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Yabloko was one of the leading liberal opposition parties in the newly democratic Russia of the 1990s. Yabloko's founder and leader was Grigory Yavlinsky, a liberal economist who had stayed aloof from the new democratic political movements being formed between 1989 and 1991. A strong critic of Boris Yeltsin's privatization program, Yavlinsky condemned both the anti-Yeltsin rebellion by the Congress of People's Deputies in September 1993 and Yeltsin's use of force to suppress it in October.

In the wake of the October crisis, Yavlinsky teamed up with Yuri Boldyrev, an anticorruption campaigner, and Vladimir Lukin, ambassador to Washington until September, to form a bloc to run in the December 1993 State Duma election. Taking their three initials (Y, B, L), they named their alliance Yabloko (which means "apple"). Three small parties also joined Yabloko: the Republican Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Russian Christian-Democratic Union.

The three founders of Yabloko were allies of convenience: They had a liberal orientation but were not part of Yeltsin's team. Lukin wanted a foreign policy that was less pro-Western than that pursued by Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, an aspiration that contradicted Yavlinsky's pro-Western orientation. Boldyrev subsequently quit Yabloko in 1995.

Yabloko's candidates were mostly young professionals and intellectuals. In the December 1993 election they won 7.9 percent of the vote and twenty seats in the national party-list race, and seven single-mandate districts. They were the sixth-largest party in the 450-seat Duma. Yabloko took up a position of principled opposition to the Yeltsin government. It opposed the new December 1993 constitution, refused to sign Yeltsin's Civil Accord in May 1994, and repeatedly voted against government-proposed legislation.

Yavlinsky ran Yabloko as a tight ship. Deputies who did not vote the Yabloko line were expelled from the party. In January 1995 Yabloko formally converted itself from an electoral bloc into a party. It claimed branches in more than 60 regions of Russia, although its most visible strength was in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and, curiously, the Far East. Yabloko projected an image that was partly liberal and partly social democratic, but nearly always critical of the government. They competed for the liberal electorate with the pro-government reform party (at first Russia's Choice, then Union of Right Forces). Party identification among Yabloko voters was rather weak, and surveys indicate that they were scattered across the entire political spectrum.

In the December 1995 Duma election Yabloko maintained its position, finishing fourth with 6.9 percent of the vote, thirty-one seats on the party list, and fourteen seats in single-mandate races. Yabloko established a visible presence in the parliament through articulate young leaders such as Alexei Arbatov, deputy chair of the defense committee. In November 1997 Yabloko's Mikhail Zadornov, the head of the Duma's budget committee, joined the government as finance minister. In May 1999 Yabloko voted for impeaching Yeltsin because of his actions in the first Chechen war. In August 1999 former prime minister and anticorruption campaign Sergei Stepashin chose to join Yabloko rather than the rival Right Cause. But in the December 1999 Duma elections Yabloko's support slipped to 5.9 percent (yielding sixteen seats, plus four in the single mandates). It was probably hurt by Yavlinsky's criticism of the government's new war in Chechnya.

Yabloko mainly existed as a vehicle for its leader, Yavlinsky. The rise of Vladimir Putin sunk Yavlinsky's presidential chances, leaving Yabloko as a visible but relatively powerless voice of opposition.

See also: constitution of 1993; yavlinsky, grigory alexeyevich; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


Yabloko website, English version. (1999). <>.

Peter Rutland

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