Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

2The disintegration of the USSR

Nothing destroyeth authority so much as the unequal and untimely interchange of power pressed too far, and relaxed too much.

(Francis Bacon) 1

At the beginning of the 1990s, Henry Kissinger observed that 'The borders between the “centre” and the republics do not necessarily coincide with the borders between totalitarianism and democracy.' 2 This view was certainly at the core of Gorbachev's attempts to save the Union. Yeltsin, meanwhile, continued the assault on the CPSU, and its demise in August 1991 left the USSR vulnerable to the increasingly sovereign republics. On 20 July 1991, Yeltsin issued a decree banning party structures in government offices and enterprises, and he also proposed legislation that would ban the Party from the armed forces. 3 The legal basis for the decree was dubious, since the USSR law on public associations stated that only the courts could outlaw a party (presumably including its branches). 'Departification' meant that communist officials would have to choose between their party and jobs. The depoliticisation decree came into effect on 4 August, and the CPSU was still considering its response when the coup intervened. Even Gorbachev appeared to lose patience with the dogged unreformability of the Party, vividly in evidence at the last plenum of the CPSU's Central Committee on 25-6 July, and announced that an emergency Party congress would be held in December 1991 to adopt a radical new programme that would return the Party to its social democratic roots. 4 Gorbachev at last appeared to accept the necessity of splitting the Party and placing himself at the head of the radical reforming faction. In the event, conservatives sought to halt the dissolution of communist power by forceful means, but succeeded only in precipitating the disintegration of the country that they had sought to save.


The Augustcoup

Conservatives realised that the Union Treaty, due to be signed on 20 August, would make the old structures of power redundant. In July, twelve leading politicians, writers and generals signed a 'Word to the People', written among others by Gennadii Zyuganov who would go on to lead the revived Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), which served as the manifesto of the coup. In emotional language the address warned of the:

-27-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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