Link to original timeline: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/the-death-of-russia-tl.533392/
The Death of Russia
All is Well
Extract from ‘A Continent of Fire’ by James Melfi
The Death of Russia
All is Well
Extract from ‘A Continent of Fire’ by James Melfi
Those heady days of 1989, 1991. We thought we’d escaped it. Escaped the third and final cataclysm of the Twentieth Century. True, we avoided the Third World War between the nations but we saw the Third World War within a nation. Or more accurately, between the many nations of one doomed country. We watched, unable to do anything, as the ghosts of dead empires rose to damn the living. The scenes just years ago of crowds in jubilation at the dawn of unending freedom of Europe were erased from our minds. Now all we saw were the lonely bodies of emaciated villagers line the streets of abandoned villages slowly hide under the Siberian snow. Just as ‘1914’ and ‘1939’ chill our blood, perhaps it was the destruction of our dreams that made the year ‘1993’ so much more chilling.
Extract from ‘The Unstoppable Tragedy: The Second Russian Civil War’ by Peter Hodges
Contrary to popular imagination, Yeltsin’s overthrow was not the spark that kicked off a wave of Post-Soviet bloodshed, but only the latest in a string of violence. Armenia and Azerbaijan were fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan was in the midst of a brutal Civil War, Georgia was fighting an independence movement in Abkhazia that was aided by Russia and Transnistria had just been formed from the Russian intervention in Moldova. And of course, Yugoslavia had already torn itself apart in a wave of ethnic violence that would eerily foreshadow what was to come. At the same time, there were many territorial disputes that seem almost quaint now. Sevastopol was a bone of contention for the Russians in Ukraine, there were Russian troops in the Baltics and Warsaw Pact states and many of those states were trying to join NATO to mixed reception in the US. Perhaps most importantly for the fate of the region, the nuclear weapon question regarding Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan remained unresolved.
But the main thing that the average man on the street thought about was, of course, the escalating economic and social collapse that had swept the Post-Soviet states. The pain in the Warsaw Pact nations was one thing, but for the Soviet states (especially the three core East Slavic states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) their economies had not only been thoroughly centrally planned practically to the street telephone box, but they had no one who remembered a time when anything but Communism was in charge, unlike the Poles, Hungarians, or even the Balts. Consequently, the pain was increasingly intense as one moved east over the old Communist Bloc, with only the Lenin statues as the Ozzymandias style ruins of the Soviet Empire. Inflation was indescribable, the ordered streets had vanished into a free-for-all of gangsters of all levels of thuggery. The ethnic hatreds that had simmered for decades in silence roared out in a wave of racist attacks on non-Slavic citizens in Russia especially. The class hatreds once extinguished by the equal distribution of misery under Communism was renewed as corrupt privatisation practices left millions of ordinary Russians short-changed while a new class of parasitic oligarchy was founded from the most corrupt recesses of the Communist party and literal criminals. To add insult to injury, the new Oligarchs stored their wealth in Swiss banks and ensured none of it would be invested in the country they robbed from. In 1992 alone, the GDP contracted by an unimaginable 14.5%.
This gave renewed life to both the Communist and Fascist movements inside Russia, and weakened the already decaying support democracy had and needed to function in Russia. The situation is often compared to Weimar Germany in how it fundamentally made Russians lose faith in the concept not just of Capitalism but democracy in general, much like the hyperinflation and political chaos of Weimar Germany reinforced many Germans’ desire for authoritarianism. Like Weimar Germany a thriving free-speech atmosphere pervaded the streets as people were finally able to openly speak their minds without fear of persecution, but this was to be cut tragically short.
The main political warfare in 1993 was between two groups: President Boris Yeltsin and his cabinet (who were seen as responsible for the economic tailspin) and the Russian Parliament. The latter was supported by the banned National Salvation Front, a Frankenstein alliance of convenience between the racist reactionary Right and dictatorial Communist Left. Yeltsin accused the Parliament of being unreformed Communists while Parliament accused him of consolidating power. Both cast themselves as the defenders of a democracy that wouldn’t exist within the year. One of the chief architects of the economic reforms, Yegor Gaidar, was removed from the position of acting Prime Minister by the now resistive Parliament. Smelling blood in the water after the Supreme Court ruled Yeltsin’s attempts to block Parliament unconstitutional, the Parliament attempted and failed to impeach Yeltsin in March 1993, leading to the new Chairman of Parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov to propose a series of referendums to resolve the question of whether the President or Parliament would yield. Despite the results generally going in the direction the Yeltsin camp wanted, the Supreme Court ruled the results to have had an insufficient turnout to be binding.
Some believe that the Second Russian Civil War began as early as May 1st 1993, when a joint group of Communist and Far-Right protestors clashed with the police, leading to one policeman being killed. But the events that escalated the disintegration of the Russian Federation could be said to have become unstoppable on September 1st 1993 after another failed attempt to reconcile between Yeltsin and Parliament, as Yeltsin unconstitutionally fired Vice-President Alexander Rutskoy on fraudulent corruption charges and began criminal proceedings. Another attempt to impeach Yeltsin by appealing to the Supreme Court was met with Yeltsin making a televised address on September 21st, where he announced that he had dissolved the Parliament and Supreme Court by Presidential Decree. Needless to say this move was not recognised by Parliament, who declared that Rutskoy was now acting President. Over the next few days, chaos erupted in the streets as Pro-Yeltsin and Pro-Parliament protestors fought it out.
Until October 3rd it was unsure which side would win the stand-off. Parliament was holed up inside a White House that had been disconnected from water and electricity. But one factor that had not been discussed was the military, which continued to bide its time in the shadows, still refusing to declare for either side, though it was fair to say that up until then they were nominally for Yeltsin. This was, naturally, dependent on the country remaining relatively split on the issue and not swinging hard on the side of Parliament.
Unfortunately for Yeltsin, on the night of October 3rd, everyone in the country would know that his time was up.
Extract from interview with Benjamin Rich, aka Bald and Bankrupt
Interviewer: “You’ve made a name for yourself on Youtube exploring Post-Communist Europe. Can you tell us your first experience going to that part of the world?”
B&B: “Well, would you believe it, a bright, barely-able-to-speak-a-word-of-Russian 19 year old me was actually in Moscow in the middle of the standoff between Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet.”
Interviewer: “No way! Thank God you got out.”
B&B: “I wasn’t so sure I would. On October 3rd I’d actually snuck out of the hotel after the staff were telling us “Do not go outside, it’s too dangerous”. As you can probably imagine I took it to be a sort of challenge so I got out and went near the White House where they’d built a gigantic barricade with hundreds of men with guns all over the place. They let out a big cheer and I now look back and realize that this was the moment when they were telling the crowd that they had to take the TV centre, as well as the City Council building. I stuck around and kept me head down but, I’ll tell you what, there were a lot of moments where I regretted it. About every twenty seconds or something you heard this loud crack coming from near the City Council building, and I knew that all the talk about snipers was true. There were people just lying dead or nearly dead in the middle of the street that I could see in the distance. Eventually they took the City Council building and then they went heading for the TV centre. That’s when the chaos got really intense and I just decided, right, I’m hunkering down here in this alley, it’s madness to go out into that street. And that’s when I saw something that at the time I didn’t really understand but obviously I look back and think ‘Jesus, I was lucky’, both to say I saw him and that he didn’t shoot me. I look out into the street and I see this chap leading the plain-clothes Pro-Soviet gunmen, shooting down the street and presumably hitting somebody. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but obviously when I saw him on the TV that night, I found out that he was Albert Makashov.”
Interviewer: “You saw Albert Makashov?”
B&B: “Yeah, small world! Before everyone knew who he was, there was 19 year old Benjamin hiding in some puddle that was probably full of some Gopnik’s piss while the fate of the largest country in the world was blowing up just in front of me! It took another hour or two for me to get moving. I managed to sneak back into the hotel without anyone catching on, thank God. The reason actually was, when I came in, all the staff were watching the TV in disbelief. Turns out that just before I got back, they managed to take the TV station and show all the carnage that police and OMON had been dishing out to everybody. Makashov was there, [Alexander] Nevzorov was there, going on about how Yeltsin was a tyrant and slaughtering the Russian people. They had these horrific, unedited pictures of women that got absolutely blasted to bits by the snipers, even showing some of the protestors getting ran over by tanks. I’d just been out in it but thank God I didn’t go anywhere near the TV centre. That would have been far too bloody dangerous. That’s when I sort of realised what I’d gotten meself into.”
Interviewer: “What was the reaction from everyone at the time?”
B&B: “It was madness. I have no idea how much of the staff were on Yeltsin’s side before those scenes were being played on every TV from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, but afterwards? No, everyone in the hotel just looked absolutely disgusted. I knew then that this wasn’t going to end well for him, and unfortunately little did I know or anyone know that those horrors on the TV were going to look absolutely tame compared to what was about to come.
Extract from ‘The Unstoppable Tragedy: The Second Russian Civil War’ by Peter Hodges
The military had been noticeably quiet in the midst of the carnage in Moscow. That all changed on the night of October 3rd, just hours after the footage of the chaotic slaughter outside the Ostankino TV centre was being played on loop with no censorship. Yeltsin’s orders to block the signal, and even to bomb the station using the air force were ignored. Rutskoy, a former military man, soon found the military swinging to Parliament’s side and offering to remove Yeltsin. The mood in the White House (most certainly not the American one) was restored. The army had, of course, not sided out of some humanitarian concern over the protestors but in loaning themselves out like mercenaries to the highest bidder - after the footage of the bodies went out, Yeltsin’s stock had crashed to zero. The army now sided with the only group that could guarantee them something. As General Pavel Grachev drove a tank under a white flag to the Parliament to publicly proclaim the army’s loyalty to parliament, he pledged to fight the corruption that he practically defined. "All is well, all is well," he assured. As the army now publicly sided with Parliament, and the Pro-Yeltsin protestors vanished into the night, knowing it was now a lost cause, the writing was now thoroughly on the wall for the man who led Russia out of dictatorship.
As midnight struck, the rats began to flee the ship. Anatoly Chubais, considered the ‘mastermind’ behind the privatisations, sped off from the Kremlin in his car to the airport before Grachev had even finished speaking. Yegor Gaidar had left Moscow even before that in case something like this happened. Viktor Chernomyrdin, the official Prime Minister after having been Gazprom’s leader, was more muted but decided to fly beyond the Urals to friendlier ground. One by one, the cabinet left Yeltsin, until there was only one: Alexander Korzhakov, his old bodyguard. But even Korzhakov would go in the wee small hours of the morning, as Yeltsin sat alone, shattered but unmoving in his semi-inebriated state. As Korzhakov would write in his autobiography, “One curtain as another was pulled open, a tragic rise and fall, followed by what was simply a fall. Though I felt pity for the man before me, pity as he tried to relive 1991 all over again, I could not help but have more pity to the millions who had been let down by his corruption, his greed, his failure to live up to the hopes and dreams of millions of Russians. And if I’d known what all his failures would lead to, I would have stayed in the Presidential Office as it all came crumbling down, both to die before I saw what became of my country, and to gain the pleasure of watching him die.”
On the morning of October 4th 1993, tanks began to fire on the Kremlin, the intention of Rutskoy and the moderate members of Parliament had been simply to get Yeltsin to come out. However, while they insisted on a more moderate approach, Grachev told them that it wouldn't be necessary and that a few sharp blasts of the tank shells would make him come out. But Yeltsin would not come out, despite the repeated unbelievable scenes of shells slamming into the centre of what was the world’s co-equal premier superpower. It was then that smoke began to billow through the windows. Realising what was happening, a few panicked staff tried to return to the building to convince Yeltsin to come out and surrender, but were held back by soldiers assuming they were trying to aid him in some fashion. By the time the seriousness of the situation was realised, it was already much too late. While it is often alleged that Yeltsin was too inebriated or asleep at the time the fire consumed him, we can never know this for sure, though it did feature in various propaganda stories in the war to follow from many sides. But even if it was true that Yeltsin had perished in such a way, the utter tragedy of a man who risked his life to bring democracy to the Soviet Union, that let the Balts and Ukrainians find their independence, that brought the only form of political freedom that most Russians had ever known in their lives, albeit for a tragically brief moment, is more important than any sneers about what he didn’t do.
With the death of Boris Yeltsin died Russia’s last chance of becoming a normal democracy. Though many prayed that the violence would now finally relinquish, it was unimaginable how wrong they would be. Though there were so many stages and parties that's it’s almost impossible to say definitively when the war began, most historians are in general agreement: The moment the first tank’s shell slammed into the Kremlin, the Second Russian Civil War Era began.
Extract from ‘The Last Germans in Pushkingrad?’ on the Bald and Bankrupt Youtube Channel
Extract from ‘The Last Germans in Pushkingrad?’ on the Bald and Bankrupt Youtube Channel
B&B: “Hello and welcome to the city of … well, we’re going on a Soviet trip so for the next few hours how about we forget about lovely old Pushkingrad and focus on what this place used to be called. No, not Königsberg! I mean Kaliningrad! Named after the famous Soviet politician Mikhael Kalinin, and one of the ‘OG’ Bolsheviks. Taken from the Germans after the Second World War, the German inhabitants were expelled and Russian citizens moved in. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this piece of Russia was completely cut off from the Motherland. Which would, of course, be its saving grace in the years to come. And what does Pushkin have to do with this neck of the world? Nothing, he just wasn’t a Communist! Not that that was much of a trouble when he was alive - there was no Communism! But when the Decommunisation laws started coming in, they needed anyone they could get. A few people, mostly Americans, suggested ‘Yeltsingrad’, but even after the Civil War people still remembered how bad it was under Yeltsin, so they named it ‘Pushkingrad’, because if there’s one thing Russians love, it’s a bit of the ol’ Pushkin. Well, ‘Vodkagrad’ would have been too on the nose, wouldn’t it?”
B&B: “And behind me right now, this abandoned airfield behind the barbed wire and this bloody grass that rises halfway up to y’er neck, was where on the morning of October 4th 1993, Yegor Gaidar landed in a small plane from just outside Moscow. Unlike Yeltsin, who stayed to the bitter end, Gaidar grabbed what he could, flung it all into the back of the plane and the pilot took off. It was so heavy with everything he’d brought on that the plane was too heavy to take anyone else. So the plane took off, and many of his assistants were left behind … some of them didn’t survive what was to come.”
B&B: “How’s this for a cheeky monument? ‘The Three Briefcase Statue!’ Three briefcases, beside each other, all open like clams and about the size of a Lada! All of them have something coming out. On the left there’s the Chamomile flower, that’s the national flower. Then there’s a bear paw, coming out of the right side. That’s the national animal, obviously, then in the middle is the Two-headed Eagle, the ancient symbol of Russia that dates back all the way to Byzantium! So what on Earth kind of briefcases were going on ‘ere? Well, the story goes that on October 4th, the word was going round that Yeltsin was dead, everything was in a total uproar. No one knew what to do, but they knew that the Supreme Soviet had won in Moscow. Then in drives Gaidar, he calls in the head of the naval base, the garrison, the police to meet just outside the city hall here, and he says that there’s been a coup in Moscow and that with Yeltsin dead he was the highest ranking member of the Cabinet that hadn’t gone into hiding and that therefore he was, until they found someone else in the cabinet, the rightful successor to Yeltsin. Now, obviously, they all go ‘hang on a minute, they have Moscow, what have you got? Why shouldn’t we just arrest you and hand you back to the Supreme Soviet?’ And supposedly he had three guys come in, each with giant briefcases that they could barely carry and dropped them on the floor to show what was inside. And supposedly all three of the representatives just needed one look at the briefcases to want to listen to whatever Gaidar had to say. Gaidar then said, ‘Look, just help me get the Yanks on the phone - they’ll back me, they’ll say I’m the legitimate government and then ‘they’ won’t touch us, and you can keep the briefcases and maybe a bit more’. That’s all they needed, and so locals like to imagine a more wholesome idea of what was inside those three briefcases. But, come on, what do you think was in ‘em? Or rather, how much?”
Extract from ‘The Unstoppable Tragedy: The Second Russian Civil War’ by Peter Hodges
Yeltsin’s death had not been planned for, certainly not by Khasbulatov or Rutskoy, who had wanted at best a fair and open trial or perhaps an exile. Upon word that the Kremlin had burned with Yeltsin inside, total horror overtook the Parliamentary leaders, as they knew this would emphatically horrify the outer world and a good segment of Russia. Fortunately, most broadcasting facilities around the nation were in the hands of the military who were showing the bodies outside the Ostankino to depress Yeltsin’s support. However, Muscovites could see the damage in person, and were angry at seeing the beloved cultural monument desperately trying to be saved by firefighters that had been delayed due to the tanks and barricades blocking the roads. While the Yeltsinists had been routed only twelve hours before, now they were back, attacking the police, army and, in a great mistake to anyone who tried, Russian National Unity foot-soldiers. While everyone was furious with Grachev that his suggestion had led to Yeltsin’s death, he angrily protested that the decision was ultimately collective and consequently, given the dangerousness of the current situation, had to be blamed on someone lower down the food chain. Debate raged amongst the Parliamentarians as to how they would respond to the killing, with some arguing to announce it was intentional, and others, likely in the throws of confused madness, arguing to say that Yeltsin had actually started the fire as an act of ritual suicide. The situation was further complicated on news that Gaidar had fled to Kaliningrad, proclaiming to be the real Russian government and the Parliamentarians to be usurpers.
Needing to put their side of the story out to the world, Chairman Khasbulatov and President Rutskoy made a joint television address in the evening of October 4th, explaining the situation, while riots continued in Moscow and spread to St. Petersburg. Feeling the need to assure Western observers that the events did not constitute a return to the Soviet era, they decided to give a half-truth: that there was no intention in Yeltsin’s killing and that they never gave any order for the tanks to fire on the Kremlin, the crew that fired would be arrested to find out where the orders came from, and that on November 14th there would be fresh elections for both the Presidency and Parliament with the constitution to be decided by referendum, whose contents would be decided by those who won the election. If Gaidar was so confident that he was the official representative of the Russian people, he was invited to return and perform in the elections, or so the veiled accusation went. Worried about how an announcement of full nationwide martial law would look, Parliament decided against announcing it in favour of increased military presence in the major cities. They had also already made their ultimate and fatal mistake. In having gone on television to announce and commiserate Yeltsin’s death, they had still taken indirect responsibility for it. The Pro-Yeltsin population of Russia now saw the pair as opportunistic killers who seized power with violence, intentionally or not, with even the ones who had washed their hands of Yeltsin following the footage of the massacre outside the TV station also being disgusted at what happened. The belief in democracy across Russia crumbled, as the two sides that had spent months in the conflict had both discredited themselves in a single day.
Gaidar likewise made a speech from Kaliningrad that day that only a few people in Russia could access, mainly over the radio. He rallied the Yeltsinists within the country to the late-president’s posthumous side, saying, “He died for you, now what will you do for him? He continued, “Through the centuries and thunderstorms, there is and always was a Russia, unchanged and unchanging. Not the Tsars, the Stalins, the Rutskoys and Khasbulatovs; they come and go. They die and their graves will be coated in the spit of the people who outlived them. But the Russian nation, the Russian people, the Russian soul will outlast time itself!” This speech was enough to simultaneously win over sections of the West that he was a worthy candidate to support, as well as inspire Yeltsinists in Russia into not giving up (though few outside Yeltsin commanded much love from his Cabinet). To the horror of Rutskoy and Khasbulatov, their hopes of a speedy resolution to the crisis had gone up in smoke like the cars of Moscow and St. Petersburg that lined the barricades.
And this is exactly what others in the Anti-Yeltsin movement had wanted. Because General Grachev had not sided with Parliament at all. He had sided with the National Salvation Front.
Albert Makashov, who had assumed something of a First Among Equals leadership among the NSF, had been privately negotiating with Grachev and other generals to join the side of the parliamentarians, with Grachev finally agreeing once Ostankino had fallen. But the deal was not simply to side with Parliament, but with the interest of the NSF. Grachev was offered to return to his position of Defence Minister in an NSF government after they won the upcoming election, taking the role from Parliament’s Defence Minister, Vladislav Achalov. Elsewise there was a good chance the Parliamentarians would still seize power and leave Grachev out in the cold. In return for the guarantee of maintaining his role as Defence Minister, all he had to do was ‘spare the doomed President of the indignity of a humiliating public trial, and spare the country of the division it will cause’. Grachev, a friend of Yeltsin, was personally torn by such a demand, which slowly resolved itself as promises of confiscated wealth made the promise of defending Yeltsin’s legacy seem much more compelling. This is what convinced Grachev to suggest the ‘warning shots’ on a Kremlin that was potentially filled to the brim with loyalist guards, which was supported by Makashov. Grachev would also tell soldiers that they would not allow anyone to enter the Kremlin until Yeltsin surrendered, which, of course, was not the plan since Makashov had calculated Yeltsin that would throw himself in harm’s way like 1991 again, except this time he would not ‘play nice’ like the 1991 plotters. Unlike the democrats Khasbulatov and Rutskoy, the NSF wanted Yeltsin out of the scene, and not simply for vengeance’s sake. Many were supporters of the 1991 Coup and felt that the main problem had been the relative reluctance of the 1991 attempt to resort to extreme violence - if they were willing, the country wouldn’t have ended up in this situation. They had correctly gambled that Yeltsin’s death would be blamed on the face of the Parliament while they could bask in the glory of having taken the TV station and facing the injustice outside. In so doing, they had already discredited the Anti-Yeltsin Democrat opposition. In addition, they had ensured an outpouring of violence across Russia, but this had also been part of the plan. They had wanted the Pro-Yeltsin group to rise up chaotically and consequently get crushed before they could reorganize themselves. But they had also wanted to shock and mortify the electorate into believing that the country was on the brink of total collapse and consequently needed ‘strong’ leadership.
As hoped for by the NSF masterminds, the announcement did little to calm the violence in the streets from Yeltsin’s supporters, who still clashed with the police everywhere. The swiftness of new elections had been decided due to the sense of needing legitimacy after Yeltsin had died. The police were overwhelmed in day and night protests and riots as the army was kept in the barracks. The police began to arrest the Yeltsinist organizers, many with nothing to do with the protests, many on trumped charges to decapitate Yeltsin’s former support base. The police soon found they had powerful allies to tap into, the recently fully legalized paramilitary forces of the National Salvation Front. Unbelievable scenes of RNU troops and ‘Anti-Fascist’ militias ganging up on and stomping Yeltsin supporters began to trickle out of the country. Both forms of militia soon found themselves recruited by overstretched police to deal with the Pro-Yeltsin groups.
With rapid speed, the whole of Yeltsin’s cabinet either managed to flee to Kaliningrad (including Chernomyrdin) or faced jail (like Viktor Yerin). Despite Gaidar calling Gorbachov and telling him in simple terms, "Run, fool!" Gorbachov refused to leave out of a sense of solidarity with regular Russians. But of course, the most infamous case was perhaps the most deserved. After General Grachev had a meeting with Achalov at the Defence Ministry on October 7th to catch him up to speed with the status of the institution, he maintained high spirits, secretly knowing that he would be back in the same chair for New Year’s. As Grachev walked to his car in the parking lot, another car suddenly drove behind him. Two masked men fired through the windows with machine gun fire, leaving Grachev a half-liquified corpse on the ground. The car would speed off into a Moscow still stricken with riots, easily vanishing into the chaos of the Third Rome. Naturally, his death would be blamed on Pro-Yeltsin resistors, a fact the RNU gunmen in the car took great satisfaction in, even more than the fact they had killed a ‘scheming Yeltsinist’ that was trying to return to power, as they were told by [Alexander] Barkashov. Barkashov was, of course, working as the cat’s paw for the Makashov and the NSF, who still wanted Achalov in power and not a grubby friend of Yeltsin. It’s debated to this day the extent to which Achalov was even aware of the faux scheme to bring Grachev to power. But regardless, with Grachev dead before he could tell anyone of the NSF’s plans and the murder blamed on Yeltsin supporters, Makashov had been able to break Russian democracy without anything to tie it back to himself.
From October 4th until the end of the year - when the Civil War ratcheted up from a nationwide insurgency to a full military conflict - people were already being killed every day in political violence across Russia. On October 8th, after Grachev’s death, martial law with a curfew was finally declared. This was once more utilized by the NSF to now crush their opposition without having to abide by what the Supreme Court said. By the time of the next election, organized Pro-Yeltsin groups were practically extinct across the mainland. It would be a long time before anyone in mainland Russia would dare speak positively of Yeltsin again, assuming they survived what was to come.
Extract from ‘Averting Armageddon: The West in the Second Russian Civil War’, by Frank Wolfowitz
The announcement of Yeltsin’s death threw the entire Western geopolitical order into a tailspin. Generic statements about the necessity of negotiation and cooperation seemed ill-fitting when perhaps the most famous and loved Russian on Earth (outside of Russia) perished in a fire many suspected to be deliberate. Yeltsin had given a speech to a joint session of Congress in 1992 and had consequently enjoyed wide love among the American electorate. Now he had perished in an action most Americans (according to Gallup polls) saw as an assassination by Communists to reconstitute the USSR. For now, Yeltsin’s Cabinet had disgraced themselves by ‘running away and abandoning their leader’. A myth survived in the West for years to come, of the tragic hero of Yeltsin who enthusiastically tried to bring democracy to a spoilt, impatient Russian people who expected a Ferrari in their driveway in a few weeks, before the backstabbing politicians undermined him and allowed the truly dark forces of the past to return to power and consume them as well. Mercifully, this myth has slowly died as survivors of the conflict can tell their own stories, though in the relatively closed information space of the pre-internet era, Americans quite simply did not comprehend how bad the situation had already devolved in Russia before Yeltsin died. To them, Rutskoy and Khasbulatov were also part of the ‘Communazis’, which became the word of the year as broader awareness of the NSF crept into the Western public. And to that end, Gaidar’s ‘Taiwan Government’ was considered the ‘good guy’ in the situation who alone deserved full recognition.
But sheer political necessity dictated that since there was no route for any Pro-Yeltsin group to come to power in mainland Russia for the foreseeable future, the only choice was to lean into the now widely discredited Parliament and try not to ruin the chances of the moderates inside the parliamentarians. To that end, Clinton’s response was to mourn Yeltsin as a friend of America, forcefully condemn the violence while demanding accountability, insist that the Parliament held elections and to continue trying to diplomatically resolve the matter with ‘The Gaidar Administration’. Republicans condemned him for being soft on Yeltsin’s ‘Assassination’, which they correctly summarised was deliberate but not knowing who had done it and who didn’t. They argued that the parliamentarians should be considered illegitimate Communist usurpers and that only Gaidar should be considered the rightful representative of the Russian people. Regardless, to an America that only days ago thought the fear of MAD was behind them, to be plunged back into that purgatory almost immediately cut Clinton at the kneecaps politically. All talk of domestic affairs, ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’, now seemed a world away from what was the main focus of discussion across the country.
“Hillary,” he would ask, “how are we supposed to talk about healthcare when the Communazis have nukes?”
The only thing that it resolved in both the White House and Congress’s minds was that NATO expansion was simply a must. Poland was supremely lucky in that only three weeks before Yeltsin’s death, the last Russian troops left, while Hungary and the Czechs had likewise been free of troops for years. All Clinton had to do to convince the few Democrat holdouts of the need to expand NATO was to describe his phone call to President Wałęsa of Poland where the former Solidarity leader stated that if Poland could not enter NATO with all due haste that it might be forced to develop nuclear weapons. At the same time, they would not announce their support of NATO membership for the Visegrad states before the elections in Russia, as they didn’t want to be accused of needlessly inflaming the Russians just as the ballot boxes were sent out. At the same time there was much debate in the Administration about which nations to add into NATO. While the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians were locked in, there were discussions about Lithuania and Slovakia. Estonia and Latvia were considered impossible because Russian troops still stood on their soil, but Lithuania was lucky enough that all Russian troops had left its soil in August. However, as a Post-Soviet state, it was still considered a seriously risky move. Slovakia was also an issue as the Vladimír Mečiar government had moved in the direction of autocracy and connection to organized crime. Ultimately, it was decided to leave them out for now, but to strongly look at the case a few months from now and see.
Extract from ‘At Last, it Cannot get Worse: How Russia went Insane’ by Volodomyr Bodnar
The 1993 election was the first time the Legislature was voted on in Post-Communist times. The prior parliamentarians had mostly been the old Communist Party politicians who had sworn (often halfheartedly) of their change of stance. Russia would however, be denied a free election once more. Pro-Yeltsin groups were viciously suppressed due to claims they were ‘a threat to democracy', while even the Anti-Yeltsin democrats found themselves being attacked by Communist and Fascist groups and intimidated into silence. TV stations were threatened with arrest if they were to air political advertisements from unfavored parties. Many local administrators forbade both independent candidates and party candidates from standing due to fictitious inconsistencies in the application process. The Yabloko Party was simply forbidden wholesale due to its joint leader, Grigory Yavlinsky’s initial support of Yeltsin during the events of October 3rd. When he declared his arrest unconstitutional, he was told by the police that ‘that constitution won’t exist in a month’.
At the same time, the NSF ran a virulent, forceful campaign that made everyone listen. Vladimir Zhrinovsky, a firebrand nationalist that had recently gone into retirement, came back to endorse the NSF in hopes of a major cabinet post before ultimately winding up with an ‘advisor role’ to the Ministry of Culture, much to his later fury. Until then, Zhrinovsky would make stump speeches with self-described Stalinist Viktor Annapolis, whose Stalinist ‘Russian Communist Worker’s Party’ had joined the NSF alongside the ‘Communist Party of the Russian Federation’ under Genially Zyuganov that he’d gotten into many spats with, who themselves had to get along with the Right-Wing nationalist Russian All-People’s Union Party under relative moderate Sergey Baburin and the National Bolshevik Front under Eduard Limonov along with the Strasserists in the Orthodox Fundamentalist ‘Front of National Revolution’, that had to share bathwater with Alexander Nevzorov, who had his own Fascist paramilitary group in the ‘Nashis’ who were not to be confused with the Neo-Nazi Russian National Unity paramilitary under Alexander Barkashov. To call this bewildering was an understatement. Presiding over this rogue’s gallery was Albert Makashov, who was both Anti-Semitic and Stalinist enough to win over both the right and left of the coalition while having become famous as the leader of the Ostankino raid who broadcast the massacre to the shocked public, though he was more associated with the left. To say the coalition was unwieldy was evident, to say it was doomed was already obvious, though the scale of the implosion was beyond all worst nightmares. The NSF ticket for the elections had Makashov running to be Chairman in Khasbulatov’s place, with Rutskoy’s nationalism being sufficient to earn an endorsement for President by the coalition, in return for a promise to ‘understand the supremacy of Parliament’.
Khasbulatov came under particularly vicious attack from the NSF’s Right, who used his Chechen ancestry against him whenever they got the chance. “Khasbulatov,” said Eduard Limonov, “will listen not to the Russian people, but to Dudayev! What patriotic Russian among you, would ever kneel before a Black-arse [anti-Chechen slur] like him sitting in the seat of the Tsars?!” Though he was quickly cautioned against such rhetoric by the Left of the Party, many even in that camp were revolted at the idea of a Caucasian as head of ‘Orthodox civilisation’. Khasbulatov was completely unprepared for the ferocity and racial animus of the attacks, which gave perhaps the worst impression one could have given to the voters: weakness. A weak person, it was felt, could not save the country from the implosion that seemed already to be accelerating. Khasbulatov fell into depression as the campaign came to a conclusion, saying ‘I’ve saved Democracy from a buffoon only to hand it over to Demons.`
On November 14th, the polling stations across the nations were devoid of international observers, but the presence of Nevzorov’s Nashis in St.Petersburg, and Barkashov's RNU troops in Moscow were very noticeable for the average voter. The Pro-Democracy votes divided and outraged at each other due to Yeltsin’s death, crushed and leaderless after the crackdown, and often excluded from the ballot never stood a chance. With elements of the police’s help, the country’s democracy already existed in name only. The Supreme Court’s decisions were simply ignored in the interest of ‘the emergency’ and ‘the ongoing Yeltsinist insurrection’. Consequently, the results could hardly have come as a shock while maintaining the sheer thud of horror and revulsion that sounded across the planet. The National Salvation Front had won nearly 60% of the seats, with many of the smaller parties and independents agreeing (under much duress) that they would ‘cooperate’ with the NSF on all important matters.
The results would of course be denounced by the US as fraudulent, giving Clinton the political cover to call the Kaliningrad Provisional government the sole legitimate government and cut off all aid and finance to mainland Russia. Israel, Poland and Germany in particular, denounced the government for their Nazi ties, especially for Barkashov winning a seat under the coalition, alongside National Bolshevist Aleksandr Dugin who even then had grown infamous for his Himmleresque pseudo-realities. He had likewise won a seat after being convinced to stand for the organization by rightist members to get his voice heard directly in the government, an offer he agreed to after feeling 'The Weight of History' after the Kremlin shelling. More favourable endorsements came from Serbia (“Serbia stands hand in hand with our Orthodox Slavic brothers in defiance of Western Capitalist Hegemony!”), China (“We are encouraged that Russia has rejected its disastrous experimentation with the imported Western model.”), and David Duke (“This is the greatest news for the White man in all the Twentieth Century!”)
But undoubtedly the most chilling memory of the election night was Makashov’s victory speech.
Extract from Makashov’s Victory Speech, November 14th 1993
“My fellow Russians, today is the day that the fightback against the occupation of our country has finally begun. The occupation of thieves, aliens and invaders. We had our troops in Berlin, now we don’t even have troops in Grozny! Our borders stretched to the Carpathians and now they’ve collapsed back to Rostov! Our very voice made the world tremble, now it barely makes them laugh. Your wealth was stolen by Capitalists, your hopes were stolen by liberal politicians and your country was stolen by traitors. It is no crime to take back what is yours! To take back our wealth, our hopes, our country, is no sin! We will end the prostitution of our country! We will end the auction of our childrens’ futures to the Rootless Capitalists! We will end the humiliation of our people, our nation, our Russia! The Liberal Capitalist occupation of Russia is over!
Cheers from audience
“And Gaidar, and all the other rats that have fled to Kaliningrad and hide behind their Western masters for protection? Who whispered sweet nothings of democracy and refused any elections in Kaliningrad because you know they’d run you out of Kaliningrad at the end of a pitchfork? You and all the other traitors will face justice one day! You will face the parents who could not feed their children! Of the Russians who were abandoned beyond the border! The pensioners who fought in the Great Patriotic War and lost in your ‘reforms’ what little they had not lost in the war. The Russian people will never forgive, and will never forget!
“The results of this election will mean many weeping and gnashing of teeth in Washington, in London, in Berlin, and, we must not forget that most dear country, in Tel Aviv.
“Because a Jewish country that works for the Jewish people is perfectly acceptable, but a Russian country that works for the Russian people is an atrocity, of course! They only exist because of us, after we saved them from the Nazis, after we created Israel, and this is how they repay us? To have the Israeli ambassador compare the overthrow of the tyrant Yeltsin to the Nazi Kristallnacht? To have the Israeli President call on all Jews in Russia to leave? The Jews have had no greater friend than the Russian people, and Israel would be wise to remember that. I only wish they were as mad about the fact that our people were starving in the streets, as the fact we denounce their hypocricy! But of course, I’m no Anti-Semite! The ingratitude towards Russia is no quality specific to Israel. The Poles, Balts, Germans, who jeer us despite the fact we liberated them from Hitler, and to the Americans and English who let our sons die because they were too cowardly to send theirs. But, if there are any Jews or Poles or Balts in this country, or anyone else for that matter, who are offended when we say that we will put the ‘Russian people first’, and they do not think themselves in that number, then it would indeed be wise to leave this country. Because if you will have nothing to do with the Russian people, the Russian people will have nothing to do with you!
“We will be wealthy again! We will be strong again! We will be proud again! Russia will reclaim her destiny as the leader of the world, the saviour of civilisation! And to all those leaders of the world who sneer and mock us, I say this: We do not ask for your love because we do not want it, and we do not ask for your respect because you will give it involuntarily!
“And I swear, you will never hear that dirge again! That ‘national anthem’ of an occupied country, an anthem so ashamed of itself that it doesn’t even have lyrics! We will play the old anthem! ... Anthems! The ones we played when we put a man into space! The ones we played when we saved Moscow in 1941! When we saved Stalingrad in 1942! When we beat the Nazis in 1945! And 1956! And 1968! The anthems of a country that was loved! A country that was feared! A country that was stolen from us! Stolen by scum, and surrendered by cowards. But we’ll get our country back! We’ll get it all back! And when we do, and we return our lost lands back to the Russia that made them what they are, it will already have the anthems of her people to greet them back. The old anthems! The old flag! The old glory! Glory to Russia!”
Wild cheers, Baburin and Anpilov enter stage, shake hands with Mashkarov.
Extract from ABC Nightly News, November 14th 1993
Peter Jennings: “Those were the words that the incoming Chairman of the Russian Parliament gave earlier today. These comments were, to say the least, deeply concerning to Western observers. We have Sam Donaldson at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow now. Sam, as we can see, a worrisome situation.”
Sam Donaldson: “Hello Peter, yes, we’ve been talking to dozens of people here in this airport. People were selling jewellery, clothes, anything to get a plane ticket out of the country. It’s no surprise that a large number of those people are Jewish. When we asked one elderly gentleman if he was flying one way, he said ‘yes’ and when asked why he just showed us the tattoo on his wrist and walked away. Israel has announced that it is massively stepping up flights to Russia to try and deal with the now overwhelming demand of the Jewish population to leave. The number of Jews moving to Israel from the Post Soviet Union was already enormous but these recent developments are going to seriously call into question Israel’s ability to deal with this influx. They are obviously worried, as are all Western leaders, about some of the extreme Anti-Semitism that Makashov and others in the National Salvation Front have expressed including the election of Alexander Barkashov who is widely seen as a Neo-Nazi."
Peter Jennings: “Sam, these people trying to flee the country, Jews evidently make up a substantial proportion but what are some of the other groups?”
Sam Donaldson: “Yes, we don’t want anyone to think that this exodus of people is an entirely Jewish phenomenon. A lot of ethnic minorities, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, they’re all really scared of some of the rhetoric that members of the NSF have said about people from the Caucasus region. And of course we can’t forget the average Russian citizen, Peter, many of whom are really scared that this is going to turn the country back into a concentration camp and want to get out while they still can. Many are flying, driving or sailing to the Kaliningrad region that’s become sort of what Taiwan was to the Chinese Nationalists when they fled the Communists back in 1949, an isolated fortress beyond the reach of a Communistic dictatorship. The train service to Kaliningrad was cut almost immediately after those horrible scenes in Moscow we saw last month but they’re finding any other way they can. Kaliningrad has been seeing terrible street violence between NSF demonstrators and the police that remain loyal to Yeltsin’s former government, so the fact that so many Russians are desperate to flee there gives you an indication of how worried people are here. I was told by one person at the airport that they'd told their family in St. Petersburg to cross into Finland by any means necessary. Another came to me and said, tears in their eyes, 'I can't believe it's gotten to the stage I have to tell my country 'Goodbye, forever.'”
Peter Jennings: “Thank you, Sam. We’re still getting word in from how various countries have addressed General Makashov’s speech. President Wałęsa of Poland saying ‘We have nothing to be grateful for to the godless country that occupied and enslaved us’. In Latvia, Valdis Birkavs, who was recently elected as the new Prime Minister has said that all Russian troops must uphold their agreements to leave Latvia and Estonia as soon as possible or it will end in a quote ‘with Russia’s name soiled for the next millennium’. Leonid Kravchuk, the President of Ukraine, said that ‘While we hope to have the best possible cooperation with our most brotherly nation in matters from trade to the Black Sea Fleet, Mr Makashov is mistaken. Ukraine is a legitimate, independent country and it will remain so’. In Tatarstan, one of the regions discussing breaking away from Russia, President Mintimer Shaimiev called the speech ‘Deeply concerning for the ongoing negotiations of Tatarstan’s autonomy’. Lastly comes perhaps the most curt, coming from Chechnya, the breakaway state in the Caucasus. Coming from President Dzhokhar Dudayev, he sent out a simple, one-line reply saying, ‘If the ‘Rashist’ regime wants to rob the Chechen people of their freedom, they are welcome to try and take it’.”