Boris Yeltsin and Russia's Democratic Transformation

Herbert J. Ellison

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  • Published: 2006. Paperback July 2018
  • Subject Listing: History / European History; Politics
  • Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 20 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: N/A in Canada
  • Contents

Boris Yeltsin is one of modern history's most dynamic and underappreciated figures. In this vivid, analytical masterwork, Herbert J. Ellison establishes Yeltsin as the principal leader and defender of Russia's democratic revolution - the very embodiment of Russia's fragile new liberties, including the evolving respect for the rule of law and private property as well as core freedoms of speech, religion, press, and political association.

In 1987 President Mikhail Gorbachev expelled Boris Yeltsin from his team of reform politicians, but Yeltsin rebounded from this potentially devastating setback to become the leader of the Russian democratic movement. He created a new office of Russian president, to which he was elected; designed a democratic constitution for the Soviet Union that precipitated a coup attempt by traditionalist communist leaders; granted independence to the nations of the Soviet Union; and replaced Communist Party rule with democracy and the socialist economy with a market economy. In a short period, he had succeeded in becoming the first popularly elected leader in a thousand years of Russian history. He had blocked violent attempts at counter-revolution and overcome powerful resistance to his reform program. His achievements rank among the most extraordinary feats of political leadership in the twentieth century.
Herbert J. Ellison is professor emeritus of history and international studies at the University of Washington, where he continues to teach. He has served as director of the University's Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and was formerly director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in Washington, D.C. He is the author or coauthor of five books on Russian history and foreign policy.

"Ellison's account is, in effect, a defense of Boris Yeltsin's place in Russian history. In this, his book differs from many treatments of the period that concentrate on shortcomings in Yeltsin's administration to the exclusion, or near exclusion, of his achievements. While a great deal has been written about this period, Ellison has no rival when it comes to a presentation that is both comprehensive and concise."
-Jack Matlock, Jr., former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union

"Much has been written about Yeltsin, but rarely has it been as balanced and insightful as this book. It is a much-needed, well-deserved corrective to conventional wisdom that overlooks or sells short Yeltsin's basically positive international stage."
-Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former U.S. deputy secretary of state


Introduction / Boris Yeltsin, Russian Liberator

1. Refore or Revolution? Yeltsin and Gorbachev, 1987-1991
- From Colleagues to Rivals
- Yeltsin Builds an Opposition Program and Russian Base
- Challenging the Center
- Counterrevolution and Democratic Revolution
- Replacing the Union
- Epilogue

2. The Politics of Reform, 1991-1999
- Facing Communist Opposition
- Conflicts over Policy and Consitutional Structure
- Blocking Constitutional Reform
- Reform and Rebellion
- The New Constitutional Order
- Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
- The Final Phase of Yeltsin's Leadership: Economic and Political Crisis
- Yeltsin Seeks a Successor

3. Building A New Economy
- The Legacy of Gorbachev's Economic Reforms
- The Politics and Economics of the Yeltsin Reforms
- The Long Struggle for Agricultural Reform
- Yeltsin's Achievement in Economic Reform

4. The New Russia and the World
- Russia and the West
- Russia and East Asia
- Russia and the Other Former Soviet Republics
- An Overview of Russian Foreign Policy under Yeltsin

The Yeltsin Legacy

Selected Bibliography

"An excellent overview of the Yeltsin era . . . an excellent read that will prove useful. . . . This reviewer highly recommends it."
-The Historian

"Ellison deserves special praise for choosing to restrict himself solely to public evidence. . . . A book that richly deserves to be read and taught."
-Political Science Quarterly

"Ellison does a very good job of providing rich empirical examples, which students will find helpful. . . . [T]he book's accessible and jargon-free style will appeal to nonacademics who are interested in Russia's affairs. . . . Ellison's book provides an informative analysis of this period, and it will be of great use to students and researchers for many years to come."
-Slavic Review