VIENNA – After the collapse of communism, many in both the post-Soviet states and the former Soviet bloc called for lustration, the exclusion from government activities of all those who had served in senior positions of the Communist Party or the security agencies of the old regime.
But with rare exceptions – the Czech Republic being the most prominent – few of the new regimes were willing to go along. On the one hand, many of the officials in them would have been excluded by any conceivable lustration regime. And on the other, both they and Western governments believed that any lustration would be “destabilizing.”
Now, the spectre of lustration has reemerged in the Russian Federation – and just as was the case 15 years ago, its advocates believe that removing those connected with authoritarian institutions is a precondition for democracy, and its opponents are convinced that such steps would be threaten the stability of the country.
The latest call for lustration appears in programmatic documents of the “Other Russia,” a collection of opposition leaders who believe their country will become a democracy only if it excludes from political life not just former communists and KGB officers but also members of United Russia and other pro-Kremlin parties.
The authors of the “Other Russia” document argue that in Russia since 1991 “a completely distinctive class of party-economic bureaucrats numbering no fewer than a million who implement the decisions of the Kremlin-oligarchic hierarchy” has emerged and must be destroyed for democracy to flourish.
Among the members of this class, journalist Aleksandr Kraychek writes, yesterday, are those in “pseudo-party bureaucratic structures” like United Russia. The psychology of those in these groups is “hopelessly depraved and directed exclusively at personal enrichment” (http://utro.ru/articles/2006/0....
Because of that, this document says, there must be “a mass purge of the administrative-economic apparatus both at the center and in the localities” if Russia is to have the chance to create conditions for the effective democratic transformation of the country.
Among those who must go, the document specifies, are “all those who have been in the CPSU, United Russia, the Party of Life, Rodina and in a number of other such pseudo-party structures.” The number of officials who fall into these categories, Kraychek suggests, would be more than two million.
Because the number of CPSU apparatchiks still in positions of power is relatively few, he continues, the animus of the document is clearly directed less at them than at post-Soviet, pro Kremlin political parties.
And that in turn, Kraychek continues, inevitably raises the same question that was raised about lustration 15 years ago: is this about sanitizing the political system or is it part of the struggle for power? While writing that this question remains “open” in the current case, the Utro.ru journalist leaves little doubt where he stands.
To make his case that this document is enmeshed in the political struggle, Kraychek quotes it at length: “After the forces of the united democratic opposition acquire full power in Russia, the country must cleanse itself” from those who seek to restore Soviet-style totalitarianism or extend post-Soviet authoritarianism.”
“In the first instance, this involves the nomenklatura party United Russia,” an organization, the document suggests, that must be prohibited and dissolved, “its anti-constitutional activity investigated by parliament, and the “criminal actions of its leaders and functionaries evaluated in terms of the law.”
Those members of United Russia who do not leave its ranks voluntarily before the end of President Vladimir Putin’s term will be subject to lustration. They will not have the right to occupy any positions in the central, regional or municipal administrations, including elected ones, for ten years.”
Such a proposal is unlikely to be accepted -- and for many of the same reasons domestic and foreign that it was not applied 15 years ago -- but the spectre of lustration nonetheless may play an important role over the next year: striking fear in the party of power and making its members unwilling to tolerate any real change in 2008.
The spectre of lustration again haunts Russian politics (1)