Russia’s Autocrats Part 3 of 4

Gorbachev

Gorbachev

Yeltsin

Yeltsin

Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev 1931 –

He was the last of the Soviet Union’s leaders and served as Head of State from 1985 to 1991. He was younger than his predecessors and had traveled abroad and was therefore more open-minded. First he removed the Communist Party’s role in governing the State. In his attempts at being a reformer he introduced the concepts of “glasnost” (openness) which could also be translated as transparency and “perestroika,” a restructuring of the country’s political system. His aim was not to abolish the Soviet Union but to modernize it and stop its stagnation.

He was also eager to improve relations with the West. But events cascaded too rapidly past him. Caught in the increasing momentum, he was unable to apply the brakes and the unintended result was the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

His decision of not intervening in the affairs of the satellite Eastern Bloc countries (the Warsaw Pact Nations) resulted in widespread popular upheaval. These countries saw their chance to regain sovereignty. Ultimately, East Germany also rebelled and the Berlin Wall fell. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was underway.

A coup by hard-line Communists was attempted against Gorbachev in 1991. At this point a relative unknown named Boris Yeltsin stepped into battle. Atop a tank he harangued the crowd, condemned the coup, and attempted to save the situation. But Gorbachev, realizing he had lost control of events, ultimately resigned, and Yeltsin became the new national hero.

Boris Yeltsin 1931-

In June of 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected by popular vote to the newly created position of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Yeltsin was the first (and only) freely elected leader of Russia in its thousand years of existence. Hand-picked by Gorbachev to shake up the corrupt party system, he was an eager reformer. But he had the impossible task of moving the country from a centralized bureaucracy to a market economy. The change was too brutal. It was called “shock without therapy.”

There was massive inflation. The people lost their security and sense of stability. Chaos ensued. Yeltsin was also instrumental in letting the soviet republics leave the union and establish their separate autonomous nationhood. A civil war almost erupted.

Yeltsin was also a flawed, erratic and unpredictable agent of change. When a solid rock was needed, he was a vacillating and unstable vessel. The financial crisis and his bad health (attributed to alcoholism) forced him to resign. He was thus also the first leader to relinquish power voluntarily.

He left the country to an obscure bureaucrat named Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

8 comments

  1. Fascinating, I didn’t realize that Russia has only had one freely elected leader in its entire history. And they picked so badly! Or possibly it was an impossible job.

  2. Alexander. Voting in the U.S. is extraordinarily decentralized. It is not only under the control of each separate state, it is conducted in the many counties within each state. And each determines such issues as whether to use electronic counting machines and, if so, what kind. Each determines whether to use paper ballots or touch screen computers and , if touch screen computers, whether or not there will additionally be a paper trail generated. This decentralization makes U.S. elections impossible to control from any one “despotic” source. So far the only person caught in voting fraud is a Trump supporter in Iowa – alive and a citizen – who voted for Trump twice “since the polls are rigged”.
    Considering the decentralization of elections in the U.S. and the number of voters in this large country needed to win in the Electoral College and to win the popular vote – how many dead people would it take to influence an election? That is a 5th grade arithmetic question.

  3. Simone… why do you try so hard to kill my faith in humanity? Can you write something reasonable and non-biased for a change?

    For majority of Russians Gorbachev is a betrayer, Yeltsin – drunkard. This is pretty much all you need to know about them.

    And if you say that Yeltsin was the only freely elected leader in Russia, you need to put a note that “freely elected leaders” are on the verge of extinction in this world. For example, elections in USA are much like “zombie apocalypse” horror movie: dead people raise from their graves and go to polling stations… o_O

    P.S. What do you think about so-called “cold war victory medal”?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War_Victory_Medal

    1. That is quite a “danse macabre” . Alexander has conjured up.Quite appropriate for Halloween,
      Would someone like to restore his faith in humanity?

      Simone

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