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Russian Government Changes, 1991–2008

by Ben Snowden

Boris Yeltsin's sudden sacking of prime minister Sergei Stepashin on August 9, 1999, was part of a long series of reorganizations within the Russian government. After his confirmation, former FSB (Federal Security Service) head Vladimir Putin became the fourth man to hold the post of prime minister in eighteen months.

The chaos was nothing new. Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Russia has been wracked by economic misfortune and political instability.

1991 1992 1993 1996 1998 1999 2000 2004 2008
1991
June 16
Still a member of the USSR, the Russian Republic elects Boris Yeltsin president in its first-ever direct elections.


August 19
A hard-line communist coup attempts to depose Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin plays a crucial role in returning him to power two days later, earning broad popular support in the process.


December 25
Gorbachev resigns his position as president of the USSR, signifying the demise of the Soviet Union. Fourteen former Soviet republics (including Russia) become independent states.

1992
June
Yeltsin names Yegor Gaidar acting prime minister of Russia. Gaidar is never confirmed by parliament.


December 14
In the face of parliamentary opposition to Gaidar's reforms, Yeltsin fires him and appoints businessman Viktor Chernomyrdin prime minister.

1993
December 12
A national referendum approves a new Russian constitution, which increases the power of the president. Nationalists are well-represented in the newly elected Duma (the lower house of parliament).

1996
July 3
Despite suffering a heart attack in June, Yeltsin wins a second term in office, defeating communist Gennady Zyuganov by 13 points in the national election.


November
Yeltsin has quintuple-bypass surgery.

1998
March 23
Yeltsin sacks his entire cabinet, including Chernomyrdin. He names liberal former Energy Minister Sergei Kiriyenko acting prime minister. The Duma twice rejects Kiriyenko's nomination, but confirms him, under the threat of dissolution, in a third vote.[note]


August 23
In the midst of Russia's worst post-Soviet currency crisis, Yeltsin fires Kiriyenko and re-nominates Chernomyrdin Prime Minister. The Duma twice rejects his nomination.
Rather than risk a third vote (and the possible dissolution of the Duma), Yeltsin nominates Yevgeny Primakov, foreign minister and former KGB official, as a compromise candidate. The Duma confirms the relatively conservative Primakov in September.

1999
May 12
Yeltsin fires Primakov, ostensibly because of the need for more energetic leadership. The nomination of Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, a Yeltsin loyalist, as Primakov's replacement suggests to many that Primakov had become too powerful for the President's comfort. Stepashin is easily confirmed by the Duma.


May 15
The Duma votes down five counts of impeachment brought against Yeltsin.


August 9
Stepashin is fired without explanation. Yeltsin nominates Vladimir Putin, former KGB official, head of the FSB, and secretary of the Russian Security Council. Yeltsin also designates Putin heir-apparent to the presidency.


December 19
Scheduled date for Duma elections.

2000
Summer
Presidential elections scheduled. By law, Yeltsin may not seek another term. In March, Vladimir Putin wins the presidential election with about 53% of the vote. Putin moves to centralize power in Moscow and attempts to limit the power and influence of both the regional governors and wealthy business leaders.

2004
March
President Vladimir Putin is reelected with 70% of the vote. Dmitri Medvedev is elected president, succeeding Vladimir Putin. Medvedev nominates Putin as prime minister.

2008
March
Dmitri Medvedev is elected president, succeeding Vladimir Putin. Medvedev nominates Putin as prime minister.

May
Parliament elects Putin, head of the United Russia party, as prime minister.


Under the 1993 Constitution, the president must dissolve the Duma and call for new elections if it fails three times to confirm his appointment for prime minister.

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