Boris Yeltsin dead at 76

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Boris Yeltsin dead at 76

Mesaj Scris de basaru la data de Mar 24 Apr 2007 - 2:11

Boris Yeltsin dead at 76

Russia's first President, Boris Yeltsin, has died of a heart attack at the age of 76. The Kremlin Press Service released a brief statement at 17:50 Moscow time, confirming his death on Monday.

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Boris Yeltsin will lie in state at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral for people to pay their respects. Mr Yeltsin was Russian President from 1991 to 1999 and presided over the country's transition from communism. The son of a well-off peasant persecuted by Soviet authorities, he could hardly have imagined he would be the first popularly elected leader of democratic Russia. Born in 1931, Boris Yeltsin started his career in construction projects in the Urals. He joined the Communist Party in 1961 at the time of Khrushchyov's anti-Stalinist reforms. He went on to achieve a leading post in the party committee of the Sverdlovsk region, one of the country's key industrial areas.

In 1985 Gorbachev brought him to Moscow to restructure the city party system. Yeltsin was a keen reformer and soon became dissatisfied with what he called the slow pace of Perestroika. He criticised Gorbachev at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee and was fired in 1987. But he returned to major politics and won Russia's first democratic presidential election in 1991, gaining 57% of the vote.His moment of truth came in August 1991. Yeltsin challenged a coup of Communist hardliners against the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin made public speeches outside the government building, known as the White House. He was hailed as a defender of democracy. The coup collapsed but power had shifted from Gorbachev to Yeltsin. He negotiated with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine to declare the Soviet Union defunct.

In the early 1990s Yeltsin's Cabinet launched major economic reforms. They abolished price controls and started privatization. But the reform impoverished the Russian people devaluing their wages and savings.
This dealt a blow to Yeltsin's popularity. In 1993, he dissolved parliament ordering the storming of the government building and the arrest of key deputies. The conflict resulted in more than 100 civilian casualties and a referendum on a new constitution which transferred many of parliament's powers to the president.
Yeltsin’s foreign policy focused on strengthening Russia-U.S. relations. This allowed Russia to join a number of international organizations, such as the World Bank and the Paris Club. In 1994, Yeltsin sent troops to Chechnya to quell separatist militants.

The decision cost him the support of many liberals. The campaign dragged for more than two years. Thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands became refugees.
Despite low ratings, Yeltsin won the next presidential election in 1996. But his second term wasn't an easy one. Just four months after re-election, the president underwent a quadruple heart bypass surgery. He had to stay in hospital for weeks.
In August 1998, the Russian economy collapsed seeing the national currency devalue and the government default on foreign debt. Yeltsin's popularity hit all-time lows.

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