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In Review : THE YEAR GONE BY : A bloody showdown ended a rebellion by lawmakers in Russia; Israel and the PLO signed a historic framework for peace; South Africa officially abolished apartheid, and the Balkans remained convulsed by civil war. . . .

January 04, 1994|Compiled from Times staff and wire reports by CRAIG FISHER


Upheaval in Russia: The birth pangs of Russian democracy were accompanied by bloodshed in 1993. In December, the nation held its first multi-party elections since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. But two months earlier, Moscow witnessed the fiercest unrest it had seen since the revolution.

The conflict at the heart of the year's events was between President Boris N. Yeltsin's camp and hard-line members of the Soviet-era Parliament opposed to his economic reforms. Their animosity was so great that in December, 1992, Yeltsin had called for a national referendum in the spring to decide whether he or the lawmakers should be forced to resign. He backed away from that proposal in February--urging "a year of moratorium on all political fistfighting"--but then he dropped a bombshell in March. In a nationally televised address, Yeltsin declared that he was assuming temporary power to rule by decree. He also announced an April 25 referendum asking voters to endorse both his leadership and a law to elect a new Parliament.

In the event, Yeltsin's arrogation of power was ruled unconstitutional and he backed off yet again, narrowly avoiding impeachment. Then, in April, voters did indeed turn out to express their support for both him and his pro-market economic policies. However, although turnout was higher than expected at more than 60%, it was nowhere near enough to allow for the possibility of a vote forcing renewal of Parliament.

On May Day, the discord in the air crystallized in Moscow, where Communists marching on labor's traditional holiday clashed with police in a prolonged melee of flying bricks and swinging truncheons that left more than 200 people injured. But it was in September that all hell broke loose. As Parliament continued to resist his reforms, Yeltsin ordered it dissolved and called new parliamentary elections. In response, the deputies named Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi acting president and impeached Yeltsin, and many of them barricaded themselves inside the White House--the legislative headquarters. There they remained for nearly two weeks, until, in early October, their armed supporters attacked the Moscow mayor's office and the state television broadcasting center. That prompted Yeltsin to call in the army on Oct. 4 to shell the White House with tanks, crushing the rebellion. At least 140 people are thought to have died in the fighting.

In November, Yeltsin outlined a draft constitution strengthening presidential power to be put to voters electing a new Parliament on Dec. 12. And the document did win their approval. The bad news was the startling support--roughly a quarter of the vote--that the misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party drew in the election. The party's leader, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, is a defiant ultranationalist widely characterized as a fascist and an anti-Semite.

Concession in Ukraine: After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gave its battlefield nuclear weapons back to Russia. But it retained a 1,800-warhead nuclear arsenal that it has refused to return--although its Rada, or Parliament, ratified the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaty in October. Part of the problem has been the issue of compensation: When the Rada approved the START treaty, it appended 13 separate conditions demanding up to $2.8 billion--a figure the West has rejected as too high. Under increased pressure from Washington and Moscow, however, the nation disclosed in December that it is dismantling some of the most sophisticated weapons in that arsenal--20 of 46 Soviet-made SS-24 missiles. U.S. arms-control experts said the decision was significant because the missiles are so potent and because the step--ordered by President Leonid Kravchuk--came over the objections of some Ukrainian military officers and members of Parliament. Nevertheless, analysts noted that the action still leaves Ukraine with 26 SS-24s carrying a total of 260 nuclear warheads. That's more than either Britain or France.


Peace Prospects in Israel: A handshake. That was the defining image as on Sept. 13, on the South Lawn of the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat--urged on by President Clinton--reached out to each other to acknowledge a precedent-shattering peace agreement. The so-called Declaration of Principles had been worked out by Israeli officials in clandestine meetings over the preceding eight months with PLO representatives in Cairo and some European capitals--notably Oslo, where Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst was instrumental in helping the two sides bridge their differences. The accords laid the groundwork for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, to be followed by the transfer of administration of those areas to an elected Palestinian government.

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