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Russia Remembers Yeltsin On Late Leader's 80th Birthday


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveiling the monument to Boris Yeltsin in Yekaterinburg.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation.

The anniversary is being marked this week in Russia with a series of programs, exhibits, and tributes.

President Dmitry Medvedev hailed the late former leader as a man of "conviction and will" who, despite all the difficulties, stayed Russia's pro-democracy course in the 1990s.

Medvedev today unveiled a monument to Yeltsin in Yekaterinburg, the former leader's home city in the Urals region.

"Yeltsin's strength of character helped our country endure a very difficult period," Medvedev said. "It helped our country survive at a very difficult time when the foundations of our new statehood were being laid down."

Yeltsin served as president from 1991 until New Year's Eve in 1999, when he dramatically resigned, leaving the presidency to his chosen successor, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Yeltsin died of heart failure in April, 2007 at the age of 76.

Yeltsin left behind a mixed legacy. During his years as leader, he oversaw the dissolution of the Soviet Union, steered Russia toward democratic freedoms, and unleashed economic reforms aimed at transforming Russia into a free-market economy.

But his era as president was also marked by widespread corruption, economic collapse, the war in Chechnya, and a variety of other political and social problems. He departed office with a public approval rating of below 10 percent.

compiled from agency reports