Viktor Sheinis and YABLOKO Party

Michaleva G.M.


Viktor Sheinis demonstrated political activity at different stages of his life: he protested against the deployment of Soviet troops to Hungary in 1956; he assisted in electing Andrei Sakharov to the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR at the Academy of Sciences; as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of Russia, he played an important role in drafting the Constitution; he played an important role in the creation and operation of the YABLOKO party since its start as a bloc and then an association. Throughout YABLOKO's existence, he opposed Grigory Yavlinsky by championing the idea of uniting democrats and defending those members whose views differed from the majority position in the party. Sheinis was a respected man in the party and contributed much to it.

Viktor Sheinis is one of the founders of the YABLOKO party, a member of the State Duma of the first and second convocations, an invariable member of the party's governing bodies and a delegate to its congresses. Most recently, he was a member of the Federal Political Committee (FPC), the body responsible for developing the party's strategy and approving candidates for top priority elections: presidential, mayoral and legislative elections in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Grigory Yavlinsky is the chairman of the FPC).

This, however, describes only the end of Victor Sheinis' political biography, which began much earlier. Its first phase dates back to the 1950s. According to his own recollections [21], he was reprimanded twice by the Komsomol during his university days for having an opinion that was different from everyone else's. This phase peaked when Viktor Sheinis wrote and distributed the text "The Truth about Hungary" to a small circle of friends after the Soviet troops entered Hungary and suppressed the democratic revolution there in 1956. He was expelled from postgraduate school and the Komsomol, spending the following 6 years as a turner at the Kirov (Putilov) plant. The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which exposed the "cult of personality" of Stalin, was an important prompt for Sheinis to rethink the situation.

In the intervening period Viktor Sheinis was engaged in science — first in Leningrad, then in Moscow. He defended his Candidate's and then Doctoral theses, and worked at the Academy of Sciences.

The second phase of his political activism came during perestroika. Like many scholars, he took an active part in discussions and became a member of the Democratic Perestroika and Open Tribune discussion clubs. In the first semi-democratic elections of 1989, he was a member of the initiative group "For Democratic Elections" of the USSR Academy of Sciences. After some dramatic events, this group overcame the resistance of the leadership and managed to nominate Academician Andrei Sakharov as a candidate to the People's Deputies of the USSR under the quota of the Academy of Sciences. The nomination was handled by the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which ignored the opinion of employees of dozens of academic institutions. The expanded Presidium was unable to elect a sufficient number of deputies, and a repeat election had to be held, at which Sakharov was nominated and elected. The initiative group formalized itself as the Voters' Club of the Academy of Sciences, and later joined the YABLOKO bloc [8].

At that time Sheinis was also involved in the campaign for the release of arrested members of the "Karabakh" committee (1988–1989).

The third phase of his political activity is his position as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. In 1990, he was elected People's Deputy for the Sevastopolsky constituency No. 47 in Moscow. In December 1991, Sheinis, already a member of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, supported the ratification of the Belovezha Accords on the termination of the existence of the USSR. He himself said that he did not support the denunciation clause of the 1922 treaty. In his view, it was a good thing that everything happened in a relatively calm way, unlike in Yugoslavia [34].

Even in the present time, he said that "if Gorbachev and the democrats had formed a bloc, the disaster that occurred at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries would have been avoided" [34].

In the Supreme Soviet he was a member of the United Faction of Social Democrats and Republicans, which was formed in May 1990 under the name "Democratic Platform". Following a series of splits and consolidations, the Democratic Platform served as a foundation for the "Consent for Progress" faction, which was created at the VII Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian Federation (December 1992) and included over 50 deputies. The most prominent members of the faction included Yuri Nesterov, Vladimir Lysenko, Yevgeny Kozhokin, Sergei Kovalev, Vladimir Lukin and others. This faction was generally supportive of Boris Yeltsin's policy, but was against the escalation of confrontation between the president and the Congress of People's Deputies, and even more so against the unconstitutional dissolution of parliament [9: 95]. In August 1993, the faction held a seminar called "Democratic organizations on the threshold of elections". The seminar was attended by Yuri Boldyrev and Grigory Yavlinsky, and Vladimir Lukin, who served as ambassador to the United States at the time, presented a report. By Viktor Sheinis's own account, it was "a kind of political parade of the moderate, reformist wing of Russian democracy" [31: Vol. 2, 453] Most of the participants later joined the Yavlinsky—Boldyrev—Lukin bloc.

Viktor Sheinis worked in the Constitutional Commission of the Congress and was a member of its operating structure — the Working Group that included 31 people, mostly experts [24: 45]. Sheinis became one of the coordinators of the direction entitled "Electoral system, higher bodies of state power and local self-government" along with Valery Zorkin and L. Volkov [24: 46]. He served as deputy executive secretary of the Constitutional Commission [24: 119]. Due to the unwillingness of the deputies to discuss the draft Constitution a presidential Constitutional Meeting was convened [24: 206], where Sheinis became part of a group of representatives of parties, trade unions, religious confessions and public organizations [24: 215]. He participated in the drafting of the Constitution and the merging of the presidential draft and the draft of the Constitutional Commission [31: Vol. 1, 372–381]. In October 1993, after the constitutional coup, three groups out of five of the Constitutional Conference were united and transformed into the Public Chamber, which was then headed by Anatoly Sobchak and Viktor Sheinis [24: 270]. The result was the fourth draft of the Constitution, which was submitted to a referendum (parliamentary first, presidential second, and combined third), which was characterized by cementing the President's position at the expense of the parliament [31: Vol. 2, 462].

The fourth phase of Sheinis's political activity, which lasted for almost thirty years, centered on YABLOKO — first a bloc, then an association and after that a party.

In the fall of 1993, after the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet, the appointment of parliamentary elections and a referendum on the Constitution, it became obvious that it was necessary to create a democratic bloc that would be critical of the method and results of market reforms. Yavlinsky was one of the most vocal critics. Sheinis noted that Yavlinsky "was more fit than anyone else to be the leader of the democratic opposition" [31: Vol. 2, 660]. According to Aleksei Arbatov's account and Sheinis's own recollections, he was the first to come to Yavlinsky with the idea of creating a bloc [21], and the idea itself was discussed at Sheinis's home [34]. It was necessary to determine the three leaders who would serve as the bloc's faces for voters accustomed to personality voting, and to agree on the organizations that would make up the list and on the terms for making up the list. Sheinis proposed Boldyrev (he would later write that this was not the most optimal choice) and Lukin for the second and third spots [31: Vol. 2, 663]. Later on, Boldyrev, a member of the Inter-regional Deputy Group in the Union Parliament, actively criticized the electoral law and the law on production sharing proposed by the faction, eventually leaving YABLOKO in 1995. Lukin spent 20 years as an active member of the YABLOKO bloc, association, party and faction; he suspended his party membership in 2004 when he was appointed Human Rights Ombudsman. From 2016 to 2021, he represented Tver Oblast in the Federation Council. In 2016, he announced his reinstatement to the party, but resigned from it again in 2020 [4].

The bloc included large and small splinter groups of fractured parties: the Russian Christian Democratic Union — New Democracy (RCDU—ND), the Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR), and the Republican Party of Russia (RPRF). The bloc was a diverse blend, its constituent parts were loosely connected organizationally, and there was no unity of views on key issues, such as the attack on the parliament building or support for Yeltsin's policies. The RCDU—ND distributed their candidates between YABLOKO and Vybor Rossii, a number of regional organizations of the RPRF supported their rivals from Vybor Rossii, and the leftist SDPR faction refused to join the established bloc. The parties were necessary for the bloc, because without them it was impossible to collect the 100,000 signatures necessary for the registration of the candidate list, especially in the regions. Having regional organizations of the parties belonging to the bloc was essential if the bloc was to exist. Yavlinsky's persona was the only consolidating factor [3: 132; 16: 173].

Sheinis believed that two approaches collided in the course of the bloc's formation. One was a leaderism approach: all major decisions would be made by the leader or with his consent; the other was that the slots on the list would be determined as a result of the founding fathers' bargaining with each other. Representatives of the parties that joined the bloc believed that their official status (registration) gave them the right to significantly influence the decisions made. Sheinis states that Yavlinsky's approach prevailed, as he and his negotiating partners were in different weight categories, which affected the bloc's operation and subsequently that of the political party [31: Vol. 2, 670]. This statement demonstrates Sheinis's approach to politics: throughout YABLOKO's existence, he was critical of this method of political decision-making and publicly criticized Yavlinsky on multiple occasions.

The Statement on the Establishment of the Electoral Bloc stipulated that the bloc upholds the values of democracy, freedom and market economy, rejects methods of hostility and bloodshed in politics, and seeks to create a professional parliament that will serve as a counterweight to the executive branch.

The core part of the list included 34 people: employees of the EPITsentr research group created by Yavlinsky, democratically aligned politicians, and heads of the bloc's constituent parts. Sheinis was responsible for the lists for Moscow and the Moscow Oblast. The bloc's creators were counting on about 20%. A total of 170,000 signatures for registration were collected in different regions.

Not all matters proceeded smoothly, however. Sheinis recalls that local organizations often argued with each other, some of them joined the rival Vybor Rossii bloc, and two candidates from the bloc were nominated in some constituencies. The Council decided to support the candidates on the list, but to allow members of the bloc to campaign for other people [31: Vol. 2, 677].

There were also disagreements on fundamental political issues: on the opinion of the president, the draft Constitution submitted to a referendum. 39% and 36% supported and opposed Yeltsin, respectively (according to a survey conducted by Igor Yakovenko). "People asked Yavlinsky: how can you team up with Sheinis, who supports the Constitution? Yavlinsky's response to this was: he is one of its authors, how can he be against it?" [31: Vol. 2, 677]. The majority in the Bloc Council did not support the draft Constitution and leaned toward Boldyrev's position: voters should be urged to vote against the draft. Lukin, Golov, Borshchev and — naturally — Sheinis held a different opinion. Yavlinsky criticized both the Constitution and the procedure for approving it, and feared that Vybor Rossii would oppose it as well. Disagreements were recorded, and it was decided to go to the voters with a "zero" option, without urging people to say either "yes" or "no" [31: Vol. 2, 679].

Even then, the divide between YABLOKO and Vybor Rossii (which later split into the Democratic Choice of Russia, the Union of the Right Forces and PARNAS) had already been created.

"The obsession that haunted YABLOKO since its inception was (and still is) the existence of another democratic bloc... The line that divided the Russian democrats had already been drawn, and the course of events only made it wider and deeper" [31: Vol. 2, 679–680].

Sheinis was not in favor of a resolute dissociation and throughout the existence of the bloc, the following unification, and then the emergence of the party publicly insisted on unification of democrats. The idea to unite supporters of Yavlinsky and Gaidar, born in early 1994, resurfaced after each Duma election [25: 134].

He recalls that two days before the election, Leonid Gozman approached him and prepared a joint statement against the fascist threat; the statement was signed by Gaidar, Sobchak, Yakovlev, and Kovalev. Sheinis was among the signees as well. But Yavlinsky, having consulted with Lukin, refused to sign the statement [31: Vol. 2, 680-681].

As a result, 4.2 million people voted for YABLOKO, while the bloc received 7.9%. Although the Democratic parties and blocs received more than each of the forces that opposed them, the results were regarded as a defeat. Yavlinsky's stance was that he should have waged a tough campaign against Vybor Rossii, but he was prevented from doing so by the bloc's Council [31: Vol. 2, 697]. It was precisely this strategy — harsh criticism of YABLOKO — that the Union of Right Forces (SPS) subsequently used in 1999 and 2003.

In the Duma, Sheinis was in charge of creating an election law because the 1993 election was held under a presidential decree. He later wrote: "In order to carry through some legislation or declaration that was of importance to us, we needed to negotiate with allies and some neutral forces. The faction closest to us was Yegor Gaidar's Vybor Rossii. And if we managed to reach an agreement with Gaidar and his inner circle, there were many chances that it would be possible to push it through the Duma as well" [26].

"The first lineup of the faction in the Duma was a triumph of intellect, the full scientific and moral potential of the Sixtiers was brought into politics," recalls Oksana Dmitrieva, who was also a member of the faction [21]. The faction's lineup changed. For example, Vladimir Lysenko (founder of the RPRF) left the faction in 1995 and joined the "Regions of Russia" group. In the same year, Boldyrev left the faction and the association following some conflicts: first on the law on the Central Bank, then on transnational capital's access to Russian natural resources (the law on Profuction Sharing Agreements). Yuri Boldyrev observed: "Yabloko was initially created as a 'third force': on the one hand, as an alternative to Yeltsin's reforms, and on the other hand, as an alternative to a return to the Soviet ways. However, it became clear in 1995 that Grigory Yavlinsky, as well as the Yeltsin administration, directly supported the bills lobbied by Western corporations, which posed a threat to the national economy" [5: 147]. Later on, Boldyrev harshly criticized YABLOKO on several occasions.

At the turn of 1994 and 1995, Sheinis traveled to Grozny with a group of deputies and witnessed the beginning of the first Chechen war there.

He also became a deputy in the Duma of the second convocation (YABLOKO received 6.9%), where the faction consisted of 46 people, but he did not get into the third convocation in 1999. During this time, both the faction and the party saw different people coming through. Sheinis stated that the core remained (even to this day). "But I recall with shame some people who had a temporary brush with Yabloko, got the membership card, and for some time, apparently, were calculating, figuring out whether or not it was possible to make a career here" [34]. Irina Yarovaya was among such people; Sheinis gave a less harsh evaluation of Yelena Mizulina and Oksana Dmitriyeva.

In 1995, the YABLOKO association was founded (there was no party law at that time). Sheinis joined the association's governing body, the Central Council.

In 1999, the faction was part of a commission to impeach Yeltsin, which was initiated by the CPRF for the collapse of the USSR, the parliament building attack, unleashing war in Chechnya, weakening the defense capability of the army, etc. [19]. This initiative was backed by the party's Central Council [22]. However, 8 members of the Yabloko faction were against it, Sheinis among them. There were not enough votes for impeachment.

In 2001, after the adoption of the Federal Law "On Political Parties", the YABLOKO party was established, declaring as its main task the strengthening of democratic principles and defining its position in relation to the authorities as "constructive opposition". Sheinis' membership in the party's governing bodies remained unchanged despite structural reforms within the party.

2003 marks the period of non-parliamentary existence of the party, although it maintained factions in regional parliaments and municipal councils.

Sergei Kovalev, dissident, human rights activist, the first Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, one of the founders of Vybor Rossii, Duma deputy from Vybor Rossii, Democratic Choice of Russia (DVR) and Union of Right Forces, ran for the State Duma as a Yabloko candidate in 2003. In 2006, he joined the YABLOKO party and became co-chair of the Human Rights Caucus and a member of the Political Committee. Kovalev became a close political partner of Sheinis and an ardent supporter of his ideas of uniting democrats. They subsequently issued joint statements and supported each other in intra-party discussions.

After Medvedev succeeded Putin as president and after the 2008 financial crisis, Sheinis was highly critical of the situation. "The court ideologists insinuate that centralization and "verticalization" of power, dismantling of federalism, siege regime for the opposition, censorship and self-censorship, etc. is an inevitable price for "order" that is comprirised of stability, a market economy, successful modernization and a notion of the country "rising from its knees". The true price of all this was exposed by the ... A quasi-market economy has been built, which resembles Lenin's theoretical model of state monopoly capitalism. All this is a travesty of modernization and of a stable future. The near future threatens to bring about even greater social stratification, increased risks for the majority of the population and a growing poverty area. Corruption is an integral component of this model" [29]. He stated: "After the authorities expertly purged the political field, there are almost no democratic organizations left on it" [29].

In 2008, the Congress elected Sergei Mitrokhin as the new Chair of the party (he remained Chair until 2015), and the leadership structure changed again. The Political Committee was created (later renamed the Federal Political Committee), to which Sheinis was elected. At this Congress, Sheinis suggested removing negative references to the 1990s from the party platform in order not to antagonize the SPS. This was Yavlinsky's reaction: "At that time, the society was moving in the right direction, but mistakes and crimes were committed. Now we see many beneficial things being done, but the direction is wrong" [3: 143].

Sheinis held a different opinion: "There is no doubt that the electorates of both parties are flexible and that there is a lot of overlap between them. In my opinion, what unites Yabloko with the Democratic Russia and its successors is much more important in a historical perspective than what divides them" [31: Vol. 2, 698].

However, other representatives of democratic forces were reluctant to unite with YABLOKO, and opinions of Yavlinsky's personal qualities played a significant role. For example, in 2004, at a round table organized by the Panorama Center, Vladimir Lysenko referred to Yavlinsky in this manner: "This eternal dream of his to be in charge of the democratic movement, I think, will ruin us in the next elections as well, given Grigory Alekseevich's personality and political behavior" [23: 28]. The following was said by Boris Nadezhdin at the same round table: "The trust rating for all the democrats together is within five, maybe seven percent, and Yavlinsky continues to say that he is the best and the most important democrat" [23: 30].

The two parties disagreed on more points than they agreed. The key areas of disagreement were the method of economic reforms and support for the executive branch [14: 68–69]. The disagreements also included positions on the Chechen campaign, nuclear waste imports, military reform, economic policy, etc. YABLOKO was not ready to give up its positions and compromise, so attempts to create coalitions with parties or individual politicians failed [7]. According to Olga Malinova, "The DVR and YABLOKO projects represent two different ways of building a democratic society with a market economy in Russia, as well as the two different viewpoints on the final result" [13: 93]. These diverging political positions persisted with regard to the SPS and PARNAS, which succeeded the DVR.

The idea of democratic union (especially of YABLOKO and the SPS) as a necessity did not lose its popularity throughout the entire post-Soviet period. It was most often mentioned by Garry Kasparov and Georgy Satarov, as well as by representatives of the SPS leadership — Nikita Belykh and Boris Nadezhdin. YABLOKO representatives emphasized that program principles must come first. The SPS position is reflected in the proposal to choose a party that would serve as a "matrix" to unite the democrats with the help of a "coin", which was repeatedly expressed by Boris Nadezhdin [18].

An attempt to unite the democrats was made by Committee 2008, which included prominent politicians, human rights activists and journalists. The Committee suffered a failure due to conflicting visions of how the objectives should be approached as well as the claims of "B-list" politicians for unquestioned leadership. The second attempt consisted in the creation of the All-Russian Civic Congress, which had roughly the same lineup. At the second convention of the Congress, Garry Kasparov and Georgy Satarov issued an ultimatum on the urgent need to unite the two parties, which was without consequence.

However, history knows some cases of these parties cooperating.

In June 2000, YABLOKO and the SPS signed an agreement "On Measures to Unite the Political Public Organizations of the SPS and YABLOKO", which envisaged the creation of a joint list for the Duma election and the nomination of agreed candidates. Despite the SPS decision to support Vladimir Putin, Irina Khakamada and Boris Nemtsov endorsed Grigory Yavlinsky in the 2000 presidential election. The SPS proposed to nominate a common candidate for the 2004 election. YABLOKO reacted negatively, insisting, as always, on the priority of program principles. As early as 2002, YABLOKO abandoned the idea of a joint list for the State Duma election [14: 71–73].

The factions worked together on amendments to bills in the State Duma. The Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg of the third convocation (2002-2007) had a joint SPS+YABLOKO faction since 2004.

After the start of the YUKOS crackdown in 2003, the parties issued a general statement about the change in the political situation that called into question the inviolability of the constitutional order. They organized joint events, especially marches and rallies, starting in 2011 until such events were completely banned.

Another such activity was creating joint lists at the regional level. In the regional elections of 2004 and the first half of 2005, the SPS and Yabloko joined into blocs on five occasions. In two regions, however, the blocs' lists were denied registration. The Yabloko+SPS bloc received 4.8% in Altai Krai and 3.4% in Vladimir Oblast. Only one bloc, which was called "Our Homeland — Arkhangelsk Oblast", succeeded with 8.2%.

However, the blocs were banned in mid-2005. At this point, the SPS and Yabloko began to organize into unofficial blocs by having one of the parties nominate a joint list. In the fall of 2005, such lists were nominated in the city of Moscow (by Yabloko), Ivanovo and Kostroma Oblasts (by the SPS). Two out of three lists succeeded in Moscow (11.1%) and in Ivanovo Oblast (5.4%) [12]. In Moscow, for example, the joint list that won three seats was headed by SPS member Ivan Novitsky (who, however, joined United Russia two years later, leaving only Sergei Mitrokhin and Yevgeny Bunimovich in the faction).

Gaidar and Chubais were against such a lineup of the Moscow list and wanted to see Nikita Belykh heading the list. Ultimately, however, an agreement was reached [6].

But in 2006, parties were banned from nominating members of other parties, so after that, any ideas of joint lists proved difficult to implement.

In 2006, a coalition called "Drugaya Rossiya" ("A Different Russia") was created under the guidance of the All-Russian Civic Congress. The coalition attempted to nominate candidates for the Duma election and Garry Kasparov as a presidential candidate. Sheinis attended conferences held by this coalition [20: 161].

There were also times of fierce confrontation between the parties. In 1999, during a television broadcast, Anatoly Chubais accused Yavlinsky of treason for criticizing military action in Chechnya. The SPS supported the Second Chechen War, accusing Yavlinsky of betrayal on live TV [35]. At the end of the 1999 campaign, the party launched a slogan: "Putin for President, Kiriyenko for the Duma" [3: 86]. In the 2003 campaign, the SPS launched a brutal campaign against YABLOKO using numerous commercials and posters in the hope of getting the latter's voters. It flooded regional newspapers with articles like "Yabloko rots at the top", "Yavlinsky's London houses", etc. [2]. Neither party made it to the Duma.

In 2009, Sheinis, along with Sergei Kovalev, endorsed Boris Nemtsov in the Sochi mayoral election. However, the Political Committee of the party offered Nemtsov to sign the Joint Statement, and Vladimir Rakhno (then chair of the Krasnodar Krai branch office) was strongly against it, because "distrust and outright rejection of democratic forces in Russia by the absolute majority of the population is a direct consequence of the activities of individuals such as Nemtsov" [36].

After the 2011 mass protests against electoral fraud, Sheinis revisited the idea of a democratic coalition to nominate a common candidate for the presidential election. "The most urgent task that needs to be solved in the coming weeks, if not days, in my opinion, is to agree on the nomination of a common candidate of democratic forces, for whom the largest number of Russian citizens will be able to vote" [30]. That said, he did not mention Yavlinsky's name as such a candidate. The result is well-known: there was no common candidate, Yavlinsky was not allowed to run, and Mikhail Prokhorov played the role of a quasi-liberal candidate.

According to Arkady Murashov, a member of the State Duma of the first convocation and then one of the leaders of the Moscow SPS organization, Sheinis was loved and respected in the SPS [21].

In 2012, the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS) emerged from the Republican Party of Russia (RPR), which was reinstated following a Strasbourg Court ruling. The party was chaired by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former SPS co-chair Boris Nemtsov, and former RPR leader Vladimir Ryzhkov. It filled the niche of the pre-existing SPS. Ilya Yashin, who was expelled from YABLOKO in 2008 for his involvement in the Solidarnost political movement, was also a member of PARNAS. In 2014, Ryzhkov left the party, and in 2015, Nemtsov was assassinated, leaving Kasyanov as its sole chair.

In late 2015, there was once again talk of uniting the democrats — this time YABLOKO and PARNAS. A group of public figures in science and culture undertook the initiative (this became known as the "Appeal of Intellectuals") [33].

Viktor Sheinis published an article stating that everyone expected YABLOKO and PARNAS to join forces — a sentiment expressed by the authors of the Appeal of the Intellectuals — because the differences in the programs of democratic political parties "can be seen only under a microscope", and "now the line separating the democrats must be pushed back: only Stalinists, nationalists, 'krymnashists' (those supporting the annexation of Crimea) advocates of a repressive course, and the like remain behind the line" [32]. Like before, this idea fell on deaf ears of most representatives of YABLOKO leadership, and PARNAS started to fall apart because Kasyanov tried to take the top spot on the list. PARNAS then held the primaries, which resulted in a nationalist gaining the second nomination. This, in turn, forced many activists out of the party [10: 292–301, 577–579]. PARNAS was later (in 2023) dissolved by the Supreme Court following a lawsuit by the Justice Ministry.

At the same time, Vladimir Ryzhkov (former PARNAS co-chair) and Dmitry Gudkov were included into the federal part of YABLOKO list. Ryzhkov and Gudkov also signed the Memorandum developed by YABLOKO, which, among other things, included a clause that called the annexation of Crimea illegal [15], and underwent multiple amendments later. Among other things, the original Memorandum text of 2014 included Clause 5: "Russia needs reforms that would completely separate the business and the state, as the incorrect policies of the 1990s and 2000s were what lead to the two merging". This clause was a serious obstacle for PARNAS that prevented unification. The options proposed by experts, such as YABLOKO dismantling certain clauses of the Memorandum and giving PARNAS members preferential treatment [11], were unacceptable to YABLOKO. An important factor was Yavlinsky's adamant disfavor of the leaders of PARNAS. "We don't need politicians who disagree with this — neither as State Duma deputies, nor in Moscow City Duma deputies, not even as deputies of the municipal council. Even if they are excellent experts on certain issues", wrote Sergei Mitrokhin, the then party chair [17].

Throughout the existence of the Association, then the party, Sheinis spoke out in defense of those who expressed alternative opinions and disagreed with the leadership. For instance, he opposed the 2009 congress decision "On Dual Membership", which prohibits membership in other political organizations besides the party: unregistered parties, coalitions, political groups. The adoption of this resolution directly affected Maksim Reznik, the chair of the St. Petersburg organization, Ilya Yashin and a number of other party members who had joined the new Solidarnost association and were subsequently expelled from the party. Prior to that (in 2007), the party expelled Alexei Navalny for his nationalist activities [3: 144-145].

The party reform of 2020, which was the result of a shrinking field of political opportunities on the one hand, and the almost successful raider takeover of the party by Maxim Katz and his supporters (who were initially supported by the party leadership) on the other, also became a subject of criticism for Sheinis [27]. He considered both the strategy and specific steps to reform the party to be poorly developed and suggested that the second stage of the XXI Congress be postponed and that a comprehensive discussion on party reform be held first. His proposal was rejected; rather, the Congress approved almost all of the amendments to the Party Charter proposed by the governing bodies. As for Katz and the over 200 people he brought, Sheinis felt rather sympathetic towards them, defending them both at the first stage, when they fought with the leadership of the Moscow regional organization, and at the stage when the conflict escalated to the federal level. He wrote: "I was baffled, confused and repulsed by the barriers that were put in the way of the expansion of the Moscow organization" [26].

In early 2021, Yavlinsky's article entitled "Without Putinism and Populism" [37] sparked an intense discussion. The publication presented a critical analysis of the position of Alexei Navalny, who was in prison. Sheinis was critical of the article: "It could not have escaped Yavlinsky's notice that his stance would provoke a strong repulsion from our party, including from many of those who are accustomed to treating it with respect and trust. It is regarded, unfortunately, as the party's opinion, although no discussion of such an important and conflicting political issue has yet taken place therein" [28]. Sheinis felt that the discussion was detrimental to the democratic movement and the party, as well as hindered the creation of a united and extensive democratic front. This reaction is perfectly logical in the context of the idea of uniting democratic forces, which Sheinis consistently defended since the early days of perestroika. This distinguished him from Yavlinsky and a significant part of the YABLOKO party, for whom an alliance with those who conceived and carried out market reforms and then worked in Putin's government (Gaidar, Chubais, Kirienko, Kasyanov, etc.) and their associates was unacceptable. "The Russian army is being resurrected in Chechnya", "Putin for President, Kiriyenko for the Duma", accusations of treason and black PR campaigns against YABLOKO became an insurmountable obstacle to the "unification of democrats" called for by the still existing democratically-oriented media and a significant part of the intellectual community. But the notion that such an alliance was unacceptable persisted even when Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd were already banned and the successor party to Vybor Rossii and SPS—PARNAS ceased to exist. To top it all off, a significant part of the supporters of this idea (as well as Navalny's supporters) ended up abroad.

Sheinis came to evaluate the regime as authoritarian and emphasized that this would completely coincide with the party's position, while there was a qualitative leap in the democratic movement, which was sparked by Ukraine-related events [34].

Despite all their disagreements, Sheinis was extremely complimentary of Yavlinsky's role in the party. For example, in 2021 he remarked, "Circumstances have developed in such a way that Grigory Alekseyevich is the leader of the party, formal until recently and informal at present. I really cannot imagine Yabloko without Yavlinsky. You may remember how some time ago some subversives came up with this kind of rather foul slogan. I cannot imagine Yabloko without Yavlinsky — not because the party is built in a leader-centric way, but because it is built on a force of authority, a force of intellect, a force of political reason... [YABLOKO] is a European-type party, a party with many independent people, a party of intellectuals, a party that truly represents different political tendencies in accordance with European standards. Perhaps under normal circumstances we would have several parties in place of Yabloko, in a European context that is. But in the situation we are in, the fact that people of different approaches, including fundamentally different approaches to some important issues, exist in one party and defend democratic, European values together — this is first of all thanks to Grigory Alekseevich, I believe" [1].

In turn, this is what Yavlinsky remarked at Sheinis' memorial service: "We argued a lot. We disagreed with each other, we had our differences, but we stuck together. The arguments were productive" [21].

This is what Sheinis said about himself: "I never suffered from leaderism, I always made an effort to work in a team and always knew my weakness in organizational matters" [34].

Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, noted that Sheinis's example shatters the myth that intellectuals have nothing to do in power, that politics is a dirty business, and if they get into power, they will be corrupted by it. Viktor Sheinis was a man who did not bend the knee [21].

Received 22.09.2023, revision received 12.10.2023.


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