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Constitutional Retirement

 

The fact that Russia did not have a normal system for the transfer of power was one of the main reasons for its troubles and setbacks. Over the past century five of its ten leaders died in office, three were swept away by revolutions, and one was removed as a result of a conspiracy.  

Twentieth-Century Russian Rulers

 
Figure Period in power Reason for end of office
Nicholas II 1894-1917 Revolution
Alexander Kerensky 1917 Revolution
Vladimir Lenin 1917-24 Death   
Joseph Stalin 1924-53  Death
Nikita Khrushchev 1953-64 Conspiracy
Leonid Brezhnev 1964-82 Death
Yuri Andropov 1982-84 Death
Konstantin Chernenko 1984-85  Death
Mikhail Gorbachev 1985-91 Revolution
Boris Yeltsin 1991-99 Constitutional transfer of power

Yeltsin was the only one who left the Kremlin voluntarily before the end of his term and handed over power to a successor, Vladimir Putin, who was appointed by him and approved by the parliament precisely as the law required. His departure was a peaceful constitutional procedure and set an important precedent, serving to entrench a system for the democratic transfer of power and thus preserve continuity and stability in politics.

Even more importantly, Yeltsins period marked a revolution in Russia. An entire order, based on the political, economic, and ideological system of Soviet Marxism-Leninism, was overthrown. The foundations for the command economy and the one-party dictatorship no longer exist. They have been replaced by a new set of economic and political institutions, founded on different constitutional and ideological premises. They are still fragile and uncertain, but they are a world apart from the past.

Despite the many justified criticisms that can be made of Yeltsins presidency, under him Russia made enormous strides in the direction of a democratic and market-oriented society. Yeltsins chief ambition as the leader of the new Russia was to create the conditions under which the revival of totalitarianism would be impossible. The jury is still out, debating the verdict of whether he succeeded in this aim. Yet it is hardly possible to ignore the following positive developments.

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Yeltsin's Legacy

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