Russia’s National Salvation Front: Its Role in Yeltsin-era Russia

International-Salvation-Fund-Yeltsin-Era-Russia

It is widely known that in Russia, Yeltsin and his policies were not well-liked by the general population. Many believed that democracy was great, but it should not have come with economic crisis and poverty. Dissatisfaction with the president’s domestic policies has given rise to the very alliance of left and right forces that amazes the minds of Westerners. Just a glance: the alliance of the hammer and sickle with the double-headed eagle and the “imperial” against the government.

Today we will talk about the first largest organization in Russia, which was very successfully able to unite patriots on opposite sides of the barricades. Its name is “National Salvation Front National Salvation Front “.

After the USSR collapsed, many communists, nationalists, and conservatives joined forces, realizing that the weak “Yeltsin’s occupation presence” could not handle the new harsh realities. Up to a certain point, there were no unified organizations, but everything changed after the violent dispersal of the February 23, 1992 demonstration in Moscow celebrating the Day of the Soviet Army and Navy. Riot police, following orders from the authorities, beat veterans during the dispersal of the procession.

National-Salvation-Fund-Yeltsin-Era-Russia
The police pushes back and knocks down the participants of the rally.

International-Salvation-Fund-Yeltsin-Era-Russia

This is how contemporaries describe this tragedy: “On Soviet Army Day, 450 trucks, 12 thousand policemen and 4 thousand soldiers of the Dzerzhinsky division blocked all the streets in the city center, including Mayakovsky Square, although the day before it was announced that only the Boulevard Ring would be blocked. Barely in front of the fenced square, a rally began when a rumor spread through the crowd that a certain representative of the mayor’s office said that Popov and Luzhkov (a “democratic” public figure and the mayor of Moscow at that time) had come to their senses and allowed them to lay flowers at the Eternal Flame With victorious shouts of “Allowed!” » the crowd moved towards the Kremlin. The police chains immediately dispersed, and the trucks moved away, forming passages. However, soon the chains closed again, dividing the column into several parts.

Then, as Sergei Kara-Murza writes: ““a large group of demonstrators, locked on both sides, were brutally and deliberately beaten – they beat the elderly, the disabled, honored high-ranking military leaders, well-known deputies and writers.” Eduard Limonov recalled: “The riot police were first used by Yeltsin on February 23, 1992. I was there when people were being dispersed there with aluminum shields. Everything was still primitive then.” The author of the Moscow Literary magazine Svetlana Gladysh wrote:

“On February 23, 1992, veterans of the Great Patriotic War went to bow to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier… The old people who have lived to this day still remember this day with horror, and, I hope, with shame and consciousness of sin, the young punishers who raised their batons against those who kept them alive. The general, who reached Berlin, could not reach the Kremlin – he fell on Tverskaya, as if on a battlefield. <…> The streets of Arbat were filled with orders and medals for courage paid for in blood. My friend’s father was beaten until he lost consciousness by two strong guys and they tore out the Order of the Red Banner and the medal for the liberation of Budapest: “You, grandfather, are red-brown scum.” All over Russia, old people who were not afraid of God or the devil were crying from humiliation and lack of understanding of what was happening.”

This tragedy brought together both right and left forces, leading to the signing of the Declaration for the creation of the “United Opposition” on March 1, 1992. The Russian All-People’s Union (ROS), the Russian People’s Assembly, the Russian National Council, and others joined forces with the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RCWP), the Russian Party of Communists, the Socialist workers’ party, the United Front of Workers, and others. The “United Opposition” was represented by the “Russian Unity” bloc at the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation (SND RSFSR – RF).

The Political Council of the “United Opposition” was established on June 29, 1992, with representatives from the Russian Unity and Russian National Counsil. They outlined “Ten demands of the united opposition to the President of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Russian Federation,” which included calls for the resignation of the Yeltsin-Gaidar government, the creation of a government of people’s trust with emergency powers to address the economic crisis, the reversal of the decree allowing the sale of land to foreigners, international organizations, and stateless persons, and the end of anti-people privatization and bankruptcy practices. They also called for measures to stabilize and reduce prices.

On September 17, 1992, Astafiev, a leader of the RE, announced at a press conference in Moscow that the “left” and “right” opposition had signed an agreement to work together to remove Russian Federation President Yeltsin and the government from power. They demanded an extraordinary session of the Russian parliament to discuss impeachment proceedings against the president. Astafiev stated that the opposition believed the overthrow of the president and government was justified. Co-chairman of the Russian National Council, G. A. Zyuganov, also participated in the press conference with aspirations for a leadership role.

On October 1, 1992, members of the “United Opposition” signed a declaration appealing to citizens, which led to the formation of the Organizing Committee of the National Salvation Congress. The political declaration outlined the following tasks for the National Salvation Front:

  1. Establishing a government of national salvation to prevent the state from collapsing.
  2. Restoring order and cracking down on crime, corruption, and lawlessness.
  3. Putting an end to the controversial policies of Yeltsin-Gaidar, including privatization.
  4. Ensuring a decent standard of living for citizens through price controls and fair wages.
  5. Rebuilding economic connections and promoting growth in industrial and agricultural sectors.
  6. Unifying the country and preventing ethnic conflicts and illegal armed groups.
  7. Strengthening the country’s defense and supporting the military-industrial complex.
  8. Supporting the development of science, education, healthcare, culture, and arts.

Based on this appeal, the Organizing Committee of the National Salvation Congress was formed, consisting of 38 individuals including influential figures like Zyuganov, Papurin, Tuleyev, Shafarevich, and Nevzorov (who is now known for his pro-government stance).

On October 24, 1992, the 1st Congress of National Salvation was held in Moscow, where the National Salvation Front was established and its charter and Manifesto were adopted. The Executive Committee organization, led by Konstantinov, was formed by the political council of the National Salvation Front. A declaration signed by members of the united opposition was accepted as an appeal on October 1, 1992. Yeltsin dissolved the organizing committee of the National Salvation Front on October 28, 1992, but this decision was later declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in February 1993. The National Salvation Front’s political council opposed a referendum on the new constitution of the Russian Federation at the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993, accusing the organizers of undermining the legal basis for restoring the One Great State. The National Salvation Front was also preparing to defeat the “occupation government” in upcoming elections and remove Yeltsin from power.

On the eve of the 7th Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation on November 29, 1992, the National Salvation Front and the Labor Russia movement organized a protest on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow. The rally invited all who were unhappy with the current government to participate. The protestors demanded the resignation of the government and president, a shift in socio-economic and political policies, a prohibition on land transactions, and the safeguarding of property rights.

On January 30-31, 1993, the inaugural conference of the National Council of the National Salvation Front was held, with 300 delegates from 50 regions of Russia and 20 organizations in attendance. The leaders of the National Salvation Front called for the 8th Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation to be convened early in order to adopt a new Constitution and hold early elections for the executive and legislative branches. The National Salvation Front was officially registered with the Ministry of Justice of Russia on March 30, 1993. Throughout the first half of the year, the National Salvation Front organized and participated in several demonstrations, one of which on May 1 resulted in riots near Red Square that were dispersed by riot police.

Although the organization became more powerful, influential and famous, it began to collapse from within. At the 2nd Congress of National Salvation on July 24–25, 1993, the Russian Party of Communists (RPK) joined the NSF, and at the same time a number of non-communist, national-patriotic and statist organizations left the coalition: ROS, RPNV and NRPR. At the Congress and immediately after it, 4 of the 9 co-chairs of the Federal Tax Service (Baburin, Ivanov, Isakov, Pavlov) announced their resignation. Because of this, leftist ideas began to prevail in the bloc, rather than a centrist association, as was the case previously. The strategic goals at the congress were a radical change in government policy, the transfer of full power to the Soviets, the formation of a “Government of National Salvation,” and the abolition of the post of president and the entire presidential vertical.

On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin attempted to dissolve the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation through decree No. 1400, in order to initiate a phased constitutional reform. However, this decree was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. As a result, Yeltsin was required to step down according to the current Basic Law. The Supreme Council of the Russian Federation, followed by the 10th extraordinary Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation (September 23 – October 4, 1993), officially declared his removal from office.

On September 21–22, 1993, the Political Council of the Federal Tax Service qualified Yeltsin’s actions as a “coup d’etat” and called on citizens to “come out in defense of the Constitution, the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation, organize actions of civil disobedience to the president and his entourage, block pro-presidential structures, hold mass rallies and protest demonstrations, start political strikes at enterprises and institutions.” Also, the leaders of the Federal Tax Service demanded from the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation V. G. Stepankov to initiate a criminal case against Yeltsin “for treason to the Motherland”, and from the law enforcement agencies to “prevent the flight of the former president and his clique from Russia.”

During the October crisis of 1993, members of the National Salvation Front played a key role in the confrontation with government forces. They organized people’s squads to defend the House of Soviets in early October. The Federal Tax Service’s activities were halted by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation on October 4, 1993. Konstantinov was arrested and only released after an amnesty resolution was passed by the State Duma on February 24, 1994. Furthermore, the President of the Russian Federation issued a decree on October 19, 1993, prohibiting the Federal Tax Service and some of its affiliated organizations from participating in elections at various levels. This ban also included individuals who were implicated in the armed rebellion in Moscow on October 3-4, 1993, and in an earlier attack on the Headquarters of the Main Command of the United Armed Forces of the CIS. However, the decree did not affect other members of the Federal Tax Service.

The ban on the party caused most organizations to leave this bloc, but the Federal Tax Service was particularly affected by the legalization of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which promoted state patriotism as its main ideology. Many former members of the CPSU who were patriotic began to rejoin the Communist Party while still holding onto their beliefs.

Sources:

(Чугаев С. Коммунисты, националисты и монархисты заключили союз для свержения президента России // Известия, 19.9.1992).

(Обращение к гражданам России оргкомитета Фронта национального спасения. 1.10.1992 // Партархив)

(Обращение ПС ФНС к Степанкову с требованием арестовать Ельцина. Между 22–28.9.1993 г. // Партархив)

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