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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strange Aura of Stability in Moscow Politics

A year after President Boris Yeltsin dissolved parliament, brought out tanks into the streets of Moscow and ordered the leaders of the rebellious legislature thrown in jail, the Russian capital is enjoying -- and looks likely to go on enjoying -- a quiet Indian summer.


Yeltsin clearly feels secure enough to continue his vacation in Sochi, where he met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin at the weekend and then with the leaders of Georgia and Abkhazia Monday. Rather than mourn the tragic events of last October, which left over 140 people dead, the president Monday declared Dec. 12 a new national holiday -- Constitution Day.


"The President has no special plans for the anniversary," presidential spokesman Anatoly Krasikov said Monday. "The important thing is that we got rid of the Soviets and passed a new constitution."


Even what is known as the "implacable opposition" is only planning a few tame rallies and marches in the days leading up to Oct. 4, the anniversary of the day the rebellion was put down. Opposition leaders assured a press conference last week that the marches would be "peaceful and constitutional."


Among other things, the communist and nationalist parties are planning to encircle the White House, from which they were evicted last year, and then march to the Arbat Square in a silent procession Oct. 4. Though communist leaders have said that Moscow police are getting reinforcements from other cities for the rallies, a police spokesman denied it.


"Police are working in a normal regime and there have been no special orders to prepare for the anniversary," Alexander Cherednikov said Monday.


Opposition figures including former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi who, cursing and brandishing a gun, sent his supporters to storm the Ostankino TV center last year, made some fiery speeches when they met last week in the western region of Kaliningrad.


"This is the beginning of our autumn march and we will roll all the way to Moscow," the TV program Itogi quoted conservative journalist Alexander Bondarenko as saying after the meeting.


But the reformist camp does not seem to take this kind of swagger seriously.


Izvestia analyst Otto Latsis expressed the general attitude when he wrote in the newspaper's Tuesday edition, "God, how they bore us!"


Krasikov, similarly, did not seem worried about a possible opposition onslaught."Our problems were solved when the Soviets were crushed, the new constitution was passed and then the public accord agreement was signed this year," he said. "The situation is radically different from the one we had last year."


However, just in case the opposition does not feel like being peaceful while commemorating the death of their comrades in last year's riots, Yeltsin's adviser, Georgy Satarov, issued a stern warning in an interview with Izvestia.


"The authorities will act decisively," he said. "There will be no mercy toward lawbreakers."


However, the Russian newspapers are full of speculation on what will happen after the State Duma returns from vacation Oct. 5, claiming the newly renovated Gosplan building one year and one day after shells and fire did more than $80 million worth of damage to the old parliament residence.


Top politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai and deputy speaker Mikhail Mityukov have been quoted as saying that the anti-Yeltsin lower chamber of the parliament may give a no confidence vote to Viktor Chernomyrdin's government soon after it reconvenes.


However, such a vote would not mean automatic resignation for the government, and Chernomyrdin is calmly proceeding with his economic policy. He is now armed with a series of new presidential decrees in final or draft form on which he worked with Yeltsin in Sochi last week.


All in all, it seems symbolic that on Sept. 26, almost exactly a year after he shut off the hot water and electricity in the old parliament building, Yeltsin will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on the same day as U.S. President Bill Clinton. This fall, Russia may actually watch another summit on TV instead of rolling in blood and mud.