Boris Yeltsin was born on February 1, 1931 in the village of Butka, Talitsa district, Sverdlovsk region into a peasant family. His nationality is Russian. Father: Yeltsin, Nikolai Ignatievich, mother: Starygina, Klavdiya Vasilievna. Yeltsin's grandfather was the victim of dekulakization during the reprisals of the 1930s and was sent into internal exile in 1931. His uncle was arrested in 1935. His father was arrested in 1937 and spent several months in prison. During the famine of 1935 the Yeltsin family moved to Berezniki in the Perm region to the construction site of the Berezniki Potassium Plant. Yeltsin has two fingers missing on his left hand, the result of an injury. As a child in Berezniki he stole two hand grenades from an ammunition dump and blew up one of them.
His academic performance at school was good, but he was noted for his unruly behavior, conflicts with teachers and after grade 7 was expelled from school (he was later reinstated and finished school with top marks in almost all the subjects).
In 1949, after finishing secondary school, he was admitted to the Civil Engineering Department, the Urals Kirov Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk. He graduated in 1955. The theme of his degree paper was "Television Tower."
From 1955 until 1957 he was a foreman with the building trust Uraltyazhtrubstroi. From 1957 until 1963 he worked at building sites in Sverdlovsk successively as construction site superintendent, chief superintendent, chief engineer and chief of the Construction Directorate with the Yuzhgorstroi Trust.
From 1963 he was chief engineer, and from 1965, head of the Sverdlovsk House-Building Combine.
He joined the CPSU in 1961. Recalling his views at the time he said: "I sincerely believed in the ideals of justice propagated by the party, and just as sincerely joined the party, made a thorough study of the charter, the program and the classics re-reading the works of Lenin, Marx and Engels."
He was transferred from managerial to professional party work in 1968 when he was appointed head of construction with the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee. The 1975 plenary session of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU elected him secretary of the regional committee in charge of the region's industrial development.
In 1976 he was sent to attend a monthly course at the Academy of Social Sciences under the Central Committee of the CPSU in Moscow. Two weeks later he was summoned for an interview at the CPSU Central Committee and was told that he had been recommended for the post of first secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional committee of the CPSU. His formal election took place on November 2, 1976. Shortly afterwards he was elected deputy of the Regional Soviet from the Serovsky constituency (from the city of Severouralsk).
During Yeltsin's rule in Sverdlovsk a grand building was erected for the regional committee of the CPSU which the local people dubbed "The White Tooth" and "CPSU Member." The method of "a people's construction project" was used to build a road from Sverdlovsk to Severouralsk. Old mines and factories were modernized (it was later discovered that the bulky foreign equipment was ill-suited for the small workshops and pits built in the 19th century).
On the night of September 17 and 18, 1977 the house of the merchant Ipatyev in the center of Sverdlovsk in which the czar's family were shot in 1918 was razed down by a bulldozer on Yeltsin's order. The Sverdlovsk regional party committee was ordered "to solve the question of demolishing the house as part of redevelopment of the city" under a secret decree of the Politburo of the CC CPSU of July 30, 1975. But Yakov Ryabov, the previous first secretary of the Sverdlovsk party committee, for some reason did not "solve the question" and it was left to Yeltsin.
In the spring of 1978 a series of deaths occurred in the Sverdlovsk region, officially from "anthrax." They were preceded by an explosion at a secret military site. According to an unofficial version, which is hardly challenged today, the explosion caused a discharge of a biological agent - an artificially modified strain of bacteria causing anthrax. In his memoirs, "Against the Grain," Yeltsin mentions the "anthrax" epidemic, but offers no explanation.
In 1978 Yeltsin was elected deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and was repeatedly re-elected until 1989 (from 1984 through 1985 and 1986 through 1988 he was member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR).
He was elected member of the Central Committee of the CPSU at the 26th Congress of the CPSU in 1981.
After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in March 1985, Yeltsin was offered the job of the head of the Construction Department of the CPSU Central Committee on April 3, 1985. He assumed his duties on April 12. At the plenary meeting of the CC CPSU in June 1985 Yeltsin was appointed secretary of the Central Committee for construction. While he was chief of department he shared a small government summer cottage with Anatoly Lukyanov, but after the new appointment he was given a huge dacha vacated shortly before that by Gorbachev.
On October 22, 1985 Gorbachev proposed that Yeltsin become the head of the Moscow party organization instead of Viktor Grishin. On December 24 a plenary session of the Moscow City Committee of the CPSU, which was addressed by Gorbachev, dismissed Grishin "at his own wish in connection with retirement on pension" and unanimously elected Yeltsin as the new first secretary.
As first secretary of the Moscow party committee Yeltsin began by replacing all his assistants, members of the bureau and secretaries of the Moscow City Committee as well as the leadership of the Moscow Soviet. He then proceeded with a reshuffle at the level of district party committees. He stepped up the struggle against corruption in retail trade in Moscow. The new first secretary stunned many Moscow citizens by being approachable, by traveling on public transport, making sudden visits to shops and organizing vegetable and fruit fairs in the autumn of 1986.
Speaking at the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986 Yeltsin admitted that he had taken part in praising Brezhnev and concealing the truth from the people during the "years of stagnation" out of fear. On February 18, 1986 the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU elected him alternate member of the Politburo of the CC CPSU.
During his time as first secretary of the Moscow City Committee of the CPSU his activities revealed early signs of liberalism. In one of his interviews Yegor Yakovlev cited Yeltsin's utterances during that period in which he urged the need for real freedom of assembly and even called for an early release of political prisoners.
Yeltsin's behavior in connection with the rally on May 6, 1987 staged by the patriotic movement Pamyat headed by Dmitry Vasilyev was uncharacteristic of a member of the party elite. It was the first unsanctioned mass rally in Moscow (small rallies had taken place before). The rally was not dispersed by force. Instead Yeltsin met the protesters who wanted to see him. He received them in the building of the Moscow Soviet, listened to them and spoke to them. However, the poorly attended rallies of the seminar "Democracy and Humanism" (forerunner of the Democratic Alliance party) were dispersed.
During 1987, the first year of glasnost, contradictions developed in the top echelons of power because perestroika was assuming forms that were unacceptable for most of the members of Gorbachev's team at the time. Yeltsin's activities in Moscow and his failure to comply with some rules of caste behavior at CPSU CC meetings met with growing ire among the conservatives.
The relations between Yeltsin and Yegor Ligachev were particularly tense. After taking an incognito walk down Arbat Street Ligachev was outraged at the "liberalism" that prevailed in Moscow and called for setting up an emergency commission of the Politburo and CC CPSU for Moscow whose main task would be to strike at Yeltsin. But the commission was never established because Yeltsin was one jump ahead of Ligachev. On September 12, 1987 he wrote a letter to Gorbachev complaining about the "undemocratic" way in which Ligachev conducted the work of the CC Secretariat and asked for Gorbachev's permission to resign from the Politburo and CC Secretariat. Gorbachev promised to Yeltsin to discuss his letter later.
On October 21, 1987, without waiting for the discussion promised by Gorbachev, Yeltsin, at the plenary meeting of the CC CPSU lashed out at the Politburo and the CC Secretariat expressing his discontent with the slow pace of reform in society and servility shown to the General Secretary and asked to resign from the Politburo adding that the City Committee would decide whether he should resign from the post of first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee. Gorbachev replied by accusing Yeltsin of "political immaturity" and "absolute irresponsibility," urged the plenum to qualify Yeltsin's speech as "politically erroneous" and raise the question of relieving Yeltsin of his post of first secretary at the plenary meeting of the Moscow City Party Committee. None of those present backed Yeltsin.
Yeltsin-"bashing" continued with a vengeance on November 11, 1987 at the plenary meeting of the Moscow party committee. He was forced to admit that his speech was a mistake and was fired from the post of first secretary of the Moscow City Committee.
The transcript of the plenary meeting of the CPSU CC was not published (until 1990), and Moskovskaya Pravda published only the transcript of the plenary meeting of the Moscow party committee where Yeltsin "repented." An apocryphal text of Yeltsin's "speech" was promptly issued by Samizdat and was reprinted in the Western press. Pro-Yeltsin rallies, small demonstrations and pickets were staged in Moscow and Sverdlovsk, and leaflets commenting on the developments were distributed.
In December 1987 Yeltsin was appointed to a minor and non-political post of first deputy chairman of Gosstroi of the USSR - minister of the USSR (he occupied that post until he was elected people's deputy of the USSR in 1989). The plenary meeting of the CC CPSU in the spring of 1988 canceled his alternate membership of the Politburo, but did not expel him from the Central Committee.
In April-May 1988 he made an unsuccessful bid to be elected delegate to the 19th party conference from Moscow or Sverdlovsk, and, under the wire, was elected delegate from Karelia. During the conference in June 1988 he struggled to be given the floor and criticized the CPSU for lagging behind the perestroika processes in the country, called for spreading glasnost (openness) to the party's internal life, proposed to hold a general and direct election of party bodies by secret ballot and raised the question of his own "political rehabilitation," which remained unanswered.
During the elections of people's deputies of the USSR in March 1989 he ran in the largest constituency in the country, the Moscow National-Territorial District No 1. He was promoted by the employees of a number of major defense industries in Moscow and Zelenograd (NIIStalkonstruktsiya, NPO Kibernetika and others). At some of these enterprises the grassroots in had the support of primary party committees, but more often than not it ran into opposition from the party leadership. Yeltsin's electoral team consisted mainly of the scientific and technical staff of the defense industry enterprises. Yeltsin's political platform was fairly moderate, liberal-communist, with the main emphasis on the struggle against the privileges enjoyed by the party nomenklatura.
In the elections, 89.4 percent of the voters backed Yeltsin and only 6.9 percent his rival, manager of the Likhachev Plant Yevgeny Brakov.
At the First Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR in May-June 1989 Yeltsin was proposed by Gennady Burbulis for the post of chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet as an alternative to Gorbachev, but Yeltsin withdrew his candidacy invoking party discipline. He was elected member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (initially he did not poll enough votes, but Alexei Kazannik yielded his seat in the Supreme Soviet to Yeltsin). In the Supreme Soviet he was elected chairman of the Construction and Architecture Committee.
In July 1989 he was elected one of the five co-chairs of the Inter-Regional Group of Deputies (IGD) at the IGD's first general conference. He did not, however, take an active part in its work.
On September 28, 1989 he was involved in the much-publicized "river-bathing incident" whose circumstances remained unclear. Democratic-leaning newspapers suggested that it was an attempt on Yeltsin's life. Yeltsin in his memoirs also claims there was an attempt on his life without, however, offering any explanations or revealing any details.
In late 1989 Yeltsin went on a trip to the United States where he gave a series of lectures to American audiences on social and political life in the USSR. That trip prompted a scandalous publication in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (the article alleged that Yeltsin often appeared drunk in public, that he behaved tactlessly during lectures, etc.). The article was reprinted by Pravda, but, like in the "river-bathing" episode, its effect on the readership was the opposite of the desired: the readers dismissed the article as libelous.
In March 1990 Yeltsin was elected People's Deputy of the RSFSR in Sverdlovsk with an electoral bloc called Democratic Russia (Yeltsin's representative and de facto manager of his electoral campaign was Gennady Burbulis).
The First Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR on May 29, 1990 elected Yeltsin chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR with vigorous backing from Democratic Russia bloc. His main rival for the post was Ivan Polozkov who subsequently became First Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of the RSFSR. After two inconclusive rounds of voting (in which Yeltsin gained 497 and 503 votes, falling short of the 531 votes required for election) the Communist Party proposed another candidate, Aleksandr Vlasov, chairman of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR. President Gorbachev of the USSR spoke before the deputies and urged them not to vote for Yeltsin. After that Yeltsin won in the first round of voting, polling 535 votes. In his acceptance speech Yeltsin said that "Russia will be self-dependent in everything and its decisions will prevail over the Union decisions." Upon becoming Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Yeltsin declared that he was withdrawing from Democratic Russia bloc.
Most of Yeltsin' elected vice-chairmen were people in the conservative mold. The only exception was Ruslan Khasbulatov who was proposed by Yeltsin as his first deputy and just scraped through after a second vote. At Yeltsin's suggestion, Ivan Silayev was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Russia.
On June 12, 1990 the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR adopted a Declaration on the Sovereignty of Russia which established the priority of republican legislation over the Union legislation. This marked the beginning of processes known as "the war of laws" and "parade of sovereignties."
On June 16, 1990 the 1st Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR established a Constitutional Commission appointing Yeltsin, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, as its chairman and Khasbulatov, First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet as deputy chairman of the Commission. Actually the Commission was presided over by Oleg Rumyantsev (who was Secretary of the Commission from June 22, 1990 and Executive Secretary of the Constitutional Commission from November 1991).
Yeltsin resigned from the CPSU at the party's 28th congress in July 1990. His declared motive was that he had promised, when being elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet, to withdraw from all political parties and movements.
In a bid to win over the leaders of some autonomous republics in the "war of sovereignties" between Russia and the USSR, Yeltsin made a trip to the Volga Area in July-August 1990 suggesting to the republics that they should "take as much sovereignty as they could swallow".
On July 31, 1990 Gorbachev and Yeltsin agreed to cooperate on developing a reform program for the country. The result was the publication in late August of an economic reform program "500 Days" developed by a team of experts led by Grigory Yavlinsky and Stanislav Shatalin. From the middle of September 1990, however, Gorbachev, who came under the pressure of conservatives, began to depart from the August agreements. He said that "the most valuable elements" from the "500 Days" program and the program of Nikolai Ryzhkov's government should be combined. Yeltsin was against it.
On November 11, 1990 Gorbachev met with Yeltsin and they again agreed to cooperate, but the alliance was short-lived. The Supreme Soviet of the USSR rejected the "500 Days" program. Gorbachev did not insist on its adoption (nor on the adoption of the Ryzhkov program) and got a mandate from the Supreme Soviet to work out a third economic program which was to be implemented by a new cabinet of ministers headed by Valentin Pavlov formed in early January 1991.
In December 1990 the orthodox communists in the USSR leadership strengthened their position. Under their pressure Gorbachev secured some of the top jobs in the country for the future organizers of the August 19, 1991 coup - Gennady Yanayev, Valentin Pavlov and Boris Pugo. The same people became members of the president's newly formed Security Council. The Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR appointed a referendum on the preservation of the USSR for March 17.
In January 1991, after Soviet troops seized the TV center in Vilnius, Yeltsin's active interference, including his trip to Tallinn when agreements were signed with the Baltic republics, helped to prevent the overthrow of national-democratic regimes in these republics.
At the initiative of democratic people's deputies of Russia a referendum on the creation of the post of popularly elected president in the RSFSR was appointed for the same day as the all-Union referendum on the preservation of the USSR.
On February 19, 1991 Yeltsin went on television and sharply criticized the policy of the government demanding that Gorbachev resign and hand over power to the Federation Council consisting of the heads of the USSR republics.
On February 20, 1991 Svetlana Goryacheva, deputy chairperson of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, read out the so-called "Statement of the Six." The statement, signed by Deputy Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Boris Isayev, Chairman of the Council of the Republic Vladimir Isakov, Chairman of the Council of Nationalities of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Ramazan Abdulatipov and their deputies Veshnyakov and Syrovatko, expressed no confidence in Yeltsin. Signatures were being collected in support of a third congress of people's deputies of the RSFSR which would vote to remove Yeltsin from the post of Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet.
In the March 17, 1991 referendum the majority of the population in the RSFSR voted for the preservation of the USSR, but also for the creation of the post of president of Russia.
The 3rd Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR opened on March 28, 1991. At the request of some deputies the Union government banned a pro-Yeltsin rally and moved army reinforcements into the city "to ensure the safety of the deputies." On April 4, 1991 Yeltsin addressed the Congress of People's Deputies proposing a redistribution of the powers between the top governing bodies in the republic and an election of the RSFSR President on June 12, 1991. On April 5 the Congress voted to confer on the Chairman extra powers and to appoint presidential elections for June 12.
On April 23, 1991 Yeltsin and the representatives of 8 Union republics (with the exception of the Baltic republics, Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia) signed a "9 + 1" agreement with the President of the USSR that marked the beginning of the development of a new Union Treaty that would grant the republics within the USSR greater autonomy. Under the agreement Yeltsin made a trip to the Kuzbass coalfield in late April to negotiate with striking miners. The strikes were called off as a result.
That period saw a cooling of some Democratic Russia leaders toward Yeltsin. But most of them, however, did not risk publicly criticizing Yeltsin.
Yeltsin campaigned for president of the RSFSR in April-June 1991 with the backing of Democratic Russia and other democratic parties, but his slogans were rather populist than democratic or pro-market (abolishing privileges, halting price growth, opposing the rule of the "Center"). In one of his speeches that later gained much publicity, he promised to "put his head on the tracks" if prices were raised.
In the presidential election on June 12, 1991 Yeltsin ran on the same ticket with Aleksandr Rutskoi and won in the first round ahead of Nikolai Ryzhkov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aman Tuleyev, Albert Makashov and Vadim Bakatin.
Shortly after the election, in June 1991, Yeltsin issued a decree to form a State Council under the President of the RSFSR, the body non-envisaged by the Constitution. The council consisted of State Advisors and several ministers. Gennady Burbulis, who was appointed State Secretary, coordinated its work.
On July 20, 1991 Yeltsin issued a decree banning party organizations at government enterprises and institutions on Russian territory. The aim of that move was to liquidate the local committees of the CPSU which controlled the management of enterprises.
On August 19-21, 1991 Yeltsin led the struggle against an attempted government coup by the GKChP (self-proclaimed State Committee for State of Emergency). Throughout the three days he was in the House of the Soviets of the RSFSR. He issued a series of decrees that extended the RSFSR President's powers to control the armed forces, the interior ministry bodies and put some Union ministries and departments under the RSFSR President's control. On August 22 he issued a decree to suspend the activities of the CPSU which was later banned altogether.
After the failed coup and the return to Moscow of the USSR President Gorbachev almost all the appointments to government posts in the USSR were agreed with Yeltsin. In the early weeks after the coup he transferred under Russian jurisdiction many of the Union industrial and other ministries headed up by Union ministers. Ivan Silayev, Chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers, became chairman of the Committee for Operational Management of the USSR Economy, in effect the new Union government.
In September 1991 Yeltsin backed Gorbachev's idea of transforming the USSR into a union of sovereign states and in October he declared that "Russia will never initiate the breakup of the Union."
At the 5th Congress of People's Deputies of Russia (October 28-early November 1991) Yeltsin was given emergency powers, including the right to issue normative degrees as the head of the reform government. In November 1991 Yeltsin headed of the new government of the Russian Federation as its Chairman. His first deputy and effectively the head of government was Gennady Burbulis who played the decisive role in bringing into the new government a group of young economists headed by Yegor Gaidar.
On December 7-8, 1991 a meeting of the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Byelorussia in Belovezhskaya Pushcha resulted in the liquidation of the USSR and the promulgation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the course of the Alma Ata meeting of the heads of Union republics on December 21 the number of CIS founders increased to 11.
On January 2, 1992 prices for most goods were liberated. The prices jumped more dramatically than expected. Some people's deputies of the Russian Federation expressed discontent with the results of the first month of reforms. On January 14 Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov called for the resignation of the Burbulis-Gaidar government. He was backed by Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi.
In late January 1992 Yeltsin launched disarmament initiatives declaring that henceforth the weapons of the former USSR would not be targeted on U.S. cities. That statement became the keynote of the discussions during Yeltsin's visit to the U.S., Canada and France (January 30-February 8). At the Camp David (Washington) meeting on February 2, 1992, the Russian and U.S. presidents declared that a qualitatively new stage in the relations between the two countries had begun.
On March 16, 1992 the decree was signed on the creation of the Russian Defense Ministry. Yeltsin became the acting Defense Minister (until General Pavel Grachev was appointed to the post on May 7, 1992).
On March 31, 1992 the representatives of the republics, territories and regions as well as autonomous areas and cities with a federal status signed the Federation Treaty which comprised several documents delimiting the authority between the Russian Federation and its subjects (members).
On April 3, 1992 Yeltsin fired Burbulis from the post of First Vice-Premier. First Vice-Premier Gaidar became the de facto head of government (he was officially appointed acting Chairman of the Council of Ministers in July 1992).
The 6th Congress of People's Deputies of the RF took place on April 6-12, 1992. It witnessed the first serious clash between the parliament and the government. On April 13 the Cabinet of Ministers offered to resign. The President, however, did not accept the resignation. Speaking on the final day of the Congress Yeltsin called on the MPs to resolve quickly the differences between the executive and legislative branches of government and pledged to do his utmost toward that end. At that time the President still sought a compromise with parliament. For example, he condemned the demand of the Democratic Russia rally (on April 19) that the Congress should be dissolved.
In mid-May 1992 a row broke out over a speech by People's Deputy V. Isakov who accused Yeltsin of alcohol abuse. The President brushed off the accusations.
On May 27, 1992, in an interview with Komsmolskaya Pravda, Yeltsin first spoke of the need to introduce direct presidential rule in the country.
In early September 1992 Yeltsin canceled his scheduled visit to Japan because of Japanese intransigence over the issue of "Northern territories."
On September 6, 1992, addressing an extraordinary session of the RF Surpeme Soviet, Yeltsin made his first criticisms of the government for its miscalculations and mistakes in economic policy. He expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of certain government members - Pyotr Aven, Andrei Nechayev and Aleksandr Titkin.
During his trip to Astrakhan in early November 1992, he said that the "revenge-seekers" would never "win a victory at the congress and topple the government and leave the president without Gaidar." He made a similar statement at a meeting with the representatives of the Civic Union on November 5, 1992.
On December 1, 1992, the 7th Congress of People's Deputies of the RF opened in Moscow. On the eve of the Congress Yeltsin made an attempt to reach a compromise with the parliament by dismissing the ministers who came in for the sharpest criticism by deputies. In November Mikhail Poltoranin was removed from his post of Vice-Premier and Minister of the Press and the post of Secretary of State, held by Burbulis, was abolished. Burbulis was appointed the head of the President's group of advisers. Yeltsin again told the leaders of democratic organizations that he would "not surrender Gaidar."
On the first day of the Congress, the President expressed concern over the "strained relations between the Supreme Soviet and the government." Yeltsin named among emergency measures that would stabilize the political situation a clear delimitation of the functions between the legislative and executive branches, strict compliance with the Federation Treaty and adoption of a new Constitution. The Congress assessed the performance of the Gaidar government as unsatisfactory. Vice-President Rutskoi made an anti-government speech.
The President offered to the Congress a compromise solution whereby the three "power ministers" would be appointed only with the consent of the Surpeme Soviet. In this way Yeltsin hoped to secure parliament's approval of Gaidar as prime minister. But on December 8 the Congress rejected his candidacy and adopted several amendments to the Constitution that limited the President's powers.
On December 10, 1992 Yeltsin spoke at the Congress and made an appeal to his fellow citizens declaring that it was no longer possible to cooperate with the Congress of People's Deputies and its Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov.He declared appointing a nation-wide referendum in January 1993 on the issue: "To whom do you entrust to take the country out of its economic and political crisis and secure the revival of the Russian Federation - to the present Congress and the Supreme Soviet or the President of Russia?" Yeltsin called on his supporters to walk out of the Congress hoping to deprive it of a quorum. But this did not happen and more than two-thirds of the deputies remained in the hall. Some deputies described the President's actions as an attempt to stage a coup d'etat.
On December 11-12, 1992, an agreement was signed between the Congress and the President with the mediation of the Constitutional Court. Yeltsin agreed to the resignation of Gaidar (succeeded by Viktor Chernomyrdin). It was confirmed that the term of President's extra powers for the conduct of economic reform had run out. A referendum on the main provisions of the new Constitution was scheduled for April 1993 and the amendments to the Constitution regarding the powers of the president adopted by the Congress were put on hold pending the referendum.
There was a fresh aggravation of the relations between Yeltsin and parliament in March 1993. On March 3, 1993 Yeltsin told a meeting of the parties and movements which form the Democratic Choice coalition: "I did not swear to comply with the Constitution with the amendments of 6 and 7 congresses." On March 7, 1993 he sent to the Supreme Soviet his proposed questions for the nation-wide referendum (a presidential republic, bicameral parliament, adoption of the Constitution by a Constitutional Conference, the right of private ownership of land." On March 9 he told a meeting of the Council of the Heads of Republics that he was ready for a compromise: call off the referendum in exchange for a new constitutional agreement extending the president's powers.
On March 10, 1993 the Chairman of the Council of the Republic, Nikolai Ryabov delivered a report to the 8th Congress of People's Deputies stressing that the President had violated the agreement of December 12, 1992 and again "extended his powers at the expense of the Congress." On the same day Khasbulatov declared that "the December 12 agreement" was a political mistake and called for the resignation of Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Chairman of State Property Committee Anatoly Chubais. The Congress passed a resolution that tore up the December agreement.
On March 20, 1993 Yeltsin told the nation in a TV address that he had signed a decree on the Special Procedure for Governing the Country pending the resolution of the constitutional crisis and that a referendum on confidence in the President and Vice-President, the new draft Constitution and the law on the election of the new federal parliament would be held on April 25. He declared null and void all the decisions of the Supreme Soviet and Congress that sought to cancel or suspend his decrees.
Shortly after midnight on March 21 Vice-President Rutskoi, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin and Prosecutor General Valentin Stepankov appeared on television to condemn the RF President's decisions as unconstitutional. Ruslan Khasbulatov described Yeltsin's actions as an attempted government coup. An extraordinary Supreme Soviet was called which convened the 9th Congress of People's Deputies for March 26.
On March 25, 1993 a substantially revised version of the presidential decree on the nation-wide referendum of April 25 was issued. It did not mention "the special procedure for governing the country."
The President again came in for sharp criticism at the 9th Congress. On March 28 Khasbulatov presented to the Congress a draft resolution calling for simultaneous snap elections of the President and the Congress. The draft had been agreed between Khasbulatov and Yeltsin the previous night. The representatives of most factions condemned Khasbulatov's actions "behind their backs," and rejected his proposals and called for the impeachment of the President and resignation of Khasbulatov. As a result of a vote, both remained in their posts. On the question of impeaching the President, 617 deputies voted "for" (falling 72 votes short of the required majority).
The Congress called for a nation-wide referendum to be held on April 25 on confidence in the Russian President, the President's and the government's social and economic policy; on holding an early election of the RF president and early elections of People's Deputies of the Russian Federation.
Democratic Russia called on the people to say "yes" to all the referendum questions with the exception of the third, i.e., on early election of the president (the "yes-yes-no-yes" formula). Yeltsin himself called on the voters to say "yes" to all the four questions. The referendum was held on April 25, 1993. More than 50 percent of those who came to the polls expressed their confidence in the RF President and the social-economic policy of the government. In a statement issued immediately after the referendum Yeltsin gave this interpretation of the result: "The reform policy is now under the protection of the people." More than 50 percent of the voters also voted in favor of an early election of the people's deputies and about 50% - in favor of an early election of the president. However, the positive decision on two issues was not declared valid since it was "a constitutional issue" and consequently required the votes of more than 50 percent of the total electorate, and not those who turned up at the polls.
The Constitutional Conference called by the President to draft a new Constitution opened in Moscow on July 5, 1993. Taking part in the Conference were representatives of the parliament and the parliamentary Constitutional Commission, the heads of executive and legislative branches of power in the region as well as representatives of political parties, public organizations and labor unions. The list of those invited to take part in the drafting of the Constitution was arbitrarily compiled by the President's experts and included some bizarre organizations: a few mythical labor unions, the society of magicians and ESP experts ("The Union of Healers") and so on. The aim of the Constitutional Conference was to speed up the adoption of a Constitution that would suit the President in the face of the opposition from the Congress of People's Deputies.
At a meeting with the heads of TV networks in early August 1993 Yeltsin said he intended to resolve the power issue before the year was out and described August as a month of "preparation fire." He also visited several army units. The parliament leadership suggested that the President was preparing a government coup.
Before the April referendum Vice-President Rutskoi addressed the Supreme Soviet accusing the members of the government, notably, Vladimir Shumeiko and Anatoly Chubais, of corruption and connivance at Mafia groups. Shortly afterwards, Rutskoi was relieved of all his duties including chairmanship of the Inter-Agency Anti-Crime and Anti-Corruption Commission. The new commission in August 1993 accused Rutskoi himself of corruption. On September 2 Yeltsin signed a decree suspending Rutskoi and Shumeiko pending verification of the accusations leveled against them.
In September 1993 Yeltsin reappointed Gaidar First-Vice Premier of the RF and acting Minister of the Economy.
On September 21, 1993 the President signed Decree No.1400 on Phased Constitutional Reform. The decree dissolved the Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet and named December 12, 1993 as the date of elections for the new representative body, the Federal Assembly. The initial text of the new Statute on Federal Bodies of Power said that the upper chamber of the Federal Assembly - the Federation Council would be composed of the heads of executive and representative branches of power of the 89 subjects of the Russian Federation. Under Decree No. 1400 the Constitution of the Russian Federation was "terminated" in as much as it contradicted the text of the decree.
A few days later Yeltsin issued decrees fixing for December 12 - the same day as elections for the State Duma - a referendum on the new Constitution and on holding elections of the President six months later on June 12, 1994.
The President's actions met with opposition among the MPs who on September 22, 1993 declared that Yeltsin's presidential powers were suspended under Article 121-6 of the Constitution and should be passed to vice-president Alexandr Rutskoi. The Constitutional Court upheld the decision.
The standoff in front of the parliament building lasted for two and a half weeks. The militia and OMON (special militia units) dispersed pro-Congress rallies and demonstrations. On October 3 when the militia failed to disperse a demonstration, the adherents of parliament answered Rustkoi's call and stormed the building of the Moscow mayor office and then made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Ostankino television center. Shortly before that, a small group of parliament supporters were given arms stored in the White House.
Ostankino suspended its television broadcasts and the crowd that besieged Ostankino was dispersed by machinegun fire. There were many victims. Boris Yeltsin introduced a state of emergency in Moscow that lasted for two weeks. In the morning of October 4 troops loyal to Yeltsin moved into Moscow and after tanks shelled the parliament building, the building was stormed and Rutskoi, Khasbulatov and other leaders of parliamentary resistance were arrested.
Under a presidential decree, all the organizations which took part in the armed mutiny and all opposition periodicals were banned for the period of the state of emergency. Yeltsin later proceeded to dissolve the Soviets of all levels.
On October 6, 1993, Yeltsin issued a decree suspending the activities of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
The dissolution of parliament was condemned by the majority of chairmen of the soviets, some leaders of the republics within Russia and heads of administrations of the subjects of the Federation. Under the circumstances, Yeltsin abandoned the idea of automatic formation of the upper house of parliament and called direct elections for the Federation Council. The meeting of the old Federation Council scheduled for October 9 was canceled.
The December 12, 1993 election to the State Duma was for all practical purposes won by the opposition. The largest number of votes in the proportional half (23 percent) went to the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation led by Gennady Zyuganov was third with 12.4 percent. Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Choice, the electoral bloc of pro-Yeltsin democrats, placed second with 15.51 percent of the votes, much less than it expected. Another pro-presidential party, the centrist Party of Russian Unity and Accord led by Sergei Shakharai barely made the 5 percent cut-off mark.
Simultaneously with the elections, a referendum was held on the Constitution which would grant the President almost unlimited powers and make the two chambers of parliament deliberative rather than legislative bodies. The rules of referendum were changed by a presidential decree (the new Constitution would be deemed adopted if more than half of those who turned up at the polls voted for it whereas under the law, more than half of all the registered voters should vote for the results of the constitutional referendum to be valid). The Constitution was adopted due to the change of rules and the backing of Zhirinovsky's party.
Shortly after the elections, the chief reform-minded democrats, Yegor Gaidar and Boris Fyodorov, chose to resign from the government which still remained a coalition government, a coalition of plant managers (the "centrist" fuel/energy and metallurgical group and the pro-communist agrarian group led respectively by Viktor Chernomyrdin, Oleg Soskovets and Aleksandr Zaveryukha) with the rump reformist group (Anatoly Chubais, Andrei Kozyrev).
In 1994-1995 the representatives of the "power structures" increased their influence on Yeltsin. Most notably the security agencies headed by the leaders of the President's security service, Aleksandr Korzhakov and Mikhail Barsukov.
The war in Chechnya brought about a further cooling of relations between Yeltsin and the democrats as the President increasingly came under fire from Yabloko which had been in opposition from the outset and from Russia's Democratic Choice of Yegor Gaidar which assumed a stance of semi-opposition.
On April 25, 1995 Yeltsin told a meeting of the Stability group of deputies that he had "instructed" Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and chairman of the State Duma Ivan Rybkin to create two political blocs "the right-center and the left-center" respectively. Chernomyrdin announced that he agreed to head up the pro-presidential electoral bloc on the same day.
In may 1995 Chernomyrdin succeeded in giving an organizational form to part of the "party in power" in the shape of Our Home Is Russia movement. Rybkin was rather less successful in fulfilling his part of the "instructions." The pro-government political center preferred to rally around Chernomyrdin while truly opposition "centrists" and "left-centrists" were put off by the apparent link between the Rybkin bloc and the President whose popularity rating was plummeting. After a period of wavering, they formed themselves into several electoral groups in the summer of 1995.
The President suffered another setback in the new elections for the State Duma on December 17, 1995. The CPRF won 22.3 percent and the LDPR 11.2 percent while Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia placed only third with 10.1 percent. The opposition democrats (YABLOKO) secured seats in parliament with 6.9 percent of the votes while the still pro-government Democratic Choice of Yegor Gaidar failed to clear the 5 percent barrier.
From December 25, 1995 until March 4, 1996 the Central Election Commission registered authorized representatives of 15 groups which promoted Yeltsin as candidate for president of Russia in the elections on June 16, 1996. One of these groups was effectively created by Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia, another by Shumeiko's 'Reform: New Course' and still another by the Railroad Ministry.
On April 3, 1996 the Central Election Commission accepted the signatures gathered in support of Yeltsin and officially registered him as a candidate.
Yeltsin still possesses exceptional stamina. His working day lasts up to 15 hours. He tends to work at night and to make his staff follow suit. He can quickly regain physical form.
From his school days he was a keen athlete, and went in for volleyball. He was city champion among high school pupils in several sports and a volleyball champion of the region. He actively engaged in sports during his years at the institute, and despite missing two fingers of his left hand was in the Sverdlovsk city volleyball team which played in the top-league USSR championship. Tennis is one of his favorite pastimes (he usually plays three evenings a week). He is a keen hunter.
He earned his military rank of colonel while on party work in Sverdlovsk.
He holds the Order of Lenin, two Orders of the Labor Red Banner and a Badge of Honor. He is also the holder of the Order of the Big Cross, the top government award of Italy. And he also holds the Maltese Order.
He married in 1956. The Yeltsins met when both studied at the Urals Polytechnic Institute. His wife, Naina Iosifovna, worked at the Sverdlovsk Vodokanalproyekt Institute from 1955 through 1985 successively as engineer, senior engineer and chief project engineer. She is now retired.
They have two daughters Yelena, 36, and Tatyana, 34. Yelena, like her father, graduated from the construction department, Urals Polytechnic Institute and works at the Building Exhibition in Moscow. Tatyana has graduated from Moscow University (department of Mathematics and Cybernetics). She is a programmer at a Moscow enterprise. Both are married. Yelena has two daughters, Katya aged 14, and Masha aged 12. Her husband is an Aeroflot pilot. Tatyana, who took her husband's surname, Dyachenko, has a son, Boris, 12, who bears the grandfather's surname - Yeltsin. Tatyana, her husband and son live together with the Yeltsins.