Boris Yeltsin's Life and Career | Timeline

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Timeline of Boris Yeltsin's Life and Career
by John Gettings
1931 1956 1976 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 1998 1999 2007

February 1

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is born to parents Nikolai and Klavdia in the village of Butka in the Sverdlovsk Region, an industrial center in the Ural Mountain region of Russia.


Marries Naina Iosifovna Girina. They have two daughters, Yelena (born in 1957) and Tatyana (1959).


Appointed first secretary of the Sverdlovsk District Central Committee, a position similar to governor in the United States. His performance earns him praise as an enthusiastic reformer.



The new general secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, brings Yeltsin to Moscow as secretary of the Central Committee for Construction.


He is promoted to first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee. It's a position with responsibilities similar to those of an American mayor and includes membership in the Politburo, the Soviet Union's de facto ruling body.


November 11

The Moscow City Party Committee meets, with Gorbachev in attendance, and strips Yeltsin of his post as first secretary. The committee was angered by comments Yeltsin made at an Oct. 21 meeting where he criticized Gorbachev's Perestroika for moving too slowly. He was removed from the Politburo and moved to a job running construction back in Sverdlovsk.


March 26

Yeltsin is surprisingly elected to the Soviet parliament. His political career is revived by his vocal campaign against corruption within the political elite.


June 12

He wins the Russian Federation's first popular presidential election.

August 18

His crowning achievement comes on this day as he stands defiantly atop an armored personnel carrier and challenges a hard-liner coup against Soviet President Gorbachev. He's hailed as a defender of democracy.



Tanks surround the parliament building once again, this time under Yeltsin's illegal orders, to force lawmakers to disband. More than 140 people die in the street fighting that ensues. Two months later a new constitution is approved, giving Yeltsin sweeping powers.


December 11

Yeltsin orders Russian troops into Chechnya to squash a separatist rebellion. The decision is a disaster for Yeltsin as the campaign would drag on for more than two years and lead to the deaths of thousands of Russian citizens.


July 3

Wins re-election for a second term. But not before a puzzling disappearance from public life in June. Officials admit months later that he suffered a heart attack.

November 5

Undergoes successful quintuple heart bypass surgery, performed by American heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey. In January he contracts pneumonia, Communists try to seize the opportunity to impeach him but his health improves and he regains the reigns of power.


March 23

Yeltsin fires the entire cabinet, including prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and replaces him with little-known former Energy Minister Sergei Kiriyenko. Chernomyrdin is the first of four prime ministers Yeltsin will fire over the next 17 months.


The Russian economy collapses and the resulting financial crisis that would see the ruble lose 75 percent of its value over the next year sinks Yeltsin's popularity. He ousts Kiriyenko on Aug. 23 and re-nominates Chernomyrdin. The Duma rejects the nomination twice and Yeltsin fires back with a former KGB official, Yevgeny Primakov, who is confirmed in September.


May 12

Yeltsin fires Primakov, who was rapidly gaining popularity, and names Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin to replace him.

August 9

Yeltsin abruptly fires Stepashin and names Vladimir Putin, the head of the Federal Security Service and 15-year veteran of the KGB, the acting prime minister. He also designates Putin as successor to the presidency.

December 31

Yeltsin asks a national TV audience for their forgiveness and apologizes for his mistakes in a resignation speech that surprises the world's media and concludes his eight years as Russia's president. He announces that Putin will immediately assume the duties of the president until national elections, which have been moved up from June to March.


April 23

Yeltsin dies of heart failure.

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