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Effects of the Financial Crash

 

The fact that the Communist opposition represented the biggest political faction in the Second Duma did not affect significantly the main direction of the government’s policies, though it helped, to some extent, correct the excesses of Gaidar-style radical liberalism. The biggest blow to economic liberalism was dealt not by the Communist opposition in parliament but by the August 1998 banking crisis. It brought about a steep devaluation of the ruble, a production slump, galloping inflation, and a drop in real incomes. 

 
Yury Luzhkov

In the immediate aftermath of the financial crash the supporters of liberal reforms seemed completely demoralized and almost obliterated, while their Communist opponents now actively fought to fill government posts with their political allies. The antiliberal forces represented by the Communist, nationalist, and other parties and movements advocating a state-directed economy looked set to expand their electorates on the wave of antireformist sentiments fomented by the crisis.

Even the ruling bureaucracy swung somewhat to the left after the August events and now competed with the Communists in gibes at “bankrupt monetarists.” The authority of the president and his administration was badly damaged by the crisis and so, too, was the prestige of the Kremlin-sponsored Our Home Is Russia movement, which had been an instrument in rallying regional elites behind the government. Regional bosses now looked for a new leader capable of consolidating bureaucratic elites, and they found one in Yury Luzhkov, the powerful mayor of Moscow, who had always been a loud critic of Gaidar, Chubais, and the other ideologues of economic liberalism.

Governors proceeded to leave Our Home Is Russia and join the new “party of bosses” – the Fatherland (Otechestvo in Russian) movement – that was being set up by Luzhkov. The mayor himself was now seen as one of the favorites to win the next presidential contest, and therefore his claims to leadership in the new party looked legitimate to the Russian bureaucracy.

Evgeny Primakov 

In August 1999 Luzhkov’s “Fatherland” joined forces with another “governors’ bloc,” the All-Russia movement, thus setting up a formidable coalition of regional barons in the run-up to the December 1999 parliamentary elections under the name of Fatherland—All Russia (OVR in Russian). The regional leaders behind the merger – Luzhkov and the president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev – invited Evgeny Primakov, the former prime minister and a respected politician, to lead their electoral coalition. 

 
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