Constitutional crisis of 1993

   As president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), Boris Yeltsin assumed the presidency of the Russian Federation upon its independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, the tenets of the 1977 Soviet-era RSFSR constitution remained in effect. In order to steer Russia toward economic and political reform, Yeltsin assumed increasing powers from 1991 onward. This led to a political standoff with the Russian parliament, which in 1993 was comprised of the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Soviet of Russia.
   Confident of popular support for his governmental restructuring, Yeltsin used the outcome of an April referendum on his job performance and a call for early parliamentary elections to dissolve the legislature on 21 September. Led by Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov, parliament impeached Yeltsin, declared Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy acting president, and barricaded themselves in the White House. Ten days of street fighting commenced between police, pro-parliamentary demonstrators, and groups loyal to the president. Eventually, the army, which had remained neutral in the early days of the crisis, obeyed Yeltsin’s order to shell and then storm the White House on 4 October. The surviving leaders of the resistance were arrested, though many were later granted amnesty to assuage the strong nationalist sentiments they provoked among disaffected members of post-Soviet Russian society.
   Government statistics state that 200 people died in the siege and street fighting, though other estimates put the number at 2,000. The crisis laid bare the growing divisions between a nostalgic, anti-Western electorate that would, in the future, gravitate toward the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and more liberal, pro-reform constituencies. In the wake of the events, Yeltsin consolidated his position, expanded the powers of the executive, and pushed through the adoption of the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation.
   See also Politics.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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