating impact on employment; up to half of industrial plants could be driven into bankruptcy if the program proceeds as planned. Whole cities in the Urals and Siberia, part of the military-industrial complex and therefore dependent on state credits and procurements, could be closed.

And the plunge of the ruble has led to the pillage of natural resources: Oil, nonferrous metals, strategic raw materials and food staples are bought by Russian merchants in rubles and resold in hard currency to traders from the European Community.

This flow not only generates scarcities of raw materials, crippling to Russian industry, it promotes instability on world commodity markets. In turn, capital flight and money laundering are encouraged by the deregulation of the foreign exchange market and banking reforms. Western aid is unlikely to help reverse the massive outflow of resources.

The world community has tied its hopes to the Vancouver summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and President Yeltsin. But there are no grounds for optimism. The granting of Western aid appears to be conditional upon the continuation of shock therapy by the Russian government.

In the new version of this so-called therapy," presented last Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fyodorov, far more stringent economic measures are envisaged, including rises in interest rates and a further squeeze on credit to state enterprises.

Moreover, the Group of Seven aid package is to include tight monitoring of the reforms by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as policy backing and close collaboration with Mr. Fyodorov.
The deputy prime minister, meanwhile, has called for the firing of his main opponent, the moderate (pro-Civic Union) president of the central bank, Viktor Gerashchenko.

The G-7 should realize that Russia is not a Third World country. The measures being proposed will accelerate the collapse of the Russian economy. How can democracy be sustained when ordinary Russians earn less than $10 a month? Such economic medicine will kill the patient. We will see the collapse of health and education programs, hyperinflation, social strife, famine and economic fragmentation.

The global geopolitical and security risks are far-reaching. The continued adoption of this economic package spells disaster.

Shock treatment is an instrument of "Third Worldization." It precludes a stable and viable transition toward a national capitalist market economy owned and controlled by a Russian entrepreneurial class and supported as in other major capitalist countries by the economic and social policies of the state. G-7 policymakers should carefully assess the consequences of their actions.

An alternative economic program that reverses the slide of the ruble, improves the standard of living and provides minimal protection and safeguards to industry during this difficult transition ultimately constitutes the best guarantee of world peace and global security.


The writer is a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa and has written widely on international debt and macroeconomic reform. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Mon Aug 27, 2018 5:55 am

Chechnya profile - Timeline
by BBC News
January 17, 2018

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1858 - After decades of violent resistance, Chechnya is conquered by Russia following the defeat of Imam Shamil and his fighters, who had aimed to establish an Islamic state.

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Dzhokhar Dudayev proclaimed independence

1922 - Chechen autonomous region established; becomes the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1934.

1944 - Soviet dictator Stalin deports the entire Chechen and Ingush populations to Siberia and Central Asia, citing alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany. Many thousands die in the process.

1957 - Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev allows Chechens back to the Caucasus, restores the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Break-away bid blocked

1991 - Collapse of the Soviet Union. Communist leader Doku Zavgayev overthrown; Dzhokhar Dudayev wins a presidential poll and proclaims Chechnya independent of Russia.

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Before the storm: Russian troops prepare for an assault on Grozny which claims an estimated 100,000 lives

1992 - Chechnya adopts a constitution defining it as an independent, secular state governed by a president and parliament.

1994 December - Russian troops enter Chechnya to quash the independence movement. Up to 100,000 people - many of them civilians - are estimated killed in the 20-month war that follows.

1995 June - Chechen rebels seize hundreds of hostages at a hospital in Budennovsk, southern Russia. More than 100 are killed in the raid and in an unsuccessful Russian commando operation.

Dudayev killed

1996 April - Dzokhar Dudayev killed in a Russian missile attack; Zemlikhan Yandarbiyev succeeds him.

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Russian President Boris Yeltsin was determined to keep Chechnya within Russia

1996 August - Chechen rebels launch a successful attack on Grozny; Russian military leaders and Chechen rebels sign the Khasavyurt ceasefire accords, followed by an agreement on a Russian troop withdrawal in November.

1997 January - Russia recognises Aslan Maskhadov's government following his victory in Chechen presidential elections.

Uncertain peace

1997 May - Yeltsin and Maskhadov sign a formal peace treaty, but the issue of independence is not resolved.

1998 May - Valentin Vlasov, Russia's presidential representative in Chechnya, is kidnapped and held for six months.

1998 June - Amid growing lawlessness, Maskhadov imposes state of emergency.

1999 March - Moscow's top envoy to Chechnya, General Gennadiy Shpigun, is kidnapped from the airport in Grozny. His corpse is found in Chechnya in March 2000.

1999 January/February - Maskhadov announces that Islamic religious law will be phased in over three years.

1999 July/August - Chechen fighters clash with Russian troops on the Chechnya-Dagestan border; Chechen rebels carry out armed incursions into Dagestan in an attempt to create an Islamic state.Second war

1999 September - The authorities blame a series of apartment block bombings on Chechen rebels, and launch the second Chechen war.

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Russian troops returned for another crackdown in 2000

2000 February - Russian troops capture Grozny; much of the city is razed.

2000 May - President Putin declares direct rule from Moscow.

2000 June - Russia appoints separatist-turned-loyalist Akhmat Kadyrov head of its administration in Chechnya.

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Separatist leaders Shamil Basayev, left, and Aslan Maskhadov. Shamil Basayev, left, and Aslan Maskhadov

2002 October - Chechen rebels seize a Moscow theatre and hold about 800 people hostage. Most of the rebels and some 120 hostages are killed when Russian forces pump in narcotic gas and storm the building.

2003 March - A referendum approves a new constitution stipulating that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation.

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Akhmad Kadyrov, right, was Moscow's man in Chechnya. His son later also served as president

2003 October - Akhmat Kadyrov is elected president.

2004 May - President Kadyrov and many others are killed in a Grozny bomb blast, claimed by rebel warlord Shamil Basayev.

After Kadyrov

2004 September - Hundreds are killed or wounded - many of them children - in the Beslan school siege in North Ossetia, ordered by Shamil Basayev but denounced by Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov.

2004 October - Kremlin-backed former Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov is sworn in as president following August elections.

2005 February - Separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov calls a ceasefire and urges peace talks, but the the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership dismisses his overtures.

2005 March - Maskhadov dies in clash with Russian forces.

2005 May - Maskhadov's successor, Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev, signals end to policy of seeking peace talks with Moscow and decrees organisation of the Caucasus Front in apparent bid to widen conflict with Russia.

2005 October - Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev says he commanded a major assault in Nalchik, capital of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, that leaves dozens dead.

New parliament

2005 November - Tight security in place for regional parliamentary elections regarded by Moscow as important for normalisation but by separatist forces as a charade. More than 50% of the seats are won by Kremlin-backed United Russia.

2006 March - Ramzan Kadyrov - son of the late leader Akhmad Kadyrov - becomes prime minister after Sergey Abramov resigns.

2006 June - Separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev killed by government forces. He is succeeded by Doku Umarov.

2006 July - Warlord Shamil Basayev is killed in neighbouring Ingushetia.

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Anna Politkovskaya, a critic of Russia's war on Chechnya, was murdered

2007 February/March - Russia replaces President Alu Alkhanov with Ramzan Kadyrov.

'Normalisation'

2009 April - Russia declares the nearly decade-old operation against rebels to be over, a month after President Medvedev said life in the republic had "normalised to a large degree".

2009 July - Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who had been investigating alleged abuses by government-backed militias in Chechnya, is abducted and killed.

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Russian special forces remain on alert as separatists continue to be active

2010 April - Rebel leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for deadly suicide attacks on Moscow Metro in March.

2011 February - Doku Umarov claims responsibility for a deadly suicide attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport in January that left dozens dead. He says in a video posted online that the attack was a response to "Russian crimes in the Caucasus".

2014 March - Umarov is killed in a clash with Russian security forces, and is succeeded by Ali Abu Mohammed (Aliaskhab Kebekov) as leader of the Caucasus Emirate.

2015 February - Five Chechens, - one with ties to Kadyrov's security forces - are arrested over the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow.

2015 June - The Islamic State group accepts a pledge of allegiance by militants in Chechnya and Dagestan.

2015 August - Caucasus Emirate leader Abu Usman Gimrinsky (Magomed Suleymanov) is killed by Russian security forces - a fate met by his predecessor Kebekov in April.

2017 April - Gay rights activists in Russia say they are organising the evacuation of gay men facing persecution, torture and even death in Chechnya. Kadyrov denies the allegations, saying there are no gay people in Chechnya.

2017 December - The US says it has imposed financial sanctions on Kadyrov, accusing him of a systematic campaign of repression.
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:07 am

Failure to impeach Yeltsin draws mixed reaction
by Guy Chazan
UPI
March 28, 1993

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MOSCOW -- The failure to impeach Russian President Boris Yeltsin and unseat his archrival Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov got mixed reaction from deputies at Sunday's Congress of People's Deputies.

Close Yeltsin aide and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai called it a 'serious victory for the president,' although he did not rule out that there would be further attempts to unseat Yeltsin at future Congresses.

Yeltsin himself told thousands of his supporters gathered outside the Kremlin walls that the failure of the ouster had averted 'a Communist coup.'

But Khasbulatov immediately claimed victory for himself, interpreting the result as a small triumph for the legislature in its ongoing power struggle with the president over the issue of who rules Russia.

'The results of the vote show that all the conflicts between the president and the Supreme Soviet (Parliament) are not my fault,' he said in an interview with the news agency Interfax.

He said the deputies who voted against him 'were furious that I show an excessive desire to make concessions to the president.'

Hard-line lawmakers at the Soviet-era Congress engineered a vote to oust the Parliament speaker after he put forward a compromise proposal worked out Saturday night with Yeltsin to solve Russia's lingering constitutional crisis.

Deputies felt Khasbulatov had betrayed them by going behind their backs to do a deal with the president, and tried to oust them both in a secret ballot.

A Congress majority -- 617 members -- voted against Yeltsin, but that was 72 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him. With 339 voting against Khasbulatov and 558 for him, he easily cleared the 50-percent hurdle needed to survive the ouster attempt.

The anti-Yeltsin opposition welcomed the result, claiming they did not expect so many deputies to vote against the president. 'Six hundred votes is an acknowledgement of a profound crisis,' said nationalist Sergei Baburin.

'We did not even expect to get 600 votes, but our constitutional duty made us take this path to the very end,' he said. 'Deputies put the constitution above their personal sympathies and antipathies.'

The ouster attempt was deputies' response to Yeltsin's March 20 declaration of presidential rule, which was quickly ruled unconstitutional by Russia's top legal body, thus clearing the way to impeachment proceedings by Congress.

Russian government ministers seemed relieved by the result. The moderate prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, accompanied Yeltsin to a rally of his supporters after the vote in a strong show of government backing for the embattled president.

'If the Congress had impeached him, it would have been the kind of cataclysm that Russia cannot cope with right now,' said Information Minister Mikhail Fedotov. 'It would have put the crisis on a whole new, very dangerous level.'

He admitted he had expected fewer anti-Yeltsin votes and said the president would have to draw the necessary conclusions. 'He must in the future pay more attention to his relations with Parliament,' the minister said.

But Boris Nemtsov, governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, said the battles at Congress would merely prompt regional leaders to call for greater independence from a center too engrossed in its own power struggle to govern the country.

'The two branches of power have annihilated each other,' he said. 'They have self-destructed.'
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:13 am

Power Crisis Rocks Russia: Yeltsin Wins Vital Support Of Military
by James P. Gallagher and Howard Witt
Chicago Tribune
September 22, 1993

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MOSCOW — President Boris Yeltsin apparently won the support of key military and security officials after his stunning announcement Tuesday night that he was dissolving Parliament and calling new elections for Dec. 11-12.

But parliamentary leaders, who bitterly oppose the reformist Russian president and his market economic policies, immediately launched a frantic counterattack. Declaring that Yeltsin had forfeited his office, they swore in Vice President Alexander Rutskoi as the new acting head of state.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced that his government-including the crucial ministers of interior, security and defense-would continue taking orders from Yeltsin.


Moscow and the rest of the country greeted the president's latest assault on the legislature with apparent calm.

By day's end, Rutskoi could claim to be president only of some 130 legislators who witnessed his hastily arranged oath-taking inside Russia's barricaded Parliament building-called the White House-and of a few thousand noisy pro-Communist demonstrators who gathered in the cold outside.

That could change on Wednesday.

Yeltsin's nationally televised address, in which he asserted that the legislature was "in a state of political decomposition" and "had ceased to be an organ of rule by the people," was delivered at a time when much of Russia was asleep.

The first test of whether parliamentary leaders can mobilize significant opposition to Yeltsin will come Wednesday, when regional officials begin to make known which of the two presidents they will recognize.

Late Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov called on regional legislatures-many of them even more conservative than the fractious national parliament-to condemn Yeltsin and rally behind Rutskoi.

With Yeltsin seeming to be in firm control of the key levers of power in Moscow-at least for the moment-Parliament's best hope is that a number of key regions will turn their backs on him, raising the specter of civil unrest and perhaps giving him and his allies second thoughts.

It wouldn't be the first time that Yeltsin had backed away from what he termed a definitive confrontation with his legislative enemies. Twice in the last year, after declaring all-out war against Parliament, he eventually sought a compromise.

In five far eastern regions of Russia, where daylight arrives nine hours before it does in Moscow, officials declined Wednesday to immediately support Yeltsin. They said they would think about it.

Khasbulatov also appealed for a general strike of the nation's workers to drive Yeltsin from office.

But no more than 4,000 Yeltsin opponents, all of them communists and nationalists, gathered Tuesday night outside the famed White House where in August 1991 Yeltsin climbed atop a tank to rally national support for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and against a coup attempt by old-line Communists.

Tuesday night's crowd was a familiar one. Many had participated in dozens of similar anti-Yeltsin protests in the last year.

The only difference was that this time they started erecting barricades to protect the White House against a military assault that never materialized. Old women and young toughs alternately ripped up cobblestones and gathered rubble from a nearby construction site to pile in front of the building's parking lot.

The rest of Moscow seemed oblivious.

There was nothing unusual going on outside the Kremlin or in Red Square-only at the Russian Central Bank, where 35 truckloads of Interior Ministry troops from the elite Dzerzhinsky division had been deployed.

The lightly armed soldiers said they had been stationed there for four days as part of an anti-mafia crime sweep and that they had been given no special orders relating to Yeltsin's announcement.

Inside Parliament, deputies wasted no time in convening an emergency all-night session.

"We are talking about the beginning of a civil war now," said a breathless Ilya Konstantinov, leader of the ultra-nationalist National Salvation Front.

Rutskoi, a hero of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan who split with Yeltsin last spring, immediately seized the chair on the dais reserved for the president, then took an oath of office and swore to uphold the Soviet-era constitution that Yeltsin wants to replace with a democratic, Western-type model.

Khasbulatov, dressed in a black shirt and black suit, called the session "the most dramatic minutes of my life."

Soon afterward, Rutskoi retreated to his office-protected by two machine-gun-wielding bodyguards-and began to form a rump Cabinet. Among his first appointments was Viktor Barannikov to the post of security minister-a job Barannikov held under Yeltsin until he was dumped last month for alleged corruption.

Khasbulatov called an emergency session Wednesday of the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's supreme legislature. But he predicted that Yeltsin would attempt to keep Congress deputies from reaching Moscow by denying them seats on state-owned airlines and trains.

Under the constitution, only the Congress can impeach a Russian president, and a formal motion to oust Yeltsin undoubtedly would be the first item on the agenda if the Congress manages to convene.

Russia's constitutional court, which sided with Yeltsin's foes in earlier confrontations, ruled early Wednesday that the president could be impeached because he had violated the constitution. Specifically, the court said Yeltsin had violated a constitutional amendment passed by the Congress last December which specified that the president would forfeit his office the moment he tried to dissolve Parliament.

In his televised address, Yeltsin said the current cumbersome parliament would be replaced in the December elections by a two-chambered body that would more closely resemble Western legislatures.




Yeltsin said this action is necessary because the "fruitless, senseless and destructive" power struggle raging between him and the legislature since last autumn has caused "a decline in the authority of state power as a whole."

"I am sure all citizens of Russia are convinced it is impossible, in such conditions, not only to implement difficult reforms, but simply to maintain elementary order," he said.

"One must say bluntly-unless political confrontation in the power structures in Russia is brought to an end . . . the situation cannot be kept under control, and our state cannot be preserved, and peace in Russia cannot be preserved."


Citing last spring's national referendum, when a majority of voters supported him and his economic reforms, Yeltsin accused the lawmakers of flouting the will of the people in attempting constantly to undermine his policies and his powers.

Only after a new legislature is in place will there be a hope of coming to grips with the country's wrenching economic problems, including dangerously high inflation, Yeltsin said.

"All the efforts of the government to alleviate the economic situation run into a wall of blind misunderstanding" erected by Parliament, he added.

Yeltsin's decision to try one more time to get the upper hand over his enemies came at a time when the political momentum provided by the referendum victory was running out.

His prestige was undermined when he failed to follow through on two pivotal initiatives: the enactment of a new constitution and the creation of an alternative parliament made up of provincial leaders.

After his victory in the October confrontation, Yeltsin presented the country with a new draft constitution that gave the president near-dictatorial powers. Under the proposed constitution, the Supreme Soviet would be replaced with a smaller body, the State Duma, which would have virtually no control over the executive branch. The president would have the power to appoint without interference all ministers except the prime minister, who would have to be confirmed by the Duma. If the Duma rejected three of his candidates for prime minister, the president would be able to dissolve the Duma. The president would have control over the budget and appoint the director of the Central Bank and the justices of the Constitutional Court. Removing the president would require a two-thirds majority of the parliament as well as approval by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Laws would be passed by the Duma, but they could be vetoed by the president, and the veto could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of the Duma, a near impossibility in a parliament expected to contain numerous factions.

The draft constitution was put to a vote simultaneously with elections to the new parliament on December 12, 1993, only a month after the publication of the text. In the referendum, 54.4 percent of eligible voters were said to have participated, with 58.4 percent voting for and 41.6 percent against the new constitution. [44] The constitution was thus supported by about 30 percent of the electorate. Technically this was enough: Yeltsin had established a rule whereby only 25 percent of eligible voters had to vote yes for the constitution to become law. [45] There were immediate suspicions, however, that the approval was fraudulent. Particular concern was focused on the appearance of nearly nine million unexplained ballots. [46] An independent analysis by Alexander Sobyanin of the pro-government Russia’s Choice Party showed that only 46.1 percent of the electorate had voted, not the 54.4 percent the government claimed, in which case the turnout was 3.9 percent short of the required minimum. The presidential team never explained the origin of the extra ballots and ignored all demands for an investigation. It is highly likely that the 1993 Constitution was never approved by the population. [47]

-- The Less You know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter


The mercurial Yeltsin, who often shifts direction abruptly, sent conflicting signals about his intentions in recent weeks. Last month, he promised to resolve once and for all the power struggle between the executive and the legislature.

But last Saturday, after regional officials reacted coolly to the idea of sweeping the legislature aside, he suggested that elections be held next year both for president and a new legislature.
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

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Rebellious Provinces Use Threats To Force Yeltsin, Foes To Negotiate
by James P. Gallagher and Howard Witt
Chicago Tribune
October 01, 1993

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MOSCOW — Regional officials from across Russia threatened to choke off the federal government's economic lifeline Thursday, pushing President Boris Yeltsin and his enemies barricaded inside the parliament building to do something they had sworn to avoid-negotiate.

In a development reminiscent of the country's czarist past, when religious leaders helped resolve disputes among the nobility, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is to oversee peace talks between the two feuding sides at Moscow's most revered monastery on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin is dispatching eight top government officials to key Russian provinces in an effort to stamp out the brushfires of rebellion that could cost him his advantage in the Moscow showdown-and ignite a bitter schism between the center and the rest of the nation.

Representatives from 62 of Russia's 88 provinces met in Moscow Thursday and warned they would take "drastic economic and political measures," including withholding taxes, unless he ended the blockade of the blacked-out parliament building by Monday.

The regional leaders also laid plans for an emergency state council that would conduct presidential and legislative elections, draw up a new constitution for Russia and assume other powers now shared by the president and the obstructionist parliament.


Yeltsin aides immediately denounced the regional caucus, saying it had no legitimacy because most of those in attendance were leaders of local legislatures, who have close links to the Russian parliament. Regional governors, many appointed by Yeltsin, for the most part stayed away.

But by sending his high-powered emissaries, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, out to the hinterlands, Yeltsin signaled fear that he could lose the support of many governors as well.

In many provinces, governors and legislative heads have forged working alliances to deal with pressing local problems and win more control from Moscow over their own affairs. They also share a common disdain for the drawn-out power struggle in the capital, which has made it impossible to deal effectively with the country's economic collapse.

In addition, many governors agree with legislative leaders that Yeltsin's assault on parliament has put the country's fragile democracy at risk and could still spark widespread civil disruptions.

In another sign of regional disgust with events in Moscow, officials in the vast Siberian region threatened to interrupt crucial rail service between European Russia and the Far East unless took steps to reach accord with his parliamentary enemies.


Over the last year, as they schemed and fought to expand their power in Moscow, there has been very little that Yeltsin and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov have agreed on.

But the biggest exception has been their joint commitment to protect federal power from the persistent demands of regional officials for greater political and economic decentralization.

So it came as no surprise Thursday that the president and parliament chief moved toward the negotiating table after regional officials started talking about imposing their own solution on the crisis that would leave both Yeltsin and Khasbulatov with diminished stature.

Throughout the day, all sides tiptoed toward reconciliation.

First, Yeltsin offered to end the blockade of the parliament building, known as the White House, if its defenders handed over their weapons.

Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, whom parliament named acting head of state, answered that he was willing to collect the weapons in one place and let neutral parties monitor them.

But in return he demanded restoration of the heat, electricity, water and telephone lines to the parliament.
Later, representatives of the two sides reportedly reached a tentative agreement toward implementing these goals in the next 48 hours.

Yeltsin also met in the Kremlin with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, who cut short a trip to the United States to offer his services as a mediator.

A representative of the patriarch had already met with Khasbulatov and Rutskoi inside the parliament building Wednesday night.

Finally, it was announced that negotiators from both camps would meet with Alexy on Friday at the 15th Century Danilovsky Monastery in southwest Moscow, which serves as one of the patriarch's residences.

Yeltsin has given the more than 100 legislators holed up in the White House with their armed supporters until Monday to vacate the building.

Monday is also the deadline regional officials gave Yeltsin to end the blockade of the building, surrounded by hundreds of police and crack Interior Ministry troops equipped with armored personnel carriers and water cannons.


The decision to try for a compromise solution to the crisis came after days of insistence by all parties that they would never negotiate a settlement.

A compromise proposal put forward by many prominent Russians in recent days calls for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections. Parliament would be permitted to remain in existence until the voting, but its powers would be limited.

In a separate development in Washington, the United States agreed Thursday to formally defer $1.1 billion in Russian debt payments. The deferral represents America's share of $17 billion in debt payments that the U.S. and other Western countries agreed last April to delay.
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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

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Revolt in Moscow: How Yeltsin Turned the Tide, Hour by Hour
by Serge Schmemann
The New York Times
October 11, 1993

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As Russia's fate hung in the balance one week ago, President Boris N. Yeltsin's Government seemed almost paralyzed.

While bands of Communist and nationalist gunmen broke through to the Parliament building, the headquarters of President Yeltsin's foes, and battled for the state television center, the large force of special police around the building disintegrated, presidential aides were in disarray, the President dallied at his dacha and soldiers from elite units were out picking potatoes.

When the state television flickered off shortly after 7:30 P.M., exultant opposition leaders at the Parliament building, known as the White House, seemed convinced that the Government was buckling. The Speaker of the Parliament, Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, was talking about the mercy he would show to Mr. Yeltsin's lieutenants.

Momentum Shifts at TV Center

Then the tide changed. A small force of Government troops managed to fight off the attack on the Ostankino state television center. Losing their momentum, the anti-Yeltsin crowds retreated to the darkened Parliament building, while Mr. Yeltsin and his generals began preparing for the counterattack. After the first tank shell burst inside the building on the morning of Oct. 4, it was only a question of time.

But even before the shooting died down and the fires in the building were extinguished, the questions were raging. Why was the Government so ill prepared for a confrontation that had been building for two weeks? What happened at the television center? Why the delays in the Kremlin and at the Defense Ministry?

The Showdown Begins

Sept. 21 After months of political struggle and deadlock between the President and the Legislature, Mr. Yeltsin issues Decree No. 1400, suspending the Congress of People's Deputies and ordering elections for a new Parliament for Dec. 11-12. The army pledges "strict neutrality."

At midnight, the Parliament deposes Mr. Yeltsin and declares Vice President Aleksandr V. Rutskoi acting president. Their supporters set up barricades around the Parliament building. The Constitutional Court rules Mr. Yeltsin's decree unconstitutional.

Sept. 22 The Congress convenes without a quorum and names its own ministers of interior, defense and security. The Government's Ministers of Interior, Defense and Security pledge support for Mr. Yeltsin. Telephone lines at the Parliament building are cut.

Sept. 23 Mr. Yeltsin sets presidential elections for June 12, 1994. Gunmen attack the headquarters of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the organization of former Soviet republics. A policeman and a bystander are killed. Gunmen also mount an unsuccessful attack on headquarters of military intelligence.

Sept. 24 The Congress votes for simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections by March 1994, and this idea begins to gain support among centrist and regional leaders. At 10 P.M., electricity and hot water to the Parliament building are cut off.

Sept. 27 Mr. Yeltsin rejects simultaneous elections.

Sept. 28 The Interior Ministry seals off the building with concertina wire, trucks and thousands of troops, ordering defenders to surrender their arms.

Sept. 29 Police officers using nightsticks battle with several hundred protesters trying to breach the cordon. The Government sets a deadline of Oct. 4 for those inside the building to surrender their weapons and leave.

Sept. 30 The Russian Orthodox Church offers to mediate. Riot police officers and protesters clash again.

Oct. 1 An agreement to surrender arms, signed in the early morning by leaders of the Government and the Parliament, is rejected by opposition leaders in the building. The Interior Ministry says there are about 600 fighting men in the Parliament building, with 1,600 assault rifles, more than 2,000 pistols, 18 machine guns, 12 grenade launchers and perhaps a ground-to-air missile. (The existence of such an arsenal is never confirmed.)

Oct. 2 The first serious street violence breaks out. Several hundred demonstrators close off the Garden Ring Road by the Foreign Ministry, building barricades and pelting police with rocks and firebombs. Mr. Rutskoi issues an appeal to people to take to the streets: "Everyone rise up for the struggle against the dictatorship!"


The Battle Begins

Oct. 3 at 2 P.M. On a sunny autumn day, several thousand anti-Yeltsin protesters gather in October Square for a demonstration. Speakers denounce the Government and its economic reforms.

2:30 P.M. Acting on calls by Viktor I. Anpilov, head of the militantly Communist Working Moscow movement, demonstrators begin marching on the Parliament building, three miles away. They smash easily through several thin lines of police officers, ripping away their batons and shields.

The officers try to regroup at several points on the route, firing of tear gas and rubber bullets, but the crowd moves on, beating fallen officers, smashing trucks and buses and firing bursts from automatic weapons.

3:35 P.M. The crowd, rapidly swelling, breaks through the cordon at the building, using a commandeered truck as a battering ram. Government forces fall back. There is wild exultation at the Parliament building. Parliamentary deputies and their defenders are convinced that they have seized the initiative and that it is only a matter of time before Mr. Yeltsin is out.

The Kremlin is silent. Mr. Yeltsin is at his dacha. His chief of staff, Sergei A. Filatov, is still negotiating with Parliament leaders at the Danilov Monastery about a surrender of arms. A reporter inside the Kremlin, Sergei Parkhomenko, reports that the offices of the President are almost empty, "as on an ordinary weekend."

4 P.M. Mr. Yeltsin declares a state of emergency in Moscow. All public meetings and demonstrations are banned.

4:20 P.M. The Government's special police forces around the Parliament building begin to crumble and flee before the fury of the demonstrators, many dropping their shields and sticks in panic. Armored personnel carriers withdraw, but some are seized by the crowd. Automatic fire clatters; people are wounded and killed.


(The collapse of the security cordon, which included 5,000 police officers and units of the special Dzerzhinsky Regiment of the Interior Ministry, later becomes one of the mysteries of the day. Interior Minister Viktor F. Yerin says the troops were withdrawn just before the storming because there was no perceived need for them.)

4:35 P.M. Mr. Khasbulatov appears on the balcony of the Parliament building, but his words are lost in the din. Mr. Rutskoi comes out, and, bellowing into a microphone from behind shields held by bodyguards, urges the crowd to form regiments and seize the Mayor's offices and the television center, six miles north. Addressing Government forces ringing the building, he shouts, "You have only seconds to change sides and defect to the people!"

From the building, the crowd lurches toward the Mayor's office, a high-rise across the street where Government troops have been billeted. Automatic fire clatters repeatedly, and lines of police officers and workers are soon seen marching out under rebel guard.


An unidentified officer, quoted in Izvestia, says orders changed constantly in the last days: arm, disarm, send men here, send them there. The officer, who was on duty at the building, recalled: "When that drunk, drugged mob moved at the Mayor's office, suddenly there was an order: 'Don't shoot. Retreat from the object.' I understood that the leadership was simply waiting to see who'll win."

5 P.M. The Defense Ministry orders several elite units to Moscow. But they are shorthanded because 21,000 soldiers have been sent to help with the potato harvest, in part to convince skeptics that the Government was not planning to storm the building.

(Defense Minister Pavel S. Grachev subsequently says that the troops were to reach Moscow between 8 and 9 P.M., and that the timetable was met.)

Bands of cheering rebels, waving red Soviet flags and the czarist flags used by nationalists, are roaring toward the television station in commandeered buses, armored personnel carriers and trucks. Some carry arms. Thousands follow on foot. Interior Ministry units race them to the station and arrive just before the rebels.

5:45 P.M. The first groups of fighters from the Parliament building reach the Ostankino television station.

6 P.M. The rump Congress of People's Deputies convenes, and is told by Mr. Khasbulatov, "We need to take the Kremlin today, too."


6:10 P.M. A television broadcast shows Mr. Yeltsin arriving in the Kremlin by helicopter and walking slowly to his office. (Reports are circulated in subsequent days that he returned earlier, or that he never left.)

6:40 P.M. A reporter for Moscow News talks to Mr. Rutskoi in the Parliament building. "We will defend the Constitution to the last bullet," he says.

7 P.M. Hundreds of rebels and scores of onlookers and reporters are massed at the television complex, along with the most militant leaders from the Parliament building, including Albert M. Makashov, a former general; Mr. Anpilov of Working Moscow; Illya Konstantinov, head of the neo-fascist National Salvation Front, and Viktor P. Barannikov, former Minister of Security. Mr. Konstantinov declares television to be the "key to success."

Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov of Moscow makes a televised appeal: "In these anxious hours, we turn to you, Muscovites. Take a civic stand against the illegal activity of the provocateurs."

7:20 P.M. At the television station, Mr. Makashov warns defenders of one building at the broadcasting center that they have three minutes to surrender. When they refuse, a grenade is fired at the doors and a trucks rams through. A firefight breaks out, killing or wounding many. (The final toll will be 62 dead, about 400 wounded.)

7:38 P.M. One by one, the four television programs broadcast from the site go off the air.
(In subsequent days, a debate will erupt over why the television was not better defended, and who pulled the plug. By most accounts, Vyacheslav Bragin, director of state television, ordered the transmissions to be broken to prevent rebels from making any broadcasts.)

An announcer on the Moscow channel is concluding a report on the day's events, saying: "This has been a heavy day. It's hard to talk, because the conflict between Russians has reached its limits -- " The telecast breaks.

8 P.M. Broadcasts resume from another television center in Moscow. (Television officials later say they had the option of an even more secure center outside Moscow, which was built under Leonid I. Brezhnev to withstand any attack.) Tass reports that its Moscow headquarters are under attack, but its reports are not stopped.

Fighting continues at the Ostankino television site, and the first floor of one building is reported in rebel hands.

At the Parliament building, euphoria continues to reign. Mr. Khasbulatov tells deputies that Ostankino has been taken. But electricity is cut off, and deputies have no direct information. Only when a deputy turns on a portable radio, one of three inside the building, does the reality become known.

9 P.M. Yegor T. Gaidar, a former Prime Minister recently returned to the Government as a First Deputy Prime Minister, goes on the radio and appeals to all Muscovites who support Yeltsin to gather outside the Moscow City Council building on Tverskaya Street, near the Kremlin.


(In subsequent days, the broadcast will be widely discussed. There will be speculation that the army was wavering, and that Mr. Gaidar believed a pro-Yeltsin demonstration was crucial to convincing the military that there was not an anti-Yeltsin rout.)

(Deputy Premier Anatoly B. Chubais later tells Interfax that Mr. Gaidar made the appeal after the Ministry of Communications advised the Government that all communications centers had been seized by the opposition.)

Yeltsin supporters soon begin converging on the City Council and start to build barricades.

Television commentators note that Mr. Yeltsin has not personally appeared on radio or television. (In the aftermath, aides will say that the President had a speech prepared, but decided not to make it until Oct. 4.)

9:30 P.M. Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin meets with his ministers, and a task force to suppress the uprising is formed under Gen. Konstantin I. Kobets, Chief Inspector of the Russian Armed Forces.

Mr. Parkhomenko, the reporter inside the Kremlin, reports that the arrival of two of Mr. Yeltsin's closest advisers, Mikhail N. Poltoranin and Gennadi E. Burbulis, restores order to the President's staff.

9:50 P.M. Mr. Gaidar's appeal is repeated over television, and other officials also make televised appeals for calm and support.

10 P.M. Dozens of dead and wounded are being brought to the Sklifosovsky Institute in Moscow, and the hospital issues pleas for blood. Almost all the casualties are from the television site.

10:30 P.M. Interior Ministry troops gain control there, and many rebels return to the Parliament building.

10:40 P.M. About 30 armored personnel carriers and 40 trucks carrying soldiers of the 27th Brigade are reported on the Leninsky Prospekt moving toward the center. A convoy is also spotted moving toward the capital from Vladimir to the east.

10:51 P.M. Tass issues a bulletin, saying, "Tass freed by Interior special force, resumes work."

11 P.M. A meeting of senior commanders begins at the Ministry of Defense. According to some reports, Mr. Yeltsin attends; other reports indicate that the generals are split over the use of troops. General Grachev tells an Izvestia correspondent that storming the Parliament building posed no military difficulty, but that from the beginning he had been demanding political neutrality from his commanders.

11:45 P.M. Mr. Gaidar announces at a rally at the City Council that the Government is gaining the upper hand.

Midnight The Defense Ministry Collegium decides to storm the Parliament building, but not until daybreak to minimize casualties.


(The Izvestia correspondent later reports that at this moment the ministry lacked not only a plan for storming the building but also a map of the streets around the building.)

Inside, splits among the factions become apparent.

The Revolt Is Crushed

Oct. 4 at 2 A.M. The plan for storming the Parliament building is completed. The attack is set for 7 A.M. Thousands of Yeltsin supporters stay at the City Council. At the Parliament building, armed men stand guard outside, while most defenders and deputies heed the curfew ordered by Mr. Rutskoi and stay inside.

4:10 A.M. Mr. Rutskoi emerges and inspects the forces around the building from his Mercedes sedan.

5 A.M. In the Kremlin, Mr. Yeltsin signs a decree directing the Ministers of Interior, Security and Defense to create a joint task force for carrying out the state of emergency.

6:45 A.M. Army armored personnel carriers begin taking up positions around the Parliament building. One vehicle, moving toward the square in front of the building, fires extended bursts to scatter defenders.

7 A.M. The Government issues a final appeal to those inside the Parliament building to surrender: "This is your last chance, and the only possibility to save Russia and her citizens."

Shooting breaks out.
(General Grachev subsequently declares that no order was given to open fire, that it began only when armored personnel carriers commanded by the the building's defenders opened fire.)

8 A.M. The building echoes with gunfire. Reporters caught inside find Mr. Rutskoi agitated, shouting into his field telephone for bombers or for foreign diplomats to monitor his surrender.

Mr. Khasbulatov seems utterly distracted. Veronika Kutsyllo, a reporter for Kommersant, finds the Parliament Speaker calmly smoking his pipe during the attack. "I know Yeltsin a long time," Mr. Khasbulatov says, shrugging his shoulders, "but I never expected this of him."

9 A.M. Mr. Yeltsin makes a televised address to the nation, vowing, "The armed fascist putsch in Moscow will be crushed."

10 A.M. After another order to surrender goes unheeded, T-72 and T-80 tanks open fire from the Novoarbatsky Bridge, spanning the Moskva River in front of the Parliament building. Shells burst in Mr. Khasbulatov's office and in the building's command center on the 16th floor, setting fires.

11 A.M. Defenders in the building ask for a cease-fire to let women and children out. Armored personnel carriers form a corridor outside an entrance to the building, but no sooner than the people begin to leave, someone from inside resumes shooting.

11:30 A.M. Special troops from the Alpha Group, formerly a K.G.B. anti-terrorist group now under direct control of President Yeltsin, report that they control four floors. More than 20 rounds of tank fire have hit the building. Fires rage in the upper floors.

12:14 P.M. A cease-fire is called, and continues to 1 P.M.
(General Grachev later mentions three separate cease-fires, one for a half hour, one for an hour and one for two hours.)

2:30 P.M. Three men carrying white flags come out of the Parliament building. General Grachev arrives on the bridge leading to it and opens negotiations on surrender. At the same time, unarmed officers of the anti-terrorist Alpha Group meet with deputies inside and persuade them to leave.

3 P.M. The shooting at the Parliament building gives way to a battle of snipers. Isolated gunmen fire at troops and civilians from the top of buildings near the Parliament building. Several people are killed. (The shooting continues late into the night.)


3:35 P.M. Mr. Yeltsin imposes a curfew of 11 P.M. to 5 A.M. in Moscow.

4:50 P.M. People start leaving the Parliament building, some with their hands over their heads, and enter buses under guard.

6 P.M. The ministers of defense, interior and security appointed by the defiant lawmakers surrender.

6:05 P.M. Mr. Rutskoi and Mr. Khasbulatov march out and board buses that take them to Lefortovo Prison.

Some sniping and isolated clashes continue into the night, and die-hards remain in the building's basement. The top of the building is engulfed in flames. But the battle is over.
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Yeltsin Under Siege — The October 1993 Constitutional Crisis
by Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training
October, 2014

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For Russians, it was yet another dramatic confrontation which played out in the streets of Moscow, one which marked the growing frustration many people had with their elected President. The constitutional crisis of 1993 was a political stand-off between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament that was resolved by military force. The relations between the President and the Parliament had been deteriorating for some time.

The constitutional crisis reached a tipping point on September 21, 1993, when Yeltsin aimed to dissolve the country’s legislature (the Congress of People’s Deputies and its Supreme Soviet), although the president did not have the constitutional authority to do so. Yeltsin used the results of the referendum of April 1993 to justify his actions.

In response, the Parliament declared that the President’s decision was null and void, impeached Yeltsin and proclaimed Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy to be acting President. The situation deteriorated further on October 3, when demonstrators removed police cordons around the Parliament and took over the Mayor’s offices and tried to storm the Ostankino television center.

The army, which had initially declared its neutrality, under Yeltsin’s orders stormed the Supreme Soviet building in the early morning hours of October 4, and arrested the leaders of the resistance. The ten-day conflict became the deadliest single event of street fighting in Moscow’s history since the Revolutions of 1917. According to government estimates, 187 people were killed and 437 wounded, while estimates from non-governmental sources put the death toll at as high as 2,000.

Wayne Merry, who was assigned to Embassy Moscow during the crisis, discusses the nature and role of this crucial moment for post-Soviet Russia. He recounts his frustrations with the condescending tone of the Clinton Administration toward Russia, the shooting of an American Marine, the surprising lack of attention Washington paid to the crisis, and criticizes leadership in Washington for not understanding the lack of popular support for Yeltsin and reform. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in February 2010. Read also about the August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the fire at Embassy Moscow and when it was microwaved.

“Yeltsin was always a great fighter, but not a patient political in-fighter”

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MERRY: I was in Moscow, and my job was to inform Washington through reporting and talking to visitors from Washington, whether they be official visitors or journalists or anything else.…

My problem as head of Political/Internal was to communicate that Yeltsin was only part of a broader political dynamic in Russia, which was, curiously enough, still a democratic political dynamic. The legislature may have been a holdover from Soviet times, but it was an elected legislature, just as Yeltsin himself had been democratically elected.

This political dynamic reflected pluralism and the many conflicting interests within Russian society, often not committed to Yeltsin either as a leader or to his policies.

The new Clinton Administration engaged in unthinking, uncritical support for “Boris”—not even Yeltsin, it just became “good old Boris.” Washington wanted Russia to be democratic but for its leader to rule by decree. This was not, I thought, a very sophisticated or nuanced approach to dealing with a Russia that was going to have very serious internal political difficulties.
One thing I found curious and off-putting about the Clinton approach was this use of first names, to refer to the president of Russia by his first name.

In Russian terms you could refer to him as Boris Nikolayevich, which is perfectly respectable. You could refer to him as President Yeltsin or just as Yeltsin. But to refer to him just as “Boris,” and to do that quite openly and publicly, had a distinctly condescending quality. Clinton tended to condescend to Russia in ways Bush had not. The public speeches Clinton made in Moscow made me wince.

He also conveyed that people in Washington didn’t understand that Yeltsin was not Russia. The United States needed to maintain relationships with a broader spectrum of Russian political figures than just those associated with Yeltsin. I became increasingly concerned about this. Keep in mind that the new U.S. administration had many other things to deal with, so they tended to be reactive to events in Russia.…

At the start of the year, Yeltsin was in a depressive funk. Yeltsin as a personality was definitely manic-depressive and had occasional depressive periods, but he tended to come out of them with bouts of manic energy. This happened in the late winter when his opponents in the Supreme Soviet attempted to impeach him. This was an interesting concept. There isn’t even a word in Russian for “impeachment.” They used the English word and concept, impeachment, because such a thing had no precedent in Russian history. The notion that a chief of state could be removed from office through legal means obviously is not very Russian.

This standoff between president and parliament progressed into March and could very easily have become violent – indeed, I expected it would – but did not for two reasons. First, the opposition retreated in real fear from an open and direct confrontation with Yeltsin, which they knew they would lose. A vote to impeach the president failed; though it is impossible to say what would have happened had it passed.

Second, Yeltsin came up with an alternative. On television he proposed a national referendum on four questions. This referendum in April was about the direction of national policy and the authority of the president, and was pushed by the government under the slogan “Da, Da, Nyet, Da,” meaning they wanted people to vote “Yes, yes, no, yes” on the four questions. The idea behind the four-part referendum was to create public pressure and momentum for a constitutional convention, to rewrite the Russian Federation constitution from the relic of the Soviet period which was still the legal framework of the country.

This was, I thought, a brilliant stroke by Yeltsin. It avoided what might otherwise have been a very destructive confrontation; whether an effort at impeachment by the Supreme Soviet or direct rule by Yeltsin himself. It had the advantage of going back to the people, of transcending the existing constitutional structure through direct democracy in a national referendum. Initially, the scheme worked pretty well. The opposition was flustered and could not unite on a tactical response.

The government won the vote with sufficient majorities to achieve credibility for a constitutional drafting convention, which began in the early summer. Then, characteristically with Yeltsin after a fight, the momentum slowed and his leadership lost dynamism. Whenever Yeltsin was in an overt confrontation, whether in late 1992 or earlier in ’91, or later in ’93, or in this particular confrontation in February and March of 1993, when Yeltsin was in a battle, he was in his element. But in the follow-through — the detailed political effort required for a constitutional convention to create a new basic law and get it put into place — his attention wandered and the whole thing lost momentum in the summer. Yeltsin was always a great fighter, but not a patient and detailed political in-fighter.

“People didn’t know if their money was going to be worth anything”

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This concerned me because I had said to Washington, in my cable of November of the previous year that the underlying Russian political crisis would have to be resolved, either with the reformulation of constitutional structures by peaceful means or by violent confrontation. The dilemma could not go on for an extended period.

The dissipation of focus in the middle of ’93 was worrisome. It was compounded, at the end of the summer, by a terribly ill-advised currency reform, when the Russian government withdrew a massive amount of currency from circulation. This created public panic during the height of the summer vacation season, when people didn’t know if their money was going to be worth anything, if they could pay their holiday bills.

It was done in a way that conveyed to the Russian people that the officials who made policy were indifferent to the impact of their actions on everyday life for the people, that this was still a top-down, authoritarian state. This action stood in terrible contrast with the national referenda in the spring, which had said, “The people rule here.” In the late summer, the utterly heavy-handed and unnecessary currency reform showed people how little they really mattered.…

By the middle of 1993, Russians were beginning to feel they were over the worst that they were over the hump that things were beginning to improve, and people were beginning to see what you might call a light at the end of the tunnel. Then came these macroeconomic stabilization measures that just knocked the support out from under the basic livelihood of much of the urban, blue-collar labor force. In my view, this was unnecessary and certainly politically very foolish. Yeltsin was already looking toward another national referendum on a new constitution and to elections for a new legislature.

To manufacture a major deterioration in working class living standards in preparation for such elections showed the arrogance and political blindness of many of the so-called Westernizers and economic reformers.

I dwell on this because many people think the confrontation between Yeltsin and his parliamentary opposition in late September and early October was about personalities and came out of nowhere. Washington saw the confrontation as a morality play, of good guys versus bad guys. This is false.

The confrontation had a long and deep context. Yeltsin was always a controversial figure, even during his greatest days in 1991, but this confrontation involved a chain of events including the expiration of his emergency powers at the end of November ’92; his capitulation on large elements of policy to the Supreme Soviet in December of ’92; the replacement of much of his government; his decision, in February of ’93, to challenge the legislature again; the failed effort at impeachment that followed; the spring confrontation that resulted in the four-part national referendum; the constitutional drafting process and its loss of momentum; the currency reform, and the fiscal tightening measures.

These all created an environment in which the underlying dilemma of Russia’s constitutional structure came to a head in the second half of September of 1993.

“Violence could have been avoided, but the basic political confrontation could not”

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The world remembers the images on CNN of the violent confrontation in Moscow in early October, but that was the culmination, if you will, of something that had been in process for over a year, and had been more or less unavoidable for months. I think violence could have been avoided, but the basic political confrontation could not.

There was a lot of history — including personal history among the participants, of course — so that at the end of September, Yeltsin’s own vice president, Alexander Rutskoy, was on the other side of the barricade.

The parliamentary speaker, Ruslan Khasbulatov, was on the other side of the barricade. The head of the constitutional court, Zorkin, was on the other side of the barricade. People who had been working very diligently in the summer on constitutional revision, like Oleg Rumyantsev, ended up on the other side of the barricade. These had all been Yeltsin’s allies earlier.

The step which provoked the ultimate confrontation was Yeltsin’s. He became frustrated, impatient, fed-up with what he saw as the lack of progress on constitutional reform. After a series of political maneuvers, Yeltsin decided to prorogue the legislature. He lacked the legal authority to do so, but did it anyway. He went on television and dismissed the legislature with a call for new elections, plus the writing of a new constitution and a referendum on it, which in theory was what they were working toward anyway. But he decided, on September 21, to short-circuit a process he saw not going where he wanted or as quickly as he wanted.

To Yeltsin’s surprise, I am sure, the opposition, if I can use that broad term, decided to take a leaf from Boris Yeltsin’s own book from August 1991 by rallying their forces to the same place he had rallied his forces then, which was the Russian White House, the seat of the Russian Parliament. The Supreme Soviet voted to declare Yeltsin a traitor and Rutskoy as acting president.

Rutskoy, Khasbulatov and others, under the banner of constitutional legitimacy and legality, summoned everyone who was in opposition to what Yeltsin was trying to do. This included a very wide spectrum of people who ranged from the most ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, vicious people you could imagine to many of the most, I would say, liberal, progressive, pro-Western, democratizing individuals in the country.…

The ability of the opposition to rally large numbers of people to the Russian White House, with its important symbolism from August 1991, very much caught Yeltsin by surprise. The crowds around the White House in 1993 were not the youth of 1991, but they were more or less on the same scale.

He held off using riot police or troops, hoping his opponents would lose heart or lose face or at least seek a compromise with him. None of those things happened. The anti-Yeltsin forces remained steadfast and even grew in numbers and determination. They saw this moment as their opportunity either to reject the Western-oriented policy of the government or to establish genuine constitutional legitimacy, depending on their point of view. Compromise was not in the air. There was plenty of political rhetoric, none of it very productive, which extended from September 21 into early October….

“We were much less activist this time”

We were much less activist this time and certainly not seen as friends within the White House. Indeed, there came a point when even our normal contacts became difficult to maintain due to the general hostility we faced. The embassy was in a very insecure location because it faced directly toward the Russian White House with only the low compound wall for protection.

In contrast to August 1991, there were a lot of people in the crowd with guns of various kinds.…Our access to knowledgeable contacts during this Russian crisis was a fraction of what we had had in 1991, on both sides. The Kremlin was not saying very much, in part because they really did not know how things might develop. We had people covering the crowd outside the White House and talking with contacts inside, but this got to be dicey.

Talking to Americans was not popular in the White House, as it was clear the United States supported Yeltsin. The mood of the crowd sometimes was pretty ugly and potentially threatening toward embassy staff. At one point, I pulled some people back for their own safety. I often had little to report other than rumors, but that reflected the fact there was little real news from either side. The adversaries were talking past each other and both were trying to wait the other out. The Moscow public was sitting on the sidelines, just hoping for a peaceful outcome.

At the end of ten days, we were into the first weekend in October, and things at least appeared to be moving toward a resolution. Russian Patriarch [of the Orthodox Church] Alexy had been on a trip to the United States when the crisis occurred and had cut it short to return to Moscow. He then started mediating high-level political talks at the Danilov Monastery.

This mediation process was really the first ray of hope for a peaceful end of the crisis, as both sides were at least willing to take part given the prestige and stature of the patriarch. I had considerable respect for Alexy and knew that neither side would want to appear to rebuff his peacemaking efforts. So, it looked like things might yet sort out or at least remain calm during the mediation talks, but as there was little news emanating from the Danilov Monastery, there was little for the embassy or for me to do but wait….

The October 3 Riot

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We had gotten to the 3rd of October 1993, a very dramatic day in modern Russia. In fact, this was the one of the few events in the post-Soviet period in Russia that I think can legitimately qualify for that much-overused term, historic. This was the date when the country really faced a crunch point.…

This being a Sunday and a day when the confrontation was supposedly in abeyance because of the mediation effort, it looked to me to be a good day to go home and get some change of clothing and take care of a few personal things. It also happened to be my birthday. I thought, “I’ve been working 18 hours a day for the past 10 days; maybe I can take this Sunday off and go home.” Well, it didn’t work out that way.

My apartment was in a high-rise building which overlooked October Square, one of the main traffic interchanges in Moscow and also, at its center, site of the largest statue of Lenin in Moscow. Representatives of both sides were engaged in the mediation effort, while Yeltsin and other senior members of the government had decided to do what I did, which was to take this Sunday off, as they were mostly at their dachas.

With nobody in charge locally on either side, people on the street took events into their own hands. There was a demonstration scheduled for October Square in front of the Lenin statue to rally people opposed to Yeltsin. In principle, this should have been a normal peaceful manifestation of political opposition to the government, and it could have been.

The problem was two-fold: first, many of the people who showed up for this demonstration were in a very foul mood after 10 days of confrontation. Many of them had been camping out around the Russian White House for days, if not a week or more, and some were looking for a fight. Unfortunately, they got it because of the second factor. The Ministry of Interior behaved stupidly. Rather than let this demonstration take place and let people vent their anger, they decided to send in riot cops to break it up. What they sent were a bunch of young, inexperienced, semi-trained riot cops who really didn’t know what they were doing.

As it happened, my kitchen looked right down on the square and on the demonstration. I had a panoramic view of the collapse of peace. The riot police, instead of standing to the side to let the demonstration take place or keeping it where it wouldn’t interfere with traffic, closed in on it from all sides. They compressed the demonstrators, which was foolish beyond belief. They didn’t try to push them off in one direction. They actually pushed in from various directions.

A lot of the demonstrators were older people, and older Russians have fairly thin skins about being pushed by young people in the best of times. At some point, the compression caused a human explosion and the demonstrators surged out and just stormed right through the riot cops, who were mostly kids and didn’t know what they were doing. There was no effective leadership and the demonstrators trampled these symbols of government authority pretty much underfoot. Then it was, “Katie, bar the door.”

I had not the faintest notion that this relatively local event I had witnessed spelled the collapse of political peace in general. If I had, I would have returned to the embassy immediately, rather than just reporting what I had seen by phone. It did not occur to me that this event would spark others and lead to a loss of government control in much of the central part of the city, but that is just what happened.

The demonstration – now a full bore riot, in my view – started moving up the street, what’s called the Garden Ring, in groups to the area in front of Gorky Park, across a bridge over the Moscow River, and then on toward where they had come from, which was the Russian White House. On the way they engaged in increasing levels of violence, particularly when they got to the square in front of the Foreign Ministry.

By the time they got back to the Russian White House, and of course to the American Embassy, the police forces on the street had disintegrated, and, for the most part, simply fled for their own safety. There obviously was a lack of leadership and organization on the police side on this Sunday afternoon. Most of the senior people were at their dachas. Some of the Russian police who provided security at the entrances to our embassy actually had to take refuge inside to keep from getting beaten up by the crowds.

“Russian society is either strictly controlled or it’s anarchy”

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At this point much of central Moscow on this Sunday afternoon belonged to the opposition. It was really messy. It illustrated one of those things Russians are always telling you, that Russian society is either strictly controlled or it’s anarchy.

Russians, particularly elite Russians, often justify the authoritarian nature of Russian government on the argument that, without a strong hand, Russians will just descend into chaos.

In this instance, the analysis was valid. I saw it happen, though I do not assert this was uniquely Russian behavior. During the course of the afternoon any kind of organized government control disappeared. The demonstrators took over the part of the city centered on the Russian White House. They had most of the major streets in that district in their hands.

They decided to commandeer vehicles and go north to Ostankino, where the main television broadcast tower and production studios are located. There was a violent confrontation with police at Ostankino, but the government never lost control of the airwaves, which was very important. By that time, the government started to get its act together and sent forces to the television complex.

I reported to the embassy by phone what was happening – because my kitchen was a prime vantage point – and learned that things were much worse than I had thought. The embassy faced a real security problem, because the embassy complex, which included something like 155 residences of families with kids, was right in the middle of this urban battle zone.

The exterior perimeter wall had been deliberately built not very high so as not to be intimidating. It was only about eight feet high, or nine feet high at the most, and energetic, athletic demonstrators could get over that wall. If, as seemed almost certain, a large-scale battle between government forces and opposition forces was impending, the embassy would be right smack in the middle of it, much more so than in August 1991.

In 1991, nobody would target the Americans, whereas in 1993, most of the opposition forces regarded the United States as being deeply in bed with Yeltsin, as being Yeltsin’s principal foreign support.

The hostility towards the United States among some opposition figures was quite extreme. So there was a real chance the embassy could be in danger, or even physically overrun, which would not have been difficult.

Ambassador Pickering had previous experience with comparable situations—this was his seventh ambassadorship, and he had, in previous assignments, seen political violence on a large scale — and was in his element. He got everybody hunkered down. Everyone in the embassy not in essential duties was moved into the large underground gymnasium, which was the safest place in the compound. Nobody was allowed to be in their residences.…

We watched Russian television during the evening and into the night. The two defense attachés, who had a vehicle, knew where to look for the units with heavy weapons the government would bring into the city. They found them on the outskirts of Moscow camping down for the evening, bivouacking for the night. It was quite clear the government was not going to confront the opposition in a major way until daylight.…

The very worst moment of this period, for me, was when word came over our radio net that one of the Marines had been shot. We did not know how bad he was, but the fact one of our Marines was hurt sent a chill through me. I recall vividly the sick feeling I had at that moment. However, we had done our job, reporting that significant armed forces were on the outskirts of Moscow and would come in pretty much at first light.

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Once we had properly communicated to Ambassador Pickering and Washington, it seemed to me the rational thing to do was get some sleep. I tried to encourage all the members of the team to do the same. I couldn’t get them to go to bed because they were just glued to the television in these events.

For me, I decided it had been a long week and a half already and God knew what tomorrow would be like and the days after that. So, I went to one of the guest bedrooms and went to bed, went right to sleep. I suspect I may have been the only adult in the embassy who got a good sleep that night.

What woke me was the reverberation from the first 120-millimeter tank cannon round being fired into the upper floors of the Russian White House.…This was a long-barreled tank gun. In any case, the reverberation from a 120-millimeter tank gun, fired from almost two miles away, shook the windows of Spaso House [the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, at right]. That’s what woke me up. I found out what was going on, had enough sense to take a shower before I got dressed, knowing this was going to be a long day, and then we had little else to do than watch on television what the world was watching on CNN.

Remember, our job in Spaso was to be a reserve embassy, not to be out covering the events and reporting on them. Ambassador Pickering’s instructions about our role kept us in Spaso House, even though our inclinations were to be out on the streets. CNN’s cameras were on the other side of a major bridge on which the army’s tanks were deployed as they were firing at the Russian White House from the south.…

The world saw only a very limited part of what was going on. While the visual imagery of that day is of tanks firing into the upper floors of the Russian parliament building, the real fighting was out of sight of the cameras. There was a large-scale battle underway on the streets between government forces and opposition. This battle zone was fairly extensive, about two and a half miles wide and maybe a mile and a half deep.

The center of the battle was on the north side of the Russian White House, in an area partly between the Russian White House and the perimeter wall of the American Embassy compound. There’s a large park and a soccer field north of the White House and across the main street from our compound. That’s where the biggest battle was going on. The government forces used the soccer field as a staging area for an assault on the building.

U.S. Embassy in danger

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The tanks were firing from the south into the upper floors of the White House to suppress sniper and automatic weapons fire from windows on the north side. The tanks were maybe a quarter of a mile away on the other side, and were firing high-explosive rounds into the upper floors of the tower of the Russian White House to suppress that fire.

The tower of the Russian White House is wide east-west but is quite shallow north-south. It’s only maybe 80 or 100 feet deep. If they had used armor-piercing rounds, the shells would have gone all the way through the building and out the other side.

The tanks fired into the building as their part of the larger battle on the other side that the world did not see because CNN’s cameras couldn’t show it. That battle was taking place literally right in front of the American embassy.…

As the government forces closed in on the Russian White House, various opposition elements moved off in other directions. By establishing the alternate embassy at the Ambassador’s residence, we had made ourselves, if anything, potentially more vulnerable than the people in the embassy compound, because the Ambassador’s residence was a wide-open piece of property with no security at all. We had no Marines. The gate was open.

Soon, armed figures were moving around in the garden. It was hard to tell who was who, because when you see a guy dressed all in black with a ski mask and an automatic weapon you have no idea who the hell he is. The American flag was flying on the flagpole from the front of the building. I wished I’d had enough sense to take that down during the night but I hadn’t thought to do so, and it made us rather conspicuous. There were also snipers operating from balconies on high-rise buildings in the area.

At one point, we were gathered in refuge in a basement room when several guys in black ski masks started looking through the window into this basement room. We quickly shifted our refuge to the attic of this 1912-era building. I doubt more than a handful of people have ever been in the attic of the Ambassador’s residence in Moscow. But it seemed to be the safest place to go for a while.

Shredding Classified Materials as Marine Corporal Bell is Shot

By 1993 the opposition had plenty of weapons. There was no lack of small arms firepower on either side. At this point, we in the Ambassador’s residence were actually in greater physical peril than the people in the main embassy. This was a nasty irony. The lesson was that we should have established the alternate embassy at what’s called the “near dacha,” a little weekend place we have that’s inside the city of Moscow but far enough away that we wouldn’t have been at any risk.

Once the battle had moved away from the White House, the embassy had to evacuate us, as if they did not have more than enough to worry about. The Ambassador’s vehicle was an armored limousine, and our Regional Security Officer came to rescue us. This was a superb guy who had come to Moscow from an assignment in Beirut and knew difficult security situations very well. The vehicle had to make three trips to get us all out.

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Pickering (pictured) came over on the first run to get some things, but soon returned to the embassy. I forget exactly how many of us there were, but it took three trips to get us all out. After the first trip, the opposition forces in the area understood what was going on, that an evacuation was underway. For the second run, the one I was in with the Ambassador, there was a lot of automatic weapons fire at the gate. Initially, we couldn’t get out the gate to the street.

After communications by walkie-talkie with the embassy and then with the authorities, the Russian security forces nearby used automatic weapons to suppress hostile fire at the gate. We went out the gate pedal to the metal, across the plaza, and down the street, and finally into the embassy, which was surrounded by what looked like a battle zone. There were burning buildings and burning automobiles and burning debris, the detritus of an urban battle.

We all got safely out of the Ambassador’s residence, which I’m happy to say was not damaged. I then learned the embassy the previous evening had started something which we had never really thought about for Moscow: emergency destruction of classified material. Most vulnerable embassies are supposed to maintain a relatively small amount of classified materials, so an emergency destruction can be done within a certain specified period of time.

The embassy in Moscow, to put it mildly, had never been in compliance with those standards because during the Cold War the joke had always been that, if the American Embassy in Moscow had to destroy classified material, a U.S. thermonuclear warhead would do the job. We had years and years of back files. When they started the destruction process, it quickly became a shambles. The paper shredders jammed.…

Something much more serious was the injury to one of our Marines by gunfire. Corporal [McClain] Bell, a young Marine, was a very popular guy, much loved by embassy kids who regarded him as a collective big brother.

He was in an observation post on top of the new office building, which was still unoccupied. He was shot through the neck, perhaps by one of the government forces who had no idea what they were shooting at. There was nothing on the compound to identify it as the American embassy. We didn’t have the flag out. Most of the troops brought in by the government didn’t know the city of Moscow.

This was just another building, and they saw a guy in a helmet and uniform on top of a building and somebody shot at him. He was nearly killed. Our embassy doctor took care of him, and we received, I’m happy to say, good cooperation from the Russian authorities in evacuating him to a Russian hospital and saving his life. Despite the hugely important political events taking place around us, I suspect that for many of the Americans involved, the shooting of Corporal Bell is the most painful memory of those days.

The embassy didn’t really do much in terms of reporting that day because Ambassador Pickering had given orders the previous day that everybody who was not in the embassy compound — and most embassy personnel lived somewhere else — were to stay at their residences. People were not to go out and observe what was going on. They were not to engage in reporting activity. People were to stay away from the battle zones.

A number of the staff disobeyed that order, feeling this was a major political crisis and we were there as reporters and that was what we should be doing. I myself felt uncomfortable with the limitations on our reporting activities. In retrospect, I understand why Ambassador Pickering did what he did. He was a man, who had seen this kind of violence before, several times in his career. He made the judgment that no reporting message is worth somebody getting killed. Ultimately, of course, it was his authority, it was his decision.…

As the hours passed, I maintained communications to Washington, which mostly meant telling people things they should already have known, answering obvious questions repeatedly. The one thing of value I contributed — other than that somebody had to be on duty that night — was my concern about Corporal Bell. After it was clear he was out of danger, I tried to get somebody in Washington at a senior level to call his widowed mother. This proved difficult because these events in Moscow were simultaneous with the so-called “Black Hawk Down” events in Mogadishu, when a number of U.S. Army Rangers were killed. Washington’s immediate focus was not on Russia, it was on Somalia.

The White House and the State Department and the Defense Department treated the crisis in Moscow as a second-tier issue that was overshadowed in American public interest by the fight in Mogadishu, the famous or infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident. The President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense were making phone calls to the families of the troops who were killed or wounded in Mogadishu. I tried for, I forget how long, for several hours, to get somebody to call the mother of our casualty. Finally, Strobe Talbott as Deputy Secretary of State did, which I much appreciated.

I was quite struck how the attention of senior figures in Washington was not on the crisis in Russia, which we naturally considered the most important event going on anywhere in the world, but on events which attracted more American domestic interest—and of course, American media attention—which was the fighting in Mogadishu. That place was nowhere near as important as Russia, but it involved American fatalities….

A Pyrrhic Victory — A Disaster for Reform in Russia

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In the immediate aftermath of these events, most of the leaders of the opposition were arrested and taken to Lefortovo Prison (at left). The Russian government began cleanup operations, including the rebuilding of the White House. The view in Washington was that Yeltsin had won and that’s good.

This was a view with which I strongly disagreed. I acknowledged that, once it came down to a real shootout between Yeltsin and the opposition, it was necessary that Yeltsin win. However, the Clinton Administration saw a victory by Boris Yeltsin as a victory for reform in Russia, that the economic shock therapy we had been advocating would now be carried out and everything would be wonderful.

I believed the confrontation had been a disaster for reform in Russia and for Yeltsin’s ability to maintain genuine political legitimacy. People in Russia had felt pride until then that there had been no political violence of the kind they saw in Tbilisi or in Tajikistan. Russia had not been like Romania, but now it was. Russians, regardless of which side they had been on or whether they were on a side at all, felt real shame and disappointment that their country had been reduced to kind of Third World status, with a shootout involving tanks and troops in the middle of the capital. I felt very strongly the episode represented a huge failure for Yeltsin’s leadership and was a huge setback for the development rule of law in Russia.

In contrast, Washington was almost ebullient that Yeltsin’s opponents were now in prison while people we liked were the winners; therefore, the policies we favored would be carried out. I can tell you, my view that this victory was Pyrrhic was not welcome in Washington, nor really even within parts of the embassy. People visiting Moscow who heard this view from me were not pleased. They also did not like to hear that Yeltsin’s image among his fellow countrymen, among Russians, had been irredeemably tarnished by his choice of overt confrontation.

There was no question the underlying problems of Russian constitutional government needed resolution, but it was Yeltsin’s choice in mid – September to violate the law, to use extraconstitutional means, which placed the burden of the crisis on him rather than on his opponents. Having chosen to abandon the slow process of political compromise, he bore the responsibility for what would come afterwards. That people in the opposition actually initiated the violence and the looting did not, in my view, obviate the fact that Yeltsin set the stage for it.

In addition, during the crisis, Yeltsin’s government had been pretty ineffectual in dealing with it. They just waited for the opposition to get tired and go home, to either give up or compromise. They were caught completely flatfooted on the Sunday and had no better response than battle tanks. That the confrontation could challenge the integrity of Yeltsin’s government was not, I think, well understood in the Kremlin. The ineffectualness of Yeltsin’s approach was demonstrated by the fact it took an initiative by the Patriarch to even begin a process of discussion which could have led to a peaceful resolution. Whether or not Patriarch Alexy could have succeeded in that we’ll never know, but he alone had the prestige and popular legitimacy even to try; Yeltsin did not.…

The Yeltsin Constitution and Growing Popular Frustration

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In the aftermath of the very dramatic events of early October, the Russian government scheduled national elections for mid-December to include a referendum on a new constitution, which would be written entirely by Yeltsin’s people rather than reflecting a wide spectrum of viewpoints and political forces.

What became known as the “Yeltsin Constitution” was an amalgam of Russian and Western models, but in its essence was patterned on the constitution of the Fifth French Republic written for de Gaulle. There would also be elections for the new parliament, both upper and lower chambers, to be created by the constitution.

The lower chamber, the State Duma, was patterned on the German Bundestag, with half the seats elected in districts and half from national party lists. The elections presumed that the constitutional referendum would both pass and attain the 50 percent participation needed to be valid.

So, Russians on one day were going to vote for two members of the upper chamber, two members of the lower chamber and the constitutional referendum. In some cases, there would be regional and local elections as well. This was going to be a very big election.

Washington assumed the election would be a great triumph for Yeltsin, reflecting his victory in early October, and would set the stage for a vast new wave of reforms favored by the United States.

My job during November and early December was to try to convince Washington that such expectations were wrong. It became obvious to me rather early, both from anecdotal evidence and from polling data, that the party led by Gaidar, called “Russia’s Choice” and essentially Yeltsin’s party, was not going to have an easy walk to victory in the election. In part this reflected the popular revulsion against what had taken place in early October, but, even more so, it was due to public unhappiness with government economic policy.

Simultaneous with the political confrontation, the finance minister, Boris Fyodorov, had instituted a very stringent program of macroeconomic stabilization, which had produced a severe tightening of the domestic Russian economy. While the outside world focused on the very visible political events, most Russians were more keenly aware of the sharp deterioration of their economic situation, and particularly that the macroeconomic stabilization program was leading to massive loss of livelihood for urban blue-collar workers.

This economic tightening was instituted just as Russians thought things were starting to improve a bit. Russian families had endured a series of economic traumas in the late Gorbachev era, during the breakup of the Soviet Union, and afterwards. By mid-1993, people had a sense the worst was over and now things would slowly get better. Indeed, they had been promised by the Yeltsin government that things were going to get better.

Then with the autumn of 1993 government policies threw many people back into economic crisis again. This was particularly true for urban blue-collar males. The level of frustration Russians felt with their government over economic policy was largely invisible to the outside world. In conversations with visitors from Washington, I was struck that they didn’t even make a connection with the political process. They assumed Russians would vote in favor of Yeltsin’s constitution and Yeltsin’s party, because Yeltsin had won the political confrontation on the streets of Moscow — had won it with firepower but had won it.

After his victory in the October confrontation, Yeltsin presented the country with a new draft constitution that gave the president near-dictatorial powers. Under the proposed constitution, the Supreme Soviet would be replaced with a smaller body, the State Duma, which would have virtually no control over the executive branch. The president would have the power to appoint without interference all ministers except the prime minister, who would have to be confirmed by the Duma. If the Duma rejected three of his candidates for prime minister, the president would be able to dissolve the Duma. The president would have control over the budget and appoint the director of the Central Bank and the justices of the Constitutional Court. Removing the president would require a two-thirds majority of the parliament as well as approval by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Laws would be passed by the Duma, but they could be vetoed by the president, and the veto could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of the Duma, a near impossibility in a parliament expected to contain numerous factions.

The draft constitution was put to a vote simultaneously with elections to the new parliament on December 12, 1993, only a month after the publication of the text. In the referendum, 54.4 percent of eligible voters were said to have participated, with 58.4 percent voting for and 41.6 percent against the new constitution. [44] The constitution was thus supported by about 30 percent of the electorate. Technically this was enough: Yeltsin had established a rule whereby only 25 percent of eligible voters had to vote yes for the constitution to become law. [45] There were immediate suspicions, however, that the approval was fraudulent. Particular concern was focused on the appearance of nearly nine million unexplained ballots. [46] An independent analysis by Alexander Sobyanin of the pro-government Russia’s Choice Party showed that only 46.1 percent of the electorate had voted, not the 54.4 percent the government claimed, in which case the turnout was 3.9 percent short of the required minimum. The presidential team never explained the origin of the extra ballots and ignored all demands for an investigation. It is highly likely that the 1993 Constitution was never approved by the population. [47]

-- The Less You know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter


They completely missed the fact that what most Russians, not just in Moscow but across the length and breadth of this vast country, were concerned about were their livelihoods, and the fear they were going into yet another period of economic stringency. As the weeks went by, the more palpable was this sense of fear, real fear. This was something I had not seen in 1991 or 1992, but did in late 1993.

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Re: Spinning Boris, directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Postby admin » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:40 am

Chapter 2: The Soviet Union and Russia: The Collapse of 1991 and the Initial Transition to Democracy in 1993 (Excerpt)
Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective
by Kathryn Stoner, with Michael McFaul [former US ambassador to Russia]
edited by Kathryn Stoner, Michael McFaul

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Although Bush did not develop a close relationship with Yeltsin, his successor as president of the United States, Bill Clinton did. Wilsonian ideals infused President Clinton’s thinking about Russia. In an address devoted to U.S.-Russia relations on the eve of his first trip abroad as president to meet Yeltsin in Vancouver in April 1993, Clinton argued:

Think of it – land wars in Europe cost hundreds of thousands of American lives in the twentieth century. The rise of a democratic Russia, satisfied within its own boundaries, bordered by other peaceful democracies, could ensure that our nation never needs to pay that kind of price again. I know and you know that, ultimately, the history of Russia will be written by Russians and the future of Russia must be charted by Russians. But I would argue that we must do what we can and we must act now. Not out of charity, but because it is a wise investment … While our efforts will entail new costs, we can reap even larger dividends for our safety and our prosperity if we act now. [93]


During his first meeting with Yeltsin as president at the Vancouver summit, Clinton not only pledged financial support for the Yeltsin government in Russia but openly endorsed the Russian president as America’s horse in the show-down between the president and parliament, saying to Yeltsin in front of the press, “Mr. President, our nation will not stand on the sidelines when it comes to democracy in Russia. We know where we stand…. We actively support reform and reformers and you in Russia.” [94] When the conflict with parliament escalated into violence in October 1993, Clinton yet again defended Yeltsin’s use of military force and demonized the parliament as antireformist communists. In his first public reaction to Yeltsin’s dissolution of parliament, Clinton affirmed, “I support him fully.” [95] Clinton officials said Yeltsin’s precarious hold on power was a reason for the U.S. Congress to support with even greater speed the administration’s $2.5 billion aid package for the region. U.S. officials subsequently praised the new constitution ratified by popular referendum in December 1993.

After his victory in the October confrontation, Yeltsin presented the country with a new draft constitution that gave the president near-dictatorial powers. Under the proposed constitution, the Supreme Soviet would be replaced with a smaller body, the State Duma, which would have virtually no control over the executive branch. The president would have the power to appoint without interference all ministers except the prime minister, who would have to be confirmed by the Duma. If the Duma rejected three of his candidates for prime minister, the president would be able to dissolve the Duma. The president would have control over the budget and appoint the director of the Central Bank and the justices of the Constitutional Court. Removing the president would require a two-thirds majority of the parliament as well as approval by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Laws would be passed by the Duma, but they could be vetoed by the president, and the veto could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of the Duma, a near impossibility in a parliament expected to contain numerous factions.

The draft constitution was put to a vote simultaneously with elections to the new parliament on December 12, 1993, only a month after the publication of the text. In the referendum, 54.4 percent of eligible voters were said to have participated, with 58.4 percent voting for and 41.6 percent against the new constitution. [44] The constitution was thus supported by about 30 percent of the electorate. Technically this was enough: Yeltsin had established a rule whereby only 25 percent of eligible voters had to vote yes for the constitution to become law. [45] There were immediate suspicions, however, that the approval was fraudulent. Particular concern was focused on the appearance of nearly nine million unexplained ballots. [46] An independent analysis by Alexander Sobyanin of the pro-government Russia’s Choice Party showed that only 46.1 percent of the electorate had voted, not the 54.4 percent the government claimed, in which case the turnout was 3.9 percent short of the required minimum. The presidential team never explained the origin of the extra ballots and ignored all demands for an investigation. It is highly likely that the 1993 Constitution was never approved by the population. [47]

-- The Less You know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter


Democracy, Financial and Technical Assistance

The rhetorical devotion to democracy’s advance especially during the Clinton administration was not matched by actual deeds, however. Facilitating economic reform, not democratic transition, became the real focus of Clinton’s aid to Russia after the Soviet collapse. Beginning with a first meeting on February 6, 1993, a senior group in the new administration met for three months to devise an overall strategy toward Russia and the other newly independent states. [96]

At this early stage, officials at the Treasury Department (including Larry Summers and David Lipton) and on the National Security Council (NSC) staff had different priorities, and despite the lead of Clinton’s special ambassador at large to the former Soviet states Strobe Talbott in these talks, the State Department was relatively less important in this area, primarily because Talbott by all accounts (including his own) had little expertise in economic matters. During his tenure, he focused primarily on traditionally defined strategic issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship, which had been the subject of many of the books he had written earlier in his career. Many former Clinton officials reported that Talbott was not engaged in the technical issues of privatization, stabilization, or social policy reform. [97]

In retrospect, the former acting prime minister of Russia in 1992, Yegor Gaidar, believed that the absence of a major political figure behind the aid effort had negative consequences. “I don’t think that the leaders of the major Western powers were unaware of the magnitude of the choices they faced. The trouble, in my view, was that there was no leader capable of filling the sort of organizing and coordinating role that Harry Truman and George C. Marshall played in the post war restoration of Europe.” [98]

In the early years, Summers and Lipton provided the intellectual guiding principles for assistance to Russia in the Clinton administration. They prevailed in large part because they had a plan for reform, a theory behind it, and a clear idea of the tools needed to implement it. These two Treasury officials believed in the imperative of sequencing economic reform ahead of political reform. As Lipton recalls, “Our view was that America should make clear its support for reform in Russia. We thought that U.S. support for reform in Russia with Yeltsin, with the elites, with the public would be helpful to people who wanted to carry out reform.” [99] The thinking was that if Russia could not stabilize its economy, then democracy would have no chance.

After the failed putsch in August 1991 and the dissolution of the USSR in December of that year, there was a consensus within the Russian government that Yeltsin had a popular mandate to initiate radical economic reform. It is not surprising that Yeltsin’s supporters within the United States endorsed this idea as well. Finally, Russian economic reformers believed that they had a finite reserve of time before trust in Yeltsin and support for reform would wane. Driven by this perceived time constraint, Russia’s reformers wanted to transform the economy as fast as possible to make reforms irreversible before they were forced out of office. Their American counterparts, particularly in the Treasury Department, shared their view.

The budgets to support economic versus political reform reflected these priorities. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which focused almost exclusively on economic reform, played the central role in aiding Russia in the beginning of the 1990s and throughout the decade. [100] U.S. bilateral assistance – the package of aid handled directly by the U.S. government and not by the multilateral financial institutions – also reflected the “economics first” strategy. Of the $5.45 billion in direct U.S. assistance to Russia between 1992 and 1998, only $130 million or 2.3 percent was devoted to programs involved directly in democratic reform. [101] When U.S. government expenditures channeled through the Department of Commerce, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency are added to the equation, the primacy of economic reform becomes even more clear.

There were no officials working on democratization to serve as counterparts to the Clinton officials in the Treasury engaged in assisting with Russian economic reform. Instead, the job of promoting democracy was delegated to lower-level officials working primarily at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Clinton never made democracy a top issue in U.S.-Russian relations. The United States and Russia had established joint commissions on defense conversion, the environment, and trade at the 1993 Vancouver summit but did not create a similar working group for political reform.

Given the strong rhetoric from senior U.S. officials about the importance of Russian democracy, the relatively small amount of aid for democracy and rule of law assistance is curious. It may be that democracy promotion was deemed too politically sensitive and might imperil progress in the area of economic reform. Another argument is that democracy assistance did not need as much money because this kind of aid was cheaper to provide than economic assistance. As Brian Atwood explains, “Democracy programs don’t cost that much money. Even if it’s a case of running a successful election, you may spend 15-20 million dollars on the mechanical equipment and ballots: that’s not a lot of money.” [102]

USAID did joint with the National Endowment for Democracy to fund the operations of the International Republic Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the Free Trade Union Institute (funded by the AFL-CIO) in Russia. USAID also supported democratic assistance programs run by ABA-CEELI, ARDO-Checchi, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Internews, the Eurasia Foundation, and a host of other nongovernmental organizations (NGOsd). [103] These groups focused on fostering the development of political parties, business associations, trade unions, and civic organizations, as well as promoting electoral reform, the rule of law, and an independent press. Their budgets were only shadows of the amounts spent on economic and technical assistance. NGOs, though, did help introduce Russian politicians to the effects of different types of voting systems. For instance, in 1992 NDI convened a series of working-group meetings on the relationship between electoral systems and parties, which included electoral experts on the American single-mandate system as well as the Portuguese, German, and Hungarian electoral regimes. [104] NDI also translated into Russian electoral laws from several countries. All of Russia’s key decision makers on the electoral law at the time and senior officials from Yeltsin’s presidential administration participated in these meetings. Facilitated by Western actors, the Western idea of proportional representation was brought to Russia and incorporated into law.
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