A Preserve of Communism
Neil J. Melvin
SITUATED IN the heart of the rural Black Earth zone, Kursk oblast has long been considered one of the most conservative regions in Russia. Under Soviet rule Kursk served as a bastion of support for the regime, while during the perestroika years the oblast offered little sustenance to supporters of the democratic movement and only weak encouragement for Gorbachevite reformist Communists. After 1991 socioeconomic change in the region generated by Moscow's reformist policies and the shock waves caused by the collapse of the USSR fostered increasing hostility to the Russian government.
Given Kursk's history of reactionary conservatism and a range of social and economic factors, including the dislocation of the transition period, which favored antireform political forces in the oblast, the results of the December 1993 elections--the absolute rejection of the new constitution, the triumph of Vladimir Zhirinovskii and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) on the list vote, and clear victories for three conservative Communists and the local governor in the territorial contests--were, perhaps, not surprising. 1 As with much of the rest of rural central Russia, Kursk oblast seemed to have fulfilled its traditional role as a bulwark for backward-looking conservatism. A closer examination of the elections in Kursk, however, suggests that behind the apparently straightforward electoral outcome lay a more complicated story: an election of missed opportuities for more moderate local political forces. 2