Boris Yeltsin Essay, Research Paper
“We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.
Freedom is like that. It’s like air.
When you have it you don’t notice.” Boris Yeltsin
Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich, president of Russia, elected shortly before the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991. Yeltsin, who was elected to a second term 1996, is a central figure in the transition away from communism in the former USSR and has dominated Russian politics in the last decade.
In 1930, Ignaty Yeltsin, a well-off peasant of Butka village was declared “kulak”. His mill and other valuables were seized by the state. Rumors have it that Ignaty either fled the village, or was sent to internal northern exile. 1931, Ignaty’s grandson, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, was born in Butka. Soon afterwards Boris’s family moved to the city of Kazan, where his father, Nikola, worked at a construction site of a machine-building factory. On May 23, 1934, Nikola Yeltsin was convicted of anti-socialist agitation. He served three years in Stalin’ infamous labor camps of GULAG. After his release, Nikolai Yeltsin remained unemployed for awhile, then worked in construction, and Boris’s mother Klavdiya Vasilyevna Yeltsina was a seamstress.
In his youth Boris blew off two fingers trying to disarm a hand grenade (he was most likely playing with it not disarming it). Boris graduated from Pushkin High School in Berezniki where his parents lived from the late 1930’s to the early 1970’s. After graduation, Boris went to Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk. While in college, Boris played pro volleyball for Sverdlovsk in the USSR first division. In 1955 he graduated with a major in construction. In 1955 he got his first job, he worked for Uraltiazhtrubstroy. Boris mastered twelve construction skills (stonemason, carpenter, etc.) and became foreman. In 1956 Boris married Naina Ioifovna Grina, a student he knew in college. They have two daughter, Yelena and Tatiana, Born in 1957 and 1959. Yeltsin’s engineering career advanced rapidly, he held jobs as chief engineer. In 1961, Boris joined the Communist party, by 1963 he became chief of a housing construction integrated plant, where he had thousands of people under his command.
Yeltsin the Communist
Boris Yeltsin’s career in the Communist party administrative part began in 1969, when he became Chief of the Construction Department of Sverdlovsk region committee. In 1976, Boris was elected secretary, then latter first secretary of the Sverdlovsk region committee. In 1977, Boris was ordered by the Kremlin to destroy the Ipatyev House, where the last tsar, Nicholas 2 was executed with his family, and the hose was demolished over night and the site was paved over with asphalt. In April 1985, Boris moved to Moscow, where he was elected the First Secretary of the Moscow City Committee. This position elevated him to the status of an alternate member of the Politburo of the Central Committee. This period of Boris’s life is remembered by the citizens of Moscow, because of the renovation of Arbat (a historical street in downtown Moscow). Boris sharply criticized the Secretariat of the central committee, for it’s slow pace of reforms at the plenary meting of the central committee, in 1987. As a result, Boris lost his position in the Moscow committee and in the Politburo. He was hospitalized with heart trouble when the KGB, on the order of Mikhail Gorbachev, made him leave the hospital and escorted him to a plenary meeting of the Moscow city committee, where he was “sacked”. The next year, Boris was appointed first Vice Chairman of the state Committee on Construction (an obvious demotion).
Yeltsin the Democrat
March 1989 became the turning point in Boris’s career. He was elected to Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR from Moscow electoral district number 1, in the first multi-candidate parliamentary elections in the entire history of the USSR. One of the more popular parts of his campaigns was a call for a reduction in spending of the USSR’s space program. He received a seat in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, where he held the position of Chair of the committee of construction. More importantly, he became he became a co-leader of the inter-Regional Group of Deputies, which stood for Human Rights and Democratic reforms. Boris was elected speaker of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in May 1990. By that time, he was known for his harsh criticisms of Gorbachev and other “communist hard-liners.” In Boris’s mind, Gorbachev had to speed up the reforms of the USSR, get tough on the right wing factions of the soviet government, and transfer more power to the republics and the people of the USSR. On June 12, 1990, Congress of the People’s Deputies of the RSFSR adopted The Declaration of Sovereignty of the RSFSR. June 12 is now celebrated as the Russian’s Independence Day. In July, Boris resigned from the Communist party. In August, Boris meet with Gorbachev to sign a document that called for an overhaul of the Russian economic system and harmonized relations between the Kremlin and the Republics of Russia. Gorbachev withdrew his support of the program in fall 1990, and it was never implemented. Boris was infuriated and called for the immediate resignation of Gorbachev on a television address in February 1991. Gorbachev seeked a compromise, negotiations on the Union Treaty started in Novo-Ogarevo.
Yeltsin the President
In the first democratic election in the history of Russia held on June 12, 1991, Boris captured nearly sixty percent of the vote to defeat five other candidates. President of the USSR Gorbachev attended the inauguration and congratulated Boris. President Gorbachev, the heads of the soviet republics and Boris were scheduled to sign the Union Treaty on August 20, 1991. Gorbachev, Boris, and the President of Kazakhstan had an informal meeting on July 29, where they talked of replacing KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, Minister of Defense Dmitri Yazov, and Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov. Never the less the KGB were taping the conversation. These tapes stroke fear into many members of the Communist Party and these members plotted a coup. On August 18, 1991, President Gorbachev was detained at his summerhouse in Crimes, by the coup plotters. The next day, they announced the takeover of Gorbachev’s power, by the vice president. After hearing this Boris rushed to “The White House” of Russia and condemned the coup and called for resistance. On the orders of the State Committee on the Emergency Situation, a group formed by coup leaders ordered the military to protect the coup. A tank division latter switched sides and Boris delivered a speech on top of one of the tanks. The coup collapsed latter that day, because of the swift action of Boris and the resistance of the people. Gorbachev was let free, but found it hard to regain his power. On December 8, 1991, Boris teamed up with the leaders of the Ukraine and Belarus, “to hammer the final nail into the USSR’s coffin.” The three presidents declared that the USSR had ceased to function and that they would establish a voluntary Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). On December 25, 1991 President Gorbachev resigned, and the USSR ceased to exist.
A Free Russia
Boris’s top priority was to transform Russia into a capitalist country. In January 1992 a new cabinet under the leadership of Yegor Gaydar released retail and most wholesales prices from government control allowing individuals to engage in trade without interference. Prices skyrocketed at first, but latter equalized as supply and demand kicked in. Latter in 1992, Boris’s government took steps to encourage the founding and growth of new companies. Most state firms were organized into joint stock companies. To trim budget deficit, the government slashed military spending, social assistance, and subsidies. Collaborating with international financial organizations, Russia established a stack exchange, a reserve bank, and a civil law code. Despite assurances from Boris that capitalism would yield dividends within a year, the economy slowly shrank from 1992 to 1999. Millions of ordinary people suffered great poverty and unemployment. Frictions in the government were worsened by the government’s inability to agree on a constitution. A majority of voters expressed confidence in Boris in a referendum held on April 23, 1993, but they rejected a proposal for early parliamentary elections. Boris got feed up, and ordered parliament dissolved and the election of a new one. A few representatives refused to stand down, and locked themselves inside the parliament building with hundreds of armed supporters. Boris ordered the army to take back parliament, and because of this riots ensued. After 170 people died the representatives surrendered. In December 1993 a new parliament was elected and a constitutional referendum was formed whom passed Boris’s draft constitution which gave a lot of power to the executive side (president) of the Russian government. Boris’s health seriously deteriorated after the crisis of 1993, he developed a serious health problem. Chechnya a mostly Muslim country, whose government which had been trying secede from Russia since 1991, became ever more rebellious. Boris ordered the military to enter the country and assert Moscow’s control. After months of fighting and thousands of Russian and Chechen deaths Boris ordered his National Security Advisor to work out a settlement with the Chechens. In August 1996, a cease-fire, a Russian troop withdrawal was agreed upon, and the agreement that a resolution of the conflict will come in five years. In early 1996, in spit of health problems, Boris decided to run for a second term. In a brilliant campaign Boris Turned his stagnant polls into fifty three percent of the votes. In November 1996 Boris underwent successful heart bypass surgery on his heart. During his recovery there were calls for his impeachment for incapacity to govern, but these demands faded away after his return to the Kremlin.
Although there are many internal problems Boris has to deal with many foreign problems, many that come from relations with one or more of the 14 other former USSR republics. In 1997, Boris struck a deal with Ukraine for the division of the Russian Black Sea fleet and the lease of Sevastopol naval station. Boris has continued with Gorbachev’s stance of reducing tension with western nations. Boris has had many meetings with the United States, including ones with George Bush and Bill Clinton. He has also cultivated relations with Germany, France, and Great Britain. In 1997, he aloud former soviet countries to be admitted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Boris has promoted trade and cooperation with China. Boris also gave the Kuril Islands back to Japan (for foreign aide, of course); these islands froze all relations between the two countries since the end of World War 2.
Today and Tomorrow
Boris has had many problems in the last few years. The first would be, the fall of the Asian economy in 1998, which spread fear through out the world; this economic blunder caused the Russians feeble economy to collapse and the Ruble to skyrocket. Second would be, Boris’s which has gotten worse and worse, he has had a number of heart attacks and surgery. Third would be Russia’s military, which has become very dependent on scavenging for food, clothes, and the corruption that has become very commonplace within “the ranks.” Fourth would be the Russian space program, which has taken budget, cut after budget cut. Fifth and most recent is the resurgence of violence in Chechnya that has caused the invasion of Russian troops. Sixth are the poverty and crime levels of Russia that have grown exponentially.
Boris Yeltsin did as much as any individual to bring about the demise of the USSR. The jury is still out on his contribution to the establishment of a post-Soviet order in Russia. Much will depend on whether his economic policies bear fruit and whether the political institutions he has shaped acquire solidity and more effective checks and balances then they presently contain.
1.Microsoft Encarta 1994, published by Microsoft Multimedia 1994
2.Websters concise encyclopedia, published by Softscore inc. 1996
3.Confesions on the Assigned topics, by Boris Yeltsin, originally published by Russian books inc. 1990, re-published by Barron’s international 1993, translated by Thomas Jenkins
4.Notes of the President, by. Boris Yeltsin, published by Baron’s international 1992
5.Boris Yeltsin, by Vladimir Solovyov & Yelena Klepikova, published by London books 1995
6.Boris Yeltsin, by David Sheldon, published by Arrow 1996
7. Time Magazine, on microfilm Los Angeles county public libraries 1991-1999
8. New York Times, on microfilm Los Angeles county public libraries 1991-1999