Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich

Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich

(bərēs` nyĭkəlī`əvĭch yĕlt`sĭn), 1931–2007, Soviet and Russian politician, president of Russia (1991–99). Born in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) and educated at the Urals Polytechnic Institute, Yeltsin began his career as a construction worker (1953–68). He joined the Communist party in 1961, becoming first secretary of the Sverdlovsk region in 1976 and a member of the central committee in 1981. In 1985 he was chosen by Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich
, 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99).
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 as Moscow party boss, and in 1986 he was inducted into the party's ruling Politburo. In Oct., 1987, however, he was ousted from his Moscow post after clashing with conservatives and criticizing Gorbachev's reforms as inadequate. Attracting a large following as a populist advocate of radical reform, Yeltsin won (1989) election to the USSR's Supreme Soviet (parliament) as an opposition member.

In 1990, Yeltsin was elected to the Russian Republic's Supreme Soviet, was elected Russian president by that body, and resigned from the Communist party. He retained (1991) the presidency in a popular election—in which he became Russia's first democratically elected president—and assumed the role of Gorbachev's chief liberal opponent. His successful opposition to the August CoupAugust Coup,
attempted coup (Aug. 18–22, 1991) against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. On the eve of the signing ceremony for a new union treaty for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, members of the Politburo and the heads of the Soviet military and security
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 (1991) against Gorbachev shifted power to the reformers and republics, and Yeltsin, Ukraine's President Leonid KravchukKravchuk, Leonid Makarovich
, 1934–, Ukrainian leader, president of Ukraine (1991–94), b. Velyky Zhityn, Ukraine. A political economist and long-time Communist party ideologue, he became chairman of Ukraine's Supreme Soviet in 1990.
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, and Belarus's President Stanislav ShushkevichShushkevich, Stanislav Stanislavovich,
Belarusian Stanislau Stanislavavich Shushkevich, 1934–, Belarusian political leader and scientist, first head of state of independent Belarus after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, b. Minsk.
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 founded (Dec. 8, 1991) the Commonwealth of Independent StatesCommonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), community of independent nations established by a treaty signed at Minsk, Belarus, on Dec. 8, 1991, by the heads of state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Between Dec. 8 and Dec.
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, ending attempts to preserve the Soviet Union.

As president of an independent Russia, Yeltsin moved to end state control of the economy and privatize most enterprises. However, economic difficulties and political opposition, particularly from the Supreme Soviet, slowed his program and forced compromises. In Sept., 1993, Yeltsin suspended parliament and called for new elections. When parliament's supporters resorted to arms, they were crushed by the army. Although Yeltsin won approval of his proposed constitution, which guaranteed private property, a free press, and human rights, in the Dec., 1993, voting, many of his opponents won seats in the new legislature.

In foreign affairs Yeltsin greatly improved relations with the West and signed (1993) the START II nuclear disarmamentdisarmament, nuclear,
the reduction and limitation of the various nuclear weapons in the military forces of the world's nations. The atomic bombs dropped (1945) on Japan by the United States in World War II demonstrated the overwhelming destructive potential of nuclear weapons
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 treaty with the United States. He failed, however, to secure more than a limited amount of economic aid. In 1994, Yeltsin sent forces into ChechnyaChechnya
or Chechen Republic
, republic (1990 est. pop. 1,300,000, with neighboring Ingushetia), c.6,100 sq mi (15,800 sq km), SE European Russia, in the N Caucasus. Grozny is the capital. Prior to 1992 Chechnya and Ingushetia comprised the Checheno-Ingush Republic.
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 in order to suppress a separatist rebellion, forcing Russia into a difficult and unpopular struggle.

In 1996 Yeltsin again ran for the presidency against a number of other candidates and won the first round, garnering 35% of the vote to Communist Gennady ZyuganovZyuganov, Gennady or Gennadi Andreyevich
, 1944–, Russian politician, b. Mymrino. The son and grandson of country schoolteachers, he grew up in the tiny farming village where he was born, joined the Communist
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's 32%; Yeltsin won the runoff election. In the late 1990s, however, a series of economic crises, frequent cabinet reshufflings, and his own deteriorating health and alcoholism cast doubt on his ability to rule; charges of corruption in his family and among members of his inner circle also became prominent. In May, 1999, Yeltsin survived an impeachment attempt spearheaded by the Communist opposition. A second invasion of Chechnya (1999), prompted by a Chechen invasion of Dagestan and related terrorist bombings in Russia, proved popular with many Russians, and progovernment parties did well in the 1999 parliamentary elections. On Dec. 31, 1999, the long-ailing Yeltsin suddenly announced his resignation; Prime Minister Vladimir PutinPutin, Vladimir Vladimirovich
, 1952–, Russian government official and political leader, b. Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). After graduating from the Leningrad State Univ.
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 succeeded him as acting president.


See his memoirs, Against the Grain (tr. 1990), The Struggle for Russia (tr. 1994), and Midnight Diaries (tr. 2000); biographies by L. Aron (2000) and T. J. Colton (2008).

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