The Burden of Boris: Russia's June 16 Ballot Is Not Simply the Rematch of Communism vs. Capitalism

By Singer, Daniel | The Nation, April 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Burden of Boris: Russia's June 16 Ballot Is Not Simply the Rematch of Communism vs. Capitalism


Singer, Daniel, The Nation


How low are Western governments ready to stoop to keep "our czar" on the Moscow throne, and can Boris Yeltsin really be reelected? These questions spring to mind as Russia's crucial electoral campaign gets into full swing. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the reformed Communist Party and tipped as the most likely winner claims that "the powers of the present president are the equivalent of those of the czar and the general secretary combined." This is an exaggeration. But without genuine checks and balances, the prerogatives of the Russian president are, at least on paper, incomparably greater than those of his American or French counterparts.

They were not so wide when Yeltsin was elected five years ago. They were reshaped in 1993, after the shelling and storming of Parliament, when a Constitution made to measure was endorsed through a referendum (with the figures actually twisted to insure a quorum). At the time, Western commentators were unperturbed by this revival of authoritarian rule: A strong hand was needed to drag Russia to the market, and democratic niceties could be sacrificed on the altar of capitalist construction. The snag, from that point of view, was that the system was still too democratic, since ultimately the czar had to face the verdict of the people. That day of reckoning--June 16--now looms perilously on the horizon.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It is perilous for Russia's rulers and for their Western backers becuase the people failed to conform to expectations. Faced with the collapse of production, the cancer of corruption, the yawning gap between rich and poor, their real incomes slashed and their savings wiped out by galloping inflation, the ungrateful creatures did not ask for more of the same medicine. Indeed, the striking feature of the parliamentary elections last December was the overwhelming rejection of the politicians connected with the so-called shock therapy prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and practiced for the past four years [see Katrina vanden Heuvel, "Russia versus Yeltsin," January 29]. The odds are that they will vote in June in the same fashion. Not only is Zyuganov well ahead of the pack in all opinion polls, which show him capturing between 15 and 25 percent of the vote, but Yeltsin is quite often last in a bunch of four that hovers around 10 percent and includes Grigory Yavlinsky, the free-trader critical of the regime; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the wolf undisguised in "Liberal Democratic" clothing; and Aleksandr Lebed, the general hankering after Soviet grandeur. Thus "our man" is not even sure of being one of the two contenders who will fight it out on June 30, if, as seems likely, nobody gains an absolute majority two weeks earlier.

Worn out by alcohol and two recent bouts of heart trouble, Yeltsin, 65, is entitled to a pension. He chooses to soldier on, presumably driven by personal ambition and certainly prompted by his shifting camarilla, led at this point by Gen. Aleksandr Korzhakov, his tennis partner and head of the presidential security guard. For this gang of courtiers with power and no responsibility, known as the "collective Rasputin," political defeat spells judicial proceedings and the prospect of prison. Were they now to discover that the mighty machine of the state, the backing of the banks and tighter control over the media (becuase the second channel of state television had not been as subservient as the first, its head, Oleg Poptsov, was just kicked out of his job) are not enough to produce a "miracle" at the polls, they might be tempted to put off the whole exercise altogether. The December 1994 invasion of Chechnya was even then perceived as an attempt at diversion; this bloody war could now provide the pretext for a putsch and the introduction of martial law. The suspense will survive till the very end. We are watching an electoral campaign that may not be allowed to run its full course. Yet even today we get a revealing glimpse of the regime and its ruler, of the Western backers who mean profits when they say democracy, of Russian society, both awakened and bewildered by the shocks, which knows what it rejects but is still barely groping toward a different future.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Burden of Boris: Russia's June 16 Ballot Is Not Simply the Rematch of Communism vs. Capitalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.