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Russian Federation


Or Russia; Country in N Asia and E Europe, bounded N by the Arctic Ocean; E by the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk; W by Norway, Finland, the Baltic States, Belarus, and Ukraine; and S by China, Mongolia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.
The 1993 constitution is modeled on that of France, increasing presidential authority at the expense of the legislature and enhancing the center's authority over Russia's 22 republics and 68 regions. There is a two-tier legislature, the Federal Assembly, comprising the Council of the Federation (upper house), with 176 members (two from each of the regions and republics), and the State Duma (lower house), with 225 seats elected by proportional representation (parties must receive at least 5% of the total votes cast to secure any representation) and 225 seats elected by simple-majority voting in single-member constituencies. The president is directly elected and has the authority to nominate and dismiss the prime minister and to veto laws, although the veto may be overturned by two-thirds majorities in both houses. The State Duma has the right to reject two presidential nominees for the post of prime minister (it can be dissolved by the president if it rejects a third) and can impeach the president.
history For pre-1990 history see Russia, history and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Russian Federation declared its economic and political sovereignty June 1990 and began to challenge Soviet authority.
The republic held back revenue from the center, embarked on a strategy of market reform, and established its own independent security and communications structures.
Commonwealth of Independent States formed
After the defeat of the coup attempt against Soviet president Gorbachev Aug 1991, the Russian Federation, led by Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first ever popularly elected leader, moved swiftly to break the political-institutional structures that had held together the USSR, in particular the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Russia sought to maintain some sort of confederal structure in order that economic ties might continue and territorial disputes be avoided, but was wary of Gorbachev's plan for a reorganized federation. Instead, after Ukraine's independence referendum on 1 Dec 1991, Russia proposed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The US officially acknowledged Russia's independence in the same month and accorded it diplomatic recognition, as did the European Community (now the European Union), and admission to the United Nations was granted.
the newly independent republic
The Russian Federation contains almost half the population of the former USSR and around 70% of its agricultural and industrial output.
It is a vast federation, spanning 11 time zones, stretching 3,000 km/2,000 mi from the Arctic Ocean to China and containing 22 “autonomous republics”, five “autonomous regions”, and ten “autonomous districts”, each catering to a distinct non-Russian ethnic group, including Tatars, Chechens, Chuvash, Dagestanis, Buryats, Yakuts, Kalmyks, and Chuchi, and each with its own parliament and laws. After 1990 many of these made sovereignty or independence declarations, most conspicuously the oil-rich and predominantly Muslim Tataria (Tatarstan), where Russia’s largest ethnic minority resides, gas-rich Bashkir, Siberian Yakutia, and Checheno-Ingush in the SW, which made integration into the new federation difficult despite Russia’s pledge to concede considerable autonomy. The Russian Federation also faced the threat of territorial claims and border conflicts with neighboring republics.
The new Russian Federation, despite the weakness of its economy, remained a “great power”. It inherited much of the former USSR’s strategic and diplomatic assets, including a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (taken up 1992), embassies overseas, and a considerable conventional and nuclear military arsenal.
Despite growing internal frictions, a federal treaty between Yeltsin and the leaders of 18 of Russia's 20 main political subdivisions was signed March 1992 giving regional governments broad autonomy within a loose Russian Federation. Checheno-Ingush and Tatarstan refused to sign.
economic problems
Russia's immediate concern was the rapid deterioration in living standards and shortages of food and consumer goods as a result of loosening price restraints and the restructuring of commerce, the military sector, and industry. In Jan 1992 nearly a dozen cities were rocked by rioting consumers protesting over the lifting of price controls. International efforts to stabilize the economy included a $2.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Aug and the offer Sept 1992 of more than $1 billion in food aid from the US. During 1992, 46,815 small firms, mostly shops, were privatized. The country remained bedevilled by hyper-inflation (prices rising by 2000% during 1992) and declining output. A new IMF loan of $13 billion was negotiated April 1993, dependent on the implementation of market reforms.
arms control
In the first official Russian-American summit June 1992, Yeltsin and Bush agreed on a major reduction in strategic nuclear weapons. The pact would leave the two powers with less than one-half of the warheads they would have retained under the 1991 START agreement. In Aug 1992 an agreement was reached for joint control of the disputed Black Sea fleet by Russia and the Ukraine until 1995, after which time it would be divided between the two countries. The pact effectively removed the fleet from the command of the CIS. In Dec 1992, Yeltsin and Bush signed the START II arms-reduction treaty.
Congress of People’s Deputies–Yeltsin power struggle
In Dec 1992 the seventh session of the Congress of People’s Deputies elected the conservative, former industrial manager, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to replace the young market reformer, Yegor Gaidar, as prime minister. The Congress met for its eighth session March 1993 and attempted to limit President Yeltsin’s powers to rule by decree and to cancel a constitutional referendum due to be held on 25 April. President Yeltsin struck back by declaring temporary presidential “special rule” and the referendum was held as planned. The results showed that, by a small majority, the Russian people supported President Yeltsin and approved the continuation of his economic reforms and the proposed new constitution.
anti-Yeltsin coup thwarted
In Oct 1993 an insurrection against President Yeltsin led by Alexander Rutskoi, the “pretender president”, and Ruslan Khasbulatov, the chairman of the former Russian parliament, was crushed by the Russian army, claiming at least 118 lives. The crisis started 21 Sept when, faced with continuing opposition to his reforms within the conservative-dominated Congress, Yeltsin dissolved parliament and announced that he would rule by decree until fresh assembly elections in Dec. Congress responded by voting to impeach him and electing Vice President Rutskoi in his place. (Rutskoi had earlier been dismissed by Yeltsin but parliament had voted against the dismissal.) A siege of the parliament building ensued and on 4 Oct troops loyal to Yeltsin stormed the building. Rutskoi and Khasbulatov were imprisoned.
far-right gains
In Dec 1993 elections to a new bicameral state legislature, the Federal Assembly, produced an inconclusive result, but the extremist Liberal Democratic Party, which was reported to have widespread backing among the military, captured the largest single share of the vote (23%).
A new constitution, increasing the powers of the president and strengthening central government authority, was narrowly approved in a referendum later in the month. Following the far-right electoral gains, Yeltsin was obliged to compromise on the pace of his reforms and several prominent reformers quit the cabinet during early 1994, including former premier Yegor Gaidar. In Feb 1994 an amnesty was granted to the leaders of both the 1991 and 1993 abortive coups, despite opposition from the president.
civil war in Chechnya
Russia’s invasion of the breakaway republic of Chechnya (formerly part of Checheno-Ingush) Dec 1994 threatened to create another “Afghanistan situation”. Indiscriminate bombing of the republic’s capital, Grozny, in the face of fierce Chechen resistance resulted in high numbers of casualties, many of them civilian, and as reports of low troop morale and lack of a unified command filtered back from the front, criticism of Russia’s conduct of the war mounted, both at home and abroad.
In 1994 Russia reached an economic accord with the European Union (formerly the European Community) and signed a “partnership for peace” agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which resulted in it participating in NATO exercises. In Aug 1994 the last Russian troops were withdrawn from eastern Germany and the Baltic states, but peacekeeping forces were stationed in the Caucasus region and Tajikistan.

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