THE RED BARMY; BORIS YELTSIN: 1931-2007 the Son of Peasants, He Rose to Power, Killed off the Communist Party and Dismantled the Soviet Union, Defeated a Coup and Stunned the World by Bringing in Democracy. but He Started the Bloody War in Chechnya, Botched the Economy and Made No Effort to Tackle the Rising Tide of Corruption. Hampered by Booze, Depression, Illness and Increasingly Bizarre Behaviour, He Eventually Could Take No More

The Mirror (London, England), April 24, 2007 | Go to article overview

THE RED BARMY; BORIS YELTSIN: 1931-2007 the Son of Peasants, He Rose to Power, Killed off the Communist Party and Dismantled the Soviet Union, Defeated a Coup and Stunned the World by Bringing in Democracy. but He Started the Bloody War in Chechnya, Botched the Economy and Made No Effort to Tackle the Rising Tide of Corruption. Hampered by Booze, Depression, Illness and Increasingly Bizarre Behaviour, He Eventually Could Take No More


Byline: By MARK ELLIS

HE put the nail into the coffin of Communism and ushered in an age of democracy and the free market.

Boris Yeltsin, who became first president of the new Russia, even stood on a tank to prevent a coup against the reforms of the last Soviet head Mikhail Gorbachev.

Politicians have hailed his place in history following his death of heart failure in Moscow yesterday aged 76.

However, despite transforming his homeland, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was beset by personal and political frailties.

He mishandled the economy, impoverishing millions of Russians, and failed to stem corruption.

He also entered into a disastrous war in Chechnya and was unable to stop the looting of state industry as it moved into private hands.

Yeltsin was prone to bizarre, often drink-fuelled, behaviour which included playing spoons on the head of the leader of an ex-Soviet republic.

Gorbachev yesterday summed up the complexity of Yeltsin's political life as he called him one "on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors".

Born to peasants in the Ural mountains in 1931, he grew up sharing one room with them in a wooden shack.

He trained as an engineer and shot to political prominence in 1985 when Gorbachev made him Moscow Communist Party chief.

But his maverick style alienated both hardliners and Gorbachev and he quit the party in 1990.

However, his defiance had made him popular and in June 1991 he became the first elected president of Russia - then still in the USSR.

Two months later came his greatest moment when he climbed on to a tank to foil a coup bid by the Communist old guard to oust Gorbachev.

It made him a worldwide symbol of the Iron Curtain's fledgling democracy movement.

When Gorbachev quit in December, Yeltsin replaced him, abolishing the Soviet Union and Communist Party.

He was lauded for reforms that saw multi-party elections, free speech, private property and Russia's borders open to investment and travel.

He also assured independence for former satellite states and slashed arms and troop numbers as he forged warm relations with the West.

Yet he soon showed an iron fist within the velvet glove. In 1993 he ordered tanks to fire on parliament to flush out political opponents.

The next year he sent soldiers to quash separatists in Chechnya, a war that saw tens of thousands die and the Russian Army retreat in 1996. …

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THE RED BARMY; BORIS YELTSIN: 1931-2007 the Son of Peasants, He Rose to Power, Killed off the Communist Party and Dismantled the Soviet Union, Defeated a Coup and Stunned the World by Bringing in Democracy. but He Started the Bloody War in Chechnya, Botched the Economy and Made No Effort to Tackle the Rising Tide of Corruption. Hampered by Booze, Depression, Illness and Increasingly Bizarre Behaviour, He Eventually Could Take No More
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