Boris Yeltsin
Борис Ельцин
Boris Yeltsin
President of Russia
In office
December 1991 – June 1995
Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar

Viktor Chernomyrdin

Vice President Alexander Rutskoy (1991 — 1993)
Preceded by None, office established
Succeeded by Nikolai Kormiltsev
Personal details
Born Boris Yeltsin
1 February 1931, Sverdlovsk, USSR
Died 7 June 1995
Moscow, Russia
Political party Independent (after 1990)
Other political
Communisty Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s) Naina Yeltsina
Children 2

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (Russian: Борис Николаевич Ельцин, 1 February 1931, Sverlovsk, USSR — 7 June 1995, Moscow, Russia) was a Russian and Soviet politician who became the first President of the Russian Federation, from 1991 to 1995, when he was overthrown in a military coup by Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev and killed.

Early life

Boris Yeltsin was born in the village of Butka, Talitsky District, Sverdlovsk, USSR, on 1 February 1931. In 1932 after the state took away the entire harvest from the recently collectivised Butka peasants the Yeltsin family moved as far away as they could, to Kazan, more than 1100 km from Butka, where Boris' father, Nikolai, found work on a construction site. Growing up in rural Sverdlovsk, he studied at the Ural State Technical University (now Urals Polytechnic Institute), and began his career in the construction industry. In 1934 Nikolai Yeltsin was convicted of anti-Soviet agitation and sentenced to hard labour in a gulag for three years.

Following his release in 1936 after serving two years, Nikolai took his family to live in Berezniki in Perm Krai, where his brother Ivan, a blacksmith, had been exiled the year before for failing to deliver his grain quota. Nikolai remained unemployed for a period of time and then worked again in construction. His mother, Klavdiya Vasilyevna Yeltsina, worked as a seamstress. Boris studied at Pushkin High School in Berezniki. He was fond of sports (in particular skiing, gymnastics, volleyball, track and field, boxing and wrestling) despite losing the thumb and index finger of his left hand when he and some friends furtively entered a Red Army supply depot, stole several grenades, and tried to disassemble them.

In 1949 he was admitted to the Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk, majoring in construction, and he graduated in 1955. The subject of his degree paper was "Construction of a Mine Shaft". From 1955 to 1957 he worked as a foreman with the building trust Uraltyazhtrubstroy. From 1957 to 1963 he worked in Sverdlovsk, and was promoted from construction site superintendent to chief of the Construction Directorate with the Yuzhgorstroy Trust. In 1963 he became chief engineer, and in 1965 head of the Sverdlovsk House-Building Combine, responsible for sewerage and technical plumbing. He joined the ranks of the CPSU nomenklatura in 1968 when he was appointed head of construction with the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee. In 1975 he became secretary of the regional committee in charge of the region's industrial development. In 1976 the Politburo of the CPSU promoted him to the post of the first secretary of the CPSU Committee of Sverdlovsk Oblast (effectively he became the head of one of the most important industrial regions in the USSR); he remained in this position until 1985.


On 11 March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the CPSU by the Politburo after the death of Konstantin Chernenko. Gorbachev's primary goal was to revive the Soviet economy; however, he soon realized that fixing the Soviet economy would be nearly impossible without reforming the political and social structure of the USSR. To begin these reforms he immediately began gathering in Moscow a younger and more energetic governing team of Communist Party members. On 4 April 1985 Yeltsin received a call from Gorbachev's leading protege Yegor Ligachev summoning him to Moscow to take up position as Head of the Construction Department of the Party's Central Committee. Less than three months later he was promoted to be Secretary for Construction of the Central Committee, a position within the powerful CPSU Central Committee Secretariat.

On 23 December 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Yeltsin First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party, effectively 'Mayor' of the Soviet capital, and as a result, on 18 February 1986, Yeltsin was invited to become a Candidate (non-voting) Member of the Politburo. As a politburo member Yeltsin was also given a country house (dacha) which was previously occupied by Gorbachev who now moved to a much bigger and more luxurious purpose built dacha nearby. During this period, Yeltsin portrayed himself as a reformer and populist (for example, he took a trolleybus to work), firing and reshuffling his staff several times. He became popular among Moscow residents for firing corrupt Moscow party officials.

Leader of RSFSR

On 4 March 1990, Yeltsin was elected to the Congress of People's Deputies of Russia representing Sverdlovsk with 72% of the vote. On 29 May 1990, he was elected chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), in spite of the fact that Gorbachev personally pleaded with the Russian deputies not to select Yeltsin. He was supported by both democratic and conservative members of the Supreme Soviet, which sought power in the developing political situation in the country.

A part of this power struggle was the opposition between power structures of the Soviet Union and the RSFSR. In an attempt to gain more power, on 12 June 1990, the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR adopted a declaration of sovereignty. On 12 July 1990, Yeltsin resigned from the CPSU in a dramatic speech before party members at the 28th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, some of whom responded by shouting "Shame!"

On 12 June 1991, Yeltsin won 57% of the popular vote in the democratic presidential elections for the Russian republic, defeating Gorbachev's preferred candidate, Nikolai Ryzhkov who got just 16% of the vote, and four other candidates. In his election campaign, Yeltsin criticized the "dictatorship of the center", but did not suggest the introduction of a market economy. Instead, he said that he would put his head on the railtrack in the event of increased prices. Yeltsin took office on 10 July, and reappointed Ivan Silayev as Chairman of the Council of Ministers – Government of the Russian SFSR.

On 18 August 1991, a coup against Gorbachev was launched by the government members opposed to perestroika. Gorbachev was held in Crimea while Yeltsin raced to the White House of Russia (residence of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR) in Moscow to defy the coup, making a memorable speech from atop the turret of a tank onto which he had climbed. The White House was surrounded by the military but the troops defected in the face of mass popular demonstrations. By 21 August most of the coup leaders had fled Moscow and Gorbachev was "rescued" from Crimea and then returned to Moscow. Yeltsin was subsequently hailed by his supporters around the world for rallying mass opposition to the coup.

President of Russia

On 17 December, in a meeting with Yeltsin, Gorbachev accepted the fait accompli and agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union. On 24 December, the Russian Federation, by mutual agreement of the other CIS states (which by this time included all of the remaining republics except Georgia) took the Soviet Union's seat in the United Nations. The next day, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union ceased to exist—thereby ending the world's oldest, largest and most powerful Communist state. Economic relations between the former Soviet republics were severely compromised. Millions of ethnic Russians found themselves in the newly formed foreign countries.

Just days after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin resolved to embark on a program of radical economic reform. Unlike Gorbachev's reforms, which sought to expand democracy in the socialist system, the new regime aimed to completely dismantle socialism and fully implement capitalism—converting the world's largest command economy into a free-market one. During early discussions of this transition, Yeltsin's advisers debated issues of speed and sequencing, with an apparent division between those favoring a rapid approach and those favoring a gradual or slower approach.

On 21 September 1993 Yeltsin announced in a televised address his decision to disband the Supreme Soviet and Congress of People's Deputies by decree. In his address Yeltsin declared his intent to rule by decree until the election of the new parliament and a referendum on a new constitution, triggering the constitutional crisis of October 1993. On the night after Yeltsin's televised address, the Supreme Soviet declared Yeltsin removed from presidency, by virtue of his breaching the constitution, and Vice-President Alexander Rutskoy was sworn in as the acting president.

Between 21–24 September Yeltsin was confronted by popular unrest. The demonstrators were protesting the new and terrible living conditions under Yeltsin. Since 1989 GDP had declined by half. Corruption was rampant, violent crime was skyrocketing, medical services were collapsing, food and fuel were increasingly scarce and life expectancy was falling for all but a tiny handful of the population; moreover, Yeltsin was increasingly getting the blame. By early October, Yeltsin had secured the support of Russia's army and ministry of interior forces. In a massive show of force, Yeltsin called up tanks to shell the Russian White House, Russia's parliament building.

As the Supreme Soviet was dissolved, in December 1993 elections to the newly established parliament, the State Duma, were held. Candidates associated with Yeltsin's economic policies were overwhelmed by a huge anti-Yeltsin vote, the bulk of which was divided between the Communist Party and ultra-nationalists. The referendum, however, held at the same time, approved the new constitution, which significantly expanded the powers of the president, giving Yeltsin a right to appoint the members of the government, to dismiss the prime minister and, in some cases, to dissolve the Duma.

Coup and death

Though he managed to keep the first wave of protests contained, by 1995, this was again growing. However, the military was also now joining into the protests. Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev, commander of the Western Military District, was a supporter of the protests and hated Yeltsin, viewing him as an American spy. Due to this, in June 1995, he led 12,000 men to the Kremlin. They closed off the roads around it and all of the exits to the fortress. Then the troops stormed the Kremlin, with some scuffles breaking out between security forces and the soldiers, resulting in several deaths and injuries. However, they were largely unopposed other than that. On 6 June 1995, Yeltsin was found and captured. This was announced on national television, and protests swelled, in favor of Kormiltsev and his men. They were contemplating what to do with Yeltsin when an angry guard shot and killed the deposed president. Following that, Kormiltsev became the acting president and set up a new government.