Publication: Prism Volume: 6 Issue: 1

By V.A. Mironov

The events of December 1999 confirmed once again that political life in Russia is heading at a rate of knots into uncharted waters. First, as a number of politicians have said, the elections to the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly have brought about a peaceful revolution, and at the same time a “period of political stabilization,” intimately linked to the people’s desire for renewal. Second, Boris Yeltsin’s decision to step down from the presidency ahead of time–announced at midday on the last day of the second millennium–changed the political rules of play and spoilt the plans of contenders for the highest post in the land, causing serious disarray among some of Russia’s political elite. Voices could immediately be heard saying that New Year’s Eve had seen the last giant of Russian politics leave the Kremlin. This is no coincidence: One-third of the population believes that the first president of sovereign Russia’s stepping down signaled the end of an era in the country’s history. But did these two days in December really change the political landscape of the country so significantly and affect the lives of Russians so greatly?


The outcome of the popular vote in the elections to the State Duma basically corresponded to the results predicted by sociologists.

The turn-out was slightly over 61 percent of registered voters. Of these, 25 percent supported the communists. Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) garnered almost 13 percent of the vote. Throughout the election campaign, the Kremlin’s spin-doctors artificially exaggerated the levels of popular support for Yevgeny Primakov and Yuri Luzhkov: OVR was never really very well known outside a few areas of the federation. These large republics and regions (Moscow city, Moscow oblast, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan) had the potential to bring in between 10 and 15 percent of the vote, which is indeed what happened. Almost 6 percent of voters supported the Liberal Democrats, while Yabloko won rather fewer votes than usual–5.93 percent–but on the whole the results show that Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Grigory Yavlinsky have a reliable core of supporters among the public.

The big surprise of the elections was the level of support for the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and the interregional movement Unity (23.32 percent).