Page 3 (History of Russia: End of XXth century-present time)
Breakup of the Union
Two developments dominated the decade that followed: the increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet Union's economic and political structures, and the patchwork attempts at reforms to reverse that process. After the rapid succession of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, transitional figures with deep roots in Brezhnev’s tradition, the relatively young and energetic Mikhail Gorbachev made significant changes in the economy and the party leadership. His policy of glasnost freed public access to information after decades of government repression. But Gorbachev failed to address the systemic crisis of the Soviet system; by 1991, when a plot by government insiders revealed the weakness of Gorbachev's political position, the end of the Soviet Union was in sight.
At the end of World War I, the vast empires of the Ottomans and the Romanovs collapsed, leaving Eastern Europe and Eurasia in turmoil. Only the Russian empire was reconfigured, under Bolshevik leadership. Stalin led it through industrialization and the Nazi onslaught to become a superpower rivaling the United States. Yet the Soviet Union remained essentially an empire, held together by a party rather than tsar. The command economy proved progressively less able to cope with postindustrial technologies and with the demands of the new industrial middle class and well-educated bureaucracy forged under its tutelage. Gorbachev's Perestroika spelled deconstruction of the economy; and glasnost allowed ethnic and nationalist disaffection to reach the surface. When Gorbachev tried to reform the party, he weakened the bonds that held the state and union together.
The emergence of the Russian republic in the Soviet Union
has accused Boris Yeltsin
, his old rival and Russia's first post-Soviet president
, of tearing the country apart out of a desire to advance his own personal interests. Because of the dominant position of Russians in the Soviet Union
, most gave little thought to any distin
ction between Russia
and the USSR
before the late 1980s
. However, the fact that the Soviet regime
was dominated by Russians
did not mean that the Russian SFSR
necessarily benefited from this arrangement. In the Soviet Union, Russia
lacked even the paltry instruments of statehood that the other republics possessed, such as its own republic-level Communist Party branch, KGB
, trade union council, Academy of Sciences
, and the like. The reason ofcourse is that if these organizations had had branches at the level of the Russian SFSR
, they would have threatened the power of Union-level structures
In the late 1980s, Gorbachev underestimated the importance of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic emerging as a second power base to rival the Soviet Union. A Russian nationalist backlash against the Union came with many Russians arguing that Russia had long been subsidizing other republics, which tended to be poorer, with cheap oil, for instance. Demands were growing for Russia to have its own institutions, underdeveloped because of the equation of the Russian republic and the Soviet Union. As Russian nationalism became vocal in the late 1980s, a tension emerged between those who wanted to hold the Russian-dominated Union together and those who wanted to create a strong Russian state.
This tension came to be personified in the bitter power struggle between Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Squeezed out of Union politics by Gorbachev in 1987, Yeltsin, an old-style party boss with no dissident background or contacts, needed an alternative platform to challenge Gorbachev. He established it by representing himself as both a Russian nationalist and a committed democrat. In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, he gained election as chairman of the Russian republic's new Supreme Soviet in May 1990, becoming in effect Russia's first directly elected president. The following month, he secured legislation giving Russian laws priority over Soviet laws and withholding two-thirds of the budget.
The August 1991 coup by Communist hardliners was later foiled with the help from Yeltsin. The coup plotters had intended to save the party and the Union; instead, they hastened the demise of both.
The Soviet Union officially broke up on December 25, 1991. The final act of the passage of power from the Soviet Union to Russia was the passing of the briefcases containing codes that would launch the Soviet nuclear arsenal from Gorbachev to Yeltsin.
By the mid-1990s Russia had a system of multiparty electoral politics. But it was harder to establish a representative government because of two structural problems—the struggle between president and parliament and the anarchic party system. Although Yeltsin had won plaudits abroad for casting himself as a democrat to weaken Gorbachev, his conception of the presidency was highly autocratic. He either acted as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointed men of his choice, regardless of parliament.
Meanwhile, the profusion of small parties and their aversion to coherent alliances left the legislature chaotic. During 1993, Yeltsin's rift with the parliamentary leadership led to the September–October 1993 constitutional crisis. The crisis climaxed on October 3, when Yeltsin chose a radical solution to settle his dispute with parliament: he called up tanks to shell the Russian White House, blasting out his opponents. As Yeltsin was taking the unconstitutional step of dissolving the legislature, Russia came the closest to serious civil conflict since the revolution of 1917. Yeltsin was then free to impose a constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved by referendum in December 1993. But the December voting also saw sweeping gains for communists and nationalists, reflecting growing disenchantment with the costs of neoliberal economic reforms.
Although Yeltsin came to power on a wave of optimism, he never recovered his popularity after endorsing Yegor Gaidar's "shock therapy" of ending Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in state spending, and an open foreign trade regime in early 1992. The reforms immediately devastated the living standards of much of the population, especially the groups that had enjoyed the benefits of Soviet-era state-controlled wages and prices, state subsidies, and welfare entitlement programs. In the 1990s Russia suffered an economic downturn more severe than the United States or Germany had undergone six decades earlier in the Great Depression.
Economic reforms also consolidated a semi-criminal oligarchy with roots in the old Soviet system. Advised by Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia embarked on the largest and fastest privatization that the world had ever seen. By mid-decade, retail, trade, services, and small industry was in private hands. Most big enterprises were acquired by their old managers, engendering a new rich (Russian oligarchs) in league with criminal mafias or Western investors. At the bottom, many workers were forced by inflation or unemployment into poverty, prostitution, or crime. Meanwhile, the central government had lost control of the localities, bureaucracy; economy, tax revenues had collapsed. Still in deep depression by the mid-1990s, Russia's economy was hit further by the financial crash of 1998.
Nevertheless, reversion to a socialist command economy seemed almost impossible, meeting widespread relief in the West. Russia's economy has also recovered somewhat since 1999, thanks to the rapid rise of the world price of oil, by far Russia's largest export, but still remains far from Soviet-era output levels.
Boris Yeltsin, 1990-1999
Vladimir Putin, 1999-2008
Dmitry Medvedev, 2009-present
After the 1998 financial crisis
was at the end of his political career. Just hours before the first day of 2000
made a surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving the government in the hands of the little-known Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
, a former KGB official
and head of the KGB's post-Soviet successor agency
The former Federal Security Service (ex-KGB) director's talents and instincts continue to show through: to his admirers he represents order and stability, to his critics - repression and fear. Independent media and civil society have struggled under his rule and he has taken a consistently hard line in the Chechen conflict. Yet he strikes a chord with those who remember the chaos of the 1990s, when basic machinery of state such as the welfare system virtually seized up and the security forces looked inept. Investor confidence has climbed back since the nadir of the 1998 rouble devaluation, and economic recovery, buoyed by high prices for oil and gas exports, has helped restore a sense of stability not known since communist times.
In the 2000 election, he took 53% of the vote in the first round and, four years later, was re-elected with a landslide majority of 71%.
He enjoys a macho image, helped by election stunts like flying into Chechnya on a fighter jet in 2000, and his possession of a black belt in Judo. He has been described as a workaholic by his wife and mother of his two daughters, Lyudmila. For many Russian liberals, Mr Putin's KGB past is disturbing, with its authoritarian associations. A decade after Boris Yeltsin famously offered Russia's regions "their fill of sovereignty", Mr Putin brought in a system of presidential envoys seen by some as overseers for elected governors.
Putin allies control much of the media and his rule has seen creeping controls over foreign-funded non-government organisations, which largely focus on exposing human rights abuses. The man who sent troops back into Chechnya as prime minister in 1999 has kept it under Moscow's control through military force, direct or proxy, and strict non-negotiation with the rebels. The price has been increasingly violent attacks by the separatists, which reached a horrifying level in 2004 with the Beslan school seizure.
Mr. Putin's patriotic rhetoric and evident nostalgia for the USSR - he once famously called its collapse "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th Century - play well with much of the public. But the flip side may be a disturbing rise in nationalism, taking its most sinister form in hate crimes directed at ethnic minorities such as African foreign students.
Mr Putin has gradually eased liberals out of government, often replacing them with harder-line allies or neutrals seen as little more than yes-men. Yeltsin-era "oligarchs" like Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky - businessmen who grew rich in the chaos of the first privatisations - have ended up as fugitives living in exile abroad. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once head of oil giant Yukos and Russia's richest man, is now in jail for tax evasion. Mr Putin's Kremlin is accused of abusing its huge energy clout, allegedly punishing fellow ex-Soviet states like Ukraine with price hikes when they lean to the West.
Further abroad, Mr Putin allied himself with Washington's "war on terror", comparing Chechen separatists to al-Qaeda, but he also opposed the invasion of Iraq and caused consternation in the US by inviting Hamas to Moscow for talks after their Palestinian election victory. The biggest diplomatic test may still lie ahead, as Iran defies the US with a nuclear programme based largely on Russian technology.
Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term. After the victory of his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 presidential elections, he was nominated by the latter to be Russia's Prime Minister; Putin took the post on 8 May 2008.
is the third and current President
of the Russian Federation, inaugurated on 7 May 2008
. Medvedev was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister
of the Russian government on 14 November 2005
. Formerly Vladimir Putin's Chief of Presidential Staff
, he was also the Chairman of Gazprom
's board of directors, a post he had held for the second time since the year 2000
. Medvedev's candidacy was backed by then President Vladimir Putin
. He won the presidential election
held on 2 March 2008
of the popular vote.
In August 2008, during the third month of Medvedev's presidency, Russia took part in the South Ossetia war with Georgia, which drove tension in Russian-American relations to a post-Cold War high. On 26 August, following an unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Medvedev issued a presidential decree officially recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, an action condemned by the G7.
On 6 September 2009, he signed a decree abolishing the federal Interior Ministry’s department for the fight against organized crime and terrorism (DBOPiT), along with the corresponding Interior Ministry units in the federal districts and the regional anti-organized crime departments (UBOPs); and on their basis he created new units tasked with fighting extremism. Under the decree, anti-organized crime functions will be transferred to the Interior Ministry’s criminal investigation and anti-economic crime departments.