Russian first president’s main opponent dies at 80

Ruslan Khasbulatov, Russia’s first parliament speaker and an ally-turned-rival of then President Boris Yeltsin, has died at 80

Russian first president’s main opponent dies at 80

Russian first president’s main opponent dies at 80

Ruslan Khasbulatov was Russia’s first parliament chairman and then President Boris Yeltsin’s close ally, who later turned his bitter foe

Ruslan Khasbulatov, one of the most powerful men in the early days of modern Russia, has died in the Moscow region at the age of 80, Russian media reported citing his relatives. 

The politician and economist led the first Russian parliament and supported Boris Yeltsin, who was yet to become Russia’s first president, in his standoff against the junta coup plotters, who sought to grab power in the USSR in 1991. Yet, just two years after Khasbulatov and Yeltsin stood side by side against the failed coup attempt, they turned against each other, sparking the 1993 constitutional crisis. 

Born in a village near the Chechen capital of Grozny in 1942, Khasbulatov graduated from the prestigious Moscow State University first as a lawyer and later as an economist, becoming a doctor of economics by 1980. In 1990, he was elected to the parliament of Soviet Russia and became its chairman a year later.

In the 1990s, Khasbulatov also started working with Yeltsin. Together they opposed the coup attempt by a group of Soviet hardliners in 1991. Khasbulatov authored an address “To the citizens of Russia,” where he condemned the coup plotters and called their actions “a reactionary anti-constitutional coup,” as well as urged the people to launch a general strike. 

Khasbulatov quickly became disappointed with the Yeltsin government’s economic policies and reforms. The standoff culminated in 1993, when the lawmakers refused to approve a prime minister nominated by Yeltsin, prompting the president to dissolve the parliament altogether.

The parliament then tried to oust Yeltsin, citing a constitutional court’s ruling, and Khasbulatov accused the president of abusing his power. On Yeltsin's orders, Russian troops stormed the 'White House' of the parliament in Moscow. Khasbulatov was arrested but was pardoned by a new parliament and released a year later. 

Khasbulatov went back to academia, and worked at the Plekhanov School of Economics in Moscow, as head of the international economics desk, since 1994. He remained highly critical of Yeltsin and blamed him for what he perceived as Russia’s shortcomings. In 2021, he claimed that Yeltsin had been surrounded by "hundreds" of CIA agents who told him how to run Russia.