Boris N. Yeltsin, the burly provincial politician who became a Soviet-era reformer and later a towering figure of his time as the first freely elected leader of Russia, presiding over the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the demise of the Communist Party, died yesterday in Moscow. He was 76.
His death, at a hospital, came at 3:45 p.m., the Kremlin said, making the announcement without ceremony, a reflection of the contradictory legacy of Mr. Yeltsin’s presidency in the view of many Russians, including his successor, the current leader, President Vladimir V. Putin.
Medical officials told Russian news agencies that Mr. Yeltsin had died of heart failure after being admitted to the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow. He had suffered heart problems for years, undergoing surgery shortly after his disputed re-election as Russian president in 1996.
In office less than nine years, beginning with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and plagued by severe health problems and an excessive fondness for alcohol, Mr. Yeltsin added a final chapter to his historical record when, in 1999, he stunned Russians and the world by announcing his resignation, becoming the first Russian leader to give up power on his own in accordance with constitutional processes. He then turned over the reins of office to Mr. Putin on New Year’s Eve 1999, and after that was out of the public eye.
Mr. Yeltsin was at once the country’s democratic father and a reviled figure blamed for most of the ills and hardships after the Soviet collapse. The last Soviet president and, for a time, his rival for power, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, speaking yesterday, called Mr. Yeltsin’s “a tragic fate.”Continue reading the main story