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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Year Later, Hardliners Fail to Unify

A year ago, they set up and armed a regiment to fight against President Boris Yeltsin; but Wednesday, a year after Yeltsin declared war on the old hardline parliament, all his enemies managed was a small rally at which their leaders squabbled.


On Sept. 21, 1993, when Yeltsin dissolved the Supreme Soviet, its leaders had guns and steel rods; on Sept. 21, 1994 they had bullhorns and a small crowd of about 5,000 to cheer them on as they called the Yeltsin government "usurpers" and themselves "defenders of the Constitution."


Last week the most powerful opposition leaders, some of whom had been jailed in the aftermath of last fall's events, met in the western Russian city of Kaliningrad to declare their unity, but at the rally in Moscow leaders of fringe groups that had sided with them last year said true unity was still far off.


Hardliners showing up at the rally included former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who led last year's rebellion after the outlaw parliament declared him president, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, enigmatic nationalist Sergei Baburin and Viktor Anpilov, a frequent leader of street demonstrations. All of them but Rutskoi marched in front of the crowd down Tverskaya Ulitsa to the square next to the Metropol Hotel.


Former deputy Oleg Rumyantsev, whose hopes of authoring the first post-Soviet Russian constitution were buried in the debris of the White House last year, was seen mingling with protesters, eating a Bounty ice cream bar.


But the spirit of unity was just not there. One of the speakers at the rally, the head of a fringe Communist group, said: "If you want to join our struggle, unfortunately you have a big choice of groups."


Anpilov, transparently criticizing Zyuganov's recent recognition as a serious political leader, said those who do not accept radicalism are in fact collaborators with the "criminal Yeltsin regime."


Former Soviet deputy Sazhi Umalatova called for a nationwide political strike and a civil disobedience campaign, but was quick to add that "our comrades in the Communist Party do not support this proposal."


State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Marychev, despatched by ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to address the rally, made a few jokes about government leaders but did not mention a united opposition front.


After last week's meeting in Kaliningrad some opposition leaders hinted that they had reached an agreement on putting forward a single candidate in the 1996 presidential election, but there was no talk of this at the rally Wednesday.


"They can't unite," political analyst and Presidential Council member Otto Latsis said Wednesday in an interview. "Neither Rutskoi nor Zyuganov is interested in unity unless he is the candidate."


But Latsis said despite its disunity, the opposition stands a chance of winning elections in the provinces, where the economic situation is much worse than in Moscow because of mounting unemployment and frequent salary delays.


"They were beaten last October but they won last December," Latsis said, referring to the election that returned many of the October rebels to parliament. "Life is showing them they should try to win elections rather than fight, and they still have some time until things get better in the economy."


While opposition leaders used the demonstration to mark the anniversary of the old parliament's dissolution,Yeltsin and the government have largely been silent on the issue.


But the official publishing house Respublika presented a book of documents Wednesday on last fall's events, portraying the former deputies as unreasonable, drunken rioters who caused the fighting in which at least 140 people were killed.


Among other documents, the book contains bills from the parliament's buffets showing that the leaders of the uprising ordered dozens of bottles of vodka for their meetings.