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Summary Article: Yeltsin, Boris (Nikolayevich)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Russian politician, president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) 1990–91, and first president of the newly independent Russian Federation 1991–99. He directed the Federation's secession from the USSR and the formation of a new, decentralized confederation, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with himself as the most powerful leader. A referendum in 1993 supported his policies of price deregulation and accelerated privatization, despite severe economic problems and civil unrest. He survived a coup attempt later the same year, but was subsequently forced to compromise on the pace of his reforms after far-right electoral gains, and lost considerable public support. He suffered two heart attacks in October and November 1995, yet still contested the June 1996 presidential elections, in which he secured re-election, defeating Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. Yeltsin resigned as president on 31 December 1999, relinquishing his power six months early to his chosen successor, Vladimir Putin, in return for receiving guarantees of immunity from any future prosecution for any of his actions in the Kremlin.

Born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Yeltsin began his career in the construction industry. He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1961 and became district party leader. Brought to Moscow by Mikhail Gorbachev and Nikolai Ryzhkov in 1985, he was appointed secretary for construction and then, in December 1985, Moscow party chief. His demotion to the post of first deputy chair of the State Construction Committee in November 1987 was seen as a blow to Gorbachev's perestroika initiative and a victory for the conservatives grouped around Yegor Ligachev. Yeltsin was re-elected in March 1989 with an 89% share of the vote, defeating an official Communist Party candidate, and was elected to the Supreme Soviet in May 1989. A supporter of the Baltic states in their calls for greater independence, Yeltsin demanded increasingly more radical economic reform. In 1990 he renounced his CPSU membership and was elected president of the RSFSR, the largest republic of the USSR. Advocating greater autonomy for the constituent republics within a federal USSR, Yeltsin prompted the Russian parliament in June 1990 to pass a decree giving the republic's laws precedence over those passed by the Soviet parliament. In April 1991, he was voted emergency powers by congress, enabling him to rule by decree, and two months later was popularly elected president. In the abortive August 1991 coup, Yeltsin, as head of a democratic ‘opposition state’ based at the Russian parliament building, played a decisive role, publicly condemning the usurpers and calling for the reinstatement of President Gorbachev. As the economic situation deteriorated within Russia, Yeltsin's leadership came under increasing challenge. An attempted coup by parliamentary leaders was successfully thwarted September–October 1993, but unexpected far-right gains in assembly elections in December forced him to compromise his economic policies and rely increasingly on the support of the military. From early 1995 he came under criticism for his apparent sanctioning of a full-scale military offensive in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. In May 1997 a peace treaty was signed with Chechnya, nevertheless war subsequently resumed, and in June 1997 a Union Treaty with Belarus committed the state to future integration. In March 1998 Yeltsin astounded both Russia and the West by sacking the entire cabinet, and appointing as prime minister the 35-year-old fuel and energy minister Sergei Kiriyenko. The new government faced a financial crisis as the value of the rouble fell sharply by mid-1998. In late August, Yeltsin unexpectedly sacked Kiriyenko and the entire government, and sought to restore to office his trusted ally, Viktor Chernomyrdin. After the communist-dominated Duma twice refused to ratify Chernomyrdin's appointment, Yeltsin was forced to nominate Yevgeni Primakov as prime minister. He sacked Primakov and his cabinet in May 1999, when the Duma debated whether to commence impeachment proceedings against him, and appointed Sergei Stepashin acting prime minister. Later that month the Duma not only decided against impeaching him but also confirmed Stepashin as prime minister. In 1999 Yeltsin was condemned by western leaders for his failure to find a political solution to the continued war against Chechnya.

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Yeltsin, Boris (Nikolayevich)

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Yeltsin, Boris, in Moscow

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