CHECHEN CRISIS AND RUSSIAN POLITICAL CHANGE
Harvest time has inevitably arrived
/view on causes and consequences by OLEG G.RUMIANTSEV/
The most crucial part of the Chechen crisis seems to be over. The
evaluation of it in press often been articulated in "black or white"
terms. The reality of the situation, however, is much more complicated
and deserves much deeper analysis and scrutiny.
De-jure the operation was correct. De-facto - clumsy and
outrageous. Politically it has the key meaning in a general change of
Russian politics with some deep long-term effects on it. It played a
role of a principal "pass" of Kremlin to the "new right" - the shift,
which I find to be intergral for the developments of last years.
AUTHORITARIANISM IN LAW
The Chechen crisis demonstrated the potential of present Russian
authoritarianism. It was established not today. Former Prime Minister
Egor Gaidar and other radical liberals inform the bewildered West
about the possibility of a military take-over and threat to democratic
year: during the Yeltsin-Gaidar coup in Autumn 1993 the Constitution
was denounced, its defenders - riddled by tank-shells, the
Constitutional Court and regional legislatures were suspended or
dispersed. Yeltsin legalised his regime wby taking the formally
democratic Constitution (on larger part of which we worked together in
1990-1992) and changing the heart of it, the form of government, to
one without checkes and balances, tailored personally for the abnormal
apetites and the ambitions of one politician.
The present abuse of power thus is legal, based both on
acknowledged precedent of 1993 coup, and on the altered constitution
The President is Commander-in-chief, chooses the Defense minister
without Parliamentary approval, personally (!) adopts a military
on defense must contradict his doctrine. There is no constitutional
provisions on the state of emergency. Narodovlastie - or
representative democracy is powerless. Civilian control over the
executive and the "power" services is impossible. Crude force is
becoming the usual instrument for solving arguments with opponents.
So, one must conclude that the romantic era of our earnest
attempts to fix the miracle of constitutionalism in
There is an obvious lack of imagination in Kremlin today.
with it needs a large knowledge of the Art of politics, which Kremlin
doesn't prove that it posesses with. Both sides showed themselves as a
poor strategists and bad tacticians. The death-toll number is much;
much lower than during the Gulf-war, but still
THE "NEW RIGHT" OF THE KREMLIN
The Chechen operation was - as any war - a "locomotive of
history" that hastened the regrouping of the political forces in
Presidential elections. The move in
between radical liberals and Yeltsin.
The opposition to Eltsin was demolished in 1993 because of his
and near-by elits' unwilingness of any public control over the
privatisation, finance, domestic and and foreign policy. In 1993 I was
pressed out of his closest entourage just for trying to insist, that
no state mechanism can operate effectively without brakes and for
promoting a "progressive and socially oriented conservatism".
Now my former boss will try to play this role himself and avoid
repeating some gloomy achievments of recent "radical reform" period.
This itself would not be bad for
tell You how far will he go.
Today the Kremlin not only assumes all of the rhetorics of the
traditionalist opposition, it is an undeclared leader of the "new
right" as head of Bonapartist party of power.
According to opinion polls from 29.01.95 Eltsin is totally
trusted only by 8% and partly - by another 13%. But 72% of questioned
do not trust a man, who is posessing an enormous authority and
possibilities. So, he needs a new alliances. The undeclared block may
be under creation right now - between power-hungry new nomenklatura,
silently returning Communists and with talented populist
Zhirinovskij's party - the largest in today's State Duma and in
First of all,
vast military reform. Poor results on a level of personel training and
conduct, arms, tactics will be considered seriously. In the late 1980s
the Soviet Army seemed to be a hesitant victim of liberal opinions and
couldn't accomplish its tasks. It was the clearest sign that a state
itself is ill and weak and preceded the death of its institutions.
This may reshape the concept of federal budget for 1996. If the
West will not provide the promissed loan package, ehxousted transition
to a market may be coopted by a strong regulative role for the state.
The crisis in Army only reflected the general crisis of social
consiousness of the nation, lack of spirit, collapse of common shared
values and ideals. This may bring new changes in the sphere of mass
media - mainly, state television and radio broadcasts, as well in the
sphere of education. Unrestricted political freedoms also may fall
I am quite sure of a coming vast personal changes in the
Presidential entourage, Eltsin's Administration, Council of Security
and the Government. Eltsin is looking for a reliable partners in his
new manouvere. Among them later he will (in old style) decide - who
will be his successor and whow will the state ensure the transition of
Decisive change may come in Kremlin relations with 4 major
counterparts - domestic elits, inner autonomies and regions, republics
of "near abroad" and the partners from the "far abroad". The general
tightening of Russian position will be taken by the Eltsin's new
"party of state and order" in order to avoid the fragile destiny of
THE ROLE OF THE WEST
The West, in my opinion, is partly responsible for the Russian
change. I still remember my colleagues from the Western democracies -
constitutionalists and parlamentarians - joyfully greeting the
demolition of the legal institutions in 1993. Russian authoritarianism
was reestablished with participation from domestic radicals with
applauses from the West.
Harvest time has inevitably arrived.
The sometimes humiliating method of "big brother", assumed by the
West in its relations with Russia, and agressive calls coming from
G.O.P. in Capitol Hill right now may soon provide more egoistic policy
of Moscow, based on national interests.
I would urge against hasty actions of condemnation. Nodody can
stop the pendulum. But for most of Russians even the cold peace is
much beter than the cold war. Politicians may decide - who is the
new influentive and positive alternative to deal with. And public
opinion may be on alert and be ready to raise their voices if the
remnants of rule of law are frozen in Russia.
*/ Dr.O.Rumiantsev is a Constitutional Law Consultant
to The State Duma of Russian Federal Assembly. He was a
Member of Russian Parliament and a deputy to Boris Yeltsin
in a Constitutional Commission in 1990-1993.