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Opposition in Russia

  • John Barber

Extract

WHILE ‘REPOSITIONING’ MAY BE AN APPROPRIATE TERM TO DESCRIBE developments in political opposition in many contemporary societies, it falls some way short of capturing the significance of changes in Russia, where in a few years the political landscape has changed out of all recognition. Until little more than a decade ago, political opposition in the Soviet Union was barely visible and, with rare exceptions, of little consequence. In the decades following Stalin's death in 1953, the existence of interest groups and lobbies within the party and state apparatuses was persuasively argued by foreign observers; and occasionally fractional opposition within the ruling elite surfaced. The latter aimed at reversing specific policies and, twice, at replacing the country's leader — Khrushchev on both occasions, unsuccessfully in 1957 and successfully in 1964. From the 1960s onwards, dissent from the regime's values and goals was reflected in the statements and actions of individuals and small groups, often described as the ‘Soviet dissident movement’, though lacking either common objectives and strategy, or impact on the Soviet Union's rulers.

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1 Bailer, Seweryn, Stalin’s Successors: Leadership, Stability and Change in the Soviet Union, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1980; Breslauer, George, Khrushchev and Brezhnev as Leaders, London, Allen & Unwin, 1982; Linden, Carl A., Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership 1957–1964, Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990; Skilling, H. Gordon and Griffiths, Frederick, Interest Groups in Soviet Politics, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1971.

2 For an analysis of earlier episodes of political pluralism in Russian history and of parallels with the late Soviet and post‐Soviet periods, see Zhuravlev, V. V. (ed.), Vlast i oppozitsiia: rossiiskii politicheskii protsess XX stoletiia, Moscow, Rosspen, 1995.

3 A detailed account of the evolution of a multi‐party system in Russian politics in the late Soviet and post‐Soviet periods is provided in Barygin, , Kolpakidi, I. and Nersesov, Iu. A., Evoliutsiia rossiiskoi mnogopartiinosti, St Petersburg, forthcoming. See also Miller, J., Mikhail Gorbachev and the End of Soviet Power, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1993; Sakwa, R., Russian Politics and Society, London, Routledge, 1996 ; Walker, R., Six Years that Shook the World: Perestroika, the Impossible Project, Manchester, University of Manchester Press, 1993; Pravda, A. and White, S., Gitelman, Z., Developments in Soviet and Post‐Soviet Politics, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1992.

4 Until this point, Russia had been the exception among republics of the USSR in having no communist party of its own.

5 Literaturnaia gazeta, 16 July 1997, p. 5.

6 Barber, J., ‘Russia: A Crisis of Post‐Imperial Viability’, in John Dunn (ed.), Contemporary Crisis of the Nation State, Oxford, Blackwell, 1995, pp. 3451.

7 Vlast’i oppozitsiia, pp. 337–52.

8 Barygin et al., op. cit. See also the forthcoming study of government and opposition in contemporary Russia by V. Ia. Gelman, of the European University, St Petersburg.

9 Ostapchuk, A., ‘Osennie soblazny oppozitsii’, Moskovskie novasti, 310 08 1997, p. 7.

10 Ger’man, op. cit., and V. Dzodziev, Problemy stanovleniia demokraticheskogo gosudarstva v Rossii, Moscow, Ad Marginem, 1996.

11 Barygin et al., op. cit.

12 Bystritskii, A., ‘Volga‐Volga, mat’demokratii’, Literaturnaia gazeta, 16 07 1997, p. 2.

13 Markov, S. and McFaul, M., ‘Recent Elections Indicate new Political Framework’, St Petersburg Times, 29 07 1997.

14 Iu. Nersesov, ‘Nasledniki Narodnoi voli’, Sankt‐Peterburgskie Vedomosty, 8 August 1997. (Narodnaia Volia was the revolutionary wing of Russian Populism responsible for the assassination of several leading figures, including Alexander II in 1881.

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Opposition in Russia

  • John Barber

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