Russian Federation. The year was characterized by growing
economy, more concentration of power in the Kremlin and
hardening foreign policy rhetoric. At the same time, the
nomination of Dmitry Medvedev as presidential candidate was
seen as a sign of possible liberalization.
The energy conflict with the neighboring countries
continued. At the turn of the year, the Russian Federation
imposed export tax on the oil to Belarus, which responded by
taxing Russian crude oil exported to Western Europe through
Belarus. Then the Russian Federation temporarily closed one
of the world's largest crude oil pipelines to, among other
things, Poland and Germany. The EU reacted strongly,
explaining that the Russian Federation risked its reputation
as an oil and gas supplier.
to CountryAAH, the Russian Federation's relationship with the EU was
also strained by the Russian import stop for meat from
Poland - which was repealed at the end of the year - and by
the Russian Federation's treatment of Estonia, when the
Tallinn government moved a Soviet war monument in the
spring. In Moscow, Putin-loyal youths from the Nazi movement
were allowed to besiege the Estonian Embassy and attack the
ambassador. Russian deliveries of i.a. oil and coal across
the border with Estonia were withdrawn. Both the EU and NATO
condemned the Russian Federation's actions.
At the same time as the Russian Federation strengthened
its relationship with China through a series of major trade
agreements, relations with the United States significantly
strengthened. The contradictions included the issue of
Kosovo's independence and the Middle East crisis hardeners
such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Gaza. With the United Kingdom,
the Russian Federation ended up in an infectious diplomatic
quarrel over the British demand for extradition of a man
suspected of having murdered former agent Aleksandr
Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Georgia in August accused the Russian Federation of
bombing Georgian territory. There, too, there was diplomatic
trouble. But before the end of the year, the Russian
Federation met Georgia's old requirements and withdrew the
last military forces that have existed in neighboring
countries since the Soviet era.
The most serious conflict between the Russian Federation
and the United States concerned the US plans to deploy an
anti-robot system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
President Putin accused the United States of changing the
balance of power through new armor and provoking "an
unspecified response." As a possible Russian answer, it was
mentioned that robots could be deployed in Kaliningrad.
During the year, Moscow announced a major military
upgrading, including greatly increased number of nuclear
weapons robots. After years of weak economy, since 2001, the
Russian Federation had quadrupled its military budget by oil
revenues. After 15 years, the Russian Federation resumed
flights with strategic bombers far outside its own territory
and ships from the Russian fleet were sent to the
During the year, the Russian Federation withdrew from
participation in the so-called CFE agreement, which limits
the size of conventional military forces in Europe. The
agreement had been signed by Russia, while NATO countries
refused and demanded that R. first withdraw his military
from Georgia and Moldova. Moscow also threatened to suspend
the application of the medium-range nuclear weapons
agreement, unless the United States ratifies the CFE
agreement and backs away from plans for robot shields in
Poland and the Czech Republic.
During the year, a new Russian opposition movement
emerged, the Second Russia, a diverse collection from right
to left united in the quest to remove Putin from power.
Former chess world champion Garri Kasparov became the front
figure of the movement. But protest rallies were brutally
met by riot police and many protesters were arrested.
In August, ten people were arrested on suspicion of
participating in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaja
in 2006. about Chechens, police officers and a senior
lieutenant in the FSB security service. Nine of those
arrested were charged.
In September, surprising Prime Minister Michail Fradkov
and the entire government resigned. For new prime minister,
President Putin appointed the relatively unknown Viktor
Zubkov, who declared that he could run for office in the
2008 presidential election. He also explained that it was
conceivable that he would become prime minister after the
presidential election. Some analysts said Putin planned to
bring power to the head of government and lose the office of
president in importance.
All opposition was put in place before the December
parliamentary elections. The electoral system had been
changed by abolishing one-man constituencies, the threshold
for entering Parliament had been raised from 5 to 7 per cent
and so-called electoral unions had been banned. Thus, the
opportunities of the less liberal parties to cooperate or to
enter on their own had been neglected. In addition, United
Russia dominated in the state-controlled media. Garri
Kasparov et al. opposition leaders and a large number of
protesters were arrested temporarily just before the
election and the police raided an office belonging to the
Second Russia. At his mass meetings, President Putin
attacked the opposition's representatives very harshly,
calling them "jackals" who wanted to give power to shady
foreign forces. The Nasji mass movement, called Putin Youth,
ran an almost violent campaign for Putin.
In the election, United Russia took about 64 percent of
the vote and won 315 of the 450 mandates in the duma, giving
the party the opportunity to amend the constitution on its
own. The Kremlin-loyal parties Liberal Democrats and A Fair
Russia came in with about 8 percent each and 40 and 38 seats
respectively. Thus, only 57 seats remained for the only
opposition party to enter the Duma, the Communist Party,
which received just under 12 percent of the vote. The
West-friendly and liberal parties of Jabloko and the Union
of the Forces stopped at one percent each.
Political judges noted that Russian voters rejected
democracy for strong leadership, alleged stability, visible
economic growth and imagined national pride, what Vladimir
Putin gave them after years of economic decline and,
apparently, national humiliation after the fall of the
Soviet Union. Not least, the high oil prices had given the
economy such a strong growth that most people experienced a
After the election, Enade Russia nominated Deputy Prime
Minister Dmitry Medvedev as the party's candidate for the
2008 presidential election. He was officially supported by
incumbent President Putin. Medvedev responded by urging
Putin to remain in power by becoming prime minister after
the presidential election. Putin said he would be prepared
if Medvedev wins the 2008 election.
Contemporary History of Russia
Russia's contemporary history is Russia's history after
1991. Russia was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991.
During this period, the Russian Union Republic (RSFSR), like
the other republics within the Soviet Union, had very
limited independence relative to the Communist Party and the
Soviet Central Power.
However, in the period 1986-1987, when the newly elected
Secretary-General of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev
initiated his reform program for perestroika
(reorganization) and glasnost (openness), the republics
gradually became more important. This made it important to
establish own, strong, political bodies.
In the spring of 1990, elections were held for a separate
Russian People's Congress, which then elected Boris Yeltsin
as chairman of the Supreme Russian Soviet, the permanent
body of the Congress. Yeltsin, who had marked himself as a
strong advocate of reform, enjoyed great popular popularity
and in June 1991 was also elected to the newly created
office as president of the RSFSR.
Initially, the Russian president had limited formal
powers. However, the fact that Yeltsin, unlike Gorbachev,
could point to a popular mandate for his politics, became
important in the ongoing power struggle. The fact that
Yeltsin in August 1991 played a crucial role in reversing a
coup attempt staged by conservative leadership figures in
the Communist Party and the Soviet state apparatus also
helped strengthen his popularity and position.
Following the failed coup, the Soviet central power
gradually disintegrated. After the leaders of the Russian,
Belarusian and Ukrainian Union Republic agreed in December
1991 to establish the Commonwealth of Independent States
(USSR), Gorbachev had to give up the fight to preserve the
Soviet superstructure, and on December 26, 1991, the Soviet
Union moved into history.
Reform program and liberalization
Under Boris Yeltsin's leadership, a comprehensive reform
program was launched in the new, independent Russia. The
highest priority was given to the economic transition with
the introduction of price liberalization and privatization.
A group of young, liberalist economists led by Jegor Gajdar
was given primary responsibility for the reforms.
Yeltsin had already advocated "shock therapy" in the fall
of 1991, and on January 2, 1992, prices for most goods were
released. This immediately led to an increased supply of
goods in Russian stores, but at the same time to high
inflation (in 1992 prices rose by more than 2500 per cent).
People's savings money was thus quickly eaten up by
inflation, and delays in adjustments to wages and pensions
led to a sharp fall in living standards for large sections
of the population.
The economic transition also contributed to a dramatic
fall in production. Support for market reforms therefore
began to decline rapidly, and the People's Congress pushed
in December 1992 by replacing Gajdar with the more
center-oriented Viktor Chernomyrdin as new prime minister.
Parliamentary elections and new constitution
The conflict between the People's Congress and the
president / government was not only about the pace of
economic transition, but also about the distribution of
political power between parliament and president. In the
spring of 1993, the fronts between legislative and executive
power became increasingly irreconcilable, but on September
21, Yeltsin cut through: In violation of existing
constitution, he dissolved the People's Congress / Supreme
Soviet and declared that a new parliament, the Federal
Assembly, should be held.
The Supreme Soviet responded by deposing Yeltsin and
replacing him with Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoj. The
conflict culminated with Yeltsin commanding military forces
deployed against Parliament. After a brief but intense
fight, the parliament building was stormed on October 4 and
opposition leaders arrested.
Parallel to the election to a new parliament on December
12, 1993, a referendum was held on a new constitution. The
new Constitution establishes a three-part divide between
executive (president and government), legislative (the
Federal Assembly, which consists of a lower house, the State
Duma, and an upper house, the Federal Council) and judicial
power. Of these bodies, the presidential office is by far
the strongest, while the State Duma appears to be relatively
wing-cut compared to the Supreme Soviet.
However, the 1993 parliamentary elections represented a
clear setback for the reform forces. Although the
government's unofficial support party, Russia's election,
won the most seats, the populist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR)
was led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's big winner as the biggest
party in the general election.
Tatarstan and Chechnya
After Yeltsin defeated the Supreme Soviet and put in
place a new constitution, the focus was on two outbreak
republics who, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union,
had refused to join the Russian Federation. One, Tatarstan,
entered into a bilateral agreement with Moscow in the spring
of 1994 to join the Russian state formation.
Then only Chechnya remained in the North Caucasus, which,
under the leadership of its president Dzhokhar Dudayev,
demanded full political independence.
In December 1994, Russian forces moved into Chechnya to
overthrow the Dudayev regime and force the republic back
into the federation. However, Dudayev's forces provide
effective resistance. After protracted fighting and a
massive mobilization against the war within Russia, in the
summer of 1996, Moscow had to acknowledge the defeat:
Russian troops were withdrawn from the Republic and the
decision on the issue of Chechnya's future status postponed
Yeltsin's 1996 to 1999 presidential term
The combination of continued economic decline and an
unpopular war eroded Yeltsin's popularity. In the December
1995 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party (KPRF)
made a solid comeback and became by far the largest party,
while Yeltsin's new support party, Our Home Russia, ended in
a disappointing third place on the party list. Communist
leader Gennady Ziuganov also became Yeltsin's worst
challenger in the first Russian presidential election
following independence in June 1996.
Despite declining popularity and long sick leave in the
two years preceding the election, Yeltsin still managed to
bring the victory to shore. Well-aided by massive support
from the so-called oligarchs, Yeltsin Ziuganov struck in the
second round with 54 against 40 percent.
President Yeltsin's second term (1996–2000) was
characterized by frequent sick leave and constant remodeling
in the government. In March 1998, Yeltsin deposed
Chernomyrdin's government and appointed the relatively
unknown Sergei Kirijenko as new prime minister. In
connection with the collapse of the Russian economy in
August of that year, Kirijenko was fired, and Yeltsin
instead tried to reinstate Chernomyrdin.
However, because of the opposition of the State Duma,
Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was finally appointed new
Prime Minister in a national unity government.
The escalating conflict with the West around NATO's
intervention in the Kosovo conflict, lack of financial
results and a personal conflict between Yeltsin and Primakov
led to the latter being deposed as early as May 1999.
Interior Minister Sergei Stepasjin was appointed new prime
minister, but he also received a short reign as he was
deposed as early as 9 August. Then, the head of the Russian
Federal Security Service (FSB), Vladimir Putin, was
appointed prime minister - Russia's fifth prime minister in
a year and a half.
In September, several apartment blocks were blown up in
Moscow and other Russian cities. Russian authorities were
quick to accuse Chechen groups of standing behind and
launching air strikes against alleged Chechen terrorist
bases. The attacks soon developed into a regular war. In
October 2000, Russian forces re-entered Chechnya. Although
the Russian authorities gradually managed to regain control
of the republic, a guerrilla war is still ongoing in
Chechnya. At the same time, the conflict has moved from
being primarily a detachment conflict to being dominated by
militant Islamist groups with an associated spreading
potential for the North Caucasus as a whole.
Party system in the 21st century
Throughout the 2000s, four major political parties have
crystallized. The dominant United Russia party acts as a
coordinating body for the political and economic elite and
the supporter of the president.
The largest opposition party is the Communist CPR, which
is increasingly becoming a lifestyle conservative welfare
party with strong patriotic rhetoric. The right-wing
populist LDPR often agrees with United Russia. The Fair
Russia Party has increasingly been able to establish itself
as the Social Democratic alternative.
Very comprehensive and complicated rules for registering
parties have made it possible at regional level to prevent
smaller parties from voting. This has particularly affected
the liberal Jabloko and the liberalist small parties.
Electoral fraud has also been proven. Among other reasons,
there is an extra-parliamentary opposition, which has
particular support in the larger cities. It received
increased support in connection with the accusations of
electoral fraud in the 2011 State Duma election and in the
2012 presidential election.
The businessman and blogger Aleksej Navalnyj became a
leadership figure for this movement. He ran for mayor of
Moscow in 2013 and received 27 percent of the vote.