Yushenkov: A Russian idealist

Sergey Yushenkov Yushenkov’s career spanned the creation of modern Russia

On the day he was cut down in his prime by bullets outside his home in Moscow, Sergey Yushenkov had just registered his new political party Liberal Russia.

“This was an ordinary day, and we had held a press briefing devoted to the registration of the party,” party secretary Yuli Nesnevich said afterwards.

Thus ended the life of a prominent Russian politician who, if he never played a major role in government, was known to millions of Russian TV viewers for his liberal views.

A member of parliament since 1990, he had built up a reputation for outspokenness, whether condemning the Kremlin’s military campaigns in Chechnya, demanding rapid economic reforms or railing at corruption within officialdom.

Many will remember him as one of the “defenders of the White House [Russian parliament]” during the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev.

On its 10th anniversary, he went to the spot to tell a small crowd marking its defeat – and the birth of modern Russia – that having former secret police chief Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin marked the “restoration of the coup”.

However, in his message of condolences on Thursday, Mr Putin paid tribute to an “outstanding politician of our time… who considered it his obligation to defend democratic freedoms and ideals”.

Unbowed reformer

Sergey Yushenkov, who was barely 53 when he was killed, started life in the Soviet Army, at one stage teaching Marxism-Leninism at Moscow’s Military-Political Academy.

But with perestroika in the 1980s, he quickly moved into liberal politics, entering the Soviet-era Russian parliament in March 1990, backed by Democratic Russia and the armed services’ association Shield.


Sergey Yushenkov Born 27 June 1950 in a village in Kalinin (now Tver) Province Helped organise defence of parliament during the August 1991 putsch Saw talks with Chechen rebel leaders as only way out of Chechen war


Posts in parliamentary committees on the media, defence and security followed while, in the Yeltsin years, his name was associated with political groups such as the Reform Coalition, Democratic Choice, Russia’s Choice and the Union of Right Forces.

Liberal Russia, emerging as a small political movement after President Putin took office, had the backing of exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky but the latter was ejected in October 2002 for “ideological incompatibility”.

The BBC’s Russian affairs analyst, Stephen Dalziel, says Yushenkov’s murder can be compared to that of another leading reformist MP, Galina Starovoitova, who was gunned down in St Petersburg in November 1999.

A shocked Boris Zolotukhin, co-chairman of Liberal Russia, described Yushenkov as an “open politician” who had “conducted his political struggle openly and gallantly”.

A brief glance at Liberal Russia’s doctrine, as published on its website, shows that the years had not weakened the political beliefs pursued by Sergey Yushenkov.

It rails against the “lies and hypocrisy of the authorities” and cites Chechnya as the most graphic example of the modern Russian state’s failure.

The aim of the party, it says, is to “create a state truly based on the rule of law”.