The Energizer Bunny of Russian politics, Boris Yeltsin was an engineer and minor Communist Party official of the U.S.S.R. before winning the Russian presidency by popular vote in 1989. As president he was a key bridge figure between old-style Soviet Communism and the Russia of the 21st century. Rough-edged, blustery and jovial, Boris Yeltsin was a populist leader late in the 1980s, as the old Soviet system was beginning to fall apart. Eager to speed up reforms, he opposed the policies of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, yet he was instrumental in defeating a coup against Gorbachev in 1991. Boris Yeltsin was himself elected president of the Russian Federation in 1991, and after the Soviet Union collapsed he remained in power. Despite political setbacks, rumors of heavy drinking and at least two heart attacks, he was re-elected to office in 1996. He retired abruptly on 31 December 1999, saying he had decided that "Russia must enter the new millennium with new politicians." His replacement was Vladimir Putin.
As a boy, Boris Yeltsin blew off two fingers of his left hand while playing with a live grenade… His home village of Butka is also called Butko; both are English translations from the Cyrillic. Butka is in the Sverdlovsk region, and is located near the city of Yekaterinburg, which also was called Sverdlovsk from 1924-1991. The city name changed back to Yekaterinburg after the fall of the Soviet Union (1991), but the region continues to be known as Sverdlovsk. By coincidence, Yekaterinburg is where Czar Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918.