Изображение к книге Yeltsin

Table of Contents


Title Page



CHAPTER ONE - Self-Reliance


CHAPTER THREE - Only Forward

CHAPTER FOUR - A Boss with a Difference

CHAPTER FIVE - Megalopolis

CHAPTER SIX - The Mutineer

CHAPTER SEVEN - The Yeltsin Phenomenon

CHAPTER EIGHT - Birth of a Nation

CHAPTER NINE - A Great Leap Outward

CHAPTER TEN - Resistances

CHAPTER ELEVEN - Falling Apart, Holding Together

CHAPTER TWELVE - Boris Agonistes

CHAPTER THIRTEEN - Governing the State


CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Autumn of a President



Coda - Legacies of an Event-Shaping Man




Copyright Page

Praise for Timothy Colton’s YELTSIN

Изображение к книге Yeltsin

“Mr. Colton is not the first to undertake Yeltsin’s redemption. . . . But Mr. Colton has used the extra time to excellent effect. He has mined declassified Kremlin transcripts; fact-checked many memoirs; conducted extensive interviews with participants, including Yeltsin, shortly before his death last year; and synthesized a story that anyone curious about contemporary Russia will find illuminating.”

—New York Times

“Few Russian leaders have been stuck with such contradictory labels as Boris Yeltsin. Clown, hero, braggart and battering ram are just a handful of the commonest. Given his volatile personality and the fact that Russia’s first elected president played so dominant a role in his country’s path from communism, it is time he received more weighty treatment. Timothy Colton, professor of government and Russian studies at Harvard University, certainly has the credentials. His book is backed by a tremendous amount of research, including declassified material from the Soviet archives.”

—The Guardian (London)

“It’s fitting . . . that Yeltsin has sprung his last surprise by finding a biographer to rank him, justifiably, among the politicians with the greatest impact on the 20th century.”

—Time. com

“In this, the first published account of Yeltsin’s whole life, Timothy Colton casts the former Russian leader in a favourable new light. For Colton, Yeltsin—a loyal communist well into middle age—‘broke stride and linked his personal journey to larger trends,’ which saw him evolve from ‘knee-jerk populism’ to ending the Communist party’s monopoly of power and pursuing democracy. By staying ‘a half-step ahead of his rivals’ he won ‘the opportunity to preside over the birth of a nation and an attempt to construct a bold new future for it.’ These are big claims—and Colton makes them convincingly. . . . He has researched Yeltsin’s life with care and interviewed many key figures, including Yeltsin himself. . . . The Yeltsin years could have turned out a lot worse. . . . Yeltsin deserves credit. And he deserves a biography as good as Colton’s.”

—Financial Times

“A well-researched book with many interesting details drawn from [Colton’s] interviews with Yeltsin, his family, and a variety of other key players.”

—The Weekly Standard

“In this substantial biography, Professor Timothy Colton sets out to put Yeltsin back where he belongs: as a—even the—key political actor in late 20th-century Russia. To Colton, Yeltsin is a national leader and statesman of rare acumen and character who deserves a place right up there in the pantheon of great Russians. History, I have little doubt, will prove him right. There is much to admire in this account of Yeltsin. . . . [Colton] writes with insight on Yeltsin’s relations with communism and the Communist Party (not the same thing), suggesting that he was never really a believer, but no cynical careerist, either.”

—New Statesman (London)

“There have been excellent biographies of Yeltsin before, but none so thorough. . . . For the uninitiated, the book’s value is as a comprehensive portrait of one of the main figures of contemporary times—a portrait that is sympathetic but not uncritical. For the initiated, many of the most controversial but shrouded moments in Yeltsin’s career are, at last, clearly revealed.”


“Quite readable and utterly absorbing.”


“[A]n authoritative, impeccably researched and richly contextualized study of Yeltsin. . . . Colton is a masterful political historian; he weaves the story of Yeltsin’s life into the fabric of Soviet and Russian history, at every stage offering insightful descriptions of the time, the place and the people.”


“Colton’s biography is the first major assessment to come along since Leon Aron’s Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life, which went to press shortly before Yeltsin unexpectedly stepped down from Russia’s presidency in the final hours of 1999. It benefits from the passage of time and perspective afforded by Putin’s eight subsequent years as president.”

—Wilson Quarterly

“An epic book that captures all of the color, drama and contradiction of this elusive man. . . . This biography is solid, important and accessible.”

—Tucson Citizen

“[Yeltsin] will be of lasting importance to serious readers and is highly recommended for academic as well as large public libraries.”

—Library Journal

“Colton, a scholar of Russian studies at Harvard, has written the first comprehensive biography of Yeltsin. Aided by access to Yeltsin himself as well as to prominent Russian officials and close associates, Colton seeks insight by examining Yeltsin’s family background, childhood, and young manhood. . . . An important work.”


“A solid and sympathetic portrait of a leader misunderstood and underestimated in the West.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“While praising Yeltsin’s ability to keep Russia together and sow the seeds for later economic success, Colton criticizes his failure to establish constitutional safeguards that might have prevented Russia’s recent turn toward authoritarianism. Colton’s book offers a finely detailed portrait of a key international leader.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A knowledgeable and compelling account of an almost forgotten leader at a historic turning point in world history, and a must-read for serious students of the Soviet collapse.”

—James MacGregor Burns, author of Leadership and Running Alone: Presidential Leadership from JFK to Bush II

“Timothy Colton’s fascinating, thoroughly researched biography captures the contradictions in the life of the mercurial Russian president, yet gives Boris Yeltsin his due as an event-shaping statesman. While Yeltsin’s activities provided abundant material for the caricatures that dominated much journalism of the period, Professor Colton has probed beneath the sensational to give a rounded, balanced picture of the man who changed Russian history. For those who wish to understand what happened to Russia in the 1990s, there could be no better guide.”

—Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, 1987–1991, and author of Autopsy on an Empire and Reagan and Gorbachev

“Colorful and charismatic, grave-digger of the Soviet Union yet unable to set the successor regime he founded on a stable course, Boris Yeltsin is the perfect subject of Timothy Colton’s fine biography. Based on exhaustive research including interviews with Yeltsin, his family, and other Soviet and post-Soviet officials, balanced and judicious in its judgments, combining spirited storytelling with scholarly depth, Yeltsin is a wonderful achievement.”

—William Taubman, Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

“One of the transformative figures of the late 20th century has gotten the biography he deserves—a great story, brilliantly told, about a man as complex and consequential as the era in which he rose to the Kremlin and lowered the hammer-and-sickle forever. A monumental work of meticulous scholarship, fresh insight, astute judgment, and narrative skill, Tim Colton’s biography is a masterpiece.”

—Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institute and author of The Great Experiment

For Samuel P. Huntington


Hero As Paradox

At twelve noon, Friday, December 31, 1999, Moscow time, on the cusp of the new year, the new century, and the new millennium, a surprise announcement from the president’s office was televised across Russia from the Baltic Sea, where the sun had crept above the horizon, to the Bering Strait, where it had just dipped below. Boris Yeltsin, attired in a charcoal-gray suit and silver tie, with a tinseled holiday tree in the background, had videotaped it that morning. He was retiring seven months before the expiration of his mandate, he said hoarsely, and was handing over power to the prime minister and now acting president, Vladimir Putin, pending confirmation by the electorate. As the terse clip rolled, the presidential suite, paraphernalia, and “nuclear briefcase” were already in Putin’s hands and Yeltsin was clinking glasses at a leave-taking luncheon.1

Most viewers could not help recall a telecast from the Kremlin eight winters earlier, at seven P.M. on Western Christmas, December 25, 1991.2 In that funereal tableau, Mikhail Gorbachev, the resolute liquidator of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain and the irresolute reformer of communism, declared his resignation from the presidency of the Soviet Union and, with utmost reluctance, his acquiescence in unraveling the once mighty union itself. He abdicated to the same human being who would star in the 1999 presentation.

The uncanny thing is that vanquisher and vanquished, Yeltsin and Gorbachev, had so much in common. They came into the world twenty-nine days apart in 1931, Yeltsin on the first day of February and Gorbachev on the second of March. They were born to lowly parents in out-of-the-way villages on the Russian perimeter—at the fringe of the craggy Urals, almost in Siberia, for Yeltsin, and on the Caucasus isthmus, between the Caspian and the Black seas, for Gorbachev—at a time when those communities were hungry and under siege by the communist regime. Regardless, as grown men they served the regime and carved out vocations in its core as apparatchiks, members of the administrative machine of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).3 In the 1980s they strained every sinew to reform that machine: Gorbachev, in the top job as general secretary, recruited Yeltsin to a senior post for that very purpose. How odd, then, for them to wind up on either side of the barricades in 1991. And so they would remain until Yeltsin’s death sixteen years after.

In 1999 Yeltsin began his valedictory on a sunny note. He commended the constitutionally correct transfer of power and the advances in political, economic, and cultural freedoms while he was head of state, all running against the grain of Russia’s autocratic heritage. The solid showing of pro-government candidates in the recent parliamentary election had left him confident he could bow out in peace. “I have attained the goal of my life: Russia will never return to the past, Russia from now on will proceed only forward.”4

In midstream, though, Yeltsin switched gears and delivered a curiosity for any politician—a mea culpa:

I would like to say a few words more personal than I am accustomed to saying. I want to apologize to you. I beg your forgiveness for not making many of your and my dreams come true. What seemed simple to do proved to be excruciatingly difficult. I beg your forgiveness for not vindicating some of the hopes of those who believed that in one leap, with one stroke, we could jump from the gray, stagnant, totalitarian past into a cloudless, prosperous, and civilized future. I myself believed this. I thought we could overcome everything in one go.

One leap was not enough to do it. I was in certain respects naïve. Some problems revealed themselves to be exceptionally complicated. We slogged ahead through trial and error. Many people were shaken by these trying times.

But I want you to know what I have never spoken about before and what it is important for me to say today. The pain of each of you called forth pain in me and in my heart. I went through sleepless nights and torturous self-doubts about what to do so that people might live easier and better. For me no task outweighed this.

I am departing. I did all I could do.5

For anyone wishing to retrace the Yeltsin saga, his soul-baring farewell raises as many questions as it answers. It stays away from how he, a child of totalitarianism, got to dismantle it, and whether the project was quixotic or feasible. It does not offer a scoresheet of his or the other players’ experience in government. If the exercise to date had been that torturous, it does not tell why Russians should have been hopeful about going forward.

In the library on the transition from Soviet-type communism, the Yeltsin bookshelf is slender. Almost all the works on it by Westerners were written before he stepped down, some long before; none was done with access to him; and together they miss out on “the submerged nine-tenths of the personality iceberg.”6 In Russia, no writer has so much as attempted an authoritative life of Yeltsin. As was bemoaned on his penultimate birthday in 2006, the existing publications are “politicized and maudlin” and “often slip into opinion pieces [publitsistika] not of the highest order.”7

Why this apathy? In Yeltsin’s native land, biography has never been a mainstream art form or the halfway house between academic and popular history that it is in the West.8 It was frowned upon under communism as irreconcilable with the struggle between monolithic social classes outlined by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Poking into any Soviet citizen’s life and provenance—exposing details like socioeconomic, religious, and ethnic lineage, accusations against a relative, hidden enthusiasms or grudges—was treacherous for the subject. In post-Soviet Russia, biography and the search for roots are more in vogue. But books on political figures, at least so far, tend toward gimcrack sensationalism and the regurgitation of press clippings. As for Yeltsin, official attitudes cooled after Putin took over, and popular interest waned. A Russian would have thought twice about undertaking a serious tome on Yeltsin and would have been hard-pressed to get inside information about him.9

In the West, it has been suggested that Yeltsin scared authors off because he was sui generis and so hulking a presence.10 This argument does not pass muster. Historians have not ignored such unique, outsized figures as Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, and Hitler.11

The inverse possibility is not readily brushed aside. Maybe all individual actors would be insignificant in a scene scoured by large-scale social and political forces, as this one was. Yeltsin pointed out in Presidential Marathon, the last in his trilogy of memoirs, that as paramount leader he did not fly solo. “Much of what occurred depended on my actions, right or wrong,” he averred. “But in the end history is not written by individuals. There are general and sometimes cryptic patterns in the lives of nations.”12