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Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin

Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin, President of Russia in 1991-1999, was born to peasant parents on February 1, 1931, in Sverdlovsk Region in the Ural Mountains, he was trained as a construction engineer at the Urals Polytechnic Institute, graduating from the Institute in 1955. He subsequently worked in Svedlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and joined the Communist Party in 1961 at age 30. He became active in regional politics and became the senior party official of the Svedlovsk region in 1969. Yeltsin worked for 30 years in the Sverdlovsk Region, eventually becoming first secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the Soviet Communist Party.

A protg of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin was transferred to Moscow in 1985, where he headed the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee's construction department, in charge of construction for the entire Soviet Union. He became secretary of the Central Committee, and was named First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party on December 24, 1985 by General Secretary of the Communist Party Gorbachev.

Yeltsin later criticized Perestroika, Gorbachev's economic and political reform program, as moving too slowly. He believed in a market economy and denounced the corruption of public officials. In 1987, Mr Yeltsin was dismissed from his posts and returned to the political scene only in March 1989, when he won more than 80 percent of the vote in the country's first democratic elections and was elected a Soviet people's deputy. In 1990, he was elected chairman of the Russian Supreme Council.

On July 12, 1990, he abruptly quit the Communist Party. In August 1991, he challenged a coup attempt by the hard-line Communists against Mikhail Gorbachev's government. This earned him the reputation of a defender of democracy. No Americans at least will forget seeing him standing on the tank outside the Russian White House resisting the coup attempt.

On 12 June, 1991, Mr Yeltsin was elected first president of the Russian Federation in a national election, winning more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round. On December 8, 1991, he led a group of republic leaders in signing a treaty effectively dissolving the Soviet Union and forming the Commonwealth of Independent States. As chairman of the Russian Congress of Peoples' Deputies in 1990, he called for the creation of a Russian state presidency. When this office was approved by national popular referendum, he ran for and won the presidency in June 1991. He became the first popularly elected leader of Russia. In January 1992, against 75 years, of Communist economic policies, he lifted price controls on most goods as well as making other radical economic reforms.

When opposition to reforms began to surge in Russia, Yeltsin resorted, with Western support, to establishing a semi-authoritarian regime.The "October Events" as the came to be known had been brewing for months under the political and economic pains of market reforms in Russia. Yeltsin engaged in a power struggle for control of the country with his parliamentary opponents in the Supreme Soviet, leading him to claim special emergency powers in a televised address on March 20, 1993. This followed a week in which the Congress of People's Deputies, led by chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, voted to take away prerogatives granted to Yeltsin in December 1992. Joining in the attack of Yeltsin and the government was Vice President Alexander Rutskoi.

On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin announced that the parliament was dissolved. In defiant response about 200 members of parliament occupied the White House building, voted to strip Yeltsin of all powers, and declared Rutskoi president. Tanks surrounded the White House while a standoff stretched into two weeks. Rutskoi pleaded with the army to switch sides in the conflict, but was unsuccessful. The military assault on the White House began at 7 AM on October 4. Yeltsin ordered the tanks to open fire and expel the defiant opposition from the White House building. The shelling continued for 10 hours until the White House occupants were under arrest. Many civilians were killed in the crossfire, and in related shootings around the city.

In 1994, Yeltsin led Russia to enter a formal partnership with NATO, ending decades of an adversarial relationship. Also in 1994, Yeltsin concluded a summit meeting with President Clinton by agreeing to expedite destruction of nuclear warheads and to end Russian arms sales to Iran.




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