Kiriyenko, Sergei Vladilenovich

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(b. 1962), former prime minister of the Russian Federation and a leader of the liberal party Union of Right Forces.

Kiriyenko was born in Sukumi, which is presently in Abkhazia, nominally a part of the Republic of Georgia. In 1993 he received a degree in economic leadership from the Academy of Economics. Soon he founded a bank, Garantiya, in Nizhny Novgorod. He was so successful that the governor, Boris Nemtsov, recommended that he take over the nearly bankrupt oil company, Norsi. He succeeded once again, breaking the apathy that allowed a bad situation to fester. He first threatened to close the company, hoping this would spur workers' efficiency. It did not. So he worked out a complicated restructuring plan that involved tax breaks and new negotiations with workers, suppliers, and buyers. Kiriyenko managed to convince all parties that it was in their joint interests to increase production, and within a year production increased about 300 percent.

Kiriyenko now had a national reputation, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin made him minister for fuel and energy in 1997. In this capacity he favorably impressed American President Bill Clinton's Russian specialist Strobe Talbott. In March 1998 Yeltsin shocked Russia and the world when he fired his long-time prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and announced his intention to replace him with Kiriyenko. There ensued a bitter battle between Yeltsin and the Duma over Kiriyenko's appointment. Only on the third and last vote did the Duma confirm Kiriyenko. In his first speech as prime minister, Kiriyenko pointed out that Russia faced "an enormous number of problems."

Despite his talents, Kiriyenko could not change some basic facts. By July 1998 unpaid wages totaled 66 billion rubles ($11 billion); service of the government debt consumed almost 50 percent of the budget; the price of oil, one of Russia's chief exports, was falling; and a financial crisis in Asia had investors fleeing "emerging markets," Russia included. In June a desperate Yeltsin telephoned Clinton to ask him to intervene in the deliberations of the International Monetary Fund on Russia's behalf. It was too late. In August the Russian government in effect declared bankruptcy, and Yeltsin dismissed the Kiriyenko government. As of June 2003, Kiriyenko was president of Russia's chemical weapons disarmament commission.

See also: nemtsov, boris ivanovich; union of right forces; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


Aron, Leon. (2000). Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life. London: Harper Collins.

Talbott, Strobe. (2002). The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy New York: Random House.

Hugh Phillips