Ninety-five years ago, in the early morning of January 19, 1918, the armed guards of the Tauride Palace, acting on the orders of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, interrupted the session of the Russian Constituent Assembly, says Vladimir Kara-Murza. The illegitimacy of the Bolshevik usurpation of power still lies at the heart of Russia’s political system.
Ninety-five years without a legitimate government would be an ordeal for any state. In Russia, this era has brought a civil war, famine, terror, mass purges, and coups d’etat.
“Almost one hundred years – the lives of several generations – have passed in our country on the basis of a complete break with the law,” wrote Grigory Yavlinsky in his seminal article Lies and Legitimacy:
The present-day political system in Russia historically dates back to the tragic events of 1917-1920 – the coup d’etat, the seizure of power by a group of criminal elements, and a bloody civil war. It is the refusal to recognize this fact, and the attempt to build an ostensibly post-Soviet Russia based on a sense of continuity with, and absorption of the lies of, the previous 75 years, that preclude any movement forward and the raising of public consciousness.”
In Yavlinsky’s view, it is impossible to build a functioning state or a competitive economy without restoring legitimacy. The prominent economist and politician holds that it is necessary to raise the question of “restoring the Russian statehood that was destroyed by the 1917 coup d’etat and the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly on January , 1918, as the legal point of reference.” The means for such restoration can be found in the convocation of a new Constituent Assembly – for example, in the form of the Constitutional Assembly that is provided for by Russia’s Fundamental Law.
Escape from this vicious circle is possible only by restoring the legal foundation of Russian statehood; by drawing the succession not from the usurpers of October, but from the democratic Russia of the February revolution. It is evident that this will only be possible once the current regime is removed from power.
This brief extract is taken from a longer article published by the Institute of Modern Russia.