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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deep Grudges, Real Threats

"There will no revenge," Gennady Zyuganov told a packed meeting of supporters last weekend as he unveiled his electoral platform. It was an honorable attempt by Dr. Zyuganov to calm the nerves of the electorate but, with all respect, I do not believe him.


The theme is bound to gain more and more urgency as June 16 approaches. If the Communists come to power what kind of score-settling or razborka can the country expect?


Zyuganov himself, who has his eye on the mainstream voters and the business community, dismisses the question out of hand. He is keen to insist that no one will be locked up if he comes to power. It will be as calm a transition as Chirac replacing Mitterrand or Dole succeeding Clinton, he says.


In the Duma last Friday he was asked if anyone should be brought to trial for engineering the collapse of the Soviet Union -- like Boris Yeltsin for example, one of the three signatories of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreement. Zyuganov again said no, he was not into that kind of thing.


But only a few yards down the Duma corridor Vladimir Semago, the Communists "red banker," was saying that "appropriate measures" would be taken against the men who met at Belovezhskaya Pushcha when the June elections are over. And in the lobby a few paces away Anatoly Lukyanov, the speaker of the last Soviet parliament and the "gray cardinal" of the August 1991 putsch, said that "history will judge" the men who broke up the union (he was suitably vague if history was going to be doing the judging sooner or later).


As usual, it was up to the Duma's court jester Vladimir Zhirinovsky to spell out in detail what everyone else was dressing up in euphemisms. He pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket, which he said were intended for Gennady Burbulis, Sergei Shakhrai and the other authors of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. He said they could be arrested in the Duma chamber, here and now.


These are not wholly idle threats. The difference between Moscow and Washington or Paris is that there is a revenge tragedy lurking beneath the apparently calm surface of the political process.


The crux of the matter is not so much the Belovezhskaya agreement, a constitutional fact that can never be overturned, but the bloodshed of October 1993.


Many of the protagonists of that crisis are now in the Communist ranks in the Duma. The new deputy for Podolsk is Yury Voronin, who was in many ways the mastermind of the White House resistance. The member of parliament for Samara, Albert Makashov, was jailed after he helped lead the abortive assault on the Ostankino television station. If Yeltsin had had his way, he would still be in jail.


Zyuganov, as always, took a more conciliatory line over the "October events." He left the besieged parliament building the day before the tanks fired on the building and then upset many of his fellow White House defenders by deciding to run for the new State Duma. A little over two months later, during the election night television gala, I saw him drinking toasts in the Kremlin with Mikhail Poltoranin, one of Yeltsin's chief advisers and one of the men who had masterminded the storming of the Supreme Soviet. That suggests that, left to himself, Zyuganov would be inclined to live and let live. His priority is to win power and make sure Yeltsin relinquishes it.


But a lot of Zyuganov's fellow-travelers almost certainly think otherwise. Men like Makashov, Viktor Anpilov and Alexander Rutskoi bear deep grudges against Yeltsin and his team because of their spells in jail in 1993 and 1994. There is no telling what they will do if given high office.


There may be no need for anything extravagant as a treason trial. There have been so many legal gray areas in privatization that those ministers who have not been engaged in outright crooked dealings have almost certainly broken some law or other. A trial of say, Anatoly Chubais, would be very popular with millions of Communist voters. One leading Communist, Viktor Ilyukhin, has already warned him not to leave the country.


As with the most radical policies of a putative Communist administration, this might take a while to happen. But the logic of revenge may prove easier to perform than many other policies in the Communist program.