Phoenix: Yeltsin and the Future of Russian Leadership

By Stewart, Gwendolyn | Harvard International Review, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Phoenix: Yeltsin and the Future of Russian Leadership


Stewart, Gwendolyn, Harvard International Review


GWENDOLYN STEWART is a Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University.

In these troubled times, an ailing Boris Yeltsin seems the almost too-perfect symbol for an ailing Russia. This is not how the second term of the first Russian president was supposed to turn out. Back in 1996, when the Communists under Gennady Zyuganov appeared poised to take over the presidency (they had already won a plurality in the Duma a half-year before), the ultimate rallying cry was "better a sick Yeltsin than a healthy Zyuganov." The Communists, it was thought, could do positive harm; Yeltsin at least could hold the country together as the fruits of "market democracy" ripened. Should worse come to worst, there were constitutional provisions for choosing a successor now in place; the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, would take over for three months as acting president, and then elections would be called. There was also already at least one other obvious candidate with a proven track record of winning elections, Moscow's Mayor Yury Luzhkov. But the hope was that the reinvigorated Yeltsin, who had toured Russia during the election campaign, would move the country forward if given four more years.

It seemed that important battles had been won, even if the victories had been paid for at a bitter price. After the confrontation with the Supreme Soviet had ended in the shelling of the White House, a post-Soviet constitution had finally been hammered out and ratified by popular referendum in December 1993. The main lines of development for the new political system were clear: Russia was to be not a parliamentary but a presidential republic--too much so, it was almost certain. The war in Chechnya, fought in the name of saving the Federation, had been brought to an uneasy cease-fire with the prospect of an ending within sight. The long-promised economic upturn had still not materialized, at least not in the officially registered economy, but hyper-inflation had been wrung out of the system. Now it was time to show, in a fully contested election, that Russians had moved beyond communism, away from their past, and were still willing to bet on the future.

Then Boris Yeltsin failed to show up at his regular polling place on July 1996, the day of the crucial final round of the election, but won with 54 percent of the votes. Two months later he made the unprecedented public announcement of his need for heart surgery and on November 5, 1996, he underwent a quintuple bypass surgery. The operation was declared a success, but the president's health and the political life of Russia have been on a roller coaster ride ever since.

The Making of Yeltsin

As obvious and devastating as the Russian crisis appears today, it is necessary to place it in context, to reflect on how much has changed in just a decade. Ten years ago Boris Yeltsin was a failed Soviet politician, drummed out of the ruling Politburo and marking time in a make-work job as deputy chief of the State Committee on Construction. Ten years ago the Soviet Union was indisputably the other superpower, and the Reagan administration had committed vast amounts of American resources in an effort to close what it saw as a window of vulnerability to the Evil Empire.

At home, the Soviet Union was entering the heady days of "democratization," centered on a new Congress of People's Deputies, Gorbachev's attempt to give the country a meaningful albeit circumscribed parliament. For the first time in more than 70 years something resembling real elections were in prospect, and Boris Yeltsin seized his chance to make a new, popularly-based political career. Andrei Sakharov, the physicist turned dissident, made a fateful if somewhat reluctant decision to ally with this former provincial apparatchik. He and the other liberal "Moscow deputies" ran orientation sessions for like-minded incoming deputies. Yeltsin was open to new opportunities and new programs after his dismissal from Gorbachev's circle, and some of that "orientation" has remained with him.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Phoenix: Yeltsin and the Future of Russian Leadership
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.