The Yeltsin Presidency


Myung Sun Kim

Professor Raymond Tanter


Russian presidency has a very shorty story-until now they have just two presidents: Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Correctly speaking, Russians have only one president since Gorbachev was the first and the last president of the USSR. Therefore, president Yeltin is the frontier and the person of the first person of the Russian presidency. Are we hoping too much from him? He has no experience of democracy before; even he was the communist and nomenklatura.

Surprisingly, presidency was considered as early as in 1936. Stalin, however, opposed it.The idea of presidency appeared in 1989, proposed to Gorbachev.Gorbachev was worried that it would lead a convergence of power on a single person.

Some Russian politicians praised presidency: parliamentary chairman Anatolii Lukyanov explained in 1990 in the Congress of Peopleís deputies that the president would be able to act decisively and no need to fear that presidency would lead to a new form of authoritarian rule.Also, literary scholar Dmitri Likhachev said that the delay of a president election might bring a civil war.

Finally, Gorbachev was election on 15 March in 1990.He thought the presidency as a means of guaranteeing perestrioka.Gradually he extended his power.

Unlike Yeltsin, Gorbachev was not elected as a president in a full base of democracy; he lacked the popular election.The vote he won were elite votes in the framework of the Communist regime. Gorbachevís successor Yeltsin has three ideal aspects that Russians hope for-high education (degree in construction engineering), decisiveness, and Russian nationality despite his shortcomings.

Yeltsin started his career as a politician by coming to Moscow attracting his outspoken speed in 1986.Yeltsinís speeches avoided the ideological Marxist-Leninist disputes. Instead, he called for the private ownership of land, freedom of political association and so on.Yeltsinís career path was fluctuated because of this outright speech. However, he became a president.

Exercising power is a very different task from criticizing government from outside. As a president, Yeltsin has lots of tasks to solve. Because of his overburdened work, Yeltsin was confined to a hospital in 1993 suffering from a nerve disease, radiculities. Also he has a high blood pressure and in July 1995 he was rushed to hospital complaining of acute chest pains.

His drinking habit is very famous. During his first visit to the United States, "When he shown on television he canít stand up without support." He cancelled the appointment with the Irish Prime Minister when his flight touched down at Shannon airport in 1994. The presidentís bodyguard explained that he had overslept, but everybody knew that it was because of the in-flight refreshment.

Yeltsin is not affiliated with any party. Actually, he hoped to retain a room for maneuver with whatever coalition of interests dominated the new Duma. Nevertheless, without a party on his own in parliament, Yeltsin and his government were vulnerable to pressures from deputies who did not owe anything to his endorsement. It caused the confrontation with parliament and political instability.

Moreover, the war in Chechnya caused because Yeltsin wanted to show off that he is as a man of action; some of Yeltsinís staff apparently believed that a "small victorious war" in Caucuses would restore his reputation and prevent the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. However, this war dropped his popularity.

Unlike most leaders in established democracies, Yeltsinís popularity has not been fluctuated up and down. Instead, there has been a stead downward trend. Especially those who more positive about the Communist regime were the most anti-Yeltsin.

Now, a lot of Russian favored the Duma having a veto over presidential actions and opposed presidential rue by decree.

Although post-communist Russian presidency has many problems, we can hope for more developed democracy in the future in Russia.