Fatherland-All Russia

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"Fatherland-All Russia" (OtechestvoVsya Rossiya, or OVR) was an alternative "ruling party," a bloc formed in the summer of 1999 in order to seize power from the weakening Kremlin. The first step towards organization was the formation of the bloc called Fatherland, a political structure created by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who had presidential ambitions. Established and registered on December 19, 1998, a full year before Duma elections, Fatherland brought together a number of organizations that appealed to patriotism or paternalism. These included the Congress of Russian Communities (which later left it) and the "Power" movement, as well as the political wing of the reformist trade unions (profsoyuzy ), "Union of Labor" and Women of Russia. It also included a handful of influential heads of Luzhkov-oriented regions: Karelia, Komi, Mordvinia, Udmurtia, and the Arkhangelsk, Moscow, Murmansk, Nizhegorod, Novosibirsk, and Yaroslavl oblasts. Prospective politicians, often the mayors of centers, headed the ubiquitous regional branches. This often led to conflict, when two or three local organizations simultaneously claimed to be the area's regional branch. The material base of "Fatherland" was provided by a powerful consortium of of financial and industrial groups known as the "Moscow clan."

Established three months later, the "All Russia" bloc became an alternative gubernatorial political project. The bloc included another dozen influential regional heads, including the leaders of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Petersburg, Irkutsk oblast, among others, as well as a few regional speakers. The mayor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Yakovlev, became chair of the bloc. Four and a half months before the elections, despite the opposition of the Kremlin, the two powerful gubernatorial blocs were able to unite, advancing the recently retired prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, as their leader. Soon after their formation, they were joined by a large contingent of the Agrarian Party of Russia, which did not see a future in continuing its association with Zyuganov's Communist Party.

FatherlandAll Russia, united not so much by ideology as by a foretaste of full assumption of power, announced an eclectic program. Its main slogan, "Trust only deeds," drew the voter's attention to powerful politicians united under the bloc's banners and to authoritarian governors. The overall agenda of the bloc, including the continuity of ruling power, social peace, and rejection of revolutionary shocks, were combined with concrete programmatic elaborations concerning key questions of economy, politics, and social development. These elaborations went through a series of discussions and were summarized in the form "Notices for the president." At the core of OVR's propaganda campaign was the juxtaposition of its candidates with the ruling Kremlin command, along with criticism of Yeltsin and his entourage, an identification of the "family" as the locus of corruption, and allegations of the government's secrecy and incompetence.

A crucial moment in the campaign, and the beginning of the end of OVR as a "party of future power," was a series of explosions in residential areas of Moscow and other cities, and the beginning of a new war in the northern Caucasus. People no longer wanted the economic and social improvements promised by OVR; instead, they wanted the safety and protection provided by a strong government. Although the complex and clumsy propaganda machine of OVR continued to attack Yeltsin, a social question based on new principles took hold and was answered in large part by the new prime minister, Vladimir Putin. The extremely strong public relations campaign of the Kremlin against OVR played its part as well.

In the end, OVR received 13.3 percent of the votes (third place), losing by nearly half to the KPRF and to the Unity Party that had been created shortly before the elections and had campaigned as a party of regional power. Moreover, nearly half the OVR votes came from four regions whose elites remained loyal to the bloc: Moscow, Moscow oblast, Tatarstan, and Bashkiria. In these regions, the bloc brought forth most of its candidates in districts where they already enjoyed a distinct majority. In the Duma, OVR formed the OVR faction (which delegates from Fatherland joined) and the delegate group called "Regions of Russia," which opposed the Kremlin for a while. In the absence of ideology and the disagreements associated with it, this factionalism could not continue for long. Beginning in mid-2000, a long process of unification took place, and in December 2000, Unity, Fatherland, and All Russia officially merged into the party "Unity and Fatherland" ("United Russia") with three co-chairs: Sergei Shoygu, Yuri Luzhkov, and Mintimir Shaymiev. Two weeks later, the new party was registered with the Ministry of Justice.

See also: luzhkov, yuri mikhailovich; primakov, yevgeny maximovich; unity (medved party); women of russia bloc


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Nikolai Petrov