The 1991 Project: November 13-19. Practicing Politics.

By Natasha Netzorg

With the August coup already far in the rearview mirror the growing concerns for Russians by November 1991 ranged from sports to politics. In the November 17 issue of the English-language newspaper, Moscow News, reporters covered these varying topics as well as the global implications of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. From nuclear weaponry to political party schisms, the new Russia was preparing to inherit a tumultuous situation.

            In a viewpoint article, French political scientist Pierre Lellouche covers the evolving political climate regarding nuclear weaponry. The agreement between the two powers of the United States and the USSR to withdraw and destroy tactical land and sea-based nuclear weapons following the end of the Cold War highlighted deterrence, at least between the two states. While this allowed for the fear of nuclear war to dissipate, the certainty only provided slight comfort to the two powers. The agreement led to discussions concerning the denuclearization of the rest of Europe, except for France and Britain. This arrangement left Europe in a state of discomfort, as Lellouche points out in his bluntly-named article, “Europe must not be nuclear-free.” Lellouche believes that leaving a “huge strategic void in the centre [sic] of Europe” and removing the deterrence of nuclear war, the fact that the USSR’s successor state of Russia will remain a nuclear power, and the “danger posed by the proliferation of mass destruction weapons” as displayed by the Gulf War all point to being “extremely damaging” for “peace and stability in the new Europe.”

            Maintaining eyes on the international level, Moscow News writer Tatyana Yakhlikova covers the political discord over Yeltsin’s emergency decree on Chechnya-Ingushetia. The second congress of the Democratic Russia movement exposed dissent that many had already believed existed when delegates walked out of the session. A long-standing “fruitless debate inside the Democratic Russia” between “one indivisible Russia” and “one divisible Russia” was halted due to political party shifts. The loss of the three parties, the Democratic Party of Russia, the People’s Freedom of the Constitutional Democrats, and the Russian Christian Democratic Movement, indicated the desperate need for and approaching discussion of a “serious regrouping of political forces” in Russia. The event, which Yakhlikov calls the first “open conflict with the Russian president,” illustrates worries over Russia’s ability to rebalance the political splits caused by the unravelling of the USSR and calls into questions the effectiveness of Yeltsin’s political power. Some of the larger groups, such as the Democratic Reform Movement, the “entire ex-communist wing” with the exception of the orthodox members of the Communist Initiative, all pushed heavily for the “establishment of a powerful state with inviolable borders.” Democratic Russia folded under the weight of this schism, indicative of the problems posed by Russian nationalism and the growing possibility of “ethnic conflict.” The political debates threw up significant roadblocks on the way to reform.

            As a new Russia comes into being, political turbulence threatens reform plans. With political actors not on the same page and clear pressures at home and abroad, Russia’s new leaders scramble to find solid ground to build a democratic system. These political stresses foretell a steeper mountain than many were prepared to climb.

Natasha Netzorg is a junior majoring in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.

Works Cited

“Page 3” Moscow News Digital Archive. 1991.

“Page 11” Moscow News Digital Archive. 1991.

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