Russian History


Government and Politics

Government: Democratic, federative form of government under 1993 constitution. Divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. President, elected to four-year term, sets basic tone of domestic and foreign policy, represents state at home and abroad. Prime minister appoints Government (cabinet) to administer executive-branch functions. Forty ministries, state committees, and services; reduction in Government size planned late 1996. Prime minister administers policy according to constitution, laws, and presidential decrees. New Government named August 1996 following presidential election, retaining some key members from previous administration. Boris N. Yeltsin president, first elected 1991. Viktor Chernomyrdin prime minister, reap-pointed August 1996. Parliament, bicameral Federal Assembly, has lower house, State Duma, with 450 members serving four-year terms; last election December 1995. Upper house, Fed-eration Council, has 178 seats (two members representing the executive and legislative bodies of each of the eighty-nine subnational jurisdictions). Three highest judicial bodies Con-stitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Superior Court of Arbi-tration. Judges appointed by president with confirmation from the Federation Council required. Jurisprudence advancing slowly toward Western standards; jury trials held only in some regions.

Politics: Largest party representation in State Duma by Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, Our Home Is Russia, and Yabloko coalition. More than a dozen other parties have representation in State Duma. Personal connections, personalities retain impact in politics as national parties develop slowly, government figures avoid party affiliation; shifting coalitions typical in State Duma. Seventy-eight nominal independents in State Duma.

Administrative Divisions: Twenty-one autonomous republics, forty-nine oblasts (provinces), six territories (kraya; sing., kray), ten autonomous regions (okruga; sing., okrug), one autono-mous oblast. Cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg with separate status at oblast level.

Foreign Relations: In early 1990s, basically pro-Western, drastic change from Soviet era. Russia cofounded Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1991 and assumed Soviet Union seats in many international organizations. Dependence on foreign assistance greatly increased in 1990s. Beginning in 1993, substantial domestic political pressure mitigated stance toward participation in Western-dominated organizations and treaties, reemphasis of independent national power. So-called Eurasianism assumes unique role in world affairs and primary concerns in Asia rather than Europe. Chechnya crisis and nuclear transactions with Iran bring international criticism, although summits with United States president continue, 1997. Policy toward successor states marked by interest in reinte-gration of CIS countries and well-being of Russians living outside borders of Russian Federation. Expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Central Europe major issue in 1996. Other key issues include improvement of relations with China and insistence on strict interpretation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty). Member of Council of Europe, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP), United Nations (UN) and its Security Council, and World Bank.