October 8, 1993. Moscow
We have received many inquiries about the events in Moscow from September 21 to October 7. We have not had an opportunity to write a formal long letter about these events and thus we send you a brief review.
According to our constitution, if the president decides to dismiss parliament, he automatically loses his position and is no longer president. Furthermore, according to the constitution, the vice-president, in fulfilling his responsibility, becomes president. This procedure was carried out by parliament during the evening of September 21 after Yeltsin's television speech in which he told about his decision to dismiss parliament.
Parliament's actions were upheld by the Constitutional Court, and a majority of Russian local authorities supported them as well. Despite the cold weather and the mass media disinformation campaign (an oppositional TV program and some newspapers were closed), thousands of people gathered outside of the parliament building (White House) for several days in support of parliament.
But on September 28, the parliamentary building was blockaded by police forces who were carrying out Yeltsin's decree. These forces used barbed wire and armoured cars to surround the building during the blockade. The people in the White House were without hot water, electricity and telephone communication the entire time. In addition, they did not have access to new food supplies or medicine.
The disagreement between parliament and Yeltsin did not necessitate new elections. Parliament wanted new elections to be held in March 1994 while Yeltsin called for them to be held in December. Parliamentary leaders thought that free elections could not be organised in such a short time period as Yeltsin was proposing. In addition, the electoral decree of Yeltsin was not very democratic since a large numbers of organisations would not have the opportunity to put forward their list of candidates in the elections.
The position of parliament was supported by many democratic parties such as the Christian Democrats, the Constitutional Democratic Party, the Social-Democratic Centre and others. Thus, the Communists were only one part of parliament's supporters.
From September 28 to October 3, crowds of people tried to break the blockade of the White House but police beat them back using unnecessary violence. Many thousands of parliamentary supporters organised a demonstration on October 3 during which there were a few clashes with the police that aroused the people to anger. Later some leaders of Yeltsin's team said that they understood that there was the possibility that blood could be shed as a result of their actions.
But Yeltsin had only one opportunity to use military forces against parliament: to provoke the people to attack the police. After police forces began to shoot, the crowd of people attacked back. Rutskoi and Khasbulatov are to blame for not stopping the crowd. They conducted themselves as in August 1991, when they were fighting against the communist coup. Their isolation in the White House distorted their thinking and they acted as if they were living in their own world.
After parliamentary supporters capitulated due to tank fire, President Yeltsin continued his "constitutional creativity": he dismissed the Constitutional Court, the Moscow Council (and he asked other councils to dismiss themselves), Moscow district councils; and military censorship was put into effect for those newspapers that had not been closed. After three days of censorship, one of Yeltsin's ministers said that there would be no more war censorship but there was the possibility that other newspapers could be closed as a result of stories they published.
A few Moscow deputies and trade union activists, who were not involved in the shooting of October 3 and 4, were arrested and beaten by police. Civil supporters of Yeltsin, acting as vigilantes, also took part in the arrests. These deputies were later freed, still showing bruises, and the police filed reports that the deputies had beaten themselves. The president's administration changed their electoral decrees often in order to support their own nominees. All these events were supported by the media campaign claiming that the parliamentary supporters were communists and fascists.
The Russian Green Party and the Socio-Ecological Union did not take part in these events because of our principles of non-violence. But we see that in our country authoritarianism is gaining strength. This regime does not work according to law, and we are concerned that in the near future this practice will grow in all spheres, including the ecological movement. Currently, our opponents in court cases hold political power, such as the Mayor of Moscow Lushkov, and we can see that there is no counterbalance to them following these events.
A. Shubin, co-chair, Russian Green Party
S. Zabelin, chair of the Council of the Socio-Ecological Union