Two figures above all dominate the history of the final years of the Soviet system: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev and Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin. Initially, the two were allies: Gorbachev brought Yeltsin to Moscow to lead the Construction Department of the CC in April 1985, and rapidly promoted him to the post of Secretary of the CC within three months, to head of the Moscow City Communist Party organisation (Gorkom) in December of the same year, and candidate (non-voting) membership of the Politburo of the CPSU. Although it was the conservative Yegor Ligachev who first pushed Yeltsin’s promotion, impressed by the determination and organisational ability he had displayed as First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional party organisation, he soon became identified as the most radical reformer in the top Party leadership and a supporter of the more controversial aspects of Gorbachev’s programme until his dismissal from the Moscow Gorkom in November 1987 and the Politburo in February 1988. After a time in the political wilderness, Yeltsin’s return to a position of prominence as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian republic in May 1990, and his popular election as Russia’s president the following year, meant that the rivalry between the two men became the focus of politics in the final years and months of the Soviet Union.
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