Early life and education
Yeltsin (second from left)
with childhood friends
Boris Yeltsin was born in the village of Butka, Talitsky District, Sverdlovsk, USSR, on 1 February 1931. In 1932, after the state took away the entire harvest from the recently collectivised Butka peasants, the Yeltsin family moved as far away as they could, to Kazan, more than 1,100 kilometres from Butka, where Boris' father, Nikolai, found work on a building site. Growing up in rural Sverdlovsk, he studied at the Ural State Technical University (now Urals Polytechnic Institute), and began his career in the construction industry. In 1934, Nikolai Yeltsin was convicted of anti-Soviet agitation and sentenced to hard labour in a gulag for three years.
Following his release in 1936 after serving two years, Nikolai took his family to live in Berezniki in Perm Krai, where his brother Ivan, a blacksmith, had been exiled the previous year for failing to deliver his grain quota. Nikolai remained unemployed for a period of time and then worked again in construction. His mother, Klavdiya Vasilyevna Yeltsina, worked as a seamstress. Boris studied at Pushkin High School in Berezniki. He was fond of sports (in particular skiing, gymnastics, volleyball, track & field, boxing and wrestling) despite losing the thumb and index finger of his left hand when he and some friends furtively entered a Red Army supply depot, stole several grenades, and tried to disassemble them.
In 1949, he was admitted to the Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk, majoring in construction, and he graduated in 1955. The subject of his degree paper was "Construction of a Mine Shaft". From 1955-57 he worked as a foreman with the building trust Uraltyazhtrubstroy. From 1957-63, he worked in Sverdlovsk, and was promoted from construction site superintendent to chief of the Construction Directorate with the Yuzhgorstroy Trust. In 1963, he became chief engineer, and in 1965, head of the Sverdlovsk House-Building Combine, responsible for sewerage and technical plumbing. He joined the ranks of the CPSU nomenklatura in 1968 when he was appointed head of construction with the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee. In 1975, he became secretary of the regional committee in charge of the region's industrial development. In 1976, the Politburo of the CPSU promoted him to the post of the First Secretary of the CPSU Committee of Sverdlovsk Oblast (effectively he became the head of one of the most important industrial regions in the USSR); he remained in this position until 1985.