The Soviet Union legally ceased to exist on 31 December 1991, and its end brought a whole host of changes about, as you might imagine. The new state, instead named the Russian Federation, entered independence in what can only be described as a state of serious disorder and economic chaos. Yikes.
The nation, led by its first President, Boris Yeltsin, faced economic collapse from the outset. By the time 1991 had swung around, Russia’s GDP had dropped by one sixth, while the budget deficit was approximately one fourth of the GDP. If you’re wondering what all this means, in simple terms Russia was screwed financially. And so, Yeltsin was immediately tasked with transforming a ruined economy into a free-market democracy.
Making matters worse, the new President and his cabinet lacked a clear plan, and didn’t have the luxury of time to figure things out. Luckily, Yeltsin at least commanded great popular support – he needed it, given his free-market reforms brought poverty to many who couldn’t afford to adapt to the post-Communist world.
Yeltsin’s Russia was plagued by poverty, political and social problems and corruption. It also saw fighting in Chechnya, and suffered an increase in criminality and lawlessness. So, not good. Just so you know, Yeltsin was re-elected in 1996, and served as President of Russia until 1999.