Nikolayevich (1931-...), is president of Russia. He was elected in 1991 when Russia became
independent. In 1990 and 1991, while Russia was still a republic of the Soviet Union, he
headed the Russian republic's legislature. Yeltsin played a major role in the Soviet
Union's collapse. In December 1991, Yeltsin and the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine
formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.). They declared the Soviet Union had
ceased to exist. Most of the other former republics joined the C.I.S. The Soviet Union's
leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, resigned, and the Soviet Union was dissolved.
Yeltsin was born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In 1955,
he graduated from Ural Polytechnic Institute. He joined the Communist Party in 1961. He
became head of the local party in Sverdlovsk in 1976 and, in 1985, chief of the party
organization in Moscow and a member of the party's ruling Politburo. The party removed
Yeltsin from these posts in 1987 because of his radical policies and his criticism of
Gorbachev's more cautious ones. In 1989, Yeltsin won a seat in the new Soviet national
legislature. In 1990, he resigned from the Communist Party.
In August 1991, a group of conservative Soviet Communist officials staged a coup against
Gorbachev. Yeltsin led opposition to the coup. The coup failed after three days. Yeltsin's
role in defying the coup earned him increased power and prestige both at home and abroad.
As president, he supported major economic reforms, including a move to free enterprise.
Yeltsin and his program faced opposition from Russia's increasingly antireform parliament.
In a referendum of April 1993, a majority of voters expressed confidence in Yeltsin and
his program for economic change. But opposition in parliament continued. In September
1993, Yeltsin dissolved parliament. In December, voters elected a new parliament and
approved a new constitution. Yeltsin remained president. In 1996, he was elected to a
In December 1994, Yeltsin sent troops to fight against forces in Chechnya, a region in
southwestern Russia that was demanding independence. A cease-fire ended the fighting in
1996. In 1997, Yeltsin and the Chechen leader signed a peace agreement.
In 1998, as Russia faced increasing economic problems, Yeltsin abruptly replaced his prime
minister, Viktor S. Chernomyrdin. He soon dismissed the replacement and tried to bring
back Chernomyrdin. But parliament opposed Yeltsin and refused to approve Chernomyrdin.
Yeltsin was forced to nominate another candidate. He chose Yevgeny M. Primakov, the
minister of foreign affairs. The parliament approved Primakov as prime minister in
September 1998. In the following month, Yeltsin, who had been in poor health for some
time, turned over most of his duties to Primakov.