The Agrarian parliamentary faction called a press conference in Moscow yesterday and roundly denounced both President Yeltsin’s March 7 decree legalizing the free sale of land and the black sheep of the Agrarian Party, Aleksandr Zaveryukha. Zaveryukha, until recently a leading member of the party, is now deputy prime minister with responsibility for agriculture and has not only declared loyal support for the controversial decree, but also suspended his party membership. The Agrarians denounced Yeltsin’s move on the grounds that it would "provoke a new black partition of land." In this, they betrayed a curious ignorance of Russian history. The Black Partition was a nineteenth-century underground group that opposed terror and called for land to be taken by peaceful means from the landowners and distributed to the peasantry. Today’s Agrarian Party claims to act in defense of Russian farmers, but actually represents the interests of collective farm managers. Some commentators have likened the Agrarian Party to the barons of yesteryear, whose interests are opposed to those of today’s equivalent of the landless peasantry. The Agrarian Party is unlikely to share this interpretation and seems to have chosen the words "black partition" in the mistaken belief that "black," which simply derives from the color of the Russian earth, has negative connotations. (9)
Has Lebed Taken the Bait?