. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Six Months Maneuvering for the Kremlin

Dec. 17, 1995


The campaign for the presidency unofficially begins with the closing of the polls in the Duma elections, which the Communists dominate, gaining 22 percent of the vote. The results are a wake-up call for President Boris Yeltsin, who is running far behind Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in the race for the presidency.


Dec. 26, 1995


The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which finished a surprising second in the Duma elections, nominates Vladimir Zhirinovsky as its presidential candidate. No surprise.


Jan. 3, 1996


Andrei Kozyrev, one of the chief targets of Communist wrath during the Duma election campaign, resigns as foreign minister. One week later, he is replaced by Yevgeny Primakov, a former Foreign Intelligence chief and a figure far more acceptable to the Communists.


Jan. 9


Chechen rebels seize 100 hostages from a hospital in Kizylar, in Dagestan. They later move them to the small village of Pervomaiskoye and dig in.


Jan. 15-18


In a botched and incompetent military operation, Russian troops bombard Pervomaiskoye, killing dozens. Many of the rebels escape despite being completely surrounded.


Jan. 16


Anatoly Chubais, first deputy prime minister and the architect of the government's much-vilified privatization program, is sacked.


Jan. 26


Yeltsin, in response to the crisis of back wages, announces he is creating a special "presidential fund" with enough money to pay every salary in the country for one month.


Feb. 5


Svyatoslav Fyodorov, a renowned and wealthy eye surgeon, enters the race.


Feb. 12


NTV Independent Television announces that it has been barred from the Kremlin after airing interviews critical of the president.


Feb. 15


After months of playing coy, Yeltsin declares his bid for re-election in Yekaterinburg, saying he must run to stop Communists from turning back the clock. In a bid to steal some of the limelight from the president, Zyuganov announces his candidacy the same day.


Feb. 24


Far ahead of his rivals, Zyuganov turns in his list of 1.7 million signatures to the Central Election Commission, well in excess of the 1 million needed to qualify as a presidential candidate.


March 4


A group of Communist and leftist parties, including the Agrarian Party, sign a formal pact backing Zyuganov's candidacy. On the same day, a spokesman for Duma deputy and filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin announces plans to form a so-called "Third Force," which would unite candidates who are against both the Kremlin and the Communists. Candidates mentioned include Govorukhin, Fyodorov, economist and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, former vice president Alexander Rutskoi and retired general Alexander Lebed.


March 15


The State Duma votes to declare null and void the 1991 accords dissolving the U.S.S.R., raising the specter of forcible reintegration and sending shock waves through Russia's "near abroad."


March 20


The first Moscow Times/CNN poll shows Yeltsin gaining on frontrunner Zyuganov. While previous polls had ranked the president no higher than fifth in a list of the 10 leading politicians, he suddenly jumped to second place, with 14 percent of respondents favoring him, to Zyuganov's 19 percent.


March 21


Mikhail Gorbachev announces his candidacy in St. Petersburg, gaining enormous attention from the Western press and none in the opinion polls.


March 25


Yeltsin unveils his campaign team, which includes Anatoly Chubais, sacked as first deputy prime minister just two months prior, and Igor Malashenko, president of NTV, which had been warring with the president over negative coverage for more than a year.


March 31


Yeltsin announces his Chechen peace plan on national television, but fighting continues.


April 2


Russia and Belarus sign the Community of Sovereign Republics (SSR) Act, widely seen as an attempt by Yeltsin to steal the U.S.S.R. reintegration issue away from the Communists.


April 3


Yeltsin formally turns in his list of signatures to the Central Election Commission, second after Zyuganov.


April 9


Following a wave of announcements by fringe parties pledging their support to the communists, an eclectic self-described "coalition of small parties" signs on in support of Yeltsin. The group includes the Russian Association of Monarchists, the Beer Lovers Party, and Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who promises to deliver 99 percent of the vote in his province to Yeltsin.


April 9


After a court fight, billionaire Vladimir Bryntsalov is allowed onto the ballot by the Supreme Court.


April 11


Yavlinsky, Yeltsin's main democratic rival, urges Yeltsin to drop his candidacy in the name of democracy.


April 12


Yeltsin's economic adviser Alexander Livshits says apprehension about the election is freezing the economy. Western companies begin to announce hiring freezes until after the elections.


April 16


Seventeen candidates meet the April 16 deadline for turning in signatures to the CEC for the presidential campaign. Of those 17, 11 are eventually confirmed as candidates: Yeltsin, Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky, Yavlinsky, Lebed, Fyodorov, Gorbachev, Bryntsalov, weightlifter Yury Vlasov, Kemerovo legislative chairman Aman Tuleyev and obscure politician Martin Shakkum.


April 21


Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev is killed, reportedly in a Russian rocket attack.


April 23


The Moscow Times/CNN poll puts Yeltsin in the lead, the first public opinion survey to do so. The margin is small: 20.7 percent to Zyuganov's 19.8.


April 24


Lebed launches his candidacy and says that the much-anticipated "Third Force" -- a democratic opposition group comprised of Lebed, Yavlinsky and Fyodorov -- would decide on a single candidate no later than May 20.


April 25


Gorbachev is slapped on head by a drunk heckler in Omsk and later describes the incident as a "professional assassination attempt," effectively cutting himself off from whatever attention he had gained as a serious candidate.


April 27


Headed by LogoVAZ magnate Boris Berezovsky, a group of Russia's 13 most influential industrialists release an open letter warning of the danger of civil war and calling for Yeltsin and Zyuganov to reach a compromise.


May 1


Yeltsin's powerful bodyguard and adviser Alexander Korzhakov, in a rare interview, urges delay of elections in the interest of heading off civil war, beginning a wave of speculation that a subterranean brokering of power between candidates may take place.


May 12


Yeltsin announces he is uniting with Yavlinsky, which Yavlinsky denies.


May 13


The "Third Force" is pronounced dead by Fyodorov, who calls for the formation of a "government of people's unity" fitting the model proposed by the group of 13. This is the first of many such proposals by candidates.


May 16


Yeltsin signs a wave of populist decrees, among them one intended to gradually phase out the death penalty, another to end conscription.


May 18


The Moscow Times/CNN poll documents Yeltsin's rise, giving him a clear, 9 point lead over Zyuganov, 27.7 percent to 19.3 percent.


May 21


Alexei Podberyozkin, a top nationalist aide to Zyuganov, says he supports the idea of a "government of people's unity" and sees a common philosophy joining many in the Kremlin, the Communist Party and business community.


May 23


New Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev agrees to meet with Yeltsin in Moscow.


May 27-28


Yeltsin and Yandarbiyev sign a cease-fire agreement. The following day, Yeltsin visits troops in Chechnya, effectively leaving Yandarbiyev hostage in Moscow in what is widely seen as a public relations coup for the president.


May 30


Presidential aide Georgy Satarov charges that the Communist Party is planning an "illegitimate seizure of power" in the event of its defeat at the polls.


June 1


Moscow Times/CNN poll shows Yeltsin ahead of Zyuganov, 32.6 percent to 19.7 percent.


June 3


St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was closely identified with Yeltsin, narrowly loses his bid for re-election.


June 4


Top Communist Party officials say a Zyuganov defeat will be prima facie evidence of vote fraud and other violations of campaign rules on the part of the government.


June 6


Yavlinsky denounces the Yeltsin government as autocratic and, citing pro-Yeltsin propaganda in the media and lavish spending by the president's campaign, denounces the electoral process as "not free."


June 6


Zyuganov warns that his supporters may protest en masse if he is denied a victory


June 7


Eleven of the 13 bankers and industrialists who signed the April 27 appeal for a Yeltsin-Zyuganov compromise release a statement strongly criticizing Zyuganov's economic program, apparently withdrawing their original appeal.


June 8


With just a little over one week to go, The Moscow Times/CNN poll gives Yeltsin his biggest lead to date -- 34.5 percent against 15.9 for Zyuganov -- although pollsters warn of a "refusers" phenomenon that is artificially lowering Zyuganov's ratings.


June 9


Yeltsin tells NTV's "Itogi" that he is confident of a first-round victory


June 10


Russian and Chechen negotiators sign a deal to end hostilities, withdraw troops by the end of August and cancel local elections.