Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin dies at 76

Boris Yeltsin, the first President of Russia, who came to power in 1991, died in Moscow today, the press service of the Kremlin said. He died because of abrupt cardiac arrest. Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and the last president of the USSR presented his condolences to Yeltsin's family.

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Boris Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 1999. The Yeltsin era was a traumatic period in Russian history - a period marked by widespread corruption, economic collapse, and enormous political and social problems.

In June 1991 Yeltsin came to power on a wave of high expectations. On June 12 Yeltsin was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic with 57% of the vote, becoming the first popularly elected president in Russian history. But Yeltsin never recovered his popularity after endorsing radical economic reforms in early 1992 (see Russian economic reform in the 1990s), which were widely blamed for devastating the living standards of most of the Russian population. By the time he left office, Yeltsin was a deeply unpopular figure in Russia, with an approval rating as low as two percent by some estimates.

Following the dissolution of Soviet Union in December 1991, Yeltsin - vowing to transform Russia's socialist planned economy into a capitalist market economy -endorsed a program of "shock therapy," cutting Soviet-era price controls and introducing drastic cuts in state spending. The reforms immediately devastated the living standards of much of the population, especially the groups dependent on Soviet-era state subsidies and welfare entitlement programs. By mid decade, Russia had suffered an economic downturn more severe than the United States or Germany had undergone six decades earlier in the Great Depression. Through the 1990s, Russia's GDP fell 50 percent, vast sectors of the economy were wiped out, income inequality and unemployment grew dramatically, hyperinflation wiped out many families' savings, and tens of millions of Russians were plunged into poverty.

In August 1991, Yeltsin won international plaudits for casting himself as a democrat and defying the August coup attempt of 1991 by hard-line Communists. But he left office widely despised as a desperate, ailing autocrat among the Russian population. As president, Yeltsin's conception of the presidency was highly autocratic. Yeltsin either acted as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointed men of his choice, regardless of parliament. His confrontations with parliament climaxed in the October 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, when Yeltsin called up tanks to shell the Russian White House, blasting out his opponents in parliament. Later in 1993, Yeltsin imposed a new constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved by referendum in December.

After the 1998 Russian financial crisis, Yeltsin was at the end of his political career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, Yeltsin made a surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving the presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Based on the material by Wikipedia

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov