Russia Recent History
Among the oldest peoples who inhabited European Russia there were undoubtedly the Scythians, ancient tribes of northern Asia, who at some point in their history migrated west. Certain news is that they were the most avid and passionate hunters of their time.
Then, in the first centuries after Christ other peoples of Central Asia occupied Russia, and they were the Huns, the Bulgarians, the Avars, the Magyars, the Cazars, the Lithuanians and the Finns. And until the 6th century these invasions continued and consequently the territory was the scene of conquest struggles. Just around this century the Slavs made their appearance, from which the current Russians certainly descended.
According to Abbreviationfinder, the first Russian state was founded in 862 by Prince Rjurik, head of the Norman people of the Variaghi, who accepted the invitation of some Slavic tribes to settle with them, became their leader and settled in Novgorod.
His successors, princes of Slavic origin, helped to strengthen this state. One of the most skilled, Vladimir the Great, who reigned from 980 to 1015, fought against the Byzantine Empire and defeated it. Then in 988 he converted to Christianity, followed by most of his people.
There were, however, other principalities in Russia and all recognized the supremacy of that of Vladimir the Great, whose capital Kiev was then considered the capital of all.
And just as the solid union of all the principalities was about to take place, one of the most calamitous events in the history of the country happened: the fall of the Mongols.
No prince was able to oppose the hordes of these warriors who suddenly appeared in 1236. They destroyed all armies and all cities. On March 4, 1238 Baty, grandson of the Grand Khan, and Subatai, supreme commander of the Mongolian army, achieved the last victory and killed Jurij II, grand duke of Vladimir (city that had replaced Kiev as the capital).
The Mongols, who were already masters of China and Turkestan, therefore occupied Russia but their dominion was not oppressive and bloody, as had been feared. The Russians were forced to pay taxes, but they were able to maintain a certain independence and so, with a certain tranquility, more than two centuries passed. During all this time the princes of Moscow maintained good relations with the Khans of the Mongolian empire, also called “Golden Horde”; they were also free to fight neighboring princes in order to enlarge their possessions. But in doing so the Principality of Moscow became so powerful that it was able to rebel against the rule of the Mongols and drive them out from all over Russia in 1480 under the command of Ivan III.
Even the Mongolian lands of Asia had gradually weakened and the Grand Khan could no longer count on a powerful army. Thus the Golden Horde lost its great province: Russia.
In 1530 the Principality of Moscow had become a real state for its size and its power, when Ivan IV was born, son of Basil III, who at just three years became its head. Ivan IV Vasilevic, called the “Terrible”, was one of the greatest rulers of Russia. He lived until 1584; he was intelligent, cultured, religious but violent and cruel. On January 16, 1547, at the age of 17, he was solemnly crowned in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow, but did not assume the title of Grand Duke; he wanted to be called “Tsar”, a name that derives from the Latin “Caesar” but which, however, in the Russian language indicated the sovereigns of the great ancient states.
His violent temperament was attributed to the bad education received from his tutors, the “Boiari”, who were great landowners, very powerful, always at war with each other. They were then divided into two parties, eternally belligerent, and dedicated above all to perpetrate revenge as well as to squander the wealth of the state. The decade 1538/1548 saw continuous massacres in Moscow and unprecedented episodes of violence. And the tsar grew in the midst of such violence so much that he could not exempt himself from doing it.
Then an event shocked the city of Moscow when the great Kremlin Bell fell. It was said that the event would bring about misfortunes and, in fact, the next day in Moscow a violent fire broke out which completely destroyed the Kremlin and made 1700 victims count.
Ivan, who always hated the Boiari, took advantage of the opportunity to blame them for the misfortune and massacred many of them. The Boiari, however, continued to dominate and for a few years Ivan still had to submit to their dominion. But in 1550, now exasperated by all this, he called a popular assembly in Moscow before which he denounced all their crimes; he founded a party called “Opritchnina”, which began the persecutions against them and after eight years 4000 Boiari were killed and many others were exiled.
After that, the czar initiated major reforms relating to state laws, the military system, the organization of the Orthodox Church and local administration. All these reforms greatly improved the living conditions of the Russian people. Then the Tsar proposed to enlarge his domains and for this purpose declared war on the Tartars. This ended in 1552 with the conquest of Kazan, east of Moscow. Two years later he started another war, which ended in 1556 with the conquest of Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea.
Thus began Russia’s expansion policy towards North Asia. Ivan died on March 18, 1584 after about half a century of reign. And for about a century Russia found itself in a climate of great uncertainty and in the midst of continuous internal struggles.
Fortunately, however, the state was quite solid so he held until another great man came on the throne: Peter the Great.
But first, during the whole period of the struggles, the Russian people found themselves in misery, serf servant, to lead a miserable existence in huts scattered in that immense country, with the obligation to cultivate the lands, to keep for themselves exclusively the strictly necessary to survive and therefore give the rest of the production to the noble owners.
And so, divided between a miserable people and a corrupt nobility, Russia remained more backward than any other European country on the path of progress and social reforms.
Peter the Great was the first tsar who tried to Europeanize Russia. He had made a study trip to Europe visiting, under a false name, England, Prussia, Austria and Holland; in the latter country he even worked as a carpenter, so eager he was to learn the most interesting crafts and things that he could then apply in his land and raise it to the same rank as other states.
Returning to his homeland he immediately put into practice some reforms that allowed the people to change also the physical appearance with the cut of long beards for men and to wear, for everyone, western-style clothes, without traditional Russian clothing. He was called the “Grande” mainly because of his foreign policy. Despite not having great diplomatic and military skills, he defeated the Turks to conquer an outlet on the Sea of Azov (1700) and the Swedes for an outlet on the Baltic Sea (1709).
In 1703 he founded the city of Petersburg on the banks of the Neva, near the western borders, precisely to reaffirm his desire for Europeanization, and in fact the city was its capital and was called “the window to Europe”.
At the age of 17 Tsar Peter had been forced to marry a maid of the Tsarina, certain Eudoxia. In 1711 he repudiated this wife to marry a vulgar servant, Marta Skavronskaia, who later took the name of Catherine. From this he had two daughters, Catherine and Elizabeth, while from the first wife he had had a boy, Alessio, who having always hated his father, ordered conspiracies against him. When the czar found out, he personally ordered death tortures for his son. Peter the Great died in 1725, at only 53 years old, leaving a great and powerful Russia.
Even more enlightened was the reign of Catherine, which lasted 34 years. She was called “Catherine the Great” by the great Voltaire, because she proved so when, in the early years, she distributed the land to the peasants, had numerous schools built, encouraged commerce, industry, the arts and the sciences. He worked tirelessly, personally took care of all diplomatic correspondence and wanted to be always up to date on all the reforms that were practiced in Europe at the time, in order to be able to apply them also in his homeland.
There was also the expansion of the empire with the conquest of Crimea, a large part of Poland and immense southern territories occupied by the Turks, which she called “New Russia”.
Catherine died in November 1796. At the end of the eighteenth century, with the outbreak of the French Revolution, ideas of freedom, equality and brotherhood began to float all over the world, and also in Russia a period of demonstrations and conspiracies against the tsar began. the work of a few individuals, mostly students and scholars.
In 1801, Tsar Alexander I, grandson of the great Catherine, ascended the throne of Russia. His attitude towards the French Revolution was hostile so that when Napoleon Bonaparte took power in France, he found himself in the ranks of his enemies, and with the Austrian one his army was also defeated in the battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. Then on July 9, 1807 in Tilsit the tsar was forced to ask for peace from the brilliant Napoleon. Later in 1812, Russia and France were still on a war footing for possession of Poland.
Napoleon then decided to invade Russian territory and the disastrous undertaking that ended the Napoleonic period began. Alexander I had some Polish lands and then, advised by the astute Austrian chancellor Metternich, he founded the “Holy Alliance”, a treaty that made all European sovereigns agree in contrasting and fighting every desire for freedom of peoples.
When Alexander I died in 1825, Russia experienced anarchy, as sects and secret societies all developed together to combat the overpowering of the tsars. And an insurrection was attempted.
In December 1825, on the occasion of the oath of allegiance that the regiments made to the new Tsar Nicholas I, one of these regiments refused to swear. Immediately, there in the same Senate Square in Moscow, the Tsar ordered the artillery to open fire. Almost all died, few escaped from death but not from life imprisonment. The rebel regiment was later called the “decabrists regiment”. Thus began the reign of Nicholas I, which lasted until 1855 and which continued with popular repressions until the end of the nineteenth century.
But by now restrictions on freedom had created so much hostility in the people. Clandestine groups worked, each on their own, to subvert this state of affairs. The “Marxist” movement was born, inspired by the teachings that the German philosopher-economist Carlo Marx was bestowing in order to provoke the general revolution of the people.
The popular Marxist boulders quickly became very numerous and motivated and well organized. He only expected an opportunity to act. And this came in 1905 when Russia was defeated in a war against Japan. The then Tsar Nicholas II, a little repressing and a little promising reforms, managed to keep up for some time. Among the rioters, the flags of the so-called “Bolsheviks”, ie the extremists of the Marxist movement, began to emerge.
In 1907 a strange personage appeared at the court of Russia, a mysterious monk named Rasoutin, who had a somewhat deleterious effect on Tsarina Alessandra Fedorovna. The imperial family became dominated by this monk (who was later killed in 1916).
At the outbreak of the First World War, Russia was already on the verge of revolution and the situation precipitated the first defeats of the army by Germany and Austria.
In March 1917 a riot of soldiers broke out in Petersburg with which the population immediately joined and it was the general revolution. The tsar was unable to control the situation and abdicated on March 15, 1917.
A provisional government led by the moderate Democrat Kerenski was immediately formed, but the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Ilich Lenin and his lieutenant Leone Trotzky, was the real arbiter. They were joined by an energetic and strong-willed Georgian named Joseph Stalin, who soon became Lenin’s favorite disciple.
The Soviets were born, that is, workers ‘and soldiers’ councils and these, in agreement with the Bolsheviks, and not happy with the promises of reforms enunciated by Kerenski, decided to give the government a distinctly communist imprint. Therefore on November 7, 1917 Lenin’s men occupied the Petrograd Government Palace, seat of the provisional government, institutionalizing the birth of the first Communist State in the world.
The new government was immediately faced with the difficult situation. Everywhere there was ruin and misery. On March 3, 1918, after the annihilation of the tsar’s family, a peace was signed with Germany and Austria which, meanwhile, had continued their penetration into Russian territory.
Inside, the lands were removed from the noble owners and together with industries and private goods, it was all subject to state ownership. After a few years things normalized and Russia, in 1923, called itself the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”. In 1924, upon Lenin’s death, the struggle for succession between Stalin and Trotzky broke out. The latter was defeated and forced to flee. He took refuge in Mexico where he was killed in 1940.
It was 1929 when Stalin took power. He ruled as an absolute dictator, did not care in the least about the well-being of the people or his aspirations for freedom. Precisely for this reason he managed to transform Russia from a poor and backward country into a modern and industrialized state.
The confirmation of the industrial and military power of Russia occurred in 1941 when, allied to the United States and Great Britain in the Second World War, it was invaded by Nazi Germany.
Despite the power of Hitler’s army, Russia managed to bring complete victory over Germany against itself in 1945. Among the great battles on the Russian front was that of Stalingrad, won by the Russians in the winter of 1942/43.
After Stalin died in 1953 there were again numerous struggles between the leaders of the party for the conquest of power. After his death, some personalities of his government were boycotted and disappeared from the political scene to make room for Nikita Khrushchev, who did not skimp on that great dictator serious accusations both on the conduct of the economy and on the military level. The cold war was repudiated and in its place the thaw brought a policy of peaceful coexistence.
But in 1956, after the bloody intervention of the Soviet troops in Hungary, it seemed that they were going back to the previous point. And also the impositions made in Poland on the local communist party reformer confirmed this thesis.
In 1957 many Soviet leaders, deemed hostile to Khrushchev, were driven out of power. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union reaped successes in the field of space navigation. In fact, on October 4, 1957, the first Soviet-made artificial satellite was launched into space.
Khrushchev, holding the offices of both prime minister and first secretary of the party, had come in 1958 to unify in his person, the fundamental powers of the country with a significant increase in his prestige and his power. So it was that he decided to crack down so much that there was talk of a partial return to Stalinism. The controversial episode against Boris Pasternak, author of the novel “Doctor Zhivago”, prohibited at home but published abroad, was proof of this. Then he started a controversy with the West when he asked the allied troops to leave Berlin which, for him, would be declared a “free city”.
To try to mediate the critical situation that had arisen, especially with the United States, the British Prime Minister MacMillan offered his services by going to Moscow for an official visit. And a partial small attenuation of the tension occurred.
In 1959, the then US President Nixon made a trip to Moscow for an American exhibition while a Soviet one was inaugurated in the United States. That year seemed to herald other meetings and relaxation and even for 1960 demanding meetings were proposed to fix the multiple problems existing between the two blocks.
Furthermore, society was evolving in all sectors, including the religious sector which registered a certain increased interest, especially among young people, who also wanted to get to know other peoples and other countries. The Soviet Union in 1960 concluded various cultural agreements with the countries of the Atlantic Pact; many Soviet exhibitions had opened in Anglo-Saxon countries.
Khrushchev visited France in March. And just then there was a serious accident between the Soviet Union and the United States. A reconnaissance aircraft of the U-2 type was shot down in Soviet territory and the pilot, Powers, was taken prisoner. This resulted in the cancellation of that Summit Conference which had been called in Paris for May 1960, and Khrushchev addressed bitter controversy at the address of US President Eisenhower. And also other international diatribes, such as the events of the Congo, those of Laos and the controversies about Germany, and in particular about Berlin, brought back a particular state of tension between East and West: the Cold War had returned.
A resounding success of Soviet space technology occurred on April 12, 1961 when the space flight of JA Gagarin, the first man in space, took place, while Kennedy became the new president, democratic, of the United States. The two events were interpreted as a good omen for a new relaxation.
But the problem of Berlin that Khrushchev wanted at all costs “free city” was increasingly controversial, while the western powers did not. A sensational event occurred on August 13, 1961. With a unilateral act East Germany closed the border with Berlin and raised the sadly famous “wall” that so much mourning and so much pain had to cause in the following years.
Meanwhile in the Soviet Union there had been a resurgence in political and legal systems and the death penalty had been reinstated for crimes against collective property. Then Khrushchev continued with the condemnation of the cult of personality and for this purpose he had Stalin’s body removed from the mausoleum where it had been buried, alongside that of Lenin. He had deprecated Albania’s Stalinist immobility, criticized Chinese politics and Yugoslav deviationism and also asked Finland to revisit the military pacts, necessary for the two countries in the event of a possible attack from Germany. For the economy, Khrushchev had addressed greater attention to agriculture, but all expectations were disappointed. Partly because of the climatic conditions that did not allow the cultivation of certain cereals, and partly due to the lack of machinery which greatly reduced the technical processing skills. And also in 1963 a long drought, combined with a shortage of wheat stocks, forced the Soviet Union to import wheat from Canada, Australia and Argentina.
Along with the failures in the agricultural field there were also difficulties in the intellectual and cultural fields. Khrushchev, after using almost liberal methods, returned to critical of contemporary and abstract art and restored previous systems; it was almost a rehabilitation of Stalinism.
And during the sixties, following a great loss of popularity by Khrushchev, there was also a crisis of communism in the international arena. Various episodes contributed, such as matters with China and Cuba, to the debacle of the Bay of Pigs, which prevented the Soviet Union from reaching Fidel Castro. And when in 1964 the “Plenum” met, it was agreed that the “Khrushchev period” could be considered ended and he was forced to resign. His closest collaborators followed. At the top of the party Leonidas Brezhnev was elected and head of government A. Rosygin. In 1965 A. Mikojan left the post of head of state, which was taken over by N. Podgornyj.
In the seventies there were several renewals in the party doctrine and therefore new replacements. On October 7, 1977, a new Constitution came into force which, among other things, insisted on the homogeneous character of Soviet society. The cult of personality was always firmly condemned so that Stalinism could not be reevaluated.
Agricultural problems, meanwhile, remained, so the Soviet Union was constantly forced to resort to foreign markets. The state, however, preferred to give greater impetus to heavy industry which, therefore, remained the basic nucleus of the entire Soviet economy.
Internationally, the Soviet Union faced the United States in the Vietnam affair; concluded the treaty of “nuclear non-proliferation”; overcame the crisis with Czechoslovakia and China; brought the German problem into question. Then, however, there was a pause in this opening process, on the occasion of the Arab-Israeli war in Kippur.
But the commitment that the Soviet Union had made in Vietnam did not prevent continuing dialogue with the United States, especially on nuclear issues. On the occasion of his visit to Moscow, agreements were signed with Nixon not only for the limitation of strategic weapons, but also commercial agreements; so that the Soviet Union was able to access the American markets for the purchase of cereals. But relations with the United States and China deteriorated gradually when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
In 1980 the tension was such that Carter, the then American president, did not authorize the participation of American athletes in the Moscow Olympics (on the other hand, the Soviet Union boycotted those of 1984 in Los Angeles).
In the early 1980s, some symptoms of a general system crisis began to emerge. The first disruptions occurred in relations with the satellite states which gradually, on their behalf, led to revenge actions on Soviet impositions, not only political but also market ones. Then the structures themselves within the Soviet Union began to creak as they asked to bridge the too obvious difference between the most popular classes and the bureaucracies of the party and the state.
Corruption and the black market were born, but also longings for freedom and autonomy, especially in those social strata where a certain economic well-being had arrived, albeit in a limited form. And with this came the so-called “dissent” policy, which initially only interested the class of intellectuals.
When the Soviet Union intervened to apply “normalization” in the satellite states, particularly in Poland, this political line had negative consequences especially on the Soviet economy.
After Brezhnev’s death on 11 November 1982, he assumed the office of secretary general of the party J. Andropov. There was an immediate air of changes and reforms which, however, were applied only in fields not so important for society, such as the increase in discipline against absenteeism, and this also because Andropov was already seriously ill and in fact the February 9, 1984 died. And meanwhile bitter disagreements with the United States had intervened, in addition to the already applied economic embargo on the American side.
To succeed Andropov came K. Cernenko, 73 years old, sick. He also died the following year without having been able to restore “Brezhnevism”, as announced. At that point the crisis was so severe that the party’s need to make new choices was evident. On the disappearance of Cernenko M. Gorbachev was elected, the new man of the situation, who made certain words such as “glasnost” or transparency, as the beginning of a new democracy, and “perestroika”, that is restructuring, reform radical state management.
After the first times when a system of moralization was applied in the ruling classes, with the fight against corruption and the Mafia, it was not possible to notice any improvement in social issues and the retirees were the ones who suffered the worst. But then, slowly, both internally and abroad, things changed and talks with the United States were initiated in the first act for a relaxation that would have guaranteed a better future for all. And so the cold war ceased, efforts were made to bring about the gradual withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the first steps were taken to normalize relations with the Vatican and with Israel, and in short came the end of the “confrontation” era.
Gorbachev inserted some new men into the paintings but the perestroika was unable to immediately bring about a radical reform. Meanwhile, however, in all satellite states, under the pressure of perestroika, steps were taken to exit the Soviet system. And this slowly happened. But no one predicted the demise of the German Democratic Republic in a short time, as it did.
Gorbachev himself was convinced that the detachment of the various states from the central system would be implemented in order to be able to reconstitute each one’s territorial sovereignty, even in the context of all those economic, political and military agreements that had linked them until then to the Soviet Union, It was a serious error of assessment because each state declared its independence and even Germany was free and “one”, immediately after the demolition of the “wall”. It was 1989; the Soviet socialist system had collapsed.
Moreover, in the Soviet Union itself, in the elections of March 25, 1989, the Communist candidates were sensationally beaten. Later there were coalition governments and large masses of people surrounded the radical candidates, first of all Eltzin. In February 1990 that article of the Constitution which established the monopoly of the single party was abolished.
And while Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1990, he was challenged at home. On the occasion of the Gulf War he sided with the United States. On August 19, 1991 he suffered a coup and with his family he was held by force in the Crimea, until Eltzin, intervened, decreed the failure of the coup. When Gorbachev returned to Moscow he found a totally changed situation with the power all concentrated in the hands of Eltzin, the strong man.
On December 8, 1991 all representatives of restored Russia, i.e. Ukraine, white Russia and Belarus, officially declared the Soviet unitary system finished and Gorbachev was forced to leave power. He left the Kremlin on the evening of December 25, 1991 while the red flag was lowered and Moscow was once again simply being the capital of Russia.
Once the unitary state was over, all the problems existing among the various republics, now autonomous, had to be dealt with; territorial and economic problems. It was up to Russia to occupy the seat at the United Nations, to ensure the maintenance of the disarmament pacts, and in fact Eltzin signed the agreement for the reduction of nuclear warheads together with Bush, the American president, on January 3, 1993. Then, inside, ethnic minorities intervened to create other problems for Eltzin, who thus had to deal with the settlement of the Crimean Tatars and those of the Tatar republic (who wanted complete independence); then of the Germans of the Volga, of the North Ossetians and the Ingushes, after the break with Chechnya, and various other ethnic groups of Asian Russia.
Bad also went for the former federated republics who could no longer count on Russia for the strengthening of their industries, having lacked previous support. In the meantime, various Islamic movements supported by Iran and Turkey were forming in all countries. All the former Soviet republics became Islamic republics and conferences also began among them, in order to create a Central Asian “common market”. Russia was also invited to speak at the conference of 4 January 1993.
The Russian market opened up to the liberal system, also sponsored by the Minister of Finance, E. Gajdar, and supported by both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, confident that the reform program that had already begun would have been completed in the country.
Despite this, however, the situation suffered a sharp deterioration¸ both industrial and agricultural production decreased; the things that, on the other hand, increased were inflation and the formation of mafia groups. But the formation of new businesses also had a considerable increase, with the consequent birth of intermediate social classes which also included a certain number of new rich.
In addition to this renewal of the Russian social fabric, there were many requests for ethnic minorities to detach themselves from the Moscow government. When the 21 republics, now autonomous, were invited to confirm their link with Moscow by signing a federal treaty, three of them refused to do so: Chechnya, Tatarstan and Tuva.
With the federal treaty signed, however, all the republics confirmed their autonomy, reaffirmed the possession of their own soil, subsoil, all natural wealth and also claimed political autonomy, also in the foreign field and that of foreign trade.
But the transformation of the Russian political system had not marched hand in hand with the experience of democratic life of the leaders who, continuing to still apply the rules of the old Constitution, created many serious political and social conflicts.
One of these conflicts, in the spring of 1993, had brought Yeltsin against the majority of Parliament. Two political factions confronted each other and the clash was very hard. On the one hand Yeltsin with the armed forces loyal to him, and on the other both vice-president A. Ruckoj and president of Parliament R. Chasbulatov.
Yeltsin ordered an armed assault against the deputies, who were forced to surrender.
In December 1993, a new constitution was adopted in Russia after the political elections. The country became a Presidential Federative Republic, where the president could avail himself of wide powers towards the Parliament, or Duma, which he elected.
Yeltsin, from the beginning, had proven to be a shrewd and experienced politician. He always tried to recompose the political conflicts that gradually took place in the government and his policy could always count on the support of the United States and, generally, of the other western states. In the economic field, it was supported by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank: various treaties agreed with China and with the Asian countries, but relations with Japan that claimed possession of the Kuril islands were difficult, which was not accepted by Moscow.
Meanwhile, December 1995 had come with new political elections which saw the advance of the communist party, led by Zjuganov and the defeat of the president’s party. Certainly, it was said, a strong contribution to this result had been given as an expression of disapproval of that Chechen war, which started already in 1994, after the Chechen general Dz. Dudaev had proclaimed its independence.
But in reality it was not the pacifist forces that opposed Yeltsin, but the nationalists who badly digested the failures reaped by the Russian army, engaged in that war.
Since Yeltsin believed that defeat was also expected in the presidential elections held in June 1996, he made substitutions at the top of politics and tried in every way to eliminate all conflicts with the Duma. Then, struck by myocardial ischemia, he had to be absent for long periods from the Kremlin, and in the forced convalescent state he began to develop a pacification plan with Chechnya, even after the death of Dudaev, killed on March 21, 1996 by a missile who had reached his military base. This plan was well received by all major consensus acquired by the West which, although it had always thought of the conflict with Chechnya as a purely Russian problem, nevertheless had never hidden its concerns and its profound dissent.
Meanwhile, there had been improvements in the economy and inflation had also decreased. It was argued by various parties that the reduced rate of inflation was more of a logical consequence of the failure to pay wages and salaries to workers, which led to strikes and demonstrations of more than 500,000 miners.
Yeltsin won the presidential elections in 1996 and shortly afterwards he had to undergo a difficult surgery. In order not to endanger the stability of government, he appointed General Lebed as his replacement, a prominent person, loved by the people, who immediately pursued pacifist purposes and, in fact, applied, since the first days of 1997, the gradual withdrawal of Russian troops from the Chechnya.
Then, sensationally Yeltsin, out of convalescence, suddenly broke relations with Lebed, and political stability returned to the foreground again.
But 1997 was announced in the name of tranquility. Two deputy prime ministers were appointed, Cubais, head of finance, and B. Nemcov, the then governor of the Novgorod area, where he had precisely applied successful reforms. Many successes came in economics, especially in the industrial sector. But what could certainly be considered a victory for Yeltsin was the signing of the peace treaty with Chechnya; this was immediately proclaimed Islamic Republic and could immediately count on complete autonomy, although some treaty provisions established that all decisions to define relations between the two countries would be reached by 2001.
In 1998, however, with the crisis of the Asian stock exchanges, the Russian economy also suffered serious repercussions. Yeltsin again made a replacement at the top of the government, appointing S. Kirenko, a very skilled reformer who, after the collapse of the Moscow Stock Exchange, attempted to recover by devaluing the ruble on August 17, and with this came a serious political crisis .
On August 23rd Kirenko was dismissed and Cernomyrdin returned to his place and attempted to form a new government, capable of earning the esteem of the whole Duma. Instead it was a failure, and from many sides, especially by the communist opponents of Zjuganov, Yeltsin’s resignation was asked.
The West, meanwhile, made it clear to Moscow that it could still count on international aid and credits, only if a reform policy had been seriously pursued. And when Foreign Minister Primakov was commissioned to form the new government on September 10, 1998, the guarantee seemed the right one. And it was also for the dissident communists who, with the appointment of Ju as first vice premier. Masljukov, of their own extraction, therefore became part of the government itself.
But all the economic, political, financial, social and institutional problems that had contributed to creating the country’s deep crisis came to the surface in 1999. Financial scandals also broke out which also involved Yeltsin and his family. The Central Bank itself was brought to trial for using funds from the International Monetary Fund and sending billions of dollars to the United States, where officials from local financial institutions had managed them, while knowing their origin. This somewhat cooled relations with the United States and other Western countries which, however, had recently been conquered by Yeltsin’s ability to convince Milosevic to withdraw Serbian troops from Kosovo.
Relations with Chechnya also worsened to the point that the second war between the two countries came. Yeltsin was once again invited to resign.
On the other hand, he again made a replacement at the top of the Duma, appointing Putin as prime minister.
On October 1, Russian troops invaded Chechnya again, thus starting the second war, which was carried out with great determination, being Putin intending to recapture the whole country. It was thus intended to give a nationalist imprint to the conflict which also brought about considerable changes in the choices of the voters. These, in fact, in the December elections assigned the victory to Putin’s party which, after Yeltsin’s withdrawal from the political scene, was indicated by him as his successor for the future presidential elections, held for March 26, 2000.
Despite the increase in crime and corruption, Russian political life was able to enjoy some stability. In February 2000, Russian troops managed to return to Grozny, the tormented Chechen capital, and on March 26, 2000 Putin, by winning the presidential elections, assumed the highest office in the state.