Soyuz Faction

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The Soyuz faction was a group of hardliners in USSR Congress of People's Deputies at the end of the Soviet era. Its leaders, Viktor Alksnis and Nikolai Petrushenko, had been elected as deputies from Latvia and Kazakhstan respectively, regions with large ethnic Russian populations that conservatives were trying to mobilize (in organizations called "interfronts") to counter the independence movements that had sprung up under perestroika. While nationalists and communists dominated the USSR Congress of People's Deputies elected in March 1989, democratic forces won the upper hand in the Russian Federation Congress of People's Deputies, elected in the spring of 1990, which chose Boris Yeltsin as its leader.

Alksinis came up with the idea of the Soyuz faction in October 1989. It was launched on February 14, 1990, but only became highly visible toward the end of the year, when conservatives mobilized to deter Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev from adopting the Five-Hundred Day economic reform program. Soyuz had close ties to the army and security services, and its goal was to preserve the USSR. At its formal founding congress on December 1, 1990, Soyuz claimed the support of up to one quarter of the deputies in the USSR Congress. Its sister organization in the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet was Sergei Baburin's Rossiya faction. Soyuz put increasing pressure on Gorbachev to end democratization by introducing presidential rule, suppressing disloyal political parties, and cracking down on nationalist movements in the non-Russian republics. It reportedly persuaded Gorbachev to fire Soviet Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin, who had agreed to the creation of separate interior ministries in each of the union republics. On November 11, 1990, Alksnis persuaded Gorbachev to address a meeting of one thousand military personnel elected as deputies to various soviets; he got a hostile reception. A week later, speaking in the USSR Supreme Soviet on November 17, Alksinis effectively called for Gorbachev's over-throw. Still, no one could be sure whether Gorbachev would stick with democratization or opt for an authoritarian crackdown.

In January 1991 KGB teams tried to overthrow the independent-minded governments in Latvia and Lithuania. This drew fierce international criticism, and Gorbachev disowned it. Apparently he had given up the idea of using force to hold the USSR together, for he now began pursuing a new union treaty with the heads of the republics that made up the USSR. In response, a Soyuz conference in April 1991 called for power to be transferred from Gorbachev to Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov or Anatoly Lukyanov, chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Clearly the Soyuz group was laying the political and organizational groundwork for the coup attempt of August 1991, but the failure of the putsch sealed the fate of the USSR and of Soyuz, its most loyal defender. Alksnis was later one of the defenders of the anti-Yeltsin parliament in the violent confrontation of October 1993. Interviewed in 2002, he insisted that the USSR could have been saved if Gorbachev had acted more resolutely and not been "afraid of his own shadow."

See also: august 1991 putsch; democratization; gorbachev, mikhail sergeyevich


Dunlop, John B. (1995). The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rees, E. A. (1992). "Party Relations with the Military and the KGB." In The Soviet Communist Party in Disarray: The XXVIII Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ed. E. A. Rees. New York: St. Martin's.

Teague, Elizabeth. (1991). "The 'Soyuz' Group." Report on the USSR 3(20):1621.

Peter Rutland