Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 8

By Aleksandr Buzgalin and Andrei Kolganov

The bloc with the beautiful name of Yabloko [which means “apple” in Russian] (the source of the name is the first letters of the last names of the coalition’s founding fathers — Yavlinsky, Boldyrev and Lukin) is somewhat of a “lone wolf” in Russian politics. Understandably, it has not allied itself with “Russia is Our Home” — which is made up of the former prime minister’s proteges and the gas barons standing behind him, regional officials, etc. It is also understandable why it has not allied itself with the Communists — they are failures from the middle and lower ranks of the party nomenklatura, who rely on the insulted and humiliated older generation, which is nostalgic for the past. It isn’t even hard to understand why Yabloko hasn’t joined forces with Gaidar and the “radical democrats” — they are capitalists in the spirit of the International Monetary Fund.

But then who is Grigory Yavlinsky?

A softer version of Gaidar? If that is so, then it is hard to explain Yabloko’s consistently oppositionist stance (sometimes even harsher than the KPRF’s) in parliament.

Someone radically opposed to Yeltsin’s bourgeois, pro-Western regime? This proposition simply will not square with the obvious “Westernism” both of Yavlinsky himself and of the majority of his supporters. So who are you, Mr. Yavlinsky, and what kind of bloc stands behind you?

1. Yabloko’s social base

The key to understanding the Yavlinsky phenomenon, in our view, is the answer to the following question: why is it that the bloc and its leader always get from seven to ten percent of the vote in every election?

To answer both questions, one needs to know Yabloko’s social base. To analyze Yavlinsky’s strengths and weaknesses, it is important to understand that there are no old (like the KPRF has) or new (like “Russia is Our Home” has) institutional structures behind him. But Yavlinsky and his colleagues in the “orchard coalition” do have a solid and stable electorate: intellectuals (for the most part, but not exclusively, educated in the humanities), for whom democratic values, civil rights, the market “with a human face” and other such abstract ideas are the most important thing. As a rule, it is intellectuals who (unlike most of Gaidar’s supporters) are on the middle ranks of the hierarchy of contemporary Russian society who support Yabloko.

Such an intellectual dislikes the current government because it: