Boris Yeltsin

President of the Russian Federation
Born: 1 February 1931 in the village of Butka, Sverdlovsk District, Russia - USSR. Like his contemporary M. Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin was of "non-revolutionary" parents. His father, Nikolay Yeltsin, was convicted of anti-Soviet agitation in 1934 and sentenced to hard labour in a gulag for three years. But he nevertheless got into the Ural State Technical University in Sverdlovsk, graduating with a degree in construction, in 1955 and afterwards working as a construction engineer. As membership in the Communist Party was a prerequisite for advancement, he joined the Party in 1961 and became a Party apparatchik in 1968 when he was appointed head of construction in the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee. From there he rose in the Party ranks, eventually getting appointed to the Politburo, becoming acquainted with the up and coming M. Gorbachev and being made the Administrator ("Mayor") of the city of Moscow. While both were reformers, eventually he clashed with Gorbachev because he believed the pace of reforms was too slow and was temporarily demoted.
However, as part of M. Gorbachev's attempt to reform Soviet Society, real elections were coming to the USSR and through them, B. Yeltsin made his comeback. In March 1989, Yeltsin was elected to the Congress of People's Deputies as the representative of the Moscow district and acquired a seat on the Supreme Soviet.
Then on 29 May 1990, he was elected chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR , the post he held until 10 July 1991. An increasingly direct power struggle between Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin ensued. But then the coup attempt by hard-liners in the Communist Party against M. Gorbachev irrevocably altered the situation. As part of the plot M. Gorbachev was held in Crimea while the primary plotters acted in Moscow. However Yeltsin, whom the plotters had considered unimportant, was in Moscow. Now Yeltsin rallied opposition to the plot, mobilized crowd and convinced the Army unit that was sent to control the situation to come over to his side. When the putsch collapsed, Yeltsin was the hero.
Gorbachev became acquainted with Yeltsin while the latter was still the Communist Party boss of Sverdlovsk, a relatively minor position. But Gorbachev recognized Yeltsin's reformist ideas and when Gorbachev became the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party he maneuvered Yeltsin into the position of First Secretary of the Moscow City Central Committee of the Party (the "Mayor" of Moscow). At first they worked well together and Yeltsin was also allowed a taste of the privileges of high Party position, at one point for example getting to vacation with his wife at the Soviet Government guest house in the City of Jurmala, known as the "Benjamin House", where Gorbachev and his wife had vacationed earlier. Later, Boris Yeltsin was to use the house as a haven during the struggle in the Kremlin.
B. Yeltsin had already been to the house in Latvia in the late 1980s while on vacation, along with his wife. The house staff recalled them both as being warm and kind and also that he used to keep his vodka hidden in the art-deco wooden owl that dated back to Emilija's time. Now Yeltsin came alone, to use it as a brief haven from the tension of Moscow and he also met the leaders of the Baltic Republics whose demands for the restoration of independence had much to do with triggering the crisis in the Soviet Union. Sitting in the house, he told them about what was happening in Moscow. And with the collapse of the coup, so did the whole Soviet Union. Now virtually every "constituent republic" including Russia, of which Yeltsin was the head, was demanding independence; the USSR was dissolving. So, in an event whose significance will unquestionably last through the centuries, sitting together with the leaders of the three Baltic countries in the music room of the house, Boris Yeltsin, the leader of the Russian Federation recognized the declarations of independence by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Yeltsin returned to Moscow to be elected to the newly created position of President of the Russian Federation. He held the post until 31 December, 1999, winning reelection for a second term in 1996. Unfortunately this was also the period of almost total economic collapse in Russia. The basic causes, the preceding 70 years of "socialist" economics, go back to before Yeltsin was born, but in the end he was blamed for it by much of the Russian population and of course, he and his economic advisors also made some mistakes.
After turning over the Presidency of Russia to Vladimir Putin, B. Yeltsin lived as an elder statesman, the first leader in Russian and Soviet history to pass quietly into retirement after having arranging a peaceful transfer of power to his successor. Shortly before his death he visited the Republic of Latvia one more time. Boris Yeltsin died on 23 April, 2007, in Moscow.