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Liberalism in Crisis


On the liberal side of the political spectrum the effect of the financial crisis was mixed. On the one hand, the crash seemed to strengthen the appeal of Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko party (the party’s name is an acronym formed from the initial letters of the names of its three founders, including that of Yavlinsky).  

Grigory Yavlinsky

Ever since 1992, Yavlinsky had consistently criticized the government’s reform course, condemning Gaidar’s approach as too crude and not suitable to Russia’s economic structure. Yavlinsky interpreted the events of August 1998 as a logical result of the implementation of Gaidar’s “primitive scheme.” In the past, the leaders of Yabloko had always been against blocs with other liberal political groupings. Now they felt that any potential challengers to their domination of the liberal-democratic flank had been terminally undermined. This served to bolster Yabloko’s self-confidence and also strengthened its traditional tendency toward self-isolation.

On the other hand, the remaining parties and movements of the liberal and liberal-conservative persuasion felt the need to overcome their disunity and fragmentation. This tendency toward consolidation among liberally and democratically minded Russians was further strengthened following the contract killing of Galina Starovoitova in November 1998. A Duma member and an anticorruption crusader, Starovoitova had been a prominent figure in the democratic movement since Gorbachev’s time.

Her tragic death galvanized liberal and democratic organizations into action: in December 1998 they set up a single liberal bloc, the Right Cause (Pravoe delo in Russian), that united most of the better-known liberal groupings with the exception of Yabloko. In August 1999 the liberal-conservative coalition regrouped again, forming the election bloc the Union of Right Forces (SPS in Russian).

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