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It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts.

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Feb 23, 2019

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Random Person of the Day: Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (IPA: [bʌˈrʲis nʲikoˈlajevɨtɕ ˈjelʲtsɨn] Russian: Бори́с Никола́евич Е́льцин (help·info) ) (February 1, 1931 - April 23, 2007) was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.

Yeltsin came to power on a wave of high expectations. On 12 June 1991 he was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic with 57% of the vote, becoming the first popularly elected president. But Yeltsin never recovered his popularity after a series of economic and political crises in Russia in the 1990s. The Yeltsin era was marked by widespread corruption, economic collapse, and enormous political and social problems. By the time he left office, Yeltsin had an approval rating of two percent by some estimates.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Yeltsin, vowing to transform Russia's socialist planned economy into a capitalist market economy, endorsed a programme of "shock therapy", that would cut Soviet-era price controls and introduce drastic cuts in state spending. However, the reforms came in too slowly, and through corruption in the state departments a handful of people were able to enrich themselves while stamping out competitors. The reforms also devastated the living standards of much of the population, especially the groups dependent on Soviet-era state subsidies and welfare entitlement programs. Through the 1990s, Russia's GDP fell by 50 percent, vast sectors of the economy were wiped out, inequality and unemployment grew dramatically, while incomes fell. Hyperinflation, caused by the Central Bank of Russia's loose monetary policy, wiped out a lot of personal savings, and tens of millions of Russians were plunged into poverty.

In August 1991, Yeltsin won international plaudits for casting himself as a democrat and defying the August coup attempt of 1991 by the members of Soviet government opposed to perestroika. But he left office widely despised among the Russian population as a desperate, ailing autocrat. As president, Yeltsin's conception of the presidency was highly autocratic. For example he changed the name of the state by his own decree before the constitution was modified. Yeltsin either acted as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointed men of his choice, regardless of parliament. His confrontations with parliament climaxed in the October 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, when Yeltsin called up tanks to shell the Russian White House, blasting out his opponents in parliament. Later in 1993, Yeltsin imposed a new constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved by referendum in December.

Following the 1998 Russian financial crisis, Yeltsin was at the end of his political career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, Yeltsin made a surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving the presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

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