Boris Yeltsin, Russian politician, Died at 76

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Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin died on the 23rd of April 2007 at the age of 76, was a Russian politician and the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.

Born in the village of Butka, Talitsky District, Sverdlovsk, USSR, on the 1st of 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 1,100 kilometres from Butka, where Boris’ father, Nikolai, found work on a construction site.

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.

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.

Yeltsin was demoted to a deputy minister for construction but then staged the most remarkable comeback in Soviet history.

His popularity with Soviet voters as an advocate of democracy and economic reform had survived his fall, and he took advantage of Gorbachev’s introduction of competitive elections to the U.S.S.R. Congress of People’s Deputies (i.e., the new Soviet parliament) to win a seat in that body in March 1989 with a landslide vote from a Moscow constituency.

A year later, on May 29, 1990, the parliament of the Russian S.F.S.R. elected him president of the Russian republic against Gorbachev’s wishes.

In his new role, Yeltsin publicly supported the right of Soviet republics to greater autonomy within the Soviet Union, took steps to give the Russian republic more autonomy, and declared himself in favour of a market-oriented economy and a multiparty political system.

During the brief coup against Gorbachev by hard-line communists in August 1991, Yeltsin defied the coup leaders and rallied resistance in Moscow while calling for the return of Gorbachev.

When the coup crumbled a few days after it had begun, Yeltsin emerged as the country’s most powerful political figure.

In December 1991 he and the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus (Belorussia) established a new Commonwealth of Independent States that would replace the foundering U.S.S.R.

When the Soviet Union collapsed after Gorbachev’s resignation as Soviet president on December 25, the Russian government under Yeltsin’s leadership then assumed many of the former superpower’s responsibilities for defense, foreign affairs, and finance.

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin gave a surprise address announcing his resignation and asking the Russian people’s forgiveness for past mistakes.

He then handed off power to Vladimir Putin, his chosen successor and the last of his prime ministers, who granted him immunity from prosecution.

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