Home > Categories > Politics and Government > Politicians > Boris Yeltsin's Biography

Boris Yeltsin's Biography

Browse biogs A-Z
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was born on February 1, 1931 in the Siberian village of Burka, Sverdlovsk (now Yevkaterinburg) region.

Boris Yeltsin died in April 2007.

In 1955 Yeltsin graduated from Ural Polytechnic Institute with a degree in civil engineering. He would work in construction and industrial development straight after he graduated until 1976.

In 1957 Yeltsin married Naina Girina. Their first daughter Yelena was born in 1956 and the second, Tatyana in 1960.

A year later Boris Yeltsin joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. From 1976 to 1985 he was first Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee, and then he moved to Moscow and was elected to the same post in the Moscow City Region. Essentially Gorbachev, who had come to power in 1985, had brought Yeltsin in to try to shake the corruption out of Moscow's party structure.

In February 1986 Yeltsin continued his ascendancy when he was elected Candidate Member of the Politburo.

In October 1987 Yeltsin criticised the slow pace of Gorbachev's reforms (perestroika) and was censured by Gorbachev. A month later he was dismissed as First Secretary.

But Boris Yeltsin remained popular with the people of Moscow, who demonstrated in support of him. When Gorbachev introduced free elections for the new congress of people's deputies in 1989, Yeltsin won a landslide victory.

In May 1990 he was elected Chairman (speaker) of the Russian Supreme Soviet (the parliament) despite Gorbachev's objections.

In July 1990, Boris Yeltsin resigned from the Communist Party and in the following year, he was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Thus becoming the first popularly elected leader in Russia.

In August 1991, hardliners, unhappy with Gorbachev, led by KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov attempted a coup d'etat. Mr Yeltsin was a key factor in the resistance that restored Gorbachev to office. He turned into a hero when he mounted a tank in Moscow, rallying the people against the hardline forces.

Although restored, the next few months saw a radical shift in power away from Gorbachev towards Yeltsin. In November 1991 Yeltsin signed a decree banning the activities of the Communist Party in Russia, and in December Gorbachev resigned as president and transferred his powers to Yeltsin.

Amazingly the Soviet Union had collapsed and Boris Yeltsin was now president of an independent Russia.

His time in power was not to be easy however. Economic liberalisation brought rampant inflation and there were mounting attacks on Yeltsin and his economic programme.

Within two years the Russian Parliament was again under siege, but this time the tanks were ordered in by Yeltsin. After he had dissolved parliament some deputies barricaded themselves in the offices at the White House building. Chaos ensued and in October 1993 Yeltsin declared a state of emergency and ordered tank bombardment of the parliament building. Eventually the deputies surrendered. More than one hundred people had died in the fracas.

In December 1993 elections were held for a new parliament, the Federal Assembly. A new constitution was approved, which moved Russia further down the road of private property, a free press, and human rights.

Many of Yeltsin's opponents won seats in the new parliament. The ultra-nationalists were a major new force and proved a constant thorn in Yeltsin's side.

Yeltsin had troubles overseas with Chechnya, whilst on the home front crime and corruption became endemic, with the rise of what became known as 'the Russian mafia'.

Ironically the Communist Party was gaining in popularity. But as presidential elections approached Yeltsin met with Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev and agreed to end the war and grant Chechnya a degree of autonomy from Russia.

In June 1996, Mr Yeltsin won the Presidential election after being forced into a run-off against Gennady Zyuganov, Chairman of the Communist Party.

From 1996 to his resignation address to the nation on December 31, 1999, Yeltsin's behaviour and health became increasingly unpredictable. The BBC report Boris Yeltsin: Master of surprise provides an interesting account of this.

It was not to be an easy period for Yeltsin with Chechnya erupting again, the Stock Market collapsing in August 1998, and finding himself split from his Western supporters over the situation in the former Yugoslavia.

Upon Yeltsin's departure, Vladimir Putin became Acting President, and then in May 2000 was elected the second President of Russia.

Back to Top

Latest User CommentsAdd your comment
Add your comment
To ensure you are a real person and not a computer please enter the following characters shown below: