Nation astride NE Europe and N Asia. It occupies the same space as the former Russian Soviet Federated Republic, most of eastern Europe and northern Asia (Siberia), an area of approximately 5,000 miles from the Baltic Sea in the W to the Pacific Ocean in the E. The Ural Mountains are usually taken as the boundary between the European and Asian sections. Moscow remains the capital. As the USSR opened up under Glasnost, Boris Yeltsin and other nationalists and reformers were elected to the Russian parliament in 1990. Yeltsin was chosen as Russian president. Yeltsin, declared Russia’s sovereignty, and began to challenge the Soviet government’s authority. In 1991, Yeltsin was officially elected in the first popular election for president in the history of the Russian Republic.
A power sharing agreement by Yeltsin and the leaders of eight other republics with Soviet party leader Gorbachev caused a coup by Soviet hard-liners, but Yeltsin and others supported Gorbachev and the coup failed. The USSR fell apart, but Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus agreed to form the Commonwealth of Independent States. In December of 1991, Gorbachev resigned, Yeltsin took control of the central government, and Russia assumed the USSR’s UN seat. Yeltsin moved quickly to reform the economy, but market reforms were slow with opposition of former Communists in the Duma. In 1993 Yeltsin dissolved the Duma and called for new elections. A Duma refused, and battle broke out around the parliament building between anti-Yeltsin and pro-Yeltsin forces. The military supported the president, the building was stormed, and the parliament was dissolved. The subsequent elections introduced a new mixed presidential-parliamentary system similar to that of France. In the legislative elections, Yeltsin’s supporters were less than the majority as a range of parties from Communists, to reformers, to ultranationalists won seats. In 1994 the government granted amnesty to participants in the 1991 coup and 1993 rebellion. In the same year, Russia agreed to a loose association with NATO called the Partnership for Peace. In 1994 Russia invaded Chechnya after the province had declared independence in 1991. A peace accord between Russia and Chechnya was signed in Moscow in 1996.
Yeltsin was reelected in 1996. Economic reforms continued with mixed results. In 1998 Russia was in financial crisis. Yevgeny Primakov was installed, as a compromise prime minister agreeable to both reformers and Communists. Primakov acted as a stabilizing influence, but his popularity and his public support for the Communists led to Yeltsin firing him in 1999. Yeltsin was impeached but the opposition failed to get the required votes. In 1999 Islamic militants from Chechnya invaded Dagestan. Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin as prime minister. After a series of terrorist bombings in Moscow and elsewhere that were blamed on Chechen militants, Putin launched an another invasion of Chechnya. After the 1999 elections, Yeltsin resigned as president, and Putin became acting president. In 2000 Putin allied with the Communists into a Unity Bloc and won election as president. Putin moved to increase central government control. Chechen terrorists continued to mount attacks outside Chechnya, including the seizure of a crowded Moscow theater in 2002, and a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, 2004.
Under Putin, Russia has developed stronger relationships with many former Soviet client states. Putin was an earlier supporter of the U.S. “war on terrorism,” and in 2001 Russia began to explore establishing closer ties with NATO. In 2002 a NATO-Russia Council was created where Russia could participate in NATO discussions on many nondefense issues. Russia participated in the invasion of Afghanistan with the U.S. and allied forces in the overthrow of the Taliban. Russia opposed the United States, however, in the invasion of Iraq, partly because of large debts owed by the Hussein regime.
In 2003 Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine signed an agreement to create a common economic space. The 2003 election resulted in Putin’s supporters gaining two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. Putin has continued to consolidate power in the central government, asserting appointment rather than election of oblast leadership. Russia had a series of embarrassing setbacks in 2004 when Russian supported cand idates in the Ukraine and Georgia were defeated by anti-Russian cand idates in revolutionary changes of government. In 2005 Russia sided with antigovernment parties when a similar revolution occurred in Kyrgyzstan.