The development of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, 1993 - 2008

Swain, Alison (2010) The development of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, 1993 - 2008. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis considers the development of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), from its foundation in 1993 to the Presidential election of 2008. The study begins with a discussion of the context of change for the CPRF in the post-Soviet world from the perspective of political transitions of other communist parties and their development in the post-Soviet world. The final years of the party’s predecessor, and that predecessor’s collapse contribute a sense of perspective to the party’s development and this is followed by a consideration of the need for ideological change in order to transform the party, the electorate’s support for the CPRF in recent parliamentary elections and the political views of members of a branch of the party with particular emphasis on the opinions of younger members: those who may be guiding the party’s development in the future.
How does the transformation of the CPRF compare with that of other communist parties in the region? Organisational change, including the inheritance of political control and resources by former communist parties in some countries where they were in power, has greatly aided some parties in their return to government while the lack of such advantages has hindered others. The ban on the party in Russia adversely affected the unification of communists in Russia from 1991 to 1993 while the CPRF’s counterparts in other countries faced no such difficulties. The electoral successes of other communist and former-communist parties serve to highlight the increased problems the CPRF faces after the splits the party has undergone in recent years. Ideological change across the post-communist world has been very varied in terms of moves towards social democracy, towards nationalism or the retention of a more orthodox communism depending on the local circumstances in individual countries.
How has the legacy of the CPSU influenced the formation and development of the successor party? The origins of the CPRF can be seen in the divisions that formed in the CPSU in its final years. The scale of ideological change in the final years of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union can be seen in the radical differences between the 1986 Party Programme and 1991 draft Programme. Documents from the era reveal a failure to understand the depth of the reaction against communism in Eastern Europe and what it could mean for the Soviet Union as well as concern about the effects of glasnost’ on support for the regime and the thinking behind attempts to use electoral change to increase the party’s legitimacy. These changes did not have the anticipated effect for the CPSU and resulted in the loss of party control over those elected and over electors with the formation of platforms in the CPSU and parties outside the CPSU leading the way to the demise of the party.
When the ideology a party represents appears to have been comprehensively rejected, how does that party reposition itself in the political landscape in order to survive? With the election of a new leader prepared to lead the party in a new direction, the CPRF has recast itself as a nationalist party that sees communism as a Russian tradition. Zyuganov’s repositioning of the party has been characterised by the acceptance of democracy, which has arguably kept the CPRF in the public eye as the party has been represented in every Duma since 1993, and the search for means of uniting various political groups under a broad ‘patriotic’ banner in order to return the party to power at the head of a coalition. Zyuganov’s reworking of communist theory includes a heavy reliance on geopolitics to argue for the re-establishment of the Soviet Union and support for the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian culture as cornerstones of the patriotic cause.
Which members of the Russian electorate now define themselves as communist? The party’s relationship with the electorate is examined through the results of public opinion surveys conducted just after the 1999 and 2003 Duma elections to see what views communist voters hold in common and whether it is possible to determine what political opinions can be said to predict a vote for the CPRF. A CPRF supporter could be predicted to be older and with more strongly held political views than the average Russian citizen. As many previous studies have found, age is clearly one of the most significant factors in predicting support for the CPRF but this factor is outweighed in these surveys by party identification and ideological conviction. If a voter identified with a political party and an ideology, there was a greater probability that that voter supported the CPRF than any other political party.
Are members of the party able and willing to defend the change in direction of the party leadership? Interviews with members of the St Petersburg branch of the CPRF indicated that members were willing to accept the nationalist stance of the party as a temporary necessity to extend electoral support for the party. In view of the fact that party membership has fallen drastically in recent years, members were asked what was drawing them to join the CPRF or remain in the party when others had left. With an ageing and falling membership, the Komsomol is playing an important role by recruiting young people to the party. Members were asked for their views on the possibility of the party changing course and their attitudes to Zyuganov’s leadership. However, with support for the party from the electorate in decline, party members were divided about what they felt needed to change.
This thesis concludes that the party remains popular with a minority of voters who were impoverished by the transition and that the current strategies of democratic participation and a nationalist stance have been accepted by the membership as the achievement of communism is seen as a very distant prospect. The party, however, still believes that communism is inevitable.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Party politics, communism, Russia, Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: White, Prof. Stephen
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Ms Alison Swain
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1839
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:47

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