Boris Yeltsin - Finis
Well, I thought I would fill in some gaps on the Yeltsin resume.
Born: 2/1/31 Sverdlovsk; lived in dire circumstances on a
collective farm. At age 11, Yeltsin lost the thumb and forefinger
of his left hand while disassembling a grenade that he and two
friends had stolen from a weapons warehouse.
Hobbies: Tennis, Volleyball, hunting, cinema, vodka
I came across this story from Yeltsin''s childhood which helps to
define his character. [Fom David Remnick''s book, "Lenin''s
"As one of the best students in the school, he had the honor of
being allowed to sit on the stage. When it came his turn to give a
short speech, Yeltsin grabbed the microphone and turned his
ceremonial moment into an outrageous harangue. He launched
into an attack on a certain homeroom teacher, a hated shrew who
cursed the children, smacked them with a thick ruler, and made
them clean her house. ''She was a horror and I had to say what I
had to say,'' Yeltsin said. The parents and the staff in the
audience listened for a while in shock. The principal finally
jumped out of his chair and snatched away the microphone and
sent Yeltsin back to his seat. The day was ruined. And what was
more, instead of a diploma, Yeltsin received a ''wolf''s ticket,'' a
certificate forbidding him from getting a high school education."
But Yeltsin fought back and convinced the local Communist Party
to look into his complaints against the teacher and, lo and behold,
the teacher was fired and Yeltsin was reinstated.
Yeltsin didn''t join the Communist Party until 1961 when he was
30 years old. He served on the Supreme Soviet from 1976-1985
and then he was tabbed by Gorbachev to be a member of the
Central Committee, where he headed up "Construction," and
soon thereafter he was tabbed to be the first secretary of the
Moscow City Party Committee ( a position similar to Mayor).
Yeltsin threw himself into an attack on the entrenched party
machinery. He arrested hundreds of corrupt officials, criticized
privileges for party members and stressed self-sacrifice. He
became famous for riding the city buses and talking with ordinary
citizens, unheard of for Party officials.
But Boris Nikoiayevich became impatient with the pace of reform
under Gorbachev. In October of ''87 he shocked the Central
Committee by resigning both of his posts. His outburst brought a
counterattack from Gorbachev.
Yet, as you all know from reading the Hott Spotts installments of
the prior 4 weeks, Yeltsin rebounded and became a key player
once again for Gorbachev. Yeltsin saved the day during the
August 1991 coup and soon thereafter he replaced Gorby as The
Power in Russia. But as Yeltsin instituted a radical reform plan
intended to move Moscow toward a market-based economy, his
With Yeltsin in charge there was chaos, wars in Abkhazia,
Nagorny-Karabakh and Tajikistan. Bread lines and no electricity
in Armenia. Vast hunks of Russia were threatening to break away
from Moscow''s rule. The crime rate soared. Billions of dollars
were being exported out of the country. The country went
headlong from one stage of development to the next, from
complete deficit to "sensual indulgence," never stopping to solve
the mundane problems of subsistence, structure, and property.
The city became awash with 25-year old men wearing slick suits
and black shirts and announcing their occupation as "a little
buying, a little selling."
Demagogues like nationalist (neo-fascist) Vladimir Zhirinovsky
emerged. "I will restore the foreign policy of the czars. When I
come to power, there will be a dictatorship."
In April of 1993 he held a national referendum on a proposal to
draft a new constitution which granted him broader powers. This
won by a slim margin. As he tried to pass new laws, attempts to
impeach him surfaced. On September 21, 1993 Yeltsin illegally
dissolved the existing parliament and announced plans to hold
new elections and a referendum on his draft constitution. Hard
line opponents in the parliament, supported by Yeltsin''s own Vice
President, Alexander Rutskoi, occupied the White House (the
seat of parliament) and attempted to resist Yeltsin''s
unconstitutional actions. The dispute ended in a bloody battle,
Oct. 3-4, as government troops stormed the building to suppress
the parliamentary rebels, leaving about 200 dead.
So Boris then received his new constitution granting him
extraordinary powers (this also passed by a slim margin in
December, ''93). In parliamentary elections the same month,
though, Zhirinovsky won 23% of the vote and the new parliament
proved to be as stubborn as the last.
In December of 1994, Yeltsin sent Russian troops to invade the
Muslim minority region of Chechnya to quell a separatist
rebellion. The conflict dragged on for years until the Russian
troop pullout in January of ''97, signaling a humiliating defeat.
The one hero of Chechnya was General Alexander Lebed who
negotiated the peace (signed earlier before the final troop
withdrawal). Lebed would prove to be a key figure in the
presidential election of 1996.
As the election drew near, Yeltsin''s approval rating had
plummeted into the single digits. He had suffered 2 heart attacks,
Chechnya, the hardship of economic reforms. But Boris had one
thing on his side, presidential largesse. And he also exploited his
near monopoly over media coverage. Despite a legal limit of $3
million on campaign spending, he spent upwards of $140 million!
Yeltsin was giving autos to some folks! And outsiders like the
IMF offered timely support.
The first round of voting showed Yeltsin at 35%, Gennadi
Zhyuganov 32% and Lebed 15%. Yeltsin co-opted Lebed into
his own administration by appointing him as executive secretary
of the Security Council. As a result in the run-off the following
month, Yeltsin garnered 54%. By October of ''96, Lebed was
And you pretty much know the story from there. Tax collection
has been abysmal and Moscow has lost control over local
governments, as the 89 regions increasingly came to assert their
own authority and prerogatives.
Militarily, the invasion of Chechnya in ''94 not only failed to
restore Moscow''s authority but it also exposed the degradation of
the Russian military machine. In November of ''96 Yeltsin had
quintuple bypass surgery and since then he has been in and out of
the hospital, defying the odds, but leaving the nation in a terrible
Yeltsin was a hugely important man in the history of his country.
But he didn''t know when to get out and now the country faces
an election in 2000 which promises to be turbulent. And we''ll be
there every step of the way covering it.
Brian Nikoyalevich Trumbore
[Main Source: "Russia: A History," by Gregory Freeze]