Who were the first two democratically elected leaders of Russia?

Who were the first two democratically elected leaders of Russia?

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On Boris Yeltsin's page in Wikipedia there's the fact that on 12th June, 1991, he was elected by popular vote to the newly created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR) and became the third democratically elected leader of Russia in history.

Before Yeltsin at the times of Soviet Union leaders were elected by Soviet Party and before Russian Revolution there was ruling of Tsars in Russia.

So who were the first two democratically elected leaders of Russia?

Georgy Lvov and Alexander Kerensky.

Though not specifically elected to be the head of the country, they had nevertheless been democratically elected in legitimate elections.

I guess this depends on how far you want to go back in time, on how wide must be the suffrage for you to accept the election as "democratic", on whether the elected official would have a time limit for his rule, and on whether the next rule was expected to be elected as well.

Arani's answer about Kerensky is correct as undisputed (except by Bolsheviks) democratic election. On the other hand, if you accept election of the next Czar by Zemsky Sobor as "democratic" then notice that the 1st Romanov was elected.

One can consider Boris Godunov who was elected by the Land Assembly in 1598. Yet he already was at power at the time, only wanted to formalize it.

It is possible though that the first tsar to be elected was Feodor I in 1584.

In Russia there was a city "Master Great Novgorod" (Господин Великий Новгород). To protect the city a knyaz (князь) was elected. For example, Alexander Nevsky was elected to protect Novgorod from the Swedes. In "The Veles Book", it is said that the Veche (national assembly) ruled in Russia for 15 centuries. The knyaz were elected by all the people, but then the knyazs betrayed the covenants of their ancestors and remained in power without further elections.

"The Veles Book" *

Вече имели, и что решалось на Вече, так и было, а чего не решалось - не было… Князей избирали от полюдья до полюдья, так и жили… Кровь (родства) - это святая кровь наша! -О том напоминали старейшины, когда избирали князей. И так мы пятнадцать веков управлялись Вечем, и собирались на него, и судили всякого, как подчинённого, так и главного. Так правили наши отцы, и всякий мог высказать слово… Но то благо утратили мы из-за хазар после веков Трояна 1 , когда впервые (князья) уселись с сыновьями своими и внуками наперекор решению Вече. *

Rough translation:

We had Veche. It was what the Veche decided. What did not solve Veche - was not. The knyazes were elected.

We were ruled for 15 centuries by Veche. And they gathered at the Veche. And they were judged by anyone, both subordinate and principal. Our fathers ruled there and anyone could say their word. But we ended prosperity because of the Khazars after the centuries of Troyan, When the knyazes gained power with their sons and grandsons, despite the Veche's decision.

The Duma in Russian History

The Duma ("Assembly" in Russian) was an elected semi-representative body in Russia from 1906 to 1917. It was created by the leader of the ruling Tsarist regime Tsar Nicholas II in 1905 when the government was desperate to divide the opposition during an uprising. The creation of the assembly was very much against his will, but he had promised to create an elected, national, legislative assembly.

After the announcement, hopes were high that the Duma would bring democracy, but it was soon revealed that the Duma would have two chambers, only one of which was elected by the Russian people. The Tsar appointed the other, and that house held a veto over any actions of the other. Also, the Tsar retained ‘Supreme Autocratic Power.’ In effect, the Duma was neutered right from the start, and people knew it.

There were four Dumas during the institution’s lifetime: 1906, 1907, 1907–12 and 1912–17 each had several hundred members made up of a mix of peasants and ruling classes, professional men and workers alike.


The Soviet inheritance Edit

The first constitution of the Soviet Union, as promulgated in 1924, incorporated a treaty of union between various Soviet republics. Under the treaty, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic became known as the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Nominally, the borders of each subunit incorporated the territory of a specific nationality. The constitution endowed the new republics with sovereignty, although they were said to have voluntarily delegated most of their sovereign powers to the Soviet center. Formal sovereignty was evidenced by the existence of flags, constitutions, and other state symbols, and by the republics' constitutionally guaranteed "right" to secede from the union. Russia was the largest of the Union republics in terms of territory and population. During the Cold War era (ca 1947-1991), because of the Russians' dominance in the affairs of the union, the RSFSR failed to develop some of the institutions of governance and administration that were typical of public life in the other republics: a republic-level communist party, a Russian academy of sciences, and Russian branches of trade unions, for example. As the titular nationalities of the other fourteen union republics began to call for greater republic rights in the late 1980s, however, ethnic Russians also began to demand the creation or strengthening of various specifically Russian institutions in the RSFSR. Certain policies of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (in office as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991) also encouraged nationalities in the union republics, including the Russian Republic, to assert their rights. These policies included glasnost (literally, public "voicing"), which made possible open discussion of democratic reforms and long-ignored public problems such as pollution. Glasnost also brought constitutional reforms that led to the election of new republic legislatures with substantial blocs of pro-reform representatives.

In the RSFSR a new legislature, called the Congress of People's Deputies, was elected in March 1990 in a largely free and competitive vote. Upon convening in May, the congress elected Boris Yeltsin, a onetime Gorbachev protégé who had resigned/been exiled from the top party echelons because of his radical reform proposals and erratic personality, as president of the congress's permanent working body, the Supreme Soviet. The next month, the Congress declared Russia's sovereignty over its natural resources and the primacy of Russia's laws over those of the central Soviet government. During 1990-1991, the RSFSR enhanced its sovereignty by establishing republic branches of organizations such as the Communist Party, the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, radio and television broadcasting facilities, and the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti—KGB). In 1991 Russia created a new executive office, the presidency, following the example of Gorbachev, who had created such an office for himself in 1990. The Russian presidential election of June 1991 conferred legitimacy on the office, whereas Gorbachev had eschewed such an election and had had himself appointed by the Soviet parliament. Despite Gorbachev's attempts to discourage Russia's electorate from voting for him, Yeltsin won the popular election to become the president, handily defeating five other candidates with more than 57 percent of the vote.

Yeltsin used his role as president of Russia to trumpet Russian sovereignty and patriotism, and his legitimacy as president was a major cause of the collapse of the coup by hard-line government and party officials against Gorbachev in August 1991 Soviet Coup of 1991. (see August coup of 1991) The coup leaders had attempted to overthrow Gorbachev in order to halt his plan to sign a New Union Treaty that they believed would wreck the Soviet Union. Yeltsin defiantly opposed the coup plotters and called for Gorbachev's restoration, rallying the Russian public. Most importantly, Yeltsin's faction led elements in the "power ministries" that controlled the military, the police, and the KGB to refuse to obey the orders of the coup plotters. The opposition led by Yeltsin, combined with the irresolution of the plotters, caused the coup to collapse after three days.

Following the failed August coup, Gorbachev found a fundamentally changed constellation of power, with Yeltsin in de facto control of much of a sometimes recalcitrant Soviet administrative apparatus. Although Gorbachev returned to his position as Soviet president, events began to bypass him. Communist Party activities were suspended [ by whom? ] . Most of the union republics quickly declared their independence, although many appeared willing to sign Gorbachev's vaguely-delineated confederation treaty. The Baltic states achieved full independence, and they quickly received diplomatic recognition from many nations. Gorbachev's rump government recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in August and September 1991.

In late 1991 the Yeltsin government assumed budgetary control over Gorbachev's rump government. Russia did not declare its independence, and Yeltsin continued to hope for the establishment of some form of confederation. In December, one week after the Ukrainian Republic approved independence by referendum, Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus met to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In response to calls by the Central Asian and other union republics for admission, another meeting took place in Alma-Ata, on 21 December, to form an expanded CIS. At that meeting, all parties declared that the 1922 treaty of union, which had established the Soviet Union, annulled and that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. Gorbachev announced the decision officially on 25 December 1991. Russia gained international recognition as the principal successor to the Soviet Union, receiving the Soviet Union's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and positions in other international and regional organizations. The CIS states also agreed that Russia initially would take over Soviet embassies and other properties abroad.

In October 1991, during the "honeymoon" period after his resistance to the Soviet coup, Yeltsin had convinced the legislature to grant him special executive (and legislative) powers for one year so that he might implement his economic reforms. In November 1991 Yeltsin appointed a new government, with himself as acting prime minister, a post he held until the appointment of Yegor Gaidar as acting prime minister in June 1992.

Post-Soviet developments Edit

During 1992 Yeltsin and his reforms came under increasing attack from former members and officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from extreme nationalists, and from others calling for reform to be slowed or even halted in Russia. A locus of this opposition was increasingly the two-chamber parliament, the Supreme Soviet of Russia, comprising the Soviet of the Republic and the Soviet of Nationalities. The Chair of the Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Khasbulatov, became Yeltsin's most vocal opponent. Under the 1978 constitution, the parliament was the supreme organ of power in Russia. After Russia added the office of president in 1991, the division of powers between the two branches remained ambiguous, while the Congress of People's Deputies of Russia (CPD) retained its obvious power "to examine and resolve any matter within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation". In 1992 the Congress was even further empowered, gaining the ability to suspend any articles of the Constitution, per amended article 185 of the 1978 Constitution (Basic Law) of the Russian Federation.

Although Yeltsin managed to beat back most challenges to his reform program when the CPD met in April 1992, in December he suffered a significant loss of his special executive powers. The CPD ordered him to halt appointments of administrators in the localities and also the practice of naming additional local oversight emissaries (termed "presidential representatives"). Yeltsin also lost the power to issue special decrees concerning the economy, while retaining his constitutional power to issue decrees in accordance with existing laws. When the CPD rejected Yeltsin's attempt to secure the confirmation of Gaidar as prime minister (December 1992), Yeltsin appointed Viktor Chernomyrdin, whom the parliament approved because he was viewed as more economically conservative than Gaidar. After contentious negotiations between the parliament and Yeltsin, the two sides agreed to hold a national referendum to allow the population to determine the basic division of powers between the two branches of government. In the meantime, proposals for extreme limitation of Yeltsin's power were tabled. [ by whom? ]

However, early 1993 saw increasing tension between Yeltsin and the parliament over the referendum and over power-sharing. In mid-March 1993, an emergency session of the CPD rejected Yeltsin's proposals on power-sharing and canceled the referendum, again opening the door to legislation that would shift the balance of power away from the president. Faced with these setbacks, Yeltsin addressed the nation directly to announce a "special regime", under which he would assume extraordinary executive power pending the results of a referendum on the timing of new legislative elections, on a new constitution, and on public confidence in the president and vice president. After the Constitutional Court declared his announcement unconstitutional, Yeltsin backed down.

Despite Yeltsin's change of heart, a second extraordinary session of the CPD took up discussion of emergency measures to defend the constitution, including impeachment of the president. Although the impeachment vote failed, the CPD set new terms for a popular referendum. The legislature's version of the referendum asked whether citizens had confidence in Yeltsin, approved of his reforms, and supported early presidential and legislative elections. Under the CPD's terms, Yeltsin would need the support of 50 percent of eligible voters, rather than 50 percent of those actually voting, to avoid an early presidential election. In the vote on 25 April, Russians failed to provide this level of approval, but a majority of voters approved Yeltsin's policies and called for new legislative elections. Yeltsin termed the results, which delivered a serious blow to the prestige of the parliament, a mandate for him to continue in power.

In June 1993 Yeltsin decreed the creation of a special constitutional convention to examine the draft constitution that he had presented in April. This convention was designed to circumvent the parliament, which was working on its own draft constitution. As expected, the two main drafts contained contrary views of legislative-executive relations. The convention, which included delegates from major political and social organizations and the 89 subnational jurisdictions, approved a compromise draft constitution in July 1993, incorporating some aspects of the parliament's draft. The parliament failed to approve the draft, however.

In late September 1993, Yeltsin responded to the impasse in legislative-executive relations by repeating his announcement of a constitutional referendum, but this time he followed the announcement by dissolving the parliament and announcing new legislative elections for December (see Russian constitutional crisis of 1993). The CPD again met in emergency session, confirmed Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy as president, and voted to impeach Yeltsin. On 27 September, military units surrounded the legislative building (popularly known as the White House - Russian: Белый дом ), but 180 delegates refused to leave the building. After a two-week standoff, Rutskoy urged supporters outside the legislative building to overcome Yeltsin's military forces. Firefights and destruction of property resulted at several locations in Moscow.

The next day, on 3 October, Yeltsin chose a radical solution to settle his dispute with parliament: he called up tanks to shell the parliament building. Under the direction of Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev, tanks fired on the White House, and military forces occupied the building and the rest of the city. As Yeltsin was taking the unconstitutional step of dissolving the legislature, Russia came the closest to serious civil conflict since the revolution of 1917.

This open, violent confrontation remained a backdrop to Yeltsin's relations with the legislative branch for the next three years.

During 1992-93 Yeltsin had argued that the existing, heavily amended 1978 constitution of Russia was obsolete and self-contradictory and that Russia required a new constitution granting the president greater power. This assertion led to the submission and advocacy of rival constitutional drafts drawn up by the legislative and executive branches. The parliament's failure to endorse a compromise was an important factor in Yeltsin's dissolution of that body in September 1993. Yeltsin then used his presidential powers to form a sympathetic constitutional assembly, which quickly produced a draft constitution providing for a strong executive, and to shape the outcome of the December 1993 referendum on Russia's new basic law. The turnout requirement for the referendum was changed from 50 percent of the electorate to simply 50 percent of participating voters. The referendum vote resulted in approval by 58.4 percent of Russia's registered voters.

The 1993 constitution declares Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican form of government. State power is divided among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Diversity of ideologies and religions is sanctioned, and a state or compulsory ideology may not be adopted. Progressively, however, human rights violations in connection with religious groups labeled "extremist" by the government have been increasingly frequent. The right to a multiparty political system is upheld. The content of laws must be approved by the public before they take effect, and they must be formulated in accordance with international law and principles. Russian is proclaimed the state language, although the republics of the federation are allowed to establish their own state.

The 1993 constitution created a dual executive consisting of a president and prime minister, with the president as the dominant figure. Russia's strong presidency sometimes is compared with that of Charles de Gaulle (in office 1958-69) in the French Fifth Republic. The constitution spells out many prerogatives specifically, but some powers enjoyed by Yeltsin were developed in an ad hoc manner.

Presidential powers Edit

Russia's president determines the basic direction of Russia's domestic and foreign policy and represents the Russian state within the country and in foreign affairs. The president appoints and recalls Russia's ambassadors upon consultation with the legislature, accepts the credentials and letters of recall of foreign representatives, conducts international talks, and signs international treaties. A special provision allowed Yeltsin to complete the term prescribed to end in June 1996 and to exercise the powers of the new constitution, although he had been elected under a different constitutional order.

In the 1996 presidential election campaign, some candidates called for eliminating the presidency, criticizing its powers as dictatorial. Yeltsin defended his presidential powers, claiming that Russians desire "a vertical power structure and a strong hand" and that a parliamentary government would result in indecisive talk rather than action.

Several prescribed powers put the president in a superior position vis-à-vis the legislature. The president has broad authority to issue decrees and directives that have the force of law without judicial review, although the constitution notes that they must not contravene that document or other laws. Under certain conditions, the president may dissolve the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, the Federal Assembly. The president has the prerogatives of scheduling referendums (a power previously reserved to the parliament), submitting draft laws to the State Duma, and promulgating federal laws.

The executive-legislative crisis of the fall of 1993 prompted Yeltsin to emplace constitutional obstacles to legislative removal of the president. Under the 1993 constitution, if the president commits "grave crimes" or treason, the State Duma may file impeachment charges with the parliament's upper house, the Federation Council. These charges must be confirmed by a ruling of the Supreme Court that the president's actions constitute a crime and by a ruling of the Constitutional Court that proper procedures in filing charges have been followed. The charges then must be adopted by a special commission of the State Duma and confirmed by at least two-thirds of State Duma deputies. A two-thirds vote of the Federation Council is required for removal of the president. If the Federation Council does not act within three months, the charges are dropped. If the president is removed from office or becomes unable to exercise power because of serious illness, the prime minister is to temporarily assume the president's duties a presidential election then must be held within three months. The constitution does not provide for a vice president, and there is no specific procedure for determining whether the president is able to carry out his duties.

The president is empowered to appoint the prime minister to chair the Government (called the cabinet or the council of ministers in other countries), with the consent of the State Duma. The President of the Russian Federation chairs the meetings of the Government of the Russian Federation. He can also may dismiss the government entirety. Upon the advice of the prime minister, the president can appoint or remove Government members, including the deputy prime ministers. The president submits candidates to the State Duma for the post of chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (RCB) and may propose that the State Duma dismiss the chairman. In addition, the president submits candidates to the Federation Council for appointment as justices of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Superior Court of Arbitration, as well as candidates for the office of procurator general, Russia's chief law enforcement officer. The president also appoints justices of federal district courts.

Informal powers and power centers Edit

Many of the president's powers are related to the incumbent's undisputed leeway in forming an administration and hiring staff. The presidential administration is composed of several competing, overlapping, and vaguely delineated hierarchies that historically have resisted efforts at consolidation. In early 1996, Russian sources reported the size of the presidential apparatus in Moscow and the localities at more than 75,000 people, most of them employees of state-owned enterprises directly under presidential control. This structure is similar to, but several times larger than, the top-level apparatus of the Soviet-era Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

Former first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais was appointed chief of the presidential administration (chief of staff) in July 1996. Chubais replaced Nikolay Yegorov, a hard-line associate of deposed Presidential Security Service chief Alexander Korzhakov. Yegorov had been appointed in early 1996, when Yeltsin reacted to the strong showing of antireform factions in the legislative election by purging reformers from his administration. Yeltsin now ordered Chubais, who had been included in that purge, to reduce the size of the administration and the number of departments overseeing the functions of the ministerial apparatus. The six administrative departments in existence at that time dealt with citizens' rights, domestic and foreign policy, state and legal matters, personnel, analysis, and oversight, and Chubais inherited a staff estimated at 2,000 employees. Chubais also received control over a presidential advisory group with input on the economy, national security, and other matters. Reportedly that group had competed with Korzhakov's security service for influence in the Yeltsin administration.

Another center of power in the presidential administration is the Security Council, which was created by statute in mid-1992. The 1993 constitution describes the council as formed and headed by the president and governed by statute. Since its formation, it apparently has gradually lost influence in competition with other power centers in the presidential administration. However, the June 1996 appointment of former army general and presidential candidate Alexander Lebed to head the Security Council improved prospects for the organization's standing. In July 1996, a presidential decree assigned the Security Council a wide variety of new missions. The decree's description of the Security Council's consultative functions was especially vague and wide-ranging, although it positioned the head of the Security Council directly subordinate to the president. As had been the case previously, the Security Council was required to hold meetings at least once a month.

Other presidential support services include the Control Directorate (in charge of investigating official corruption), the Administrative Affairs Directorate, the Presidential Press Service, and the Protocol Directorate. The Administrative Affairs Directorate controls state dachas, sanatoriums, automobiles, office buildings, and other perquisites of high office for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, a function that includes management of more than 200 state industries with about 50,000 employees. The Committee on Operational Questions, until June 1996 chaired by antireformist Oleg Soskovets, has been described as a "government within a government". Also attached to the presidency are more than two dozen consultative commissions and extrabudgetary "funds".

The president also has extensive powers over military policy. As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the president approves defense doctrine, appoints and removes the high command of the armed forces, and confers higher military ranks and awards. The president is empowered to declare national or regional states of martial law, as well as state of emergency. In both cases, both houses of the parliament must be notified immediately. The Federation Council, the upper house, has the power to confirm or reject such a decree. The regime of martial law is defined by federal law "On Martial law", signed into law by president Vladimir Putin in 2002. The circumstances and procedures for the president to declare a state of emergency are more specifically outlined in federal law than in the constitution. In practice, the Constitutional Court ruled in 1995 that the president has wide leeway in responding to crises within Russia, such as lawlessness in the separatist Republic of Chechnya, and that Yeltsin's action in Chechnya did not require a formal declaration of a state of emergency. In 1994 Yeltsin declared a state of emergency in Ingushetia and North Ossetia, two republics beset by intermittent ethnic conflict.

Presidential elections Edit

The constitution sets few requirements for presidential elections, deferring in many matters to other provisions established by law. The presidential term is set at six years, and the president may only serve two consecutive terms. A candidate for president must be a citizen of Russia, at least 35 years of age, and a resident of the country for at least ten years. If a president becomes unable to continue in office because of health problems, resignation, impeachment, or death, a presidential election is to be held not more than three months later. In such a situation, the Federation Council is empowered to set the election date.

The Law on Presidential Elections, ratified in May 1995, establishes the legal basis for presidential elections. Based on a draft submitted by Yeltsin's office, the new law included many provisions already contained in the Russian Republic's 1990 election law alterations included the reduction in the number of signatures required to register a candidate from 2 million to 1 million. The law, which set rigorous standards for fair campaign and election procedures, was hailed by international analysts as a major step toward democratization. Under the law, parties, blocs, and voters' groups register with the Central Electoral Commission of Russia (CEC) and designate their candidates. These organizations then are permitted to begin seeking the 1 million signatures needed to register their candidates no more than 7 percent of the signatures may come from a single federal jurisdiction. The purpose of the 7 percent requirement is to promote candidacies with broad territorial bases and eliminate those supported by only one city or ethnic enclave.

The law required that at least 50 percent of eligible voters participate in order for a presidential election to be valid. In State Duma debate over the legislation, some deputies had advocated a minimum of 25 percent (which was later incorporated into the electoral law covering the State Duma), warning that many Russians were disillusioned with voting and would not turn out. To make voter participation more appealing, the law required one voting precinct for approximately every 3,000 voters, with voting allowed until late at night. The conditions for absentee voting were eased, and portable ballot boxes were to be made available on demand. Strict requirements were established for the presence of election observers, including emissaries from all participating parties, blocs, and groups, at polling places and local electoral commissions to guard against tampering and to ensure proper tabulation.

The Law on Presidential Elections requires that the winner receive more than 50 percent of the votes cast. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote (a highly probable result because of multiple candidacies), the top two vote-getters must face each other in a runoff election. Once the results of the first round are known, the runoff election must be held within fifteen days. A traditional provision allows voters to check off "none of the above," meaning that a candidate in a two-person runoff might win without attaining a majority. Another provision of the election law empowers the CEC to request that the Supreme Court ban a candidate from the election if that candidate advocates a violent transformation of the constitutional order or the integrity of the Russian Federation.

The presidential election of 1996 was a major episode in the struggle between Yeltsin and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), which sought to oust Yeltsin from office and return to power. Yeltsin had banned the Communist Party of the Russian Republic for its central role in the August 1991 coup against the Gorbachev government. As a member of the Politburo and the Secretariat of the banned party, Gennady Zyuganov had worked hard to gain its relegalization. Despite Yeltsin's objections, the Constitutional Court cleared the way for the Russian communists to reemerge as the KPRF, headed by Zyuganov, in February 1993. Yeltsin temporarily banned the party again in October 1993 for its role in the Supreme Soviet's just-concluded attempt to overthrow his administration. Beginning in 1993, Zyuganov also led efforts by KPRF deputies to impeach Yeltsin. After the KPRF's triumph in the December 1995 legislative elections, Yeltsin announced that he would run for reelection with the main purpose of safeguarding Russia from a communist restoration.

Although there was speculation that losing parties in the December 1995 election might choose not to nominate presidential candidates, in fact dozens of citizens both prominent and obscure announced their candidacies. After the gathering and review of signature lists, the CEC validated eleven candidates, one of whom later dropped out.

In the opinion polls of early 1996, Yeltsin trailed far behind most of the other candidates his popularity rating was below 10 percent for a prolonged period. However, a last-minute, intense campaign featuring heavy television exposure, speeches throughout Russia promising increased state expenditures for a wide variety of interest groups, and campaign-sponsored concerts boosted Yeltsin to a 3 percent plurality over Zyuganov in the first round. The election campaign was largely sponsored by wealthy tycoons, for whom Yeltsin remaining at power was the key to protect their property acquired during the reforms of 1991-1996. After the first election round, Yeltsin took the tactically significant step of appointing first-round presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed, who had placed third behind Yeltsin and Zyuganov, as head of the Security Council. Yeltsin followed the appointment of Lebed as the president's top adviser on national security by dismissing several top hard-line members of his entourage who were widely blamed for human rights violations in Chechnya and other mistakes. Despite his virtual disappearance from public view for health reasons shortly thereafter, Yeltsin was able to sustain his central message that Russia should move forward rather than return to its communist past. Zyuganov failed to mount an energetic or convincing second campaign, and three weeks after the first phase of the election, Yeltsin easily defeated his opponent, 54 percent to 40 percent. [ citation needed ]

It was argued Yeltsin won the 1996 Russian presidential election thanks to the extensive assistance provided by the team of media and PR experts from the United States. [1] [2] The Guardian reported that Joe Shumate, George Gorton, Richard Dresner, a close associate of Dick Morris, "and Steven Moore (who came on later as a PR specialist) gave an exclusive interview to Time magazine in 1996 about their adventures working as political consultants in Russia. They also detailed the extent of their collaboration with the Clinton White House." [3]

Turnout in the first round was high, with about 70 percent of 108.5 million voters participating. Total turnout in the second round was nearly the same as in the first round. A contingent of almost 1,000 international observers judged the election to be largely fair and democratic, as did the CEC.

See below for a summary of the results

Most observers in Russia and elsewhere concurred that the election boosted democratization in Russia, and many asserted that reforms in Russia had become irreversible. Yeltsin had strengthened the institution of regularly contested elections when he rejected calls by business organizations and other groups and some of his own officials to cancel or postpone the balloting because of the threat of violence. The high turnout indicated that voters had confidence that their ballots would count, and the election went forward without incident. The democratization process also was bolstered by Yeltsin's willingness to change key personnel and policies in response to public protests and by his unprecedented series of personal campaign appearances throughout Russia.

Government (cabinet) Edit

The constitution prescribes that the Government of Russia, which corresponds to the Western cabinet structure, consist of a prime minister (chairman of the Government), deputy prime ministers, and federal ministers and their ministries and departments. Within one week of appointment by the president and approval by the State Duma, the prime minister must submit to the president nominations for all subordinate Government positions, including deputy prime ministers and federal ministers. The prime minister carries out administration in line with the constitution and laws and presidential decrees. The ministries of the Government, which numbered 24 in mid-1996, execute credit and monetary policies and defense, foreign policy, and state security functions ensure the rule of law and respect for human and civil rights protect property and take measures against crime. If the Government issues implementing decrees and directives that are at odds with legislation or presidential decrees, the president may rescind them.

The Government formulates the federal budget, submits it to the State Duma, and issues a report on its implementation. In late 1994, the parliament successfully demanded that the Government begin submitting quarterly reports on budget expenditures and adhere to other guidelines on budgetary matters, although the parliament's budgetary powers are limited. If the State Duma rejects a draft budget from the Government, the budget is submitted to a conciliation commission including members from both branches.

Besides the ministries, in 1996 the executive branch included eleven state committees and 46 state services and agencies, ranging from the State Space Agency (Glavkosmos) to the State Committee for Statistics (Goskomstat). There were also myriad agencies, boards, centers, councils, commissions, and committees. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's personal staff was reported to number about 2,000 in 1995.

Chernomyrdin, who had been appointed prime minister in late 1992 to appease antireform factions, established a generally smooth working relationship with Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin proved adept at conciliating hostile domestic factions and at presenting a positive image of Russia in negotiations with other nations. However, as Yeltsin's standing with public opinion plummeted in 1995, Chernomyrdin became one of many Government officials who received public blame from the president for failures in the Yeltsin administration. As part of his presidential campaign, Yeltsin threatened to replace the Chernomyrdin Government if it failed to address pressing social welfare problems in Russia. After the mid-1996 presidential election, however, Yeltsin announced that he would nominate Chernomyrdin to head the new Government.

Parliament Edit

The 616-member parliament, termed the Federal Assembly, consists of two houses, the 450-member State Duma (the lower house) and the 166-member Federation Council (the upper house). Russia's legislative body was established by the constitution approved in the December 1993 referendum. The first elections to the Federal Assembly were held at the same time—a procedure criticized by some Russians as indicative of Yeltsin's lack of respect for constitutional niceties. Under the constitution, the deputies elected in December 1993 were termed "transitional" because they were to serve only a two-year term. In April 1994, legislators, Government officials, and many prominent businesspeople and religious leaders signed a "Civic Accord" proposed by Yeltsin, pledging during the two-year "transition period" to refrain from violence, calls for early presidential or legislative elections, and attempts to amend the constitution. This accord, and memories of the violent confrontation of the previous parliament with Government forces, had some effect in softening political rhetoric during the next two years.

The first legislative elections under the new constitution included a few irregularities. The republics of Tatarstan and Chechnya and Chelyabinsk Oblast boycotted the voting this action, along with other discrepancies, resulted in the election of only 170 members to the Federation Council. However, by mid-1994 all seats were filled except those of Chechnya, which continued to proclaim its independence. All federal jurisdictions participated in the December 1995 legislative elections, although the fairness of voting in Chechnya was compromised by the ongoing conflict there.

The Federal Assembly is prescribed as a permanently functioning body, meaning that it is in continuous session except for a regular break between the spring and fall sessions. This working schedule distinguishes the new parliament from Soviet-era "rubber-stamp" legislative bodies, which met only a few days each year. The new constitution also directs that the two houses meet separately in sessions open to the public, although joint meetings are held for important speeches by the president or foreign leaders.

Deputies of the State Duma work full-time on their legislative duties they are not allowed to serve simultaneously in local legislatures or hold Government positions. A transitional clause in the constitution, however, allowed deputies elected in December 1993 to retain their Government employment, a provision that allowed many officials of the Yeltsin administration to serve in the parliament. After the December 1995 legislative elections, nineteen Government officials were forced to resign their offices in order to take up their legislative duties.

Despite its "transitional" nature, the Federal Assembly of 1994-95 approved about 500 pieces of legislation in two years. When the new parliament convened in January 1996, deputies were provided with a catalog of these laws and were directed to work in their assigned committees to fill gaps in existing legislation as well as to draft new laws. A major accomplishment of the 1994-95 legislative sessions was passage of the first two parts of a new civil code, desperately needed to update antiquated Soviet-era provisions. The new code included provisions on contract obligations, rents, insurance, loans and credit, partnership, and trusteeship, as well as other legal standards essential to support the creation of a market economy. Work on several bills that had been in committee or in floor debate in the previous legislature resumed in the new body. Similarly, several bills that Yeltsin had vetoed were taken up again by the new legislature.

Structure of the Federal Assembly Edit

The composition of the Federation Council was a matter of debate until shortly before the 2000 elections. The legislation that emerged in December 1995 over Federation Council objections clarified the constitution's language on the subject by providing ex officio council seats to the heads of local legislatures and administrations in each of the eighty-nine subnational jurisdictions, hence a total of 178 seats. As composed in 1996, the Federation Council included about fifty chief executives of subnational jurisdictions who had been appointed to their posts by Yeltsin during 1991-92, then won popular election directly to the body in December 1993. But the law of 1995 provided for popular elections of chief executives in all subnational jurisdictions, including those still governed by presidential appointees. The individuals chosen in those elections then would assume ex officio seats in the Federation Council.

Each house elects a chairman to control the internal procedures of the house. The houses also form Parliamentary committees and commissions to deal with particular types of issues. Unlike committees and commissions in previous Russian and Soviet parliaments, those operating under the 1993 constitution have significant responsibilities in devising legislation and conducting oversight. They prepare and evaluate draft laws, report on draft laws to their houses, conduct hearings, and oversee implementation of the laws. As of early 1996, there were twenty-eight committees and several ad hoc commissions in the State Duma, and twelve committees and two commissions in the Federation Council. The Federation Council has established fewer committees because of the part-time status of its members, who also hold political office in the subnational jurisdictions. In 1996 most of the committees in both houses were retained in basic form from the previous parliament. According to internal procedure, no deputy may sit on more than one committee. By 1996 many State Duma committees had established subcommittees.

Committee positions are allocated when new parliaments are seated. The general policy calls for allocation of committee chairmanships and memberships among parties and factions roughly in proportion to the size of their representation. In 1994, however, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (Liberal'no-demokraticheskaya partiya Rossii—LDPR), which had won the second largest number of seats in the recent election, was denied all but one key chairmanship, that of the State Duma's Committee on Geopolitics.

Legislative Powers Edit

The two chambers of the Federal Assembly possess different powers and responsibilities, with the State Duma the more powerful. The Federation Council, as its name and composition implies, deals primarily with issues of concern to the subnational jurisdictions, such as adjustments to internal borders and decrees of the president establishing martial law or states of emergency. As the upper chamber, it also has responsibilities in confirming and removing the procurator general and confirming justices of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Superior Court of Arbitration, upon the recommendation of the president. The Federation Council also is entrusted with the final decision if the State Duma recommends removing the president from office. The constitution also directs that the Federation Council examine bills passed by the lower chamber dealing with budgetary, tax, and other fiscal measures, as well as issues dealing with war and peace and with treaty ratification.

In the consideration and disposition of most legislative matters, however, the Federation Council has less power than the State Duma. All bills, even those proposed by the Federation Council, must first be considered by the State Duma. If the Federation Council rejects a bill passed by the State Duma, the two chambers may form a conciliation commission to work out a compromise version of the legislation. The State Duma then votes on the compromise bill. If the State Duma objects to the proposals of the upper chamber in the conciliation process, it may vote by a two-thirds majority to send its version to the president for signature. The part-time character of the Federation Council's work, its less developed committee structure, and its lesser powers vis-à-vis the State Duma make it more a consultative and reviewing body than a law-making chamber.

Because the Federation Council initially included many regional administrators appointed by Yeltsin, that body often supported the president and objected to bills approved by the State Duma, which had more anti-Yeltsin deputies. The power of the upper house to consider bills passed by the lower chamber resulted in its disapproval of about one-half of such bills, necessitating concessions by the State Duma or votes to override upper-chamber objections. In February 1996, the heads of the two chambers pledged to try to break this habit, but wrangling appeared to intensify in the months that followed.

The State Duma confirms the appointment of the prime minister, although it does not have the power to confirm Government ministers. The power to confirm or reject the prime minister is severely limited. According to the 1993 constitution, the State Duma must decide within one week to confirm or reject a candidate once the president has placed that person's name in nomination. If it rejects three candidates, the president is empowered to appoint a prime minister, dissolve the parliament, and schedule new legislative elections.

The State Duma's power to force the resignation of the Government also is severely limited. It may express a vote of no-confidence in the Government by a majority vote of all members of the State Duma, but the president is allowed to disregard this vote. If, however, the State Duma repeats the no-confidence vote within three months, the president may dismiss the Government. But the likelihood of a second no-confidence vote is virtually precluded by the constitutional provision allowing the president to dissolve the State Duma rather than the Government in such a situation. The Government's position is further buttressed by another constitutional provision that allows the Government at any time to demand a vote of confidence from the State Duma refusal is grounds for the president to dissolve the Duma.

The legislative process Edit

The legislative process [4] in Russia includes three hearings in the State Duma, then approvals by the Federation Council, the upper house and sign into law by the President.

Draft laws may originate in either legislative chamber, or they may be submitted by the president, the Government, local legislatures and the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, or the Superior Court of Arbitration within their respective competences. Draft laws are first considered in the State Duma. Upon adoption by a majority of the full State Duma membership, a draft law is considered by the Federation Council, which has fourteen days to place the bill on its calendar. Conciliation commissions are the prescribed procedure to work out differences in bills considered by both chambers.

A constitutional provision dictating that draft laws dealing with revenues and expenditures may be considered "only when the Government's findings are known" substantially limits the Federal Assembly's control of state finances. However, the legislature may alter finance legislation submitted by the Government at a later time, a power that provides a degree of traditional legislative control over the purse. The two chambers of the legislature also have the power to override a presidential veto of legislation. The constitution requires at least a two-thirds vote of the total number of members of both chambers.

The Judiciary of Russia is defined under the Constitution and law of Russia with a hierarchical structure with the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Supreme Court of Arbitration at the apex. As of 2014, the Supreme Court of Arbitration has merged with the Supreme Court. The district courts are the primary criminal trial courts, and the regional courts are the primary appellate courts. The judiciary is governed by the All-Russian Congress of Judges and its Council of Judges, and its management is aided by the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Qualification Collegia, the Ministry of Justice, and the various courts' chairpersons. There are many officers of the court, including jurors, but the Prosecutor General remains the most powerful component of the Russian judicial system.

Many judges appointed by the regimes of Leonid Brezhnev (in office 1964-82) and Yuri Andropov (in office 1982-84) remained in place in the mid-1990s. Such arbiters were trained in "socialist law" and had become accustomed to basing their verdicts on telephone calls from local CPSU bosses rather than on the legal merits of cases.

For court infrastructure and financial support, judges must depend on the Ministry of Justice, and for housing they must depend on local authorities in the jurisdiction where they sit. In 1995 the average salary for a judge was US$160 per month, substantially less than the earnings associated with more menial positions in Russian society. These circumstances, combined with irregularities in the appointment process and the continued strong position of the procurators, deprived judges in the lower jurisdictions of independent authority.

Numerous matters which are dealt with by administrative authority in European countries remain subject to political influence in Russia. The Constitutional Court of Russia was reconvened in March 1995 following its suspension by President Yeltsin during the October 1993 constitutional crisis. The 1993 constitution empowers the court to arbitrate disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court also is authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment proceedings against the president. The July 1994 Law on the Constitutional Court prohibits the court from examining cases on its own initiative and limits the scope of issues the court can hear.

The State Duma passed a Criminal Procedure Code and other judicial reforms during its 2001 session. These reforms help make the Russian judicial system more compatible with its Western counterparts and are seen by most as an accomplishment in human rights. The reforms have reintroduced jury trials in certain criminal cases and created a more adversarial system of criminal trials that protect the rights of defendants more adequately. In 2002, the introduction of the new code led to significant reductions in time spent in detention for new detainees, and the number of suspects placed in pretrial detention declined by 30%. Another significant advance in the new Code is the transfer from the Procuracy to the courts of the authority to issue search and arrest warrants.

In the Soviet period, some of Russia's approximately 100 nationalities were granted their own ethnic enclaves, to which varying formal federal rights were attached. Other smaller or more dispersed nationalities did not receive such recognition. In most of these enclaves, ethnic Russians constituted a majority of the population, although the titular nationalities usually enjoyed disproportionate representation in local government bodies. Relations between the central government and the subordinate jurisdictions, and among those jurisdictions, became a political issue in the 1990s.

The Russian Federation has made few changes in the Soviet pattern of regional jurisdictions. The 1993 constitution establishes a federal government and enumerates eighty-nine subnational jurisdictions, including twenty-one ethnic enclaves with the status of republics. There are ten autonomous regions, or okruga (sing., okrug ), and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Yevreyskaya avtonomnaya oblast', also known as Birobidzhan). Besides the ethnically identified jurisdictions, there are six territories (kraya sing., kray ) and forty-nine oblasts (provinces). The cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are independent of surrounding jurisdictions termed "cities of federal significance," they have the same status as the oblasts. The ten autonomous regions and Birobidzhan are part of larger jurisdictions, either an oblast or a territory. As the power and influence of the central government have become diluted, governors and mayors have become the only relevant government authorities in many jurisdictions.

The Federation Treaty and regional power Edit

The Federation Treaty was signed in March 1992 by President Yeltsin and most leaders of the autonomous republics and other ethnic and geographical subunits. The treaty consisted of three separate documents, each pertaining to one type of regional jurisdiction. It outlined powers reserved for the central government, shared powers, and residual powers to be exercised primarily by the subunits. Because Russia's new constitution remained in dispute in the Federal Assembly at the time of ratification, the Federation Treaty and provisions based on the treaty were incorporated as amendments to the 1978 constitution. A series of new conditions were established by the 1993 constitution and by bilateral agreements.

Local jurisdictions under the constitution Edit

The constitution of 1993 resolved many of the ambiguities and contradictions concerning the degree of decentralization under the much-amended 1978 constitution of the Russian Republic most such solutions favored the concentration of power in the central government. When the constitution was ratified, the Federation Treaty was demoted to the status of a subconstitutional document. A transitional provision of the constitution provided that in case of discrepancies between the federal constitution and the Federation Treaty, or between the constitution and other treaties involving a subnational jurisdiction, all other documents would defer to the constitution.

The 1993 constitution presents a daunting list of powers reserved to the center. Powers shared jointly between the federal and local authorities are less numerous. Regional jurisdictions are only allocated powers not specifically reserved to the federal government or exercised jointly. Those powers include managing municipal property, establishing and executing regional budgets, establishing and collecting regional taxes, and maintaining law and order. Some of the boundaries between joint and exclusively federal powers are vaguely prescribed presumably they would become clearer through the give and take of federal practice or through adjudication, as has occurred in other federal systems. Meanwhile, bilateral power-sharing treaties between the central government and the subunits have become an important means of clarifying the boundaries of shared powers. Many subnational jurisdictions have their own constitutions, however, and often those documents allocate powers to the jurisdiction inconsistent with provisions of the federal constitution. As of 1996, no process had been devised for adjudication of such conflicts.

Under the 1993 constitution, the republics, territories, oblasts, autonomous oblast, autonomous regions, and cities of federal designation are held to be "equal in their relations with the federal agencies of state power" this language represents an attempt to end the complaints of the nonrepublic jurisdictions about their inferior status. In keeping with this new equality, republics no longer receive the epithet "sovereign," as they did in the 1978 constitution. Equal representation in the Federation Council for all eighty-nine jurisdictions furthers the equalization process by providing them meaningful input into legislative activities, particularly those of special local concern. However, Federation Council officials have criticized the State Duma for failing to represent regional interests adequately. In mid-1995 Vladimir Shumeyko, then speaker of the Federation Council, criticized the current electoral system's party-list provision for allowing some parts of Russia to receive disproportionate representation in the lower house. (In the 1995 elections, Moscow Oblast received nearly 38 percent of the State Duma's seats based on the concentration of party-list candidates in the national capital.) Shumeyko contended that such misallocation fed potentially dangerous popular discontent with the parliament and politicians.

Despite constitutional language equalizing the regional jurisdictions in their relations with the center, vestiges of Soviet-era multitiered federalism remain in a number of provisions, including those allowing for the use of non-Russian languages in the republics but not in other jurisdictions, and in the definitions of the five categories of subunit. On most details of the federal system, the constitution is vague, and clarifying legislation had not been passed by mid-1996. However, some analysts have pointed out that this vagueness facilitates resolution of individual conflicts between the center and the regions.

Power sharing Edit

Flexibility is a goal of the constitutional provision allowing bilateral treaties or charters between the central government and the regions on power sharing. For instance, in the bilateral treaty signed with the Russian government in February 1994, the Republic of Tatarstan gave up its claim to sovereignty and accepted Russia's taxing authority, in return for Russia's acceptance of Tatar control over oil and other resources and the republic's right to sign economic agreements with other countries. This treaty has particular significance because Tatarstan was one of the two republics that did not sign the Federation Treaty in 1992. By mid-1996 almost one-third of the federal subunits had concluded power-sharing treaties or charters.

The first power-sharing charter negotiated by the central government and an oblast was signed in December 1995 with Orenburg Oblast. The charter divided power in the areas of economic and agricultural policy, natural resources, international economic relations and trade, and military industries. According to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, the charter gave Orenburg full power over its budget and allowed the oblast to participate in privatization decisions. By early 1996, similar charters had been signed with Krasnodar Territory and Kaliningrad and Sverdlovsk oblasts. In the summer of 1996, Yeltsin wooed potential regional supporters of his reelection by signing charters with Perm', Rostov, Tver', and Leningrad oblasts and with the city of St. Petersburg, among others, granting these regions liberal tax treatment and other economic advantages.

By the mid-1990s, regional jurisdictions also had become bolder in passing local legislation to fill gaps in federation statutes rather than waiting for the Federal Assembly to act. For example, Volgograd Oblast passed laws regulating local pensions, the issuance of promissory notes, and credit unions. The constitution upholds regional legislative authority to pass laws that accord with the constitution and existing federal laws.

List of power-sharing treaties Edit

During Boris Yeltin's presidency, he signed a total of 46 power-sharing treaties with Russia's various subjects [5] starting with Tatarstan on 15 February 1994 and ending with Moscow on 16 June 1998, [6] giving them greater autonomy from the federal government. According to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the government intended to sign power-sharing agreements with all of Russia's 89 subjects. [7] Following the election of Vladimir Putin on 26 March 2000 and his subsequent overhaul of the federal system, the power-sharing treaties began to be abolished. The vast majority of treaties were terminated between 2001 and 2002 while others were forcibly annulled on 4 July 2003. Bashkortstan, Moscow, and Tatarstan's treaties expired on their own individual dates. On 24 July 2017, Tatarstan's power-sharing treaty expired, making it the last subject to lose its autonomy. [8]

Republics Edit
  1. Bashkortostan 3 August 1994 [9] – 7 July 2005 [10]
  2. Buryatia 11 July 1995 [9] – 15 February 2002 [11]
  3. Chuvashia 27 May 1996 [12] – 4 July 2003 [a]
  4. Kabardino-Balkaria 1 July 1994 [9] – 8 August 2002 [11]
  5. Komi Republic 20 March 1996 [13] – 20 May 2002 [11]
  6. Mari El 21 May 1998 [14] – 31 December 2001 [11]
  7. North Ossetia–Alania 23 March 1995 [9] – 2 September 2002 [11]
  8. Sakha Republic 29 June 1995 [9] – 4 July 2003 [a]
  9. Tatarstan 15 February 1994 – 24 July 2017 [8]
  10. Udmurtia 17 October 1995 [9] – 4 July 2003 [a]
Krais Edit
  1. Altai Krai 29 November 1996 [15] – 15 March 2002 [11]
  2. Khabarovsk Krai 24 April 1996 [9] – 12 August 2002 [11]
  3. Krasnodar Krai 30 January 1996 [9] – 12 April 2002 [11]
  4. Krasnoyarsk Krai 1 November 1997 [16] – 4 July 2003 [a]
Oblasts Edit
  1. Amur Oblast 21 May 1998 [14] – 18 March 2002 [11]
  2. Astrakhan Oblast 30 October 1997 [17] – 21 December 2001 [11]
  3. Bryansk Oblast 4 July 1997 [18] – 9 August 2002 [11]
  4. Chelyabinsk Oblast 4 July 1997 [18] – 2 February 2002 [11]
  5. Ivanovo Oblast 21 May 1998 [14] – 26 February 2002 [11]
  6. Irkutsk Oblast 27 May 1996 [12] – 6 July 2002 [19]
  7. Kaliningrad Oblast 12 January 1996 [9] – 31 May 2002 [11]
  8. Kirov Oblast 30 October 1997 [17] – 24 January 2002 [11]
  9. Kostroma Oblast 21 May 1998 [14] – 19 February 2002 [11]
  10. Leningrad Oblast 13 June 1996 [20] – 18 April 2002 [11]
  11. Magadan Oblast 4 July 1997 [18] – 30 January 2002 [11]
  12. Murmansk Oblast 30 October 1997 [17] – 20 May 2003 [11]
  13. Nizhny Novgorod Oblast 8 June 1996 [15] – 6 April 2002 [11]
  14. Omsk Oblast 19 May 1996 [21] – 21 December 2001 [11]
  15. Orenburg Oblast 30 January 1996 [22] – 4 April 2002 [11]
  16. Perm Oblast 31 May 1996 [23] – 21 December 2001 [11]
  17. Rostov Oblast 29 May 1996 [7] – 15 March 2002 [11]
  18. Sakhalin Oblast 29 May 1996 [7] – 4 March 2002 [11]
  19. Samara Oblast 1 August 1997 [24] – 22 February 2002 [11]
  20. Saratov Oblast 4 July 1997 [18] – 9 February 2002 [11]
  21. Sverdlovsk Oblast 12 January 1996 [9] – 4 July 2003 [a]
  22. Tver Oblast 13 June 1996 [20] – 19 February 2002 [11]
  23. Ulyanovsk Oblast 30 October 1997 [17] – 31 December 2001 [11]
  24. Vologda Oblast 4 July 1997 [18] – 15 March 2002 [11]
  25. Voronezh Oblast 21 May 1998 [14] – 22 February 2002 [11]
  26. Yaroslavl Oblast 30 October 1997 [17] – 15 March 2002 [11]
Autonomous Okrugs Edit
  1. Evenk Autonomous Okrug[b] 1 November 1997 [16] – 4 July 2003 [a]
  2. Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug[c] 31 May 1996 [23] – 21 December 2001 [11]
  3. Taymyr Autonomous Okrug[b] 1 November 1997 [16] – 4 July 2003 [a]
  4. Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug[d] 27 May 1996 [12] – 6 July 2002 [19]
Federal Cities Edit

Presidential power in the regions Edit

The president retains the power to appoint and remove presidential representatives, who act as direct emissaries to the jurisdictions in overseeing local administrations' implementation of presidential policies. The power to appoint these overseers was granted by the Russian Supreme Soviet to Yeltsin in late 1991. The parliament attempted several times during 1992-93 to repeal or curtail the activities of these appointees, whose powers are only alluded to in the constitution. The presence of Yeltsin's representatives helped bring out the local vote on his behalf in the 1996 presidential election.

The governments of the republics include a president or prime minister (or both) and a regional council or legislature. The chief executives of lower jurisdictions are called governors or administrative heads. Generally, in jurisdictions other than republics the executive branches have been more sympathetic to the central government, and the legislatures (called soviets until late 1993, then called dumas or assemblies) have been the center of whatever separatist sentiment exists. Under the power given him in 1991 to appoint the chief executives of territories, oblasts, autonomous regions, and the autonomous oblast, Yeltsin had appointed virtually all of the sixty-six leaders of those jurisdictions. By contrast, republic presidents have been popularly elected since 1992. Some of Yeltsin's appointees have encountered strong opposition from their legislatures in 1992 and 1993, in some cases votes of no-confidence brought about popular elections for the position of chief executive.

After the Moscow confrontation of October 1993, Yeltsin sought to bolster his regional support by dissolving the legislatures of all federal subunits except the republics (which were advised to "reform" their political systems). Accordingly, in 1994 elections were held in all the jurisdictions whose legislatures had been dismissed. In some cases, that process placed local executives at the head of legislative bodies, eliminating checks and balances between the branches at the regional level.

Election results in the subnational jurisdictions held great significance for the Yeltsin administration because the winners would fill the ex officio seats in the Federation Council, which until 1996 was a reliable bastion of support. The election of large numbers of opposition candidates would end the Federation Council's usefulness as a balance against the anti-Yeltsin State Duma and further impede Yeltsin's agenda. In 1995 some regions held gubernatorial elections to fill the administrative posts originally granted to Yeltsin appointees in 1991. Faced with an escalating number of requests for such elections, Yeltsin decreed December 1996 as the date for most gubernatorial and republic presidential elections. This date was confirmed by a 19 95 Federation Council law. The decree also set subnational legislative elections for June or December 1997. (In July 1996, the State Duma advanced these elections to late 1996.) Observers noted that by calling for most of these elections to take place after the presidential election, Yeltsin prevented unfavorable outcomes from possibly reducing his reelection chances—even though voter apathy after the presidential election had the potential to help opposition candidates.

e • d Summary of the 4 March 2012 Russian presidential election results
Candidates Nominating parties Votes %
Vladimir Putin United Russia 45,602,075 63.60
Gennady Zyuganov Communist Party 12,318,353 17.18
Mikhail Prokhorov self-nominated 5,722,508 7.98
Vladimir Zhirinovsky Liberal Democratic Party 4,458,103 6.22
Sergey Mironov A Just Russia 2,763,935 3.85
Valid votes 70,864,974 98.83
Invalid votes 836,691 1.17
Total votes 71,701,665 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 109,860,331 65.27
Source: Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation
e • d Summary of the 4 December 2011 State Duma election results
Parties and alliances Seat composition Popular vote % ± pp
Seats ± %
United Russia 238 77 52.88% 32,379,135 49.32% 14.98
Communist Party 92 35 20.46% 12,599,507 19.19% 7.62
A Just Russia 64 26 14.21% 8,695,522 13.24% 5.50
Liberal Democratic Party 56 16 12.45% 7,664,570 11.67% 3.53
Yabloko 0 0 0% 2,252,403 3.43% 1.84
Patriots of Russia 0 0 0% 639,119 0.97% 0.08
Right Cause 0 0 0% 392,806 0.60% new party
Total 450 0 100% 64,623,062 100%
Valid ballot papers 64,623,062 98.43%
Invalid ballot papers 1,033,464 1.57%
Eligible voters 109,237,780 Turnout: 60.10%
Source: Summary table of election results - Central Election Commission

Formerly seats in Russia the Duma were elected half by proportional representation ( with at least 5% of the vote to qualify for seats) and half by single member districts. However, President Putin passed a law that all seats are to be elected by proportional representation ( with at least 7% of the vote to qualify for seats) to take effect in the December 2007 elections. By doing this Putin has eliminated independents and made it more difficult for small parties to be elected to the Duma.

Although the 1993 constitution weakened their standing vis-à-vis the presidency, the parliaments elected in 1993 and 1995 nonetheless used their powers to shape legislation according to their own precepts and to defy Yeltsin on some issues. An early example was the February 1994 State Duma vote to grant amnesty to the leaders of the 1991 Moscow coup. Yeltsin vehemently denounced this action, although it was within the constitutional purview of the State Duma. In October 1994, both legislative chambers passed a law over Yeltsin's veto requiring the Government to submit quarterly reports on budget expenditures to the State Duma and adhere to other budgetary guidelines.

In the most significant executive-legislative clash since 1993, the State Duma overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the Government in June 1995. The vote was triggered by a Chechen rebel raid into the neighboring Russian town of Budenovsk, where the rebels were able to take more than 1,000 hostages. Dissatisfaction with Yeltsin's economic reforms also was a factor in the vote. A second motion of no confidence failed to carry in early July. In March 1996, the State Duma again incensed Yeltsin by voting to revoke the December 1991 resolution of the Russian Supreme Soviet abrogating the 1922 treaty under which the Soviet Union had been founded. That resolution had prepared the way for formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In his February 1996 State of the Union speech, Yeltsin commended the previous parliament for passing a number of significant laws, and he noted with relief the "civil" resolution of the June 1995 no-confidence conflict. He complained, however, that the Federal Assembly had not acted on issues such as the private ownership of land, a tax code, and judicial reform. Yeltsin also was critical of legislation that he had been forced to return to the parliament because it contravened the constitution and existing law, and of legislative attempts to pass fiscal legislation in violation of the constitutional stricture that such bills must be preapproved by the Government. He noted that he would continue to use his veto power against ill-drafted bills and his power to issue decrees on issues he deemed important, and that such decrees would remain in force until suitable laws were passed. The State Duma passed a resolution in March 1996 demanding that Yeltsin refrain from returning bills to the parliament for redrafting, arguing that the president was obligated either to sign bills or to veto them.

In the first half of the 1990s, observers speculated about the possibility that some of the jurisdictions in the federation might emulate the former Soviet republics and demand full independence. Several factors militate against such an outcome, however. Russia is more than 80 percent ethnic Russian, and most of the thirty-two ethnically based jurisdictions are demographically dominated by ethnic Russians, as are all of the territories and oblasts. Many of the subnational jurisdictions are in the interior of Russia, meaning that they could not break away without joining a bloc of seceding border areas, and the economies of all such jurisdictions were thoroughly integrated with the national economy in the Soviet system. The 1993 constitution strengthens the official status of the central government in relation to the various regions, although Moscow has made significant concessions in bilateral treaties. Finally, most of the differences at the base of separatist movements are economic and geographic rather than ethnic.

Advocates of secession, who are numerous in several regions, generally appear to be in the minority and are unevenly dispersed. Some regions have even advocated greater centralization on some matters. By 1996 most experts believed that the federation would hold together, although probably at the expense of additional concessions of power by the central government. The trend is not toward separatism so much as the devolution of central powers to the localities on trade, taxes, and other matters.

Some experts observe that the Russia's ethnically distinct Republics pressing claims for greater subunit rights fall into three groups. The first is composed of those jurisdictions most vociferous in pressing ethnic separatism, including Chechnya and perhaps other republics of the North Caucasus, and the Republic of Tuva. The second group consists of large, resource-rich republics, including Karelia, Komi Republic, and Sakha (Yakutia). Their differences with Moscow center on resource control and taxes rather than demands for outright independence. A third, mixed group consists of republics along the Volga River, which straddle strategic water, rail, and pipeline routes, possess resources such as oil, and include large numbers of Russia's Muslim and Buddhist populations. These republics include Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, Mari El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, and Udmurtia.

In addition to the republics, several other jurisdictions have lobbied for greater rights, mainly on questions of resource control and taxation. These include Sverdlovsk Oblast, which in 1993 proclaimed itself an autonomous republic as a protest against receiving fewer privileges in taxation and resource control than the republics, and strategically vital Primorsky Krai ("Maritime Territory") on the Pacific coast, whose governor in the mid-1990s, Yevgeniy Nazdratenko, defied central economic and political policies on a number of well-publicized issues.

Some limited cooperation has occurred among Russia's regional jurisdictions, and experts believe there is potential for even greater coordination. Eight regional cooperation organizations have been established, covering all subnational jurisdictions except Chechnya: the Siberian Accord Association the Central Russia Association the Northwest Association the Black Earth Association the Cooperation Association of North Caucasus Republics, Territories, and Oblasts the Greater Volga Association the Ural Regional Association and the Far East and Baikal Association. The Federation Council formally recognized these interjurisdictional organizations in 1994. Expansion of the organizations' activities is hampered by economic inequalities among their members and by inadequate interregional transportation infrastructure, but in 1996 they began increasing their influence in Moscow.

Regional and ethnic conflicts have encouraged proposals to abolish the existing subunits and resurrect the tsarist-era guberniya, or large province, which would incorporate several smaller subunits on the basis of geography and population rather than ethnic considerations. Russian ultranationalists such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky have been joined in supporting this proposal by some officials of the national Government and oblast and territory leaders who resent the privileges of the republics. Some have called for these new subunits to be based on the eight interregional economic associations.

Russian politics are now dominated by President Vladimir Putin, his United Russia party, and Prime minister Mikhail Mishustin. At the 2003 legislative elections, United Russia reduced all other parties to minority status. Other parties retaining seats in the State Duma, the lower house of the legislature, are the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and A Just Russia.

The first presidential elections were held on 26 March 2000. Putin, who had previously been made Prime Minister of Russia and following Yeltsin's resignation was acting president of Russia, won in the first round with 53% of the vote in what were judged generally free and fair elections. (see 2000 Russian presidential election). Putin won a second full term without difficulty in the March 2004 presidential election. While the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported that the elections were generally organized professionally, there was criticism of unequal treatment of candidates by State-controlled media among other issues. [27] After the election, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his cabinet were dismissed by Putin. [ citation needed ] However, pundits in Russia believed this not to be due to the president's displeasure with the government, but with Mikhail Kasyanov himself, as the Russian constitution does not allow the prime minister to be removed without firing the whole cabinet. [ citation needed ] Kasyanov later went on to become a stark Putin critic. [ citation needed ] Although Russia's regions enjoy a degree of autonomous self-government, the election of regional governors was substituted by direct appointment by the president in 2005. In September 2007, Putin accepted the resignation of Prime minister Mikhail Fradkov, appointing Viktor Zubkov as the new Prime minister. [28]

In the 2008 Russian Presidential election, Dmitry Medvedev—whose nomination was supported by the popular outgoing President Vladimir Putin—scored a landslide victory. According to analysts, the country was now effectively ruled by a "tandem", with a constitutionally powerful President and an influential and popular Prime Minister. [29] [30]

Russia has suffered democratic backsliding during Putin's and Medvedev's tenures. Freedom House has listed Russia as being "not free" since 2005. [31] In 2004, Freedom House warned that Russia's "retreat from freedom marks a low point not registered since 1989, when the country was part of the Soviet Union." [32] Alvaro Gil-Robles (then head of the Council of Europe human rights division) stated in 2004 that "the fledgling Russian democracy is still, of course, far from perfect, but its existence and its successes cannot be denied." [33] The Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Russia as "authoritarian" since 2011, [34] whereas it had previously been considered a "hybrid regime" (with "some form of democratic government" in place) as late as 2007. [35] The Russian Federation states that Russia is a democratic federal law-bound state with a republican form of government, which has been proven of not being acted upon today. [36] According to political scientist, Larry Diamond, writing in 2015, "no serious scholar would consider Russia today a democracy". [37]

The arrest of prominent oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion was met with domestic and Western criticism that the arrest was political and that his trial was highly flawed. [38] However, the move was met positively by the Russian public and has largely undeterred investment from the country, which continued to grow at double digit rates. [39]

In 2005, Russia started steadily increasing the price it sold heavily subsidized gas to ex-Soviet republics. Russia has recently been accused of using its natural resources as a political weapon. [40] Russia, in turn, accuses the West of applying double standards relating to market principles, pointing out that Russia has been supplying gas to the states in question at prices that were significantly below world market levels, and in most cases remain so even after the increases. [ citation needed ] Politicians in Russia argued that it is not obligated to effectively subsidize the economies of post-Soviet states by offering them resources at below-market prices. [41] Regardless of alleged political motivation, observers have noted that charging market prices is Russia's legitimate right, [42] and point out that Russia has raised the price even for its close ally, Belarus. [43]

The constitution guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of residence and to travel abroad. Some big-city governments, however, have restricted this right through residential registration rules that closely resemble the Soviet-era "propiska" regulations. Although the rules were touted as a notification device rather than a control system, their implementation has produced many of the same results as the propiska system. The freedom to travel abroad and emigrate is respected although restrictions may apply to those who have had access to state secrets. [ citation needed ]

Who were the first two democratically elected leaders of Russia? - History

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Duma, Russian in full Gosudarstvennaya Duma (“State Assembly”), elected legislative body that, along with the State Council, constituted the imperial Russian legislature from 1906 until its dissolution at the time of the March 1917 Revolution. The Duma constituted the lower house of the Russian parliament, and the State Council was the upper house. As a traditional institution, the Duma (meaning “deliberation”) had precedents in certain deliberative and advisory councils of pre-Soviet Russia, notably in the boyar dumas (existing from the 10th to the 17th century) and the city dumas (1785–1917). The Gosudarstvennaya Duma, or state duma, however, constituted the first genuine attempt toward parliamentary government in Russia.

Initiated as a result of the 1905 revolution, the Duma was established by Tsar Nicholas II in his October Manifesto (October 30, 1905), which promised that it would be a representative assembly and that its approval would be necessary for the enactment of legislation. But the Fundamental Laws, issued in April 1906, before the First Duma met (May 1906), deprived it of control over state ministers and portions of the state budget and limited its ability to initiate legislation effectively.

Four Dumas met (May 10–July 21, 1906 March 5–June 16, 1907 November 14, 1907–June 22, 1912 and November 28, 1912–March 11, 1917). They rarely enjoyed the confidence or the cooperation of the ministers or the emperor, who retained the right to rule by decree when the Duma was not in session. The first two Dumas were elected indirectly (except in five large cities) by a system that gave undue representation to the peasantry, which the government expected to be conservative. The Dumas were, nevertheless, dominated by liberal and socialist opposition groups that demanded extensive reforms. Both Dumas were quickly dissolved by the tsar.

In 1907, by a virtual coup d’état, Prime Minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin restricted the franchise to reduce the representation of radical and national minority groups. The Third Duma, elected on that basis, was conservative. It generally supported the government’s agrarian reforms and military reorganization and, although it criticized bureaucratic abuses and government advisers, it survived its full five-year term.

The Fourth Duma was also conservative. But as World War I progressed, it became increasingly dissatisfied with the government’s incompetence and negligence, especially in supplying the army. By the spring of 1915 the Duma had become a focal point of opposition to the imperial regime. At the outset of the March Revolution of 1917, it established the Provisional Committee of the Duma, which formed the first Provisional Government and accepted the abdication of Nicholas II.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Federation in 1993 replaced its old Soviet-era constitution with a new document that revived the name “State Duma” for the lower house of the newly created Federal Assembly, or Russian national parliament. (The Federation Council comprised the upper house.) The revived Duma consisted of 450 members elected by universal suffrage to a four-year term. Half of the Duma’s members were elected by proportional representation, and the other half by single-member constituencies. The revived Duma was the chief legislative chamber and passed legislation by majority vote. The Federal Assembly could override a presidential veto of such legislation by a two-thirds majority vote. The Duma also had the right to approve the prime minister and other high government officials nominated by the president.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.

1954: Guatemala

Following the overthrow of dictator Jorge Ubico, Guatemala set on a path to become a thriving liberal democracy. Jacob Árbenz was the second democratically elected president of the aspiring country. Unfortunately, his land reforms, which were aimed at reducing inequalities and improving production by redistributing uncultivated land didn’t sit well with the United Fruit Company (UFC), an American corporation with extensive stakes in the country. UFC had benefited heavily under Ubico at the expense of the local peasants and now saw its privileged position under threat. Through extensive lobbying, it persuaded the US government to overthrow Árbenz’s government. Launching Operation PBSUCCESS, the CIA forced Árbenz to resign. What followed was a brutal dictatorship under Carlos Castillo Armas that quickly rolled back previous reforms. Following his assassination, the country would plunge into 36-year long civil war in which nearly 200,000 people would be killed, mostly by the US-backed government forces.

Born in 1925, Elisabeth Domitien was active in politics from an early age. In 1972 she was appointed prime minister of the Central African Republic, by the former president Bokassa. A year later, however, she was dismissed from her position a year later, because of her opposition to his proposed monarchy. In 1979 she staged a coup against him and was briefly imprisoned.

The first, and only, female prime minister of Portugal, Maria da Lourdes Pintasilgo only held office for three months. During this short time, she was still able to reform social security and improve health care and education systems.

Leaders of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin was born in Ulyanovsk, Russia, in 1870. He founded the Communist Party in 1912, but he spent years leading up to the Russian Revolution in exile abroad before Germany arranged for him to go back to Russia to get them out of World War One. From there Lenin led the October Revolution to overthrow the provisional government that had overthrown the monarchy during the February Revolution. Lenin and the Communists then quickly consolidated power and eventually won the Russian Civil War (1917-22). Lenin then spent the last few years of his life trying to shape the future of the Soviet Union.

Josef Stalin

Lenin's warning in his final years about the unchecked power of party members went unheeded, however, and this led to a power struggle for control following his death, Joseph Stalin was born in Gori, Georgia in 1878, which was then a part of the Russian Empire. Like Lenin, Stalin was in exile leading up to the Russian Revolution. Stalin then helped shape the young Soviet Union through the resulting Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, and the invasion of Georgia. During this period Stalin clashed with Lenin and other Soviet Leaders over ideology, strategy, and his violent tendencies. After Lenin's death, Stalin accumulated power, eventually become the unquestioned leader by 1929. Stalin then spent years leading up to World War Two pushing his economic policy of Collectivization and trying to industrialize the country. Stalin also spent this time purging, executing and deporting his enemies to Siberia. The Soviets and the Germans signed a non-aggression pact and agreed to split up Eastern Europe but then Hitler violated it and invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin led the Soviet Union to victory in World War Two over Germany. Stalin took control of Eastern Europe after World War Two and established the Soviet Bloc. Relations with the West deteriorated and the Cold War started in 1947. Stalin died a few years later in 1953.

Georgy Malenkov

Georgy Malenkov was born in Orenburg, Russia in 1902. His advancement through the party was advance by his family connections with Lenin and later under the watchful eye of Stalin. He was heavily involved in Stalin's purging of his enemies in the 1930s, gaining Stalin's favor and avoiding his wrath. Upon Stalin's death, Malenkov became the leader of the Soviet Union. However, Malenkov had a reformist streak as he called for cuts in military spending and easing up on political repression. This fact led to his undoing as a few weeks later Nikita Khrushchev organized a coalition as him and undercut all of his authority as leader. By 1955 Malenkov was no longer the leader of the Soviet Union. In 1957, he joined a failed coup attempt against Khrushchev and was expelled from the Communist Party. Malenkov was then sent to Kazakhstan to serve as manager of a hydroelectric plant to spend the rest of his life in disgrace. He died in 1988.

Nikita Khrushchev

In 1894, Nikita Khrushchev was born in Kalinovka, Russia. In 1918, Khrushchev joined the Communist Party and fought in the Red Army. Khrushchev rose quickly through the ranks of the Communist Party during the 1930s and '40s. Shortly after taking over the leadership of the Soviet Union from Malenkov, Khrushchev gave a speech where he denounced the excesses under Stalin. This speech was the start of his policy of de-Stalinization, which resulted in protests in Poland and Hungary that were put down. Khrushchev relaxed restrictions on free expression, released political prisoners and launched bold but ultimately unattainable agricultural goals. He largely tried to pursue a policy of peaceful coexistence with the West but at the same time started the Cuban Missile Crisis and started construction on the Berlin Wall. Poor economic growth, deteriorating relations with China and other issues eventually led to Khrushchev being ousted from power by "retiring" due to his health. Khrushchev spent his remaining years at his estate, dying in 1971.

Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev was born in Kamianske, Ukraine in 1906, which was then part of the Russian Empire. He joined the Komsomol (political youth organization) in 1923 and in 1929 became a full member of the Communist party. Brezhnev fought in World War Two, reaching the rank of major general and in 1952 became a member of the Central Committee. Brezhnev took over as the leader for Khrushchev and ended his cultural reforms by clamping down on the cultural freedom and he gave the KGB back some of their former powers they had under Stalin. The Soviet economy grew under Khrushchev at a rate that was on pace to catch up with America but by the mid-1970s entered an era of stagnation and never recovered. Brezhnev also built up the Soviet Union's military at the cost of their economy. During the 1970s Brezhnev pursued a policy of detente with the West trying to normalize relations but the Soviet's costly decision to invade Afghanistan in 1979 ended the detente policy. In his last few years, Brezhnev's health deteriorated, and he was mostly a figured head. He died in 1982.

Yuri Andropov

Yuri Andropov was born in the Stavropol Governorate in 1914, which was then a part of the Russian Empire. Andropov joined the Communist Party in 1939, and his superiors quickly noticed his abilities making him head of the Komsomol. After being transferred to Moscow in 1951, he was assigned to the Secretariat staff and then became ambassador to Hungary from 1954-57. After returning to Moscow from his ambassadorship he rose quickly through the party ranks and became head of the KGB in 1967. Andropov started positioning himself for succession as leader of the Soviet Union with Brezhnev in poor health. Andropov was declared his successor and quickly consolidated power. Andropov led an anti-corruption campaign and dismissed many party ministers and secretaries. Andropov also did reluctantly continue the Soviet war in Afghanistan. His rule was short however because by August of 1983 his ill health overtook him and he spent his last days in the hospital, dying in 1984.

Konstantin Chernenko

Konstantin Chernenko was born in the Yeniseysk Governorate in 1911, which was then part of the Russian Empire. Chernenko joined the Komsomol in 1929 and became a full member of the Communist Party in 1931. Chernenko started working for the propaganda department in 1933 and rose through the ranks. The turning point in his career was a meeting with future Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1948. Brezhnev continued to help him rise through the ranks, with Chernenko gaining full membership to the Central Committee in 1971. Chernenko replaced Andropov as leader despite his own ailing health. Chernenko supported a greater role for labor unions and reforming education and propaganda. Chernenko negotiated a trade pact with China but did little to de-escalate the Cold War, boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics and did not end the war in Afghanistan. By the middle of 1984, Chernenko's health started deteriorating and he died in March of 1985.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai, Russia in 1931. He joined and became very active in the Communist party while at Moscow State University and also graduated with a law degree. By 1979 he had become a candidate member of the Politburo and in 1985 he became the leader of the Soviet Union after Chernenko's death. Gorbachev engaged in a race to amass nuclear weapons in space with the United States, which proved costly for the suffering Soviet economy. Gorbachev managed to end the costly Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1987. He worked to provide more freedoms and reforms to the Soviet people with his policies of glasnost and perestroika (openness and restructure). In 1989 Gorbachev organized elections to require Communist Party members to run against non-members to make a more democratic electoral system. He also removed the Communist Party's constitutional role in governing the state, which inadvertently led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This fact was in spite of Gorbachev wanting to keep the Soviet Union together. By 1990 Gorbachev was grappling with different groups waging war and demanding independence, along with a sputtering Soviet economy. In 1991 Gorbachev's rival Boris Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Republic and was pushing radical changes to the economy. By the end of December of 1991, the Soviet Union had completely crumbled, and Gorbachev stepped down and gave Yeltsin complete power over Russia.

Gennady Yanayev

Gennady Yanayev was born in Perevoz, Russia in 1937. He spent years in local politics before he rose to prominence as Chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. This fact helped him to gain a seat in the Politburo in 1990 and later that year with Gorbachev's help he became the first vice president of the Soviet Union. Yanayev quickly had growing doubts about Gorbachev's reform policies and started working with the Gang of Eight against Gorbachev. He took formal leadership of the Gang of Eight and deposed Gorbachev during the August coup of 1991. The coup collapsed after three days due to the growing popularity of Boris Yeltsin, and Yanayev was arrested. He was pardoned in 1994 and spent the rest of his life working for the Russian tourism administration until his death in 2010.

Outside the Beltway

In 1789, George Washington took office after being elected by only a small portion of the population of the U.S. Does that mean he wasn't "democratically elected?"

Reflecting on the death of Nelson Mandela, Cory Doctrow raises this intriguing point:

This morning, as I listened to the BBC World Service on Mandela, I found myself pondering what it meant that he was South Africa’s “first democratically elected leader.”

This is undoubtedly true. The apartheid regime held elections regularly, but only white people were given the vote. The systematic, arbitrary denial of the franchise to a large fraction of the population makes those elections “undemocratic” and their leaders illegitimate. I think that this is indisputable.

But what about US elections prior to the 19th Amendment? Was Warren Harding the first “democratically elected leader of the United States?”

And what about the UK prior to 1918 (or 1928)? Women’s suffrage came late the the UK, and if Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected leader of South Africa, I think that makes Ramsay MacDonald the UK’s first democratically elected leader.

Or if there’s something special about gender that disqualifies it from being a prerequisite for democratic legitimacy, let’s have the apples-to-apples comparison: enfranchisement for people of color.

Black people got the right to vote in the USA in 1870, making Ulysses S Grant the first “democratically elected” leader in US history (albeit that black people were systematically disenfranchised by law, norm, and deed throughout the land, a practice that continues today, especially in states with Tea Party legislatures).

Canada didn’t give First Nations people the right to vote until 1960, making John Diefenbaker the first “democratically elected” leader in Canadian history.

One could take the analogy even further, of course. Even though the 15th Amendment extending the franchise to African-Americans was ratified in 1870, the reality of the situation was that for most off the period between that date and the passage and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, vast numbers of African-Americans were prevented from voting by various legal and illegal means ranging from poll taxes and literacy tests to outright intimidation and violence. Does this mean that Richard Nixon, the first President elected after passage of the VRA was “the first democratically elected President of the United States” when he was elected in 1968, or, if you factor the expansion of the franchise to those between 18 and 21 years old, did that happen in 1972? It is, I would submit, not an easy question to answer, at least not as easy as it is when compared to the situation in South Africa.

When the United States of America began electing Presidents, the franchise was, for the most part, limited to white male property owners. This mirrored historical practice in England where members of Parliament were, for a very long time, elected by people meeting similar qualifications and only began to gradually expand after the American Colonies had split away from their British parent. It was no surprise, then, that when it came time to set up a form of government here the colonists largely followed the practice they were familiar with from their homeland. While these look like extremely illiberal voting rules in the context of our day, and they most certainly were, they were also more liberal than anything that existed anywhere else in the world at the time. More importantly, the history of the franchise in both the U.S. and Britain is one where the right to vote gradually expanded beyond just white male landowners, eventually to all white males, then, at least theoretically, to African-American males in 1870, and finally to women in 1920 and younger period in 1971. Other reforms that have been made over the years include things like the direct election of Senators via the 17th Amendment and, at the state and local level, the creation of voter’s power to utilize methods such as recall and initiative and referendum to have more direct control over politics at the state and local level.

Does this mean, though, that there was something illegitimate about elections held under voting laws that existed before hand? I would submit that it doesn’t, at least not in the same sense that the totalitarian nature of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the way it turned a black majority into the status of near non-citizens made a mockery of any claim by the leaders of South Africa prior to Nelson Mandela to claim that they had been “democratically elected.”

There is, I’d submit, a significant difference between an imperfectly extended voting franchise, albeit one that is far broader than any that existed elsewhere in the world, and a regime that is engaged in the systematic suppression of a majority of its population not only by denying them the right to vote, but also by denying them the right to own property, the right to engage in political protest or petition their government, the right to own a firearms, the right to run for or hold a political office, the right to live anywhere except in racially segregated ghettos,and a whole plethora of rights of equal protection under the law and due process of law, all based on the color of their skin. In the first case, you are dealing with the early days of what was considered the limits of a democratic republic, limits that gradually expanded as people became better educated, and most important expanded largely via non-violent democratic means (the Civil War being an obvious exception to that part of the equation). In the second, you’re dealing with utter and abject tyranny. When the pre-Mandela leaders of South Africa called themselves “democratically elected,” assuming that they ever actually did, it was as much of a lie as when the leaders of any of the other petty dictatorships on the African continent who are re-elected in fixed elections with 90%+ of the vote on a consistent basis. This isn’t to say that the leaders of our own nation were elected under ideal conditions, but I would suggest that those elections deserve to be viewed in a different moral context than the elections of the seven men who held the title of “State President Of South Africa” before Apartheid finally came to an end.

So, as imperfect as it may have been under present standards of what the right to vote consists of, the answer to Doctorow’s question is really quite easy. George Washington was the first democratically elected President of the United States. The franchise, while limited at the time, still made the nation unique in the world, as did our later ability to expand it on a mostly peaceful basis. Yes, you might argue that it took too long for voting rights to be expanded and that in some sense they remain under threat for some people, but that ought not undercut the legitimacy of the elections that preceded these reforms. Unlike South Africa, the United States was not a virtual dictatorship for most of the people who lived in it from 1789 until 1870 (or 1920, or 1968, or 1972) and it ought not be judged as one.


Throughout the 19th century, Iran was caught between two advancing imperial powers, Russia and Britain. In 1892, the British diplomat George Curzon described Iran as "pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world." [31] : 32 [32] During the latter half of the 19th century, the concession policies of the monarchy faced increased opposition. In 1872, a representative of British entrepreneur Paul Reuter met with the Iranian monarch Naser al-Din Shah Qajar and agreed to fund the monarch's upcoming lavish visit to Europe in return for exclusive contracts for Iranian roads, telegraphs, mills, factories, extraction of resources, and other public works, in which Reuter would receive a stipulated sum for five years and 60% of all the net revenue for 20 years. However, the so-called "Reuter concession" was never put into effect because of violent opposition at home and from Russia. [27] : 12 In 1892 the Shah was forced to revoke a tobacco monopoly given to Major G. F. Talbot, following protests and a widespread tobacco boycott.

In 1901, Mozzafar al-Din Shah Qajar granted a 60-year petroleum search concession to William Knox D'Arcy. [18] : 33 D'Arcy paid £20,000 (equivalent to £2 million in 2016 [33] ), according to journalist-turned-historian Stephen Kinzer, and promised equal ownership shares, with 16% of any future net profit, as calculated by the company. [18] : 48 However, the historian L. P. Elwell-Sutton wrote, in 1955, that "Persia's share was 'hardly spectacular' and no money changed hands." [27] : 15 On 31 July 1907, D'Arcy withdrew from his private holdings in Persia, and transferred them to the British-owned Burmah Oil Company. [27] : 17 On 26 May 1908 the company struck oil at a depth of 1,180 feet (360 m). [27] : 19 The company grew slowly until World War I, when Persia's strategic importance led the British government to buy a controlling share in the company, essentially nationalizing British oil production in Iran.

The British angered the Persians by intervening in their domestic affairs, including in the Persian Constitutional Revolution. [34] [35] [36] Massive popular protests had forced Mozzafar al-Din Shah to allow for the Constitution of 1906, which limited his powers. It allowed for a democratically elected parliament Majlis to make the laws, and a prime minister to sign and carry them out. The Prime Minister would be appointed by the Shah after a vote of confidence from Parliament. Nevertheless, the new constitution gave the shah many executive powers as well. It allowed for the shah to issue royal decrees (Farman), gave him the power to appoint and dismiss prime ministers (upon votes of confidence from Parliament), appoint half of the members of the Senate (which was not convened until 1949), [15] and introduce bills to and even dissolve Parliament. [37] [ page needed ] [38] It abolished arbitrary rule, but the shah served as an executive, rather than in a ceremonial role consequently when a shah was weak, the government was more democratic, but when the shah acted on his own, the democratic aspects of the government could be sidelined. The contradictory aspects of this constitution would cause conflicts in the future. [38] The Constitutional Revolution was opposed by the British and Russians, who attempted to subvert it through the backing of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (the son of Mozzafar-e-din Shah), who tried to break up the democratic government by force. A guerrilla movement led by Sattar Khan deposed him in 1910. [37] [ page needed ] [38]

In the aftermath of World War I there was widespread political dissatisfaction with the royalty terms of the British petroleum concession, under the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), whereby Persia received 16% of "net profits". [18] [ page needed ] In 1921, after years of severe mismanagement under the Qajar Dynasty, a coup d'état (allegedly backed by the British) brought a general, Reza Khan, into the government. By 1923, he had become prime minister, and gained a reputation as an effective politician with a lack of corruption. [37] [ page needed ] By 1925 under his influence, Parliament voted to remove Ahmad Shah Qajar from the throne, and Reza Khan was crowned Reza Shah Pahlavi, of the Pahlavi Dynasty. Reza Shah began a rapid and successful modernization program in Persia, which up until that point had been considered to be among the most impoverished countries in the world. [37] Nevertheless, Reza Shah was also a very harsh ruler who did not tolerate dissent. By the 1930s, he had suppressed all opposition, and had sidelined the democratic aspects of the constitution. Opponents were jailed and in some cases even executed. While some agreed with his policies, arguing that it was necessary as Iran was in such turmoil, others argued that it was unjustified. [37] [ page needed ] One such opponent was a politician named Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was jailed in 1940. The experience gave him a lasting dislike for authoritarian rule and monarchy, and it helped make Mosaddegh a dedicated advocate of complete oil nationalization in Iran. [14] [ page needed ]

Reza Shah attempted to attenuate the power of the colonial forces in Iran, and was successful to a large extent. However, he also needed them to help modernize the country. He did so by balancing the influence of various colonial powers, including that of Britain and Germany. [37] In the 1930s, Reza Shah tried to terminate the APOC concession that the Qajar dynasty had granted, but Iran was still weak and Britain would not allow it. The concession was renegotiated on terms again favorable to the British (although the D'Arcy Concession was softened). [37] [ page needed ] On 21 March 1935, Reza Shah changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was then renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). [39]

In 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the British and Commonwealth of Nations forces and the Red Army invaded Iran. Reza Shah had declared neutrality in World War II, and tried to balance between the two major powers, Britain and Nazi Germany. [15] [ page needed ] [37] [ page needed ] The primary reason for the invasion was to secure Iran's oil fields and the Trans-Iranian Railway in order to deliver supplies to the USSR. Reza Shah was arrested, deposed, and exiled by the British, and some other prominent officials were jailed as well. [15] [ page needed ] Reza Shah's 22-year-old son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, became the Shah of Iran. The new Shah, unlike his father, was initially a mild leader and at times indecisive. During the 1940s he did not for most part take an independent role in the government, and much of Reza Shah's authoritarian policies were rolled back. Iranian democracy effectively was restored during this period as a result. [15] [ page needed ] [37] [ page needed ]

The British soldiers withdrew from Iran after the end of the war. However, under Stalin, the Soviet Union partly remained by sponsoring two "People's Democratic Republics" within Iran's borders. The related conflict was ended when the US lobbied for the Iranian Army to reassert control over the two occupied territories. The earlier agreed-upon Soviet-Iranian oil agreement would never be honored. [15] [ page needed ] Nationalist leaders in Iran became influential by seeking a reduction in long-term foreign interventions in their country—especially the oil concession which was very profitable for the West and not very profitable for Iran. The British-controlled AIOC refused to allow its books to be audited to determine whether the Iranian government was being paid what had been promised. British intransigence irked the Iranian population. [ citation needed ]

U.S. objectives in the Middle East remained the same between 1947 and 1952 but its strategy changed. Washington remained "publicly in solidarity and privately at odds" with Britain, its World War II ally. Britain's empire was steadily weakening, and with an eye on international crises, the U.S. re-appraised its interests and the risks of being identified with British colonial interests. "In Saudi Arabia, to Britain's extreme disapproval, Washington endorsed the arrangement between ARAMCO and Saudi Arabia in the 50/50 accord that had reverberations throughout the region." [40] : 34–35

Iran's oil had been discovered and later controlled by the British-owned AIOC. [41] Popular discontent with the AIOC began in the late 1940s: a large segment of Iran's public and a number of politicians saw the company as exploitative and a central tool of continued British imperialism in Iran. [13] [ page needed ] [31] : 59

Assassination attempt on the Shah, and the appointment of Mosaddegh as Prime Minister Edit

In 1949, an assassin attempted to kill the Shah. Shocked by the experience and emboldened by public sympathy for his injury, the Shah began to take an increasingly active role in politics. He quickly organized the Iran Constituent Assembly to amend the constitution to increase his powers. He established the Senate of Iran which had been a part of the Constitution of 1906 but had never been convened. The Shah had the right to appoint half the senators and he chose men sympathetic to his aims. [15] Mosaddegh thought this increase in the Shah's political power was not democratic he believed that the Shah should "reign, but not rule" in a manner similar to Europe's constitutional monarchies. Led by Mosaddegh, political parties and opponents of the Shah's policies banded together to form a coalition known as the National Front. [15] Oil nationalization was a major policy goal for the party. [42]

By 1951, the National Front had won majority seats for the popularly elected Majlis (Parliament of Iran). According to Iran's constitution, the majority elected party in the parliament would give a vote of confidence for its prime minister candidate, after which the Shah would appoint the candidate to power. The Prime Minister Haj Ali Razmara, who opposed the oil nationalization on technical grounds, [13] [ page needed ] was assassinated by the hardline Fadaiyan e-Islam (whose spiritual leader the Ayatollah Abol-Qassem Kashani, a mentor to the future Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had been appointed Speaker of the Parliament by the National Front). [13] [ page needed ] After a vote of confidence from the National Front dominated Parliament, Mosaddegh was appointed prime minister of Iran by the Shah (replacing Hossein Ala, who had replaced Razmara). Under heavy pressure by the National Front, the assassin of Razmara (Khalil Tahmasebi) was released and pardoned, thus proving the movement's power in Iranian politics. [13] [ page needed ] For the time being, Mosaddegh and Kashani were allies of convenience, as Mosaddegh saw that Kashani could mobilize the "religious masses", while Kashani wanted Mosaddegh to create an Islamic state. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] Kashani's Fadaiyan mobs often violently attacked the opponents of nationalization and opponents of the National Front government, as well as "immoral objects", acting at times as unofficial "enforcers" for the movement. [13] [ page needed ] However, by 1953 Mosaddegh was becoming increasingly opposed to Kashani, as the latter was contributing to mass political instability in Iran. Kashani in turn, berated Mosaddegh for not "Islamizing" Iran, as the latter was a firm believer in the separation of religion and state. [13] [ page needed ]

The Shah and his prime minister had an antagonistic relationship. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that Mosaddegh was connected by blood to the former royal Qajar dynasty, and saw the Pahlavi king as a usurper to the throne. But the real issue stemmed from the fact that Mosaddegh represented a pro-democratic force that wanted to temper the Shah's rule in Iranian politics. He wanted the Shah to be a ceremonial monarch rather than a ruling monarch, thus giving the elected government power over the un-elected Shah. While the constitution of Iran gave the Shah the power to rule directly, Mosaddegh used the united National Front bloc and the widespread popular support for the oil nationalization vote (the latter which the Shah supported as well) in order to block the Shah's ability to act. As a result, the oil nationalization issue became increasingly intertwined with Mosaddegh's pro-democracy movement. The dejected Shah was angered by Mosaddegh's "insolence" (according to Abbas Milani, he angrily paced in the rooms of his palace at the thought that he would be reduced to a figurehead). But Mosaddegh and the oil nationalization's popularity prevented the Shah from acting against his prime minister (which was allowed under Iran's constitution, something that Mosaddegh felt a king had no right to do). In 1952 the Shah dismissed Mosaddegh, replacing him with Ahmad Qavam (a veteran prime minister). But widespread protests by Mosaddegh supporters resulted in the Shah immediately reinstating him. [15] [ page needed ]

Oil nationalization, the Abadan crisis, and rising tensions Edit

In late 1951, Iran's Parliament in a near unanimous vote approved the oil nationalization agreement. The bill was widely popular among most Iranians, and generated a huge wave of nationalism, and immediately put Iran at loggerheads with Britain (the handful of MPs that disagreed with it voted for it as well in the face of overwhelming popular support, and the Fadaiyan's wrath). [13] [ page needed ] [43] The nationalization made Mosaddegh instantly popular among millions of Iranians, cementing him as a national hero, and placing him and Iran at the center of worldwide attention. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] [43] Many Iranians felt that for the first time in centuries, they were taking control of the affairs of their country. Many also expected that nationalization would result in a massive increase of wealth for Iranians.

Britain now faced the newly elected nationalist government in Iran where Mosaddegh, with strong backing of the Iranian parliament and people, demanded more favorable concessionary arrangements, which Britain vigorously opposed. [40]

The U.S. State Department not only rejected Britain's demand that it continue to be the primary beneficiary of Iranian oil reserves but "U.S. international oil interests were among the beneficiaries of the concessionary arrangements that followed nationalization." [40] : 35

Mohammad Mosaddegh attempted to negotiate with the AIOC, but the company rejected his proposed compromise. Mosaddegh's plan, based on the 1948 compromise between the Venezuelan Government of Romulo Gallegos and Creole Petroleum, [44] would divide the profits from oil 50/50 between Iran and Britain. Against the recommendation of the United States, Britain refused this proposal and began planning to undermine and overthrow the Iranian government. [42]

In July 1951, the American diplomat Averell Harriman went to Iran to negotiate an Anglo-Iranian compromise, asking the Shah's help his reply was that "in the face of public opinion, there was no way he could say a word against nationalisation". [18] : 106 Harriman held a press conference in Tehran, calling for reason and enthusiasm in confronting the "nationalisation crisis". As soon as he spoke, a journalist rose and shouted: "We and the Iranian people all support Premier Mosaddegh and oil nationalisation!" Everyone present began cheering and then marched out of the room the abandoned Harriman shook his head in dismay. [18] : 106

On a visit to the United States in October 1951, Mosaddegh—in spite of the popularity of nationalization in Iran—agreed in talks with George C. McGhee to a complex settlement of the crisis involving the sale of the Abadan Refinery to a non-British company and Iranian control of the extraction of crude oil. The US waited until Winston Churchill became prime minister to present the deal, believing he would be more flexible, but the deal was rejected by the British. [45]

The National Iranian Oil Company suffered decreased production, because of Iranian inexperience and the AIOC's orders that British technicians not work with them, thus provoking the Abadan Crisis that was aggravated by the Royal Navy's blockading its export markets to pressure Iran to not nationalise its petroleum. The Iranian revenues were greater, because the profits went to Iran's national treasury rather than to private, foreign oil companies. [46] [ self-published source? ] By September 1951, the British had virtually ceased Abadan oil field production, forbidden British export to Iran of key British commodities (including sugar and steel), [18] : 110 and had frozen Iran's hard currency accounts in British banks. [47] British Prime Minister Clement Attlee considered seizing the Abadan Oil Refinery by force, but instead settled on an embargo by the Royal Navy, stopping any ship transporting Iranian oil for carrying so-called "stolen property". On his re-election as prime minister, Winston Churchill took an even harder stance against Iran. [13] [ page needed ] [18] : 145

The United Kingdom took its anti-nationalisation case against Iran to the International Court of Justice at The Hague PM Mosaddegh said the world would learn of a "cruel and imperialistic country" stealing from a "needy and naked people". The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case. Nevertheless, the British continued to enforce the embargo of Iranian oil. In August 1952, Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh invited an American oil executive to visit Iran and the Truman administration welcomed the invitation. However, the suggestion upset Churchill, who insisted that the U.S. not undermine his campaign to isolate Mosaddegh because of British support for the U.S. in the Korean War. [18] : 145

In mid-1952, Britain's embargo of Iranian oil was devastatingly effective. British agents in Tehran "worked to subvert" the government of Mosaddegh, who sought help from President Truman and then the World Bank but to no avail. "Iranians were becoming poorer and unhappier by the day" and Mosaddegh's political coalition was fraying. To make matters worse, the Speaker of the Parliament Ayatollah Kashani, Mosaddegh's main clerical supporter, became increasingly opposed to the Prime Minister, because Mosaddegh was not turning Iran into an Islamic state. By 1953, he had completely turned on him, and supported the coup, depriving Mosaddegh of religious support, while giving it to the Shah. [13] [ page needed ]

In the Majlis election in the spring of 1952, Mosaddegh "had little to fear from a free vote, since despite the country's problems, he was widely admired as a hero. A free vote, however, was not what others were planning. British agents had fanned out across the country, bribing candidates, and the regional bosses who controlled them. Robert Zaehner alone spent over a £1,500,000, smuggled in biscuit tins, to bribe Iranians, and later his colleague Norman Darbyshire admitted that the actual coup cost the British government a further £700,000. [48] They hoped to fill the Majlis with deputies who would vote to depose Mosaddegh. It would be a coup carried out by seemingly legal means." [18] : 135

While the National Front, which often supported Mosaddegh won handily in the big cities, there was no one to monitor voting in the rural areas. Violence broke out in Abadan and other parts of the country where elections were hotly contested. Faced with having to leave Iran for The Hague where Britain was suing for control of Iranian oil, Mosaddegh's cabinet voted to postpone the remainder of the election until after the return of the Iranian delegation from The Hague. [18] : 136–137

While Mosaddegh dealt with political challenge, he faced another that most Iranians considered far more urgent. The British blockade of Iranian seaports meant that Iran was left without access to markets where it could sell its oil. The embargo had the effect of causing Iran to spiral into bankruptcy. Tens of thousands had lost their jobs at the Abadan refinery, and although most understood and passionately supported the idea of nationalisation, they naturally hoped that Mosaddegh would find a way to put them back to work. The only way he could do that was to sell oil. [18] : 136–137

To make matters worse, the Communist Tudeh Party, which supported the Soviet Union and had attempted to kill the Shah only four years earlier, began to infiltrate the military [49] and send mobs to "support Mosaddegh" (but in reality to marginalize all non-Communist opponents). Earlier, the Tudeh had denounced Mosaddegh, but by 1953 they changed tack and decided to "support" him. [50] The Tudeh violently attacked opponents under the guise of helping the prime minister (the cousin of the future queen of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, was stabbed at the age of 13 in his school by Tudeh activists), [14] [ page needed ] and unwittingly helped cause Mosaddegh's reputation to decline, despite the fact that he never officially endorsed them. [15] [ page needed ] However, by 1953 he and the Tudeh had formed an unofficial alliance of convenience with each other the Tudeh were the "foot soldiers" for his government, effectively replacing the Fadaiyan in that role, all the while secretly hoping that Mosaddegh would institute communism. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] Pro-Shah mobs also carried out attacks on Mosaddegh opponents, and there may have been some CIA coordination. [13] [ page needed ]

Worried about Britain's other interests in Iran, and (thanks to the Tudeh party) [15] [ page needed ] believing that Iran's nationalism was really a Soviet-backed plot, Britain persuaded US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that Iran was falling to the Soviets—effectively exploiting the American Cold War mindset. Since President Harry S. Truman was busy fighting a war in Korea, he did not agree to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. However, in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, the UK convinced the U.S. to undertake a joint coup d'état. [18] [ page needed ]

Final months of Mosaddegh's government Edit

By 1953, economic tensions caused by the British embargo and political turmoil began to take a major toll on Mosaddegh's popularity and political power. He was increasingly blamed for the economic and political crisis. Political violence was becoming widespread in the form of street clashes between rival political groups. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] Mosaddegh was losing popularity and support among the working class which had been his strongest supporters. As he lost support, he became more autocratic. [50] [51] As early as August 1952, he began to rely on emergency powers to rule, generating controversy among his supporters. [51] After an assassination attempt upon one of his cabinet ministers and himself, he ordered the jailing of dozens of his political opponents. This act created widespread anger among the general public, and led to accusations that Mosaddegh was becoming a dictator. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] The Tudeh party's unofficial alliance with Mosaddegh led to fears of communism, and increasingly it was the communists who were taking part in pro-Mosaddegh rallies, and attacking opponents. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ]

By mid-1953 a mass of resignations by Mosaddegh's parliamentary supporters reduced the National Front seats in Parliament. A referendum to dissolve parliament and give the prime minister power to make law was submitted to voters, and it passed with 99.9 percent approval, 2,043,300 votes to 1300 votes against. [25] : 274 The referendum was widely seen by opponents as treason, and an act against the Shah who was stripped of military power, and control over national resources. Ironically, this act would be one of many key factors in a chain of events leading to his deposition. [13] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ]

The Shah himself initially opposed the coup plans, and supported the oil nationalization, but he joined after being informed by the CIA that he too would be "deposed" if he didn't play along. The experience left him with a lifelong awe of American power, and would contribute to his pro-US policies, while generating a hatred of the British. [15] [ page needed ] Mosaddegh's decision to dissolve Parliament also contributed to his decision. [15] [ page needed ]

The official pretext for the start of the coup was Mosaddegh's decree to dissolve Parliament, giving himself and his cabinet complete power to rule, while effectively stripping the Shah of his powers. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] It resulted in him being accused of giving himself "total and dictatorial powers." The Shah, who had been resisting the CIA's demands for the coup, finally agreed to support it. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] Having obtained the Shah's concurrence, the CIA executed the coup. [52] Firmans (royal decrees) dismissing Mosaddegh and appointing General Fazlollah Zahedi (a loyalist who had helped Reza Shah reunify Iran decades earlier) [14] [ page needed ] were drawn up by the coup plotters and signed by the Shah. Having signed the decrees and delivered them to General Zahedi, he and Queen Soraya departed for a week-long vacation in northern Iran. [53] On Saturday 15 August, Colonel Nematollah Nassiri, [14] [ page needed ] the commander of the Imperial Guard, delivered to Mosaddegh a firman from the Shah dismissing him. Mosaddegh, who had been warned of the plot, probably by the Communist Tudeh Party, rejected the firman and had Nassiri arrested. [54] [55] [56] Mosaddegh argued at his trial after the coup that under the Iranian constitutional monarchy, the Shah had no constitutional right to issue an order for the elected Prime Minister's dismissal without Parliament's consent. However, the constitution at the time did allow for such an action, which Mosaddegh considered unfair. [15] [ page needed ] [57] [58] The action was publicized within Iran by the CIA and in the United States by The New York Times. Mosaddegh's supporters (millions of National Front supporters as well as members of the Tudeh Party) took to the streets in violent protests. [13] [ page needed ] Following the failed coup attempt, the Shah, accompanied by his second wife Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari and Aboul Fath Atabay [59] fled to Baghdad. Arriving unannounced, the Shah asked for permission for himself and his consort to stay in Baghdad for a few days before continuing on to Europe. [53] After high-level Government consultations, they were escorted to the White House, the Iraqi Government's guest house, before flying to Italy in a plane flown by Mohammad Amir Khatami. [59]

After the first coup attempt failed, General Zahedi, declaring that he was the rightful prime minister of Iran, shuttled between multiple safe houses attempting to avoid arrest. Mosaddegh ordered security forces to capture the coup plotters, and dozens were imprisoned. Believing that he had succeeded, and that he was in full control of the government, Mosaddegh erred. Assuming that the coup had failed, he asked his supporters to return to their homes and to continue with their lives as normal. The Tudeh party members also returned to their homes, no longer carrying out enforcement duties. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] The CIA was ordered to leave Iran, although Kermit Roosevelt Jr. was slow to receive the message—allegedly due to MI6 interference—and eagerly continued to foment anti-Mosaddegh unrest. The Eisenhower administration considered changing its policy to support Mosaddegh, with undersecretary of state Walter Bedell Smith remarking on 17 August: "Whatever his faults, Mosaddegh had no love for the Russians and timely aid might enable him to keep Communism in check." [60]

General Zahedi, who was still on the run, met with the pro-Shah Ayatollah Mohammad Behbahani and other Shah supporters in secret. There (using CIA money deridingly known as "Behbahani dollars"), they quickly created a new plan. Already, much of the country's upper class was in shock from the Shah's flight from Iran, fears of communism, and Mosaddegh's arrests of opponents. They capitalized on this sentiment in their plans. The Ayatollah Behbahani also used his influence to rally religious demonstrators against Mosaddegh. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ]

On 19 August, hired infiltrators posing as Tudeh party members began to organize a "communist revolution". They came and encouraged real Tudeh members to join in. Soon, the Tudeh members took to the streets attacking virtually any symbols of capitalism, and looting private businesses and destroying shops. Much of southern Tehran's business district, including the bazaars, were vandalized. With sudden mass public revulsion against this act, the next part of Zahedi's plan came into action. From the vandalized bazaars, a second group of paid infiltrators, this time posing as Shah supporters, organized angry crowds of common Iranians who were terrified about a "communist revolution" and sickened by the violence. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ]

The CIA hired the two biggest gangsters of the South Tehran ghetto, "Icy Ramadan" and Shaban Jafari A.K.A "Brainless Shaban", to mobilize protest against Mosaddegh. [61] [62]

By the middle of the day, large crowds of regular citizens, armed with improvised weapons, took to the streets in mass demonstrations, and beat back the Tudeh party members. Under Zahedi's authority, the army left its barracks and drove off the communist Tudeh and then stormed all government buildings with the support of demonstrators. Mosaddegh fled after a tank fired a single shell into his house, but he later turned himself in to the army's custody. To prevent further bloodshed, he refused a last attempt to organize his supporters. [63] By the end of the day, Zahedi and the army were in control of the government. [13] [ page needed ] [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] Despite the CIA's role in creating the conditions for the coup, there is little evidence to suggest that Kermit Roosevelt Jr. or other CIA officials were directly responsible for the actions of the demonstrators or the army on 19 August. It has even been suggested that Roosevelt's activities between 15 and 19 August were primarily intended to organize "stay-behind networks as part of the planned CIA evacuation of the country," although they allowed him to later "claim responsibility for the day's outcome." [64] In 2014, historian Ray Takeyh conclusively showed that the US-led coup attempt was unsuccessful, with the CIA writing to Eisenhower that "The move failed […] We now [. ] probably have to snuggle up to Mosaddeq if we’re going to save [our influence in Iran]” the demonstrations that led to Mosaddeq's resignation took place some weeks after the Roosevelt-organized ones, and were composed of average citizens, not the thugs-for-hire that the CIA and MI6 had recruited. [65]

The Shah stayed in a hotel in Italy until he learned what had transpired, upon which he "chokingly declared": "I knew they loved me." [3] Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, flew back with the Shah from Rome to Tehran. [66] Zahedi officially replaced Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh was arrested, tried, and originally sentenced to death. But on the Shah's personal orders, his sentence was commuted [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] [67] [68] to three years' solitary confinement in a military prison, followed by house arrest until his death. [69]

As a condition for restoring the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, in 1954 the US required removal of the AIOC's monopoly five American petroleum companies, Royal Dutch Shell, and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, were to draw Iran's petroleum after the successful coup d'état—Operation Ajax. The Shah declared this to be a "victory" for Iranians, with the massive influx of money from this agreement resolving the economic collapse from the last three years, and allowing him to carry out his planned modernization projects. [15]

As part of that, the CIA organized anti-Communist guerrillas to fight the Tudeh Party if they seized power in the chaos of Operation Ajax. [70] Released National Security Archive documents showed that Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith reported that the CIA had agreed with Qashqai tribal leaders, in south Iran, to establish a clandestine safe haven from which U.S.-funded guerrillas and spies could operate. [70] [71]

Operation Ajax's formal leader was senior CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., while career agent Donald Wilber was the operational leader, planner, and executor of the deposition of Mosaddegh. The coup d'état depended on the impotent Shah's dismissing the popular and powerful Prime Minister and replacing him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, with help from Colonel Abbas Farzanegan—a man agreed upon by the British and Americans after determining his anti-Soviet politics. [71]

The CIA sent Major General Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. to persuade the exiled Shah to return to rule Iran. Schwarzkopf trained the security forces that would become known as SAVAK to secure the shah's hold on power. [72]

The coup was carried out by the US administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in a covert action advocated by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and implemented under the supervision of his brother Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence. [73] The coup was organized by the United States' CIA and the United Kingdom's MI6, two spy agencies that aided royalists and royalist elements of the Iranian army. [74] Much of the money was channeled through the pro-Shah Ayatollah Mohammad Behbahani, who drew many religious masses to the plot. Ayatollah Kashani had completely turned on Mosaddegh and supported the Shah, by this point. [13]

According to a heavily redacted CIA document [75] released to the National Security Archive in response to a Freedom of Information request, "Available documents do not indicate who authorized CIA to begin planning the operation, but it almost certainly was President Eisenhower himself. Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose has written that the absence of documentation reflected the President's style."

The CIA document then quotes from the Ambrose biography of Eisenhower:

Before going into the operation, Ajax had to have the approval of the President. Eisenhower participated in none of the meetings that set up Ajax he received only oral reports on the plan and he did not discuss it with his Cabinet or the NSC. Establishing a pattern he would hold to throughout his Presidency, he kept his distance and left no documents behind that could implicate the President in any projected coup. But in the privacy of the Oval Office, over cocktails, he was kept informed by Foster Dulles, and he maintained a tight control over the activities of the CIA. [76]

CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, carried out the operation planned by CIA agent Donald Wilber. One version of the CIA history, written by Wilber, referred to the operation as TPAJAX. [77] [78]

During the coup, Roosevelt and Wilber, representatives of the Eisenhower administration, bribed Iranian government officials, reporters, and businessmen. They also bribed street thugs to support the Shah and oppose Mosaddegh. [5] [79] The deposed Iranian leader, Mosaddegh, was taken to jail and Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi named himself prime minister in the new, pro-western government.

Another tactic Roosevelt admitted to using was bribing demonstrators into attacking symbols of the Shah, while chanting pro-Mosaddegh slogans. As king, the Shah was largely seen as a symbol of Iran at the time by many Iranians and monarchists. Roosevelt declared that the more that these agents showed their hate for the Shah and attacked his symbols, the more it caused the average Iranian citizen to dislike and distrust Mosaddegh. [80]

The British and American spy agencies strengthened the monarchy in Iran by backing the pro-western Shah for the next 26 years. The Shah was overthrown in 1979. [18] [81] The overthrow of Iran's elected government in 1953 ensured Western control of Iran's petroleum resources and prevented the Soviet Union from competing for Iranian oil. [82] [83] [84] [85] Some Iranian clerics cooperated with the western spy agencies because they were dissatisfied with Mosaddegh's secular government. [79]

While the broad outlines of the operation are known, ". the C.I.A.'s records were widely thought by historians to have the potential to add depth and clarity to a famous but little-documented intelligence operation," reporter Tim Weiner wrote in The New York Times 29 May 1997. [86]

"The Central Intelligence Agency, which has repeatedly pledged for more than five years to make public the files from its secret mission to overthrow the government of Iran in 1953, said today that it had destroyed or lost almost all the documents decades ago." [86] [87] [88]

A historian who was a member of the CIA staff in 1992 and 1993 said in an interview today that the records were obliterated by "a culture of destruction" at the agency. The historian, Nick Cullather, said he believed that records on other major cold war covert operations had been burned, including those on secret missions in Indonesia in the 1950s and a successful CIA-sponsored coup in Guyana in the early 1960s. "Iran—there's nothing", Mr. Cullather said. "Indonesia—very little. Guyana—that was burned." [86]

Donald Wilber, one of the CIA officers who planned the 1953 coup in Iran, wrote an account titled, Clandestine Service History Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953. Wilber said one goal of the coup was to strengthen the Shah.

In 2000, James Risen at The New York Times obtained the previously secret CIA version of the coup written by Wilber and summarized [89] its contents, which includes the following.

In early August, the CIA increased the pressure. Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with "savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh," seeking to stir anti-Communist sentiment in the religious community.

In addition, the secret history says, the house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by CIA agents posing as Communists. It does not say whether anyone was hurt in this attack.

The agency was intensifying its propaganda campaign. A leading newspaper owner was granted a personal loan of about $45,000, "in the belief that this would make his organ amenable to our purposes."

The Shah remained intransigent. In a 1 August meeting with General Norman Schwarzkopf, he refused to sign the C.I.A.-written decrees firing Mr. Mossadegh and appointing General Zahedi. He said he doubted that the army would support him in a showdown.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University contains the full account by Wilber, along with many other coup-related documents and analysis. [90] [91] [92]

In a January 1973 telephone conversation made public in 2009, US President Richard Nixon told CIA Director Richard Helms, who was awaiting Senate confirmation to become the new U.S. Ambassador to Iran, that Nixon wanted Helms to be a "regional ambassador" to Persian Gulf oil states, and noted that Helms had been a schoolmate of Shah Reza Pahlavi. [93]

Release of U.S. government records and official acknowledgement Edit

In August 2013, on the 60th anniversary of the coup, the US government released documents showing they were involved in staging the coup. The documents also describe the motivations behind the coup and the strategies used to stage it. [9] The UK had sought to censor information regarding its role in the coup a significant number of documents about the coup remained classified. [29] The release of the declassified documents, which marked the first US official acknowledgement of its role, was seen as a goodwill gesture on the part of the Obama administration. [94] [29] According to Aljazeera, the deputy director of the National Security Archive, Malcolm Bryne, disclosed that the CIA documented the secret histories purposely for official use. [95]

In June 2017, the United States State Department's Office of the Historian released its revised historical account of the event. The volume of historical records "focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq's overthrow on 19 August 1953". [96] Though some of the relevant records were destroyed long ago, the release contains a collection of roughly 1,000 pages, only a small number of which remain classified. [97] One revelation is that the CIA "attempted to call off the failing coup but was salvaged by an insubordinate spy." [98] The reports released by the U.S had reached 1,007 pages, consisting of diplomatic cables and letters according to VOA News. [99]

In March 2018, the National Security Archive released a declassified British memo alleging that the United States Embassy sent "large sums of money" to "influential people"—namely senior Iranian clerics—in the days leading up to Mosaddeq's overthrow. [100] According to the Guardian, despite the U.S showing regrets about the coup, it has failed to officially issue an apology over its involvement. [101]

United States financial support Edit

The CIA paid a large sum to carry out the operation. Depending on the expenses to be counted, the final cost is estimated to vary from $100,000 to $20 million. CIA gave Zahedi's government $5 million after the coup [18] [ page needed ] with Zahedi himself receiving an extra million. [31]

United States motives Edit

Historians disagree on what motivated the United States to change its policy towards Iran and stage the coup. Middle East historian Ervand Abrahamian identified the coup d'état as "a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World". He states that Secretary of State Dean Acheson admitted the " 'Communist threat' was a smokescreen" in responding to President Eisenhower's claim that the Tudeh party was about to assume power. [102]

Throughout the crisis, the "communist danger" was more of a rhetorical device than a real issue—i.e. it was part of the cold-war discourse . The Tudeh was no match for the armed tribes and the 129,000-man military. What is more, the British and Americans had enough inside information to be confident that the party had no plans to initiate armed insurrection. At the beginning of the crisis, when the Truman administration was under the impression a compromise was possible, Acheson had stressed the communist danger, and warned if Mosaddegh was not helped, the Tudeh would take over. The (British) Foreign Office had retorted that the Tudeh was no real threat. But, in August 1953, when the Foreign Office echoed the Eisenhower administration's claim that the Tudeh was about to take over, Acheson now retorted that there was no such communist danger. Acheson was honest enough to admit that the issue of the Tudeh was a smokescreen. [102]

Abrahamian states that Iran's oil was the central focus of the coup, for both the British and the Americans, though "much of the discourse at the time linked it to the Cold War". [103] Abrahamian wrote, "If Mosaddegh had succeeded in nationalizing the British oil industry in Iran, that would have set an example and was seen at that time by the Americans as a threat to U.S. oil interests throughout the world, because other countries would do the same." [103] Mosaddegh did not want any compromise solution that allowed a degree of foreign control. Abrahamian said that Mosaddegh "wanted real nationalization, both in theory and practice". [103]

Tirman points out that agricultural land owners were politically dominant in Iran well into the 1960s, and the monarch Reza Shah's aggressive land expropriation policies—to the benefit of himself and his supporters—resulted in the Iranian government being Iran's largest land owner. "The landlords and oil producers had new backing, moreover, as American interests were for the first time exerted in Iran. The Cold War was starting, and Soviet challenges were seen in every leftist movement. But the reformers were at root nationalists, not communists, and the issue that galvanized them above all others was the control of oil." [104] The belief that oil was the central motivator behind the coup has been echoed in the popular media by authors such as Robert Byrd, [105] Alan Greenspan, [106] and Ted Koppel. [107]

Middle East political scientist Mark Gasiorowski states that while, on the face of it, there is considerable merit to the argument that U.S. policymakers helped U.S. oil companies gain a share in Iranian oil production after the coup, "it seems more plausible to argue that U.S. policymakers were motivated mainly by fears of a communist takeover in Iran, and that the involvement of U.S. companies was sought mainly to prevent this from occurring. The Cold War was at its height in the early 1950s, and the Soviet Union was viewed as an expansionist power seeking world domination. Eisenhower had made the Soviet threat a key issue in the 1952 elections, accusing the Democrats of being soft on communism and of having 'lost China.' Once in power, the new administration quickly sought to put its views into practice." [42]

A 2019 study by Gasiorowski concluded "that U.S. policymakers did not have compelling evidence that the threat of a Communist takeover was increasing substantially in the months before the coup. Rather, the Eisenhower administration interpreted the available evidence in a more alarming manner than the Truman administration had." [108]

Gasiorowski further states "the major U.S. oil companies were not interested in Iran at this time. A glut existed in the world oil market. The U.S. majors had increased their production in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 1951 in order to make up for the loss of Iranian production operating in Iran would force them to cut back production in these countries which would create tensions with Saudi and Kuwaiti leaders. Furthermore, if nationalist sentiments remained high in Iran, production there would be risky. U.S. oil companies had shown no interest in Iran in 1951 and 1952. By late 1952, the Truman administration had come to believe that participation by U.S. companies in the production of Iranian oil was essential to maintain stability in Iran and keep Iran out of Soviet hands. In order to gain the participation of the major U.S. oil companies, Truman offered to scale back a large anti-trust case then being brought against them. The Eisenhower administration shared Truman's views on the participation of U.S. companies in Iran and also agreed to scale back the anti-trust case. Thus, not only did U.S. majors not want to participate in Iran at this time, it took a major effort by U.S. policymakers to persuade them to become involved." [42]

In 2004, Gasiorowski edited a book on the coup [109] arguing that "the climate of intense cold war rivalry between the superpowers, together with Iran's strategic vital location between the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf oil fields, led U.S. officials to believe that they had to take whatever steps were necessary to prevent Iran from falling into Soviet hands." [109] While "these concerns seem vastly overblown today" [109] the pattern of "the 1945–46 Azerbaijan crisis, the consolidation of Soviet control in Eastern Europe, the communist triumph in China, and the Korean War—and with the Red Scare at its height in the United States" [109] would not allow U.S. officials to risk allowing the Tudeh Party to gain power in Iran. [109] Furthermore, "U.S. officials believed that resolving the oil dispute was essential for restoring stability in Iran, and after March 1953 it appeared that the dispute could be resolved only at the expense either of Britain or of Mosaddeq." [109] He concludes "it was geostrategic considerations, rather than a desire to destroy Mosaddeq's movement, to establish a dictatorship in Iran or to gain control over Iran's oil, that persuaded U.S. officials to undertake the coup." [109]

Faced with choosing between British interests and Iran, the U.S. chose Britain, Gasiorowski said. "Britain was the closest ally of the United States, and the two countries were working as partners on a wide range of vitally important matters throughout the world at this time. Preserving this close relationship was more important to U.S. officials than saving Mosaddeq's tottering regime." A year earlier, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used Britain's support for the U.S. in the Cold War to insist the United States not undermine his campaign to isolate Mosaddegh. "Britain was supporting the Americans in Korea, he reminded Truman, and had a right to expect 'Anglo-American unity' on Iran." [18] : 145

The two main winners of World War II, who had been Allies during the war, became superpowers and competitors as soon as the war ended, each with their own spheres of influence and client states. After the 1953 coup, Iran became one of the client states of the United States. In his earlier book, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran, Gasiorowski identifies the client states of the United States and of the Soviet Union during 1954–1977. Gasiorowski identified Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, South Korea, South Vietnam, and Taiwan as strong client states of the United States and identified those that were moderately important to the U.S. as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Liberia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and Zaire. He named Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia, Japan, and Peru as "weak" client states of the United States. [31] : 27

Gasiorowski identified Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, North Vietnam, and Romania as "strong client states" of the Soviet Union, and Afghanistan, Egypt, Guinea, North Korea, Somalia, and Syria as moderately important client states. Mali and South Yemen were classified as weak client states of the Soviet Union.

According to Kinzer, for most Americans, the crisis in Iran became just part of the conflict between Communism and "the Free world". [18] : 84 "A great sense of fear, particularly the fear of encirclement, shaped American consciousness during this period. . Soviet power had already subdued Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Communist governments were imposed on Bulgaria and Romania in 1946, Hungary and Poland in 1947, and Czechoslovakia in 1948. Albania and Yugoslavia also turned to communism. Greek communists made a violent bid for power. Soviet soldiers blocked land routes to Berlin for sixteen months. In 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested a nuclear weapon. That same year, pro-Western forces in China lost their Civil War to communists led by Mao Zedong. From Washington, it seemed that enemies were on the march everywhere." [18] : 84 Consequently, "the United States, challenged by what most Americans saw as a relentless communist advance, slowly ceased to view Iran as a country with a unique history that faced a unique political challenge." [18] : 205 Some historians, including Douglas Little, [110] Abbas Milani [111] and George Lenczowski [112] have echoed the view that fears of a communist takeover or Soviet influence motivated the U.S. to intervene.

On 11 May 1951, prior to the overthrow of Mosaddegh, Adolf A. Berle warned the U.S. State Department that U.S. "control of the Middle East was at stake, which, with its Persian Gulf oil, meant 'substantial control of the world.'" [113]

News coverage in the United States and Great Britain Edit

When Mosaddegh called for the dissolution of the Majlis in August 1953, the editors of the New York Times gave the opinion that: "A plebiscite more fantastic and farcical than any ever held under Hitler or Stalin is now being staged in Iran by Premier Mosaddegh in an effort to make himself unchallenged dictator of the country." [114]

A year after the coup, the New York Times wrote on 6 August 1954, that a new oil "agreement between Iran and a consortium of foreign oil companies" was "good news indeed". [115]

Costly as the dispute over Iranian oil has been to all concerned, the affair may yet be proved worthwhile if lessons are learned from it: Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism. It is perhaps too much to hope that Iran's experience will prevent the rise of Mossadeghs in other countries, but that experience may at least strengthen the hands of more reasonable and more far-seeing leaders. In some circles in Great Britain the charge will be pushed that American "imperialism"—in the shape of the American oil firms in the consortium!—has once again elbowed Britain from a historic stronghold. [115]

The British government used the BBC's Persian service for advancing its propaganda against Mosaddegh. Anti-Mosaddegh material was repeatedly aired on the radio channel to the extent that Iranian staff at the BBC Persian radio went on strike to protest the move. [116] The documentary Cinematograph aired on 18 August 2011 on the anniversary of the coup. In it, BBC admitted for the first time to the role of BBC Persian radio as the propaganda arm of the British government in Iran. The Cinematograph narrator said:

The British government used the BBC Persian radio for advancing its propaganda against Mosaddegh and anti-Mosaddegh material were repeatedly aired on the radio channel to the extent that Iranian staff at the BBC Persian radio went on strike to protest the move.

The documentary quoted a 21 July 1951 classified document in which a Foreign Office official thanked the British ambassador for his proposals that were precisely followed by the BBC Persian radio to strengthen its propaganda against Mosaddegh:

The BBC had already made most of the points which you listed, but they were very glad to have an indication from you of what was likely to be most effective and will arrange their programme accordingly. We should also avoid direct attacks on the 'ruling classes' since it seems probable that we may want to deal with a government drawn from those classes should Mosaddegh fall.

The document further stressed that the Foreign Office "shall be grateful for [the ambassador's] comments on the propaganda line we have proposed". [117]

An early account of the CIA's role in the coup appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in late 1954, purporting to explain how "the strategic little nation of Iran was rescued from the closing clutch of Moscow." The report was approved by the CIA, and its authors may have been assisted by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., who had written for the Post before. [118]

Despite the British government's pressure, the National Security Archive released two declassified documents in August 2017 which confirm the British solicitation of the United States' assistance in ousting Mosaddegh. [19] [119] According to these records, the British first approached the American government about a plan for the coup in November 1952 [120] "repeatedly" asking U.S. to join the coup, [121] claiming that the Mosaddegh government would be ineffective in preventing a communist takeover, [120] and that Mosaddegh was a threat to America's global fight against communism, [122] which they believed necessitated action the records also state that UK and U.S. spy agencies had by then had "very tentative and preliminary discussions regarding the practicability of such a move". [20] At the time, the American government was already preparing to aid Mosaddegh in his oil dealings with the British, and believed him to be anti-communist—considerations which made the U.S. government skeptical of the plot. Since President Truman's term was drawing to a close in January 1953, and there was too much uncertainty and danger associated with the plot, the U.S. government decided not to take action against Mosaddegh at the time. [120]

According to the 1952 documents, it was Christopher Steel, the No 2 official in the British embassy in Washington, who "pitched" the idea of the coup to US officials amid the US-Britain talks which had begun in October. The document also says that the British officials rejected Paul Nitze's suggestion that, instead of executing a coup, they mount a "campaign" against Ayatollah Abolqasem Kashani, "a leading opponent of British involvement in Iran's oil industry", and the communist Tudeh Party. They "pressed US for a decision" since they knew "the Truman administration was in its final weeks". [121] According to Wilber, the British Secret Intelligence Service worked with CIA to form a propaganda campaign via "the press, handbills and the Tehran clergy" to "weaken the Mossadeq government in any way possible". [123]

Oil nationalization law led to a "direct conflict" between Mosaddegh and the British government. So, Britain tried to regain its control over the oil industry in Iran by following a "three-track strategy" aimed at either "pressuring him into a favorable settlement or by removing him from the office." The three component of Britain strategy was: I) "legal maneuvers" including refusing direct negotiation with Mosaddegh, II) Imposing economic sanctions on Iran accompanied by performing war games in the region and III) Removal of Mosaddegh through "covert political action". [42]

Mosaddegh appointed a series of secular ministers to his cabinet during his premiership, losing his support with the clergy. [124] In 1953, Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Kashani and his followers organised a series of protests against Mosaddegh's liberal reforms - such as the extension of the vote to women. By July 1953 when Mosaddegh asked for a critical extension of his emergency powers, ". Clerical members of the Majles who supported Kashani left the National Front Coalition and set up their own Islamic Faction. ". [125] (Muslim Warriors). This faction then boycotted the 1953 referendum about the dissolution of parliament. [126]

At 8am on August the 18th, Ayatollah Behbahan mobilised 3000 stick and club wielding anti-shah protestors formed a mob in Tehran. This was done in the hope that the removal of Mosaddegh would create a more religious government. [127] Separate mobilisation was instigated by Ayatollah Kashani in the country at this time. There has been documentation that both Ayatollah Behbahani and Khomeini received funds from the CIA by some sources. [128] The former's mob would lead Mosaddegh to abandon his residence, and ultimately his capture. Iranian Historian Michael Axworthy stated that ". [The clergy's> move to oppose Mossadeq was the decisive factor in his downfall. ". [129]

The coup has been said to have "left a profound and long-lasting legacy." [130] [131] : 122

Blowback Edit

According to the history based on documents released to the National Security Archive and reflected in the book Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, the coup caused long-lasting damage to the U.S. reputation.

The '28 Mordad' coup, as it is known by its Persian date [in the Solar Hijri calendar], was a watershed for Iran, for the Middle East and for the standing of the United States in the region. The joint US-British operation ended Iran's drive to assert sovereign control over its own resources and helped put an end to a vibrant chapter in the history of the country's nationalist and democratic movements. These consequences resonated with dramatic effect in later years. When the Shah finally fell in 1979, memories of the US intervention in 1953, which made possible the monarch's subsequent, and increasingly unpopular, 25-year reign intensified the anti-American character of the revolution in the minds of many Iranians. [132]

The authoritarian monarch appreciated the coup, Kermit Roosevelt wrote in his account of the affair. "'I owe my throne to God, my people, my army and to you!' By 'you' he [the shah] meant me and the two countries—Great Britain and the United States—I was representing. We were all heroes." [80]

On 16 June 2000, The New York Times published the secret CIA report, "Clandestine Service History, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952 – August 1953," partly explaining the coup from CIA agent Wilber's perspective. In a related story, The New York Times reporter James Risen penned a story revealing that Wilber's report, hidden for nearly five decades, had recently come to light.

In the summer of 2001, Ervand Abrahamian writes in the journal Science & Society that Wilber's version of the coup was missing key information some of which was available elsewhere.

The New York Times recently leaked a CIA report on the 1953 American-British overthrow of Mosaddeq, Iran's Prime Minister. It billed the report as a secret history of the secret coup, and treated it as an invaluable substitute for the U.S. files that remain inaccessible. But a reconstruction of the coup from other sources, especially from the archives of the British Foreign Office, indicates that this report is highly sanitized. It glosses over such sensitive issues as the crucial participation of the U.S. ambassador in the actual overthrow the role of U.S. military advisers the harnessing of local Nazis and Muslim terrorists and the use of assassinations to destabilize the government. What is more, it places the coup in the context of the Cold War rather than that of the Anglo-Iranian oil crisis—a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World. [133]

In a review of Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, historian Michael Beschloss wrote, "Mr. Weiner argues that a bad C.I.A. track record has encouraged many of our gravest contemporary problems. A generation of Iranians grew up knowing that the C.I.A. had installed the shah," Mr. Weiner notes. "In time, the chaos that the agency had created in the streets of Tehran would return to haunt the United States." [134]

The administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the coup a success, but, given its blowback, that opinion is no longer generally held, because of its "haunting and terrible legacy". [18] : 215 In 2000, Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, said that intervention by the U.S. in the internal affairs of Iran was a setback for democratic government. [135] [136] The coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed the "pro-Western" Shah and replaced the monarchy with an "anti-Western" Islamic republic. [137]

"For many Iranians, the coup demonstrated duplicity by the United States, which presented itself as a defender of freedom but did not hesitate to use underhanded methods to overthrow a democratically elected government to suit its own economic and strategic interests", the Agence France-Presse reported. [138]

United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who visited Iran both before and after the coup, wrote that "When Mosaddegh and Persia started basic reforms, we became alarmed. We united with the British to destroy him we succeeded and ever since, our name has not been an honored one in the Middle East." [139]

Iran Edit

Perceptions of the Shah Edit

When the Shah returned to Iran after the coup, he was greeted by a cheering crowd. He wrote in his memoirs that while he had been a king for over a decade, for the first time he felt that the people had "elected" and "approved" of him, and that he had a "legitimate" popular mandate to carry out his reforms (although some in the crowd may have been bribed). The Shah was never able to remove the reputation of being a "foreign imposed" ruler among non-royalist Iranians. The Shah throughout his rule continued to assume that he was supported by virtually everybody in Iran, and sank into deep dejection when in 1978 massive mobs demanded his ouster. The incident left him in awe of American power, while it also gave him a deep hatred of the British. [15]

Bloody suppression of the opposition Edit

An immediate consequence of the coup d'état was the Shah's suppression of all republicanist [15] [ page needed ] political dissent, especially the liberal and nationalist opposition umbrella group National Front as well as the (Communist) Tudeh party, and concentration of political power in the Shah and his courtiers. [131]

The minister of Foreign Affairs and the closest associate of Mosaddegh, Hossein Fatemi, was executed by order of the Shah's military court by firing squad on 10 November 1954. [140] According to Kinzer, "The triumphant Shah [Pahlavi] ordered the execution of several dozen military officers and student leaders who had been closely associated with Mohammad Mosaddegh". [141]

As part of the post-coup d'état political repression between 1953 and 1958, the Shah outlawed the National Front, and arrested most of its leaders. [142] The Shah personally spared Mosaddegh the death penalty, and he was given 3 years in prison, followed by house arrest for life. [15] [ page needed ]

Many supporters of Iran continued to fight against the new regime, yet they were suppressed with some even being killed. The political party that Mosaddegh founded, the National Front of Iran, was later reorganized by Karim Sanjabi, and is currently being led by the National Poet of Iran Adib Boroumand, who was a strong Mosaddegh supporter and helped spread pro-Mosaddegh propaganda during the Abadan Crisis and its aftermath. [143]

The Communist Tudeh bore the main brunt of the crackdown. [131] : 84 The Shah's security forces arrested 4,121 Tudeh political activists including 386 civil servants, 201 college students, 165 teachers, 125 skilled workers, 80 textile workers, and 60 cobblers. [131] : 89,90 Forty were executed (primarily for murder, such as Khosrow Roozbeh), [14] [ page needed ] [15] [ page needed ] another 14 died under torture and over 200 were sentenced to life imprisonment. [142] The Shah's post-coup dragnet also captured 477 Tudeh members ("22 colonels, 69 majors, 100 captains, 193 lieutenants, 19 noncommissioned officers, and 63 military cadets") who were in the Iranian armed forces. [131] : 92 After their presence was revealed, some National Front supporters complained that this Communist Tudeh military network could have saved Mosaddegh. However, few Tudeh officers commanded powerful field units, especially tank divisions that might have countered the coup. Most of the captured Tudeh officers came from the military academies, police and medical corps. [131] : 92 [25] : 92 At least eleven of the captured army officers were tortured to death between 1953 and 1958. [131] : 89,90

Creation of a secret police Edit

After the 1953 coup, the Shah's government formed the SAVAK (secret police), many of whose agents were trained in the United States. The SAVAK monitored dissidents and carried out censorship. After the 1971 Siahkal Incident, it was given a "loose leash" to torture suspected dissidents with "brute force" that, over the years, "increased dramatically", and nearly 100 people were executed for political reasons during the last 20 years of the Shah's rule. [131] : 88,105 After the revolution, SAVAK was officially abolished, but was in reality "drastically expanded" into a new organization that killed over 8,000–12,000 prisoners between 1981 and 1985 alone, and 20,000–30,000 in total, with one prisoner who served time under both the Shah and the Islamic Republic declaring that "four months under (Islamic Republic's) warden Asadollah Lajevardi took the toll of four years under SAVAK". [131] [144] [145]

Oil policy Edit

Another effect was sharp improvement of Iran's economy the British-led oil embargo against Iran ended, and oil revenue increased significantly beyond the pre-nationalisation level. Despite Iran not controlling its national oil, the Shah agreed to replacing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company with a consortium—British Petroleum and eight European and American oil companies in result, oil revenues increased from $34 million in 1954–1955 to $181 million in 1956–1957, and continued increasing, [25] : 419,420 and the United States sent development aid and advisers. The Shah's government attempted to solve the issue of oil nationalization through this method, and Iran began to develop rapidly under his rule. The Shah later in his memoirs declared that Mosaddegh was a "dictator" who was "damaging" Iran through his "stubbornness", while he (the Shah) "followed" the smarter option. [15] [ page needed ] By the 1970s, Iran was wealthier than all of its surrounding neighbors, and economists frequently predicted that it would become a major global economic power, and a developed country. [15] [ page needed ]

When the Shah attempted during the 1970s to once again control the oil prices (through OPEC), and cancel the same oil consortium agreement that caused the 1953 coup, it resulted in a massive decline in US support for the Shah, and ironically, hastened his downfall. [146]

CIA staff historian David Robarge stated: "The CIA carried out [a] successful regime change operation. It also transformed a turbulent constitutional monarchy into an absolutist kingship and induced a succession of unintended consequences." The 1979 Iranian Revolution was a most impactful unintended consequence. [147]

Internationally Edit

Kinzer wrote that the 1953 coup d'état was the first time the United States used the CIA to overthrow a democratically elected, civil government. [18] [ page needed ] The Eisenhower administration viewed Operation Ajax as a success, with "immediate and far-reaching effect. Overnight, the CIA became a central part of the American foreign policy apparatus, and covert action came to be regarded as a cheap and effective way to shape the course of world events"—a coup engineered by the CIA called Operation PBSuccess toppling the duly elected Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, which had nationalised farm land owned by the United Fruit Company, followed the next year. [18] : 209

A pro-American government in Iran extended the United States' geographic and strategic advantage in the Middle East, as Turkey, also bordering the USSR, was part of NATO. [148]

In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, acknowledged the coup's pivotal role in the troubled relationship and "came closer to apologizing than any American official ever has before".

The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. . But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs. [149] [150] [151]

In June 2009, the U.S. President Barack Obama in a speech in Cairo, Egypt, talked about the United States' relationship with Iran, mentioning the role of the U.S. in 1953 Iranian coup saying:

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. [152]

In the Islamic Republic, remembrance of the coup is quite different from that of history books published in the West, and follows the precepts of Ayatollah Khomeini that Islamic jurists must guide the country to prevent "the influence of foreign powers". [153] Kashani came out against Mosaddegh by mid-1953 and "told a foreign correspondent that Mosaddegh had fallen because he had forgotten that the shah enjoyed extensive popular support." [154] A month later, Kashani "went even further and declared that Mosaddegh deserved to be executed because he had committed the ultimate offense: rebelling against the shah, 'betraying' the country, and repeatedly violating the sacred law." [155]

Men associated with Mosaddegh and his ideals dominated Iran's first post-revolutionary government. The first prime minister after the Iranian revolution was Mehdi Bazargan, a close associate of Mosaddegh. But with the subsequent rift between the conservative Islamic establishment and the secular liberal forces, Mosaddegh's work and legacy has been largely ignored by the Islamic Republic establishment. [18] : 258 However, Mosaddegh remains a popular historical figure among Iranian opposition factions. Mosaddegh's image is one of the symbols of Iran's opposition movement, also known as the Green Movement. [156] Kinzer writes that Mosaddegh "for most Iranians" is "the most vivid symbol of Iran's long struggle for democracy" and that modern protesters carrying a picture of Mosaddegh is the equivalent of saying "We want democracy" and "No foreign intervention". [156]

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kinzer's book All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror has been censored of descriptions of Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani's activities during the Anglo-American coup d'état. Mahmood Kashani, the son of Abol-Ghasem Kashani, "one of the top members of the current, ruling élite" [157] whom the Iranian Council of Guardians has twice approved to run for the presidency, denies there was a coup d'état in 1953, saying Mosaddegh was obeying British plans to undermine the role of Shia clerics. [157]

This allegation also is posited in the book Khaterat-e Arteshbod-e Baznesheshteh Hossein Fardoust (The Memoirs of Retired General Hossein Fardoust), published in the Islamic Republic and allegedly written by Hossein Fardoust, a former SAVAK officer. It says that rather than being a mortal enemy of the British, Mohammad Mosaddegh always favored them, and his nationalisation campaign of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was inspired by "the British themselves". Scholar Ervand Abrahamian suggests that the fact that Fardoust's death was announced before publication of the book may be significant, as the Islamic Republic authorities may have forced him into writing such statements under duress. [131] : 160,161

Ruhollah Khomeini said the government did not pay enough attention to religious figures which caused the coup d'état to take place and described the separation between religion and politics [158] as a fault in contemporary history. [159] [160]

Ali Khamenei believed that Mosaddegh trusted the United States and asked them to help confront Britain. As a result, the 1953 coup d'état was executed by the U.S. against Mosaddegh. [161] [162]

Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, said in regard to the role of the U.S. in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état that the U.S. played a major role in the overthrow of a democratically elected prime minister. [30]

In a tweet sent on 19 August 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the U.S. overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. Mosaddegh with the 1953 coup, restoring the dictatorship and subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years. [163]

Directed by Hasan Fathi and written jointly with playwright and university professor Naghmeh Samini, the TV series Shahrzad is the story of a love broken apart by events in the aftermath of the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Cognito Comics/Verso Books has published a nonfiction graphic novel of the history, [164] Operation AJAX: The Story of the CIA Coup That Remade The Middle East, [165] that covers events leading to how the CIA hired rival mobs to create chaos and overthrow the country.

Loving the past… from a safe distance

Meanwhile, Russia continues to negotiate its understanding of recent history and national identity. Bouts of nostalgia are common, with many longing for the times when the Soviet Union was at the peak of its superpower status. Support for the Communist Party remains widespread – its candidates have come second in every post-Soviet presidential election.

Soviet-era classics continue to flourish on TV and Soviet-era staples are no longer seen as tacky souvenirs for foreigners to take home. The USSR is firmly back on clothing racks. Hip fashion designers are exploiting the trend, while Moscow’s gilded youth sports t-shirts and tracksuits emblazoned with “CCCP” (the Russian for “USSR”), hammers and sickles, and red stars.

Patrice Lumumba: the most important assassination of the 20th century

Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960, and was killed in 1961. Photograph:

Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960, and was killed in 1961. Photograph:

Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was assassinated 50 years ago today, on 17 January, 1961. This heinous crime was a culmination of two inter-related assassination plots by American and Belgian governments, which used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out the deed.

Ludo De Witte, the Belgian author of the best book on this crime, qualifies it as "the most important assassination of the 20th century". The assassination's historical importance lies in a multitude of factors, the most pertinent being the global context in which it took place, its impact on Congolese politics since then and Lumumba's overall legacy as a nationalist leader.

For 126 years, the US and Belgium have played key roles in shaping Congo's destiny. In April 1884, seven months before the Berlin Congress, the US became the first country in the world to recognise the claims of King Leopold II of the Belgians to the territories of the Congo Basin.

When the atrocities related to brutal economic exploitation in Leopold's Congo Free State resulted in millions of fatalities, the US joined other world powers to force Belgium to take over the country as a regular colony. And it was during the colonial period that the US acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo, following its use of the uranium from Congolese mines to manufacture the first atomic weapons, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

With the outbreak of the cold war, it was inevitable that the US and its western allies would not be prepared to let Africans have effective control over strategic raw materials, lest these fall in the hands of their enemies in the Soviet camp. It is in this regard that Patrice Lumumba's determination to achieve genuine independence and to have full control over Congo's resources in order to utilise them to improve the living conditions of our people was perceived as a threat to western interests. To fight him, the US and Belgium used all the tools and resources at their disposal, including the United Nations secretariat, under Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche, to buy the support of Lumumba's Congolese rivals , and hired killers.

In Congo, Lumumba's assassination is rightly viewed as the country's original sin. Coming less than seven months after independence (on 30 June, 1960), it was a stumbling block to the ideals of national unity, economic independence and pan-African solidarity that Lumumba had championed, as well as a shattering blow to the hopes of millions of Congolese for freedom and material prosperity.

The assassination took place at a time when the country had fallen under four separate governments: the central government in Kinshasa (then Léopoldville) a rival central government by Lumumba's followers in Kisangani (then Stanleyville) and the secessionist regimes in the mineral-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. Since Lumumba's physical elimination had removed what the west saw as the major threat to their interests in the Congo, internationally-led efforts were undertaken to restore the authority of the moderate and pro-western regime in Kinshasa over the entire country. These resulted in ending the Lumumbist regime in Kisangani in August 1961, the secession of South Kasai in September 1962, and the Katanga secession in January 1963.

No sooner did this unification process end than a radical social movement for a "second independence" arose to challenge the neocolonial state and its pro-western leadership. This mass movement of peasants, workers, the urban unemployed, students and lower civil servants found an eager leadership among Lumumba's lieutenants, most of whom had regrouped to establish a National Liberation Council (CNL) in October 1963 in Brazzaville, across the Congo river from Kinshasa. The strengths and weaknesses of this movement may serve as a way of gauging the overall legacy of Patrice Lumumba for Congo and Africa as a whole.

The most positive aspect of this legacy was manifest in the selfless devotion of Pierre Mulele to radical change for purposes of meeting the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress. On the other hand, the CNL leadership, which included Christophe Gbenye and Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was more interested in power and its attendant privileges than in the people's welfare. This is Lumumbism in words rather than in deeds. As president three decades later, Laurent Kabila did little to move from words to deeds.

More importantly, the greatest legacy that Lumumba left for Congo is the ideal of national unity. Recently, a Congolese radio station asked me whether the independence of South Sudan should be a matter of concern with respect to national unity in the Congo. I responded that since Patrice Lumumba has died for Congo's unity, our people will remain utterly steadfast in their defence of our national unity.

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People's History