In 1989, elections were held for the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union. The main elections were held on 26 March and a second round on 9 April. They were the first relatively free nationwide elections held in the Soviet Union, and would prove to be the final national elections held before that country dissolved in 1991.
Culture Hall is prepared for legislative election in Pereslavl (1989)
While the majority of CPSU-endorsed candidates were elected (84 percent of the Congress consisted of the CPSU candidates by Gorbachev's estimate) over 300 candidates won out over the endorsed candidates. Among them were Boris Yeltsin, who won over the CPSU-endorsed candidate to represent Moscow's district with 89% of the vote. It was Yeltsin's first return to political power after resigning from the Politburo in 1987. On a union republic level Yeltsin was also later elected to the RSFSR's Congress and then, indirectly, to its Supreme Soviet. Anti-corruption prosecutor Telman Gdlyan, trapeze artist Valentin Dikul, ethnographer Galina Starovoytova, lawyer Anatoly Sobchak, physicist Andrei Sakharov, weightlifter Yury Vlasov, and hockey player Anatoli Firsov were among the other non-endorsed candidates who were elected to the CPD.
All in all, while the majority of seats were won by endorsed candidates, one Politburo member, five Central Committee members, and thirty five regional CPSU chiefs lost re-election to non-endorsed candidates. Gorbachev hailed the elections as a victory for perestroika and the election was praised in state media such as TASS and Izvestia, despite the strong opposition of hardliners within the Politburo and Central Committee.
The first session of the new Congress of People's Deputies opened in late May, 1989. Although hardliners retained control of the chamber, the reformers used the legislature as a platform to debate and criticize the Soviet system, with the state media broadcasting their comments live and uncensored on television. Yeltsin managed to secure a seat on the reconstituted Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, and in the summer formed the first opposition, the Inter-Regional Deputies Group, formed of Russian nationalists and liberals. As it was the final legislative group in the Soviet Union, those elected in 1989 played a vital part in continuing reforms and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union over the next two years.