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Russia

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Index
  1. Russia Main Page
  2. The Bolshevik Revolution
  3. Emergence of the USSR
  4. The Berlin Blockade and the Cold War
  5. Dissolution of the USSR
  6. Financial Crisis, Political Upheaval, and Putin's Rise to Power
  7. A Shocking Hostage Situation, a Move Towards Climate Change, and Radiation Poison
  8. Crumbling Relations with the United States and Conflict with Georgia
  9. String of Suicide Bombs Sparks Fear of a Crackdown by Putin
  10. Protests and Unrest Surrounds the 2012 Presidential Election
  11. Russia Blocks U.N. Action in Syria
  12. New Laws Passed against Political Activists, Pussy Riot Arrested
  13. Russia enters the World Trade Organization, Won't Renew Weapons Pact with United States, and Grants Asylum to American Fugitive
  14. Russia Assists with Chemical Weapons Investigation in Syria
  15. International Protests and Multiple Bombings Threaten 2014 Olympics
  16. Russia Annexes Crimea, Experiences Economic Fallout Due to Sanctions
  17. Putin Signs Gas Accord with China, Begins Eurasian Union as Ukraine Fallout Continues
Financial Crisis, Political Upheaval, and Putin's Rise to Power

In March 1998 Yeltsin dismissed his entire government and replaced Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin with fuel and energy minister Sergei Kiriyenko. On Aug. 28, 1998, amid the Russian stock market's free fall, the Russian government halted trading of the ruble on international currency markets. This financial crisis led to a long-term economic downturn and political upheaval. Yeltsin then sacked Kiriyenko and reappointed Chernomyrdin. The Duma rejected Chernomyrdin and on Sept. 11 elected foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov as prime minister. The repercussions of Russia's financial emergency were felt throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Impatient with Yeltsin's increasingly erratic behavior, the Duma attempted to impeach him in May 1999. But the impeachment motion was quickly quashed and soon Yeltsin was on the ascendancy again. In keeping with his capricious style, Yeltsin dismissed Primakov and substituted Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. Just three months later, however, Yeltsin ousted Stepashin and replaced him with Vladimir Putin on Aug. 9, 1999, announcing that in addition to serving as prime minister, the former KGB agent was his choice as a successor in the 2000 presidential election. That same year the former Russian satellites of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined NATO, raising Russia's hackles. The desire of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all of which were once part of the Soviet Union, to join the organization in the future further antagonized Russia.

Just three years after the bloody 1994–1996 Chechen-Russian war ended in devastation and stalemate, the fighting started again in 1999, with Russia launching air strikes and following up with ground troops. By the end of November, Russian troops had surrounded Chechnya's capital, Grozny, and about 215,000 Chechen refugees had fled to neighboring Ingushetia. Russia maintained that a political solution was impossible until Islamic militants in Chechnya had been vanquished.

In a decision that took Russia and the world by surprise, Boris Yeltsin resigned on Dec. 31, 1999, and Vladimir Putin became the acting president. Two months later, after almost five months of fighting, Russian troops captured Grozny. It was a political as well as a military victory for Putin, whose hard-line stance against Chechnya greatly contributed to his political popularity.

On March 26, 2000, Putin won the presidential election with about 53% of the vote. Putin moved to centralize power in Moscow and attempted to limit the power and influence of both the regional governors and wealthy business leaders. Although Russia remained economically stagnant, Putin brought his nation a measure of political stability it never had under the mercurial and erratic Yeltsin. In Aug. 2000 the Russian government was severely criticized for its handling of the Kursk disaster, a nuclear submarine accident that left 118 sailors dead.

Russia was initially alarmed in 2001 when the U.S. announced its rejection of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which for 30 years had been viewed as a crucial force in keeping the nuclear arms race under control. But Putin was eventually placated by President George W. Bush's reassurances, and in May 2002, the U.S. and Russian leaders announced a landmark pact to cut both countries' nuclear arsenals by up to two-thirds over the next ten years.

On Oct. 23, 2002, Chechen rebels seized a crowded Moscow theater and detained 763 people, including 3 Americans. Armed and wired with explosives, the rebels demanded that the Russian government end the war in Chechnya. Government forces stormed the theater the next day, after releasing a gas into the theater that killed not only all the rebels but more than 100 hostages.

In March 2003, Chechens voted in a referendum that approved a new regional constitution making Chechnya a separatist republic within Russia. Agreeing to the constitution meant abandoning claims for complete independence, and the new powers accorded the republic were little more than cosmetic. During 2003, there were 11 bomb attacks against Russia that were believed to have been orchestrated by Chechen rebels.

Putin was reelected president in March 2004, with 70% of the vote. International election observers considered the process less than democratic.

Next: A Shocking Hostage Situation, a Move Towards Climate Change, and Radiation Poison
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