Parnas: The People’s Freedom Party

The People’s Freedom Party, also known as “Parnas,” was founded on September 16, 2010. It is a coalition of four organizations: Russian People’s Democratic Union; Republican Party of Russia; Democratic Choice; and certain members of the Solidarity movement. None of the four organizations are registered political parties, although some had attempted to register and were denied by Russia’s Ministry of Justice.

The formation of the coalition led to a significant split within the Solidarity movement, which is itself an umbrella group for opposition movements. Some within Solidarity felt strongly that they should not be a part of a registered political party because, they argue, mainstream political efforts are either corrupt or the exclusive realm of actors chosen by the Kremlin. Thus, Garry Kasparov, one of Solidarity’s most vocal and best-known members did not join the new movement. Neither did the organization he leads as part of the Solidarity movement, United Civil Front.

The co-founders of PARNAS from left to right: Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Mylov and Vladimir Ryzkov during a press conference after the Ministry of Justice refused to register the organization as a political party.

Some Russia-watchers speculated that this party might prove to be Russia’s first successful attempt at a real grass-roots, non-Kremlin supported opposition political movement. First, the four leaders of Parnas’s component organizations, Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, and Vladimir Milov are all experienced positions and former high-ranking government officials. Second, Parnas announced its formation at a time when the Kremlin was publically floating ideas to liberalize Russia’s political field. These included discontinuing registration requirements for political parties and lowering the electoral threshold for representation in the Duma from seven to three or five percent. However, while the threshold was eventually lowered to five percent, the Kremlin backed away from the idea of abolishing registration for political parties.

The People’s Freedom Party was denied registration in June of 2011. The official reasons were that the party had not provided for rotation of leadership in their party platform and had ineligible names on their party membership lists. The legality and justification for the decision was immediately called into question by Parnas and other organizations including the US Department of State. Indeed, many parties seem to be operating without the required “leadership rotation” clause in effect and the amount of “dead souls” on the membership lists were not enough to push the organization beneath (or even close to) the required number needed to register.

The organization decided not to resubmit their application and instead sued the Justice Ministry in an attempt to overturn the original application. Supporters insisted that resubmitting the documents would be futile and the Justice Ministry would continue to find reasons to deny the application; indeed, most parties that apply for registration are denied. Critics, however, argued that it showed that Parnas had never seriously intended to become a registered party and that it was acting more in the interests of the media for the Russian people.

The decision to not resubmit was contentiously made as was the debate on how to approach the elections in which Parnas would be barred from participating. Some held that a grand plan for holding Parnas-sponsored parallel elections across Russia at the same as the official elections would be effective at showing the true will of the people. Others held that the elections should be boycotted entirely and that low voter turnout would discredit the authorities. Still others felt that voters should be encouraged to arrive at voting stations but destroy their ballots as a protest measure that would also help prevent voter fraud. Others felt that voters should be encouraged to vote for any party except United Russia in an attempt to unseat Vladimir Putin’s base of power.

In the end, no central decision was made in how members should approach the elections. Other decisions discussed at the congress were also marked by disagreement and severe criticism of some members by others, leading at least one member, Vladimir Milov, to at one time leave the hall in protest.

The organization’s effectiveness thus remains in question. How they position themselves for the elections will likely be the true test of whether they will or can remain a political force.

The party platform rejected by the Justice Ministry is reproduced below in Russian and in a translation provided by as produced by students of translation working under supervision on the year-long Home and Abroad Program.

Учредительным съездом
Политической партии
«Партия народной свободы
“За Россию без произвола и
13 декабря 2010 года (протокол № 1)
By the inaugural congress
Of the political party
“People’s Freedom Party:
For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption”
December 13, 2010 (Protocol No 1)
Программа Program
Политической партии «Партия народной свободы Of the political party “People’s Freedom Party:
“За Россию без произвола и коррупции”» For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption”
Главная цель нашей политической деятельности – превращение России в страну, в которой человек, его права и свободы являются высшей ценностью, а их защита – главной обязанностью государства. Мы хотим построить в России современное общество, опирающееся на инициативу и творческую энергию свободных граждан. Общество, в котором нет места произволу и коррупции. Общество, которое гарантирует достаточную социальную защиту всем, кто в ней реально нуждается. Общество, экономические достижения которого обеспечивают стране достойное место на международной арене. The main goal of our political activity is to transform Russia into a state in which a person and his or her rights and freedoms are of the highest value, and their protection is the most important duty of the government. We want to build a modern society in Russia, one based on the initiative and creative energy of free citizens. A society, in which there is no place for lawlessness or corruption. A society, which guarantees sufficient social protection to all who are actually in need. A society whose economic achievements secure the country a worthy place in the international arena.
Основная задача партии – приход к власти в рамках конституционных процедур и восстановление в России основ государственного строя, определенных Конституцией Российской Федерации ради достижения следующих целей: The main task of the party is to create the foundations of a governing system in Russia within the frameworks of constitutional procedures and renewal, as formed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, for attaining the following goals:
  • Освобождения российского общества от засилия и произвола чиновников всех уровней; искоренения коррупции и практики использования государственных ресурсов в корыстных целях; 
  • To liberate Russian society from the dominance and lawlessness of bureaucrats of all levels; to eradicate corruption and the practices of using government resources for selfish goals;
  • Создания единой конкурентной среды в экономике и политике для всех граждан Российской Федерации;
  • To create a single competitive environment in economics and politics for all citizens of the Russian Federation;
  • Преобразования России в государство, способное обеспечить безопасность своих граждан и являющееся достойным участником мирового сообщества.
  • To transform Russia into a government able to secure safety for its citizens and which will be a worthy member of the international community
Задачи партии в сфере государственного строительства: The party’s tasks in the sphere of state building are:
  • Обеспечение принципа верховенства права и равенства всех перед законом, создание условий для независимости судов от исполнительной власти, реализация на деле конституционного принципа разделения властей;
  • To secure the rule of law and equal rights for all before the law, to create conditions for making the courts independent from the executive branch, and to implement the constitutional principle of separation of powers;
  • Формирование твёрдой законодательной основы для проведения свободных, честных, конкурентных выборов на всех уровнях власти под контролем институтов гражданского общества;
  • To form a fixed legal framework for carrying out free, honest, and competitive elections for all levels of power under the control of civic institutions;
  • Формирование условий для ведения свободной политической деятельности, не ограничиваемой произволом чиновников; обеспечение на деле плюрализма мнений и политической конкуренции; безусловное обеспечение свободы собраний и ассоциаций;
  • To form conditions for the carrying out of free political activity, not limited by the lawlessness of bureaucrats; to secure pluralism of opinion and political competition; and to secure unconditionally the freedom of assembly and association;
  • Обеспечение условий для полной реализации прав граждан на местное самоуправление, включая восстановление выборности глав муниципалитетов там, где она была отменена;
  • To secure the conditions for the full realization of citizens’ rights in local government, including restoring elections for municipal heads, where such elections had been abolished;
  • Восстановление реального федерализма как одного из базовых принципов, заложенных в Конституции – прежде всего через скорейшее восстановление выборности глав регионов; превращение Совета Федерации в орган, выражающий и защищающий интересы регионов; ликвидация системы федеральных округов и соответствующей бюрократической надстройки;
  • To restore real federalism as one of the basic principles established in the Constitution and to be accomplished firstly through the immediate restoration of elections for regional heads; to transform the Federation Council into an entity, which expresses and protects the regions’ interests; and to liquidate the system of federal districts and corresponding bureaucratic structures;
  • Обеспечение свободы выражения мнений, свободы слова, отмену цензуры. 
  • To secure freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and the abolition of censorship.
Задачи партии в социально-экономической сфере: The party’s tasks in the social-economic sphere:
  • Обеспечение повсеместной защиты прав частной собственности;
  • To ensure the universal protection of private property rights;
  • Развитие конкурентной среды, обеспечение свободы предпринимательства, последовательная борьба с монополизмом, резкое повышение качества инвестиционного климата, превращение России в одну из наиболее привлекательных для ведения бизнеса стран;
  • To develop a competitive environment; to ensure the freedom of entrepreneurship, a consistent struggle with monopolies, a dramatic increase in the quality of the investment climate, and to transform Russia into one of the most attractive countries for conducting business;
  • Кардинальное сокращение всех функций государства в социально-экономической жизни; отмена подавляющего большинства видов лицензирования и разрешительной практики; выход государства из конкурентных секторов экономики путем передачи пакетов акций, принадлежащих государству, в Пенсионный фонд России с установлением ограничений на голосование данными акциями;
  • To dramatically reduce all functions of the government in society and the economy; to abolish the overwhelming majority of licensing and permitting practices; and to withdraw the government from competitive sectors of the economy by transferring shareholdings belonging to the state to Russia’s pension fund and establishing voting restrictions on those shares;
  • Обеспечение прозрачности и неизменности правил и процедур доступа к природным ресурсам (земля, вода, леса, недра) и к инфраструктуре (коммунальной, транспортной, энергетической, телекоммуникационной), кардинальная реформа инфраструктурных монополий (включая «локальные») с выделением конкурентных видов деятельности;
  • To ensure transparency and stability of the rules and procedures of access to natural recourses (land, water, forests, and subsoil resources) and to infrastructure (municipal, transport, energy, and telecommunications), to drastically reform infrastructure monopolies (including “local” monopolies) and separating competitive activities;
  • Повышение уровня налоговой нагрузки на сырьевые отрасли, создание действенных условий, способствующих диверсификации экономики;
  • To increase the tax burden on the raw materials sector to create effective conditions for promoting diversification of the economy;
  • Превращение федерального бюджета в инструмент развития и модернизации страны; резкое увеличение бюджетных ассигнований на здравоохранение, образование и науку, охрану окружающей среды и инвестиции в инфраструктуру;
  • To transform the federal budget into an instrument of development and modernization for the nation, dramatically increasing budgetary allocations to public health services, education and science, the protection of the environment, and investments in infrastructure;
  • Перераспределение бюджетных доходов от федерального бюджета в пользу регионов и муниципальных образований;
  • To redistribute budgetary revenues from the federal budget towards regional and municipal entities;
  • Переход на адресные формы прямой государственной поддержки социально незащищенных граждан и семей;
  • To transition to targeted forms of direct state support for socially vulnerable citizens and families;
  • Обеспечение открытости российской экономики, вступление России в ВТО; отмена закона, ограничивающего иностранные инвестиции в конкурентные сектора российской экономики; переход на европейские нормы технического регулирования и правила «входа» на рынок; создание зоны свободной торговли с Евросоюзом (в перспективе – таможенного союза).
  • To ensure openness in the Russian economy and the entry of Russia into the WTO; to abolish laws which limit foreign investments in competitive sectors of the Russian economy; to convert to European norms of technological regulation and laws concerning “entrance” to the market; and to establish free trade zones with the European Union (with a view to establishing a customs union).
Задачи партии во внутренней политике: The party’s tasks in domestic politics:
  • Последовательная реализация программы по борьбе с коррупцией;
  • To implement a consistent program for fighting corruption;
  • Формирование компактного и профессионального государственного аппарата, обеспечение его безусловной подконтрольности обществу;
  • To form a compact and professional state apparatus and  secure its unconditional accountability to society;
  • Ликвидация ГИБДД, а также одиозных подразделений ФСБ, МВД и других «силовых» структур, запятнавших себя коррупцией и постоянными нарушениями прав граждан;
  • The liquidation of the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate (GIBDD), as well as the controversial subdivisions of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), and other “power” structures, which sully their names through corruption and constant violations of citizen’s rights;
  • Превращение армии в современный институт, способный обеспечивать полноценную безопасность России; отмена армейского призыва и переход на контрактную систему формирования вооруженных сил; существенное сокращение численности Вооруженных сил и оснащение их современным вооружением и техникой;
  • To transform the army into a modern institution able to secure Russia’s complete safety; to abolish army conscription and shift to a contractual system for the armed forces; to substantially reduce the number of armed forces, and to supply them with modern arms and technologies;
  • Реформа милиции с целью обеспечения прямого общественного контроля (включая выборность руководителей органов внутренних дел на муниципальном уровне);
  • To reform the police, with the goal of securing direct public control (including electing the heads of interior departments at the municipal level);
  • Проведение политики национального примирения в северокавказских республиках;
  • To implement a policy of national reconciliation with the Northern Caucus republics;
  • Отмена прописки и ее субститутов, включая миграционный учет в его нынешнем виде. 
  • To abolish residential registration and its counterparts, including migration registration in its present form.
Россия в мире Russia in the world
России необходимо восстановление нормальных, дружественных отношений с соседними государствами, бывшими республиками СССР. Россия должна стать частью общеевропейской цивилизации; всесторонняя интеграция с Европейским Союзом во всех сферах жизни отвечает интересам российских граждан. Трезвая оценка существующих угроз в международной сфере делает необходимым постепенное движение к формированию Союза Россия-НАТО для обеспечения европейской и глобальной безопасности на основе единых ценностей. Russia needs to restore normal, friendly relations with neighboring states, the former republics of the Soviet Union. Russia should become part of the pan-European civilization; should integrate comprehensively  with the European Union in all spheres of life that echo the interests of the Russian people. A sober assessment of the present dangers in the international sphere necessitates gradual movement towards the formation of a Russia- NATO union in order to ensure European and global safety on the basis of common values.
Принципы деятельности, методы реализации целей и решения задач Партии Working principles and ways to achieve the goals and complete the tasks of the party
Партия осуществляет свою деятельность, основываясь на принципах добровольности, равноправия, самоуправления, законности и гласности. Партия реализует свои цели любыми не запрещенными законодательством методами как непосредственно, так и через своих представителей в выборных органах государственной власти и органах местного самоуправления.  The Party performs its activity based on the principles of voluntary participation, equality, self-government, lawfulness, and openness. The party realizes its goals through any means not prohibited by law, either directly or through representatives in the elected bodies of state power or local government.

About the Author

Josh Wilson

Josh has been with SRAS since 2003. He holds an M.A. in Theatre and a B.A. in History from Idaho State University, where his masters thesis was written on the political economy of Soviet-era censorship organs affecting the stage. He lived in Moscow from 2003-2022, where he ran Moscow operations for SRAS. At SRAS, Josh still assists in program development and leads our internship programs. He is also the editor-in-chief for the SRAS newsletter, the SRAS Family of Sites, and Vestnik. He has previously served as Communications Director to Bellerage Alinga and has served as a consultant or translator to several businesses and organizations with interests in Russia.

Program attended: All Programs

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Michael Smeltzer

Michael Smeltzer has degrees in Russian Language and Philosophy from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. At the time he wrote for this site, he had previously studied abroad in Irkutsk and then spent an academic year studying in Vladivostok as part of SRAS's Home and Abroad program.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Michael Smeltzer