Russians, still firmly bound within the Soviet Union, are nevertheless allowed to vote for their own president for the first time. They choose Yeltsin.
He and his arch-rival Gorbachev are both now working from offices in the Kremlin.
The scene for the final showdown is set. Soviet president Gorbachev, Russian president Yeltsin and the communist old guard all want power.
And the independence clamour has been growing. In January, Soviet troops acted against protesters in Lithuania and Latvia, killing about two dozen people - at least 13 of them in an operation to storm the television tower in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
In March, a referendum on the Soviet Union's future found a majority wanted some kind of reformed union to be retained, but the Baltic states are still spearheading moves for a complete breakaway.