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Boris Yeltsin was the first freely elected President of Russia. He voluntarily resigned from the post after nine years, leaving the job to Putin.
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On New Year's Eve in 1999, Boris Yeltsin surprised the world by announcing his resignation. He selected Vladimir Putin to be the acting president until the next elections, believing that he would carry on Yeltsin's agenda for reform. No one expected Yeltsin to leave before the end of his second term. President for nearly nine years, he decided Russia needed a new leader to usher in the new millennium.
Boris Yeltsin left behind a complicated legacy as Russia's president. He pushed for democratic reforms, such as free speech, the right to own property, and hold elections. But his haste to advance economic reforms had disastrous effects on the Russian people. Prices for goods dramatically increased, leaving many to struggle to survive. Other economic missteps led to workers waiting months to be paid.
Yeltsin also had a mixed record in terms of his dealings with his own government, firing one after another of his prime ministers over the years as well as his government several times in 1998 and 1999. Critics also noted that he was slow to act against corruption and that the privation of businesses created great wealth in the hands of a few.
After leaving office, Boris Yeltsin stayed out of the public eye except for a few scattered appearances. He lived quietly with his wife Naina; the couple had two daughters as well as several grandchildren.
Boris Yeltsin died at the age of 76, on April 23, 2007, in Moscow, Russia. He will be remembered as a significant contributor in the dismantling of the Soviet Union and as an important shaper of the post-Communist Russia.
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