Boris Yeltsin is celebrating his victory as the first elected president of Russia.

A 60-year-old reformer and leader of the Democratic Russian Group, he has caused great defeat to the Communist Party, which has ruled the country since the 1917 Revolution.

Results will not be officially confirmed until next week, but it is clear that Yeltsin has achieved more than 50% of the votes required to avoid a two-round system.

His supporters claim that he won 60-70% of the votes in many of Russia’s big cities and up to 90% in his hometown of Sverdlovsk.

His allies, Gavriil Popov and Anatoly Sobchak, participated in the mayoral races of Moscow and Leningrad, respectively, defeating Communist rivals.

But all the biggest surprises are that the Leningrad people voted to return the city’s name to the tourlist St. Petersburg, despite fierce opposition.

“The elections have been a wonderful event in Russia’s history and have brought Russia to the families of civilized nations who choose their leaders through direct and popular elections,” Popov said.

US Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the election was “a historic step for the Russian people and the Soviet Union.”

Yeltsin resigned from the Soviet Communist Party last year. He severely criticized Mr Gorbachev’s failure to proceed with political reforms sufficiently quickly, and his resignation confused the Communist Party.

One of Yeltsin’s first mission as President of Russia is to maintain a delicate political balance between himself and Gorbachev.

On the eve of the ballot, Yeltsin said his relationship with Gorbachev was “business-like and modest.”

Gorbachev told reporters that he was ready to work with anyone elected by the Russians.

Yeltsin chose Colonel Alexander Rutskoy, a former Afghan war hero, on his behalf.

He will also have to improve his precarious international image, starting with a visit by Presidents Washington and George Bush on June 20th.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

In August 1991, Soviet hardliners couped against President Gorbachev, who emerged as a national hero when he gathered people from the top of tanks to maintain peace.

In early December, leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus reached the end of the Soviet Union with the formation of the CIS or the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Gorbachev resigned as Soviet leader on December 25, 1991, and Yeltsin became an independent Russian president.

He dismissed his entire government twice until the unpredictable nature of his character resurfaced and Congress eventually forced him to accept restrictions on his power. He resigned on January 1, 2000.

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