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Lonely tsar

The defining moment of Boris Yeltsin's career was his humiliation by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. In pursuit of revenge, Yeltsin broke up the Soviet Union. But he has remained a loner, unwilling to build a reform party and now, like Leonid Brezhnev, protected from reality by his cronies. John Morrison, a biographer of Yeltsin, assesses his five years in office

By John Morrison   June 1996

Back in august 1991, as Boris Yeltsin was clambering on to a tank outside the Moscow White House to proclaim resistance to a coup attempt by hardliners, I was putting the finishing touches to my biography of Russia’s first president. Yeltsin, elected two months earlier, was the hero of the hour, resisting the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in the name of democracy. Four months later, he had displaced Gorbachev in the Kremlin and the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. Russians were sharply divided over whether Yeltsin was more autocrat than democrat.

As I handed over my manuscript, I was…

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