Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 18

Russia got a prime minister after three weeks without a functioning government. On September 11, the State Duma approved President Yeltsin’s nomination of Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. At 68, the Soviet-era KGB spy-master had expressed no presidential ambitions and was not seen by Russia’s presidential hopefuls as a threat. Yeltsin settled on Primakov after opposition parliamentarians vowed to vote down his nomination of Viktor Chernomyrdin for a third and decisive time.

Primakov declared his aim to be a “socially oriented” economy that would include protection for domestic producers and a greater role for the state in managing the economy. He promised to prioritize paying wage and pension arrears and bridging what he called the “awful divide” between rich and poor that, he said, had opened up in Russian society.

While Primakov himself was both seen as a compromise candidate and endorsed by both the Communist Party and the liberal Yabloko faction, his two first senior appointments suggested that Russia was changing direction. Primakov named communist Yuri Maslyukov, the last head of USSR Gosplan, as first deputy premier in charge of economic policy. He also returned Viktor Gerashchenko, who headed Russia’s Central Bank from 1992-4, to his old post. Critics had blamed Gerashchenko during his earlier tenure of for fueling inflation with huge credits to ailing industry and agriculture. They were not reassured this time around when Gerashchenko said that a “modest” emission of new money was desirable. Liberal economist Grigory Yavlinsky, who had been the first to propose Primakov’s candidacy, refused to take a post in the government, saying he could not work with Maslyukov and Gerashchenko.