Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Our Home Faction Hit by Identity Crisis

Moves by two regional leaders to distance themselves from Our Home Is Russia have embarrassed the pro-government political movement, which already has been struggling through an identity crisis since its head, Viktor Chernomyrdin, was fired as prime minister.

The sense of disarray surrounding the organization deepened in the past week when Valery Kokov, president of the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, made it known that he would resign from his post as deputy head of the movement.

Kokov's move follows statements by Dmitry Ayatskov, the ambitious head of the Saratov region, that Our Home was washed up and that he was forming his own party.

Our Home Is Russia used to define itself as the "party of power" committed to supporting the government headed by Chernomyrdin. His firing by President Boris Yeltsin on March 23, however, broke its direct link to power, and Our Home's members have struggled to define their new role.

Although Kokov praised Our Home, and even though neither he nor Ayatskov quit the movement outright, their actions appear to be an attempt to distance themselves from a group that is less attractive now that its leader no longer holds the government's purse strings.

The movement's leader in the State Duma, Alexander Shokhin, played down the departures, saying Wednesday at a news conference that "there are many who would like to attend our movement's funeral. My reply is brief: Do not wait for that to happen."

Shokhin denied a report in Wednesday's edition of Kommersant Daily newspaper that Kokov was trying to distance himself from the party. Kokov, elected deputy chairman at the April 25 party conference, has said through spokesmen that he was elected without being consulted, and that his republic's constitution did not permit him to be a member of a political party or movement. But constitutional scruples did not prevent him from remaining a member.

Our Home was founded at the behest of Yeltsin in April 1995, as an attempt to establish a pro-government political movement. It has had mixed success, attracting a number of prominent members but polling only 10.3 percent of the vote in the 1995 parliamentary elections. It has 68 seats in the 450-seat State Duma, or lower house of parliament.

Called a "center-right" group by Chernomyrdin, its ideology is somewhat hazy, with the party's role being defined by its support for government initiatives in the Duma.

The movement has always relied on support from regional governors instead of a grass-roots political infrastructure. The governors found it convenient to be members, because they depended on Chernomyrdin for federal subsidies to their regions.

"The problem is not the noisy departure of one or another governor, but the fact that Our Home, since it is not a normal political party, cannot exist without being the party of power," said Nikolai Petrov, an expert in regional politics at the Moscow Carnegie Center. "[Our Home] never had a real political structure, and as soon as its leader was no longer prime minister, it lost its attraction for regional leaders."

Petrov said the party might eventually develop an independent platform, but would probably wind up on the margins of politics, much as did a former party of power, the Democratic Choice movement of former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, after the latter lost his job as prime minister.

Despite its murky future, Our Home retains a number of powerful members aside from Shokhin and presidential candidate Chernomyrdin. They include new Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, Science Minister Vladimir Bulgak and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu. Vladimir Ryzhkov, a senior Our Home member and deputy speaker of the Duma, reportedly met Wednesday with officials in the Kremlin to discuss joining the government.