The Yeltsin Era (1990-99)

By | November 25, 2021

On June 12, 1990, Russia declared its sovereignty. In June 1991, Yeltsin was elected President of Russia. In August 1991 he led the resistance against the coup of conservative communist leaders. After its failure, the activities of the CPSU and the Russian CP were banned. When the new union treaty favored by Gorbachev for the preservation of the USSR did not come about after months of negotiations until the end of 1991, Russia and the other two Slavic republics, Belarus and Ukraine, founded the Commonwealth of Independent States on December 8, 1991 in Minsk (CIS), which also joined the other former Soviet republics on December 21, 1991 (with the exception of the Baltic states and Georgia, which only became a member in 1993). On December 25, 1991, the RSFSR was renamed the »Russian (Russian) Federation«. As part of the radical economic reform pursued by Yeltsin, a general price release followed in January 1992, accompanied by popular protests.

Federation constitution and conflict in Chechnya

On March 31, 1992, the new Federation Treaty was signed, which regulated relations between the Moscow government and the autonomous regions and republics of the Russian Federation. Tatarstan and the Chechen-Ingush Republic did not join the agreement. After Chechnya unilaterally proclaimed its independence in 1991, the Republic of Ingushetia was formed within the Russian Federation by resolution of the Russian parliament in 1992. In December 1994 Russia intervened militarily in Chechnya to stop the secessionist efforts of the North Caucasian republic; the bloody fighting, costly on both sides (almost complete destruction of Grozny, also high casualties among the civilian population, brutal hostage-taking by Chechen rioters) divided the Russian public and led to international criticism. It was not until August 1996 that an armistice was concluded and later a peace plan (the last Russian troops were withdrawn in January 1997). Territorial disputes between the republics of Ingushetia and North Ossetia sparked a bloody conflict between the two in 1992 (again in 1997); the independence of the peoples The Caucasus (in the Russian as well as the Georgian part) made this region a trouble spot that was difficult to control.

In April 1992 the Congress of People’s Deputies decided that the new state name was »Russian Federation – Russia«. President Yeltsin, who was endowed with great powers, handed over the post of prime minister in June 1992 to the economic reformer and former finance minister J. Gaidar, who subjected the country to market-economy shock therapy, which, however, exacerbated social tensions without stopping the economic decline. In January 1993 the US and Russia signed the Treaty on Strategic Nuclear Weapons Reduction (START II).

Power struggle between President and Parliament

Against the background of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation, the reform course pursued radically by Yeltsin since 1992 increasingly encountered the resistance of old communist and nationalist forces, which had a majority in the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People’s Deputies. Some of them formed in October 1992 in the »Front of National Salvation«, which openly opposed Yeltsin and which the latter then banned (repealed by the Constitutional Court in February 1993). This political dispute was ideologically overlaid by the old, now broken up opposition between Westerners and Slavophiles. In December 1992, Yeltsin was forced to become Prime Minister under pressure from the People’s Deputies Congress Dismiss Gaidar; His successor was W. S. Tschernomyrdin, who continued the economic reforms in a heavily modified form (including new price regulations). In March 1993, the power struggle between Yeltsin on the one hand and the parliament led by R. Khasbulatow and Vice President Alexander Ruzkoi (* 1947) on the other escalated into a serious state and constitutional crisis. After the Congress of People’s Deputies had rejected all of Yeltsin’s mediation proposals and also spoke out against his plan for a referendum on the president and parliament, Yeltsin announced on March 20, 1993 the temporary introduction of presidential rule and set a referendum. On April 25, 1993 it resulted in a vote of confidence inYeltsin (around 58% of the electorate) and a narrow endorsement of its economic policy (around 53%). The dispute between parliament and president was accompanied by a drastically worsening economic crisis and a growing striving of the regions, which existed alongside the republics of the federation, for more independence. The dissolution of the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People’s Deputies, ordered by Yeltsin on September 21, 1993, met with open resistance from numerous MPs who holed up in the parliament building (“White House”) and, in return, Ruzkoi appointed “acting president”. An armed uprising v. a. nationalist and communist forces on 3rd / 4th 10. 1993 in Moscow was suppressed by elite units of the army (storming of the “White House”, arrest of Khasbulatov and Ruzkoi, 1994 amnesty of the putschists). After the bloody riots (over 100 dead), Yeltsin imposed a 14-day state of emergency over Moscow. In the parliamentary elections on December 12, 1993, the right-wing extremist W. Zhirinovsky won led radical nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) a very high percentage of the vote. The strongest faction in the State Duma was the reform-oriented alliance »Russia’s Election«, but there it was confronted with an influential nationalist and communist wing. Most of the radical reformers no longer belonged to the government newly formed by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in January 1994.

In the elections to the Duma on December 17, 1995, only 4 out of 43 approved parties succeeded in overcoming the five percent threshold of the electoral law. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (constituted in 1993) under Gennadij A. Zyuganov (* 1944) became the strongest party (22.3% of the votes and 157 seats) before the LDPR (11.1%; 55), which was led by Chernomyrdin- led group »Our House – Russia« (9.9%; 51) and the reform bloc »Yabloko« (6.9%; 45). »Russia’s election« narrowly missed entry into parliament, but won nine direct seats; the Agrarian Party had 20 seats. In the presidential elections in June / July 1996, Yeltsin came out on top of Zyuganov with 53.7% (in the second ballot), the communist candidate, through what he achieved through an alliance of convenience with the third-place winner in the first round of voting, the popular ex-general A. I. Lebed, whom he then briefly appointed Secretary of the Security Council and Security Advisor (after his decisive role in the termination of the Chechen War release in October 1996). The ongoing power struggle between President Yeltsin and the parliament, which is dominated by communist-nationalist forces, was expressed inter alia. in repeated attempts by the State Duma to initiate impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin (most recently in May 1999).

The Yeltsin Era (1990-99)