Lebed, Aleksandr Ivanovich

▪ 2003

      Soviet general and politician (b. April 20, 1950, Novocherkassk, near Rostov, Russian S.F.S.R., U.S.S.R.—d. April 28, 2002, Abakan, Russia), was a decorated military hero who made headlines in 1991 when he refused to lead troops against Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin in the aborted coup against Soviet Pres. Mikhail Gorbachev; in 1996 he unsuccessfully ran against Yeltsin in the Russian Federation's presidential election. Lebed graduated (1973) as a paratrooper and in 1981–82 commanded a paratroop battalion in Afghanistan. Having reached the rank of general by 1991, he led troops in support of ethnic Russians in Moldova in 1992, but three years later he clashed with superiors and was forcibly retired from the army. In 1996 he ran a strong law-and-order presidential campaign and finished third with 15% of the first-round vote before offering his support to Yeltsin in the second round. Lebed was appointed national security adviser and later that year brokered a temporarily successful deal with ethnic separatists in the breakaway province of Chechnya. He was elected governor of Krasnoyarsk kray (region) in 1998. Lebed died from injuries he sustained in a helicopter crash in Siberia.

▪ 1997

      On June, 18, 1996, after Aleksandr Lebed had run a strong third in the first round of the Russian presidential elections, Pres. Boris Yeltsin appointed him to be secretary of the Security Council and national security adviser. Lebed appeared to strengthen his position in the government when he later negotiated a cease-fire in Chechnya. By year's end the ambitious retired general, who espoused popular themes such as Russian nationalism and law and order but was politically naive and showed a penchant for trenchant speech and public faux pas, was being seen by some observers as Yeltsin's heir apparent.

      Lebed was born April 20, 1950, in Novocherkassk, in the Don Cossack region of southwestern Russia, U.S.S.R. Both his grandfather and his father, who was a metalworker, had fought in the Red Army in World War II. A boxer early in his life, Lebed graduated from an academy for airborne troops in 1973, and in 1981-82 he commanded a paratroop battalion in Afghanistan, for which he was decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union. He later became a critic of the Afghan war. He graduated from the Frunze (now Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) Military Academy in 1985, and in 1991, somewhat serendipitously, he headed the successful defense of the Moscow White House in the attempted coup against Soviet Pres. Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1992 he was made commander of the Russian 14th Army, stationed in the Transdniester area of Moldova. In 1995, after he had denounced Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's policies, including attempts to impose control over Chechyna, he was forced to resign from the army.

      Lebed won a seat in the Russian parliament in the December 1995 elections. In 1996 he campaigned for the presidency, advocating policies that included postponing democracy until such time as the people might be prepared for it. His authoritarian, sometimes anti-West rhetoric appealed to many Russians, and he won almost 15% of the votes in the first round. By appointing him to the government and thus co-opting his support, Yeltsin was able to win the second round of presidential voting against the Communist candidate, Gennady Zyuganov (q.v.). A number of top-ranking military and defense officials (including Grachev) were fired, and in August Lebed was handed responsibility for dealing with the situation in Chechnya. He immediately made trips to the breakaway republic to meet with both the Chechen separatists and the Russian military commanders, and by the end of the month he had negotiated a cease-fire that included the agreement to defer a decision on Chechen independence for five years. On October 17 Yeltsin dismissed Lebed as security chief, saying that he was not a team player and was too obvious about his presidential aspirations. In late December Lebed introduced his newly formed Russian Popular Republican Party, announced his intention to continue to campaign for the presidency, and urged Yeltsin to resign because of his poor health. (ROBERT RAUCH)

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Universalium. 2010.

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