Russian History



By 1987 Gorbachev had concluded that introducing his reforms required more than discrediting the old guard. He changed his strategy from trying to work through the CPSU as it existed and instead embraced a degree of political liberalization. In January 1987, he appealed over the heads of the party to the people and called for demokratizatsiya , the infusion of "democratic" elements into the Soviet Union's sterile, monolithic political process. For Gorbachev, demokratizatsiya meant the introduction of multicandidate--not multiparty--elections for local party and soviet offices. In this way, he hoped to rejuvenate the party with progressive personnel who would carry out his institutional and policy reforms. The CPSU would retain sole custody of the ballot box.

Despite Gorbachev's intentions, the elements of a multiparty system already were crystallizing. In contrast to previous Soviet rulers, Gorbachev had permitted the formation of unofficial organizations. In October 1987, the newspaper of the CPSU youth, Komsomol'skaya pravda , reported that informal groups, so-called neformaly , were "growing as fast as mushrooms in the rain." The concerns of these groups included the environment, sports, history, computers, philosophy, art, literature, and the preservation of historical landmarks. In August 1987, forty-seven neformaly held a conference in Moscow without interference from the authorities. In fact, one of the unofficial attendees was Yeltsin. In early 1988, some 30,000 neformaly existed in the Soviet Union. One year later, their number had more than doubled. These informal groups begot popular fronts, which in turn spawned political parties. The first of those parties was the Democratic Union, formed in May 1988.