Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 114

On June 12, 1990, the first Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic passed a declaration of state sovereignty. June 12 has since been made an official holiday that is formally designated “the Day of the Passage of the Declaration of the State Sovereignty” but more often referred to simply as “Independence Day.” President Vladimir Putin held a Kremlin reception yesterday to celebrate the anniversary, declaring that the sovereignty declaration marked “the beginning of our new history” as “a democratic state, based on civil liberties and supremacy of the law” and that democracy and civil rights were “society’s legacy to be defended daily.”

During the reception, Putin also conferred the Order of Service to the Motherland first degree, Russia’s highest civilian award, on his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who was elected Russian president on June 12, 1991, exactly one year after Russia’s sovereignty declaration. However, in what some might interpret as an oblique dig at Yeltsin, given the economic hardships most Russians experienced during his tenure, Putin declared: “Everything we endured over the past decade, all our experiences, successes and failures, shows one thing–any reform only makes sense when it serves the people. If reforms do not benefit citizens, then they will fail.”

Yeltsin, for his part, praised Putin yesterday, telling Russian Public Television (ORT) that his hopes for his successor had been “vindicated” and that Putin was “taking the country on the right path and enabling the growth of Russia’s authority in the whole world.” The former Russian president said that he had last met with Putin on May 10, but that while they had “discussed things,” he had not given his successor “any strict advice.” “There’s no point,” Yeltsin told ORT. “He’s the president, he takes decisions and is the one is who is in the final analysis responsible for his own decisions” (ORT, Russian agencies, AP, AFP, Reuters, June 12).

Despite Yeltsin’s assurances, rumors persist that the former Russian president and his inner circle, known as the “Family,” continue to wield influence over Putin–or at least are trying to continue to wield such influence and thereby prevent Putin from becoming a fully independent player (ORT, June 12). For example, Stringer, the monthly publication set up last year under the auspices of Aleksandr Korzhakov, the State Duma deputy who was formerly Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard, reported last month that Yeltsin and Putin had spoken by telephone concerning “the coming resignation” of Aleksandr Voloshin, the Kremlin chief of staff, who is widely viewed as a key “Family” member. Citing sources in the presidential administration, Stringer reported that Yeltsin–“urged on” by Tat’yana Dyachenko, his daughter and a former Kremlin adviser–had demanded during his phone conversation with Putin that Voloshin be left in as head of the presidential administration and had threatened to go public about “how the mechanism for ensuring the continuity of power really worked” if Voloshin were replaced. Stringer also suggested, however, that Yeltsin’s reported threat was an empty one and that the “Family” no longer had the strength to fight Putin openly (Stringer, No. 12, May 2001). In his ORT interview, Yeltsin said that media reports about the “Family” were “myths” and “malicious lies” (ORT, June 12).