Staunton, August 19 – The August 1991 coup lasted only three days and ended in ignominious defeat; but it was followed shortly thereafter by a creeping coup against federalism and democracy that has lasted almost three decades and has come to define the Russia of our times, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
That coup which is sometimes associated only with Vladimir Putin, the Russian analyst says, in fact began under Boris Yeltsin who reversed many of the gains that those who mistakenly thought that he, who led the opposition to the August coup, was in complete support of. Putin has only built on them (snob.ru/entry/181438/).
“If in the USSR, the coup lasted several days,” Inozemtsev says, “in the Russia which replaced it, such an action in my view … has been continuing for decades and long ago has become the very essence of the history of that country in which we live.” That must be recognized in order to assess each new action of the powers that be.
The 1993 Constitution states that Russia is “a democratic federal and legal state.” It in no place says that “it is the legal successor of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).” But even before that document was promulgated and in its language, Russia could be seen to be becoming something else.
Two republics did not sign the federal treaty, Chechnya and Tatarstan, in March 1992. Inozemtsev mentions only Chechnya, but Tatarstan refused to sign it as well. However, Kazan did enter into negotiations which led to a power-sharing agreement. Chechnya didn’t, with all the unfortunate consequences that followed. But neither was constitutionally part of the country.
The 1993 Constitution included the federative treaty in its paragraphs but changed the language, dropping references to the sovereignty of the republics, a process that as completed by an action of the Constitutional Court on December 6, 2001, when any such claims were declared to be in contradiction to the basic law of the country.
“In essence,” Inozemtsev says, “from this moment, Russia ceased to be a genuine federation.”
Between 2001 and 2004, the Kremlin “reformed” the representative and executive portions of the government, eliminating elections to the Federation Council. And in 2010, it effectively eliminated elections of governors, thus undermining any possibility that the people of the federal subjects would have a say in their selection.
Thus, the Moscow commentator says, “the entire history of Russian ‘federalism’ consists in an uninterrupted state coup” (stress in the original) which has led “de facto to a unitary state.”
The same thing has occurred with democracy as well. The 1993 Constitution specifies that “the bearers of sovereignty and the only source of power in the Russian Federation is its multi-national people.” But that has been gutted by managed even stolen presidential elections in which no one not chosen by his predecessor has ever been allowed to win.
The constitutional right of citizens to hold referenda has been restricted to the point of non-existence. Not one has been held in the country as a whole since 1993, and those which have occurred in the regions have been exclusively ones that were approved in advance by those in power, not the people.
In addition, the rules governing the selection of the Federal Assembly have constantly been changed. None has been chosen on the same basis as its predecessor; but the state continues to act as if there has been no change. Local administration has been gutted and taken away from the population. And increasingly it is nothing more than a branch office of those above it.
Thus, Inozemtsev concludes, “the history of Russian ‘democracy’ also is a consistent series of acts of coups and usurpation of powers (stress in the original), the result of which has become the impossibility of the realization by citizens” of their constitutional rights.
Moreover, he continues, “the Russian Federation also pretends to be a legal state, but today great doubts about this have arisen,” given that ever more laws restricting the population’s constitutional rights have been adopted and ever more actions by the authorities violating both the constitution and the laws are taking place.
“Over the course of the years of the existence of independent Russia, the judicial system has been radically changed” from top to bottom. Its independence has been destroyed, and the constitutional rules it is supposed to operate under ae flouted. And the Kremlin has done away with the requirement that international law take precedence over national legislation.
What this means, of course, Inozemtsev says, is that those who vie recent events as “’a state coup’” are wrong. This coup has been going on for a long time, indeed almost “from the first days after Mikhail Gorbachev left his office in the Kremlin.” Putinism thus deserves to be condemned but not for its departure from the supposed democracy of Yeltsin’s time.
The coup against federalism, democracy, and legal rights began then, the commentator says; it has only been getting worse.