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Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin, (1931- ) Russian politician; president (1991- ). Born in Sverdlovsk, he worked in the construction industry before becoming a full-time Communist Party worker in the 1960s. He went on to achieve national prominence as first secretary of the Moscow Communist Party (1985-87). A dynamic character, he clashed frequently with Gorbachov, whom he accused of being over-cautious in his reforms. Although Gorbachov eventually sacked him, Yeltsin was subsequently elected president of the Russian Republic (1990) and renounced his party membership. When communist hardliners staged a coup the following year, Yeltsin led popular resistance to the new rulers, who soon stood down. Although Gorbachov was rein-stated, his authority was now weaker than that of Yeltsin. On the break-up of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Yeltsin became president of independent Russia.- During the next two years he introduced a se-ries of free-market reforms designed to rescue the Soviet economy. An attempted coup by communists in October 1993 was suppressed by the army. Yeltsin also used the military to crush separatists in Chechenia (1994-95). Both his handling of this crisis and his some-times erratic public behaviour led to mounting inter-national criticism in the mid 1990s. In 1995 Yeltsin suffered a heart attack. His authority took a further blow when elections resulted in the communists be-coming the largest party in parliament.

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