Soviet Democracy Takes Another Baby Step

Despite its inconclusive results, the Soviet Union's first national referendum was a hopeful step toward a freer, more pluralistic society. Voters withstood heavy-handed Communist propaganda and denied Mikhail Gorbachev a clear mandate to carry out his manipulative notion of national unity. Political maverick Boris N. Yeltsin overcame a KGB-inspired media smear campaign and won considerable popular support. Yeltsin's call for direct presidential elections in the Russian republic won big, too. The referendum offered Soviet voters a new experience. "For once," said one voter in a Moscow suburb, "there was an alternative: Gorbachev or Yeltsin."

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