Yeltsin: A Life

Yeltsin: A Life

Timothy J. Colton

Language: English

Pages: 640

ISBN: 046501271X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Even after his death in April 2007, Boris Yeltsin remains the most controversial figure in recent Russian history. Although Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the decline of the Communist party and the withdrawal of Soviet control over eastern Europe, it was Yeltsin-Russia’s first elected president-who buried the Soviet Union itself. Upon taking office, Yeltsin quickly embarked on a sweeping makeover of newly democratic Russia, beginning with a program of excruciatingly painful market reforms that earned him wide acclaim in the West and deep recrimination from many Russian citizens. In this, the first biography of Yeltsin’s entire life, Soviet scholar Timothy Colton traces Yeltsin’s development from a peasant boy in the Urals to a Communist party apparatchik, and then ultimately to a nemesis of the Soviet order. Based on unprecedented interviews with Yeltsin himself as well as scores of other Soviet officials, journalists, and businessmen, Colton explains how and why Yeltsin broke with single-party rule and launched his drive to replace it with democracy. Yeltsin’s colossal attempt to bring democracy to Russia remains one of the great, unfinished stories of our time. As anti-Western policies and rhetoric resurface in Putin’s increasingly bellicose Russia, Yeltsin offers essential insights into the past, present, and future of this vast and troubled nation.

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deputy later said. Gorbachev’s advisers thought the Russian leader was playing “a cat-and-mouse game with us,” and Gorbachev refused to consider traveling to Sochi to see him (“We have to protect our honor”).47 Yeltsin at Bocharov Ruchei dictated a few paragraphs only of the manuscript, which was to grow into Notes of a President, the second volume of his memoirs, and had no interest in playing games with Gorbachev. But his “further plans” could not be put off and were the subject of searing

overpowering role in the birth of the new Russia.” Peter Rutland, “The Boris Yeltsin of History,” Demokratizatsiya/Democratization 6 (Fall 1998), 692. 11 A search of books for sale at, using the person’s name and “biography” as keywords, on November 15, 2007, turned up 2,904 titles about Washington, 2,202 about Lincoln, 1,009 about Churchill, and 975 about Hitler. 12 Boris Yel’tsin, Prezidentskii marafon (Presidential marathon) (Moscow: AST, 2000), 420. This book appeared in

9, 2001). 14 Aleksandr Tsipko, “Drama rossiiskogo vybora” (The drama of Russia’s choice), Izvestiya, October 1, 1991. 15 Details in Marc Zlotnik, “Yeltsin and Gorbachev: The Politics of Confrontation,” Journal of Cold War Studies 5 (Winter 2003), 159–60. Gorbachev has bitterly reported that the day Yeltsin took over in the Kremlin, December 27, was three days ahead of the agreed-upon date, and that he held uncomely festivities there that morning with Gennadii Burbulis and Ruslan Khasbulatov.

agricultural policy [collectivization], then they were required to give up such timeless values as spirituality and culture, and finally they were divested of the ability to define their goals self-reliantly [samostoyatel’no] and to go about attaining them self-reliantly.”37 When the talk turned to remedies, Yeltsin was not a flaming militant. Besides his now faddish populism, the pillars of his approach were outspokenness, the need for reform to show results, and support for political

government. First, she replied suavely, Russia would need to be new and free in more than words. The Iron Lady had notified Gorbachev “to make it clear that I was receiving Mr Yeltsin in the way I would a Leader of the Opposition.” She found her guest “far more my idea of the typical Russian than was Mr Gorbachev—tall, burly, square Slavic face and shock of white hair.” He was sure-footed and mannerly, “with a smile full of good humour and a touch of self-mockery.” What most struck her was that

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