On Boris Yeltsin's page in Wikipedia there's the fact that on 12th June, 1991, he was elected by popular vote to the newly created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR) and became the third democratically elected leader of Russia in history.

Before Yeltsin at the times of Soviet Union leaders were elected by Soviet Party and before Russian Revolution there was ruling of Tsars in Russia.

So who were the first two democratically elected leaders of Russia?

  • 4
    Those are yet to come, as Russia has never been a democracy, ever.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 19:04
  • 3
    Do the early elected monarchs of the Golden Horde who vassalized the Rus princes count? Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 9:07
  • @DenisdeBernardy - That was my exact first thought.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 13:50
  • 1
    What is important is not an "elected leader" but a "peaceful transition of power from a leader who lost an election to a newly elected leader", e.g., US-1800 or, more recently, US-1992. This is yet to happen in Russia.
    – sds
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 16:10

4 Answers 4


Georgy Lvov and Alexander Kerensky.

Though not specifically elected to be the head of the country, they had nevertheless been democratically elected in legitimate elections.

  • How can you count Lvov and Kerensky without counting en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Rodzyanko as Chariman of the Fourth Duma? Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 14:29
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens The word "leader" here is a little ambiguous. Here I considered "leader" to mean "Head of State".
    – Arani
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 19:00
  • 1
    Okay; add a paragraph or two summarizing events between Feb. 1917 and October 1917 (old style) and you will get my upvote. Otherwise I will be tempted to do it myself. ;-) Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 19:07

I guess this depends on how far you want to go back in time, on how wide must be the suffrage for you to accept the election as "democratic", on whether the elected official would have a time limit for his rule, and on whether the next rule was expected to be elected as well.

Arani's answer about Kerensky is correct as undisputed (except by Bolsheviks) democratic election. On the other hand, if you accept election of the next Czar by Zemsky Sobor as "democratic" then notice that the 1st Romanov was elected.

  • Was not Romanov elected by the boyar Duma rather than Sobor?
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 19:42
  • @Anixx, according to Wikipedia it was Zemsky Sobor. Even if Wikipedia is wrong on that, for me the keyword is elected.
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 21:28

One can consider Boris Godunov who was elected by the Land Assembly in 1598. Yet he already was at power at the time, only wanted to formalize it.

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It is possible though that the first tsar to be elected was Feodor I in 1584.

  • 3
    indeed. Elections and democracy do not imply universal sufferage. Thus as long as those who had the vote were allowed to vote without pressure... A nice loophole in the definitions used by dictators for many many years to claim they came to power through democratic elections :)
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:12
  • 1
    @jwenting: Reminds me of this quote from one of the Discworld novels - "The Partician believed in the principle of One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man, and he had the Vote."
    – Vikki
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 1:59

In Russia there was a city "Master Great Novgorod" (Господин Великий Новгород). To protect the city a knyaz (князь) was elected. For example, Alexander Nevsky was elected to protect Novgorod from the Swedes. In "The Veles Book", it is said that the Veche (national assembly) ruled in Russia for 15 centuries. The knyaz were elected by all the people, but then the knyazs betrayed the covenants of their ancestors and remained in power without further elections.

"The Veles Book" *

Вече имели, и что решалось на Вече, так и было, а чего не решалось - не было.. Князей избирали от полюдья до полюдья, так и жили ... Кровь (родства) - это святая кровь наша! -О том напоминали старейшины, когда избирали князей. И так мы пятнадцать веков управлялись Вечем, и собирались на него, и судили всякого, как подчинённого, так и главного. Так правили наши отцы, и всякий мог высказать слово... Но то благо утратили мы из-за хазар после веков Трояна 1 , когда впервые (князья) уселись с сыновьями своими и внуками наперекор решению Вече. *

Rough translation:

We had Veche. It was what the Veche decided. What did not solve Veche - was not. The knyazes were elected.

We were ruled for 15 centuries by Veche. And they gathered at the Veche. And they were judged by anyone, both subordinate and principal. Our fathers ruled there and anyone could say their word. But we ended prosperity because of the Khazars after the centuries of Troyan, When the knyazes gained power with their sons and grandsons, despite the Veche's decision.


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