After Brezhnev's death (1982) and those of two short-lived successors, Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary (1985) ushering in a period of reform characterized by glasnost, or openness, and perestroika, or restructuring. The reforms increasingly destabilized the governing system, however, eliciting demands for ever more far-reaching reforms.
In 1991 hardline party and military leaders attempted a coup (see August Coup) to halt the process. Until then the CPSU had been organized to parallel the territorial hierarchy of government administration and all significant institutions, including the press and armed forces, thereby effectively controlling all policy. It was for this reason that all political activity in public institutions was banned in 1991, preparatory to dissolving the party, which was incriminated in the coup attempt. The party was banned by Russian President Boris Yeltsin late in 1991, and all its property seized. Subsequently, the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.
By 1992, however, the new Communist Party of Russia had been legally established, and several other descendent parties remain politically important in Russia and some of the other nations that emerged from the former Soviet Union. The Communist Party of Russia, the largest and most well-financed of the new parties, won the largest bloc of seats in the 1995 parliamentary elections, and in the first round of the 1996 Russian presidential election, Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov received almost as many votes as Yeltsin. Although the party again won the largest percentage of the vote in the 1999 parliamentary elections, the combined vote of the progovernment parties was greater. In what was seen as a pragmatic alliance, the parties supporting with President Putin joined in coalition with the Communists in the Duma, but in Apr., 2002, that alliance collapsed, and most Communist party members were stripped of their leadership positions in the Duma. Meanwhile, in 2000, Putin won the presidency in the first round, while Zyuganov was a distant second.
The parliamentary elections of 2003 were a setback for the party, which polled only 12.6% of the vote, and the party's candidate in the 2004 presidential elections won just 13.7%. Despite the setbacks the party suffered, the 2003 elections left it the only signification opposition party in the State Duma. In Aug., 2004, opponents of Zyuganov within the party attempted unsuccessfuly to oust him, but the following month the dissidents broke with the party and formed the All-Russia Communist party of the Future. Nonetheless, the mainstream Communists remain the second largest national political party in Russia, in both parliamentary and presidential balloting.
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