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Lisa Horner served as an intern with SRAS working with translation, writing, and management assignments. She has stayed on with SRAS to assist us in improving student relations and in organizing cultural events for our Moscow students. She has also continued to produce translations for us, such as this one, with the oversight of SRAS staff.

Communism and the Bear of History
Communism and the CPRF in Modern Russia
Part 2: The Way Forward?

A project from The School of Russian and Asian Studies
Introductions by Josh Wilson, Assistant Director, SRAS
Translations by Lisa Horner

Gennady Zyuganov, center, marching with supporters on Moscow's central Tverskaya Street a few days before the presidential elections.
Gennady Zyuganov, center, marching with
supporters in downtown Moscow a few days before the presidential elections.
In the first half of their political platform, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) offered a stark picture of modern Russia, backed by lists of statistics and bolstered by accusations that those in power use "terror" to control elections.

In the second half, the Communists' complicated relationship with their past becomes even more pronounced and, as many critics pointed out during the presidential campaign, determining what exactly the Communists hope to achieve becomes harder to discern.

At the center of the platform is the promise to nationalize and/or regulate most of the economy. Natural resources, basic services (electricity, communications, transport), and other "strategic sectors" (legislation currently defines this as including the media, fisheries, and more) would become the property and responsibility of the government. Price controls would be instituted for food, medicine, gas, and other "other vital necessities."

The platform then breaks from this textbook communism by promising that "measures that support small and mid-sized businesses will become important levers of economic growth." No further elaboration on this is offered – such as what these measures might be or what sectors these businesses would be expected to operate in the heavily regulated economy.

Young Communist supporters celebrating the 90th anniversery of the Great October Revolution in 2006, Moscow.
People line up on Red Square to visit Lenin's
mausoleum on January 21, 2009, to mark
the anniversary of his assassination.
Epic spending measures are proposed: raising salaries by 3-4 fold, raising pensions, forgiving mortgages, "broadening" housing construction, expanding social services, and even building entire new cities. While one can assume that price controls might control the inflation that would accompany this massive injection of funds into the economy, it is hard not to imagine a return to that ironic stereotype of the Soviet era – of people who had money to spend, but nothing to spend it on. To avoid this, Russia would be even more reliant on imported goods, perhaps for one to two presidential terms, until its own manufacturing capacity could be built up. A large part of the stabilization fund, in the process, would likely end up abroad.

As proof that these proposals would work, the CPRF points to the "successful" achievements of the USSR and of governments such as Venezuela and China. The direct assertion that the party is "not calling for a return to the past" thus sounds slightly hollow. The references to Venezuela and China are also not likely to be effective in rousing the "patriots" that the party says should vote for them. China has always been regarded as a rival and Venezuela is seen  by most nationalists as a sort of little brother. Neither country would be seen as an example to follow.

Perhaps most conspicuous, however, is the claim that those who have "had powerful financial resources at their disposal for many years" have not effectively used them and thus should be removed from power. The obvious rebuttal to this is to ask why the Communists under the USSR, usingmistakes and errors of the past essentially the same policies proposed by the modern Communists, with the entire wealth of the world's largest country under their direct control, were not able to create social conditions that could have at least prevented them from being ousted after spending nearly ten times as much time in power as the current "ruling party."

Election results for Gennady Zyuganov 2008 bid for the presidency.
Election results for Gennady Zyuganov's 2008
bid for the office of Russian president. The color
gradations show areas where he received as little as 1.5 percent of the vote to as much as 27.1 percent. Click here for full results.
The main rival to the Communists for opposition votes, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who ran on a platform that in many ways is a more ambitious version of the Communists' and who also scored well in the polls, has often and effectively used this argument against them.

The end result is a situation that might remind one of a former lover trying to reconcile with an estranged partner but without directly apologizing for the "mistakes and errors of the past." The CPRF mentions this subject, but never directly names or discusses any particular "mistakes or errors."

Russia's continuing class disparity helps the communists to maintain their popularity – but it is in part their past and their relationship with it that prevents them from being a stronger opposition party.

This translation was published as a series as part of SRAS's monthly newsletters. To subscribe to the newsletter, and be notified of other articles and resources such as this one as they become available, simply send an email with "subscribe" in the subject field to

<<< Back to Part I (Modern Russian Economics and Politics)

Три основные задачи первого четырехлетия
The three main tasks
for the first four years
- Сделать природные богатства и стратегические отрасли экономики достоянием народа. Олигархия вернет обществу богатства, захваченные в разбойные 1990-е годы. Предстоит провести национализацию природных ресурсов и стратегических отраслей - электроэнергетики, ВПК, нефтегазовой отрасли, транспорта, связи. Доходы этих отраслей будут пополнять госбюджет и использоваться в интересах всех граждан.
- Make natural resources and the strategic economic sectors the common property of the people. The Oligarchy will give back the wealth that it seized in the lawless 1990s. It is necessary to nationalize natural resources and the strategic sectors of the economy, including the electric power industry, the military-industrial sector, the oil-and-gas sector, transport, and communications. The income from these branches will enrich the state budget and be used in the interests of all citizens.
Средства Стабилизационного фонда правительство вернет в Россию. Государство введет монополию на производство и продажу спиртного и табака. Важным рычагом экономического роста станут меры поддержки малого и среднего бизнеса.
The government will give the Stabilization Fund[1] back to Russia. The state will institute monopolies on the manufacture and sale of alcohol and tobacco. Measures that support small and mid-sized businesses will become important levers of economic growth.
Новые финансовые возможности обеспечат развитие экономики, возрождение науки, культуры, образования, здравоохранения, армии. Государство направит средства на жилищное и дорожное строительство. Не менее 10% доходов бюджета пойдет на развитие села. Бесконтрольная купля-продажа земли прекратится. Начнется восстановление школ, медпунктов и домов культуры на селе.
New financial possibilities will secure the development of the economy, the revival of the arts and sciences, culture, education, public health services, and the army. The state will direct resources toward housing and road construction. At least ten percent of the budget will be spent on rural development. The uncontrolled sale and purchase of land will stop. The restoration of schools, clinics and recreation centers in the country will begin.
- Преодолеть бедность. Народный президент обеспечит контроль государства над ценообразованием, прежде всего на хлеб, медикаменты и другие предметы первой необходимости, на горюче-смазочные материалы, пассажирские перевозки и услуги связи. Будут установлены твердые тарифы на газ и электроэнергию.
- Overcome poverty. The peoples' president will secure government control over pricing first and foremost on bread, medicine, and other vital necessities, as well as on fuel, passenger transportation, and communication services. Fixed tariffs for gas and electric power will be established.
КПРФ уверена, что прожиточный минимум и минимальная зарплата должны быть не 2600 рублей, а 10-12 тысяч. Пенсии будут повышены в 3-4 раз и составят не менее 50% от заработка. Пособие по рождению ребенка составит не менее 35-40 тыс. руб., а детское пособие - 1,5 тыс. в месяц. В трудовой стаж вновь войдут годы учебы, армейской службы, отпуска по уходу за ребенком. Нуждающиеся получат льготные лекарства.
CPRF is certain that the cost of living and minimum wage should be 10-12 thousand rubles, not 2,600 rubles.[2] Pensions will be increased by three or four times and will equal at least 50 percent of wages.[3] Government aid for the birth of a child will be increased to at least 35-40 thousand rubles, and the state child support stipend to 1,500 a month.[3] Years of study, army service, and childcare leave will once again be included as years of service when calculating pensions. The needy will receive government-subsidized medicine.[4]
Власти будет возвращена ответственность за сферу жилищно-коммунального хозяйства. В холодной России вопрос о жилье - это вопрос о праве на жизнь. Выселение людей на улицу будет поставлено вне закона. Коммунальные платежи не смогут быть выше 10% совокупного дохода семьи.
The responsibility maintaining communal services[5] will be returned to the government. In cold Russia the matter of housing is a matter of the right to exist. Throwing people out on the street through eviction will be outlawed. Utility bills will be limited to more than 10 percent of a family's cumulative income.
Те, чей месячный доход составляет менее 10 тысяч рублей, получат освобождение от налогов. Одновременно подоходный налог для сверхбогатых должен быть установлен на минимальном уровне в 30%.
Those whose monthly incomes are less than 10,000 rubles will receive a tax break,[6] while the income tax for the super-rich should be set at a minimum of 30 percent.
Предстоит расширить государственное жилищное строительство. Кредитование жилья должно быть не выше 5% годовых. При рождении первого ребенка следует погашать 25% кредита, второго - 50%. Для семьи с тремя детьми кредит должен быть безвозмездным.
The scope of public housing construction must be broadened. Mortgage rates should not be higher than 5 percent. Upon the birth of a child 25 percent of a mortgage should be forgiven, and after the second child – 50 percent. Families with three or more children should have all their mortgage forgiven.[7]
Все это реально. В СССР минимальная зарплата была 100 рублей (нынешние 10 тысяч). Средняя пенсия - 90 рублей (9 тысяч). Учеба и лечение были бесплатными. Жилье и летний отдых стоили дешево. Дети занимались в спортшколах и кружках. Каждый был уверен в будущем.
This is all realistic. In the USSR the minimum wage was 100 rubles (by today's standards 10,000 rubles). The average pension was 90 rubles (9,000 rubles). Schooling and medicine were free-of-charge. Housing and summer recreation were inexpensive. Children attended sport schools and study groups.[8] Everyone felt confident of the future.
- Вернуть влияние на мировой арене, бороться за справедливый мир. Наша важнейшая задача - равноправное партнерство, повышение роли ООН в международных делах. Внешнеполитический приоритет - восстановление добровольного союза братских народов, входивших в состав СССР. Россия обязана предпринять реальные шаги к заключению прочного российско-белорусского Союза.
- Reestablish influence on the world stage, struggle for a just world. Our most important task is to form an equal partnership, increasing the role of the United Nations in international affairs. A foreign policy priority should be to restore the voluntary union of the brotherly nations that comprised the USSR. Russia must undertake substantive steps to finalize a strong Union State of Russia and Belarus.[9]
Особое внимание государства будет уделено укреплению обороноспособности страны, повышению боевой готовности Вооруженных сил. Власть должна гарантировать достойное социальное обеспечение военнослужащих, ветеранов, граждан, уволенных с военной службы, и членов их семей.
Special emphasis will be placed on strengthening the country's defense capabilities and raising the tactical efficiency of the armed services. Those in power should guarantee social services that befit military men, veterans, retired service members, and their family members.
Советский Союз пользовался огромным и заслуженным уважением в мире. Этого мы твердо будем добиваться вновь.
The Soviet Union rightfully commanded enormous respect in the world. We will achieve it again, without question.
Три главные цели народного президента
The Three Main Objectives of the Peoples' President
- Поставить человека в центр государственной политики. Остановить вымирание страны, начавшееся при Ельцине и продолжающееся при Путине. Гарантировать бесплатное и высококачественное образование и здравоохранение. Вернуть светский, фундаментальный характер образования в школах и вузах. Обеспечить общедоступность культурных благ. Установить приоритет внутреннего долга перед внешним. Вернуть долги государства народу. Подавить коррупцию и преступность. Восстановить смертную казнь за особо тяжкие преступления против личности.
- Put People First in State Policy: Stop the extinction of the country, which began with Yeltsin and proceeded under Putin. Guarantee free and high quality education and public health services. Reestablish the secular, fundamental character of education to schools and institutions of higher education.[10] Ensure that everyone has access to the blessings of culture. Place internal priorities over external priorities. Make the government serve the people once more. Suppress corruption and crime. Restore the death penalty for murder, rape, and terrorism.[11]
- Обеспечить прорыв страны к технологическому лидерству. Преодолеть сырьевую направленность российской экономики. Стимулировать развитие передового, наукоемкого производства. Обеспечить прорыв в ведущих отраслях фундаментальной и прикладной науки. Всемерно поддержать разработку и использование передовых технологий, выпуск конкурентоспособной продукции. Вложить средства в развитие высокотехнологичных предприятий и существующих наукоградов, приступить к строительству новых. Увеличить финансирование науки. Обеспечить ученых достойной заработной платой и всем необходимым для исследовательской деятельности. Поддержать научные школы, оказать содействие их пополнению молодыми кадрами.
- Ensure that the country is a technological leader. Overcome the economy's dependence on raw materials. Stimulate the development of progressive, science-driven manufacturing. Support breakthroughs in the major branches of fundamental and applied sciences. Support the development and use of high technology in every possible way, including in the production of competitive products. Contribute funds towards the development of hi-tech enterprises and existing science cities,[12] and begin construction of new ones. Increase funding to the sciences. Provide scientists and scholars with worthy salaries and everything essential for research activities. Support science-based schools, and assist in recruiting young staff to work in them.
- Добиться перехода к подлинному народовластию. Полностью очистить процесс выборов в России от давления бюрократии, частного капитала и криминала. Создать эффективную систему государственного управления. Число чиновников сократить, обеспечить контроль над их деятельностью через различные формы самоорганизации народа. Включить механизм отзыва депутатов, не исполняющих предвыборные обещания. Развивать различные формы народного самоуправления, как условие перехода к советской форме народовластия.
- Achieve the transition to true democracy. Complete clean the election process in Russia from the pressures of bureaucracy, private capital, and crime. Create an effective system of state administration. Reduce the number of officials and secure control over their activity through various independently founded public groups. Institute a procedure to recall deputies who do not keep their campaign promises. Develop diverse forms of self-rule by the people as a foundation for transitioning to the soviet form of democracy.[13]
Многоголовая "партия власти" - "Единая Россия", ЛДПР и "Справедливая Россия" - напористо заговорила о социальной справедливости. Неискушенному ныне легко запутаться. Но партия чиновников и олигархов вместе со своими вассалами не первый год держит в руках мощные финансовые потоки. Уже давно они могли сделать все, что пока лишь только обещают. Могли решить накопившиеся проблемы. Золотой поток нефтедолларов, который много лет льется на Россию, способен был послужить этому. Но пока он лишь служит делу обогащения немногих.
The groups that make up the "ruling party," – United Russia, LDPR, and A Just Russia [14] – have begun energetically talking about social justice. Nowadays it is easy for the average person to be misled. But this party of officials and oligarchs, together with their lackeys, have had powerful financial resources at their disposal for many years. They had the ability to do everything that they promised a long time ago. They could have taken care of the problems that have accumulated. The golden stream of petrodollars, which have been flowing into Russia for many years, could have served that purpose. But as of today that wealth only serves to enrich a minority.
Вывод прост - только КПРФ заслуживает поддержки. Только ее кандидат способен проводить политику народных интересов.
The conclusion is simple – only the CPRF deserves support. Only its candidate is free to conduct policies in the interests of the people.
Мы не призываем вернуться назад. Мы призываем двигаться вперед, к новому социализму, очищенному от прошлых ошибок и заблуждений. Человечество уже идет к социализму. Китай выбрал свой успешный путь к нему давно. Латинская Америка повернулась в последние годы. И это единственный путь спасения от нищеты и грабежа "рыночной экономики". Эти страны уже прошли свой "рыночный" путь и сделали твердый выбор - социализм. К нему неизбежно пойдет и Россия. Чем раньше мы изменим курс страны, тем быстрее воплотятся в жизнь самые сокровенные надежды народов нашей страны.
We are not calling for a return to the past. We are calling to move forward, to a new form of socialism without the mistakes and errors of the past. Mankind is already moving toward socialism. China chose this successful path long ago. Latin America has returned to it over the last few years. Plus, it is the sole path of rescuing the country from the poverty and robbery of the "market economy." These countries already passed beyond the "market" path and made a firm choice: socialism. Russia will also inevitably join this path. The earlier we change the course of the country, the sooner the innermost hopes of the people of our country can be fulfilled.
Чаяния масс лежат в основе политической платформы КПРФ. Партия видит пути прорыва России к достойному будущему. У ее кандидата в президенты - четкая программа действий после прихода к власти. Программа коренных преобразований в интересах народного большинства.
The aspirations of the masses underlie the political platform of the CPRF. The party sees the path to Russia's breakthrough to a worthy future. Its candidate for the presidency has a concrete program of action for after he takes power. It is a program of sweeping reforms in the interests of the majority.
Победа Г.А. Зюганова на выборах Президента, приход к власти КПРФ и ее союзников сделают жизнь лучше. А ведь жизнь - главная для человека ценность. Она дается один раз. И мы готовы направить всю мощь государства на борьбу с растущей смертностью, на увеличение продолжительности и качества жизни. Вспомните - средняя продолжительность жизни за годы Советской власти удвоилась.
The win of G.A. Zyuganov for the presidential election, the arrival to power of the CPRF and its members, will make life better. Life is, after all, a person's main treasure. You only live once. And we are ready to direct the full might of the government to struggle against the increasing death rate, to increasing the duration and quality of life. Remember: the average life expectancy was twice as long during the Soviet years.[15]
В команде Г.А. Зюганова - честные и уважаемые люди разных возрастов и профессий. Они представляют всю нашу необъятную Родину. Эту команду объединила общая цель, общая боль, общая программа действий. Ради ее достижения мы готовы к упорной и решительной борьбе. Мы твердо и последовательно отстаиваем интересы наемных работников. Защищаем интересы пенсионеров и молодежи. Учитываем интересы малого и среднего бизнеса. Непримиримо боремся с олигархией и бюрократией. Поддерживаем тех, кто созидает своими руками, умом и талантом.
G.A. Zyuganov's team consists of honorable and respected people of various ages and professions. They represent all spectrums of our vast motherland. This team of people is united by a common goal, a common complaint, and a common course of action. To accomplish it, we are prepared for a persistent and resolute fight. We defend the interests of wage earners firmly and consistently. We defend the interests of pensioners and youth. We consider the interests of small and mid-sized businesses. We fight the oligarchy and bureaucracy uncompromisingly. We support those who create with their hands, minds, and talents.
За КПРФ все чаще голосует самая думающая и трудоспособная часть народа. Все больше это люди молодого и среднего возраста. В центрах высоких технологий партия получает по 30-35% голосов. Это не члены КПРФ. Это те, кто трезво оценивает положение и понимает, что нынешний курс неизбежно ведет к краху.
The most thoughtful and able-bodied people of the country are voting for CPRF more and more often. These people are increasingly of the younger and middle ages. In the most technologically advanced areas of the country, the party receives 30-35 percent of the votes. They are not CPRF party members.[16] They are the people who can shrewdly assess the situation and understand that the present course will inevitably lead to collapse.
За "партию власти" активно голосует сытое чиновничество, казармы, тюрьмы и психбольницы. За нас - свободные люди в университетах и наукоградах, работающие на крупных производствах. Они все отчетливее понимают, что только социализм обеспечит развитие страны в целом и каждого ее гражданина, что сегодня только КПРФ остается в стране реальной надеждой демократии, правды и справедливости.
Those who vote for the "party of power" include the gorged bureaucracy, and those in the barracks, prisons and mental hospitals. The people who vote for us are autonomous individuals from the universities and science towns, working on large-scale industry. They all understand more and more clearly that only socialism will secure the development of the country as a whole, as well as that of each citizen, and that today only the CPRF is the country's last hope for true democracy, truth, and justice.
Думающий избиратель, который понимает, что жизнь нужно менять, поддержит народного кандидата в Президенты России.
The thinking voter who understands that life is in need of a change supports the peoples' candidate for the presidency of Russia.
Патриот, который осознает стоящие перед Россией угрозы, поддержит КПРФ - партию национальных интересов.
The patriot who is aware of the threats facing Russia supports the CPRF – the party of national interests.
Живущий своим трудом человек помнит, что есть только одна сила, отстаивающая интересы трудящегося большинства.
The person who works for a living remembers that there is only one force defending the interests of the working majority.
Ваш голос за Президента Геннадия ЗЮГАНОВА - это голос в пользу вашего будущего!
Your vote for the presidential candidate Gennady ZYUGANOV is a vote in the interests of your future!
Голос - в пользу будущего России!Vote for the benefit of the future Russia!
<<< Back to Part I (Modern Russian Economics and Politics)


[1] The Stabilization Fund has been funded by oil profits over recent years. At the end of 2008, it held $138 bln in funds, though it had lost several billion dollars in the last months of that year due to anti-crisis programs and measures intended to support the falling ruble.

[2] As of January 1st, 2009, Russia's federally mandated minimum wage was raised to 4,330 rubles per month (about $160). However, Russia's various constituent regions also calculate their own minimum wages. Moscow's is set (as of January 1st, 2009) at 8,300 rubles and is due to raise to 8,700 by September. Most agree, however, that all minimum wages in Russia are below the amount needed to actually sustain life – and very few employers actually pay minimum wage as workers won't work for that amount.

[3] Pensions are calculated based on a "base portion" that, as January 1st, 2009, equaled 1,794 rubles per month (about $66). Pensions are then added to based on a formula that takes into account army service, place of residence, years within the labor force, etc.

[4] The current monthly stipend is set at 359.70 rubles (about $14). Mothers receive a one-time payment of 9592.03 rubles after the birth of a child. There are many other programs connected with helping mothers such as the "maternity capital" program that offers 250,000 rubles (about $9,000) for the birth of every child after the first and to be paid on the child's third birthday.

[5] The needy are already legally entitled to this, though there are problems in actually attaining it (for instance, hospitals often deny patients a spot based on being "full" already).

[6] This includes a raft of services such as hot and cold water, natural gas, and basic plumbing services. This is single largest utility bill for most Russians and here the Communists are offering for it to be a free government program. Communal services does not include all utilities, though – phone and electricity are separate.

[7] The Russian Duma recently voted down a bill that would have made minimum-wage earners exempt from taxes.

[8] Russia recently enacted legislation to allow women to use their federal "maternity capital" towards paying their mortgage. Of course, what the communists are suggesting here, with current real estate prices in Russia, is much more generous.

[9] Russia has a range of specialized schools inherited from the soviet system – some specialize in sport, some in foreign languages, some in art, etc. "Кружки" were study or hobby groups – essentially state-sponsored extra curricular activities. Sport schools and these groups have probably disappeared more than any other state education facilities.

[10] The Union State is a troubled project that was founded in 1997 on the basis of the "Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus," founded in 1996. There are some tax, visa, and labor perks between the two countries, but the state exists largely on paper only. It was originally supposed to expand to several other states, but never has. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, recently recognized by Russia as independent nations, now hold observer status, however.

[11] Russia recently introduced classes on the orthodox faith to its public school system – a move that was fought by the Communists.

[12] Russia has had a moratorium on capital punishment since 1996, although the death penalty is still codified in Russian law.

[13] The word used here is "наукоград." The Soviet Union built many science centers in remote areas to protect the classified research performed there. Eventually cities were build around these centers to support them.

[14] The USSR was officially a republic, with each "soviet" or "council" a representative body of the people. "Self-rule" is a term often applied to this day to various village councils and community governments, etc.

[14] These three parties, with the CPRF are Russia's main political parties and the only parties represented in the State Duma. The LDPR, incidentally, is often publicly critical of United Russia and Vladimir Putin, but consistently votes with them and supports their measures in the Duma.

[15] Average life expectancy today in Russia is 65.5. Life expectancy in the USSR peaked in 1987 at 70. Male life expectancy has dropped the most, falling from 65 in 1987 to just 59 today. However, none of these figures justify the assertion of "double" used here.

[16] The CPRF did secure 30-40% of the vote in certain polling stations in certain cities. Whether these can be considered "the most technologically advanced areas" is debatable. Also, while there has been a revival of sorts in Communist youth programs, the party still finds the great majority of its membership base from the elderly and working poor.


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