Viktor Chernomyrdin


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(b. Orenburg region, 9 Apr. 1938; d. Moscow, 3 Nov. 2010)

Russian; president of Council of Ministers of Russian Federation (Prime Minister) 1992–8 An engineer by education, Chernomyrdin made his career in the oil and gas industry in the Orenburg region, where he managed an enterprise 1973–8. A member of the CPSU from 1961, in the 1980s he served as deputy minister, later Minister of the Gas Industry (1985–9) and head of Tyumen gas extraction. In 1989 he oversaw the conversion of the Ministry of Gas into the state-owned company Gazprom, a company that was highly profitable and which had a monopoly of the natural gas industry. He was a member of the CPSU Central Committee 1986–90 and a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet 1987–9. Under Yeltsin in 1992 he was deputy Prime Minister for the fuel and energy complex, and in December 1992 he was appointed Prime Minister as a moderate compromise candidate acceptable to the parliament, following the rejection of the reformer Gaidar. Backed by the powerful oil-gas and military-industrial lobbies and ensuring their support for the government, he pursued a steady if cautious pace of economic reform and proved able to survive crises such as the parliamentary confrontation of 1993 and the Chechnya invasion of 1995 (from which he emerged with some credit). But he was a rather grey figure with little mass base, as was shown by the poor results of his party ‘Our home is Russia’ in the December 1995 elections, which persuaded him not to stand against Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential elections. He remained as Prime Minister until Yeltsin dismissed him, along with the whole cabinet, in March 1998 amidst an economic crisis in Russia. Yeltsin reappointed him in August 1998 but he was not confirmed by the Duma and stood down less than a month later. In 1999 he became Chairman of Gazprom, by now Russia's biggest company. In 2001 Putin appointed him as ambassador to the Ukraine, a move seen by some as a way of distancing him from the centre of power. He was critical of many aspects of Ukrainian foreign and domestic policies, not least in relation to gas supplies. In 2009, Ukraine even threatened to expel him because of his ‘unfriendly and undiplomatic’ comments. Later that year he retired and returned to Moscow.

Subjects: Politics.

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