Boris Yeltsin Russian politician, who became president of Russia in 1990. In 1991 he became the first popularly elected leader in the country’s history, guiding Russia through a stormy decade of political and economic retrenching until his resignation on the eve of 2000.
Yeltsin attended the Urals Polytechnic Institute and worked at various construction projects in the Sverdlovsk oblast from 1955 to 1968, joining the Communist Party in 1961. In 1968 he began full-time work in the party and in 1976 became first secretary of the Sverdlovsk oblast party committee. Thereafter he came to know Mikhail Gorbachev, then his counterpart in the city of Stavropol.
After Gorbachev came to power, he chose Yeltsin in 1985 to clean out the corruption in the Moscow party organization and elevated him to the Politburo (as a nonvoting member) in 1986. As the mayor of Moscow (i.e., first secretary of Moscow’s Communist Party committee), Yeltsin proved an able and determined reformer, but he estranged Gorbachev when he began criticizing the slow pace of reform at party meetings, challenging party conservatives, and even criticizing Gorbachev himself. Yeltsin was forced to resign in disgrace from the Moscow party leadership in 1987 and from the Politburo in 1988.