Boris Yeltsin, 1991.
(born Feb. 1, 1931, Sverdlovsk, Russia, U.S.S.R.—died April 23, 2007, Moscow, Russia) Russian politician and president of Russia (1990–99). After attending the Urals Polytechnic Institute, he worked at construction projects in western Russia (1955–68). He became Communist Party leader in Sverdlovsk in 1976, and he was an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev
. Gorbachev later charged Yeltsin with eliminating corruption in the Moscow party organization, and as first secretary (mayor) of Moscow (1985–87) he proved a determined reformer. His criticism of the slow pace of reform led to a break with Gorbachev, and Yeltsin lost his position. In 1989 he was elected to the new Soviet parliament by a landslide, then became president of the Russian Republic (1990) and resigned from the Communist Party. In 1991 he won the presidency again in the first popular election in Russian history. When communist hard-liners staged a coup against Gorbachev, Yeltsin successfully opposed it, facing down its leaders with a dramatic outdoor speech in Moscow. He led the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States
(1991) and began to transform Russia's economy into one based on free markets and private enterprise. Hard-liners staged an unsuccessful coup against Yeltsin in 1993. When Chechnya unilaterally declared independence, Yeltsin sent troops to fight the rebels (1994). The Chechnya situation and Russia's deepening economic distress lessened his popularity, but he won reelection over a Communist Party challenger in 1996. After suffering a heart attack, he spent several months recovering. Continuing poor health led to his resignation on Dec. 31, 1999. He was succeeded by Vladimir Putin
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.