Inter-Regional Deputies' Group
INTER-REGIONAL DEPUTIES' GROUP
The Inter-Regional Deputies' Group (IRDG) took shape in June 1989 as a loose democratic grouping in the first USSR Congress of People's Deputies. But its main historical achievements were the propagation of democratic ideas to the Soviet public, and its catalytic role as a focus and example for democratic groups. Its period of intense activity lasted less than a year. Its functions were soon superseded, primarily by the rise of the Democratic Russia movement.
At the time of IRDG's spontaneous emergence, its spokespersons took pains to deny that it was a faction that might divide the congress. However, by the time it held its founding conference on July 29–30, 1989, Soviet miners had launched a strike that put forward political as well as economic demands and radicalized political thinking among Soviet democrats. The IRDG realized that its original goal of merely pressuring the Communist Party into conducting reforms no longer fit the mood of those elements in a society that favored change. Now it needed to campaign for what the former dissident Andrei Sakharov had demanded at the congress: the repeal of Article Six of the Soviet Constitution, which legitimized the political monopoly of the Communists. Only such repeal would allow the emergence of a variety of constitutionally legitimate parties, and thus open the door to radical change.
This principle, coupled with the IRDG's insistence on the right of the union republics to exercise the sovereignty to which they were already entitled on paper, became the two main planks of the IRDG's initial program. Later, principles such as support for a market economy and private property were added.
The founding conference, attended by 316 of the congress's 2,250 deputies, saw much debate on whether the IRDG should constitute itself as a faction, and whether it should define itself as an opposition. The majority, convinced by historian Yuri Afanasiev's proposition that Marxism-Leninism was unreformable, was inclined to answer these questions in the affirmative. Organizationally, 269 of those present joined the new group and elected as their leaders five co-chairmen and a coordinating council of twenty. The co-chairmen comprised Afanasiev; Sakharov; the politically reascendant Boris Yeltsin; the economist and future mayor of Moscow, Gavriil Popov; and—to symbolize the IRDG's commitment to the sovereignty of the union republics—the Estonian Viktor Palm.
Over the next months the IRDG held meetings at which numerous speeches were made and many draft laws proposed. However, partly because its most ambitious politician, Yeltsin, usually chose to act independently of the IRDG, the group proved unable to channel all this activity into practical action. Soon it realized that factional activity in the congress was not feasible for a small group that never numbered more than four hundred. Some of its members, notably Yeltsin, saw that the upcoming elections to the fifteen new republican congresses, scheduled for early 1990, held out more promise of real political change than did the USSR congress. Others, such as Sakharov and Afanasiev, rejected this approach, which was inevitably tinged with ethnic nationalism, in favor of uniting democrats and promoting democratization throughout the whole of the USSR.
In sum, the IRDG's brief but bold example of self-organization in the often hostile environment of the USSR congress, and the enormous publicity generated by the televised speeches of IRDG members at the first two congresses and other public meetings, had major repercussions for the democratic groups and candidates who organized themselves for the 1990 elections, and thus, also, for the development of Russian democracy.
See also: article 6 of 1977 constitution; congress of people's deputies; popov, gavriil kharitonovich; sakharov, andrei dmitrievich; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich
Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri. (2001). The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism Against Democracy. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.
Urban, Michael; Igrunov, Vyacheslav; and Mitrokhin, Sergei. (1997). The Rebirth of Politics in Russia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.