Yeltsin’s demotion in 1987–88 appeared, to outside observers, to signal the end of his political career. But he used the opportunity of being out of the limelight to carefully nurture relations with liberal critics of Gorbachev and to position himself as their figurehead. Perhaps more importantly, the considerable popularity he had earned when in charge of both Sverdlovsk and Moscow was boosted in many quarters by his apparently principled stand. His fallout with Gorbachev and the Politburo had been conducted under the public gaze and earned him sympathy combined with admiration.
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