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A Leader with a Difference



Ten rulers stood at the helm of the Russian and Soviet state in the twentieth century. Some of them governed the country for many years, even decades, others stayed in office for a few months. Men as different in their outlook, personality, and political style as Nicholas II, Alexander Kerensky, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin have shaped Russia’s destiny.  


Yeltsin was the only one to be popularly elected. The rest came to power as a result of a revolution, or a coup, or party decisions and conspiracies. All of them occupied office against the will of their predecessor and usually tried to undo his work, promising to lead the Russian people to a new and better order).

The liberal Kerensky, for example, spurned the policies of Nicholas II, whereas the Communist Lenin scrapped all of Kerensky’s plans. Stalin extolled Lenin in words while firmly rejecting Lenin’s compromise policies of the early 1920s in practice. Khrushchev saw the struggle against Stalin’s “personality cult” as one of his main objectives, whereas Brezhnev proclaimed war on Khrushchev’s “voluntarism.” Andropov did not want Chernenko to succeed him, and Chernenko was against Gorbachev as his heir.

Gorbachev made a great effort to overcome the legacy of the “era of stagnation” but soon found himself embroiled in a fierce personal and political rivalry with Yeltsin.

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Yeltsin's Legacy

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