Dec. 5, 2023, 12:08 p.m.

In Memory of Viktor Sheinis

Editor note

Dear colleagues and friends,
The tenth (second in 2023) issue of our journal is dedicated to the memory of Viktor Sheinis, a prominent politician and scholar of economics, history and politics, who left us on June 25, 2023.
Viktor Sheinis was born on February 16, 1931, and belonged to the same generation as Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Unlike other representatives of the "Sixtiers" generation, he spotted the inconsistent nature of policies introduced by CPSU leadership as early as the 1950s. His article entitled "The Truth About Hungary" earned Sheinis expulsion from both the party and postgraduate school. After spending six years as a factory worker, he came back to Leningrad University and became one of the most popular lecturers there.
Later he was forced to leave the university and Leningrad. In 1977, he started working in Moscow's Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. IMEMO was where he continued to research the economies of colonial and developing countries — something that he started in Leningrad university before expulsion. The research resulted in his acquiring an economic sciences doctorate in 1981. The issues of economic catch-up that were also part of his research would later become quite relevant for the economy of Russia.
Viktor Sheinis' defining moment would come in 1990 (at the age of 59), when he was elected a People's Deputy to represent one of Moscow's constituencies. He would become a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR and deputy executive secretary of the Constitutional Commission of the Congress of People's Deputies of Russian SFSR, as well as one of the founders of the "Consensus for Progress" faction. Sheinis played a defining role in developing the Constitution of Russia and defending its more democratic provisions. At the same time he headed the development of a new electoral law, which would serve as a foundation of the 1993 electoral reform.
In 1993, Sheinis became one of the organizers of the "Yavlinsky—Boldyrev—Lukin" electoral bloc — a predecessor of Yabloko party. He was elected into the State Duma of the first two convocations (1993–1999), where he proceeded with his impactful efforts of perfecting the electoral legislation. He remained loyal to Yabloko until the end of his life, despite some disagreements between him and its leadership.
After leaving his service in State Duma, Sheinis returned to IMEMO, where he worked on the issues related to Russian democracy, the European Union and Russia's foreign policy. He penned several books and a significant number of articles and papers.
This issue includes five papers that deal with the aspects of Viktor Sheinis' work that are relevant to the research direction of our journal, that is, elections, party building and electoral legislation. The issue starts with a paper by Yurii Korgunyuk, Arkadii Lyubarev and Sergei Stankevich. The paper takes a closer look at the 1990 elections of People's Deputies of Russian SFSR and local Soviets. The authors describe the specifics of said elections, the creation of the Democratic Russia bloc and its manifesto (Viktor Sheinis was the main author), campaigning efforts and election results, which included Democratic Russia's win in Moscow, a number of larger cities and relative success around Russia in general.
Galina Mikhaleva's paper talks about the role Viktor Sheinis played in creating the "Yavlinsky—Boldyrev—Lukin" electoral bloc, how the bloc came to become Yabloko party, and Sheinis' work as part of the party's leadership. The paper dwells extensively on the disagreements between Sheinis (and a number of other party activists) and the party leaders; one of the main reasons for the disagreements was Sheinis' desire to unite the democrats.
Vladimir Gelman's paper presents a detailed analysis of the 1993 electoral reform, which was based on the initiative project of the group headed by Viktor Sheinis. The paper stresses the unique nature of the electoral reform that had a specific author. It also highlights Sheinis' personal qualities that led to the success of his project, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the implemented reform.
Arkadii Lyubarev's paper tells about the work Viktor Sheinis did on the Electoral Code of Russia during his time as a deputy at the State Duma of the first convocation. The project failed to gain the support of the Duma majority, but many of its provisions were later incorporated into the federal laws on the election of State Duma deputies and the President. At the same time, the very idea of codifying electoral legislation did gain support, although for over a decade no one attempted to implement it. In 2008, the public took up the cause, and Viktor Sheinis was among the experts who supported the work on the new draft Electoral Code and participated in the discussion of its provisions. The paper also discusses some legal problems related to the codification of Russian electoral and referendum legislation.
The topic of electoral legislation is continued in Andrei Buzin's paper, which focuses on the election laws adopted by the second convocation of the State Duma (in 1997–1999) with the direct and active participation of Sheinis. The paper examines the innovations of these laws and their role in improving the electoral process, which, alas, turned out to be a temporary one.
We hope the new issue will further secure the journal’s status in academic circles and the pool of topics and authors will continue to expand.