Movement for Democratic Reforms

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On July 1, 1991, nine well-known close associates of Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the USSR, and Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR), called for the establishment of a Movement for Democratic Reform to unite all those who supported human rights and a democratic future for the USSR. The appeal was signed by Arkady Volsky, Gavril Popov, Alexander Rutskoi, Anatoly Sobchak, Stanislav Shatalin, Eduard Shevardnadze, Alexander Yakovlev, Ivan Silayev, and Nikolai Petrakov. It endorsed the development of a market economy and the maintenance of the USSR in some form, and declared that a founding Congress would be convened in September to decide whether or not to form a political party.

Alexander Yakovlev explained that the movement sought to overcome the Party apparat's resistance to the democratization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and he openly appealed to reformist Communists to join the movement. President Gorbachev endorsed its formation (many believed that it had been established to provide him with an alternative political base in the event of a formal split in the CPSU). The Central Committee of the CPSU was skeptical of the movement, and the Communists in the military openly attacked it.

After the abortive coup against President Gorbachev in August 1991, the leaders of the movement were named to important political posts sought to fill the gap created by the dissolution of the CPSU and openly recruited reformist leaders of the Party as well as members of the "military industrial complex."

The founding Congress of the movement was finally convened in December 1991, just days after the collapse of the USSR and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Congress called for the formation of a broad coalition of democratic movements and parties, endorsed market reforms, sought the support of emerging entrepreneurs, and supported the CIS with some misgivings.

In February 1992 the original movement was replaced by the Russian Movement for Democratic Reform (RMDR), and Gavril Popov was chosen as its chairman. In June 1992 he resigned from his position as mayor of Moscow to devote more time to the development of the movement as a "democratic opposition" to the Yeltsin regime.

The RMDR became increasingly critical of the Yeltsin regime's economic policies in 1992 and 1993. It nominated a significant number of candidates for the first elections to the state duma in December 1993. Although it endorsed much of the new Constitution, it was sharply critical of the growth of bureaucracy, the process of privatization, and the continued power of the Communist nomenklatura. It advocated sharp reduction of the bureaucracy, the decentralization of economic power, distribution of land to all citizens, local controls over energy, and a clear demarcation of authority between president, parliament, and government. It received almost 9 percent of the vote in St. Petersburg, but failed to gain the 5 percent of the vote needed for representation in the state duma.

After the elections of December 1993 RMDR repeatedly assailed the entire reform model of the Yeltsin regime and sought partners to establish an effective democratic opposition. In September 1994 it formed an alliance with Democratic Russia, and in 1995 it worked with other similar organizations to create a Social Democratic Union (SDU) to contest the 1995 elections. After the SDU's defeat in the elections, the RMDR disappeared from public view.

See also: ausust 1991 putsch; popov, gavril kharitonovich; rutskoi, alexander vladimirovich; shatalin, stanislav sergeyevich; shevardnadze, eduard amvrosievich; sobchak, anatoly alexandrovich; volsky, arkady ivanovich; yakovlev, alexander nikolayevich


Colton, Timothy J., and Hough, Jerry Hough, eds. (1998). Growing Pains: Russian Democracy and the Election of 1993. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

McFaul, Michael, and Markov, Sergei. (1993). The Troubled Birth of Russia Democracy Parties, Personalities, and Programs. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Jonathan Harris

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Movement for Democratic Reforms

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