Russian politician, prime minister 1992–98. A former manager in the state gas industry and communist party apparatchik, he became prime minister in December 1992 after Russia's ex-communist-dominated parliament had ousted the market reformer Yegor Gaidar. He assumed temporary control over foreign and security policy after President Boris Yeltsin suffered a heart attack in November 1995, and again in November 1996 when Yeltsin underwent open-heart surgery. From March 1997 Chernomyrdin lost direct control over the economy to the promoted reformist ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. In March 1998 he was dismissed as prime minister, along with the entire government, by President Yeltsin.
Although lacking charisma, Chernomyrdin emerged as a respected and pragmatic reformer who, enjoying strong establishment support, brought a measure of stability to the country. He formed the Russia is Our Home party in May 1995. He was viewed as a leading challenger for the Russian presidency until Yeltsin stood for re-election in 1996 and his party failed to attract more than 10% electoral support. His negotiated settlement of a hostage crisis, involving Chechen terrorists, in southern Russia in June 1995, although controversial, won him popular support, leading to a temporary ceasefire in the civil war in Chechnya and peace talks between the two sides. After being dismissed in 1998, he was appointed Russia's ambassador in Ukraine by President Vladimir Putin, from 2001. A business oligarch, he accumulated assets worth several billion dollars.
The son of a labourer, he initially worked as a mechanic and machinist in the oil industry in Orsk, and joined the Communist Party of the USSR in 1961. He rose to senior management in the heavy industry in the 1970s and became chair on Gazprom, the state oil and gas company, in 1989.