Communist Party of the Russian Federation

(KPRF)
   Political party. Known in Russian as the Kommunisticheskaia partiia Rossiskoi federatsii, the KPRF is the political successor to the banned Communist Party of the Soviet Union, also known as the Bolshevik Party. Out of the ashes of the banned Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Gennady Zyuganov established the party in 1993, with the help of Sovietera politicians Yegor Ligachev and Anatoly Lukyanov. Under the influence of Zyuganov, the party married Marxism-Leninism with nationalism, sometimes called popular patriotism. Anti-Semitism, neo-Slavophilism, and Stalin worship are also evident in the party platform, which shares certain attributes with other “great power” (Derzhava) political parties.
   The ideologue Aleksandr Dugin exercised influence over the party during its early days, thus injecting a strain of neo-Eurasianism into the KPRF’s approach to domestic politics and foreign relations. The Communist Party, like other ultranationalist parties, pays lip service to the restoration of Russia’s historical boundaries, including reincorporation of the near abroad and abrogation of the Belavezha Accords. The KPRF is stridently anti–North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is particularly suspicious of British and American foreign policy; anti-globalization is also part of the party platform. On the domestic front, the party supports free education and health care, an end to labor “parasitism,” collective rights and security, and the ultimate realization of Communism as the future of mankind. In order to obtain these goals, the KPRF advocates ending the mafia’s alleged control over the state and economy, terminating Russia’s forced capitalization, and introducing state regulation of all major economic sectors. While the newly formed KPRF fared rather poorly against Russia’s other political parties, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), in the 1993 State Duma elections, Zyuganov turned the Communists into the country’s most popular party by 1995 when the KPRF outpaced its nearest rival by more than two-to-one, taking 157 of the Duma’s 450 seats. The Communists were especially popular in the so-called Red Belt, a band of regions in southern European Russia that favored continued subsidies of health care, support for local industry, and restrictions on foreign trade and investment.
   In the 1996 presidential election, Zyuganov emerged as the early front-runner as Boris Yeltsin scrambled to regain his earlier popularity. The KPRF established the Russian All-People’s Union as a leftist umbrella organization in order to increase Zyuganov’s influence at the national level. Only after a hard-fought campaign, in which forces allied with the Kremlin—including the oligarchs and regional governors—branded the Communists as warmongers and chekists (secret police), and a second round of elections did Yeltsin emerge victorious over Zyuganov.
   The KPRF continued its electoral success in the 1999 Duma poll, winning more than 24 percent of the vote, though the party obtained fewer seats than in 1995. With the ascent of Vladimir Putin, the Communists’ popularity suffered, particularly in the 2003 parliamentary elections. Putin’s use of Potemkin parties, a pliant media, and the terrorist threat allowed him to effectively sideline the KPRF. Recognizing the futility of running against the popular president, Zyuganov sat out the 2004 elections, throwing the KPRF’s support behind the Agrarian Party’s Nikolay Kharitonov. The party also suffered from several high-profile defections and attempts to split its constituency, though the KPRF has remained the largest opposition party in the country through the first decade of the new millennium. Zyuganov returned to presidential politics in 2008, running against Dmitry Medvyedev; he claimed a respectable 17.8 percent of the vote. Since the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, Zyuganov’s popularity and influence are on the rise, and Prime Minister Putin has taken an increasingly conciliatory position toward the KPRF. Party membership exceeds 500,000, with nearly 20,000 new members joining annually. However, unlike the LDPR, the Communists tend to be older on average. The party has a well-developed media arm, including newspapers and radio.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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