Official name: All-Russian political party United Russia
Ticket leaders: Vladimir Putin
Ideology: loyalty to the President as the national leader, sovereign democracy, support of great-power ambitions
Number: 1,700,000 members
Slogans: Putin’s Plan means Victory for Russia; A Proud Future for the Great Power; From Stabilization to Development; We Build Russia that is ready to any Sudden Twists in History.
United Russia party has gone the way equal in long to Vladimir Putin’s career. It was started as a social movement made under the aegis of emergency ministry and named Interregional Movement Unity (first letters in Russian version make the word “bears”) where the Kremlin and Boris Berezovsky concentrated the remaining supporters and means on the turn of 1999-2000. Now it has come to a state of “another edition of CPSU” with the number of members being frozen at the moment at the point of 1,700,000. The tough form of supporting the clientele, chosen by the present autocrat on 1 October 2007, will probably allow the ruling elite to be re-elect in an old guise for the first time in the new history of the country. During evolution from Choice of Russia to United Russia, the slogans changed from liberal (in West interpretation) to almost paternalistic in Asian tonality. From election to election, the party in power was becoming more left till it came to look like top bureaucracy unit that headed the Soviet Union. Though, the number of Communists in Soviet Union was 18 million and the “bears” are ten times less. But the apparat governing today’s Russia - that is equal in composition to that-time “managing and directing” force - is much bigger than that of soviet times.
Three sources, three leaders
The party of protection the Kremlin from people in the street wouldn’t exist, if Chubais had managed to talk Yeltsin into saving Stepashin as his successor. But 9 August 1999, after total solar eclipse, two historical events happened in the capital: Evgeny Primakov headed the bloc Motherland All Russia (future party in power) and the cabinet was given to the Secretary of the Security Council Vladimir Putin. That was declaration of war for mutual destruction by top bureaucracy. Electoral “vacuum-cleaner” of Motherland All Russia had absorbed all the significant in the politics, but Berezovsky invented how to shift the “hose of loyalty” to the inlet #2 in the aggregate of Russian super-centralization.
The idea of making a mirroring bloc directed against the ally of left-unitary Motherland by Yuri Luzhkov with governors-separatist All Russia by Mintimer Shaimiev had appeared in the lobby long before Putin became the Yeltsin’s successor. For example, Putin’s party fellow in Russia Our Home Vladimir Ryzhkov - who headed campaigning center of the party in 1999 – rejected this project first, considering it to be doomed for failure. But he was the first to trumpet about the threat from Kremlin’s side when Berezovsky started his touring from governor to governor in a guise of a non-party union of “forceful personalities”. 4 November it was “bears” headed by Sergei Shoigu who made their founding convention of the movement Unity. And a month later Putin answered the question who he would poll for at the Duma election. The “electoral wonder” was soon to come after that.
Primakov’s and Luzhkov’s movement – with lack of support by ORT and RTR TV channels – came to finish third after CPRF (Communist Party of Russia) and pro-Putin’s movement. Our Home Russia managed to bring only a couple of single seat deputies to the parliament. An attempt of electing speaker from opposition (Primakov, for example) was suppressed with a “bear’s grace”. And soon Putin got rid of the word “acting” in his President’s status, having won the presidential election where no strong competitor could oppose him.
A year later the formula of the ruling class changed again. Shoigu, Luzhkov and Shaimiev became co-chairs of the all-Russian Union named Unity and Motherland, which was later given a new name United Russia. Observers defined the difference between Soviet Communist Party and United Russia this way: “they just changed Lenin’s portrait for the bear’s one”. Boris Gryzlov was appointed to head the new party. Having won in the Duma election of 2003, the party transferred him from interior minister position to that of the chair of Duma. After that, Russian parliament was no place for discussion any more.
United Russia is different from other parties in power in the new world history. Firstly, it was created for satisfying needs of one person. Secondly, it exploits the energy of conservative resistance through calling itself the force that saves the country on the verge of ruin. In Spain of 30-s last century Falanga lead by Francisco Franko was such a force. That party was created by colonial war in Morocco. First Prime Ministers came out of that party’s remnants in democracy too, but that was much later. In Russia, the Second Chechen War gave birth – with emergency ministry as midwife – to the party that was meant to restrain regional separatism and revive the dignity of the country. There are similar parties in Turkey and Georgia. The party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan (former mayor of Istanbul) has quite close to us name the Party of Justice and Development. Turkish abbreviation of the party can be also read as White. After it came to power, its offices are springing up everywhere in the country. The “white” party has elected Islamist Abdullah Gul the President of the temporal Republic. It is going to change Constitution, extending the term of office for the Head of state and it is about to start a military campaign against Iraqi Kurdistan. Militarist expansion to the autonomies of former Soviet Republic of Georgia are also characteristic of Mikhail Saakashvili’s party United National Movement that is in control of the country’s policy.
Range of sponsors
Brand of “Berezovsky’s party” is easier to be ignored, than to be washed away. According to official version of United Russia, Berezovsky was rather fundraiser, than sponsor and ideologist for the party. He and Roman Abramovich were single seat deputies in the Unity group for too short period to be associated with the “bears”. And later, when “their” President fixed well in the Kremlin, they didn’t have any problems with money at all. At the convention of the party’s supporters, the oligarch Vladimir Potanin delivered speeches in such BOID manner that could be appropriate for the former deputy living now in London or that from the city of Anadyr. During campaigning 2003, United Russia had even people from YUKOS, despite the fact the devastation of the corporation had been going on. That ended up in striking off the deputies from the disgraced company. As for the money, it was just expropriated.
Living in Putin’s Russia it would be silly to ask what the country will be like after United Russia gets all the power. Billboards with totemic animal abound in the environment so greatly that it may scare the hell out of one. It appears that United Russia members are building up a society of confident about their future citizens, rooting in them the psychology of success. Personal success for themselves and historical for the people. This is how they understand the sovereign democracy: this is our country and we will exploit it by ourselves. As for others, they will live in “accordance with the law”.
Putin’s Plan paints a country in rapid progress for the next four years. Russia is a unique civilization. Combining of intellectual potential and resource base is to extend the “cultural space” and protect the language and traditions. The economy will be developing through innovations and investments in science, infrastructure and technology. National projects, and state corporations plus strengthening of military-industrial establishment will provide “proud place in the multi-polar world”.
The Russia, chosen by the “bears” is a strong democratic state. Along with that, it is paternalist and socially oriented one. The right by people to decide their own destiny is a special provision, which means no import of “colored” revolutions. Spiritual and moral potential of multi-national Russian society seems to be even more important than market economy, as strengthening of civil identity will require great effort of ideological brainwashing. If the country is going to be prepared for “any sudden twists in the history”, it means something like a besieged fortress. The new Russia, able not only to protect one’s own interests, but also take responsibility for securing global stability, must have appropriate image, that of a concentrated super power.
To make the convention in Gostiny Dvor is in ST Petersburg’s style. But in the city on the Neva Gostiny Dvor is just a big shopping center, while in the City on the Moskva it is also a stage for show. Well, the performance was bad, but no one could say like Stanislavski “I don’t believe it”, as the winning party made roughly and obviously the claim to have majority in the Parliament, not wanting to share the fruit of the reform made only in its own favor. The “CPSU” of the present day has many mother’s marks and some of them are democratic. For example, the list of 600 candidates is going to be made only of “locomotives”: people poll for leaders and real deputies will be supers hidden behind the curtain. In Moscow Duma election 2005 the “bears” won the victory in the same way: central ticket was lead by the mayor, and the regional were led by prefects. And now who can remember who votes in the Moscow Duma! Today’s ticket of the first three party’s leaders consists of only one person. And that person arouses no doubts about who is the only mouthpiece of the party. Of the sovereign.