Puneet Varma (Editor)

United Russia

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English name
United Russia

President of Russia
Vladimir Putin

Parliamentary Leader
Vladimir Vasilyev

Dmitry Medvedev

Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev

Sergey Shoygu Yury Luzhkov Mintimer Shaimiev

United Russia (Russian: Еди́ная Росси́я, Yedinaya Rossiya; [(j)ɪˈdʲinəjə rɐˈsʲijə]) is as of 2017 the ruling political party of the Russian Federation. United Russia is the largest party in Russia; as of 2017 it holds 342 (or 76.22%) of the 450 seats in the State Duma.


The United Russia party formed in December 2001 through a merger of the Unity party and the Fatherland – All Russia party. As of 2017 the United Russia party supports the policies of the presidential administration. The party's association with President and former Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (a former leader of the party) has been the key to its success. There is also evidence that the electorate credits the party for improvements to the economy.

Although the United Russia party's popularity declined from its peak of 64.4% in the 2007 Duma elections to 49.32% in the 2011 elections, it remained the most popular party in the country, ahead of the second-placed Communist Party at 19.19%. In the 2016 elections it received 54.2%, while the second-place Communist Party received 13.3%.

The party has no coherent ideology; however, it embraces specific politicians and officials with a variety of political views who support the administration. The party appeals mainly to non-ideological voters; therefore, United Russia is often classified as a "catch-all party" or as a "party of power". In 2009 it proclaimed "Russian Conservatism" as its official ideology.


United Russia's predecessor was the Unity bloc, which was created three months before the December 1999 Duma elections to counter the advance of the Fatherland - All Russia (OVR) party led by Yuri Luzhkov. The creation of the party was heavily supported by Kremlin insiders, who were wary of what looked like a certain OVR victory. They did not expect Unity to have much chance of success, since President Boris Yeltsin was very unpopular and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ratings were still minuscule. The new party attempted to mimic OVR's formula of success, placing an emphasis on competence and pragmatism. Charismatic Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu was appointed as the party leader.

In 1999, Prime Minister Putin's popularity soared to double digit figures after he decisively sent troops to the rebellious Chechnya republic as a retaliation for terrorist bombings in Moscow and other cities and in response for the Chechen invasion of Dagestan. Putin's war effort was hugely popular and portrayed positively by the Boris Berezovsky-owned Channel One Russia as well as by state-controlled RTR.

1999 State Duma election

Contrary to its creators' expectations, Unity's election campaign was a huge success, and the party received 23.3% of the votes, considerably more than OVR's 13.3% and within one percentage point of the Communist Party's 24.3%. The popularity of the prime minister proved decisive for Unity's victory. The election results also made clear that Putin was going to win the 2000 presidential election, which resulted in competitors Luzhkov and Yevgeni Primakov dropping out. Yeltsin also gave Putin a boost by resigning as president on 31 December 1999.

Creation of United Russia

While Unity had initially had only one narrow purpose, limited only to the 1999 Duma elections, after the victory state officials began to transform the party into a permanent one. A large number of independent deputies who had been elected to the Duma were invited to join the party's delegation. Many OVR deputies also joined, including its leader Luzhkov personally. In April 2001, OVR and Unity leaders issued a joint declaration that they had started the process of unification. In July 2001, the unified party, called "Union of Unity and Fatherland" held its founding congress, and in December 2001, it became "All-Russian Party of Unity and Fatherland", or more commonly, United Russia. In the second party congress in March 2003, Sergei Shoigu stood down and Boris Gryzlov was elected as the new party leader.

Instead of the "communism versus capitalism" dichotomy that had dominated the political discourse in the 1990s, in the 1999—2000 electoral cycle Putin started to emphasize another reason to vote for his party: stability, which was yearned for by Russian citizens after a decade of chaotic revolutionary change. With the exception of the continued fighting in the Northern Caucasus, Putin delivered it.

On 13 January 2003, United Russia had 257,000 members, behind Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (600,000) and the Communists (500,000).

2003 State Duma elections

Throughout Putin's first years as President, the country's economy improved considerably, growing more each year than in all of the previous decade, and Putin's approval ratings hovered well above 70%. Russia's economic recovery was helped by high prices for its primary exports such as oil, gas and raw materials.

The passage rate of law proposals increased considerably after United Russia became the dominant party in the Duma: in 1996—1999, only 76% of the legislation that passed the third reading was signed by the President, while in 1999—2003 the ratio was 93%. While Yeltsin had often relied on his decree powers to enact major decisions, Putin almost never had to. United Russia's dominance in the Duma enabled Putin to push through a wide range of fundamental reforms, including a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, an overhaul of the labour market, breakups of national monopolies and new land and legal codes. United Russia characterized itself as wholly supportive of Putin's agenda, which proved a recipe for success and resulted in the party scoring a major victory in the 2003 Duma elections, receiving more than a third of the popular vote.

Throughout its history, United Russia has been successful in using administrative resources to weaken its opponents. For example, state-controlled news media portrayed the Communist Party as hypocritical for accepting money from several "dollar millionaries" during the 2003 Duma election campaign. United Russia also introduced tougher party, candidate and voter registration requirements, and increased the election threshold from 5% to 7% for the 2007 elections.

Opposition parties also made several strategic mistakes. For example, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces seemed to spend more effort attacking each other than Putin, which made it easier for United Russia to win over liberal voters on the strength of market reforms under Putin. The opposition parties faltered in the 2003 elections, with the Communists gaining just 52 seats, a drop from 113 in 1999. Liberal opponents fared even worse, with Yabloko and Union of the Right Forces failing to cross the 5 percent threshold.

2007 State Duma elections

As the economy continued improving and Putin executed several popular moves, such as reining in the unpopular oligarchs, Putin's approval ratings stayed high and he won the 2004 presidential election with over 71% of the votes. The 2007 Duma elections proved a stunning victory for United Russia, which won 64.3% of the votes. The Communist Party became a distant second with 11.57% of the votes. Vladimir Putin was the only name on United Russia's national list, and his popularity helped the party to ensure victory.

During the December 2007 election, the party was accused by voters and election monitoring group GOLOS of numerous election law violations banned in the Russian Constitution.

The legislative agenda shifted somewhat after the 2007 elections. Anti-terrorism legislation, large increases in social spending and the creation of new state corporations became the dominant issues, while less energy was devoted to economic reform.


For the 2008 presidential election, United Russia nominated Dmitry Medvedev to succeed Putin. Medvedev received Putin's blessing and scored a clear victory, receiving 71% of the votes. As President, Medvedev nominated Putin as his Prime Minister. On 15 April 2008, Putin accepted a nomination to become the party's leader, but declared that this did not mean he would become a member. Medvedev has also refused to become a member.

During regional elections of 11 October 2009 United Russia won a majority of seats in almost every Russian municipality. Opposition candidates claim they were hindered from campaigning for the elections and some were denied places on the ballot. There are also accusations of widespread ballot stuffing and voter intimidation, as well as statistical analysis results supporting these accusations.

Support for United Russia was 53% in a poll held in October 2009. In 2010 and 2011, following the economic crisis, support for United Russia went up and down, but declined overall. The share of the population ready to vote for the party reached its lowest point in January 2011 (35%), before recovering to 41% in March 2011.

The Agrarian Party supported the candidacy of Dmitry Medvedev in the 2008 presidential election. It merged into United Russia.


At the party's XII Congress held on 24 September 2011, Medvedev supported the candidacy of Prime Minister Putin in the presidential election of 2012—a move that effectively assured Putin would return to the presidency, given the party's near-total dominance of Russian politics. Medvedev accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to head the party in the State Duma elections and said that, in his opinion, Vladimir Putin should run for president in 2012. Delegates applauded this statement standing and they unanimously supported his candidacy for president. Medvedev responded immediately, saying that applause is proof of Putin's popularity among the people. Medvedev's speech listened to about ten thousand participants of the meeting. Total congress was attended by about 12,000 participants, guests and journalists.

Also at the congress on 24 September was approved by the election list of candidates from the party in the December elections to the State Duma. The list includes 416 party members and 183 non-partisan, 363 of them for the first time participate in the elections. 29 September 2011 the list was handed over to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation. The party list was led by the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev. 582 delegates of the Congress voted in support of the list - against one.

Election program of United Russia was announced during speeches of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. Medvedev has identified seven strategic priorities of government policy, and Putin offered to cancel the erroneous tax debts of 36 million Russians in the amount of 30 billion rubles and increase from 10 October salaries of public sector employees by 6.5%. Vladimir Putin also said that taxes for the wealthy citizens should be higher than for the middle class, and offered to raise utility tariffs only excess baggage. Among other priorities, Putin called a complete re army and navy in 5–10 years, doubling the pace of road construction for 10 years, the creation or update of 25 million jobs in 20 years in and out of Russia in the five largest economies in the world.

At the party's XIII Congress held on 26 May 2012, Dmitry Medvedev was elected chairman of United Russia.

United Russia decided not use his portraits of President Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin during the fall election campaign. On this 26 September the newspaper Vedomosti citing a senior source in the ruling party.

In March 2013 about 50 members of the United Russia from Abansky District of Krasnoyarsk Krai announced their withdrawal from the party. They sent an open letter (it is said that under it signed 60 people) to the party chairman, Dmitry Medvedev, which criticized the activities of the party which according to them has ceased to fulfill its political function.

Federal Assembly

United Russia currently holds 343 of the 450 seats in the State Duma. It holds 15 of the 29 committee chairmanships and 10 of the 16 seats in the Council of Duma, the Duma's steering committee. The speaker of the Duma is United Russia's Sergey Naryshkin.

The party has only informal influence in the upper house, the Federation Council, as the Council has rejected the use of political factions in decision making.

Party membership

In April 2008, United Russia was claiming 1.98 million members. According to a study conducted by Timothy J. Colton, Henry E. Hale and Michael McFaul after the March 2008 Presidential elections, 30% of the Russian population are loyalists of the party.

Party platform

According to the party's 2003 political manifesto, The Path of National Success, the party's goal is to unite the responsible political forces of the country, aiming to minimize the differences between rich and poor, young and old, state, business and society. The economy should combine state regulation and market freedoms, with the benefits of further growth distributed for the most part to the less fortunate. The party rejects left-wing and right-wing ideologies in favour of "political centrism" that could unite all sections of society. In addition, the official party platform emphasizes pragmatism and anti-radicalism. The party regards itself to be one of the heirs to Russia's tradition of statehood, both tsarist and communist. United Russia's long-time moniker is "the party of real deeds."

United Russia has always characterised itself as wholly supportive of the agenda of the popular current President Vladimir Putin, and this has proved key to its success. A survey, whose results were presented by Henry E. Hale in 2008 at the Annual Meeting of American Political Science Association, indicates that the Russian population associates the party with a market economic orientation, opposition to communism, a moderately pro-Western foreign policy and a tough stance on rebellious minority regions like Chechnya. Voters who support such values are significantly more likely to vote for United Russia. Survey results also provide clear evidence that Russians tend to credit United Russia (as well as Putin) for improvements in the economy.

Since 2006, when Vladislav Surkov introduced the term sovereign democracy, many figureheads of the party have taken usage of the term. Former President and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has criticised the term. United Russia voted against the Council of Europe resolution 1481 (Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes).


According to studies, United Russia voters in 2007 were younger and more market-oriented than the average voter. The party's electorate includes a substantial share of state employees, pensioners and military personnel, who are dependent on the state for their livelihood. Sixty-four percent of United Russia supporters are female. In the run-up to the 2011 Duma elections, it was reported that support for United Russia was growing among young people.

Foreign opinions

Foreign media and observers describe United Russia as a pure "presidential party" with the main goal of securing the power of the Russian President in the Russian parliament. The vast majority of officeholders in Russia are members of the party, hence it is sometimes described as a "public official party" or "administration party" Because of this, it is also often labelled the 'party of power'.

International alliances

United Russia has signed cooperation agreements with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria and Lega Nord of Italy. It has a tentative cooperation agreement with the populist Five Star Movement in Italy as well.


In April 2008 United Russia amended Section 7 of its charter, changing its heading from "Party Chairman" to "Chairman of the Party and Chairman of the Party’s Supreme Council." Under the amendments, United Russia may introduce a supreme elective post in the party, the post of the party’s chairman, at the suggestion of Supreme Council and its chairman.

The Supreme Council, led by the Supreme Council chairman, defines the strategy for the development of the party.

The General Council has 152 members, is the foremost party platform in between party congresses and issues statements on important social or political questions. The Presidium of the General Council is led by a secretary, consists of 23 members and leads the political activity of the party, for instance election campaigns or other programmatic publications.

United Russia runs local and regional offices in all parts of the Russian Federation, and also operates a foreign liaison office in Israel through a deal with the Kadima party.

As of 20 September 2005, the party has a total of 2,600 local and 29,856 primary offices.

Internal groupings

United Russia is a large and diverse party, and has several internal subdivisions. The party has 4 internal groupings, organized around common policy interests. In addition, the party makes use of four internal political clubs to debate policy: liberal-conservative 4 November Club, social conservative Centre for Social Conservative Politics, and conservative-liberal State Patriotic Club, and liberal Liberal Club. Based on this division, the party considered entering the 2007 Duma elections as three separate "columns" (liberal, conservative and social), but the idea was subsequently abandoned.

Allegations of crime and corruption

United Russia has come in for criticism that it is "the party of crooks and thieves" ("партия жуликов и воров", a term coined by activist Alexey Navalny), due to the continuing prevalence of corruption in Russia. In October 2011, Novaya Gazeta even published an article describing how members of the public were writing the slogan on banknotes in protest. In December 2011, Vladimir Putin rejected the accusation of corruption, saying that it was a general problem that was not restricted to one particular party: "They say that the ruling party is associated with theft, with corruption, but it’s a cliché related not to a certain political force, it’s a cliché related to power [...] What’s important, however, is how the ruling government is fighting these negative things".

A poll made in November 2011 found that more than one-third of Russians agreed with the characterization of United Russia as "the party of crooks and thieves."

After the 2011 legislative elections a few leaders within United Russia called for investigations of fraud and reform of the party.

In August 2016, opposition leader Ilya Yashin released a report titled "The Criminal Russia Party," which stated that United Russia had essentially become a tool of political legitimization for organised crime.

Notable members

  • Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, former leader of the party
  • Boris Gryzlov, former interior minister, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the United Russia and former leader of the party
  • Sergey Naryshkin, current Chairman of the State Duma
  • Sergey Shoygu, current defence minister, former emergency minister, former leader of Unity party and former leader of the party
  • Mintimer Shaymiev, president of Tatarstan until 2010
  • Vladislav Surkov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President
  • Alexander Zhukov, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of the party, Prime Minister of Russia, Former President of Russia and the Leader of the party's Federal list to the Duma (Since 24 September 2011)
  • References

    United Russia Wikipedia

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