Grigory Yavlinsky

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Grigory Yavlinsky
Grigory Yavlinsky.jpg
Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Operational Management of the Economy of the Soviet Union
In office
24 August – 2 October 1991
Premier Ivan Silayev
Preceded by Yury Luzhkov
Succeeded by Gennady Kulik
Personal details
Born Grigory Alexeyevich Yavlinsky
(1952-04-10) 10 April 1952 (age 63)
Lvov, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Political party Yabloko
Spouse(s) Elena Yavlinskaya (b. 1951)
Children Mikhail (b. 1971)
Alexey (b. 1981)
Religion Russian Orthodox[1]

Grigory Alexeyevich Yavlinsky (Russian: Григо́рий Алексе́евич Явли́нский; Ukrainian: Григорій Олексійович Явлінський; born 10 April 1952[2]) is a Russian economist and politician of Ukrainian origin. He is best known as the author of the 500 Days Programme, a plan for the transition of the USSR to a free-market economy, and for his leadership of the social-liberal Yabloko party. He ran twice for Russia's presidency – in 1996, against Boris Yeltsin, finishing fourth with 7.3% of the vote; and in 2000, against Vladimir Putin, finishing third with 5.8%. He did not run in 2004 or 2008, after his party failed to cross the 5% threshold in the 2003 Duma elections.


Yavlinsky was born and grew up in Lvov, Ukrainian SSR. His father Alexei was an officer and his mother Vera taught chemistry at an institute.[3] Both his parents are buried in Lviv, and his brother Mikhail lives there.

In 1967 and 1968, he was the champion of the Ukrainian SSR in junior boxing. He decided to become an economist during his school years. From 1967 to 1976, he studied at the Plekhanov Institute of the National Economy in Moscow as a labor economist and took a post-graduate course there. A kandidat of economics (PhD), he worked in the coal sector.

From 1984, he held a management position at the Labor Ministry and then the Council of Ministers of the USSR. In this capacity, he had to join Communist Party of the Soviet Union, of which he was a member in 1985–1991. He was head of the Joint Economic Department of the Government of the USSR. In 1989, he was made department head of Academician Leonid Abalkin's State Commission for Economic Reforms.

Post-Soviet economic reforms[edit]

Yavlinsky's commitment to a market economy was established when in 1990 he wrote "500 Days" – a program for the Soviet Union promising rapid transition from centrally planned economy to a free market in less than 2 years. To implement the program, Yavlinsky was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR and Deputy Chairman of the State Commission for Economic Reform. In October 1990, when it became clear that his program was not going to be implemented, he resigned from the government. He then established his own think tank, EPICenter, which brought together many members of his 500 Days team who were to become his future associates in Yabloko (Sergei Ivanenko, Aleksei Melnikov, Aleksei Mikhailov et al.)

In the summer of 1991, during his stay in Harvard, he co-authored a new reform program, jointly with Graham Allison, that offered a platform for Gorbachev's negotiations with the "G-7" over financial aid in support of transition to the market.[4] After the defeat of the hardline August 1991 coup against Gorbachev and Yeltsin, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Management of National Economy that acted in place of Soviet government. In this role he unsuccessfully tried to negotiate an economic union among the remaining Soviet republics. The agreement was signed by representatives of ten republics in Alma-Ata on 18 October 1991. Yet these efforts were overturned by Yeltsin's unilateral proclamation of radical market reforms in Russia on 28 October 1991 and the dissolution of the USSR in December of that year.

With the launching of the 'shock therapy' reforms by Yeltsin and Gaidar in January 1992, Yavlinsky became an outspoken critic of these policies, emphasizing differences between his and Gaidar's reforms program (such as the sequencing of privatization vs. liberalization of prices and the applicability of his program to the entire Soviet Union).

In 1992, Yavlinsky served as advisor to Boris Nemtsov who at the time was Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Yavlinsky developed a regional economic reform program for him. Later, however, their paths diverged, as Nemtsov sided with Yeltsin's government on most issues, eventually becoming deputy prime minister and one of the founders and leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces, while Yavlinsky became the leader of liberal opposition to Yeltsin.

Political activities[edit]

During Yeltsin's presidency[edit]

In 1993, as conflict between Yeltsin and the parliament over shock therapy exacerbated, Yavlinsky had high ratings in the polls as a potential candidate for Russia's presidency, who had the image of an independent, centrist politician, untainted by corruption. He built close relations with many disaffected democrats and NGOs, as well as with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and rising financial and media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky. In September–October 1993, he joined a group of senior politicians who tried to mediate between Yeltsin and the parliament and was on a short list of compromise candidates for the post of the Prime Minister. However, with the outbreak of hostilities on the streets of Moscow on 3 October he unequivocally called upon Yeltsin to use force against violent supporters of the parliament. (He was later blamed for having abandoned neutrality in this situation.)

Yavlinsky meets people in 1997

When Yeltsin set the date for the elections to the new parliament and a constitutional referendum for 12 December 1993, Yavlinsky had to cobble together an electoral bloc in haste, as he had no party of his own, and had to recruit existing parties as co-founders. His bloc was co-founded by three of them, Republican Party of the Russian Federation, Social Democratic Party of Russia and Christian Democratic Party of Russia, all three tilting on most issues toward the Yeltsin camp. However, they were soon marginalized within his bloc and RPRF was ousted from it 1994.

The top three names on the slate – Yavlinsky, Yury Boldyrev (former State Comptroller and a disaffected democrat) and Vladimir Lukin (at the time Russia's ambassador to the US) – gave the bloc its initial name, "Yavlinsky-Boldyrev-Lukin", abbreviated as YaBLoko. The bloc's leadership was divided over Yeltsin's constitutional project, but Yavlinsky himself was openly critical of it. With no prior electoral experience, YaBLoko succeeded in winning 7.9% of the vote and forming the fifth largest faction in the Duma. After Boldyrev clashed with Yavlinsky over the bill on production-sharing agreements and left the bloc in 1995, the name was retained but now reinterpreted as "Yavlinsky Bloc". In 1995, the Yabloko caucus in the Duma set up its own political association that in 2001 was reincorporated as a political party.

Among the features of the new party that would distinguish it from other liberal parties was its critique of Yeltsin's policies, from economic "shock therapy" and the handling of the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis to Chechnya War and Russia's relations with the West. Yavlinsky established himself as a permanent leader of "democratic opposition". In this capacity, he was a principled opponent of Gaidar's Russia's Choice and its successors in the parliament, such as the Union of Rightist Forces. In their turn, they charged him with being too inflexible and blamed his personality for a failure to merge with other democrats in order to mount a concentrated electoral challenge to the hardline forces. Others, however, admitted to philosophical differences between Yavlinsky's unspoken social democratic bent and the neoliberal orientation of his democratic opponents.

In September 1998, after Russia's 1998 financial crash brought down Sergei Kirienko government, Yavlinsky proposed the candidacy of Yevgeny Primakov who was elected Prime Minister in spite of resistance from Yeltsin, his family and entourage. This helped resolve the political stalemate and many credit Primakov with rescuing the economy from chaos and with the start of the recovery of the industrial production that continued under Vladimir Putin. However, Yavlinsky declined Primakov's offer to join his Communist-dominated government as deputy premier for social policies and soon joined the ranks of his critics on the liberal side.

In May 1999, as Yeltsin regained power and was preparing to dismiss Primakov, Yavlinsky joined forces with the Communist Party in an attempt to impeach Yeltsin. Of the four items of impeachment, the article that got the most support from both parties was the one charging Yeltsin with abuse of power in connection with war in Chechnya. However, about a third of Yabloko did not vote in support of the impeachment, which failed as a result.

In 1996 and 2000, Yavlinsky ran for President with endorsement from his party and other organizations. In 1996, he came in fourth and received 7.3% of the vote. In the 2000 presidential elections, he finished third and received 5.8% of the vote. In both cases, he did not subsequently offer his support to either Yeltsin or Putin or their Communist opponent in both elections, Gennady Zyuganov.

Yavlinsky does not conceal his lukewarm view of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 that occurred while he was negotiating an economic treaty among the republics. However, he never advocated a restoration of Soviet Union or a revision of post-Soviet borders.

Yavlinsky was at times critical of the US policies toward Russia, particularly under the Clinton administration. Some of the most trenchant of these criticisms are contained in his lecture at the Nobel Institute, delivered in May 2000.[5]

During Putin's presidency[edit]

Under the Putin presidency, Yavlinsky remained an active opponent of military solution to the problems in Chechnya. In 2002, he took part in the unsuccessful negotiations during the Moscow theater hostage crisis and was praised by President Vladimir Putin for his role in the standoff. His party also campaigned against the imports of radioactive waste into Russia, thus building a crucial alliance with environmental NGOs, as well as with human rights organizations, labor unions, women associations, and ethnic minority groups. He was also an uncompromising critic of the Putin government's reforms of the housing and utilities sector and of the energy sector. A number of times, the Yabloko faction in the Duma initiated petitioning campaigns for the resignation of the government. At that time, he developed close relations with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch who positioned himself as an autonomous economic and political player vis-a-vis the Kremlin. A number of Khodorkovsky's associates became Duma members on the Yabloko slate (as well as through the Communist Party).

Yavlinsky had difficult relations with the authorities both under Yeltsin and under Putin (even though he was at times criticized by more radical groups for being a "house oppositionist"). While supporting many of the government's tax and budgetary reforms and aligning himself on many issues with Putin's reform czar Alexei Kudrin, as well as supporting Putin's early foreign policies of developing closer ties to the United States, he remained critical of domestic policies, particularly of the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the fall of 2003. He became even more outspoken about what many saw as an assault on democratic freedoms in Russia. In distinction from the new oppositionists, such as Boris Nemtsov, Garry Kasparov et al., he insisted that Putin's policies were to be seen as a direct continuation of Yeltsin's. Nonetheless, he was repeatedly mentioned in media rumors as a possible candidate for Prime Minister, both under Yeltsin and Putin.

President Putin with Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko party in the State Duma
Grigory Yavlinski at meeting, Moskow, Bolotnaya Square, 2011-12-17

In the 2003 elections to the Duma, Yabloko failed to cross the 5% threshold of Duma representation. Both vote-rigging and Yabloko's declining support may have been the primary factor. Yavlinsky later recalled that Putin telephoned him early on election night to congratulate him, apparently believing – or pretending to believe – that Yabloko had succeeded in gaining representation.

Yavlinsky refused to run for president in 2004, claiming that Putin had rigged elections to the point of making them meaningless.

Yavlinsky remains a prominent critic of Putin and of Russia's leading United Russia Party. In a 12 January 2004 interview,[6] he is quoted as saying:

We don't have an independent parliament any more. For the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union we again have a one-party parliament. There are no independent mass media of any significance any more. There is no public control over secret services and the law enforcement agencies, there is no independent legislature. The authorities considerably influence the elections. All elements of society are concentrated in the same hands which resemble the 1930s. This is a semi-Soviet system.

After Yabloko again failed to secure representation in the Russian legislative election, 2007, there was some possibility of Yavlinsky running again for presidency in 2008. However, most Yabloko members and Yavlinsky himself supported the long-shot and largely symbolic candidacy of émigré dissident Vladimir Bukovsky who in the end failed to clear legal obstacles to his registration.

Yavlinsky's leadership of Yabloko occasionally came under attacks from internal opponents, who eventually were defeated and not infrequently had to leave the party. The most prominent of them included Yury Boldyrev, Yabloko's vice-leader and member of the upper house, in 1995; Vyacheslav Igrunov, a left-wing intellectual and a campaign manager, who quit over the restructuring of the organization in 2003; and some of the younger members, such as Ilya Yashin and Maksim Reznik, who advocated for a closer alliance with other opposition groups (Yashin is no longer a Yabloko member, while Reznik stayed as a leader of its St. Petersburg branch, but later left the party, while Yavlinsky became deputy of Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg and a head of Yabloko's fraction in it.

On 22 June 2008, Yavlinsky stepped down as party leader at Yabloko's 15th congress, proposing in his place the candidacy of Moscow City Duma deputy Sergey Mitrokhin who was elected the new party chairman. Yavlinsky remains a member of Yabloko's Political Committee (elected there with the largest number of votes) and a regular spokesman for the party, particularly in local election campaigns. Outside politics he is a professor of Moscow's Higher School of Economics. He is also a member of the Trilateral Commission.

Personal life[edit]

Yavlinsky met his wife, Yelena, while studying at the Plekhanov Institute, and the couple have two children. Their son Mikhail was born in 1971 and currently works for the BBC Russian Service in London. Their other son, Alexei, was born in 1981 and works as a computer programmer in Moscow.[3]

A recent interview revealed that during the turbulent times of Russia's politics in the 90s Yavlinsky's opponents had his 23-year-old piano-playing son kidnapped, and his fingers cut off and mailed to him. He declined to reveal who he thinks is behind the attack saying he "was receiving corresponding letters" prior to the incident.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mukhin, Sergey (24 February 1999). Получивший благословение на президентство. NG Religii (in Russian). p. 3. Retrieved 4 February 2009. 
  2. ^ "Yavlinksy's biography" (in Russian). Official Yavlinsky's website. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "This Economist Keeps on Swinging". The Moscow Times. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  4. ^ Window of opportunity: the grand bargain for democracy in the Soviet Union / Graham Allison and Grigory Yavlinsky, co-chairmen, Joint Working Group. New York: Pantheon Books, c1991.
  5. ^ "Grigory Yavlinsky's Lecture at the Nobel Institute". 30 May 2000. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Claudia von Salzen". Official Yabloko website. 12 January 2004. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  7. ^


  • Transition to a Market Economy (500 Days Program) St.Martin’s Press, New York, 1991)
  • Laissez-Faire versus Policy-Led Transformation (lesson of the Economic Reforms in Russia) EPIcenter-NikaPrint, 1994
  • The Inefficiency of Laissez-Faire in Russia: Hysteresis Effects and the Need for Policy-Led Transformation Journal of Comparative Economics. Volume 19, N 1. 1994. S. Braguinsky and G. Yavlinsky.
  • "Russia’s Phony Capitalism", Foreign Affairs, 1998
  • Braguinsky S., Yavlinsky G. Incentives and Institutions: the transition to a market economy in Russia, Princeton University Press, 2000

External links[edit]

Party political offices
New political party Chairman of the Yabloko
Succeeded by
Sergey Mitrokhin
New political party Yabloko presidential candidate
1996, 2000
Succeeded by
Don't participate in 2004 and 2008 presidential elections