Lebed, Aleksandr Ivanovich


Lebed, Aleksandr Ivanovich
(1950–2002)
   Military commander and politician. Born in Novocherkassk, a Cossack-dominated area of Rostov Oblast, Aleksandr Lebed descended from a line of military veterans. He joined the Soviet army in 1970 and served with distinction in the Soviet-Afghan War, before being deployed to the Caucasus during the ethnic turmoil of 1989–1990. In 1991, he defied orders by the leaders of the August Coup to move on Boris Yeltsin’s position at the White House, issuing a crippling blow to the putschists. After Russia’s independence, he was dispatched to Transnistria, where he gained national prominence for his support of ethnic Russians and other Slavs in the breakaway Moldovan province.
   After years of simmering tension with Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev, Lebed resigned his commission on 30 May 1995 and entered politics as leader of the nationalist Congress of Russian Communities. While his party underperformed, he won a seat in the State Duma. He challenged Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential election, finishing third with 14.5 percent of the vote in the first round. In an attempt to win away nationalist voters from Gennady Zyuganov in the runoff, Yeltsin placed Lebed in charge of the Security Council of the Russian Federation two days after the first poll; Lebed endorsed Yeltsin a few days later. Lebed represented the federal government at the Khasav-Yurt Accord, thus ending the first Chechen War. After his dismissal from Yeltsin’s cabinet over a dispute with the Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, Lebed entered regional politics, winning the governorship of Krasnoyarsk Krai in 1998. During the next year, he maintained a high profile nationally, and was widely assumed to be the front-runner in the coming presidential elections. However, Yeltsin outmaneuvered him by choosing the unknown Vladimir Putin as his successor. On 28 April 2002, Lebed’s helicopter crashed in the Sayan Mountains, triggering conspiracy theories that still persist. His biography, General Alexander Lebed: My Life and My Country (1997), reflected his strong belief in the importance of the military but evinced his lack of a cogent political platform for Russia during its most troubled period.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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