The First And Last Soviet Parliament

MOSCOW: The attempt ten years ago to create the first democratically elected parliament in the USSR proved to be the most unpredictable of Gorbachev's reforms; the domestic equivalent, indeed, of his decision to allow Eastern Europe to break with communism. Gorbachev's other domestic reforms dealt with economic and cultural problems, even alcohol abuse; here was a bid to reform the system of power. Like much else about perestroika, it foundered on a lack of clear goals.

A former dissident, I was not only one of the first elected people's deputies of the Soviet Union and the Supreme Soviet, but also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. After almost 20 years of banishment from work, even as a school teacher, I suddenly found myself near the seat of power in the Kremlin! As an historian, I saw this as a unique opportunity to witness history first hand. Let me review some of what I saw.

Communist leaders, first and foremost Gorbachev, expected increased democratization to strengthen the party's hand. Instead, the new parliament soon got out of control by passing laws that destroyed the Communist monopoly on power and undermined Gorbachev's authority.

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