Former Russian Leader Boris Yeltsin Dies
Although no cause of death was specified, the Interfax news agency cited an unidentified medical source as saying Yeltsin succumbed to heart failure, the Associated Press reports.
Although Yeltsin urged his country to embrace democracy and a market economy, he also presided over Russia's steep decline. Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the Communist Soviet Union, said in a statement Monday that his successor was one "on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors," according to Interfax.
Yeltsin's leadership was considered a bumpy ride for most concerned. He stood atop a tank to resist an attempted coup in August 1991, and spearheaded the peaceful end of the Soviet state on Dec. 25 of that year. But he proved to be an inconsistent reformer who seemed to ignore his day-to-day responsibilities, instead pointing a finger of blame at subordinates for many of Russia's problems.
Born Feb. 1, 1931, into a peasant family in the Ural Mountains' Sverdlovsk region, Yeltsin was 3 when his father was imprisoned in dictator Josef Stalin's purges. His alleged crime was owning property before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
Yeltsin was educated as an engineer and married a fellow student, Naina Girina. They had two daughters. The three women survive him, as do several grandchildren.