Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (1931 – 2007) was a Russian and former Soviet politician who served as the first President of Russia from 1991 to 1999. A member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1961 to 1990, he later stood as a political independent, during which time he was viewed as being ideologically aligned with liberalism and Russian nationalism. Born in Butka, Ural Oblast, to a peasant family, Yeltsin grew up in Kazan, Tatar. After studying at the Ural State Technical University, he worked in construction. Joining the Communist Party, which monopolized power in the state and society, he rose through its ranks and in 1976 became First Secretary of the party's Sverdlovsk Oblast committee. Initially a supporter of the perestroika reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin later criticized them as being too moderate, calling for a transition to a multi-party representative democracy. In 1987 he was the first person to resign from the party's governing Politburo, establishing his popularity as an anti-establishment figure. In 1990, he was elected chair of the Russian Supreme Soviet and in 1991 was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Allying with various non-Russian nationalist leaders, he was instrumental in the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union in December that year, at which the RSFSR became the Russian Federation, an independent state. Yeltsin remained in office as president and was reelected in the 1996 election, although critics claimed pervasive electoral corruption. Yeltsin transformed Russia's state socialist economy into a capitalist market economy by implementing economic shock therapy, market exchange rate of the ruble, nationwide privatization, and lifting of price controls. Economic volatility and inflation ensued. Amid the economic shift, a small number of oligarchs obtained a large proportion of the national property and wealth, while international monopolies came to dominate the market. A constitutional crisis emerged in 1993 after Yeltsin ordered the unconstitutional dissolution of the Russian parliament, leading to parliament to impeach him. The crisis ended after troops loyal to Yeltsin stormed the parliament building and stopped an armed uprising; he then introduced a new constitution which significantly expanded the powers of the president. Secessionist sentiment in the Russian Caucasus led to the First Chechen War, War of Dagestan, and Second Chechen War between 1994 and 1999. Internationally, Yeltsin promoted renewed collaboration with Europe and signed arms control agreements with the United States. Amid growing internal pressure, he resigned by the end of 1999 and was succeeded by his chosen successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Out of office, he kept a low profile, but he was accorded a state funeral upon his death in 2007. Yeltsin was a controversial figure. Domestically, he was highly popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, although his reputation was damaged by the economic and political crises of his presidency, and he left office widely unpopular with the Russian population. He received praise and criticism for his role in dismantling the Soviet Union, transforming Russia into a representative democracy, and introducing new political, economic, and cultural freedoms to the country. Conversely, he was accused of economic mismanagement, overseeing a massive growth in inequality and corruption, and sometimes of undermining Russia's standing as a major world power. (Wikipedia)


Conor O'Clery,

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union,


ISBN 1586487965