Russian Federation. It was a dramatic year in Russian
politics with two dismissed governments, a major war against
Chechnya and the sudden resignation of President Boris
Everything was played out in the background of a deep
economic crisis. According to
Countryaah official website, the consequences of the previous year's
ruble crash continued to plague the Russian Federation.
Productivity and real income were halved compared to 1989.
In practice, the Russian Federation had suspended its
payments, as the new IMF loans negotiated during the year
would only be used to pay off old foreign debt. Capital
equivalent to several thousand billion SEK had been brought
out of the country during the 1990s, and Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov tried to tackle the corruption among the
so-called oligarchs, financiers with ties to the political
elite. State Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov investigated suspected
corruption of, among other things, financier Boris
Berezovsky, influential friend of President Yeltsin's
family. Berezovsky ended up in prosecution, and some of the
shady shops seemed to have connections to Yeltsin's daughter
and sister. Yeltsin tried to dismiss the prosecutor, but the
Federation Council, the upper house, refused to approve his
Primakov received an increasingly strong popular support
and was seen by many as a future president. But Yeltsin
stopped Primakov by abruptly dismissing him in May. The
physically weak Yeltsin was forced time and time again
during the year to hospital care, but stood up constantly
and showed who had the formal power.
To Primakov's successor as head of government, Yeltsin
appointed the more loyal Home Minister Sergei Stepashin. He
was surprisingly quickly approved by the duma, and Yeltsin
won the tug-of-war against the duma even when it came to the
national prosecution case against him that has long been
discussed in the lower house. None of the five charges,
including the war against Chechnya 1994-96, gathered
sufficient support in the Duma vote in mid-May.
After only three months, in early August, Yeltsin also
sacked Stepasjin and replaced him with Vladimir Putin, until
then head of the Federal Security Service FSB (heir to the
KGB) and secretary of the mighty Security Council. Putin
became the fifth Yeltsin Prime Minister in 17 months. The
president declared that Putin was now his candidate for the
2000 presidential election, he himself would not run for
office. The shift came shortly after Moscow's mayor Yuriy
Luzhkov had created a electoral cooperation between his
political movement The Fatherland and the movement All
Russia. By his maneuver, Luzhkov had emerged as Yeltsin's
main challenger to the elections. Assessors also believed
that Putin's experience with the security service would be
an asset to the Yeltsin corruption-accused circuit.
Islamic rebels from the breakaway republic of Chechnya
had entered the southern Russian republic of Dagestan in
early August and taken control of some mountain villages.
Led by field commanders Shamil Basayev and Khattab, the
rebels proclaimed an independent Islamic state in the area.
Putin ordered the Russian army to attack the rebels, and
fierce battles with losses on both sides were fought for a
few weeks before the rebels were forced back into Chechnya.
In September, a series of powerful bombs exploded in
Dagestan and Moscow. Over 300 people were killed in total
and many were injured in the death. The Russian authorities
claimed that the perpetrators were Chechens. From Moscow,
thousands of Caucasians were displaced, and in the mass
media and with the public, a racist campaign against
Caucasus peoples was conducted.
In September, the Russian Federation attacked Chechnya in
a land and air war that would eventually include over
100,000 soldiers, harvest thousands of lives, and send
hundreds of thousands of refugees to flight. (See also
Chechnya-Ingushenia.) The war was still going on at the end
of the year. With intensive propaganda in mass media, the
Kremlin gained public support for the war, which favored
Putin and his support parties ahead of the December
parliamentary elections. At the same time, the regime's main
opponent Luzhkov was thrown into the media.
The largest in the election was the Communist Party,
which gained 24.4%, an increase of a few percentage points.
But most successful was the newly formed Unity, which lacked
political program and had emerged as a power base for Putin.
Consensus went from nothing to 23.7%. Putin's Allied Right
Union gained 8.7%, while the Fatherland/Whole Russia took
12.1%. Many independent candidates were expected to support
Putin, who could thus take over control of the state duma
from the communists.
In foreign policy, the relationship between the Russian
Federation and the Western world deteriorated significantly
during the year. The Kosovo crisis triggered NATO bombings
of Yugoslavia in March, and in the Kremlin they were overrun
by the West and reacted bitterly. Former Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, however, participated in the
mediation that led to an end to the war. But in the
international peacekeeping force that then entered Kosovo,
the Russian alliances ended up in the middle, which
increased Russian dissatisfaction.
In the autumn and winter the roles were changed. From the
West - the OSCE, the EU and the US - came increasingly
strong criticism of the Russian Federation's war in
Chechnya. Boris Yeltsin responded that the United States
could not dictate anything to the Russian Federation,
recalling the existence of the Russian nuclear weapons. It
happened during a visit to Beijing in December when Yeltsin
demonstrated agreement with China's leaders. Subsequently,
the Russian Duma rejected the government's proposal to
debate and ratify the nearly seven-year-old Start-2
agreement with the United States on a sharp reduction in the
number of nuclear warheads. At the same time, the duma voted
through the union agreement with Belarus criticized by the
United States. The two countries will remain independent,
but must coordinate legislation and have close military
cooperation and in the long term obtain common currency.
On the last day of the year, Boris Yeltsin departed
surprisingly, six months before the planned presidential
election. Thus, the election was postponed earlier, until
March 26, 2000. Prime Minister Putin was appointed acting
president, and one of his first measures was to issue a
decree guaranteeing freedom of prosecution for Yeltsin.