Decommunization in Russia
Decommunization in Russia is the process of dealing with the communist legacies in terms of institutions and personnel that tends towards breaking with the Soviet past. Compared with the efforts of the other former constituents of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, it has been restricted to half-measures, if conducted at all.
Notable anti-communist measures in the Russian Federation are the banning of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (and creating the Communist Party of the Russian Federation) as well as the names of some Russian cities reverting to what they were before the 1917 October Revolution (Leningrad to Saint Petersburg, Sverdlovsk to Yekaterinburg and Gorky to Nizhny Novgorod) though others were maintained with Ulyanovsk and Togliatti being examples. Even though Leningrad and Sverdlovsk were renamed, regions that were named after them is still officially called Leningrad's and Sverdlovsk's regions.
However, Nostalgia for the Soviet Union is gradually on the rise in Russia. Communist symbols continue to form an important part of the rhetoric used in state-controlled media as banning them is seen by the foreign ministry as "sacrilege" and "a perverse idea of good and evil". The decommunization process in neighbouring Ukraine was also met with criticism by Russia, and Soviet war crimes continue to be regularly dismissed as "Western myth".
The current national anthem of Russia, accepted in 2000 (the same year V. V. Putin had entered his first term as the president of Russia), is the anthem of the USSR with different lyrics.
August 1991 attempted coup
On 23 August 1991, two days after the failure of the August Coup, the people applauded Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, for suspending the existence of the Communist Party of the Russian SFSR pending investigation of its role in the recent events. This decision was taken over the objections of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who insisted that the Party as a whole was not to blame. The Communist Party Regional committees (obkom) in the Russian SFSR were closed, and the building of the Central Committee of the CPSU on the Old Square in Moscow was sealed.
The following day, on 24 August 1991, Gorbachev dissolved the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) and resigned as its Secretary General while remaining President of the Soviet Union. On 25 August, Yeltsin issued another decree nationalizing the property of the Communist Party, including its archives and bank accounts, and transferring their control to the RSFSR Council of Ministers.
Within a few weeks of the coup, the Soviet Union peacefully broke up. On 6 November 1991, Yeltsin banned the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU), which had exercised pervasive control over the Soviet society for years. The breakup of the Soviet Union was acknowledged in the Belavezha Accords of 8 December, ratified by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR on 12 December. On 26 December 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was declared. Its largest constituent republic, the Russian SFSR, was renamed the Russian Federation. It was formally established on 1 January 1992 and became the successor state to the Soviet Union.
Coup investigation, 1991–1992
The Parliamentary Commission for Investigating Causes and Reasons of the coup attempt was established in 1991 under Lev Ponomaryov (including also Gleb Yakunin), but in 1992 it was dissolved at Ruslan Khasbulatov's insistence. Having gained access to secret KGB archives as a member of the committee, in March 1992, Gleb Yakunin published materials about co-operation of the Moscow Patriarchate with KGB. He claimed that Patriarch Alexius II, Mitropolit Filaret of Kiev, Pitrim of Volokolamsk, and others were recruited by the KGB.
A large part of the archives of the Communist Party (preserved now in state archives such as Archive of the President of the Russian Federation, Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History and State Archive of the Russian Federation), including almost all documents of its Central Committee, remains classified. For a 1993 view on the problem, see Khubova, Dar'ia & Vitaly Chernetsky (1993). For an example of documents surreptitiously copied in those archives by Vladimir Bukovsky in 1992, see the Bukovsky Archives: Communism on Trial, 1937–1994 compiled and put online by the late Julia Zaks in 1999.
In 1992, several People's Deputies sued Yeltsin, demanding that his 1991 decrees concerning the Communist Party be declared acts that violated the principles of the contemporary Constitution. On 30 November 1992, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation partially reviewed the decrees and lifted the ban against the Communist Party of the Russian SFSR
Communist Party re-established
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation was re-established in February 1993. A number of smaller communist parties claimed to be successors of the CPSU as well.
Unlike many other countries of the former Soviet bloc, in Russia lustration of senior Communist Party and KGB officials was staunchly resisted and has never been implemented there. Many with such a background have remained in power; most present-day Russian politicians began their careers in the Soviet period. A draft law on lustration was first put before the Russian parliament, then the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, in December 1992 by Galina Starovoytova. Neither at that time nor later have such proposals been successfully introduced.
Those arrested for their part in the August Coup were released from prison in 1992. The charges against them were lifted on 23 February 1994 under an amnesty issued by the State Duma, which also covered those involved in the October 1993 events.
Vasily Starodubtsev served as Governor of the Tula Region from 1997 to 2005; Gorbachev's former deputy Anatoly Lukyanov was elected to the State Duma in 1993–2003 as a deputy of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation; the unrepentant Stalinist Valentin Varennikov (1923–2009) was a Duma deputy first for the RF Communist Party, from 1995 to 2003 and then for Rodina. Both Lukyanov and Varennikov headed parliamentary committees.
Coming to terms with the Soviet past
Conscious attempts in Russian society to deal with the Soviet past have been uncertain. Organisations such as the Memorial Society have worked on numerous projects involving witnesses to past events (Gulag inmates, Soviet rights activists) and younger generations, including schoolchildren.
On 30 October 2017 Putin attempted to draw a line under the past when he unveiled the massive but controversial Wall of Sorrow monument in Moscow.
References and notes
- Karl W. Ryavec. Russian Bureaucracy: Power and Pathology, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-8476-9503-4, page 13
- Shevchenko, Vitaly (14 April 2015). "Goodbye, Lenin: Ukraine moves to ban communist symbols". BBC News. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Steve Rosenberg (19 August 2016), The Russians with fond memories of the USSR, BBC News, retrieved 20 August 2016
- Lucy Ash (1 May 2016), The rape of Berlin, BBC News, retrieved 1 June 2016
- RSFSR Presidential Decree No 79 (23 August 1991), "On suspending the activities of the RSFSR Communist Party" (Указ Президента РСФСР от 23 августа 1991 года N 79 "О приостановлении деятельности Коммунистической партии РСФСР").
- RSFSR Presidential Decree No 90 (25 August 1991), "Concerning the property of the RSFSR Communist Party" Об имуществе КПСС и Коммунистической партии РСФСР".
- RSFSR Presidential Decree, No 169 (6 November 1991), "On the activities of the CPSU and the RSFSR Communist Party" (Указ Президента РСФСР от 6 ноября 1991 года N 169 "О деятельности КПСС и КП РСФСР").
- Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7
- Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia – Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5.
- "The Case of the Russian Archives: An Interview with Iurii N. Afanas'ev". Slavic Review 52 (2), 338–352.
- The Bukovsky Archives: Communism on Trial (1937–1994).
- "Дело о проверке конституционности Указов Президента Российской Федерации от 23 августа 1991 года N 79". www.panorama.ru.
- Nelson, Susan H. "The Bureaucratic Politics of Democracy Promotion: The Russian Democratization Project" PhD Diss, University of Maryland, 2006.
(in chronological order)
- Shevtsova, Lilia (1995), "The Two Sides of the New Russia", Journal of Democracy 6 (3), 56–71.
- Bukovsky, Vladimir (1998), Judgement Day, Washington, D.C.: Regnery pub. ISBN 0-89526-389-0
- Debra W. Stewart, Norman A. Sprinthall, Jackie D. Kem (2002), "Moral Reasoning in the Context of Reform: A Study of Russian Officials", Public Administration Review 62 (3), 282–297.
- Albats, Yevgenia (2004), "Bureaucrats and the Russian transition: The politics of accommodation, 1991–2003". PhD Dissertation, Harvard University.
- Nelson, Susan H. (2006), "The Bureaucratic Politics of Democracy Promotion: The Russian Democratization Project". PhD Dissertation, University of Maryland.
- Satter, David (2011), It was a long time ago, and anyway it never happened: Russia and the Communist Past, Yale University Press.