Boris Efimovich Nemtsov (Борис Ефимович Немцов) (born October 9 1959) is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, one of co-founders of the Russian political party Union of Right Forces, and an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin.
Boris Nemtsov was born on October 9 1959 in Sochi to a Jewish father and an ethnic Russian mother. From 1976 to 1981 he studied physics at Gorky State University, and in 1985 received a Ph. D. in Physics and Mathematics, defending his dissertation at the age of 25. Until 1990 Boris Nemtsov worked as a senior scientist at the Gorky Radio-Physics Research Institute (Горьковский научно-иссследовательский радиофизический институт, НИРФИ).
In 1986, in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, Nemtsov organized a protest movement in his hometown, which effectively prevented the construction of a new nuclear power plant in the region. In that same year attempted to register in the election to the USSR Congress of People's Deputies (Parliament) as an independent candidate, but was prevented from running by the Communist-controlled local electoral commission.
In 1989, Nemtsov decided to run for the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies. He ran on a platform of reform, which for the time was quite radical; promoting ideas such as multi-party democracy and private enterprise . He was unsuccessful in this election, but returned to run for the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic representing Gorky (later renamed Nizhny Novgorod) in 1990. This time around Nemtsov defeated the twelve other candidates in the election, most of who were members of the Communist Party nomenklatura (Chinayeva 1996, 36). In Parliament he joined the "Reform Coalition" and "Centre-Left" political groups.
In the Russian parliament, Nemtsov was on the legislative committee , working on agricultural reform and the liberalization of foreign trade. It was in this position that Nemtsov came to meet Boris Yeltsin who was impressed with the young man’s work (Chinayeva 1996, 36). During the 1991 attack on the government by those opposed to Yeltsin, Nemtsov was a vehement supporter of the president, and stood by him during the entire clash. After the events of October 1991, Nemtsov’s loyalty was rewarded with the position of presidential representative in his home region of Nizhinii Novgorod (Chinayeva 1996, 36).
In November 1991 Boris Nemtsov was appointed Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region. He was re-elected in that position by popular vote in December 1995. His tenure was marked by the implementation of a wide-ranging, chaotic free market reform programme which earned the nickname "Laboratory of Reform" for Nihzhny Novgorod and resulted in significant economic growth for the region. Mr Nemtsov's reforms won praise from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who visited Nizhny Novgorod in 1993 (Chinayeva 1996, 37).
In December 1993 Boris Nemtsov was elected to the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament. During the election campaign he was backed by "Russia's Choice" and "Yabloko", which were then the principal liberal parties in the country.
In March 1997 Boris Nemtsov was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, with special responsibility for reform of the energy sector. He was widely popular with the public and appeared to be the lead candidate to become President of Russia in 2000. In the summer of 1997, opinion polls gave Mr Nemtsov over 50% support as a potential presidential candidate. His political career, however, suffered a blow in August 1998 following the crash of the Russian stock-market and the ensuing economic crisis. As a part of Chubais' economic team, Nemtsov was forced to resign his position of Deputy Prime Minister (Yeltsin 2000, 99). After the dismissal of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in 1998, Nemtsov was reappointed by Yeltsin to his post of Deputy Prime Minister, but again resigned shortly after when Yeltsin dissolved the government (Radio Free Europe.org).
In August 1999 Boris Nemtsov became one of the co-founders of the Union of Right Forces, a new liberal-democratic coalition which received nearly 6 million votes, or 8.6%, in the parliamentary elections in December 1999. Mr Nemtsov himself was elected to the State Duma, or lower house of Parliament, and consequently became its Deputy Speaker in February 2000. In May 2000, after the resignation of previous party leader Sergei Kiriyenko, Boris Nemtsov was elected leader of the Union of Right Forces and its parliamentary group in the State Duma. His position as party leader was confirmed at the Union of Right Forces congress in May 2001, where he was backed by over 70% of delegates. In 2002 he took part in the negotiations with the hostage-takers during the Moscow theater hostage crisis.
Between 2000 and 2003 Boris Nemtsov was in a difficult political position. While he vehemently opposed what he believed to be President Vladimir Putin's policies of rolling back democracy and civic freedoms in Russia, he had to collaborate with the powerful co-chairman of the Union of Right Forces, Anatoly Chubais, who favoured a more conciliatory line towards the Kremlin. As a consequence, the Union of Right Forces's message appeared muddled and confused, thus alienating many liberal voters. In the parliamentary elections of December 2003 the Union of Right Forces, whose list was headed by both Nemtsov and Chubais, received just 2.4 million votes, or 4% of the total, thus falling short of the 5% thershold necessary to enter Parliament and losing all of its seats in the State Duma.
Official results of the election were put in doubt by exit polls and the alternative vote-count conducted by independent election observers, which showed the Union of Right Forces at over 5% of the national vote and thus eligible for parliamentary seats. Despite this, in January 2004 Boris Nemtsov formally resigned from the party leadership, accepting his responsibility for the election defeat.
In January 2004 Boris Nemtsov co-authored (with his longtime advisor and party colleague Vladimir V. Kara-Murza) an article entitled "Appeal to the Putinist Majority", warning of the dangers of the impending Putin dictatorship, which appeared in "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" newspaper. In that same month Mr Nemtsov co-founded the "Committee 2008", an umbrella group of the Russian opposition which also included Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Bukovsky and other prominent liberals.
In February 2004, Nemtsov was appointed as a director of the Neftyanoi Bank, and Chairman of Neftyanoi Concern, the bank’s parent company (Nicholson, 9 December 2005). In December 2005, however, prosecutors announced that the bank would be subject to an investigation following allegations of money laundering and fraud. Nemtsov subsequently stepped down from both his positions in the company citing that he wanted to minimize the political fallout that may ensue because of his continuing involvement in Russian politics. Nemtsov also alleged that his bank might have been targeted because of his friendship and support of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov who has stated his intention to run for president in 2008 (Pronina, 20 December 2005).
During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections, Nemtsov came out as a strong supporter of candidate and the ultimate winner Viktor Yushchenko, while the Russian government backed his opponent. Shortly after the Orange Revolution, as the elections and series of protests in Ukraine came to be called, Yushchenko appointed Nemtsov as an economic advisor (Dow Jones International News, 14 February 2005). Nemtsov’s main goal would be to improve business ties between Ukraine and Russia, which had been damaged after the Putin government strongly supported Yushchenko's opponent in the presidential election. Nevertheless, Yushchenko's selection of Nemtsov was controversial in Russia and Ukraine because he was considered one of the few remaining vocal critics of President Putin (Dow Jones International News, 3 June 2005). The relationship between Nemtsov and the Ukrainian government became unstable in mid- 2005, when a group of ultra nationalist legislators called for Yushchenko to fire his Russian advisor after accusations that Nemtsov had criticized Ukrainian cabinet decisions (Dow Jones International News, 3 Jun 2005). Nemtsov remained as an economic advisor to Yushchenko, despite the criticism, until October 2006, when the office of the Ukrainian president announced that Nemtsov had been “relieved of his duties as a free lance presidential adviser.” (RIAN- Events in Russia, 9 October 2006).
On November 25, 2007, Nemtsov was arrested by police during an unauthorized protest against President Putin, he told the press.
Nemtsov was released later that day.
On December 26 2007, Nemtsov withdrew his candidacy for the 2008 presidential election, saying that he did not want to draw votes away from the other candidate of the "democratic opposition", Mikhail Kasyanov.
Boris Nemtsov is married and has three children. He remains a member of the federal political council of the Union of Right Forces and co-chairman of the "2008 Committee".
From the time of his dismissal from the government, Nemtsov became an important actor in the political discourse and eventually in the opposition of the Russian government under Vladimir Putin. Nemtsov’s specific political beliefs have caused some to characterize him as a “new liberal” (Shlapentokh 1999, 1169). The “new liberals” can be differentiated from the so-called “old liberals” in Russia by their more hostile attitude towards the West. This group of political actors in Russia, of which Nemtsov was the main spokesperson, is characterized by “people’s capitalism,” a term coined by Boris Nemtsov himself. People’s capitalism still accepts the market and private property as the pillars of a new Russian society, but also “rejects belief that market forces are the only effective regulator of all spheres of economic and social life” (1998, 203).
Nemtsov further expanded on his political ideas in a 2000 article published by the Harvard International Review. In this work, Nemtsov outlined his prediction of the future of Russian society and government, arguing that it will likely take the “moderately optimistic” path, characterized by conservatism and moderately reactionary shifts, where some political freedoms may be restricted, but not a whole scale reversion to Soviet style government, which he sees as the pessimistic path. Nemtsov warns however, that this path would likely lead to economic stagnation (2000, 17). Nemtsov has also takes issue with the power and autonomy enjoyed by many of the governors of the Republics, equating them to “feudal princes” and suggesting a return to a structure that makes these leaders subject to federal control (2000, 21).